Category Archives: Sustainability

Volunteering’s Valuable Lessons & Valuable Skills—For Now and For a Lifetime

Jennifer Jewell, volunteer coordinator for Gateway Science Museum on the campus of CSU, Chico

Did your parent, school or church ask you to volunteer when you were a child? Mine did. All three asked that I serve some amount of volunteer time for some organization or effort each year. For school I worked at the local library – helping to stack books or file papers. One Sunday twice a year, I joined my church group for an outdoor clean-up effort: trash from a town roadside or the garden areas of our local public areas. My parents were the most insistent of all – volunteering was required to live life in their household: volunteering to help others and to support small organizations like the Humane Society, Literacy Volunteers of America or Hospice Care.

But in between all these “requirements” by my elders that I must work for the good of others, something funny happened. I had fun. I had fun and I grew both personally and, as I found out at my first college interview and my first real job interview, I grew professionally.

I met new – often odd and interesting – people, learned to work with them, learned that I could learn from them, and learned that when my day of dogs and cats or people with beginning literacy skills or end stages of cancer was over, I felt satisfied with myself and the world around me.

To this day, as a grown woman with children, I volunteer regularly – and I take my kids along. They roll their eyes some, but they also roll up their sleeves and come home tired, with emotion and stories to share.

“Each day, millions of volunteers make a statement that despite everything – despite poverty and hatred, despite apathy and the seeming intractability of some of the challenges we face – people can change the world for the better.” Former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.

Gateway is always accepting interested and enthusiastic volunteers – for an afternoon, or for regularly weekly shift in the galleries. Upcoming Volunteer Orientations are being held: Tuesday, May 22, 12:15 p.m. – 1:15 p.m. & Saturday, May 26, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

If you’ve always wanted to get involved in science, education, and your community, have fun and learn a lot, then this is just for you!

Volunteers bring Gateway’s mission to life: creating a life-long learning environment that enables people to explore, interpret, and celebrate the magnificent natural heritage of our region through science, research, and education.

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.

Hidden Gems: Creekside Educational Garden

The Creekside Educational Garden is quite the hidden gem due to its location behind Colusa Hall. Directly south of Big Chico Creek sits an 8,000-square-foot section of land that has been set aside for this special project.

The project began in the spring of 2011 as the third part to the larger Creekside Plaza Landscape Project. Numerous faculty and department members, as well as the Mechoopda Indian tribe, worked together to create a garden using plant species that are historically found adjacent to riparian areas for this geographical zone. Such species include the California Poppy, the Valley Oak, and the Western Redbud.

Located throughout the garden are small informational markers, which give specific information for each plant, including the common name, the scientific proper name, and other interesting facts. There are also a few larger signs that map out the multitude of plants scattered throughout the garden.

The walkway, winding along with the garden, was inspired by Big Chico Creek, which sits only a few feet away. The overall aesthetic of this section of campus is soothing and reaffirms our strong connection with nature in Chico.

Recently, artists have applied to create a beautiful piece of public art for the garden. Three of the qualified artists have been chosen and are now working to develop project proposals, from which one will be selected. The installation of the selected piece will begin in the spring of 2012 and is scheduled to be finished by May.

If you have a spare moment or want to take a different route to class, meander over to the Creekside Educational Garden to soak in the calm environment and possibly learn a thing or two about plant species that are native to Chico.

This post is part of a recurring theme, Hidden Gems of Chico State.

The piece is also featured in the latest issue of Inside Chico State.

Summer Construction Time-lapse

By Pat Berry, Library Administration

The video is comprised of photos that I took from the fourth floor of Meriam library and was created using iPhoto.  I’m not that great with video, so I went with the easiest option available.  I started taking photos so I would be able to measure the progress being made.  To be honest, I didn’t think they would be able to finish in time.  Luckily, once they got the underground work finished it seemed to go very quickly.  At the end, when they were pouring the concrete I was taking photos four or five times a day because they were going so fast.

I know a lot of people aren’t thrilled with the “sea of concrete” that we have now, but I think we need to give it some time.  In a few years the trees should be able to provide enough shade to cut down on the oppressive glare that we get now.  There is still the third phase of the project to complete [next summer], but in the long run I think it will look really nice.

If you’d like to view or download the entire collection of Pat’s photos, the images have been release under a Creative Common ‘By Attribution/No Commercial works’ license and can be accessed here.

Saving You Dimes One Cup at a Time!

By Avery Beck, Senior, Anthropology Major

Being away from home. Meeting new people. Spending late weekend nights roaming around downtown looking for parties. My freshman year at Chico State was basically everything I imagined college would be, based on the impression the movies I grew up watching gave me. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing.

I came to Chico from my hometown of Eagle River, Alaska. When I got here I knew no one—I was alone. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t really alone, I met all kinds of new friends and acquaintances, but I still felt like I was kind of just floating here on my own. So, I decided to look for something larger to be a part of. That’s when I heard about the Sustainability Involvement Faire, which is basically an information session held every semester, where all of the sustainability focused groups on campus recruit interns and volunteers for the upcoming semester. I truthfully had no idea what sustainability was at that time, but I went anyway.

Little did I know that I would walk out of the involvement fair signed up for a 2-unit internship with E-ARC, the Environmental Action Resource Center. At first I was a little unsure what I had gotten myself into, but as I got more and more involved I became convinced I had made the right decision.

Avery standing with fellow E-ARC intern Taylor Kudell near his BYOCup poster at Eco-Fest 2010

I started off slowly, but as I began to learn what sustainability is and how important it really is I became increasingly involved. The more involved I got, the more people I started to meet. Most of the people I met in AS Sustainability are great, many of them becoming some of my best friends here in Chico. The more people I met, the more doors I could see opening for me. I was able to become a voting member on one of the student government councils, the Environmental Affairs Council. I got to work with the heads of the AS Bookstore and AS Dining Services on the Bring Your Own Cup campaign [which encourages customers to bring their own reusable cups to cafes and dining areas on campus for a small discount on their drink purchase]. I learned about writing funding requests, in successfully applying for funding for the BYOCup campaign from the Sustainability Fund Allocation Committee. Last but not least, after a year of being an intern, I got a great student job working for AS Recycling.

Thanks to my various internships with AS Sustainability I have had many opportunities that otherwise probably would have not been available to me, opportunities that I know have helped shape my Chico experience as well as my future.

Dinner, Courtesy the University Farm

By Anna Harris, Assistant Editor, Public Affairs and Publications

It’s not often that beans become an impulse purchase, but after visiting the Organic Vegetable Project stand last Wednesday (every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Student Services Center Plaza), I found myself walking across campus with a 10-pound bag of beautiful yellow beans.

I’m imagining them in a simple gratin topped with crispy breadcrumbs.

There were also beautifully tiny, bright orange eggplants. Yellow wax beans. Summer tomatoes bursting with juice. Fresh eggs. Sweet pimentos. Little packets of nuts for snacking.


Pick up some eggplants and tomatoes and try this:

Grilled Eggplant Stacks




1. Slice your eggplant into ¼- to ½-inch rounds. If you are using a long, thin Japanese eggplant, slice lengthwise in half. One medium eggplant will yield approximately 15 slices.

2. Toss the slices in a colander with plenty of salt. Don’t be shy!

Let them sit at least 30 minutes in the colander or tumbled on a rack. The salt will drain the bitterness out of the vegetable.

3. While the eggplant is draining, thinly slice some cheese and tomatoes—one slice for each piece of eggplant. I used mozzarella for these pictures, but just about any melting cheese would work.

4. Pat the eggplant dry with a clean dishtowel or paper towel. Top each round with a slice of cheese and a slice of tomato. Drizzle the stacks with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt.

5. Toss them on the grill for a couple minutes over hot coals. Then slide them over to your medium-low heat zone, close the grill cover, and cook until the eggplant is tender.

I ate these with brined pork chops and grilled flatbread.

They are also delicious next to grilled steak with chimichurri sauce drizzled over the meat and the eggplant. Or with anything that comes off the grill, really.

Grilled eggplant is easily adaptable: Add a basil leaf. Skip the tomato. Use cheddar cheese.

Make it your own.

And because I’m never one to waste a pile of hot coals, I like to do this:

Slice up a pile of summer veggies—squash, sweet peppers, onions—and marinate with olive oil, smushed garlic cloves, sprigs of thyme or basil, salt, and pepper. Toss them in a grill basket and cook over the residual coals while you’re eating your eggplant stacks.

Eat later in the week with roasted tomatoes over pasta, in burritos, tucked into enchiladas or lasagna, on pizza, with goat cheese as bruschetta…

Recycle, Reuse

By Bianca Hernandez, Senior, Majors: Anthropology and Journalism — News Editorial

I nervously eyed the shelves brimming with binders and notebooks. The nice woman at the desk in BMU 301 had told me to help myself since everything was free, but I just couldn’t trust it. Free school supplies? It felt like a trick.

I soon realized it wasn’t a trick. I eventually got a job there, and I saw the amount of reusable supplies AS Recycling received every week was substantial. Barely used notebooks, folders, binders, books and other items were constantly ending up in our paper bins. Over the semester we even come across records, cups, new ink cartridges and lamps. All of these items, plus whatever other reusable items we come across end up on the shelves in BMU 301, ready for people to grab. All free.

Working here wasn’t enough, so I signed up for an internship to get a better idea of the entire Sustainability Collaborative. I ended up hanging out in the E-ARC libraries, where students can check out environment themed books, read magazines, and watch some enlightening movies. Sometimes I would go out to the Compost Display Area by the bike path and just pull weeds, water plants, or snack on some peas.

The best part about my experiences with AS Recycling and AS Sustainability (besides the occasional free book I snag) have revolved around the amazing people I’ve met there. It’s a place I’ll miss, but always come back to visit after I graduate.