Fresno State President Joseph Castro said it’s “premature” to have firm plans in place to tackle specific issues within the university. His first day on the job was Aug. 1. His first official introduction to campus staff and faculty was on Monday.
The theme of his first month in office – and one he said he intends to continue – is gaining perspective and input from various voices from the campus community and building relationships with students, staff, faculty, administration, local business leaders and community members.
That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have ideas – possibilities meant to do “more around student success” – that he wants to explore.
Among those ideas are: integrating information technology (such as tablets and online education) with academics, exploring the feasibility of endowing the football program and boosting graduation rates among Fresno State students.
Castro said he wants to make a push to make information technology a more central part of academics, which includes the usage of tablets.
“As you have noticed, I haven’t been too specific about initiatives yet, because as president I want to take the time to understand the culture,” Castro said in an interview with The Collegian. “But my instinct suggests that the tablets are the way to go.”
One possibility Castro voiced interest in was gauging the feasibility of endowing the Fresno State football program. Creating an endowment, Castro said, would bring more stability to the program and depend less on its on-field performance.
“My feeling is that our road to success on the athletic field is going to be tied to our ability to get more of our friends investing with us in the sports,” Castro said.
“I’d like to begin endowing our sports. By endowing them, it will allow us to have a lot of confidence for the years ahead that these sports are going to be sustained and strengthened and it won’t be subject to fluctuations.”
He added: “I’m just kind of throwing this out there for discussion because if we decide that’s a way to go, we’re going to need everybody who cares about the university involved. But I think if we can pull that off, especially if we start it with, say, football, if we were to endow football, we would know for generations ahead that football is going to be here, it is going to be supported, and then the rest of the university could move forward with its funding and we wouldn’t have to worry about criss-crossing funds and that sort of thing.”
On the topic of graduation rates, Castro expects to see an increase based on previous efforts and did not give a benchmark or specific target. However, he voiced interest in “figuring out exactly what the barriers are to graduation an how to remove them.”
Castro also said he plans to teach in some capacity in the near future. He taught courses while holding his former position as vice chancellor of student academic affairs at UC San Francisco.
Castro was appointed by California State University Trustees on May 22 to succeed Dr. John Welty, who retired this summer after serving as the university’s leader for 22 years.
Castro honored Welty during this year’s Faculty/Staff Fall Assembly in his inaugural speech to the campus community promoting communication and emphasizing the future of Fresno State. It was at the 2012 fall assembly in which Welty announced his plans to retire.
A Hanford native, Castro received his bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public policy. He earned his doctorate in higher education policy and leadership at Stanford.
As a doctorate student, he wrote his dissertation on presidential leadership and optimism and studied the interactions between new presidents and their immediate predecessors.
“You don’t really fully understand or appreciate the position until you’re sitting in the chair and dealing with the issues,” Castro said. “From that perspective, it’s been a great learning opportunity.
When asked what he considered to be a successful first year, Castro said one in which “I hope we’ll have a more robust plan around student success.”