California State University, Chico

Coordinates: 39°43′54″N 121°50′58″W / 39.73167°N 121.84944°W / 39.73167; -121.84944
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California State University, Chico
Former names
Northern Branch State Normal School of California (1887–1921)
Chico State Teachers College (1921–1935)
Chico State College (1935–1972)
Motto"Today Decides Tomorrow"[1]
TypePublic university
Established1887; 137 years ago (1887)
Parent institution
California State University
Endowment$62.9 million (2020)[2]
Budget$248.6 million (2019)[3]
PresidentStephen Perez
ProvostDebra Larson
Academic staff
989 (Fall 2018)[4]
Administrative staff
1,106 (Fall 2018)[4]
Students16,630 (Fall 2020)[5]
Undergraduates15,676 (Fall 2020)[5]
Postgraduates954 (Fall 2020)[5]
Location, ,
United States

39°43′54″N 121°50′58″W / 39.73167°N 121.84944°W / 39.73167; -121.84944
CampusMidsize city[6][7], Central Campus: 119 acres (48 ha)
Total: 3,249 acres (1,315 ha)
NewspaperThe Orion
ColorsChico red, cornerstone gray, black, and white[8]
Sporting affiliations
MascotWillie the Wildcat

California State University, Chico (Chico State[8]) is a public university in Chico, California. It was founded in 1887 as one of about 180 "normal schools" founded by state governments in the 19th century to train teachers for the rapidly growing public common schools. Some closed but most steadily expanded their role and became state colleges in the early 20th century and state universities in the late 20th century. [10] It is the second oldest campus in the California State University system. As of the fall 2020 semester, the university had a total enrollment of 16,630 students. The university offers 126 bachelor's degree programs, 35 master's degree programs, and four types of teaching credentials. Chico is a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI).


The historic campus of CSU Chico.
Trinity Hall as seen from George Petersen Rose Garden

On March 12, 1887, a legislative act was enacted to create the Northern Branch of the California State Normal School. Less than a month later, Chico was chosen as the location. In 1887, General John Bidwell donated 8 acres (3.2 ha) of land from his cherry orchard. On July 4, 1888, the first cornerstone was laid. On September 3, 1889, doors opened for the 90 enrolled students. The library opened on January 11, 1890, with 350 books. On June 20, 1891, the first graduation took place, a class of 15.

In 1910, Annie Kennedy Bidwell donated an additional 2 acres (0.81 ha) of land to be used for work with elementary agriculture. The next year Mrs. Bidwell donated an orange orchard lot 55 × 440 feet (130 m) as the children's playground, which is connected to the Training School.[11] Twenty years later in 1921, legislation was enacted to change the school's name to Chico State Teacher's College. In 1922, Chico State Teacher's College added a junior college curriculum and awarded a certificate after two years. Also in 1922, Bidwell Mansion was turned into a women's dormitory. In 1923 the first college paper, The Collegian, was published. In 1924, the state Board of Education allowed the school to grant baccalaureate degrees. Also in 1924, the wildcat was chosen as the mascot. In 1927 a gym was built on the grounds of Bidwell Mansion. In 1929, the cornerstone for the new administration building was laid on top of Normal Building's original cornerstone.

In 1935, Bidwell Hall was turned into a recreation and student center—the first student union. Also in 1935 a legislative act changed the college name from Chico State Teachers College to Chico State College. In 1937 evening classes started on campus and athletic fields were purchased from the Chico Board of Education.

In 1948, dorms for 500 male students were set up on west side of Warner Street. The buildings were built during World War II and were used as bachelor quarters for a Marine Hospital in Klamath Falls, Oregon.

In 1950, California's governor allowed state colleges to grant Master of Arts degrees. In 1951 the college reorganized from 18 departments into seven divisions with chairmen. Then in 1956 a new flagpost and sign in front of Kendall Hall was donated by the class of 1956. In the following year, 1957, a new cafeteria was built and the rose gardens were planted. In 1958 the first "telecourse" was taught, Psychology 51.

The Arts & Humanities Building is one of the newest buildings on campus. It opened in July 2016.[12]

In 1972, Chico State College became California State University, Chico.

In 1975, broadcasts of classes through closed circuit TV were used for the first time by residents in Oroville, Marysville and Colusa. Also in 1975, The Orion, the campus student newspaper, published its first issue. In 1977, the other campus paper, The Wildcat, changed its name to Chico News and Review and moved off campus to become an independent publication. In 1978 bike riding was restricted on campus.[13]

In 1987, Chico State was ranked as the top party school in the nation by Playboy.[14]

CSU Chico opened its first sub-campus in Redding, affiliated with Shasta College, in 2007.

In 2005, student Matt Carrington was hazed to death at the Chi Tau (local) house, which had previously been expelled from the university in 2001 due to violations.[15] Carrington died as a result of water intoxication during a hazing session involving the victim being forced to exercise and drink large quantities of water.

In 2010, the President of the Associated Student body, Joseph Igbineweka, was stabbed in a racially motivated attack.[16]

In 2011, CSU, Chico received a Civic Learning Initiative Grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to extend its efforts to establish civic engagement as a key component of students' academic success.[17]


Facade of the new 110,200-square-foot Science Building

The university has more than 75 departments[18] and offers more than 150 undergraduate degrees.[19] It is organized into seven colleges and four schools:

  • College of Agriculture
  • College of Behavioral & Social Sciences
    • School of Social Work
  • College of Business
  • College of Communication & Education
    • School of Education
  • College of Engineering, Computer Science, & Construction Management
  • College of Humanities & Fine Arts
    • School of the Arts
  • College of Natural Sciences
    • School of Nursing

The university's library, the Meriam Library, has several special collections of Native American and Californian history.[20]


According to the U.S. News & World Report 2023 college rankings, Chico State was ranked at 13th for "Best Colleges for Veterans", tied 10 in Top Public Schools, 22 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, 70 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs teeing 12 in Civil Engineering and 206 in Nursing.[26]

According to the U.S. News & World Report 2022 college rankings, Chico State was ranked tied at 17th for "Best Colleges for Veterans", tied 18 in Top Public Schools, tied 24 in Top Performers on Social Mobility, tied 75 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs and tied for 251 in Nursing.[27]

According to the U.S. News & World Report 2021 college rankings, Chico State was ranked tied for 9th among 66 western regional public universities, tied at 16th for "Best Colleges for Veterans", tied at 22nd for "Best Undergraduate Teaching", tied at 41st for "Social Mobility", and tied for 26th overall among 127 regional universities in the western United States. Lastly it tied at 91 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Program at a schools where doctorate not offered.[28]

Chico State was ranked 335th out of 650 colleges, universities, and service academies in the U.S. in the 2019 Forbes America's Top Colleges list, and was ranked 68th in the West, 73rd for "Best Value", and 113th among all public universities.[29]


The California State University, Chico campus consists of a 119-acre main campus, the 800-acre Paul L. Byrne Memorial University Farm, and 2,330-acres of ecological reserves. These reserves include the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER) and the Butte Creek Ecological Preserve (BCEP).[4]

Early construction[edit]

Kendall Hall in June 2023

The construction of the normal school building was begun in September, 1887. It was a large brick building, consisting of three stories and full basement. It was of Romanesque design with Elizabethan gables and artificial stone trimmings. The building was destroyed by a fire in 1927. The current administration building Kendall Hall was built on the site of the normal school in 1929.[30]

Colusa Hall, completed in 1921 is the oldest building on campus. Today it is used as a conference and public events facility.[31]

Alfred E. Warren House, built by noted Californian architect Julia Morgan in 1922-23, serves as the university president's residence.


The Campus Arboretum is located across the campus of California State University, Chico along Big Chico Creek.

Nearby Bidwell Park includes 29 acres (12 ha) of a former arboretum, now run somewhat wild, which contains trees such as English oaks, hawthorn, cherry plum, bay laurel, cork oak, ponderosa, aleppo, and Monterey pines, willow, mulberry, linden, maple, catalpa, pine, and eucalyptus, collected from around the world.[32]

Residence halls[edit]

Currently, the university can accommodate 2,150[33] or approximately 13% of the student body in seven on-campus residential halls. Most buildings on campus are named after California counties.

Meriam library[edit]

In 1959, Chico State College Library was built. The library was expanded and renamed to the "Learning Activities Resource Center" (LARC) in 1975. It was in 1985 when the library gained another expansion and its current name, Meriam Library. A fourth floor of the library was constructed in 1985.[34]

Student life[edit]

Chico State campus: Laxson Auditorium

Associated Students, Chico[edit]

Associated Students, Chico is the student government at California State University, Chico.

Office of Student Life and Leadership[edit]

Undergraduate demographics as of Fall 2020
Race and ethnicity[35] Total
White 69.2% 69.2
Hispanic 19% 19
Other[a] 6.6% 6.6
Asian 5% 5
Black 2.2% 2.2
Foreign national 2% 2
Economic diversity
Low-income[b] 42% 42
Affluent[c] 58% 58

Student Life and Leadership, formally the Student Activities Office, incorporates four programs: Student Organizations and Leadership Education (SOLE), Fraternity and Sorority Affairs (FSA), Rec Sports, and the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center (CCLC).

Town Hall Meeting[edit]

Chico State has an annual event where Chico State students gather in a public area and discuss most current policy issues with their peers. Faculty members are also involved.[36]

The Great Debate[edit]

The Great Debate was created to drive members of both the campus and the community to take part in a conversation about important issues. A different topic is chosen every semester.[37]

Greek life[edit]

As of May 2017 Chico State has 26 fraternities and sororities, making up approximately 12 percent of the student population.[38]


Fall Freshman Statistics[39][40][41][42]

2019 2018 2017 2016 2015
Freshman Applicants 23,964 22,853 23,124 22,321
Admits 15,639 15,796 15,393 14,441
% Admitted 65.3 69.1 66.6 64.7
GPA 3.41 3.34 3.30 3.33
SAT mid-50% range* 1000–1190 990–1170 880–1100 890–1110
ACT mid-50% range 18–24 19–25 19–24 19–25
* SAT out of 1600

Male to Female Percentage: 46:54%[4]

CSU Chico along with CSU Bakersfield has the second largest enrollment percentage of Native Americans in the Cal State system.[43]

Student media[edit]

KCSC Radio was founded in 1951. The university's student-run weekly newspaper, The Orion first began publishing in 1975.[44] In 1989, The Orion won the National Pacemaker Award, the first of nine times the paper has won the top prize in college journalism. In 2009, The Orion won the National Pacemaker Award for the 11th time at the College Media Convention.[citation needed]

In 1997 Wild Oak Music Group, an independent record company, was founded and is run by the Music Industry students within the College of Humanities and Fine Arts.


The university's athletic teams are known as the Chico State Wildcats. The school sponsors soccer, basketball, golf, cross country, and track and field for both men and women. The school sponsors softball and volleyball for women, and baseball for men. The school's athletic director is Anita Barker. The school competes in Division II of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA).[45] Since 1998, Chico State's athletic teams have won 99 NCAA Championship berths, 40 CCAA titles, 24 West Region titles, and 15 NCAA national titles.[46] The Wildcats softball team won the first AIAW Division III national championship in 1980, led by pitcher Kathy Arendsen.[47] Chico excels in cross country and track and field in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.[48]

The Wildcats of Chico State earned six team NCAA championships at the Division II level.[49] NCAA Division II individual championships by Scott Bauhs (2008) Men's cross country and J. J. Jakovac (2002, 2004) and Kyle Souza (2011) Men's Golf Championships.


The Chico State Motto, "Today decides tomorrow"

Chico State made The Princeton Review's 2011 "Guide to Green Colleges", honoring campuses that "demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability in their academic offerings, campus infrastructure, activities, and career preparation."[50]

Noted people[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Name Known for Relationship to Chico
Annette Abbott Adams First female Assistant Attorney General of the United States
Nelson Briles Former Major League Baseball player
Donald J. Butz United States Air Force major general
John Canzano Sports Writer BA in English, 1995
Richard Campbell Musician
Don Carlsen Former NFL referee retired 2012
Doug Chapman Actor BA, 1994
Rocky Chávez served in the California State Assembly BA in English, 1973
Raymond Carver Author
Clay Dalrymple Former Major League Baseball player
Mark Davis Owner Las Vegas Raiders
Amanda Detmer Actress
Big Poppa E Professional slam poet Attended 1994-2000 (Journalism)
Clair Engle United States Senator BA, 1930
Horace Dove-Edwin Olympian MA in exercise science, 1999
Ken Grossman Co-founder Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Brandon Harkins Professional golfer
Joseph Hilbe Statistician and philosopher BA in Philosophy
Dominik Jakubek Goalkeeper for Major League Soccer BA Liberal Studies 2009
Troy Johnson Food critic, TV judge of Food Network shows BA Speech Communications and Poetry 1997
Mat Kearney Columbia recording artist Attended Chico State for 2 years
Adnan Khashoggi Saudi businessman
Sandra Lerner Co-founder of Cisco Systems BA Political Science 1975
Michael Messner Sociologist, Professor at the University of Southern California BA, 1974; MA, 1976
Tirin Moore Neuroscientist and Professor at Stanford University / HHMI BA, 1990
Bob Mulholland Political strategist
Troy Neiman Baseball player
Matt Olmstead Writer and television producer
Kathleen O'Neal Gear Historian and archaeologist BA and MA
Maureen O'Toole Olympic silver medalist
Michael Polenske Entrepreneur & vintner Bachelors in Finance[51]
Lubna al Qasimi Minister for Economy and Planning of the United Arab Emirates BS in Computer Science
Ed Rollins Political strategist BA, 1968
Thom Ross Artist degree in fine arts, 1974
Gene Scott Ordained minister and religious broadcaster BA and MA
Carolyn Shoemaker Astronomer
Joshua Singleton Television installer & video game designer
(animated series Close Enough character)
Glynnis Talken Author BA
Dale Thayer Major League Baseball player
Mark Thoma Economist BA, 1980
Mike Thompson Member of the United States Congress
Mark Ulriksen Painter
Johannes van Overbeek Race car driver
Patrick Vaughan Historian
Bill Wattenburg Radio host, author, inventor
Chris Wondolowski Forward for Major League Soccer
Don Young Former member of the United States Congress BA, 1958


Name Known for Relationship to Chico
John Gardner Author Professor of English
Michael Gillis Historian Lecturer in history
Carolivia Herron Author and scholar Professor of English
Troy Jollimore Poet Professor of Philosophy
Janja Lalich Sociologist Professor of Sociology
Carolyn Ringer Lepre academic administrator assistant professor of journalism
Harold Lang Dancer and actor Professor of dance, 1970–1985
Peveril Meigs Geographer Professor of geography, 1929–1942
Nicholas Nagy-Talavera Historian Professor of History, 1967–1991
Michael Perelman Author Professor of Economics
Sarah M. Pike Author Professor of Comparative Religion and Humanities
Jane Wells Shurmer Women's sports Professor of Physical Education
Ivan Sviták Philosopher, Critic, Poet Professor of Philosophy, 1970–1990

University presidents[edit]

  • Edward Timothy Pierce, 1889–1893
  • Robert F. Pennell, 1893–1897
  • Carleton M. Ritter, 1897–1899
  • Charles C. Van Liew, 1899–1910
  • Allison Ware, 1910–1917
  • Elmer Isaiah Miller, 1910, 1917–1918
  • Charles Osenbaugh, 1918–1930
  • Clarence Knight Studley, 1930–1931
  • Rudolph D. Lindquist, 1931
  • Aymer Jay Hamilton, 1931–1950
  • George Glenn Kendall, 1950–1966
  • Robert Eugene Hill, 1966–1970
  • Lew Dwight Oliver, 1970–1971
  • Stanford Cazier, 1971–1979
  • Robert L. Fredenburg, 1979–1980
  • Robin Wilson, 1980–1993
  • Manuel A. Esteban, 1993–2003
  • Scott McNall, 2003–2004
  • Paul Zingg, 2004–2016
  • Gayle E. Hutchinson, 2016–2023
  • Stephen Perez, 2023-Present

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other consists of Multiracial Americans & those who prefer to not say.
  2. ^ The percentage of students who received an income-based federal Pell grant intended for low-income students.
  3. ^ The percentage of students who are a part of the American middle class at the bare minimum.


  1. ^ "Chico State Logo Standards Guidelines" (PDF). Retrieved December 9, 2022.
  2. ^ As of June 30, 2020. U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20 (Report). National Association of College and University Business Officers and TIAA. February 19, 2021. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
  3. ^ "2019-20 Budget Plan" (PDF). September 9, 2019. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "Chico Facts". California State University, Chico. Retrieved March 5, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Fall Term Student Enrollment". The California State University Institutional Research and Analyses. Archived from the original on December 2, 2019. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  6. ^ "CSUMentor - Explore Campuses - Comparative View". Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  7. ^ "IPEDS-California State University, Chico".
  8. ^ a b "Visual Identity Overview" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  9. ^ "Chico Facts - CSU, Chico". Retrieved August 11, 2017.
  10. ^ Christine Ogren, The American State Normal School: 'An Instrument of Great Good' (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) pp. 1-5, 213-235; online.
  11. ^ Bailey, Mary Ellen. "University Archives: Chico State Normal School (1887-1921)". Retrieved 2008-01-06.
  12. ^ New Arts and Humanities Building opens, in: Chico State Today, July 28, 2016, retrieved on March 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "Cal State, Chico, History". Retrieved 25 December 2019.
  14. ^ "Playboy's Party Schools". 2008. Retrieved 2007-05-17.
  15. ^ Morrison, Keith (June 26, 2006). "Hazing death at Chico State". NBC News. Retrieved 2009-01-18.
  16. ^ "Confronting the killer of your loved one". CNN. 2008-07-22. Archived from the original on 2012-10-08. Retrieved 2011-05-18.
  17. ^ "Civic Learning Initiative Receives Grant from W. M. Keck Foundation - CSU, Chico News - CSU, Chico". 2011-01-31. Archived from the original on 2011-02-07. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
  18. ^ "Colleges and Departments". Chico State. 2008. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  19. ^ "Program Search". Chico State. 2008. Archived from the original on 2007-01-02. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  20. ^ "Library Collections". Meriam Library. 2008. Archived from the original on 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  21. ^ "2023 Master's University Rankings". Washington Monthly. Retrieved February 10, 2024.
  22. ^ "Best Colleges 2023: Regional Universities Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 25, 2023.
  23. ^ "Forbes America's Top Colleges List 2023". Forbes. Retrieved September 22, 2023.
  24. ^ "2024 Best Colleges in the U.S." The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse. Retrieved January 27, 2024.
  25. ^ "California State University–Chico - U.S. News Best Grad School Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved September 24, 2020.
  26. ^ "U.S. News Best College Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. 2022. Retrieved September 22, 2021.
  27. ^ "U.S. News Best College Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. 2022. Retrieved September 22, 2021.
  28. ^ "U.S. News Best College Rankings". U.S. News & World Report. 2021. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  29. ^ "America's Top Colleges". Forbes. August 15, 2019.
  30. ^ "University Archives - Campus Buildings". Archived from the original on 2012-03-16. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
  31. ^ "Campus Buildings". Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  32. ^ "Campus Grounds - University Archives". Meriam Library -- Special Collections. Archived from the original on 2014-05-31. Retrieved 2013-12-30.
  33. ^ "UHFS Annual Report 2011-2012" (PDF).[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ "History of Meriam Library". Retrieved October 17, 2019.
  35. ^ "College Scorecard: California State University-Chico". United States Department of Education. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  36. ^ "The CSU, Chico Town Hall Meeting". Archived from the original on 2020-04-27. Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  37. ^ "Chico Great Debate".
  38. ^ "Fraternity and Sorority Affairs". Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  39. ^ "California State University, Chico 2018-2019 Common Data Set" (PDF). California State University, Chico.
  40. ^ "California State University, Chico 2017-2018 Common Data Set" (PDF). California State University, Chico.
  41. ^ "California State University, Chico 2016-2017 Common Data Set" (PDF). California State University, Chico.
  42. ^ "California State University, Chico 2015-2016 Common Data Set" (PDF). California State University, Chico.
  43. ^ "Ethnicity Enrollment Profile". Archived from the original on 2019-10-25. Retrieved 2019-07-09.
  44. ^ "About". The Orion. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
  45. ^ "Wildcat Athletics". California State University, Chico. 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-04.
  46. ^ "Competing with NCAA Elite - Best of Chico State - CSU, Chico". Archived from the original on 2011-11-12. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
  47. ^ "The Hall of Fame Committee Salutes the 1980 Softball Team" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-03-07.
  48. ^ "CCAA Champions". 2020-10-17. Retrieved 2020-10-17.
  49. ^ "Championships Summary" (PDF). National Collegiate Athletic Association. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  50. ^ "Topping the Green List - Best of Chico State - CSU, Chico". Archived from the original on 2011-11-12. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
  51. ^ Nalley, Richard. "Napa Valley: The Entrepreneur's Tour". Forbes Life. Retrieved 17 April 2013.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dunham, E. Alden. "Colleges of the Forgotten Americans. A Profile of State Colleges and Regional Universities." (McGraw Hill, 1969).

External links[edit]