Category Archives: Staff

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

Spring Photo Challenge

During the fall semester, we invited our Facebook followers to share photos of the changing seasons. We decided to re-awaken that creativity a few weeks back and launched a spring photo challenge. Here are the results, a handful of gorgeous photos that represent the spring season in Chico. Enjoy!

Photo by Connie Acosta
Photo by Kayleigh Loth
Photo by Laura Sederberg
Photo by Laura Sederberg
Photo by Ras Smith

Why Our Ag Majors Are Growing

By Jennifer Ryder Fox, dean of the College of Agriculture

After reading the January 19, 2012 Yahoo Education article “College Majors That Are Useless,” one might be led to believe that the author, Terence Loose, has something against eating, wearing clothes, enjoying a natural landscape, or smelling a bouquet of roses. What other reason could he have for singling out Agriculture, Animal Science, and Horticulture as three of the five most useless degrees? Mr. Loose’s rationale and indeed the original ranking mentioned in the article are certainly not based on fact.

In contrast to the Yahoo article, a Purdue University study funded by the USDA projected an estimated 54,400 annual openings for college graduates in food, renewable energy, and the environment between 2010 and 2015. The study projected only 53,500 qualified graduates will be available each year and stated that employers have expressed a preference for graduates from colleges of agriculture and life sciences that tend to have more relevant work experience and greater affinity for those careers.

Further demonstrating the need for educated agriculturalists, the November 2009 Monthly Labor Review projected particularly strong (double-digit) growth in certain agricultural careers such as agricultural inspectors, animal scientists, food scientists and technologists, natural sciences managers, pest control workers, soil and plant scientists, and veterinarians. A mere two weeks ago, the Washington Post printed the results of a Georgetown University study showing that recent college graduates with degrees in agriculture and natural resources were among those with the lowest unemployment rates in the nation at 7 percent, surpassed only by graduates with degrees in health (5.4 percent) and education (5.4 percent).

Across the country state support of public universities is dwindling, and the consequence of budgetary decreases is seen with some universities making choices about programs to reduce or eliminate. In a few states, agricultural programs have been targeted for reduction or even elimination. State supported universities in California have also been affected by reduced state budgets, but there’s no talk of eliminating any of the universities’ agricultural programs, as agriculture is the top economic driver in California and generates over $33 billion in revenue for the state while producing over 350 products. Rather, the effect of reduced state support has been to tighten our belts and look to external grants and contracts and other funding sources so that we can serve our increasing number of students.

The California Community College Centers for Excellence recently completed an environmental scan of the agriculture value chain in California and found that there are currently 2.5 million individuals employed in more than 800 job titles within the agriculture value chain in the state. The average annual salary for agricultural value chain workers is $50,000. While the number of production jobs is expected to decrease in the next five years, a net increase of 181,000 jobs is expected throughout the entire agricultural value chain, which includes support, research, technology, production, processing/packaging, marketing, and sales and distribution. No one disputes that with advanced technology and mechanization, skilled production jobs in agriculture (or any field for that matter) have decreased and will most likely continue to give way to mechanization.

Here at CSU, Chico, the optimism for agricultural careers can be seen in the 50 percent enrollment growth in programs offered through the College of Agriculture during the past five years. And across the country, agriculture programs are seeing a surge in student interest. Clearly, our students and those in other ag programs are seeing the tremendous career opportunities available in agriculture and are jumping at the opportunity to pursue them, Mr. Loose’s puzzling attack on their choice of major notwithstanding.

Man vs. Wild, Huber Style!

Scott Huber leading a family bird-watching trip.

Scott Huber, Education and Research Coordinator, Ecological Reserves

I have the world’s best job. As the education and research coordinator for CSU, Chico’s Ecological Reserves I get to do both of the things that I love most: sharing my love of nature with others and getting my hands dirty as I help protect the reserve’s natural resources.

Dr. Paul Maslin pointing out the effects of fire on native trees.

On Tuesdays and Saturdays I work with the field manager, Paul Maslin (professor emeritus, biological sciences). First thing in the morning we load up an ATV with tools and head out – sometimes all the way across the creek to isolated Musty Buck Ridge. Typical tasks include creating fire breaks, removing invasive plants, and maintaining trails.

Northern saw-whet owl, the subject of two research projects at CSU, Chico Ecological Reserves.

On other days I join biologists as they work on their projects. I sometimes assist owl researchers: During the day we track radio-collared northern saw-whet owls with telemetry, scrambling up steep, brushy slopes to record the exact location of the owl; at night we use a recording to lure owls into a mist net, then we weigh, measure, and band them to aid in understanding their migration.

Other recent projects I’ve assisted with were helping a grad student determine what areas of the reserve would be best for studying foothill yellow-legged frogs and helping a Department of Fish and Game biologist choose a spot to capture and study band-tailed pigeons.

An educational session at the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve.

In the spring and fall I have the privilege of sharing my enthusiasm for wildlife with school children as I visit classrooms and host class field-trips on the reserves. Our excellent staff teaches the kids about birds, turtles, geology, and Native American history, attempting to instill in them an outdoor ethic and appreciation for their natural surroundings.

I have the world’s best job.

You can keep up with Scott’s adventures on the BCCER’s Facebook page.

The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve contains 3,950 acres of diverse canyon and ridge habitats, including 4.5 miles of Big Chico Creek, and is home to many species of plants and animals. Our mission is to work together with the CSU Research Foundation’s Ecological Reserve System to preserve critical habitat and to provide a natural area for environmental research and education. BCCER contributes to the understanding and wise management of the Earth and its natural systems by preserving critical habitat, and providing a natural area for environmental research and education. You can learn more about the reserve at their website.

Vegan Treats: Easy as Pie!

By Jessica Post, Faculty Affairs Coordinator and alumna (BS 2006, MBA 2008)

After 10 years being a vegetarian I decided to make the switch to a completely vegan diet. This change was surprisingly easy for me, and I have been enjoying the challenge of finding new ways to cook and bake. While I had an easy transition, I knew my switch would be hard on my mother—not because she is some crazy meat eater, but because she’s such a foodie and an amazing cook!

So, it came as no surprise to me that a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, I got a call from my mom, worried that I wouldn’t be able to eat her pumpkin pie. We have already adapted the rest of the meal for vegetarians (her Tofurky is amazing), but the no eggs restriction was making dessert really difficult.

Using my new-found skills at finding vegan recipes, I tracked down a delicious vegan pumpkin pie recipe.  Best part is this recipe makes two pies, so take one to your family dinner and enjoy the other on Friday. This can be made using real pumpkins, but if you’re into quick and easy like me, you can just buy a 15- or 16-ounce can of pumpkin (the organic kind is definitely the best). So here we go:

Vegan Pumpkin Pie
(Recipe adapted from

  • 2 15-16oz cans of pumpkin (organic pumpkin available at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 12.3-ounce package firm silken tofu
  • 1 1/3 cups natural granulated sugar
  • 2 9-inch natural pie crusts (if you buy pre-made crusts make sure they are vegan – try Marie Callendar’s or Wholly Wholesome brands)


1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.

2. Combine pumpkin, spices, tofu, and sugar in a large food processor. Blend until smooth. (You can do this with half the ingredients at a time if you have a small or medium size processor.)

3. Pour the filling into both crusts. Bake together for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the crusts are golden and the filling is firm. Remove from the oven and let the pies cool to room temperature. Cut into 6 or 8 slices to serve.

Enjoy your pie with friends and family!

Monsters in Film

By Asa Simon Mittman, Professor, Art and Art History Department

I’m an art historian and I study monsters. When I picked my area of research, I wanted to work on something exciting, and what’s better than man-eating, fire-breathing, shape-shifting, giant, magical, horrifying, terrifying monsters?  For several years I’ve wanted to teach a course on monster movies.  The hard part of putting the class together is choosing the movies, not because there are too few but because there are far, far too many good ones.

This Winter Intersession, I’ll finally get to offer the course as ARTH 400:  Monsters in Film. In this course, we’ll watch a great range of films, stretching as far back as Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922) the first (and seriously creepy) film adaptation of Dracula. We will see some of the classics from the golden age of Hollywood like Frankenstein (Whale, 1931) and Red Scare films of the 50s, like THEM! (Douglas, 1954). These can be emotional and exciting, but are rarely actually horrifying for current audiences. For that, we will turn to Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968 and 1990) and Alien (Scott, 1979).

The whole course will be online, so you can take it wherever you are, as long as you have a good Internet connection. All the films will be downloadable, and I’ll record brief intro lectures for each one.  Students will watch monster movies and write film reviews.

Take the course, watch a ton of great films, write some interesting pieces, and, occasionally, feel your skin crawl.

Words with Wildcats!

This week’s inquiry: “What is your favorite fall activity in Chico?”

Charissa Pilling, Freshman, Nursing Major

“My favorite part about fall is the weather change and playing in the rain!”


Cindy Dizard, Administrative AssistantCollege of Agriculture

“Fall is a beautiful time of year and the temperature is perfect. I like doing outdoor activities, particularly hiking and biking.”


Katelyn Curtis, Junior, Social Work Major

“When it starts raining, my friends and I head over to One Mile to play a good game of mud football.”


Rick Ford, Professor – Mathematics and Statistics Department

“Year round I enjoy going to Lake Almanor or going boating on the river, but I’d say fall is the perfect time for golf because it’s not too hot outside and the course is in great shape.”


Danielle Alder, Junior, Nutritional Science Major

“I like walking around downtown with my friends and stopping for coffee at the Naked Lounge.”


Matt Sakai, Sophomore, Exercise Physiology Major

“Honestly… I like crunching the leaves that are on the ground in Bidwell Park.”


This is the second edition of our reoccurring feature, Words with Wildcats.