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Castro announces Zelezny as new provost

Dr.-L.-Zelezny

Photo courtesy of Cary Edmondson / University Communications

Dr. Lynnette Zelezny, currently Fresno State’s associate provost, will be the university’s new provost and vice president of academic affairs effective June 1, university President Joseph Castro announced Monday.

“I believe she is a perfect fit for this key leadership position at this important time in Fresno State’s history,” Castro said in a release. “She has a depth of experience as a professor, researcher and administrator at Fresno State and has earned the respect of the academic community.

“In addition, she has unquestioned integrity and a collaborative working style that has been embraced by our faculty, staff and students,” he said.

Zelezny said her No. 1 priority upon being named provost is learning the faculty’s priorities and challenges, as well as opening up her office hours to students. She plans to regularly schedule time to meet with students.

“I’m going to have regular office hours for students so that they don’t have to juggle a crazy schedule and try to get face time with me,” she said.

Serving students is her passion, she said, and she hopes to continue to do so as provost.

“It’s who I am. I’m a mother of three grown children. I absolutely love working with students,” she said. “It’s been my life. I never get tired of it. It’s absolutely gets me up in the morning.”

Something Zelezny said she is unsure about going into the provost position is the proposed increase of student fees that is to be discussed next year. Before anything moves forward, she will need to know Castro’s plans regarding fees, she said.

Though she was unsure about the possibility of a future fee increase, Zelezny said she feels confident about budget challenges moving forward in her new position. She said her business background and collaboration with a “mission-driven faculty” at Fresno State will support and benefit students.

“I know how to make dollars stretch,” she said.

Castro commended Zelezny’s work with grants, saying she is the principal investigator of a five-year $3.18-million Hispanic-serving institutions grant that is aimed to increase graduation rates.

When asked about the diversity achievement gap, Zelezny said closing the achievement gap among graduates was a high-priority goal for Fresno State.

“We are charged with closing that gap,” she said. “And I think Fresno State is going to be the star in the CSU system because we are putting our full attention on it immediately.”

In order to close the gap, she said, Fresno State is implementing strategies that are already proven to work and that target at-risk students. One of these strategies, Zelezny said, is what she called “flipping classrooms.”

“Faculty are volunteering to redesign classes so that they are more engaging,” she said. “They’re very rigorous, but students are working in what we call “flipped classrooms,” where it’s sort of a re-imagined way of delivering the curriculum.”

She said one aspect of the flipped classroom is the tablet initiative, saying it’s another way to engage students.

Zelezny also hopes to support students’ psycho-social needs. She recognized that many Fresno State students are commuters who attend classes and then leave. Zelezny hopes to write grants that will help students connect to the campus more, making them want to stay. This, she said, will boost the student success correlated with a sense of belonging.

“We have a lot of support services here for the students, but what happens in the classroom is the magic,” she said. “So we need to actually use science, if you will, psychological science, to inform ways of making this a welcoming environment for students to succeed.”

Zelezny said one thing that correlates with student success is when faculty mirror students in diversity. She was originally hired as an adjunct professor in the psychology department in 1988 and is proud to have made it to the top of the Fresno State administration.

“I think it’s a tremendous statement that [Castro] selected a woman leader. And again, I think this fits into his overall strategy to support diversity on the campus.

“Who would’ve imagined that when I was hired here as an adjunct professor that I would be holding this position within 15-20 years or so?” she said. “It was not something that I ever thought was possible.”

Zelezny earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology from Humboldt State University, a Ph.D. in applied social psychology from the Claremont Graduate University and an M.B.A. with distinction from the Craig School of Business at Fresno State

During her 25-year service at Fresno State, she has served as a psychology professor and chair of the department, associate dean for the Craig School of Business, dean and associate vice president for Continuing and Global Education and interim associate provost.

Said Zelezny: “I’m absolutely honored to hold this new position, and I’m very, very eager to be a provost that is very much student-friendly and works with students in mind in every single decision.”