Last week I read an announcement about the new Latino Chancellor for Cal State Universities. I’m currently a student at Cal Poly Pomona, and finding out this happened while in school feels like a big deal as it will be the first time a person of color leads the Cal State system.
Reading about Joseph I. Castro’s journey filled me with hope. I’m pretty sure the rest of the Latinx students who read the announcement felt similarly. In him, we see ourselves. Castro grew up in the San Joaquin Valley and was raised by a single mom. He was the grandson of farmworkers, and a first generation college student who attended Berkley, earning a B.A. in political science and a Masters in public policy, before going on to earn a doctorate in higher education policy and leadership from Stanford where he wrote his dissertation on university presidents. He has given 30 years of his career to the Cal State system in different positions, including being a professor of community medicine at UC San Francisco.
Joseph is the role model our Latinx students need at this moment in time. 43% of the Cal State students are Latinx and nearly half of them come from low income families. Prior to COVID-19, many students already faced food and housing security. Through serving as President of Fresno State, Castro is familiar with and empathetic to the struggles students face. Castro’s colleagues affirm his leadership. While President of Fresno State; he and his wife even helped create a food pantry and clothing closet for students in need.
When the pandemic hit, Cal State Fresno launched “DISCOVER-e,” a program that provides students with loaner tablets. He gets it. As someone who’s not only a student, but also works in the education and public policy space, I actually hadn’t heard of this happening at the college level. All universities should offer this type of support to students in need.
Knowing my school system will have a Chancellor who understands the needs of its student body and has the passion to implement change is a big win!
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