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Office of the President

Industry Listening Tour

Saul Jimenez-Sandoval, Ph.D.Fresno State is here for the success of its students, a majority of whom are first-generation. In all our students, a deep personal transformation happens in their college years - one that establishes new generations of college graduates that directly impacts the lives of families in our San Joaquin Valley. And more university degrees translate to a stronger economy and better quality of life. This is exactly what I want for our region as I grew up in Fowler and have dedicated my career to helping to advance our area. I am grateful to lead such a distinguished University and proud that 80% of Bulldogs graduate from Fresno State to capably work, serve, lead, and contribute back to our Valley.

Upon my appointment as President of Fresno State, I wanted to learn how the University can better prepare students to lead the workforce of tomorrow. With this in mind, I invited a representative group of industry leaders from across the region to talk with me. Over a two-month period, I hosted six industry-focused listening sessions resulting in helpful and frank feedback, including creative strategies and solutions to engaging employers and addressing University practices for the improvement of student outcomes. I’d like to thank the many forward-thinking business leaders who made these conversations a priority for the betterment of where we all live and the graduates that will fuel our future.

Tour Questions

The format, lightly facilitated by Professor Betsy Hays and my role, along with other campus leadership, was simply to listen. In these sessions, we posed the following questions:

  1. How can Fresno State be a strategic partner in meeting your workforce needs?
  2. What are the challenges you face in hiring qualified and diverse applicants?
  3. How are your employment needs changing given our current environment and trends in your industry?
  4. How would you define a productive community member and how can Fresno State help to facilitate that?

Tour Conversations

I am grateful for the constructive feedback received during our Fresno State Industry Listening Tour in January/February 2022. I, along with the campus leaders listed below, had the opportunity to meet with 55 CEOs and top business leaders from within these industry sectors:

  1. Agriculture with Deans Nef, Meyer, and Nunna
  2. Healthcare with Dean Seabert
  3. Business/Entrepreneurship with Deans Olson-Buchanan and Nunna
  4. Engineering/Manufacturing/Construction with Deans Nunna and Olson-Buchanan
  5. Education/Art with Deans Chapman and Yerrick
  6. Criminology with Dean Muscat, Interim Associate Dean Takahashi, and Department Chair Dr. English

Following the conclusion of these employer discussions, campus leadership has reflected on the suggestions and developed the following five University goals and supporting objectives:

  • Hire a University Diversity Officer this year to assist in developing campus-wide Graduation Initiative 2025 plans to close the equity gap between underserved students and peers ensuring educational success for all.
  • Over the next five years, hire additional advisors to improve the Student to Career Advisor Ratio and overall Student to Academic Advisor Ratio.
  • Establish the Black Student Success Center and Southeast Asian Student Success Center to increase enrollment and eliminate achievement gaps in graduation.
  • Expand the college-going culture in the region with a comprehensive marketing and outreach plan focused on the benefits and accessibility of higher education.
  • Increase student awareness and time spent on to find helpful resources, job opportunities, and career information.

  • Invest in the Alumni Career Connections initiative by hiring a first-ever Director of Alumni Career Connections by Fall 2022 to work in collaboration with the Fresno State Career Development Center to assist job-seeking recent graduates and alumni with career resources and opportunities for desirable employment. This position will also work with alumni-owned businesses to build employer partnerships.
  • Track the success of business mentorship programs in the colleges of engineering, business, agriculture, and healthcare to inform a campus-wide commitment and investment in growing mentorships for student advancement.
  • Expand outreach to school districts to increase job placements for graduates in the teaching field. Host a Teacher Career Fair to connect area school districts with graduating seniors.
  • Feature STEM fields and alumni success stories online to attract students to these majors and make them more accessible.
  • Develop a marketing plan to increase employer/recruiter awareness of the Fresno State Career Development Center’s online resources at, including a central source for posting jobs, guide to establishing internships, list of student recruitment events, employer partnership and mentorship opportunities.

  • Align major courses with career tracks to increase student career awareness.
  • Pilot the offer of release time to a College of Arts and Humanities faculty member to focus on infusing career readiness topics into existing curriculum.
  • Offer micro-credentials to address interdisciplinary needs, like data analysis. Learn from the engineering/agriculture/business Title V grant upon data collected.
  • Continue collaborative partnerships with K-12 to reduce students in need of remedial courses in Algebra and English.

  • Expand the course-based undergraduate research program across multiple disciplines to enable students to gain hands-on research experience early in their college career thereby boosting retention and exposure to other fields of study.
  • Develop and grow internship courses and offer college credit for internships tied to curriculum. Offer micro-credential badges for internships not tied to curriculum.
  • Promote student workforce readiness training modules online to enhance business and soft skills.

  • Invest in the National Alumni Career Survey to track career success trends at 3/6/12 months and at 5/10 year marks to evidence the value of a degree through Fresno State.
  • Hire a Career Development Communications Specialist to effectively promote career services to students, alumni, and employers.

In addition to these goals and objectives, I established the President’s Commission on Economic Development, Societal Impact and Entrepreneurship to involve department chairs, faculty, and Center/Institute directors in addressing how Fresno State can educate, inspire, and engage students in developing an entrepreneurial mindset and become leaders in sustainable economic development in our community. I am pleased to share two immediate outcomes seeded from this campus Commission:

  1. Community & Economic Development Academy - Similar to Leadership Fresno, four faculty per school/college will form a cohort to:
    1. Learn from guest speakers including business and community leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.
    2. Share curriculum and explore opportunities to work across disciplines.
    3. Complete a cohort service project with implications for sustainable economic development.
  2. The Commission will annually visit 4-6 corporations to broaden their knowledge in current industry best practices and emerging trends in subjects like artificial intelligence, vertical integration, supply chain, and labor policy to name a few.

The strength of our region is inextricably linked to the success of Fresno State which is why this discovery has been an emphasis in my first year as President. As the premier higher education institution dedicated to graduating and serving a diverse student-body, it is imperative that we focus on educational outcomes and drivers of success through purposeful employer partnerships and intentional strategies championed by knowledgeable campus leadership and faculty. Together, I know we will continue to advance the effectiveness of our next generation of leaders.