Dec 15, 2011
Dixon first came to Humboldt State after already having been a private business owner and community activist. Most recently, he completed a prestigious Jesse M. Unruh fellowship.
Before coming to HSU, the McKinleyville High School graduate served as a board member of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce and the Eureka Finance Advisory Board. He served as chair of the Humboldt County Republican Party and as Humboldt County Human Rights Commissioner. He also owned his own advertising and public relations firm.
“I was doing all that and then I got sick,” Dixon says. For years, Dixon battled debilitating kidney disease and underwent exhausting dialysis. There were days where he couldn’t get out of bed. That’s when he decided he had to go back to school.
“I decided one day, I’ve got to get out of bed or I’m going to die,” he says.
In 2005, Dixon resumed his education at Humboldt State. In addition to his studies, he participated in and later served as an assistant to the university Debate Team. He thought his days of public office were over until a fellow debater suggested he join the California State Student Association (CSSA) of the California State University (CSU) system.
Dixon served as Executive Vice Chair of the association and during that time helped to redraft its constitution, refocusing the organization and strengthening its ability to advocate for student issues. All 23 CSU campuses approved the new constitution and active membership in the association jumped from 11 to 23 once it was adopted.
Dixon went on to serve as the first president of the association under the new constitution. Among other things, the revitalized association was able to get Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to vow to veto budget bills that threatened cuts to the CSU.
“That was a huge victory for us,” Dixon says. “Having a student voice is huge. The UC system doesn’t even have what we do with the CSSA. It was about to fold and we put it back together.”
The politics of higher education has always been a part of Dixon’s life in one way or another. As the son of a mill worker, the CSU system gave Dixon affordable access to a college degree. He was the first on his father’s side of the family to earn one, so he understands, intimately, the need for accessible higher education. Additionally, his mother served as a school board member for 20 years, where she acted as president as well as regional director.
As fellow to California State Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, who serves as Vice Chair of the budget committee, Dixon worked intimately on economic issues affecting students. It has also added to his understanding of higher education, and his ideas for how to improve the system.
“The state universities and University of California schools were basically being starved to death by the state,” he says. “We’ll choke our economy to death if we kill our higher education systems. I got mad when I saw what was going on, and sometimes you can’t complain, you have to do something.”
Now that his fellowship is complete, the pace of Dixon’s days has slowed down a bit. “I’m catching up on laundry,” he says. But he doesn’t plan to relax for long. Currently, he has plans to finish his Master’s degree in Economics at Sacramento State University. After that, he hopes to use his experience and devotion to accessible higher education in a position working at the state capital.
“I’m likely to stay in politics and higher education,” Dixon says. “I might become a university president in the CSU myself.”
Wherever he ends up, though, Dixon will always remain a self-proclaimed “Humboldt guy.” And he’ll work to bring that spirit of close-knit camaraderie with him.
“Humboldt is extraordinarily unique in the CSU and I can say that having spent time on every other campus. I got an experiential education there, and my instructors were available to me,” he says. 1I could not have gotten what I did at Humboldt at any other university. That small town guy will never leave me.”