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News Family Weekend Special
The UA: one big happy family


Photo
By Daniel Scarpinato
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 10, 2003

About two years ago, Frank Farias, director of the UA Bookstores, was guiding me on a behind-the-scenes tour of the yet-unfinished student union bookstore. I was a reporter at the time and working on a story about the store's incredible expansion.

As we were walking along the front sidewalk, a middle-aged woman walked up to Frank.

"Are you the university president?" she asked him.

"No, maam," he replied.

The woman was a UA parent, in town for Family Weekend and furious that the grassy UA Mall was torn up and gated off.

Now, the woman was a little bit out of line. She was claiming that her daughter's college experience had been destroyed because of the constant construction on campus.

Frank was as cordial as always and directed her to the Administration building. "Im sure the president would be happy to listen to your concerns," he told her.

This weekend, parents arrive to a campus changed since just a year or two ago. Flowers are in bloom. The Mall is covered with a blanket of green grass and the new student union and Integrated Learning Center are on display for the folks to tour.

No doubt, these are some of the same elements that drew parents to send their kids here in the first place. It's a campus to be proud of - and not just aesthetically.

Shaded behind those colorful flowers primed for mom and dad's arrival are people who are working hard to make your kids educations and experiences the best they can be.

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Daniel Scarpinato
Columnist

You and your kids will probably never meet some of these people. They're working behind the scenes, but their jobs are just as vital to keeping the university ticking as are those of the faculty who teach and research. Let's take Frank Farias, a man who has spent more than a decade developing an incredible bookstore that pours tons of money into student programs and scholarships.

When you get the credit card bill for your son or daughter's textbooks, the prices might look high, but it's Frank who has worked to make the retail side of the bookstore successful enough that textbook prices can stay as close to cost as possible.

There's Lynne Tronsdal, assistant vice president of student retention. She's worked tirelessly to find ways to keep your son or daughter on track to graduate.

Her excitement over the completion of the underground ILC verified her commitment to first- and second-year students.

And who will ever forget the late Betty Baker, the 72-year-old student union worker who for more than 20 years served lunch and dinner to UA students.

"The university can be an intimidating place and can seem large and impersonal. Then there's Betty. She made the university feel like a family," said President Peter Likins of Baker after her death.

It's people like Farias, Tronsdal and Baker that have spent their careers making another family for students here on campus. This family is made up of rocket scientists, football players, groundskeepers and kitchen workers.

The woman who scolded the university two years ago for caring more about construction than about her daughter was wrong. The people on this campus do care about each other, and ultimately about your students.

Yes, there are big issues on campus that put faculty, students and administrators at odds. For instance, the top administrators at this university just received sizable salary increases of 6.9 percent. And the raises come at a time when your kids can barely get the classes that they need to graduate. Furthermore, faculty salaries at the UA continue to lag far behind the national average.

But there's a commitment by countless people on this campus at all different levels that transcends the fights at faculty senate and board of regents meetings. Rest assured, when the weekend ends, the students on this campus will still have people they can call family.

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