California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro visited Cal State LA virtually on Tuesday, marking the third stop on his first 23-campus tour of the CSU system.
Castro took part in a full day of Zoom meetings during the March 16 visit, speaking with students, faculty and staff to get to know the university and the Cal State LA community.
“I know we face a good deal of challenges, but we do so with tremendous strength,” Castro said during an afternoon open forum with the university community. “I love the people of the CSU, the incredible students and the dedicated faculty and staff, and our 3.8 million-plus alumni—what a powerful community that we are.”
The chancellor took questions from students, faculty and staff during the open forum, which was moderated by Raphael J. Sonenshein, executive director for the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA. Castro covered topics including mental health services, tuition and fees, campus public safety, virtual learning and the pandemic.
The chancellor said he and the university presidents are working with public health experts to plan a safe transition back to in-person working and learning.
“I think there is reason to be optimistic. On the other hand, we are aware of these variants, and if for some reason we need to adjust, we will make sure that we do that and communicate it as far in advance as possible,” Castro said. “But by and large, what I hear from our students and from most faculty and staff is that you would like to be on campus if we can do it safely, so that’s the goal.”
Throughout the day, Castro met with Cal State LA President William A. Covino, the university vice presidents, the Academic Senate Executive Committee, student leaders from Associated Students, Inc., the Cal State LA Foundation and labor union representatives.
Department of Theatre and Dance students from the College of Arts and Letters also presented an innovative virtual performance of War of the Worlds for the chancellor, using Zoom to produce an engaging live digital theatre production.
“[The students] did this incredible adaptation of War of the Worlds for me,” Castro said during a morning availability with local media. “It was extraordinarily creative and just shows the innovation that occurs every day at Cal State LA and across the CSU.”
During the open forum, Sonenshein asked Castro what experience has given him the most hope for the future since he became the eighth chancellor of the CSU in January.
“If I only had to choose one, it would be the time that I’ve spent with our students at each of the first three campuses because it has given me a chance to learn more about them, what their challenges have been during this pandemic, to really understand them on a much deeper level and to hear their ideas about what I can do to be supportive,” Castro said. “It has just given me so much hope for the future—these are the next generation of leaders, and I would love to think one of these students would be the chancellor of the CSU someday.”
Castro is the first Californian and the first person of color to serve as CSU chancellor. He was previously the president of Fresno State. The grandson of immigrants from Mexico and the son of a single mother, Castro was the first in his family to graduate from a university.
The chancellor will continue his systemwide tour of the CSU campuses with Humboldt State on April 27.