UC San Francisco vice chancellor Joseph Castro returns to Valley roots as Fresno State’s next president

As Joseph Castro put it, hours after being named Fresno State’s next president by the California State University board of trustees: “I’m graduating from being a Bullpup to being a Bulldog at Fresno State.”

Castro, a Hanford native raised by his single mother and who wrote for his school paper and played in the varsity tennis team at Hanford High School (its mascot is the bullpup), was appointed by the CSU Board of Trustees Wednesday  to succeed incumbent John Welty, 68, as Fresno State’s eighth president in its 102-year history.

Castro is also making history: the 46-year-old, UC San Fransisco’s vice chancellor of student academic affairs who was the first in his family to graduate from college, is the Fresno State’s first Latino president.

“I am deeply, honored, humbled and blessed by the confidence shown in me as I become the eighth president of Fresno State,” Castro said.

Castro will start his new position on Aug. 1.

Castro received his bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy from UC Berkeley and earned his doctorate in higher education policy and leadership at Stanford.

He served as vice provost at UCSF from 2008-10 and associate vice chancellor for student academic affairs from 2006-08. He has held leadership positions within the UC system at the Berkeley, Davis, Merced (where he was part of the leading effort to establishing the university) and Santa Barbara campuses in his 23-year career.

“I add my congratulations to Dr. Castro,” said Welty, who has served as president of Fresno State since 1991.

“I have known him for many years and he will provide great leadership for Fresno State in the coming years. I look forward to working with him over the next few weeks to effect a smooth transition.”

Valley’s multiple selling points piqued Castro’s inclusion in presidential search

One of the pros Castro weighed before entering his name in Fresno State’s search for its next president was the proximity to his hometown of Hanford, where his mother still resides.

Another was the student body population he said he could relate to as a Valley kid who was the first in his family to pursue a higher education.

And yet another was the familiarity he had with the Valley and the challenges it presented.

“I love the diversity of the campus,” Castro said. “I see Fresno State as a place for great success for students of all backgrounds. I want to enhance the growth of the staff. I want to support the faculty.”

Castro said he realized his passion of becoming an educator around his junior year of high school, his school-paper writing and varsity tennis-playing days, “but I didn’t know what that was all going to mean. I would not have predicted university president at the time or even consider that as a career. That certainly had come much later,” he said.

Castro said grabbing the input of faculty, staff and student members will be among one of the first actions he plans to carry out once he assumes presidency to further immerse himself with the community – and also voiced interest in continuing to teach, if time permitted.

Castro was a faculty member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UC San Francisco while also holding a position as one of the school’s vice chancellors.

“I think the real strength of Fresno State is its people,” he said. “I am looking forward to meeting and getting to know all the students and faculty and staff and listening and learning and getting the lay of the land. I want to guide Fresno State in ways that build from such a strong foundation that has been created over the last 22 years, and even before that.”

Castro said he contacted several faculty and staff members via phone call after he received news of his hire, Welty being one of the first people he spoke with.

He also talked with Peter Smits, vice president for University Advancement at Fresno State.

Smits said Castro sounded “excited” over the phone.

One of Castro’s selling points to the community, Smits said, are his ties to the Valley.

“He will connect with our students and with our faculty,” Smitts said. “He shares, I’m sure, many of the same values and principles that they do. He comes from a background in the UCs where he had lots of contact with the students. A lot – and I think that’ll be great.”

Castro will live in the presidential house – where Welty has lived during his presidency – with his wife, Mary, and their 2-year-old son, Jess. The couple also has a daughter enrolled in her junior year at Humboldt State and a son who graduated from UC Berkeley.

The terms of compensation have not yet been reached, but will be established in the board of trustees’ next meeting on July 23.

A secretive search process

The presidential search process was not free from criticism.

A 20-person search committee, chaired by Peter Mehas, a CSU trustee of Fresno, conducted the nationwide search for Fresno State’s next president behind closed doors.

The presidential pool consisted of more than 60 applicants – with the search and interview process kept under wraps.

The CSU system’s selection process was conducted publicly until September 2011, when the board of trustees elected to keep the selection process confidential.

The reasoning behind the closed-door process, Mehas said, was that it would attract a higher quality of applicants due to an increased willingness in applying with discretion – without running the risk of upsetting current employers.

Mehas said the names of the other finalists would not be revealed: “It’s not fair to them. It’s not fair to their institution.”

In the school’s last presidential search – which concluded with Welty’s appointment, and the start of a 22-year tenure (the longest in Fresno State history) – the identities of the finalists were revealed to the public, who were able to interact with them and ask them questions in a town hall-like forum during an on-campus visit.

But Mehas said Castro’s hire substantiates the decision to make the presidential search a secretive process, saying Castro’s hire was one that represented the feedback and dominant public opinion of the Fresno State community.

“For those who sometimes think that search committees don’t listen: we listen well,” Mehas said. “We’re so delighted and pleased that we found someone that clearly meets the needs and is tailor-fit for the Central Valley.

“We know this much: clearly we would not have gotten the pool of candidates if it’d not been for this process.”

Castro aims for a cohesive transition

In a dissertation Castro wrote at Stanford en route to obtaining his doctorate, he noted, “many times new presidents do not talk to their predecessors.”

He said he doesn’t plan that to be the case in his transition as Fresno State’s president.

Castro plans to interact and talk with Welty, who is staying throughout the end of July to help with the transition process, “as often as I can.”

At Fresno State, Castro faces challenges different from ones at UC San Francisco, a graduate school with a much smaller student enrollment and without a Division I athletics department.

Welty, who will move with his wife to southern California with the hopes of continuing to teach in the CSU system, gained the reputation of being an efficient fundraiser after raising more than $214 million in a seven-year span — the school’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign that concluded in April.

It’ll be one of topics Castro will bring up.

“I told him last night that I’m going to really need some time hearing from him and I’m going to value his perspective both during the transition and afterward and welcome his continued support and engagement at Fresno State,” Castro said of Welty, whom he’s known for about a decade.

“We’re going to talk about fundraising and academic program and community connections – all sorts of things. And I’m looking forward to working closely with him and the rest of the team there at Fresno State.”





Stanford University, Ph.D., Education (Higher Education Policy and Leadership), 1998

University of California, Berkeley, M.P.P., Public Policy, 1990

University of California, Berkeley, A.B., Political Science, 1988


Professional Education:

Spectrum Executive Leadership Fellow, American Council on Education, 2013

Executive Leadership Fellow, University of California, Berkeley and AAAHE, 2011

University of California Senior Leadership Institute, 2007

University of California Management Institute, 2001



Vice Chancellor, Student Academic Affairs, UC San Francisco, 2010-Present

Dean (Interim), Graduate Division, UC San Francisco, 2011-12

Special Assistant to the Chancellor, UC San Francisco, 2010

Vice Provost, Student Academic Affairs, UC San Francisco, 2008-10

Associate Vice Chancellor, Student Academic Affairs, UC San Francisco, 2006-08

Executive Director, Academic Preparation, UC Santa Barbara, 2001-06

Director, Academic Programs, UC Merced, 1997-2001

Director (Interim), Educational Research Center, UC Davis, 1998-2000

Assistant Dean, Goldman School of Public Policy, UC Berkeley, 1993-97

Analyst, State Governmental Relations, UC Office of the President, 1990-93



Professor (Adjunct), School of Medicine, UC San Francisco, 2007-Present

Associate Professor (Adjunct), School of Education, UC Santa Barbara, 2001-06

Assistant Professor (Adjunct), School of Education, UC Davis, 1998-2001


UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO                                    2006-Present

Vice Chancellor

Student Academic Affairs


Dean (Interim)

Graduate Division


Special Assistant to the Chancellor


Vice Provost

Student Academic Affairs


Associate Vice Chancellor

Student Academic Affairs