Embracing Tim White and Bob Linscheid after receiving my bachelor’s degree, it hit me that this commencement at Chico State was my last official event as a California State University student and as a trustee. This was the end of an extraordinary experience and the beginning of a new journey.
Transitions always involve emotional reflection on growth, change, relationships lost and friends gained. My time at Chico State and in the CSU captured a period of personal realization, growth and change. I am leaving a lot of who I once was behind, including an identity and name.
Coming out to the CSU Board of Trustees as transgender, undergoing transition from female to male, was nerve-racking. In retrospect, their embracing support was a natural extension of the welcome they had extended me since my appointment. I also knew I had an ally in Chancellor White.
As an activist advocating for gender and sexual equity at Chico State and in systemwide student government, publicly sharing this life-changing moment was the logical decision as well as an educational opportunity for those around me.
In addition to advocacy and activist work relating to these poignant issues, I was entrusted with a seat at the policy table.
During my two-year term as student trustee, I was given an unobstructed view into the thinking and inner workings of the university’s policymakers. My first take away was how much the board members and administration cared about students and the university. My second take away was the incredible difficultly of the choices made during the more financially and politically tense times for the university system.
This isn’t to say that I agreed with every decision. In fact, I spoke strongly against the majority position at times. Yet, these debates taught me to appreciate both sides and led to a better understanding of the work needed in order to affect change throughout society.
The CSU is a crucible of change. Those of us who participate in this confluence of forces are richer for the experience and far better prepared for a lifetime of challenges and opportunities. No two paths are the same and the value comes from bringing these experiences together and learning from each other’s journey.
Thank you to the faculty, staff, administration, trustees and my student peers. I carry the experiences we shared into everything I do and in the person I am becoming.
Editor’s Note: For a profile on Trustee Ruddell, please see Chico Statements “Agent of Change.”