I sat down with President of the university Arvid Johnson to get a better idea of what he expects to see this year, and give some advice to the student body.
Q: What is something that you're excited about for this upcoming new school year with the freshmen and the upperclassmen together?
A: I'm looking forward to another year in which we're all together again. A year in which we put COVID, I hope well behind us. We can come together, we can celebrate events on campus, everything from our convocation, which will be taking place tomorrow to athletic events, to musical performances, to just having a picnic on the quad and some kind of getting back to that sense of normalcy.
Photo Courtesy of USF Marketing Department
I will say I'm having fun because I'm teaching foundations again this year, and I have two groups. I have thirty nine students and so, I'm getting to know thirty nine of our new first-year students and that's a ball.
Q: What made you want to teach and get involved with our freshman class?
A: I've always loved teaching and even before I entered academia, even when I was working in industry, I would always adjudicate teaching because my mom was a teacher. My godmother was a teacher. I have 3 nieces who are teachers, and so it's a special thing in my family, and I've always wanted to teach. I like interacting with our undergraduates, and I sometimes get to speak to our graduate students as well. But teaching is what we do here, and I think it's important for me to get to know our students.
Q: It seems like you're very involved. Is that the only thing that you're involved with on campus, just teaching or do you attend other events?
A: Oh well, I try to attend as many of our athletic events as we can, especially home games. I'm invited to various Honor Society events and things like that. I try to attend as much as I possibly can. OK, I like to see our students in different ways.
Q: USF is described as a family, would you say that that's your take on it too, or would you add to that family aspect?
A: You know I always, always laugh because you know, families are wonderful, but they all have those crazy uncles or those cousins who drive you a little bit mad, and we're just like that. I think what holds a family together is a love for each other. That is an important part of how we evidence, respect, integrity, service and compassion, our values. Because I think caring about and for each other and the world in which we live, which is very Franciscan, is a big part of how we honor our tradition. Our students,when they graduate, become the university's legacy, so it's that next generation of family, just as the university is our founding sponsors' legacy, the Sisters of Saint Francis and Mary Immaculate created this place and have handed it over to us to continue their legacy.I also think it's important because so many of our students are the first in their family to go to college. So we provide that supporting structure that then you know one of my favorite times is commencement when people go wild as their son or daughter walks across the stage. That is what it's all about.
Q: What would be your favorite tradition or favorite memory from the University of Saint Francis.
A: You know what I have so many because so many things are fun. I love, and as a former scientist, I love chatting with our students about the summer undergraduate research experience projects. Those SURE projects are amazing projects. I love when I go to a musical performance and Christmas at the mother house when the choir sing and it’s dark and they have the candles lit. That's special. But I also just like walking down in the quad and seeing people and people smile and say hi, even if they don't know who I am. Saint Francis is a warm, wonderful place. Okay, we're not perfect, Okay? Heaven knows we don't have as much money as some universities, but we make up for it with spirit.
Q: Any advice for students who are finishing or just starting their college career?
A: Get close with your faculty members who can provide you with key letters of recommendation or reference, because those letters can open doors and it depends upon what kind of query you want to go to, talk to your faculty advisor and say I was really thinking about that. A lot of them have contacts in the community and can help to make sure that you get. The internship you need or you get that career opportunity. Leverage that network because we have a very strong network. And that includes our alums. Our alums are really good at what they do. And they know how hard Saint Francis students work, and they're willing to hire Saint Francis students to work for them, so that's one piece of advice.
The other piece is. Remember that you are Saint Francis when you leave. We're all called to serve and then called to lead, and that's the way you make our legacy real well. And then come back, don't just come back at Homecoming, come back for homecoming, for sure. Come back and stay active. And remember, no matter where you go, you are Saint Francis. People may never have heard of the university, but then when they see you. They're going to know what we're about.