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A Wildcat Welcome from the President

By President Peter Likins
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
July 26, 2000
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Guest Commentary

I came to the University of Arizona as a freshman president just a few years ago, and I still remember my first impressions. Of course we have added to the sense of change in the atmosphere with these gigantic construction projects on the Mall, but even without these disturbances, there was excitement in the air. This is a university on the move, and as new students you will move to greater heights as your university continues its climb up the academic mountain. This is a great university today, and, when you look back on it from the perspective of an alumnus, it will be an even greater university.

First impressions of the University of Arizona can be exciting, but they can also be intimidating. Even if this is a wonderful place to learn, you might be asking yourself if you really belong here. You might be wondering about how you're going to fit in here so you can get comfortable and enjoy this college life that you've been hearing about for years. You might feel yourself alone, even in a crowd. Then what are you supposed to do?

The key to getting comfortable here is to realize that almost all new students feel a bit overwhelmed at first, so you're not alone in your feelings. In fact, most of your fellow students would be deeply grateful for a friendly word or a smile from you. Everything will work out for you in time, but life gets good faster if you take the initiative on friendship.

One of the most precious qualities of the University of Arizona is the diversity of its students, faculty and staff. If you limit yourself to people who look like you and talk like you, there will be a great opportunity missed for a rich learning experience. At a time when everyone is feeling a bit uncertain, there is a real hunger for relationships, and the differences that separate us are less important than the ties of humanity that bind us together. Everybody wants, needs and deserves a friend.

It's also important to realize right up front that you're going to have to learn how to work hard for sustained periods without immediate and continuous supervision. Even if you've been a really good student, you probably don't yet know how to work hard. If you wait until after Thanksgiving to learn this lesson, it may be too late.

Remember, please, that you came here to become a college graduate, not just a college student. Focus right now on success, not merely survival. The rewards that await you throughout your life are keyed not only to your education, but to the evidence of your education represented by a college degree. Focus on that goal now.

We proudly refer to the University of Arizona as a "student-centered research university." You should try to understand the meaning of that phrase, and make it work for you.

People learn in many different ways. Much of what we learn we accept from the authority of a book, a website or the words of someone we trust and respect. A deeper kind of learning that stays with you longer and builds inside you is learning by discovery. That's the fundamental mission of a research university - learning by discovering either external reality or your own internal creativity. At the University of Arizona, we encourage you to learn by discovery because this is the kind of learning that will serve you best over a lifetime.

Finally, I will tell you what you want to hear, and maybe what you also need to hear. Work hard, but don't take yourself so seriously that you miss the fun of college life. A great adventure is beginning, and, through this experience, you will come to know that life is good.

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