Remarks by Dr. Joseph I. Castro - October 15, 2021

CSUDH Buildings Grand Openings
Welcome Message (as prepared)
Chancellor Joseph I. Castro
October 15, 2021

Thank you, President Parham, for that very kind introduction. I’ve had the privilege of working with Thomas for many years now. He is a remarkable man, and a tremendous asset not only to CSU Dominguez Hills, but also to the California State University more broadly.  

I’m delighted to be with you today, and to hear from bold leaders like Congresswoman Barragán, Senator Bradford, Speaker Rendon, Assembly member Gipson and Mylene Mayers as well as President Parham. I’m honored, but not surprised, by their accolades for Dominguez Hills.

I’m equally honored to share this day with a few of the campus’s extraordinary administrative leaders, academic mentors and students, like Provost Spagna, Dean Wen, Dean LaPolt, Dr. Hamdan, Dr. Franklin and Alexandra Warren-Carrasco. Go Toros!

I also acknowledge with special gratitude the CSU’s Board of Trustees, several of whom are with us here today. Thank you for your sage counsel and commitment to our mission. And thank you, too, to the Facilities Planning, Design and Construction team here on campus, as well as the members of the Chancellor’s Office who partnered with and advised Dominguez Hills on these large and complex projects. I am especially grateful to Toyota Motors North America for its visionary and transformative investment in this campus, and for its support of our innovative STEM education programs here at Dominguez Hills.

I’m sure I’m missing others in this crowd who deserve recognition and applause. Please join me in expressing our gratitude to everyone who made today possible.

As the final speaker at today’s event, I promise to keep my remarks brief. I know we’re all looking forward to the ribbon cuttings and the reception to follow. But I cannot allow this day to end without celebrating this wonderful institution and reflecting on its transformative power.

CSU Dominguez Hills is a worthy and enduring testament to the vision and persistence of the dynamic South Bay community, whose untiring efforts brought this campus into being. I salute your energy and enthusiasm and ask for your continued support and partnership of the campus as it continues to build upon its already impressive legacy.  

And what an extraordinary campus it is! Money magazine ranks Dominguez Hills 74th in the nation among its “Best Colleges in America” category. Business Insider places Dominguez Hills as 14th in the nation on its list of campuses with the best return on investment. US News & World Report ranks it 17th among top performers of social mobility. And the list goes on and on. Dominguez Hills’ reputation and influence continue to grow on a regional, statewide and national scale.

The positive momentum is indeed impressive—and growing. Just think! We have officially opened three new buildings in one day and celebrated the evolution of an esports incubation lab as well. These world-class facilities will enhance what is and has long been a vital and vibrant environment of inquiry, discovery and learning. They provide much needed spaces for teaching and research, for campus housing, and for honing skills in a rapidly growing industry that didn’t even exist when I attended college a few decades ago. As someone old enough to remember when Atari’s “pong” was on the razor’s edge of innovation, it boggles my mind to hear that some analysts are predicting that e-sports industry revenue could surpass 2 billion dollars in 2022.

I cannot help but compare today to the earliest beginnings of CSU Dominguez Hills, then known as California State College, Palos Verdes. Its first classes were held in the branch office of the California Federal Bank! Our surroundings today confirm the obvious—that we’ve come a long way. And when I hear President Parham describe the collective vision for the master plan and future projects on this beautiful campus, well, it’s equally obvious we’re still on a remarkable upward trajectory.

And that seems especially fitting because CSU Dominguez Hills, from its very conception, has been purposefully designed to create upward trajectories. Consider its mission statement: “We provide education that [is], by design, accessible and transformative.” That resonates so powerfully with me because my own life reflects the transformative power of accessible education.

As many of you know, my early years were not particularly auspicious ones. I’m not sure any of my elementary school teachers anticipated I would one day lead the nation’s largest, most diverse and most consequential four-year university! I was raised in the Central Valley by my grandparents, who were farmworkers, and by my wonderful single mother, who worked as a beautician. Each of them had the drive and intelligence to succeed in college, but never the opportunity. So they made sure that opportunity came to me.

I attended UC Berkeley as part of the Educational Opportunity Program, and I can acknowledge now it was a somewhat daunting experience for me. As the first in my family to go to college, I felt the responsibility of being the trailblazer. That might be a familiar obligation for many students here at Dominguez Hills, and I hope you discover, just as I did, that education will open so many doors, not only for you but for your family. I urge you to take advantage of every opportunity to broaden your horizons, pursue your passions and discover your dreams. I promise that your experience at Dominguez Hills will benefit you and your family, and this community and state, for many years to come.

Earlier, I spoke of the power of the community advocacy and support that brought CSU Dominguez Hills to life here in Carson. Rising from the ashes of the Watts Uprising, CSU Dominguez Hills was deliberately situated here to help make higher education more accessible to those who had historically been deprived of access, to bring the transformative power of higher education to communities that had long been denied power. We cannot – indeed, we must not – allow that vision to dim. And so today I conclude my remarks by asking for that same support for the children of your community. Encourage them to seek a college degree. Give them a vision of what their future might hold. Celebrate their academic achievements in high school, and middle school, and elementary school. Help them find their passions. In return, as this celebration today illustrates, I promise the CSU will do everything in its power to stoke those passions, to inspire them to dream big, and to give them the knowledge, skills and disposition to fulfill those dreams.

In his inaugural speech in 2019, President Parham asserted that, “some elements of true education should be focused on the cultivation of the human spirit, and human potential.” That is what we seek to achieve: the cultivation of the human spirit and human potential. That is what we invite you to help us continue to pursue, and that is what we celebrate on this remarkable day.

Thank you to so many who helped make it possible, donors and construction workers, students and staff, government leaders and community leaders, faculty and alumni, and so many others. I am honored to have been a part of this momentous occasion. Thank you all.