Fresno State News Briefs

Graduation-rate Performance Ranks No. 3 Nationally

For the third straight year, Fresno State placed among the top three best public universities for graduation-rate performance in U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 Best College rankings. Fresno State scored third-highest among public national universities and was No. 4 overall in the national universities category, improving from the No. 5 spot last year.

The graduation-rate performance category uses the University’s actual six-year graduation rate compared to predicted performance based on admissions data, school financial resources, the proportion of federal financial-aid recipients who are first-generation, math and science orientations and the proportion of undergraduates receiving Pell grants.

“At Fresno State, we believe that talent exists in every household,” says Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “These rankings show that, through educating and empowering our students to obtain an academic degree, we are unleashing this talent to prepare a new generation of bold leaders for the Central Valley, the state and beyond.”

Fresno State moved up to No. 101 in overall rankings for public universities compared to No. 112 last year. San Diego State University is the only other California State University campus ranked on the national universities list at No. 68.

U.S. News and World Report evaluates campuses on multiple factors for its overall national ranking. The magazine gives the most weight to graduation and retention rates followed by faculty resources, academic reputation, financial resources, student excellence and alumni giving.


In other rankings

The U.S. News and World Report rankings follow the announcement of Fresno State as No. 24 in Washington Monthly’s annual nationwide college rankings. The Washington D.C.-based magazine calls attention to colleges that best serve the community, ranking institutions on social mobility, research and service.

This is the fourth straight year Fresno State has ranked in Washington Monthly’s top 25. Fresno State was the only California State University campus on the list, selected alongside six Ivy League institutions, including top-ranked Stanford University; six University of California campuses; and MIT.

The University also ranked No. 35 in MONEY magazine’s 50 Best Public Colleges rankings for 2019.

— BoNhia Lee


By the numbers

No. 3 U.S. News grad-rate performance

No. 24 Washington Monthly national university rankings

No. 35 MONEY magazine’s Best Public Colleges



Professor Emeritus Gifts $1.7M Estate for Scholarships

Robert-J-PiersolDr. Robert J. Piersol valued education — both for himself and others — having grown up in a home where almost everyone had advanced degrees.

Piersol once wrote that he was lucky enough to have a few careers as a design and development engineer, an economics analyst and a professor of management in the Craig School of Business at Fresno State, says Marie Crosson, his niece and executor of his estate.

“Later in his life, he noted at one of his reunions that ultimately his greatest accomplishment was being a teacher,” Crosson says.

Piersol, a Fresno State professor emeritus, left his $1.7 million estate to the Craig School to develop a scholarship program for graduate students. He died in May 2018 but knew almost two decades ago he wanted to leave whatever he had to Fresno State, Crosson says.

He could have easily left the gift to Stanford University, where he earned his Master of Business Administration, or to Harvard University, where he got a doctorate in business administration. But Piersol “wrote that he wanted to make sure his money would support students who might otherwise not be able to attend the University and gain what he thought was a great gift — a formal education,” Crosson says.

“He loved the University. He loved his students. He loved young people,” she says.

— BoNhia Lee


“He loved the University.
He loved his students.
He loved young people.”




Women’s Rugby D-II Champs


The Fresno State club women’s rugby team won the Division II spring championship on May 4 in Charlotte, North Carolina, beating Salisbury of Maryland 25-19 a day after beating Tulane 57-17. It was the club’s first
such championship after finishing third in 2018.



Students Win National Research Awards 

research-awardMicah Olivas and Alyssa Rivera want to find ways to treat cancer and other diseases. Now, the Fresno State senior and junior biochemistry majors’ research got a big boost.

Olivas and Rivera were among 496 undergraduate students nationwide awarded the 2019 Goldwater Scholarship for showing exceptional promise of becoming the next generation of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering research leaders.

The winners were selected from 1,223 nominees submitted by 443 universities from a pool of more than 5,000 students. Only six students from the 23-campus California State University system received the honor. They will each receive a scholarship of up to $7,500 a year.

“It is quite remarkable that two students from the same California State University campus have been selected for this prestigious, and very competitive, award in the same year,” says Dr. Saeed Attar, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors College at Fresno State and professor of chemistry. Olivas and Rivera are Smittcamp Scholars.

Olivas, a Hanford native, is working with Dr. Laurent Dejean in the Department of Chemistry to research how small particulate matter in Valley air causes cell stress in the lungs. Rivera, from Fresno, is studying how natural products can serve as potential anti-cancer treatments with Fresno State organic chemistry professor Dr. Qiao-Hong Chen.

— BoNhia Lee




How Many Degrees Was It? (1)

Fresno State graduated its largest class in history in May with more than 5,800 students meeting requirements. About 63% of the 2019 graduates were first-generation students whose parents hadn’t received bachelor’s degrees.

Largest Graduating Class 5,872 Students

63% 2019 Grads were First-Generation

No. 1 Producer of Teachers (2)

Fresno State prepares more K-12 schoolteachers than any other public university in the state, awarding over 700 teaching credentials in the 2017-18 academic year, according to the Teacher Supply in California report issued in April.

Major League Arm (3)

Mountain West Pitcher of the Year Ryan Jensen was drafted in the first round (27th overall) by the Chicago Cubs. The junior is the sixth first-round draft choice under Bulldogs coach Mike Batesole.

New Forensic Degree (4)

Forensic behavioral sciences, a program that prepares students interested in traditional criminal justice careers with the application of behavioral sciences, is now offered as a major at Fresno State.

It is believed to be the only undergraduate degree program in forensic behavioral sciences in the country.

1.4 Million Volunteer Hours (5)

For the 10th straight year, thousands of students, faculty and staff cumulatively provided over 1 million hours of service to the community during the 2018-19 academic year. The estimated economic impact of these hours is more than $42 million.

National Teacher Award (6)

Chamroeun Yann, master teacher at Fresno State’s Programs for Children, was one of 50 nationwide to be awarded the Terri Lynne/Children’s Tylenol National Child Care Teacher award.



Alumni Participation, Philanthropy on the Rise


A total of 11,577 people contributed about $27.6 million to Fresno State during the 2018-19 academic year — $20.7 million for academics and $6.9 million for athletics. That’s a 23% increase in overall giving from the year before, and the second largest fundraising year in University history.

Alumni participation was also up about 17%, a testament to the importance alumni see in supporting students and the programs that helped them succeed.

“Alumni who support Fresno State demonstrate the strength of our University within the CSU,” says Paula Castadio, vice president for University Advancement. “Gifts small and large make a collective impact on the educational experiences of our students.”

Here is a look at a few of the noteworthy gifts this past year:

  • $300,000 from Ritchie Clendenin for the Clendenin Brass Endowed Scholarship in the College of Arts and Humanities. Clendenin’s mother, June, created an annual scholarship for music majors playing in the brass quintet in honor of her son, who was a brass music professor at Fresno State. After her death, Ritchie Clendenin grew the scholarship into an endowment in honor of his late mother.
  • A philanthropic grant of $200,000 to support operations of Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development funded from The James Irvine Foundation.
  • $31,000 from Macy’s to support the Clothing Closet and the Student Cupboard’s annual March Match Up. The Clothing Closet provides students with professional clothing for interviews, career fairs and first jobs. The Student Cupboard is a free food and hygiene pantry for current students.

— BoNhia Lee


11,577 donors

$27.6 million

23% increase in giving 

17% increase alumni participation



‘Giddy Up’

Colton-CampbellTo the cheers of a near-sellout crowd of 6,500 fans at the Casper Events Center in Wyoming, Fresno State senior Colton Campbell won the National intercollegiate Rodeo Association men’s all-around championship, the highest honor possible at the College National Finals Rodeo.

Campbell’s 240 points earned him the championship on June 15, when he represented the Fresno State Bulldoggers club rodeo team. Campbell claimed Fresno State’s first men’s individual title since Dudley Little won the same event in 1974.

Thanks to his scores in three preliminary rounds and the short go final round, Campbell’s all-around total was based on his second-place finish in tie down roping and 19th-place finish in the team roping header standings.

“Ever since I started roping when I was young, winning nationals has been a dream,” says Campbell, who came to Fresno State from Klamath Falls, Oregon to follow in the footsteps of his mother, aunt and uncle who are all alumni. “I would like to thank my family, Coach Uhuru Adem, teammates and everyone else who has helped. I’m also very lucky to have the two horses that I competed on that I’ve had for so long. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”

Overall, Fresno State finished 17th in the men’s team standings.

Campbell’s road will lead him to an even busier summer as he tries establish himself as a rookie on the pro circuit. He expects to compete at a host of rodeos around the West before he returns to his Cal-Ore family ranch near Klamath Falls — the place where he started competing when he was 4 years old.

“I’ve been lucky to compete for Fresno State, and also to be able to take classes in livestock management, which has really helped me understand animals in a new way,” Campbell says.

— Geoff Thurner



Mountain Best


Fresno State earned its most athletics championships in a single season since joining the Mountain West in 2012. When combining Mountain West regular season and tournament titles, the Bulldogs won four championships – baseball (regular/tournament), football (regular) and men’s tennis (tournament).



Health on Wheels

health-on-wheelsRosa Barajas has been a volunteer with Saint Agnes Holy Cross Center for Women for 13 years. During a recent visit to the Fresno State Community Health Mobile Unit, parked just outside the gates of the center, Barajas received some alarming news the day before her 56th birthday. Her blood pressure was abnormally high.

Barajas, of Fresno, is one of many who discover they have high blood pressure or other health ailments that may otherwise go unnoticed or unchecked if not for the free screening services provided throughout Fresno County by the mobile health unit. As a mother of four, Barajas says receiving the news was scary, but it gave her a sense of relief to know she can get help regardless of her ability to afford medication.

Barajas received a referral from Melisa Rotondi, a Fresno State student pursuing her master’s in nursing. She has volunteered in the mobile unit for the past two years and says cases like this are common.

“It’s important for these individuals to understand that even if they don’t have access to medical care, we can still refer them to surrounding clinics that will help them obtain medications even if they don’t have insurance,” Rotondi says.

Now, even more clients will be able to benefit from services like this, and more Fresno State students will gain valuable clinical skills, thanks to a $250,000 gift from Saint Agnes Medical Center. The gift will allow the mobile unit to continue serving residents in areas across the Central Valley. This recent gift brings Saint Agnes’ total contribution to the mobile unit to $375,000 within the last two-plus years.

Since its fall 2015 launch, the cost-free services from the mobile unit have benefited more than 5,000 individuals throughout the region. Nearly 600 students from Fresno State have volunteered at the mobile unit, gaining important service-learning and clinical learning opportunities along the way.

— Melissa Tav


“It’s important for these individuals
to understand that even if they don’t
have access to medical care, we can
still refer them to surrounding clinics
that will help them obtain medications
even if they don’t have insurance.”

Nursing Graduate Student