When Charles “CC” Carter stepped foot on the Chico State University campus on his first day of college, he never knew he would spend the next 45 years of his life in Chico.
Everyone knows him as just “CC,” a nickname that was given to him in high school because Charles was just too stuffy for him. Carter, a champion for diversity, the founder of the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center (CCLC), and director of the Student Life and Leadership Department, is retiring after 38 years.
Student life at Chico State
Carter’s mother died when he was young. Growing up, he bounced around three foster homes.
He said Chico was not even on his radar, but when he turned 18, he needed somewhere to go.
Carter called himself a “poster child.” He was a football player who also ran track and field, and planned to use his athletic talent to get into college because “education was not his thing.”
It worked. He was accepted to multiple colleges with athletic scholarships. Carter grew up in Seaside in Monterey County and decided he wanted to go far away without leaving California. For some reason, he said, he chose Chico. The first day he came for classes at Chico State was the first day he had ever been on campus.
“I came to Chico and within the first week, I fell in love with it and never realized it was going to be my home for the next 45 years of my life,” he said.
“Activism can take a number of shapes and forms, and it’s most effective”
Carter attended Chico State from 1975 to 1980 and majored in social work and psychology. What he loved most about the campus community was the people.
“The people, the community—everyone was so accepting,” he said. “Everyone was curious about me as an individual and who I was without judgement. And, everyone was here for the same reason—to go to school to find themselves.”
The connection to the campus for Carter was similar to a family, which was the most important thing to him. A political science class with Professor Homer Metcalf also solidified that Chico was the best college choice for him. Carter said Metcalf was a pure product of the ’60s.
“I’m sitting down having a beer at my professor’s house and we’re talking about what happened in the ’60s, why he was so passionate about it, what he was doing, and how he had to stand up and fight the system,” he said.
Engaging in stimulating conversations and testing new concepts learned in classes made Chico “magical” for him. He said he went to school during an exciting time when multicultural and gender programs were booming, and conversations about defining America differently were emerging.
“I call this place Disneyland because it’s unreal,” he said, “You will find that there is no other place in the world like it.” Carter said although the classes sparked his interest in activism, he didn’t engage in it until after college. He played football, ran track, and also worked 20 to 25 hours a week as a paraprofessional for the Educational Opportunity Program. He started becoming more involved with activism when he finished with sports and graduated from Chico State.
“It was always in my blood,” he said. “I just never had time to do it in college.”
Carter made the transition from student to professional in 1980. He said he took a full-time job at the university and never looked back.
Cross-Cultural Leadership Center
Carter said his greatest accomplishment is founding the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
“It is a place that symbolizes everything that I’m about in terms of creating inclusivity and creating a space where people feel respected, connected, and affirmed,” he said. “It’s a place of possibility, hope, and where individuals can really find themselves when they are lost.”
He also said the CCLC was a place where students can get support when they need it from their peers on campus and professional staff. It’s like a family away from home.
“There's nothing like it on this campus and in the state,” he said. “It’s so warm and loving. It’s a place you can get a hug, where you can be yourself and laugh, where you can go to just scream, and somebody will ask you if you’re okay and really mean it.”
Before the CCLC became a part of the campus community, Carter and a group of about 10 students traveled up and down California to research multicultural centers on other college campuses. And Carter was asked to come up with an idea to combine leadership and multicultural programs.
Through analyzing the trials and errors of other centers, a concept and philosophy were developed and are still in use at the CCLC today.
“We’re a cross-cultural center that focuses on multiple identities and providing the opportunity to engage no matter who they are in one space,” he said. “It’s not the promotion or advocating for one culture over another, it's about the building of all communities.”
The CCLC teaches students about how to have a voice, empower communities, and look at what needs to be changed and how to do it.
“You have to be empowered to control your own reality,” he said. “It is about activism in trying to change the status quo, and that does not happen by sitting on the sidelines.”
Though he’s retiring, Carter’s legacy will continue on at Chico State through the CCLC.