CSUB honors Pratt’s legacy


Photo Courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian

Vincent Perez

Photo Courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian

Features Editor

  The community of Dundas, Ontario, Canada is approximately 2,496 miles from Bakersfield. To former Communications Department Chair, Judith Pratt, 63, California was an easy choice for a new life in 1984. California was a world away from Ontario.
  A child of two U.K. immigrants who relocated to Canada post-WWII, Pratt was raised by Canadian surroundings.
  Pratt was recruited in the mid-1980s by The Bakersfield Californian to work on the Grassroots California project, an online agriculture information service and moved to Bakersfield in 1984.
  Research money eventually ran out in 1986 for the online project. Through The Californian, Your Neighbors was Pratt’s employer for a couple years as she gained a worthwhile experience.
  After her time with Your Neighbors, she began teaching part-time in 1987 in the English Department at CSU Bakersfield and was a full-time hire the following year.
  Pratt advised the student-run newspaper, The Runner, for 15 years (1988-2003). The Runner underwent incredible changes throughout the 1990s.
   Pratt was most proud for “Introducing the communication program to new techniques,” she said. When she was hired, Pratt dealt with older processes of producing newspapers, with X-acto knives, and brought in the first Mac computers to the university.
  Pratt said she also taught HTML, the standard markup language for creating web pages, which led The Runner to become one of the first campuses to have their student newspaper online in 1995. The foundation of desktop publishing began at CSUB for the student-run newspaper, which still exists today. Pratt desired equal technology access for her student journalists.
  “I had friends at The Californian, so whatever they used, I matched for The Runner,” she said. Pratt used Adobe Pagemaker. The Runner now uses Adobe InDesign.
  Memories of Pratt’s newspaper advising years are not forgotten.
 “I remember Ed Nieto, he got a press pass to cover R.E.M. in LA,” said Pratt. “It was a ‘near-religious’ experience,” Nieto replied in an e-mail. Pratt said she took students to NASA space shuttles land in Mojave.
  “They were with the CNN and LA Times people, so they got an opportunity they wouldn’t get anywhere else,” Pratt said.
  Another former student had an enjoyable and beneficial experience with Pratt.
  Elise Sotello, 42, graduated in 1998 and worked on The Runner for approximately a year as copy editor under Pratt’s guidance.
  She described her relationship with Pratt, “We were close enough to have beers in the pub,” said Sotello. The pub that Sotello refers to is now where Panda Express operates in the Student Union.
  Sotello said her initial impression of Pratt was laid-back and approachable. “Judith allowed us to make our own mistakes and learn from them,” she said.
  Sotello, who is the AVID program coordinator at East Bakesfield High School, said, “Her rapport that she had with students was great. She had a great sense of humor.”
  During her time on The Runner, Sotello said that Pratt welcomed her son to come in on production nights as a toddler, is now 27.
  Sotello said that her experience on The Runner prepared her for her career, as she was shy before.
  “That’s what I loved about journalism; it gave me an excuse to talk to people that I would never have the courage to talk to,” she said. Sotello has been at East High since 2000.
  In recent years, Pratt has influenced other students in shaping who they become.  
  Megan Oliver, 27, had an original experience with Pratt. Oliver first met Pratt as her professor, then, after a short hiatus from CSUB, found Pratt in her department chair role.
  “When I first met her, I thought she was intimidating,” said Oliver. “But then when I got to know her, I realized how much she cared about every student in her program.” Pratt was there for Oliver when she needed her guidance after a breakdown.
  “Pratt and the other professors didn’t treat me like a broken doll. I wanted to be like everyone else,” Oliver said. She graduated in 2017 and is currently a Solutions Specialist for IES Inc. in Bakersfield.
   Pratt put in her retirement papers in August 2018 and now is heading there, but not at full-speed. Pratt has four years left on her decision to continue to work part-time teaching online classes.
  “I served six years as chair, through the agony of switching to semesters and revamping General Education (again),” she said.
  Pratt realized not long after her move that California was for her.

  “One of my favorite days was when I went skiing on Saturday in China Peak and scuba-diving in Catalina on Sunday,” she said.
  During her time off, Pratt relaxes in Cambria, California in her retirement home.
  That retirement home was originally intended for Pratt and her wife Beth Rienzi, 70, former associate Vice President of Faculty Affairs and a nationally renowned psychologist. Rienzi died in March 2014 from cancer. She worked at CSUB for 30 years.
  Pratt and Rienzi were married only a year after the 2013 court ruling on Prop 8, legalzing same-sex marriage.

  Pratt’s future plans are to travel. She will travel to Washington, D.C., Vancouver, Seattle, Amsterdam and Mendocino, California.
  CSUB will present Pratt with the Trailblazer Award in a reception prior to tonight’s Roadrunner’s men’s basketball game. Pratt will be honored for her dedication to the Communications Program. At halftime, the annoucement will be made. The game is at 7 p.m.