Chico State's Meriam Library Gets A New Affinity Space for Rural Students

A student report from RSC's Northern California Hub partners shows the value of creating spaces to prioritize rural places

April 10, 2023 |
Chico State Students in the new Regional Affinity Space

Chico Students and Dr. Ann Schulte posing in the new Regional Affinity Space. Photo courtesy of Brynna Garcia.

This exploratory article about Chico State's continuing work to support rural students on campus was written by Brynna Garcia, a student ambassador for rural Red Bluff, CA. CSU-Chico is one of the leads for our Northern California Regional Hub. Chico's Office of Civic Engagement is a noteworthy example of the power rural-serving higher education institutions have to support the communities they serve through student empowerment and representation; we encourage you to learn more about their programming through their website.

Chico State Office of Civic Engagement recently opened a new space for rural students in Meriam Library. Located in the first floor research commons, the space has unique posters about the North State hung up and comfortable seating for all to enjoy. The mastermind behind this all is Director of Civic Engagement at Chico State, Dr. Ann Schulte. When asked what her favorite part of this space is she responded with, “That it’s here! I proposed this idea four years ago, and I’m so happy to have some real infrastructure to support regional students and their connections back home.”

Better known as the “Regional Affinity Space” this area allows for students from rural counties in Chico State’s service region, including; Glenn, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Siskiyou, Modoc, Trinity, Shasta, Tehama, Plumas, Butte and Lassen to come and meet other students from rural communities that have similar experiences to them or just use the space as another resource or study space.

What is often overlooked in many colleges, big or small, is their rural student population. Many rural students come from communities with less than 100 kids in their graduating class and they have very different experiences than those who grew up, for example, in a big city. Many have a very strong determination to succeed and have access to resources that can help them achieve that goal. Rural students are a huge asset to college campuses, however sometimes they might feel isolated or out of place. “I think you’re rural, if you think you’re rural. It doesn’t really matter how big of a town you’re from,” Ann then went on to say, ”It is really important that all our students feel affirmed for where they are from.” Rural students come from such small communities and get thrown into such a large scale schooling atmosphere that they aren’t used to and where they don’t know anyone. That’s exactly why this space has been created. It gives the Chico State campus a space where those students can connect and find a sense of belonging within their campus community.

Dr. Ann Shulte & Students enjoying the new Regional Affinity Space
Dr. Ann Schulte & Students enjoying the new Regional Affinity Space. Photo courtesy of Brynna Garcia.

To help this idea really take off, the Office of Civic Engagement has also created a team of North State Student Ambassadors to gather information about their hometown and rural experiences and bring that information back to Chico State. The school can then use this information to help their rural student population grow and thrive on campus. The ambassadors are not only resources for the school but also for fellow students who come from rural locations and for each other. In a matter of a few short weeks the team of ambassadors have found many similarities in their experiences growing up and have found many commonalities within their counties and school systems and become closer friends with one another. Dr. Karen Schreder, Regional Faculty Fellow and Education Specialist Program Coordinator at Chico State is excited for the space because it will “help connect our campus with our communities and help amplify rural students' voices within the Chico State campus.”

The space has a multitude of different uses. From study space, to meeting space to event space, it is very versatile. Besides being used as a space where the ambassadors meet once a week to share their new ideas and research findings it will also be home to “Power Hours.” According to Ann, “power hours are designed to provide opportunities for our ambassadors to highlight an important resource on our campus, creating more access to this information, especially for students from regional communities.” When talking to the ambassadors about their upcoming power hours they were very excited to talk with their special guest and hopeful people would come out to listen in. Servando Melendrez, a freshman student ambassador, is inviting the REACH program to the Affinity Space, followed by Gabrielle Concepcion, a senior student ambassador, hosting UMatter and then Trish Wallan, another student ambassador, who will be live stream chatting with Molly Calhoun about the distance Social Work program at Chico State.

That is just the beginning of the Power Hours scheduled and according to the group of ambassadors they “aren’t stopping anytime soon.” They are working on a very exciting national conference proposal and have some other fun things on the horizon. They encourage anyone interested in this and their work to follow their Instagram, @chicostatestudentambassadors, to stay up to date on their latest projects and tune into the Power Hours that will be live streamed on their Instagram Story!

Thank you to Dr. Ann Schulte, Chico State Director of Civic Engagement for sharing this incredible piece with us, and for her tireless work for rural students and places!

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