Editor's note: This article was produced as part of the Daily Wildcat's 2018 Campus Guide -- the perfect resource for any incoming Wildcat. Whether you're trying to find important dates, looking for a club to join or are interested in UA history and traditions, we'll be there to help you get through your first semester. Welcome to the University of Arizona!
Daily Wildcat editor-in-chief Jasmine Demers spoke with President Dr. Robert Robbins about the upcoming school year and his advice for students who are just beginning their journey at the University of Arizona. Their conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Daily Wildcat: What is your favorite thing about the University of Arizona?
Robert Robbins: I think it’s the people. It’s the spirit and enthusiasm of the faculty, staff, students, alumni, people in the city … everyone is so supportive and so proud of the university. They want to see the university do great things and I think that’s a real shared, community-building attitude that I think is really special.
DW: What do you wish you knew as a freshman?
RR: I wish I knew just how much fun I was going to have through the whole process of learning, meeting and developing relationships with people and how great my life was going to be … I loved every minute of the journey and the process of always learning something new and always challenging myself …
If I look back on it, I wish I knew how hard it was going to be and could’ve seen that if you do work this hard, you’re going to have the opportunity to do wonderful things. I want to now infuse that into all of our students, no matter what they do.
DW: What advice do you have for incoming students?
RR: Always try to slow the game down … I know that there are a lot of our students who have gone to incredible schools and have done very, very well, and have figured out that the game moves very fast. Well, it’s about to move a lot faster.
You’re going to be leaving home, not have as much structure, you’re going to be challenged more and the social interactions are going to be different. So, realize that the game is going to move a lot faster and enjoy the journey, but also realize that focusing in on working is going to be very important. Go to class, listen, immerse yourself into what you’re studying.
I would also say, at the same time, to enjoy everything that this great university has to offer. There are so many clubs, so many activities and so many people, and every person has a story. One of the things that makes our university so great is the diversity of its people. You’re going to have the opportunity as a freshman and throughout your career to meet people from different places, all over the world … Enjoy, explore, get to know people because now, as you transition, these people are going to be a set of your closest, lifelong friends.
DW: What resources/opportunities are there for student to get involved?
RR: There are so many clubs on campus. The work is really hard, so you need to find something to balance that. Find other interests. This is a time in your life to explore other things, and you need some diversion from always focusing on the work … Through clubs, you can meet people who come from different backgrounds but share something together.
DW: Favorite place to eat?
RR: The student union, for sure, is my favorite place to eat, although I’m still discovering new things. I recently took a tour of the whole union, and Chef Omo is incredible. We are incredibly fortunate to have him here. He ran the whole MGM empire in Las Vegas for years and to have a talent like that here, changing the culinary culture, the service and the experience, is just really special.
There’s a place down on the first floor where you can take a class and learn how to make things. But I like all of the restaurants in the union, there’s not one that I don’t eat at. I guess if you checked my bank records, the one that probably shows up the most, because I go there almost every morning, is Einstein [Bros.] Bagels.
DW: What can students expect out of the strategic plan this year?
RR: As I keep saying, the number one objective for our strategic plan is that it’s student-focused. If we did nothing else except create a plan for how to help students succeed better, then we could stop there. Everything else is just additional benefits. Our graduation and retention rates are just not acceptable for what a great institution this is, and collectively we have to focus on that.
We are the surrogate families for these students. For the most part, students are leaving home to come here. So, first and foremost is safety. We have to make sure that we are providing safety for students across campus so no one has to fear that they are going to be harmed, discriminated against or threatened in any way. I’ll be keeping a constant discussion about safety this next year.
Academically, we also have to do a better job because we’re a globally recognized university, yet our graduation and retention rates are at the bottom of our peer group. We’re just better than that, and I think it’s a wakeup call for us to really focus in on helping students be more successful.
DW: Do you have any last words for students as they start the semester?
RR: Thank you for choosing the University of Arizona. I hope that we, collectively as a community and as your surrogate family, that we do a good job and that we prepare you to realize your hopes and dreams going forward. There’s a lot of excitement about coming here and getting started, and I’m sure there’s also a lot of angst. So, keep the enthusiasm and try not to let the angst get in the way because it’ll be difficult at times, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t derive great joy from the work you’re doing and have fun at the same time.
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