(Aug. 20, 2018) – Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro welcomed faculty and staff members at the annual Faculty/Staff Fall Assembly on Aug. 20, sharing insights into the University’s investment in its people and infrastructure and teasing some of the major projects in the works.

Approximately 1,500 faculty members returned to work this week when the semester officially began Aug. 20 in preparation for class instruction beginning on Aug. 23. They join about 1,030 staff in fulfilling the University’s mission “to boldly educate and empower students for success.”

The fall semester’s projected enrollment is a record 25,200, the most in the University’s 108-year history. More than 29,000 prospective students applied for admission for the fall semester, including 26,000 for about 5,400 open undergraduate spots.

“Our pathway to greater heights of excellence and distinction will continue because of you and our other talented faculty and staff who are dedicated to student success,” said Castro, a Hanford native who enters his sixth year as Fresno State president, the first born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley.

Castro highlighted the positive trajectory of the University by citing data points:

  • Washington Monthly ranked Fresno State the nation’s No. 17 university in 2017.
  • U.S News and World Report ranked Fresno State as one of the top public universities in the nation for graduation performance in 2017.
  • In 2017-18, Fresno State awarded more than 6,000 degrees to talented and diverse students — the most in the University’s history.
  • The University welcomes 60 new tenure-track faculty who have joined Fresno State, 57 of whom will start this fall.
  • Graduation rates for students are higher than ever, including an 80 percent graduation rate for community-college transfer students, and the virtual elimination of the graduation gap between different groups of students.
  • 12,132 students are enrolled in the DISCOVERe Mobile Technology Program this fall, a 43 percent increase over last year.
  • The University’s bookstore is working with faculty to provide “immediate access” to course materials for students on the first day of classes. The immediate access program is expected to save students in 79 courses more than $500,000 this fall.
  • Private fundraising increased by 22 percent in 2017-18, including an increase of 35 percent in private support for the University’s academic programs. The President’s Circle of Excellence, which is funding Castro uses to support a wide array of campus programs, grew by 170 percent in the past year — highlighted by a $500,000 anonymous gift.

Citing the importance of enhancing Fresno State’s physical and technological infrastructure, Castro highlighted the modernization of 11 of the University’s most widely used classrooms, some of which were completed over the summer and others that will be completed by December 2019.

“In the upcoming academic year, we will continue planning for the new student union and initiate a public-private partnership for a new central plant for heating and cooling buildings across the campus,” Castro said. “We also plan to initiate a public-private partnership to construct new student housing on campus. I will keep you updated on these important projects.”

The University is also investing in its people. Citing the results of the 2017 Workplace Quality Survey, Castro pointed to two new programs – the President’s Leadership Academy and the Administrative Academy – in which more than 150 faculty and staff have participated as part of the University’s efforts to expand professional-development opportunities for employees.

Castro also acknowledged documented concerns in the above-mentioned survey among faculty and staff regarding compensation. He noted total compensation and benefits include a generous benefits package with essential health insurance for employees and their eligible dependents, and that virtually every new permanent dollar the University has received from the state over the past five years has been used for faculty and staff compensation. In 2018-19, total compensation (including salaries and benefits) will be about $252.8 million.

“This investment is made with great pride because we know that an investment in you is an investment in achieving our mission of student success,” Castro said.

As he has done at previous assemblies and forums with faculty and staff, Castro underscored the role of universities as places where a wide range of ideas and perspectives can be discussed and debated while placing an emphasis on civil dialogue.

This fall, as part of an initiative that emerged from the 2017 Workplace Quality Survey, a series of focus groups comprised of faculty and staff will contribute to a document that is currently referred to as “Principles of Community: How we treat each other.” The resulting principles will help define behaviors and actions that align with the University’s values of discovery, diversity and distinction.

The Academic Senate will discuss appropriate social media practices for faculty. Interim Provost Robert Harper and Dr. Tom Holyoke, chair of the Academic Senate, will host discussions among faculty and administrators on expectations for professionalism and mutual respect. Castro also encouraged attendees and the public to attend an open forum on Sept. 17 on the First Amendment, to be hosted by the new Fresno State Institute for Media and Public Trust.

“This is where our commitment to freedom of speech, and our responsibility and duty as Americans and as members of the Fresno State community, intersect. It is that intersection where Fresno State and other universities can play a vitally important role,” Castro said. “We can be a beacon where an array of perspectives are discussed and debated in a respectful way. We can be a leader in modeling how Valley residents listen to and learn from each other during comfortable and uncomfortable moments. Our on-campus forum last spring modeled respectful dialogue for the entire community.”

Castro also invited attendees of the assembly to join him in recognizing three faculty and staff members for their service and contributions to Fresno State’s pursuit of excellence:

  • Diana Karageozian, a clinical case manager in Student Health Services, works on complex student matters and refers students to necessary resources such as emergency housing and the Good Samaritan Fund
  • Professor K.C. Chen, chair of the Department of Finance and Business Law in the Craig School of Business, leads students in investing a portion of Foundation funds as part of the $4 million Student Managed Investment Fund.
  • Daryl Fitzgerald, director of corporate and foundation relations, leads several key collaborations and partnerships across the University such as significantly increasing attendance at and raising corporate sponsorships for the annual State of the University event.