Category Archives: Profile

MFA Photography Alum Finds Beauty in the Ordinary

By Ernesto Rivera, Editorial Assistant—Public Affairs and Publications

A photo from “Out of the Ordinary,” a series that comments on the spaces people occupy.

When Adria Davis was in high school, her uncle, a professional sports photographer, took her on assignment to the Women’s World Cup in Los Angeles in 1999. It was that moment, photographing superstar strikers like Mia Hamm, she told herself, “this is what I want to do.”

Years later, she joined the three-year masters of fine art program with a focus in photography at CSU, Chico. Davis was grateful to be able to completely focus and develop her art for three years, an opportunity she knows she may never have again.

A studio selfie of Davis.
A studio selfie of Davis.

“It was the first time in my entire academic career that I truly felt challenged,” she said. “You make art and it forces you to really think about why you’re making it or what’s the concept that you’re working with. It really develops your ideas.”

Davis, who graduated in the spring and also has a BA in art from CSU, Chico, spent much of the three years in the program developing her culminating exhibition, “Out of the Ordinary.”

Davis’ series premiered at the University Art Gallery on March 23.

For her exhibit, Davis filled up her gas tank and drove all around Butte County to tell the stories of people’s homes and the spaces they occupy. Although no one appears in the series, the photographs are all about people and their personalities shown through their homes.


“My photographic practice is reminiscent of when I was a child, looking out the backseat window, while my parents discussed different stucco choices, paint colors and architectural styles of homes,” Davis wrote in her artist’s statement. “These photographs are direct responses to my environment. I am fascinated by the interplay of where public space meets private space. At that point, you begin to see how these places become portraits of the people who inhabit them.”

While Davis’ influences such as Walker Evans, Robert Adams and Henry Wessel are prevalent in “Out of the Ordinary,” she also found guidance in photography professor Tom Patton, who guided her throughout MFA program and culminating exhibition with critiques and honest questions.

“I appreciated his guidance because it distanced me from it being a personal experience,” she said. “Instead of it being an emotional experience of me presenting my personal work, he would help me develop the idea and really asked me ‘why are you doing this?'”

Every photo from “Out of the Ordinary” was taken in Butte County.

The guidance Patton gave her wasn’t just with her photography, he was instrumental in guiding Davis when she was  brought into the department to teach film and digital photography classes while she finished her degree, a unique opportunity for MFA students. While Davis loved teaching digital photography because of  the what-seems-endless options digital provides, Davis admires film photography because of its magic and history.

“It’s one thing to print off your piece from a printer but it’s so different when you’re in the darkroom and the very first time you print and see your image develop right in front of you is so amazing,” she said.

To view more of Davis’ photos, visit

Emmy Award-Winning Alum Talks Filmmaking, Storytelling, Bending Rules

By Zachary Phillips, Editorial Assistant—Public Affairs and Publications

Photo courtesy: Dan Bruns

Matt Ritenour started working with California State University, Chico’s Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology (ALVA) as a student in 2012. Since graduating in 2013, he has continued working with the lab, filming and editing documentaries that cover a wide array of topics. His most recent project—and his first as a director—is Impact of the Frolic, which won a Northern California-area Emmy Award on June 6, 2015. The documentary is a work of both auditory and visual storytelling, taking viewers through forests, over oceans, and across continents. It retraces archaeologist Thomas Layton’s discovery and research of an opium clipper that wrecked off the shores of Mendocino, California, in 1850, creating global connections that would change California forever. Continue reading Emmy Award-Winning Alum Talks Filmmaking, Storytelling, Bending Rules

How I Turned My College Town into My College Home

Hello Chico State! My name is Shyna Deepak, and I am the new social media intern for the Department of Public Affairs and Publications. I am about to enter my senior year, working on my BFA in Electronic Arts with a minor in communication design. After spending three years in Chico, I feel comfortable enough so say I have experienced a great deal here—the good and the bad.

“Holi: Festival of Colors”

As we all are aware, Chico State has a mixed reputation. Every visit to my hometown in the Bay Area, I run into someone who asks me what I do. I tell them I am a student at Chico State, and in response, I almost always get a wink as they say something along the lines of “majoring in partying, huh?” You would think it would be people my age range making this comments, but in fact I mostly hear it from adults in my parents’ social circle. It’s pretty embarrassing, and I always try to come up with a clever response.

However, when I am in Chico, I try my best to help this “party school” reputation disappear. I want to be able to explain to people that there is so much more to Chico than the nightlife. Within this small college town, I have learned about the existence of so many different types of communities. Chico State offers so much more than an education—it offers a home. A home is a place that should be respected. Who enjoys people running through their house and making a mess? Definitely not me!

  Don’t get me wrong. I would be lying if I said that I haven’t had any youthful indiscretions. But I have learned from my mistakes and choose not to live an unhealthy lifestyle.

“Bingo’s a Drag” at the UHUB

Since I have ventured away from this scene, I have learned more about what opportunities present themselves here in the town of Chico. We have an amazing park that includes outdoor planetarium, not to mention the abundance of quirky stores, 24-hour donuts and diners, and the most delicious independent restaurants. Chico has a small-town charm that I’ve grown to love and cherish.

What is there to do here? Well, last weekend my friend and I biked to T-Bar  through Bidwell Park, and made it in time for their happy hour. I got pomegranate lemonade and a chicken wrap—yum! During midterms, I went to the WREC and saw people studying with their flashcards in the hot tub. They were able to study and de-stress at the same time! On occasion, I will invite a friend over to watch cheesy horror movies and eat pita chips with hummus. If I’m alone, I’ll just watch 30 Rock on Netflix or brainstorm ideas for DIY projects (via Pinterest).

CE 3
Participating in the Vagina Monologues

When it comes to your Thursday, Friday, or Saturday nights, I’ve found there are plenty of things to do- you just need to figure out what makes your Chico Experience yours. 

Meet Some of Chico State’s Amazing New Graduates

damario-sims-thumbBasketball star Damario Sims has left an indelible mark on Chico State athletics history over the past four years. But beyond the buzzer-beating shots is his most defining aspect: the obligation he feels to be a role model for young people from his hometown of West Oakland. Read More

ariel-ellis-thumbIf there’s one thing Ariel Ellis wants those who feel depressed to know, it’s that they’re not alone. In fact, the graduating psychology major has dedicated most of her four years at Chico State to spreading that message and other facts about mental health.  Read More

mmartinez Spending time with Melissa Martinez today, you’d never guess that she was once a college dropout. After excelling in high school, Martinez enrolled in Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with the best of intentions, but found the transition to college life at 17 challenging. Martinez graduates on May 25 with a degree in biological sciences (cellular and molecular) and a minor in biochemistry. Read More

asherrodIf the start of Adrian Sherrod’s high school career was an indication of the rest of his life, his future would likely look different now. After spending most of his young life in Mexico, his mother moved the family back to San Diego County for a fresh start, and the transition to the States was a rough one. That all changed when he was introduced to running track and cross country. Read More 

nwalkerA few months before Nicole Walker started her freshman year at CSU, Chico, her mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Being too far away from her San Luis Obispo hometown to visit often, Walker decided to support her mom in a different way—by getting involved with the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society of Northern California. Read More

ian ruddellWhen Ian Ruddell came to CSU, Chico as a freshman, he was prepared to make change. The organizer of the first gay-straight alliance at Atascadero High was already a seasoned activist, used to making things happen. But he may not have anticipated that he would leave such an indelible stamp on both the University and the CSU—changing the way CSU, Chico supports LGBTQ students and voting on issues that directly impact the CSU’s 437,000 students. Read More

tim-sain-thumbUntil he was 25, Tim Sain did exactly what he says was expected of men in his family: He got into drugs, he dropped out of high school, he became an absentee father, he went to jail. He lost his house, his car, his job, his wife, and nearly, his three children. And then Sain did the unexpected. He decided to change everything. Read More


Greg Wells, who uses a wheelchair, was paralyzed at the age of 15 in a high school wrestling accident and also has a documented learning disability. These challenges, he says, make everything a little bit harder, but by staying true to his mantras of “keep going” and “never give up,” he has overcome them in a way that’s impressive by any standard. Read More

Dee ThaoGraduating communication design major Dee Thao is promoting social change through a highly social medium: film. Thao, recipient of the College of Communication and Education’s 2013 Outstanding Student Leader Award, recently premiered a 24-minute film she created that documents her family’s journey as refugees from Thailand when she was 5. Read More

Michael Bluing

Michael Bluing came to Chico as a freshman, sight unseen, on the recommendation of high school teachers who were Chico State alums. “I heard their stories; I saw the brochure, saw all the trees, and thought ‘Hey, I like trees,’” he said, laughing. Bluing is especially passionate about integrating diversity awareness into the learning process. Read More

Swan TomaFew understand or embody the meaning of service work and leadership quite like graduating political science major Swan Toma. Born in Iraq under the regime of Saddam Hussein, Toma and his family, along with others, faced the threat of persecution in 1997 related to his father’s work with Western countries. Evacuating as refugees to camps in Turkey and Guam, the family eventually immigrated to the United States through the sponsorship of an uncle in San Diego County when he was just 6. Read More

Planning Events and Honoring Heroes

Alison HealeyBy Alison Healey, senior
Business- Marketing, and Recreation Management Major

“Recreation… So you’re majoring in playing?”

This is what statement I hear from many people when I tell them I am majoring in recreation. Most people don’t realize the recreation major encompasses many fields, including event planning, parks management, hospitality, and tourism.

veterans logo

Through my Recreation 474 class, Association Operations and Events, I was able to plan an event from start to finish. Throughout the semester my classmates and I helped plan Honoring Our Veterans event, campus event held on November 10, 2012.I am focusing on the event planning side of recreation and have become more passionate about it as I take higher level classes. This is because these courses actually let you get hands-on experience within your field of choice.

This was an event in honor of all veterans, but it focused specifically those that were associated with Chico State or the Chico Community. Chico State has been recognized as a veteran-friendly school by a number of publications, and this year the university wanted to take it a step further by hosting a special day for veterans. This is where my class came in.

displays at the veterans eventMy class was “hired” by Chico State to put on the Chico State Honoring Our Veterans event. We were given a budget and a venue that we had to work with. Besides those two points we were on our own.

Throughout the semester, we had to come up with the marketing plan, the menu, the entertainment, the decorations, and the program. I knew event planning was very detail oriented, but I never fully comprehended it until I was in this class. Details such as picking colors for the decorations that wouldn’t offend the veterans and following military protocol were not things we considered in our initial planning.

veterans in attendanceAlthough this was not my first time planning an event, it was beneficial to have my instructor, Polly Crabtree, mentor me through the process. She made us think about what many would consider the basics in event planning in a new way.

For example, inviting the guests seemed like it would be one of the easiest parts of the event. But, we were wrong. Because of the wide age range of our guests,  simple e-mail to everyone would most likely not reach the older population, but a letter in the mail might not reach the younger population. Professor Crabtree guided us through figuring out how to reach our target audience in multiple ways in order to reach everyone.

veteran flags
Student event planners from the Recreation 474 class at the Chico State Honoring Our Veterans event on November 10, 2012.

In the end, the Chico State Honoring Our Veterans event was a hit among the veterans and community members. As people left the event, I was thanked numerous times for my efforts. At times this class was challenging, but it was all worth it once I saw how happy and honored all the veterans looked after our event.

I <3 Chico, Even If It’s Not My Hometown


By Maija Glasier-Lawson, Anthropology Graduate Student

“My name is Maija Glasier-Lawson, and I am an anthropology graduate student at CSU, Chico.” I have written or spoken a variation of that sentence literally hundreds of times during my time here at Chico. At first I did so out of a need to identify myself, now I say it with pride. I am proud of my role as a graduate student, I am proud to be a student at CSU, Chico, and I am proud to call Chico my hometown, at least for now.

I moved to Chico in 2010, just in time to settle in before the start of the school year. My first weekend here, my roommate and I picked nectarines and experimented with homemade chutney, a great introduction to the bounty of Chico. I spent time in the park, hit the market, and checked out a few local watering holes. Then classes started, and my life as a grad student began. At first, I was a bit daunted by the reading (the unending reading!) and the high expectations of the faculty. Somewhere along the way, I realized that though they had high expectations, the entire anthropology department would be there to support us. Time and time again this has proven true.

The department, the entire university, has exceeded my expectations…all of them. I have worked with people across the campus on a variety of projects, and every single person has been helpful, supportive, and easy to work with. This kind of collegial atmosphere makes, well, it makes everything just a little bit easier. It has also made me want to be more engaged as a student and as a member of the campus community. The more involved I become, the more people I meet and the more impressed I am with the number of faculty, staff, and students who truly care about the students and this University.

My experience as a grad student is not limited to my time in classes, in the library, or late nights pouring through journal articles. When I look back on this part of my life, these things will actually fade, and it will be the Saturday market, swimming in the park, the long days, and the occasionally crazy nights that I smile about. Before I moved here, I had made the decision to plant a few roots in the community, and Chico welcomed me with open arms.

The rich soil and sunshine grows great food and enriches amazing people. There is music and art around every corner and friendly faces on every street. I can get my Thai fix or walk across the street for fine wine or great pub food. No conversation about Chico is complete without a mention of the beauty and sheer enjoyment that can be found in Bidwell Park. I could go on and on, but if you live here, you already know what I am talking about; if you don’t, then you should come and check us out. You won’t be disappointed!

I tell people that I love being a student, and I really do. I like my classes, I get to work on interesting projects, I respect and admire the people around me, and most of the time even the reading has its rewards. In my clearly biased opinion, the anthropology department is top notch, and the students who make it through are already doing great things. CSU, Chico is a place of opportunity and reward for the students who are up to the challenge.

I also mean it when I tell people that I love Chico. Whether you are from here or just passing through, Chico has something to offer. Though I cannot stay, I hope to be back some day. Though Chico is not my hometown, Chico will always have a home in my heart.

Maija Glasier-Lawson is the 2012 recipient of the the William Randolph Hearst/CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement and the Trustee Emeritus Murray L. Galinson Scholar. Read more about her award and achievements on the CSU, Chico News website.

Riding to End AIDS/HIV

Tray RobinsonBy Tray Robinson, Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion

When my big brother Karl died of AIDS in July of 2000, it changed my life forever.  I struggled with the fact that I did not support my brother as he battled this horrific disease. My family never really talked about Karl being HIV positive because of the many assumptions, stereotypes, and the stigma associated with this disease. We could have and should have done more to support him. What my family failed to realize is that HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. My hope is that one day, we will deal with HIV/AIDS patients in the same compassionate way as we deal with people diagnosed with other diseases such as cancer.

Tray RobinsonFor years I dealt with the guilt of not supporting Karl and vowed that I would somehow help educate the public and do my part in making a difference. One day while watching the Logo Channel, I saw a documentary highlighting AIDS/Life Cycle. I learned that this seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles raises money and awareness about HIV/AIDS.

I was so inspired that I signed up, even though I had never ridden a bicycle for more than 15 miles at one time. On June 9th this year, I completed my sixth AIDS/Life-Cycle ride; I truly love the experience and the community that is formed during those seven days. I have met lifelong friends who I cherish and communicate with on a regular basis. I am filled with joy as I cross the finish line in Los Angeles and am greeted with loving hugs from my adorable partner Jim, family members, and friends. I am already looking forward to riding next year.

Tray Robinson in front of the Pacific Coastline

Since joining the AIDS/Life-Cycle Family, I have been inspired to become a HIV certified test counselor, HIV local planning committee member, and chair of the Chico AIDS Walk Planning Committee.

HIV/AIDS is a community issue – if one person has this disease, everyone does.

With gratitude,

Tray Robinson