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A Latina will lead the nation’s largest four-year university system for the first time

The California State University system selected longtime higher education leader Mildred García as its next chancellor.
Mildred Garcia
Mildred García will become California State University's first Latina chancellor. The longtime educator of Puerto Rican heritage will begin in October.California State University

The nation’s largest four-year university system has selected a Latina to oversee its 23 campuses for the first time.

The California State University system has selected Mildred García, who is Puerto Rican and a recognized longtime higher education leader, to be its 11th chancellor.

“I am honored, humbled and excited for this opportunity to serve the nation’s largest four-year university system and work alongside its dedicated leaders, faculty and staff, and its talented and diverse students to further student achievement, close equity gaps and continue to drive California’s economic prosperity,” García said in a statement about her announcement as chancellor.

The CSU system, whose institutions rank among the most diverse in the country, enrolled more than 457,000 students in fall 2022 and has nearly 130,000 annual graduates; it's the state’s largest producer of bachelor’s degrees.

García has been serving as president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

She was president of Cal State Fullerton from 2012 to 2018 and was recognized for improving graduation rates to record numbers and nearly tripling philanthropic gift commitments, according to CSU's statement. She was also the first Latina president of CSU Dominguez Hills, from 2007 to 2012, where she was credited with increasing retention rates for freshman and transfer students and eliminating a structural deficit of $2.8 million.

“Dr. García is a highly-skilled, dynamic and principled leader who has championed student success—especially for those students from underrepresented communities,” Wenda Fong, chair of the CSU board of trustees, said in a statement.

García was raised in New York City as a first-generation student; her parents came from Puerto Rico and she was the first in her family to earn a college degree. She earned an associate degree from New York City Community College, a bachelor’s in business education from Baruch College and a master’s in business education from New York University. At Teachers College, Columbia University, she earned a master’s and a doctorate in higher education administration.

She was part of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics under President Barack Obama.

García will succeed interim Chancellor Jolene Koester, who’s led the university since May 2022, following a public scandal regarding former CSU Chancellor Joseph Castro. 

García will begin her tenure as chancellor in October.