The numbers tell the story for the current success of Fresno State, according to its sixth-year president.
What Joseph I. Castro – the first San Joaquín Valley native and first Latino to lead the 108-year-old university – loves aren’t necessary the Bulldogs’ school-record, 12-win football season; nor successes by the women’s water polo team.
Instead, Castro pointed to increases in graduation rates and enrollment, and high rankings by national magazines that prove the university is heading in the right direction.
“Fresno State is making a difference,” Castro told about 750 who attended his fourth State of the University breakfast address Tuesday morning at the Save Mart Center. “So much so that the nation is taking stock.”
The 52-year-old Castro, in an upbeat 40-minute address, rattled off numbers and statistics to back up his assessment that the 25,000-plus-student university is moving in the right direction.
Washington Monthly has ranked Fresno State for three straight years in the top 30 based on social mobility, research and service.
Money Magazine ranks the university as one of the top 50 best public colleges.
“I like these rankings because they have substance. They aren’t based on reputation surveys, application rejections, or on the size of our budget,” said Castro, who noted he prefers to measure success on a more personal level.
“Fresno State has never and will never define success by who we turn away,” he said. “Rather, our success is measured in lives, families and communities forever changed.”
The “not-so-secret recipe,” said Castro, for the university’s success is “great people, in a great community, committed to great things.”
“Academics and athletics are rising together because of the tremendous talent of students, faculty, coaches and deans, continuously supported by a dedicated staff and administration,” he said.
Progress, he noted, can be identified in various statistics.
Student applications, enrollments and graduation rates “have increased dramatically,” said Castro.
The university has hired more tenure-track faculty than all but one, larger, CSU campus.
Fundraising is up 22 percent, the time students take to graduate is going down, and “achievement gaps for students from historically underserved communities within our unique population are narrowing,” he said.
Castro cautioned it is not time to sit back and bask with the results thus far.
“We must remain vigilant. We have seen good years go bad, and we must continue to make the case that Fresno State is not a hand out for public funds,” said Castro. “We are the driver of the economic activities that creates public wealthy in the first place.”
He lamented the fact that the university rejected 5,500 “qualified applicants” because of the university’s financial limits. He is calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has proposed funding for a 2 percent enrollment growth, for a 5 percent enrollment growth.
“If students are eligible, ready and able to work, then they should have a seat at Fresno State,” said Castro. “Talent exists in every household. Our shared challenge is to unleash this talent to prepare a new generation of leaders for our region and beyond.”
He encouraged the audience of elected officials, educators, business owners, university alumni and other supporters to educate state legislators about “the work that Fresno State and our alumni do in agriculture, water, engineering, health care, technology, business, education, the arts and numerous areas across the Central Valley.”
The university, he said, is coming from “a position of strength; a position where we know the good we are doing, the impact we are having, and the progress we are making.”
“We are succeeding in our public mission,” said Castro. “And in that success, Fresno State and the Central Valley are inseparable partners. Our futures are interwoven.”
Castro honored longtime Fresno State supporter John E. Horstmann with the President’s Medal of Distinction for his “professional achievements in the finance and insurance industry.” Known as ‘The Dogfather,’ Horstmann bought live mascot Victor E. Bulldog III and donated him to the Fresno State Alumni Association.
Previous recipients of the award include businessman Fred Ruiz, the late Judge Armando O. Rodríguez, and former Oaxaca (México) state Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.
Numbers Dr. Joseph I. Castro wants you to remember
▪ 90 percent of Fresno State students come from the Central Valley, including more than half from Fresno County.
▪ nearly 70 percent are the first generation in their families to attend college (and 30 percent are legacy Bulldogs).
▪ nearly 6,000 students earn their degree from Fresno State each year.
▪ 80 percent of those graduates stay in the region.