California State University appoints the first Mexican American chancellor

During an academic school year led under the unprecedented and ever-shifting policies pertaining to COVID-19,  the California State University (CSU) system revealed a big change for the academic community when announcing Dr. Joseph I. Castro as the new CSU Chancellor on Sept. 23. 

After dedicating seven years of work as the CSU Chancellor, Chancellor Timothy White is scheduled to retire in January. The CSU Board of Trustees decided Castro was excellent in his previous position as the President of Fresno State and believe he is suited to fill White’s shoes starting in the spring. As Castro was appointed as the new chancellor on Zoom, viewers could see his evidently joyful smile and bright eyes when receiving this recognition, even through the computer screen. 

“I want to thank all the members of the Board of Trustees for your confidence in me during this consequential time and I want to also thank Chancellor White for his valued mentorship and support over the last several years,” Castro said. “He definitely has big shoes that I need to fit into here.” 

Chair of the Board of Trustees Lillian Kimbell spoke of the accomplishments of the CSU system during Castro’s appointment and discussed the need for a chancellor who will continue striving for greatness. “To identify a leader who has the vision and experience along with the intellectual and emotional intelligence to advance and strengthen the worthy mission of the CSU” was of utmost importance. Kimbell said the system mitigates 482,000 students, 53,00 faculty and staff and has 3.8 million alumni. 

“(The CSU system is) America’s most powerful driver of socioeconomic ascent and is the institution that will lead California to economic recover and to social and cultural healing,” she said. “I’m confident we have identified exactly that leader in the eighth chancellor of the CSU, and that is Dr. Joseph I. Castro.” 

Castro will be the first Mexcian American CSU Chancellor in the institution’s 60-year history. According to the 2020 CSU Fact Book, Hispanics and and Latinx students make up 43% of the CSU population, which adds up to about 207,441 individuals across all 23 campuses. The institution’s first-generation student population makes up one-third of all CSU students.

Castro himself is a first-generation student. He is the grandson of immigrants and was raised by his single mother. 

“My great grandparents and grandfather immigrated here from Mexico about a hundred years ago to work on the railroads and the land of the San Joaquin Valley … like the majority of students that we serve at CSU, I was the first in my family to attend and graduate from a University and that’s a gift that I’ve been paying back ever since,” Castro said during his appointment. “I intend to continue paying that gift back over time as chancellor of the CSU.”

Castro’s CSU biography disclosed that he is a professor of educational leadership along with being a scholar in the fields of leadership and public policy. He has also mentored hundreds of scholars and practitioners, including many university presidents and senior officers.

Castro received a bachelor’s degree in political science, a masters in public policy from the University of California, Berkeley and a doctorate in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University. 

Castro spent many years dedicated to excelling college academics at various universities before he was appointed as the new chancellor. According to his biography from Fresno State, he successfully completed three advanced seminars on presidential leadership at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and worked for 23 years in the University of California system as the Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs. Castro also became a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and has held faculty administrative leadership positions at UC Berkeley, Davis, Merced and Santa Barbara. 

Appointing a new chancellor did affect the finances of the CSU system. According to page 127 of the Trustees of the CSU Sept. 20 to 23 meeting agenda, the CSU Board of Trustees approved the incoming Chancellor’s salary of $625,000 to be effective no later than Jan. 4. This is a $147,229 increase from White’s current salary of $477,771. 

The same agenda stated Castro will also receive a $7,917 monthly housing allowance of non-state funds to supplement the cost of a residence, which is the same amount White was granted during his time as Chancellor. Castro will also receive an auto allowance of $1,000 per month and will hold the academic rank of full professor with tenure, both of which are required through an existing CSU policy.

Castro finished his appointment with words of encouragement and gratitude. “I want to thank my mother who is watching from Handford and I want to say hi to her and my sister and the rest of my relatives …  I promise you I will work closely with Chancellor White to ensure a smooth and efficient transition. Thank you very much for your confidence.” 

Castro will start his journey as the first Mexican American and the eighth CSU Chancellor in the Spring 2021 semester. 

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