From Iraq to Chico: An Intellectual Journey

By Michael Fitzpatrick, Senior, English & Philosophy

Two months after my high school graduation, I was on the other side of the United States from my home. Nine months after high school graduation, I was on the other side of the world, 7,000 miles from home. My name is Michael Fitzpatrick; I am a senior here at Chico State, but I was a soldier in the United States Army and served two tours in Iraq. During my final year of high school, I felt an incredible sense of uncertainty about what I wanted to do, and so instead of going off to college, I elected to join the Army as a way to go on an adventure and find myself. I did my basic training in Ft. Jackson, SC, before being assigned to a unit in the 1st Cavalry Division out of Ft. Hood, TX. My unit deployed to Iraq a month after I arrived.

While in Iraq, I was faced with some of the harshest existential realities a human can face. I saw friends die, I saw marriages dissolve, I stared into the faces of soldiers grappling with the weight of the duties they had to perform. I watched as we attempted to restore order to a land we had devastated. And the place where I found solace was in the depth of the classics, the works of Dostoevsky, Plato, Kierkegaard, Homer and Milton. These great works of humanity, books that lay forth the human soul, walked me through these struggles and taught me how to wrestle with the world without being overcome by it. By the end of my second tour, I knew that I wanted to get an education, not to get a job, but to become a person capable of living with such questions and tentatively developing answers. I possessed finally the direction I sought—to attend a university and study classic works of literature and philosophy.

I chose Chico State because of the outstanding reputation of the English Dept. I was not misinformed. During the four years I have been here, I have studied under some of the finest faculty in the field, and my knowledge of great literature, and my ability to understand its symbols, conceits, metaphors and values, is owed to their unwavering dedication to their students. While here, I discovered that we feature a wonderful Philosophy Dept., and so I extended my work to a double major in both.

My studies here have utterly changed me as a person. I have become very conscious of my role in the world, of the impact each decision has, whether it be a off-hand comment to a classmate, or a careless tossing of a recyclable water bottle into the trash. I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the humanities, for those areas of human life that serve as repositories for our most cherished values. I’ve realized that a university education is not about getting career qualifications—it’s about becoming a better human being, one with a versatile and wide-understanding of the world. I now practice a life of mindfulness, of being aware of my actions, words and thoughts, and actively seeking to bring them towards the highest ideals of human life. I shall never perfectly succeed, of course—none of us can. But I believe moving in that direction is what matters most. As a philosopher and student of literature, I am asking how I can make a difference in the world and share with others what really matters most.

It is my hope to finish a MA in literature while at Chico State, and then go on to complete a doctoral program in philosophy. As a tutor at the Student Learning Center, I have developed an intense passion for teaching. I would like to go into teaching at a university, an atmosphere where I can do my best to share the deep meaning of our cultural texts with other students, and share how they reflect the human soul in all of us.

I leave you with a reflection. Why are you here? Do you see your education as a means to an end? Or could it be an end in itself, one where the growth and dimension you develop as a person will shape the direction of your future?

Take a Hike!

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER) fulfills a variety of important functions: it provides numerous opportunities for graduate student research projects from archaeology to zoology; it serves as an outdoor classroom for third and fourth grade students who learn about its flora and fauna within the framework of California State Science Standards and California E.E.I.; and it provides a setting for the general public, students and non-students, to learn the nuances of its ecology from a number of exceptional naturalists in our area.

Beginning March 17 students and the public will have the chance to experience some of the remote and beautiful treasures of the BCCER as we offer the first of our 2012 Spring Hikes. Thematic  hikes take place almost every weekend through May and range from general natural history hikes to more specific topic such as orienteering, soils and bird song. These hikes are offered only in the spring of each year and provide a rare opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge from experts in their respective fields.

Come hike through the spring colors and pack a lunch to enjoy along the creek. These hikes will vary in difficulty allowing an opportunity for everyone.

March Hikes 

•March 17th – Wildflowers, Geology, and Natural History (Strenuous)

•March 25th – Orienteering: Finding your Place in the BCCER (Strenuous)

•March 31st – Outdoor Survival Skills 1 (Moderate)

April Hikes 

•April 8th – Flower Identification (Moderate)

•April 14th – Wildflowers, Geology, and Natural History (Strenuous)

•April 22nd – Spring Bird Identification (Moderate)

•April 28th – Identifying Spring Bird Song (Moderate)

May Hikes 

•May 5th – Outdoor Survival Skills 2 (Moderate)

•May 19th – Soils, Landforms and Vegetation of the BCCER (Moderate)

June Hikes 

•June 1st – BCCER and BCEP Annual Butterfly Survey (Moderate)

A maximum of 15 people per hike unless otherwise indicated.  Trips are free to the public but charitable donations are gladly accepted. For more information and to sign up call the BCCER office at 530-898-5010 or email them at

Photos courtesy of BCCER.

Let’s Do Some Dancin’!

By Rory Miller, Assistant Sports Information Director

Re-posted from Chico State Athletics.

For fans, coaches and players assembled upstairs Sunday night at Madison Bear Garden, the atmosphere was one of anxiousness for the Chico State women’s basketball team, as the Wildcats waited to see if their late-season heroics were enough to earn a berth into the NCAA Championship Tournament.

Senior Jay Flores has earned All-Tournament team recognition this season and will be storming the court at the NCAA Championship Tournament this weekend in La Jolla, Ca.

For the Chico State men, there was more of an air of confidence, as the Wildcats, knowing they had locked up an NCAA West Region berth, awaited word of their seed, first round opponent and where the ’Cats would be playing. It turned out to be a great night to be a Wildcat, as the NCAA Selection Show included both the Chico State men’s and women’s teams in their respective fields of 64 for a chance to play for the national title.

The Chico State women grabbed the No. 8 seed in the West, and will travel to San Diego to take on the region’s top seed, UC San Diego, on Friday. On the men’s side, the Wildcat men earned the fifth seed in the West Region, and will head to Bellingham, Wash. Friday for a rematch with No. 4 Humboldt State – the team which beat the ’Cats Saturday in the CCAA Championship Tournament final – in opening round NCAA Championship Tournament action.

Most seasons, the NCAA Selection Show waits until the very end to announce the West Region teams, but this year the announcement came in the first five minutes, and when the women’s bracket revealed Chico State among the eight selections, a huge cheer erupted at The Bear. Players hugged, coaches wiped their brows in relief and received well wishes from fans, as the excitement of more March basketball was at last a reality.

Senior Natasha Smith gained the title of All-CCAA Second Team for the 2011-12 season.

“I’m extremely excited for the team, and especially for fifth-year senior Natasha Smith,” Head Coach Brian Fogel said following Sunday’s announcement. “The team kept improving week-to-week, and we’re playing our best basketball of the season right now. We’re a confident group, and we’re planning on making some noise this week in San Diego.”

The Wildcat women, 18-10 overall, closed out the regular season with five straight wins, then knocked off Humboldt State 62-60 in the CCAA Championship Tournament before bowing Saturday to eventual tourney champion Cal State Monterey Bay. Friday’s NCAA West Region opener will mark the third time Chico State and UC San Diego have met this season, with the Tritons – ranked No. 1 in the country starting the week – winning both contests, though they needed double overtime to down the ’Cats Jan. 7 at Acker Gym.

The cheers at The Bear were just as loud for the Chico State men, as the Selection Show announcement officially gave the program its first NCAA Championship Tournament appearance since the 2004-05 season.

The Wildcats, 24-7 overall, are also heading into the West Regional on an impressive roll, having won 10 of their last 12 contests. Friday’s first round match-up with Humboldt State will be the fourth time this season the ’Cats and Lumberjacks have gone head-to-head, with Chico State winning two of the first three.

March 9-12, 2012
La Jolla, Calif.

Friday, March 9  – First Round
No. 1 UC San Diego (28-2) vs. No. 8 Chico State (18-10)
No. 2 Alaska-Anchorage (27-4) vs. No. 7 Cal State L.A. (18-11)
No. 3 Grand Canyon (23-3) vs. No. 6 Cal Poly Pomona (19-8)
No. 4 Western Washington (21-7) vs. No. 5 Cal State Monterey Bay (21-8)

Saturday, March 10 – Second Round
Regional Semifinal No. 1
Regional Semifinal No. 2

Monday, March 12 – Third Round
Regional Championship Game

March 9-12, 2012
Bellingham, Wash.

Friday, March 9 – First Round
No. 1 Western Washington (25-5) vs. No. 8 Grand Canyon (19-7)
No. 2 Alaska-Anchorage (22-6) vs. No. 7 Montana State-Billings (18-11)
No. 3 Seattle Pacific (21-7) vs. No. 6 Dixie State (20-6)
No. 4 Humboldt State (22-7) vs. No. 5 Chico State (24-7)

Saturday, March 10 – Second Round
Regional Semifinal No. 1
Regional Semifinal No. 2

Monday, March 12 – Third Round
Regional Championship Game

The Diversity Iceberg

By Tracy Butts, Chief Diversity Officer

On the few occasions when I have accompanied my colleague Victoria Bass on outreach trips for the university, many parents and prospective students upon hearing that we are representing Chico State remark that the university is not very diverse.  Because Chico State is a predominately white institution (PWI) whose student body is, according to fall 2011 statistics, 58.3% white, it is easy to see how people may arrive at that conclusion.  (For more student demographics, click here.)  Certainly, on the surface of things, Chico State is rather homogenous.  While there are clearly areas in regards to diversity that we need to improve upon, to assume that Chico State is completely lacking in diversity is fallacious.  Inherent in that assumption is that all members of a particular group are one and the same, without any sort of variation or difference.

As the chief diversity officer, my job is to oversee the implementation of  “To Form a More Inclusive Learning Community”: The CSU, Chico Diversity Action Plan, 2011-2016.  Those duties include helping the campus community “develop and realize a shared understanding of ‘inclusive community’” (DAP Priority #5).  The Diversity Action Plan (DAP) posits a definition of diversity which challenges us to broaden our understanding of the term:

Diversity is dynamic and ubiquitous and encompasses the richness of differences among people. Our understanding of diversity continues to unfold as we learn and grow in our efforts to form a more inclusive community. It extends beyond traditional considerations—such as those based on ability, age, culture, disability, race/ethnicity, gender identity and expression, sexuality, regional and national origin, political affiliation, religion and socio-economic background – to include the intellectual diversity that is a hallmark of a great university. We actively and intentionally engage with this diversity to increase our awareness, knowledge, and appreciation of the ways in which we interact and to achieve the benefits of inclusive excellence for all our community members as we pursue pluralism and unity.

Not only does the definition assert that diversity is synonymous with excellence, it also suggests that, as is the case with an iceberg, there is more to diversity than meets the eye. By embracing an understanding of diversity that moves beyond the “traditional considerations,” those characteristics and traits which usually appear above or at the waterline of visibility, to also encompass those aspects of diversity which appear below the waterline and are not readily detected by the eye, we are better able to see, to realize that we are all diverse individuals.

Source: Brook Graham

The iceberg is a fitting metaphor for both diversity and Chico State.  Nine-tenths of an iceberg resides below the surface.  Just as it is difficult to judge the size and shape of an iceberg, it is also difficult to ascertain all of an individual’s diversity traits simply by looking at them or attempting to guess based upon observations or other perceptions.  The four images of the diversity iceberg model in this post’s photo gallery reveal that the various characteristics and traits which comprise our diversity make it such that no two icebergs are exactly the same.  Consequently, what we also learn is that when it comes to diversity, there is more to Chico State than meets the eye.