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New CSU chancellor praises Sac State’s graduation, antiracism efforts in visit

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro (left) and Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen speak at an open forum during Castro's visit to the University on Nov. 3. (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro met with Sacramento State students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni Wednesday, Nov. 3, in his continuing effort to assess the strengths and needs of the system’s 23 campuses.

It was Castro’s first trip to Sac State as leader of the nation’s largest and most diverse public four-year university system. Castro was named chancellor in September 2020.

During his daylong visit, Castro received information about Sac State’s improving graduation rates, shrinking “opportunity gaps” for students of color, and the Hornet Launch initiative, which puts first-year students on the path to timely graduation by assigning them courses that they want and need. He also learned more about the University’s new Antiracist and Inclusive Campus Plan and took a tour of the campus.

During a session with the news media, Castro singled out Sac State’s progress “in graduating students from all backgrounds more quickly,” particularly those from traditionally underserved groups.

Sacramento State's gains in increasing graduation rates impressed CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro (left), who told University President Robert S. Nelsen he is "unaware of any university that has made the progress that you have made." (Sacramento State/Andrea Price)

“I’m unaware of any university that has made the progress that you have made,” he told Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen.

Sac State’s graduation rates have soared since 2016, when it launched its “Finish in Four” and “Through in Two” campaigns as part of the CSU Graduation Initiative 2025.

Preliminary data for 2021 shows that about 26% of students graduated in four years, compared to just 10% in 2016. Transfer students also have made significant gains in graduating in two years. Improvements have occurred across the board, including among Black, Latinx, and first-generation students.

Castro, who is the first Californian and first person of color to serve as CSU chancellor, said he can relate to many of Sac State’s scholars. The grandson of immigrants from Mexico and the son of a single mother, he was the first in his family to graduate from a university.

At an open forum, Castro and Nelsen took questions on a wide range of topics including the future of telework and online learning, faculty and staff compensation, pandemic safety, and retention of Black faculty members.

Castro and Nelsen emphasized that their focus, in all areas, is cultivating student success.

“The guiding principle shall be what is best for them,” said Castro.

The chancellor applauded Sac State’s new antiracism plan, the result of widespread input from across campus, saying it could be “a very good model for other campuses.”

Nelsen and Castro both expressed concern about the recent departures of faculty members of color, and said the University must do better to recruit and retain valuable personnel. Those issues are addressed in the antiracism plan, and will further be explored within the Division of Inclusive Excellence, which welcomes its new director, Mia Settles-Tidwell, this month.

As for concerns about fair compensation for faculty and staff members, Castro said he is confident that negotiations with unions, discussions with the CSU Board of Trustees, and legislative efforts will result in a positive outcome in the weeks and months ahead.

“Actions speak louder than words,” he said.


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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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