New president gains support from community


Gayle Hutchinson met and greeted Chico State faculty and students on March 30. Photo credit: George Johnston

Michelle Zhu

After the search committee appointed Gayle Hutchinson to succeed President Paul Zingg, the community expressed optimism for Chico State’s first female president, who happens to be a familiar face.

President-select Hutchinson is a former professor of the kinesiology department at Chico State from 1990 to 2007. For 17 years she taught undergraduate and graduate courses. Additionally, she used to be the department’s option coordinator and chair from 2002 to 2007. Hutchinson subsequently became a senator representing Chico State at Academic Senate meetings.

Around 2007, Hutchinson became dean of the university’s behavioral and social sciences department. Recently she was promoted to serve as provost for Cal State Channel Islands in Camarillo, California.

“She’s everything we need in a new president, and I’m super excited that she’s returning to campus,” said Mary Wallmark, coordinator of Student Life and Leadership.

“Seeing and hearing excitement on campus is a breath of fresh air,” said University Police Chief John Feeney.

It is safe to say that the hopefulness and positive welcoming of Hutchinson can be attributed to her experience and reputation. Her welcoming reception on Wednesday, March 30 attested to that.

President-select Gayle Hutchinson came to Chico State to speak on what she plans to do with the university Photo credit: George Johnston


At the reception, President Paul Zingg first recognized that Hutchinson had spent a few years learning and proving what a dean can do. Zingg spoke on her willing attitude to take on prestigious leadership positions. He recalled her ready response to every position offer as being “heck yeah!” In welcoming the next president, Zingg set the mood with a warm, “Let’s welcome back our friend and next leader of this campus.”

Hutchinson began her short speech by thanking Zingg for his leadership and the search committee for taking seriously the feedback they received. But history might truly have been made when, to many people’s surprise, Hutchinson was open about being gay by thanking the support of her wife.

“Behind every great man is an equally great woman,” Hutchinson said. “Well behind this woman is a wonderfully great woman and she is my partner and her name is Linda Allen.”

The Gender and Sexuality Equity Center is supporting Hutchinson’s appointment as a benefit for representation for women, but also for open discussion of gay rights.

“In terms of entirety, it is a good step in the right direction,” said GSEC trans coordinator Seve Christian.

On being the first female president, Hutchinson believes it is a “sign of the times.”

“I think there are a lot of great women moving into leadership roles,” she said. “I feel a sense of responsibility to be a role model to young women and young girls who are coming up after me.”

Analicia Hawkins, the women’s program coordinator for GSEC, believes Hutchinson’s appointment will encourage women in the community to gain new aspirations.

Gayle Hutchinson talking to people who came to see her in the Bell Memorial Student Union. Photo credit: George Johnston


Continuing the reception, Hutchinson stated that she wants to keep Chico State’s positive condition strong and then enhance it with the support of the community.

Although her former leadership in the community might have allowed her to see firsthand the school’s wants and needs at the time, Hutchinson now wants to hear from students and faculty to see where strengths and weaknesses currently lie.

At the start of her presidency, Hutchinson wants to hear from the Chico State community about what is going well, areas of improvement and areas of innovation in order to be a “twenty-first century university.”

Hutchinson also intends to get to know the students very closely.

“Any way I can interact with students, through community service, events or informal opportunities to get together, I will do,” Hutchinson said.

Beginning July 6, Hutchinson will make history as she officially succeeds Paul Zingg as Chico State’s first female, and openly gay, president. Only time will tell if she will maintain the enthusiasm and hopefulness of the supporting community.

Michelle Zhu can be reached at [email protected] or @mmichellezhuu on Twitter.