University of Connecticut president Susan Herbst held a question and answer session with students, faculty and alumni on Monday to discuss the the future of the university.
“We decided to try something different and more conversational this year; something more interesting – that allows you to talk about items that you are concerned with instead of having us trying to figure it out by ourselves,” Herbst said.
UConn Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Kirk agreed with Herbst in saying that the goal was to create a more laid back setting for students.
“Sometimes it’s been a very long university community conversation for the president, other times it’s been a formal speech behind a podium to an audience in the Student Union theater,” UConn Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Kirk said. “We felt that, and president Herbst agreed, that neither of those felt quite right - we wanted to do something that was less formal and restrictive and more relaxed and conversational, so it’s not just someone talking at you.”
Herbst began by describing the term “UConn Nation,” and what it means to her in terms of the UConn community.
“UConn Nation is faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents and donors who have a stake in the university and care about the university,” Herbst said. “The university owes them, owes the faculty, the students, the professors and most importantly the staff who keep this place running everyday…they all give to us and we want to give back to them in ways that are gratifying.”
Liam Williams, honors student and political science and English double major, asked Herbst about her plans for the future to increase diversity and multicultural awareness, especially within the honors community.
“The student body as a whole has become more diverse, as we can see in the last three to four years,” Herbst said. “We are taking more international students and there is more class diversity involving socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, and I think that we’ve done well.”
Herbst also added that the honors program is not particularly diverse.
Max Helfand, third semester theater studies major, asked about what UConn is doing as a university to foster creativity and bigger ideas in order to become the best possible research university.
Herbst said that most students are already creative upon arriving at UConn, which is a great starting point for the university.
“How we support their creativity and help to share it with the world comes back to the resources – we need the right faculty to foster them we need the right facilities to make it happen, including operating money, programming and entrepreneurship,” Herbst said. “IDEA grants over the past several years have given students the opportunity to research an idea and try to foster and enhance creativity while sharing it with the world.
UConn library employee Jill Livingston asked Herbst about whether UConn has plans to merge or unify different campuses.
“I think that there would need to be an interchange of ideas and practices to be successful,” Herbst said. “It’s a heavy lift and I think the most important thing is research connectivity and to make it easiest for scientists at Farmington to work with scientists on this campus. It would require immense power and responsibility to try to connect.”
Herbst discussed the “big picture” of the university, and said that knowledge is the most important aspect of the university.
“The university is more than pretty buildings, it’s about the people that fight so hard for the operating budget downtown and build endowment,” Herbst said. “We need that money to put people in those buildings and people need functional places to work. It’s the brain power that’s going to propel the university forward.”
Maggie McEvilly is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.