CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro and First Lady Mary Castro spent the day at Cal State Long Beach on Tuesday to offer their insights and perspectives about The Beach and the future of the CSU system.
After meeting with President Jane Close Conoley and other campus officials, Chancellor Castro took part in an open forum at the University Student Union, where he answered questions sent in by the campus community. His appearance was part of a 23-campus tour in his first year as chancellor.
After revealing who he thought would win the Super Bowl in January, Castro (a Miami Dolphins fan), turned his attention to the questions on topics that included student success, leading the CSU through unprecedented times, basic needs and increasing the diversity of CSULB’s student population.
On improving student success:
“You are all doing such a great job in preparing leaders for this area (Long Beach) and California and beyond. I think for me, who thinks a lot about leadership development, the success of our students is essential. Of course, that means on the campus as far as their academic work, but also through appropriate leadership programs.
“We have almost 500,000 emerging leaders and powerful universities like this one play in developing leaders from all different backgrounds and it’s inspiring to me in the Cal State system that we can do that on such a large scale with diversity. It is unmatched around the country. It is a great privilege to work on that, to prepare those leaders so that they are ready to go onto a graduate program and right into a career.”
On achieving the goals of the CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025 that seeks to increase graduation rates and eliminate equity gaps in degree completion:
“Graduation Initiative 2025 is something I supported from the beginning, and I continue to believe in that strongly. … I believe we will achieve those goals in 2025 in our graduation numbers and in eliminating equity gaps with the help of Pell Grants. I was a Pell Grant student, so I am going to do everything I can to support each one of the campuses, including Long Beach State, in meeting those goals.
“When we do that, we will lead the nation. More importantly, we will have developed leaders on a scale that has never occurred anywhere else in history.”
On guiding the CSU through unprecedented times caused by the pandemic:
“There is no handbook for leadership through this time, as you all know. It’s been a humbling experience. Because one day, you are planning for X and the next day, you find that X is not possible, so then you start planning for Y. You all know this because you’ve been doing it.”
“One of the challenges (of being chancellor) is that you want to be as clear as possible in your planning. … We have such a strong group of presidents around the system, so when we have to make those decisions together, we think about all the different factors.
“But first and foremost is the safety of all of us, and the continued educational success of all the students.”
On the importance of basic needs and mental health:
“When we first started talking about this around the system, there was a lot of tension – is this really our role or is it someone else’s role? I remember even being accused of doing the work of the Red Cross.
“My feeling is that we have evolved our thinking into being partners and leaning into this work. When Mrs. Castro and I first learned of this issue at Fresno State in 2013, and the fact that so many students were food insecure, it was quiet. No one was talking about it.”
“In 2015, if I had not read a study (written by CSULB Associate Professor Rashida Crutchfield), I probably would not have been as aggressive in putting those programs together. (Today) to see that happening across the system is gratifying.
“The other thing I will say to you is the governor and legislature are very eager to support us in this area. This is going to be an area they want to invest in and that will help the CSU. Our hungry students, our homeless students are going to struggle with their academics, and this is another way of supporting our Graduation Initiative 2025 goals.”
“Finding our role, which is providing direct services and coordinating with partners to offer other services, is also inspiring the alumni effort as well.”
On how to integrate equity and social justice into the CSULB curriculum:
“I think universities in our society have a responsibility to play a key role in these dialogues. The work that we do to prepare our students, to create forums where conversations can, at times, be very difficult but need to happen, to occur in a safe way.
“And that’s not just for those in our community here, but in the larger Long Beach community and in each of the communities around our CSU campuses.
“ … I believe we have that role, that responsibility to create new opportunities for people from all backgrounds and have those deeper dialogues in classes for students and research in whether its inequities in education or other areas. And (we need to start) creating spaces so we can have those dialogues and play a role in our communities.”
Once on campus, Castro and Mary Castro met with Michele Cesca, Vice President for University Relations and Development, who presented a series of points of pride, and Associated Students, Inc. President Jesus Gonzalez and his executive team.
After the Chancellor met with members of Conoley’s executive team, the couple attended the forum, moderated by Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Karyn Scissum Gunn. Lunch with the CSULB Governing Board executives followed before the Chancellor Castro met with the Academic Senate Executive Council and Labor Council.