California State University Chancellor Joseph I. Castro visited Long Beach State for the first time in person on Tuesday, Aug. 31, to discuss his thoughts on CSULB’s progress and the future of the CSU system.
As part of a tour to visit all 23 campuses, Castro was accompanied by First Lady Mary Castro as the two met with President Jane Close Conoley and other campus officials before partaking in an open forum at the University Student Union.
During the forum, Castro said the university was excited to see the potential future groups of leaders from both Long Beach State and other universities.
“We have almost 500,000 emerging leaders and universities like this one play in developing leaders from all over different backgrounds,” Castro, who is the first person of color to serve as Chancellor, said. “It’s inspiring to me in the Cal State system that we can do that on such a large scale.”
In addition to commending CSULB, Castro touched on CSU’s Graduation Initiative 2025, which aims to increase graduation rates and eliminate equity gaps in degree completion.
“I believe we will achieve those goals in 2025 in our graduation numbers and in eliminating equity gaps with the help of Pell Grants,” Castro said. “I was a Pell Grant student, so I am going to do everything I can to support each one of the campuses, including Long Beach State, in meeting those goals.”
Since 2008, the CSU has seen degree completion rates increase by 11% and graduation rates have increased for both first-year and transfer students.
Through the initiative, the CSU identified six priorities to help with creating a positive impact towards degree completion and student success, each with various resources that students can reach to:
- Academic Preparation
- Enrollment Management
- Student Engagement & Well-Being
- Financial Support
- Data-Informed Decision Making
- Administrative Barriers
Furthermore, Castro discussed the health and safety of campus populations across the CSU as the emergence of the COVID-19 delta variant has been prevalent causing more than 80% of cases in the United States, according to Yale Medicine.
“Each president has worked on a plan,” Castro said. “I’ve tried to be supportive in providing guidance, and as you might know, we have the policy to mandate vaccinations for all students, faculty, and staff on our campuses.”
The CSU system, along with the University of California system, announced a vaccine mandate in April, dependent on the time of the full approval of the COVID-19 vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration, since the shot was authorized for emergency use only.
Since then, the FDA has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for full usage for those 16 and over, with Moderna applying for full approval as well. Johnson and Johnson, the third available vaccine, will not be ready for full approval until later in the year.
In anticipation of increasing cases due to the delta variant, Conoley said the university has worked with faculty on providing an alternative should the university be forced to close down again.
“Over the summer, more than three-quarters of our faculty went in for training about how to do better on Zoom,” Conoley said. “We had transitioned in less than a week, so there were some bumps in the road. But last fall was better, this spring was much better, and I think we are ready if we need to, but we have a lot of safeguards in place.”