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Interview: Chico State President discusses retirement, university policy, and the search for her replacement

University Photographer Jason Halley
California State University, Chico
Chico State President Gayle Hutchinson at a commencement ceremony.

Chico State President Gayle Hutchinsonannounced last week that she will retire in June of 2023. NSPR's Alec Stutson spoke with Hutchinson about the policies and projects she undertook during her nearly seven years as the university president, and what the search for the next president will look like.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

On her reasons for retiring now

I'm at a point in my life — my age combined with how long I've been an insulin-dependent diabetic — that I think the time is right for me to retire and focus on my health, and my life with my partner, and my family. And new adventures that await after retirement.

On the university's plans to address declining enrollment numbers

First and foremost, we have seen an enrollment decline. Before COVID we started noticing this gradual decline. After COVID, it almost seems like we've seen this significant drop. This is happening around the country, we've seen a drop in undergraduate students, certainly in California.

In fact, earlier this year, at my convocation, I talked about how we were standing up [and] establishing action teams. They are focused on improving our enrollment. First being admissions and reducing barriers. There are so many administrative barriers that students don't find it easy to find us or access applications with us. And we're doing all we can to improve that.

Second is our retention, which we've been doing for years with the graduation initiative and an equity action teams. Third is what we're calling program revitalization, which is an opportunity for us to look at programs and curricula, and really think about where students want to be today, and what the world needs in terms of an education. And we're seeing good success with all that so far.

On whether Hutchinson stands by her 2019 decision to oppose the opening of a low-barrier shelter on West Fourth and Orange street on behalf of the university and her opinion on the state of the homelessness crisis in Chico today

I'm really happy that the city has finally really found ways to address this problem more directly. So I'm happy with the number of pallet shelters that are going up, happy with the work of a lot of nonprofits. And I appreciate the locations that they've found for those who are in need of shelter. So I'm appreciative of the City and I think the work that they've done has improved the situation that we have.

On the upcoming search for a new president

This search for president is conducted by the CSU Board of Trustees. So what I know is that we are waiting now for the board of trustees, the chair of the board, or the chancellor to release the process. The hope is that we will begin the process of searching for the next president of Chico State maybe sometime this semester, but certainly in early spring. And my hope is that the process is concluded so that I can hand the keys over to the new president come July 1 of 2023.

Alec Stutson grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Radio Journalism, 20th/21st Century Literature, and a minor in Film Studies. He is a huge podcast junkie, as well as a movie nerd and musician.