On the third floor of the Henry Madden Library, these things still adorn a holiday display — green construction paper shamrocks, “The Irish Songbook,” “The Best of Irish Music” — like a moment frozen in time.

Very suddenly in mid-March, just after St. Patrick’s Day, Fresno State transformed from its usual campus population of almost 30,000 — bigger than some small cities — into a near ghost town in a matter of days. Students, faculty and all but administrators and essential staff members transitioned to learning, teaching and working remotely as California came under shelter-in-place orders because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, five months later, the campus prepares to bring some students and faculty back, albeit in limited numbers for a different kind of semester, with instruction beginning on Wednesday, Aug. 19.

While many colleges and universities nationwide are facing drops in enrollment as a result of the pandemic, Fresno State efforts to keep new incoming and returning students engaged over the summer seem to have paid off.

Fresno State anticipates the largest incoming class in the university’s history this fall with about 3,700 freshmen and almost 2,800 transfer students. (67% of the students in the incoming class are the first generation in their families to attend college.) Also, more than 90% of continuing undergraduate students have registered for the fall, in line with retention rates of the past decade. Total enrollment for the 110th academic year should be about 25,000.

(Enrollment numbers are not final until the campus census is conducted in early fall.)

“For generations, Fresno State has provided families throughout our region and beyond with a high-quality education at an affordable cost,” said President Joseph I. Castro. “I am gratified to see that our talented students are continuing to pursue their educational goals with boldness, optimism and determination, much-needed qualities needed in our leaders.”

The California State University Chancellor’s Office made the call on May 12, earlier than many institutions of higher education, that most course delivery this fall at the 23 CSU campuses would be virtual, with a limited number of essential in-person courses. This was based on public health officials’ forecast that COVID-19 will remain a serious threat until a vaccine is developed.

A 19-member task force made up of students, faculty, staff and administrators collaboratively developed the plan for the fall semester, in consultation with the Fresno County Department of Public Health, and following local, state and federal guidelines to protect the health and well-being of the entire campus community. This plan was approved by the CSU Chancellor’s Office and was announced in June.

Based on that plan and subsequent guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health, the daily campus population will only be about 2,200 students, faculty and staff (7.5% of the overall campus population as compared to fall 2019). Of that, about 1,000 students will be enrolled in the 101 in-person courses approved for the fall semester.

Voluntary baseline COVID-19 testing is being offered this month and highly encouraged for all students, faculty and staff who will return to campus in the fall. Through a partnership with Valley Children’s Healthcare, Fresno State offers one-time testing to those who are approved to be on campus for the fall.

Required daily health screenings and temperature checks will also be conducted. Students and employees coming to campus must go through one of five checkpoints for a screening.

To reduce possible exposure to COVID-19 and to help prevent the spread of the virus, face masks or cloth face coverings are required to be worn in public spaces on campus and during in-person classes, consistent with the governor’s order and updated state public-health guidelines.

Due to COVID-19 and guidelines from the California Department of Public Health, only authorized students, faculty, staff and contractors are permitted on campus. Signage will be posted at campus entry points, discouraging non-essential visitors.

Given that the pandemic is a fluid situation, University leadership will continue to review and adjust plans and services, as necessary. In addition, the University is prepared for the possibility that all courses may need to return to virtual instruction at any point during the fall semester.

Center for Faculty Excellence

Since the spring semester ended, more than 750 faculty and 80 teaching associates took technology training through the Center for Faculty Excellence to enhance their virtual courses this fall. With this training, faculty will be even better prepared to deliver engaging content to Fresno State’s diverse student population. Approximately $1.2 million was invested to better prepare faculty members, funded by the Federal CARES Act.

“It was inspiring to see so many faculty taking the summer training on virtual delivery,” said Dr. Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Fresno State. “I’m very thankful for the expertise and leadership from our Center for Faculty Excellence team, as well as the faculty who assisted in delivering instruction to so many of their faculty colleagues.  We truly came together to respond to this crisis with a dedicated heart and a focused mind — all for the sake of empowering our faculty to deliver meaningful and engaging lessons in the fall.”

Resources for students

While most instruction will be virtual, Fresno State will still offer a wide array of services for students to ensure their success, well-being and engagement. Many campus offices are conducting appointments virtually or by appointment, including the Health Center, Financial Aid and Academic Support and Advising. More information is available on the Student Resources page.

The Student Cupboard, located in the Industrial Technology building (Room 144), on the corner of Barstow and Jackson avenues, is still providing food and hygiene supplies to enrolled students.

Dorm move-in

With a number of measures implemented for the fall 2020 semester to help maintain proper physical distancing, such as rooms being assigned as single occupancy, fewer students than usual moved into the residence halls (about 225 this year). Facial coverings will be required in all housing areas, as they are when traveling throughout campus. The University Dining Hall will be open for residents only with grab-and-go options.

New Student Convocation

The usual New Student Convocation — an annual welcome for new students to introduce them to Fresno State traditions — will take a different shape this year.

From 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 17, new students can participate in the drive-through welcome line, and pick up a spirit pack (preregistration is required). A New Student Convocation, with a welcome by President Joseph I. Castro, will be live-streamed on Fresno State’s Facebook page from 8 to 8:25 p.m. And a virtual after-party with a live DJ will wrap up the evening from 8:25 to 10 p.m.

A separate drive-through welcome and spirit pack pick-up for students at the Visalia Campus will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 20.


Efforts in the spring ensured that students still had access to technology and internet connectivity while no longer on campus. The DISCOVERe Hub distributed more than 3,000 iPads and more than 1,500 mobile hotspots to students. That work will continue, preparing for another semester of mostly virtual instruction as Fresno State will again provide wi-fi hotspots and/or iPads for enrolled students in need of a device or access to high-speed internet. This year, the University plans to lend another 5,000 devices and mobile hotspots to students in need.

Henry Madden Library

Beginning Aug. 12, the Henry Madden Library will offer modified services for current Fresno State students, staff and faculty. Hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and services are limited to picking up requested materials and devices from the Library and appointments at DISCOVERe. Bulldog ID cards will also be required for entrance into the building using a card swipe at the main entrance. The library’s virtual research services will continue online with librarians at the virtual desk from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. See the library’s fall 2020 Library Plans page for information about specific service points.

New deans

Two colleges and schools will be under new leadership this fall, with new deans. Dr. Denise Seabert, whose research and academic background is in health education and teacher preparation, was named dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State. Dr. Randy Yerrick, known for his innovative teaching and implementation of technology in STEM classrooms, is the new dean of the Kremen School of Education and Human Development at Fresno State.

School of Nursing strengthens ties to South Valley

The School of Nursing’s RN to BSN has been expanded to the South Valley with its first cohort for the Fresno State Visalia Campus beginning this fall. The associate degree registered nurse (RN) to bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) program is a three-semester program that allows those with a registered nursing license the option to complete upper-division coursework that fulfills the BSN degree without having to repeat any lower-division courses.

Offering the two on-site courses at the Fresno State Visalia Campus is an effort to not only grow the RN to BSN  program in the region, but to give South Valley students an option to complete the two courses on site rather than online, if preferred. The upper-division curriculum builds upon leadership skills, research methodologies and community-health exploration.

Several new majors, options added

Fresno State students will have more options for areas of study this academic year. New majors and options are listed below by college: