Fresno State News Briefs

‘Water U’

Thomas EsquedaTo strengthen its reputation as a national leader in applied research on water, Fresno State appointed Central Valley native Thomas C. Esqueda as its first associate vice president for water and sustainability. Esqueda was previously the director of public utilities for the City of Fresno.

“Thomas Esqueda brings a wealth of water experience in private industries, local and state government and higher education,” says Fresno State Provost Lynnette Zelezny. “A high-energy leader, he is eager to champion our quest to be ‘the Water University.’”

Partnering with industry and government agencies, Fresno State incorporates new technologies — satellite, infrared and computer — into its applied water research. Faculty, students and staff study water quality, conservation, delivery systems, supply development, recycling and drought-tolerant crops. The campus houses the Center for Irrigation Technology, the International Center for Water Technology and the Water and Energy Technology Center. The University also is a partner in Blue Tech Valley — an ambitious initiative to create a Silicon Valley-like hub of water research and development.

Water U

“Throughout my 29-year career, I have worked with communities around the country to solve water challenges, and this opportunity to combine my experience with the commitment and passion of the Fresno State community is an ideal match.”

– Thomas C. Esqueda

A New Student Union

They said yes. Fresno State students voted in March to approve funding for a new University Student Union. The 80,000-square-foot, $60-million building is expected to open in four to five years with learning and collaborative spaces, student lounge areas, healthy dining options, retail and a mid-sized event center to host conferences, career fairs and awards banquets. The new building will be constructed near where the amphitheater currently sits. The current University Student Union was built for a campus of 10,000 students in the 1960s. The new space will accommodate today’s student enrollment of 25,000. Student fees will increase by $149 per semester, and the University plans to raise about $10 million in private funds.

Bold Gives Back

Genetic Cancer Research Ramps Up

cancer research

In an unpretentious lab on the Fresno State campus, biology professor Dr. Jason Bush is looking for ways to target biological mechanisms that fuel cancer. Clues to cutting-edge cancer research may be found in metabolites, small molecules that could hold the secret to better quality of life for patients diagnosed with brain or breast cancer. His current work involves refining cancer treatments by studying stem cells.

“Humans are merely extrapolations of all their trillions of cells, but stem cells are special,” Bush says. “They have the potential to develop into different cell types throughout the body, thus acting as an internal repair system that is crucial to a healthy life.”

Bush’s work with biology students is just one of the latest research projects underway in the College of Science and Mathematics at Fresno State, which recently received two major gifts to further its mission “to graduate the next generation of scientists and mathematicians, teachers, technicians, health professionals and field researchers.”

A $1 million gift from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous was announced Oct. 24 by University President Joseph I. Castro with half allocated to student research in genetics and molecular biology and the other half for The President’s Circle for Excellence, an annual giving society dedicated to addressing the most pressing needs on campus.

A week later, Castro joined Chevron in announcing a $450,000 donation to Fresno State in support of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs in Fresno State’s Lyles College of Engineering and College of Science and Mathematics.

The College of Science and Mathematics also celebrated the grand opening of two newly renovated biology and chemistry laboratories on the first floor of the Science I building. This project allows for data collection and analyses that are critical for preparing students for future science careers.

The donation was made in memory of Moller’s father, Leonard Moller, who owned and operated the Acme Machine Shop in Fresno until 1973. The shop was originally started by Herman Moller in the 1920s, and he later co-owned it with his son, Leonard.

The gift provided for a revamped welding area with new multi-processing booths, racks, gas line manifolds, work tables, a computer numerical control (CNC) plasma-cutting table and a freshly painted interior with additional improvements to come.

Fresno State is the only California State University campus that offers a mechanized agriculture emphasis for agriculture education majors.

Bulldog Stadium Renovation Update

Planning continues on the Bulldog Stadium modernization project, as previewed in this magazine in 2015. The project’s scope and timeline have been adjusted to emphasize core maintenance and improvements to existing facilities and to limit overall project costs.

Phase 1, which included new fencing and branding elements at the stadium, was completed in 2016. The early stages of Phase 2, which is focused on facility modernization including repairs to the east side seating berm, are underway, with additional work to be completed after the 2018 season.

“Enhancing the fan experience continues to be our top priority,” says Stephen Robertello, interim director of athletics. “This requires the University to focus on addressing the backlog of deferred maintenance and improvements that are priorities for our Red Wave fans, such as utility and technology infrastructure, upgraded restrooms, concessions and ADA accessibility.”

Robertello emphasizes the importance of the University addressing these facility issues first before moving forward on expansion of any premium seating areas, which may be a future phase of expansion (Phase 3).

Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro says the University remains committed to this project as a high priority. The scope of the project will be focused on upgrading the facility and fan experience by addressing projects mentioned above and existing luxury suites with an estimated budget of $45 million. He said the University will be working closely with the CSU Office of the Chancellor to develop an appropriate financial plan that will support these necessary improvements. Bulldog Stadium is an asset owned by the CSU, with a facility and operating lease with the Athletic Corporation.

As the planning for Bulldog Stadium progresses, the Athletics Department has initiated a master-planning effort that includes the expansion and renovation of the Student Athlete Village, which supports 450 student-athletes and 21 sports teams. An update on this much-needed, donor-funded project will be provided in the near future.

football bowl

To cap a turnaround season that was Fresno State (10-4) become just the second Football Bowl Subdivision team ever to go from one win to double-digit wins the following season, Fresno State beat Houston 33-27 in the Hawaii Bowl under first-year coach Jeff Tedford. It was the Bulldogs’ first bowl victory since 2007, and Fresno State became the only university on the West coast to win a bowl game this past season.

Around the Fountain

news photos

An Emerging Scholar

Dr. Larissa Mercado-Lopez (A), associate professor in the Women’s Studies Program at Fresno State, was selected as a 2018 Emerging Scholar and was featured in the January edition of “Diverse: Issues in Higher Education” magazine. The magazine selected 15 scholars under 40 years of age from across the country who are making their marks through teaching, research and service.

Judge the Game by its Cover

Former Fresno State baseball star Aaron Judge (B), the reigning American League Rookie of the Year of the New York Yankees, was selected as the cover athlete for the new MLB The Show 18 video game, released March 27.

Howard Joins Parliament of World’s Religions Board

Fresno State philosophy professor Dr. Veena Howard (C), whose expertise is in South Asian religious traditions and Gandhi’s philosophy, was elected to the board of trustees for the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a leading global interfaith organization.

‘Coach Hut’ takes over on the Hardwood

Fresno State named Justin Hutson (D), one of the West’s best recruiters and a Bakersfield native, its 19th head men’s basketball coach. He returns to the Valley after 10 years as an assistant at San Diego State and two seasons at UNLV. As a collegiate player, Hutson enjoyed a storied career, winning two NCAA Division II championships at CSU Bakersfield. “I am a Valley guy,” Hutson says. “This is where I have my roots and family. Having the opportunity to come home and be the next head coach of the school I dreamed about is very special for me.” Visit for an exclusive Q&A.

Bold Gives Back

Unique Motivation Behind a Generous Gift

Gift Motivations

James Moller, a University of Minnesota professor emeritus of pediatrics and medicine, grew up in Fresno near the original Fresno State campus. On a visit in September 2016, he saw the laboratory’s traditional but outdated welding and mechanical equipment during a tour led by mechanized agriculture faculty member Ken Heupel.

“Educational institutions, especially state universities and colleges, have pressing financial concerns, and Ken quietly expressed the program’s obvious needs,” Moller says. “The surroundings reminded me so much of my father’s machine shop that I could visualize him there, and it really touched me. Even though I moved away 60 years ago, I wanted to express my appreciation for the educational opportunities that I was afforded as a third-generation Fresnan while helping to create better opportunities for future students, many of whom are training to be educators and key members of the Central Valley ag industry.”

On Nov. 14, the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State showcased initial renovations to its mechanized agriculture laboratory that were made possible by a $250,000 gift by Dr. Moller and his wife, Carol.