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HSF Alumni

Dr. Joseph Castro

  • Gender: Male
  • University: University of California - Berkeley
  • Undergraduate Degree: Political Science
  • Post Graduate Degree: PhD, Higher Education Policy and Leadership
  • Graduate Degree: Public Policy
  • Hometown: Hanford
  • State: California
  • Organization: California State University, Fresno
  • Position Title: President

Dr. Castro was born and raised in the town of Hanford in California’s Central Valley, the grandson of farmworkers from Mexico and members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. His mother worked as a beautician to help support him and his sister. He didn’t have a relationship with his father, a long-haul truck driver, until he was an adult.

Although neither parent received a higher education, and he credits his mother and grandparents for planting the seed that he would go to college. He says the idea took hold, and he prepared himself to become the first in his family to earn a college degree.

In an interview published in Fresno State Magazine, he explained that he always had a passion for learning. “I would spend whole days in the summer taking classes, just because it was fun,” he said. In high school, he was the editor of the newspaper and played varsity tennis.

When it came time to apply to colleges, a counselor steered him toward University of California, Berkeley. He was accepted and went on to earn a BA in Political Science and then an MPP in Public Policy, with the help of an HSF Scholarship. Finally, he earned a PhD in Higher Education Policy and Leadership from Stanford University.

After completing his education, he enjoyed a long career as a faculty member and administrator within the University of California system, culminating in his tenure as Vice Chancellor, Student Academic Affairs at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He also served as a professor of Family and Community Medicine at UCSF’s School of Medicine, where he conducted research and taught courses on policy, leadership, and diversity issues.

Eventually returning to his Central Valley roots, he became the eighth President of the California State University, Fresno—the first Latino to hold the position. He is also a Professor of Educational Leadership at the University’s Kremen School of Education and Human Development.

Among his many accolades, he was named one of three winners of the Stanford Graduate School of Education’s 2016 Alumni Excellence in Education Award, which recognizes alumni “who are transforming education, changing communities, and influencing policy,” according to the school’s website.

He was also awarded the Ohtli Medal—the highest distinction awarded by the Mexican Government to Mexican-American leaders in the United States. In addition, he was named an “Agent of Change” by Hispanic Outlook on Education Magazine, and he was recognized by the UCSF Council of Minority Organizations for his contributions to advancing diversity at UCSF.

“The fact that Fresno State is a Latino-serving institution…is one of the reasons I was attracted to [it]…,” he explained in an interview with Fresno State News. He was also drawn to being able to serve students with the same Central Valley background as his. But, taking his mother’s cue—after explaining that she was an advocate of diversity long before it was popular—he added that his overall goal is to “advance educational opportunities for Latinos and all the other students at Fresno State.”