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Story Leadership

Eliminating Equity Gaps Among Top Priorities Discussed with PPIC

Hazel Kelly

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro joined Mark Baldassare of the Public Policy Institute of California for a wide-ranging conversation on February 26. 

screen capture of two men in Zoom interview

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro joined PPIC President and CEO Mark Baldassare for a wide-ranging conversation about higher education as part of the PPIC Speaker Series on California’s Future.

 

​​​​​​​​More than 500 viewers statewide tuned in for the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) livestream interview with CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro on February 26.   

Castro, who began his role as chancellor of the 23-campus system in January, discussed his key priorities as leader, including safely repopulating campuses, closing equity gaps as part of Graduation Initiative 2025, inspiring continued financial investment in the CSU, improving faculty diversity, and leveraging technology to enhance teaching and learning.  

With his most urgent priority of safely bringing in-person instruction back to CSU campuses in the fall, Castro discussed efforts to maximize opportunities for COVID-19 vaccinations. “By and large, people want to come back. They want to be safe again. They want to be vaccinated. And so what we’ve tried to do is make sure that we have vaccinations available to our campus communities.” 

With 11 campuses currently serving as COVID-19 vaccine distribution sites, including the large-scale community vaccination center at Cal State LA, Castro said he welcomes more CSU campuses hosting vaccination sites, and made clear that the CSU will do whatever it can to support the governor’s efforts to distribute vaccines.  

Addressing challenges from the pandemic’s economic impact, Castro emphasized his desire to do what he can to reduce stress for students, faculty and staff by not raising tuition, avoiding systemwide furloughs and avoiding layoffs due to budget cuts. “In this time where there’s just so much stress, that if I can, as chancellor, with the presidents and other colleagues, lower that stress, I’m going to try and do that so that we can really focus on our mission and do the work to support our talented students.” 

how do I pay it forward? I was given this amazing gift. How can I make that possible for more talented, diverse students? That’s why I’m here.”
—CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro 

​​​As the pandemic’s economic downturn has hit lower wage earners and those without higher education the hardest, Castro stated that the CSU and public higher education is more important today than ever before. “But we can be that inflection point as the largest, most diverse, most consequential public university and we can redouble our efforts to support talented students from all backgrounds and help them succeed.”  

After safely repopulating campuses, Castro’s most critical focus is on educational equity and “ensuring that our talented and diverse students succeed, and do so in a timely way… I want to meet those bold Graduation Initiative 2025 goals, and also accelerate the elimination of the equity gaps that exist between underrepresented student and other students. That’s really a priority for me.” 

And one way to improve a student’s success is when they are able to learn from a faculty member who reflects a background similar to their own. “Faculty diversity is one area of opportunity where I think we can do much better over time,” Castro said. “I think it’s very important for our students to see that and to know that their instructors understand them and work to support their success.”  

Castro expressed gratitude in response to the governor’s budget proposal and amendment to restore the CSU’s previous budget cuts, and continues to work with state and federal lawmakers to inspire additional investment in the CSU“We have such a powerful story. We transform the lives of almost a half a million students across California and beyond. And we’re the largest, most diverse, and I would say most consequential university in the country and the return on investment is very high.” 

The grandson of immigrants from Mexico, son of a single mother and the first in his family to graduate from a university, Castro reflected on how his personal story has influenced how he approaches his role as chancellor.  

“As I went through my own studies, I realized I wanted to try to help make that happen for more students… My focus was, ‘how do I pay it forward?’ I was given this amazing gift. How can I make that possible for more talented and diverse students? That’s why I’m here.” 

Chancellor