Photo of Gayle E. Hutchinson, Ph.D.

Gayle E. Hutchinson, ed.D.

President | Chico state

“I’m inspired by our students at Chico State because they are so filled with passion to overcome the challenges in their lives.”

“I made sure I was able to have the life I wanted,” says Gayle E. Hutchinson, Ed.D., president of California State University, Chico. “I wanted a career and to see the world.” The Enfield, Connecticut, native started by becoming the first woman in her family to go to college.

It was a path very different than the one laid out for her mother, who often told her daughter, “I didn’t have choices. Before I could leave my father’s house, I had to be married, and my primary role in life was to have children.”

Those words resonated deeply.

Dr. Hutchinson’s earliest mentor was her high school basketball coach, who taught her how to set goals, take responsibility and believe in herself. “I owe a lot to her for those foundational years.” These days, she still enjoys golfing, surfing and cycling.

As a leader, Hutchinson was a natural from the start, whether it was in Girl Scouts, high school sports or college clubs. “I was always interested in finding ways to bring groups of people together,” she says.

Teaching came naturally as well. “To be a teacher is to lead, and to lead is to be a teacher,” explains Hutchinson. “I live my life to help people strive toward their potential.”

Hutchinson started her career as an assistant professor at Chico State in 1990 and called the university home for the next 23 years, working her way to full professor, then department chair and finally dean. She also served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at CSU Channel Islands, where she learned the importance of community partnerships and philanthropy.

But she calls her return to Chico State in 2016 as president momentous in her working life for more than one reason. “We had a reception and I just danced the night away with joy to be back at a place I consider home,” she recalls. "I'm proud, too, to be the first openly gay president of the CSU." 

In just two years, Hutchinson has accomplished a lot. Her administration works hand-in-hand with faculty and she’s seen improvements in how students, faculty and staff experience the campus. “It’s an institution where I feel I grew up professionally and I have a deep love for the people and the academic mission.”

“We have a new physical science building being built,” she adds, “and I had the opportunity to hire a director of tribal relations [Rachel McBride-Praetorius] who is helping us recruit Native American youth.”

 

"My approach to leadership is service 

beyond self. I work to empower others

to help solve problems."

Nothing has tested Hutchinson’s presidency at Chico State like the November 2018 Camp Fire, which devastated the surrounding community and caused more than 310 faculty, staff and students to lose their homes. It has been a crash course in leading through adversity.

“In spite of all the disaster we’ve seen, the community has rallied in ways I wouldn’t have imagined, which gives me hope for the future,” she says. The examples of support are innumerable and moving: The School of Nursing worked with the Red Cross and Butte County Public Health to staff evacuation centers 24/7 with nursing students for the first week of the fire, while a dean housed three elderly people he’d found in a car with nowhere to go.

“It will be difficult, but together we will rebuild,” Hutchinson says with confidence. “Chico State Wildcats will rise. The way the university has stepped up and volunteered affirms our commitment to community service and the importance of being an institution that leads in the region.

“I’m even more inspired right now by our students, faculty and staff with everyone’s willingness to help. It makes me very proud to be president of Chico State.”


Service Beyond Self 

BY Gayle E. Hutchinson, ED.D.

 

Listen to President Hutchinson’s essay

To me, leadership has always been about service beyond self in ways that help people learn, create, achieve and strive toward their own potential in life.

As far back as I can remember, I enjoyed serving in leadership roles. When I was a child, I pretended to be a teacher playing school with my friends. When I was a Girl Scout, my peers elected me their squad leader. When I played sports, team members voted me captain.

When I taught high school physical education and health, I realized that leading was teaching and teaching was leading. I worked hard then empowering my students and helping them learn and practice healthy lifestyles through movement and sport.

Sports taught me the power of teamwork, and the team taught me the importance of working together as one to imagine a successful future, achieve collective goals and overcome difficult challenges.

No matter what position I’ve held over the course of my career in higher education—professor, academic senator, department chair, dean, provost, president—my leadership style has been described as authentic, compassionate, strategic and inclusive. I’ve stayed true to my values that support this leadership style: courage, honesty, integrity, trust, respect, collaboration, communication and accountability.

I truly believe that my leadership style is most appropriate for nurturing a vibrant, engaged and productive campus and unleashing the potential of Chico State as the university continues to emerge as the intellectual and innovative hub of Northern California and beyond.   

PHOTOGRAPHY: PATRICK RECORD; courtesy of CSU Chico

VIDEOGRAPHY: PATRICK RECORD and csu chico

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