When Fresno State president Dr. Joseph I. Castro was told he was getting the 2017 Latino Spirit Award in education, he was surprised to receive the honor at the state Capitol on Monday (May 1).
“I was surprised, and honored, and humble because of the respect I have for the Latino Legislative Caucus and all the work that they do for California,” Castro said. “So to be recognized by them is one of the most important accomplishments of my life so far.”
Castro was appointed the eighth – and first San Joaquín Valley native – president of Fresno State in 2013.
Born and raised in Hanford, Castro is the grandson of farmworkers from México, and is the first person in his family to graduate from a university. He received a bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public policy from UC Berkeley and a doctorate in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford University.
Castro also talked about his work at Fresno State University and plans to continue making the university a better place for students.
“There is a lot to do. I am very happy with the progress that we’ve made at Fresno State, but there is more to do, there are more students to serve,” Castro said, adding that there are more effective efforts that the university is planning on implementing in the next years to help additional Valley students from all backgrounds to succeed.
“We educate the next generation of leaders at Fresno State and we can always do that better,” Castro said. “So my focus is on how we can be stronger every day in serving our students. That is shared by all the faculty and staff and all of my cabinet members.”
I consider this award to be something shared by all Fresno State, all our students and faculty and staff, and alumni and friends that make our university so strong.
Dr. Joseph I. Castro, Fresno State University president
When Castro was first appointed president at Fresno State, he set the graduation rate target to 70 percent, which at that time was 48 per cent.
“Today we are getting close to 60 percent, but we still have more work to do,” Castro said. “I want us to be one of the nation’s leaders in serving diverse students, whether they are undocumented students or second- or third-generation students.”
“We want to make sure that they come to Fresno State and a quality education at a affordable price, and that they go out and succeed and become leaders in the Valley and beyond,” Castro said.
“So that continues to be the guiding light, and everything we do is to support them, whether is through the food security efforts, or through strengthening other students’ success programs, raising more private dollars for scholarships, recruiting the best faculty and staff, engaging the community so our students get full range of internships and great jobs.
“All those things support the overall mission which is to boldly educate and empower students for success,” Castro said. “We will continue to focus all our energies on doing that, making Fresno State the very stronger university that it can be.”
Castro is also a professor of educational leadership in the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at the university.
Prior to his appointment at Fresno State, Castro served as vice chancellor/student academic affairs, and professor of family and community medicine at UC San Francisco. Earlier in his career, he held faculty and/or administrative leadership positions at four other University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Barbara.
Castro has received various awards for his leadership including the Ohtli Medal, which is the highest honor granted by the Mexican government to leaders in the United States.
“I consider this award to be something shared by all Fresno State, all our students and faculty and staff, and alumni and friends that make our university so strong,” Castro said.
María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782