The Collegian met with Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval for an exclusive interview to reflect on his accomplishments and future goals for the university leading up to his investiture on Friday. It starts at 1 p.m. at the Save Mart Center. Faculty, staff and students are invited.
Jiménez-Sandoval told The Collegian he takes pride in being a part of the Central Valley, emphasizing the importance his upbringing has on him.
“I’m a homegrown president,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “I grew up here in Fowler. I worked on the farms. I know agriculture. I know the value of a diverse society… and with that, I’m looking forward to celebrating who we are as a community.”
An investiture is a long-lasting tradition from medieval times defined as a “formal ceremony of conferring the authority and symbols of high office,” according to the Fresno State website, and will celebrate Jiménez-Sandoval’s first year as full-time university president.
The ceremony will have Jiménez-Sandoval and many other attendees in formal attire and regalia. The president himself will be honored with a medallion, a ceremonial academic mace and a cape.
Jiménez-Sandoval said he is eager to don the traditional garb, which will be a change from his normal attire, such as his iconic blue suit and tie.
“I have about 12 blue suits,” Jiménez-Sandoval said while laughing. “I don’t really feel comfortable with black, or I sometimes wear gray if [it is] fall and it’s overcast, but I feel most comfortable with blue.”
Despite being the focal point of the event, Jiménez-Sandoval in the interview redirected the attention from himself towards the “new era of Fresno State” that the event symbolizes.
“The investiture is really about us and who we are as a community. The fact that I am the first immigrant-born president of Fresno State reflects the strength and vitality of the cultures and the economy of this region we call home,” he said.
Jiménez-Sandoval said he’s made many relationships and assets throughout his time at the university. He rose through the ranks from professor to Fresno State’s vice president for academic affairs and eventually interim president. He was named the official Fresno State president in May 2021.
With Fresno County being the No. 1 agricultural county in the world, Jiminez-Sandoval will maintain an ag focus as president. He noted that this will also emphasize the food insecurity issues within Fresno County.
He said it’s “critical” for him to be in the “foreground of securing the national food insecurity issues.”
He also noted how Fresno State’s Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology received a one-time funding of $18.75 million from the state in its 2022-23 budget.
Jiménez-Sandoval said the funding will be used to “address some critical deferred maintenance,” such as replacing aging farm equipment, adding automateed irrigation systems and investing in energy-efficient systems.
“That’s great. Now, we build on that, on the innovative part. Now, we build on being in the foreground of research and technology, with the farms as well,” he said.
Jiménez-Sandoval said his first year as Fresno State president came with many obstacles, dealing with COVID-19 and campuswide disputes between the Title IX Office and students.
“In the case of Title IX, I created a task force to come together strongly with professors, with students, with staff and with community members,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.
He also shared how he dealt with the transition to full-time president, giving himself advice he said he would have given students in his class as a professor.
“It’s not that you are going to fail. You will fail. It’s not that you are never going to encounter overwhelming odds. You will encounter those … These are situations in which your character is proven,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.
He acknowledged that while he’s made mistakes as president, he wants students to know he’s willing to try again until the situation is fixed. He also credited his presidential cabinet for helping him in his transition to president.
For Jiménez-Sandoval, there was no “handbook to life” or “set of instructions” to guide him in his unique positions when he first started out as president. Remaining open minded and listening to the resources of people with more experience helped him transition to the new position, he said.
The president credits his background in poetry and humanistic teachings to helping him in his current position and said “poetry teaches you to slow down and actually take account of the small details.”
As he approaches the first-year celebration of his tenure as president, Jiménez-Sandoval highlighted many actions taken in his presidency to show some steps toward what he envisions the future of Fresno State.
“I’m passionate about the Valley and passionate about Fresno… I’ve always said this. This is not a job. It’s a life mission, and it’s a life mission to create a Fresno State we can all be proud of,” Jiménez-Sandoval said.
He noted efforts made by his library task force to remove Henry Madden’s name from the Library, and also conversations with Cozen O’Connor, a law firm, about settling renewed energy at Fresno State.
In the past year, Fresno State also received $4 million for two of the mobile health units that offer medical treatment throughout Fresno communities. Before, there was only one unit that was a borrowed vehicle, but now both will be owned by the university.
Jiménez-Sandoval said this investiture also celebrates the students achievements as well, encouraging the Fresno State community to attend.
“I’m just excited,” he said. “I’m excited for the students to attend as well. This includes all of us and this impacts all of our future collectively here in the Valley. And I’m very proud of my students.”
Correction: Sept. 8, 2022
In a previous version of this article, it incorrectly said Fresno State received $2 million for two of the mobile health units. The correct amount is $4 million. The Collegian regrets this error.