Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro – March 29, 2021

Graduation Initiative 2025 Advisory Committee
Welcome Remarks (as prepared)
Chancellor Joseph I. Castro
March 29, 2021

Thank you very much for that kind introduction, Fred, and for inviting me to meet with all of you this afternoon. I apologize for not being able to make your inaugural meeting, but I understand the committee is off to a great start.

First off, please accept my deepest gratitude and appreciation for your service to this committee and all that it will mean for our students. Your voices, perspectives and ideas are invaluable. I would also like to thank you, Fred, for so adeptly stepping in to guide Graduation Initiative 2025 forward, and special thanks to Jeff Gold and James Minor for their expertise and vision in leading this esteemed group as we continue to close in on our GI2025 goals.

You may not have realized this when you accepted the invitation to serve on this committee, but you are my Dream Team. And here’s why.

One silver lining that has emerged from the dark clouds of the past year is that we’re now seeing the world through a new lens.

I think we can all agree that we have a new appreciation for our daily comforts and for the family, friends, co-workers and students we may have taken for granted from time to time. With our lives and workplaces upturned, we’ve become more conscious of the various habits and commutes and practices and routines that once made up our days, and we’re now in a place to re-evaluate them, and adjust, reinvent and maybe even revolutionize the way we live.

Our eyes have been opened again to what is most precious: for ourselves, our families, our communities and our future. We have seen our own strength, resilience and adaptability as well as the great accomplishments and limitless possibilities that can be realized through heroic teamwork.

And perhaps most important, we’ve been reminded – painfully at times – of what simply can no longer stand. Of what is intolerable. Of those areas of our society that demand immediate change, where action is imperative.

And that is why we are here today.

We have all witnessed the disparate and devastating impact that this year of pandemic, injustice, hate, economic uncertainty and violence has had on our most vulnerable communities.

Disparity and inequity can no longer stand – not under our watch!

Over the past five years, working together we have made astounding progress on our audacious Graduation Initiative 2025 goals… taking our retention and graduation rates to all-time highs. Rightfully, this is a source of great pride.

But now it’s time to blow the roof off.

If there is one thing that I hope to accomplish in my tenure as Chancellor of the California State University, it is to eradicate equity gaps and ensure that every student – from any background, zip code or household income – has the opportunity to achieve the security, prosperity and purpose that come with a CSU degree. And I want our peers across the nation to take note.

The gaps have to go. And we – all of us – are the ones who are going to close them once and for all. Yes, us! What a responsibility. What a privilege. What an honor!

It will require a new level of accountability, creativity and synergy across our campuses. It will take a big-picture look at how we target our resources for maximum impact. And it will require the space and focus, free of outside distractions, like the virtual space you’ll find in this convening: space that I hope will soon be filled with even more audacious ideas from my Dream Team. Nothing is off the table!

Before I close my remarks and start our discussion, I want to share just two examples of the types of bold initiatives we might scale systemwide to support first-generation, low-income and students of color.

What if we were to launch an innovative, coordinated, systemwide campaign with a very targeted, personalized touch to re-enroll our most underserved students who were forced by the devastating effects of the pandemic to put their education on hold this year? Let’s devote our resources to helping them get back to campus, back on track and across the graduation stage on the way to achieving their dreams.

And how about creating a framework to clearly, simply and regularly share student success and equity data across our 23 campuses – not just among our presidents’ cabinets, but among faculty and staff across all departments and divisions? Let’s shine a spotlight not only on our great successes, but on our biggest, most stubborn, most vexing challenges and set our talented team – 53,000 strong - to work to solve them.


Again, I appear before you now to inspire, empower and implore all of you to be bold. As the largest, most diverse and most consequential four-year university in the country, we have the opportunity – well within our reach – to demonstrate for our state and nation the sheer power of ambition and determination to elevate our students and create a more just and equitable world for all of us.

Let’s get to work.

Jeff, I hope I’ve sparked a few questions. Would you please be our moderator for Q&A?