More than two years into a global pandemic, Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval has selected a fitting topic for the first President’s Lecture Series of his tenure. Angela Duckworth, known for her TED Talk on grit, will be this year’s featured guest, via a virtual presentation.

Jiménez-Sandoval received a copy of Duckworth’s book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” from Brian Panish, a Los Angeles-based trial lawyer and former Bulldogs football player who was named Fresno State’s Top Dog Distinguished Alumnus in 2019.

“After reading the book, that sparked a conversation between us,” Jiménez-Sandoval said. “From there, it was a natural next step to share the wealth of this book with the campus and our community. ‘Grit’ is the foundational lecture because I see it as an inherent characteristic of our students – very well reflected in the spirit and ethos of our Valley communities.” 

Duckworth is the founder and CEO of Character Lab, a nonprofit with a mission to advance scientific insights that help children thrive. She is also the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

In her research, Duckworth wanted to know why some people succeed while others fail. She found that people who exhibit grit — the tendency to pursue long-term goals with passion and perseverance — are more likely to be high achievers.

The President’s Lecture Series will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. April 21 via a Zoom webinar. Pre-registration will be required for the free online event. 

When asked about his vision for these lectures going forward, Jiménez-Sandoval said, “I’m interested in exploring the character and diversity of our region. As identity was a core tenet of my research and teaching agenda, I want to explore the multifaceted value of the identities we see in our Valley, in order to forge a stronger sense of community and build stronger bridges of communication with each other.”

The President’s Lecture Series, which began in 2016, features prominent national guests invited to campus by the University president. Previous guests have included NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith (2020), Washington Post political reporter Robert Costa (four times, most recently in 2020), New York Times columnist David Brooks (2016), presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (2016), New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas L. Friedman (2017), presidential historian Michael Beschloss (2018) and publishing executive Steve Forbes (2019).

The appearance is co-sponsored by The Fresno Bee, KSEE24, Valley PBS and Valley Public Radio.

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