The announced CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro will be the first Mexican American appointee

On Sept 16. the California State University System appointed the first Mexican American chancellor of color, Chancellor-select Joseph Castro who has a background of immigrant grandparents and mirrors the life of some CPP students, will begin his tenure on Jan. 4, 2021.

(Courtesy of CSU Office of the Chancellor)

“The fact of the matter is that for too long the people at the leadership level at CSU have not represented the population of our campuses,” said Alvaro Huerta, CPP associate professor in the Urban & Region Planning and Ethnic & Women’s Studies departments.

Chancellor Timothy White agreed to stay longer after his retirement announcement but will hand over the reins to Castro this upcoming January 2021. In his new role as CSU chancellor, Castro may earn as much as $590,017, which was White’s total pay in 2019 according to Sacramento Bee’s state salary database. CPP students annually pay among $18,008 according to the tuition and fee rates on the CSU website.

“It doesn’t mean that just because your Black or Brown and you’re in a leadership position, will it mean you’re doing the right thing,” said Huerta. Huerta hopes Castro can create change at the CSU level regarding the diversity of the curriculum and within the system.

Castro was raised in the San Joaquin Valley by his single mother alongside his immigrant grandparents who were farm workers from Mexico. He was a first generation student when he graduated with a degree in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988. In his professional career, he has held various faculty and administrative positions, including his current role as president of Fresno State University.

“He told stories about his grandparents immigrating and the fact that when they first got to the central valley; they lived in tents,” said Mike Uhlenkamp senior director of the CSU’s public affairs office. “People understand that there are no limits for hard work and he kind of embodies that.”

The national search for the next CSU chancellor was conducted by Special Committee of Trustees in conjunction with a Stakeholder Advisory Group, according Uhlenkamp. The Stakeholder Advisory Committee was comprised of various representatives from the universities with members from the CSU Academic Senate, CSU alumni, staff and two campus presidents — including CPP President Soraya Coley.

“The first step in the search was to travel the length of the state and gather insights from across the CSU community,” said Coley. “This process ensured that the search was built on the collective knowledge and vision of the most diverse four-year public university system in the country.”

Coley recalled that at the beginning of chancellor Timothy White’s tenure in 2012, the CSU
system was experiencing a similar situation with budget cuts due to the 2008 Great Recession, yet was able to turn around the dire financial situation under White’s leadership. She is hopeful Castro will do the same.

“These are unique times, but I have worked with Castro as fellow presidents and have full
confidence in his leadership in moving the CSU forward,” said Coley.

On Sept. 25. following the announcement of his appointment, Castro met with Monica Lozano, president and CEO of College Futures Foundation, for a livestreamed interview. Castro intends to continue the legacy of White in staying committed to the Graduation Initiative 2025, which focuses on closing disparity gaps and increasing the graduation rate for all CSU students, according to the livestream interview. Regardless of the CSU system, being a leader in diversity, Castro believes in advancing the opportunities for social mobility for its students.

“This is a really special moment in time. Black lives matter and racial injustice exist, and I think the CSU has an opportunity to really lean in even more aggressively addressing these issues of inequality and I do intend to have that conversation with the presidents in January,” said Castro during the livestream.

When asked about faculty diversity, Castro mentioned how important it is for students to be able to relate to their professors and advisors, as he recalled how fundamental it was for his education.

Castro said he met with the Black and Latino legislative caucuses and was asked to improve in diversifying faculty and leadership at all 23 campuses. Castro also touched on issues that he empathizes with, coming from immigrant grandparents and being raised by a single mother.

“We must be aggressive in supporting DACA students no matter what happens in Washington, D.C.,” said Castro. He emphasized that CSU campuses have been modeling the path to supporting DACA students and is hopeful for a future Dream Act to pass.

“For a very long time we haven’t really gotten an inclusive lens and I think this new chancellor coming from a background of immigrant history, being Mexican American, really brings what the CSU really needs,” said Carla Patricia Castillo, a fifth-year international marketing student. “Being undocumented myself, I feel like the CSU might be in better hands.”

Castro will begin his duties as chancellor elect on Jan. 4. Students can view the recording of the livestream here or visit the CSU website for more information on the new CSU Chancellor.

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