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Mexican American Self-Identity Is Key For New CSU Chancellor

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California State University trustees appointed Fresno State president Joseph Castro as system chancellor on September 23, 2020. (Screenshot)
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For the first time in the state’s history, the Cal State Chancellor, Community Colleges Chancellor, University of California President, and State Superintendent of Schools will be Black or Latino, or both.

Newly appointed Cal State Chancellor Joseph Castro had a more specific description in his acceptance speech after the university's trustees announced his appointment last month -- he's the first Mexican American leader of the 23-campus system.

“I wanted to describe my background in a way that would resonate with the people of California and the country,” he said.

In a time when Latino, Latinx, and Hispanic are used as catch-all labels, the specific use of the term ‘Mexican American’ by such a high-profile public official highlights Castro's specific experiences and upbringing. He said he hopes it will inspire others and that it will inform the policies he carries out leading the nearly 500,000 student system.

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Castro’s words filled Cal State Dominguez Hills Professor Yesenia Fernandez with pride.

“Myself as a first-gen Mexicana, Chicana faculty member, I felt absolutely seen by that,” she said.

She lived in Mexico until she was 8 years old. She said what was powerful about Castro’s description of his ancestors and his use of the term “Mexican American” is that it centered his ancestor’s journey from the old country and how they worked the land.

But it also matters for across the demographic spectrum, said UC Merced professor Daisy Reyes. “It doesn't matter just for Latinx students, but it also matters for non Latinx students, to show that Latinx people belong everywhere and should have a seat at all tables,” she said.

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New Cal State Chancellor Emphasizes Mexican American Heritage To Connect With Campus Communities

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