Fresno State faculty and staff heard the good news today that President Joseph I. Castro’s focus on student success is bringing dramatic progress. The University’s graduation rate has improved 9 percentage points, Castro announced in a speech to faculty and staff.

At the annual Fall Assembly for Faculty and Staff, Castro said the University’s freshman 6-year graduation rates have increased from 48.1 percent for the class entering in 2006 to 57.5 percent for the class entering in 2009. Most of the improvement has occurred in the last two years and reflects Castro’s highest priority for Fresno State – student success.

“Our students are the hardest working, most diverse and passionate that I have ever known in my career,” he said. “They bring many special talents to our campus. Our job is to challenge and support them with a quality educational experience that leads them to graduation in a timely way and distinction in their chosen career.”

The focus on student success comes amidst significant demand from students for admission to Fresno State. Applications have increased at a rate that is twice the average of the California State University system. Castro said this fall, 30,780 applications from “talented and diverse student applicants” were received for just over 5,400 spots available for freshmen and transfer students.

Castro provided an impressive update on the University’s DISCOVERe tablet initiative: Since its launch in August 2014 with 1,000 students, the program has expanded to serving 5,000 this fall. Results in the first year indicated significantly lower textbook costs, higher engagement and more academic success for students in tablet-instruction courses.

The new Food Security Initiative for students is off to an impactful start, Castro said. Since opening in late November 2014, the Student Cupboard has served over 800 students and provided more than 35,000 pounds of food.

In addition to student success, Castro’s remarks focused on support for faculty and staff.

He announced his intention to invest $1 million to implement a second campus equity program, which follows a $2 million program last year in annual increases in salaries and benefits for faculty and staff whose salaries had fallen behind in recent years.

“There is no question that Fresno State’s success depends upon engaged and supported faculty and staff,” he told those gathered. “We will continue to prioritize support for you and, in return, I ask that you continue to prioritize support for our students.”

Castro also announced plans for a new student union and faculty center at Fresno State. Conversations about the building, which he foresees as “a new hub for innovation, support and renewal,” will be held in the coming months.

Castro called upon faculty and staff to continue working diligently to enhance the campus’ core strengths of diversity and inclusion – “the responsibility of all of us.”

Repeating his oft-cited call to “be bold,” Castro thanked the employees for their work to transform the lives of individuals, families and communities.”

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