The 75th anniversary of the University of Miami has officially come to a close, and President Donna Shalala is ready to tackle the next 75, with a Hurricane Force.
Shalala has served one year as the president of the University of Miami. Her first goal was to evaluate the University and understand the needs of the students. By all accounts, he first year proved to be a success.
Shalala evaluated commencement (graduation). “Commencement is a time for a family to celebrate,” she says. To this end, last spring she broke up the one large graduation into three smaller, more accessible ceremonies.
Under the new system, every student was allowed to bring as many friends and family as they wanted. Students were able to walk across a stage, receive their diploma, shake President Shalala’s hand, and get a picture with their university president.
“I wanted to make commencement very personal, and I wanted it to be something every student would remember,” she said.
That she did, said Andy Speer, a recent alumnus. “I thought it was great to actually shake hands and get a picture,” Speer said. “And it was nice that the tent was air conditioned,” he said, referring to Shalala’s decision to erect a huge tent on the commencement green, complete with air conditioning.
Last spring, each event had a different speaker. But Shalala already has ideas for the next year’s commencement. “I want to have speakers that will be able to answer questions, and make it more interactive,” she said. She also wants to change around the senior convocation. “I am going to have much more seating, and I am going to have a big name speaker for the senior convocation.”
Shalala has many more things in store for the coming year, with an emphasis on bringing the students to the University. “I am going to make this campus a community,” she said.
“I am going to enhance campus life, events will be free, and there will be many more things going on,” she said. To achieve this, Shalala has given the Division of Student Affairs a large amount of money to increase campus programming and bring students onto campus. “I want to see the students spend Saturday nights here, and have fun,” she said.
Shalala ardently believes that increasing campus life is not a direct result of students living on campus – that it is necessary to create the desire within the students to claim the University as their own.
Not only is President Shalala going to increase the campus life by better programming, she is also making renovations to areas where students congregate.
The Panhellenic Building provides suites for numerous fraternities and sororities, and as many as 1,000 students use them every day. So Shalala has decided to make the area more accommodating. “I am changing the Panhellenic patio to make it more student-friendly. I am going to have more activities, tables, and chairs for the students,” she said.
Shalala has also taken on another endeavor – The University Village. The University Village is a proposed student housing project the University has wanted to complete for many years. The University Village would provide new student apartments build alongside fraternity row.
Shalala is making a forceful push to get the project off the drawing boards and make it a reality. She wants to build apartments to house more than 1,100 students that meet the needs and demands of students in the 21 century.
The University Village will be strictly limited to juniors and seniors, and each apartment will have individual bedrooms. “Most students come to college not having had to share a room before,” she said.
Not only is Shalala trying to enhance students’ “out of class experiences,” she also aims to resolve some academic issues. She believes one of her biggest tasks is to strengthen undergraduate education.
“I am going to evaluate our current course choices and majors,” she said, to ensure that the undergraduate curriculum is reformed and updated to meet today’s needs.
Students should realize Shalala is open to new ideas. She has had a great time working with Student Government to get projects completed. The president and Student Government have worked together to identify areas where of the University can be improved. She and Student Government share one of the same goals, to increase the campus community.
There is one thing Shalala wants every student to know. “I want every student to know I am approachable, I am going to help new residents move in.”
Her concept of collegiate life is simple. “I want students to see this University as an adventure, and make them realize that these are the best years in their lives.” And Shalala wants everyone to know she is here to help. “I want everyone to know they can email me, my address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will answer every letter.”
Since Shalala has such an extensive resume, people often wonder how long she will stay at the University of Miami. “Well, I can settle for a few more National Championships,” she says. “I will be here for a while. I always stay in jobs for a very long time.”
For more information about President Shalala, visit www.miami.edu or email her personally at email@example.com.