Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro has been appointed the eighth chancellor of the California State University, the CSU Board of Trustees announced Wednesday. Castro is the first California native and the first Mexican American to oversee the nation’s largest public university.
“I am truly grateful for and excited about this unique and wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to working with the talented faculty, staff and presidents of the 23 campuses as well the Board of Trustees and executives and staff at the Chancellor's Office to further increase achievement for our 482,000 students," Castro said in a statement.
Castro will leave his Fresno State post in January to succeed Chancellor Timothy White, a Fresno State alum, who announced his retirement last year after leading the university since 2012. An interim president at Fresno State will fill Castro’s role in the new year. At the same time, a national search for his successor will begin, the CSU said.
At a media briefing Wednesday, Lillian Kimbell, chair of the CSU Board of Trustees, said it’s exciting to have a chancellor who reflects the diversity of the student body. But, she said, the board chose him for his leadership, especially during a pandemic.
“We need somebody with a steady hand, we need someone who is a good listener,” she said. “Somebody who is unflappable as more than one person called him.”
Castro said he’s proud of Fresno State programs that address student needs like the food cupboard and the tech initiative, DISCOVERe. When a reporter asked him what he would miss the most, he got choked up. He said he and his wife Mary had been reminiscing.
“We just took a walk and were talking about different memories. Probably graduation,” he said and then paused for a few seconds. “Probably every graduation.”
Fresno State has become a national leader in recruiting, supporting and graduating students from diverse backgrounds under Castro’s leadership, the CSU said.
It’s an important mission, Castro said, that he appreciates about the entire university system. “The California State University provides unprecedented and transformational opportunities for students from all backgrounds to earn a high-quality college degree and to better their families, their communities and the industries in which they become leaders,” he said. “There is no other institution that makes this great of an impact on the entire state. The CSU is key to a growing and thriving California.”
A Hanford native, Castro worked for the University of California system for 23 years before returning to the San Joaquin Valley. He held a variety of positions including Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs and Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. He has been president at Fresno State for seven years.
Castro was the first in his family to graduate from college and received his bachelor’s in political science and a master’s in public policy from UC, Berkeley, according to the CSU. He received a Ph.D in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University.