Mario Castillo was officially appointed the fifth chancellor of the Lone Star College System during a special meeting in August. Castillo is following former Chancellor Stephen Head, who retired this year after serving the college since 2014.

Castillo has served LSCS since 2015 as vice chancellor, general counsel and chief operating officer. He is also the first Hispanic chancellor to serve LSCS. Castillo started his duties Aug. 11.

This interview has been edited for length, style and clarity.

What are your thoughts on House Bill 8’s changes to the way community colleges are funded, and how do you see this affecting LSCS moving forward?

I’m a much bigger fan of outcome-based funding. That means we're not going to be an enrollment-focused institution anymore. We are going to be a retention-focused institution, which means that what I'm more interested in is keeping the students that we have rather than recruiting more.

What industries do you expect will have the most significant workforce needs over the next 10 years, and how might LSCS help address those needs?

Information technology; computers, national security, information technology and computer chips. A lot of our computer chips come from overseas, and so we are vulnerable to countries that are not entirely friendly to the United States. Between IT, cybersecurity, computer chips and AI, we really need to do a better job of doing technology-based workforce programs.

What is your vision for the institution’s future? What are some short- and long-term goals you have for the LSCS?

I’m a big proponent of one LSC, so for the next 10 months, my goal is to get all 7,000 of our employees doing the same thing and working collaboratively toward the same goal. Long term, I want to win the Aspen Prize and be the No. 1 community college in the country based on outcomes.

How will you prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion within your institution, especially with the passing of Senate Bill 17 eliminating DEI offices?

Recent initiatives at the state and local levels really haven’t affected Lone Star College. Most of our processes were built to be compliant with all the laws that I think our state legislators were worried about violating when they passed their recent DEI statutes. We’re an incredibly diverse institution from the very top.

What challenges or obstacles are currently facing your community college, and how are you working to overcome them?

One of our biggest obstacles is fall-to-fall retention. We have to do a better job of meeting students where they are, being realistic about things like transportation issues, the digital divide, access to resources and food insecurities. Most of our students don’t come back because of anything having to do with instruction, but because they run into obstacles in their life and think that’s the end of the road.

As only the fifth chancellor of Lone Star College, what do you see as the most rewarding part of your job?

Helping students. The reason that I am here is to help students. Everything I do is guided by helping students. Every request that I’m asked, I’m thinking, “How does it help students?” From budgetary to operational, everything is about students as far as I am concerned.