California Coalition for Higher Education
The Future of Public Higher Education Panel Discussion
Brief Words of Introduction (as prepared)
Chancellor Joseph I. Castro
October 13, 2021
Thank you, Dr. Rice, and it’s great to be with you all this evening. Thanks also to everyone at the Coalition for hosting tonight’s event and–even more important–for all that you do day-in and day-out to support and inspire investment in public higher education in California. The entire CSU community, especially our students past, current and future, owe you an enormous debt of gratitude. Again, thank you.
As Dr. Rice mentioned, I began my tenure as the CSU’s eighth chancellor in January. And now – 10 months in – I am every bit as honored and as humbled to serve in this role as the day my appointment was announced.
As many of you know, I grew up in modest circumstances. I was raised in a small town called Hanford in California’s Central Valley by my grandparents who were farmworkers and by my hardworking single mom. Certainly, they had the intelligence and drive to succeed in college, but they never had the opportunity.
But because of their hard work and resolve, I did, attending the University of California, Berkeley thanks to a program that provided educational opportunities to students from the valley and from modest financial means. It was at UC Berkeley – as I began to see my own life transformed through my college experience – that I discovered my passion for educational leadership.
And throughout my career I’ve seen higher education transform the lives of so many talented and diverse students. Students who grew up in circumstances similar to my own.
This is why I am so humbled and inspired to now serve as the CSU’s chancellor, with the opportunity to continue to positively impact lives at a scale that the CSU alone can provide as the nation’s largest and most ethnically and economically diverse four-year public university.
And what an opportunity and responsibility this unique moment in time presents for us as educational leaders. We’re emerging from one of the darkest moments in our nation’s recent history, not just from the pandemic, but all the concurrent economic and societal challenges of the past year and a half.
And yet, I am extraordinarily optimistic for the CSU’s future. Thanks to the adaptability and ingenuity of our faculty and staff – and especially to the remarkable resilience and resolve of our students – our students have continued to thrive through the past 19 months. Degrees earned as well as persistence and graduation rates are at all-time highs for students from all backgrounds. And as we look toward a post-pandemic university, we have the opportunity to reimagine ourselves and our operations to take bold steps to drive student success and to advance equity to be more compassionate, more inclusive, accessible and welcoming, and to build upon the virtual teaching and support measures that proved to be so successful through the pandemic.
It’s an exciting time, and I look forward to discussing some of these opportunities and challenges in more detail tonight alongside my friends and colleagues President Drake and Chancellor Gonzalez.