I want to welcome all new and returning students to the University of Utah this week. I’m so happy you are here. As president, one of my most important goals is to make sure you not only receive an education that is second-to-none but also that you have a remarkable experience in the process.
If you are new to the U, you will quickly realize it’s a big place with a lot of things to navigate. I get that it can all be a bit overwhelming. But I’m here to tell you, it is also an amazing place with incredible diversity and wonders to learn about and explore. So, to help kick off this new academic year, I want to share five tips to help you thrive and gain the experience you all deserve.
1. Find someone(s)
We can benefit from a guide we trust and rely on for assistance and advice. That someone can be a resident advisor, staff member, new friend or professor. That someone(s) can also be a community or a cohort of other students studying similar subjects. You will often hear around campus the phrase “U Crew.” This is a community of your choosing—people who check in on each other and create a sense of belonging.
So, please find your someone(s). One of the reasons I want you to do this is because above all things, I want to help keep you safe during your time on campus. We have a commitment to being an inclusive, respectful and safe campus for all. There is no place for violence, sexual harassment or assault or discriminatory behavior of any kind. Please help us keep this commitment to you and your classmates.
If you encounter something troubling, please report it to a resident advisor, social
justice advocate or person in authority you trust. Finding your someone(s) will make your university experience that much more enjoyable and ultimately successful.
2. Find something
As president, I am working to build an amazing experience for all students. I want you to have research opportunities from day one. I want you to be able to work in labs with experienced faculty and researchers and have experiences traditionally reserved for more advanced students. I want to make sure you have internships and real-world learning experiences that align with your interests. I want to provide you opportunities to broaden the scope of your education by going abroad to study Chaucer in England, electrical engineering in South Korea or emerging markets in Ghana.
But no matter how amazing the experience is that we build for you to explore, it needs to start with you. You need to find your something.
3. Find wellness
Wellness is crucial to your university experience. We care about both your physical and mental well-being. That is why I highly recommend that you take care of yourself and get involved. We have a top-rated medical system with student services on this campus as well as newly expanded mental health programs for our students—please use them.
There are more than 600 academic, social, faith and athletic groups on campus. Find your wellness at the Eccles Student Life Center on the rock-climbing wall or in a fitness class or in one of our dozens of intramural sports teams. Better yet, join the MUSS at a football or basketball game or at a gymnastics meet. Take advantage of the nearby outdoor beauty by taking a walk through Red Butte Garden. Or learn to ski or snowboard. We do have the “Greatest Snow on Earth” in our backyard, and the U offers students a variety of discounted lift tickets to resorts across the state.
There are many ways to find wellness, both individually and in a group. This leads me to my next recommendation, to find balance.
4. Find balance
To find balance, I encourage you to examine your lives. For many of you, this is your first time living away from home. That can be frightening but it can also be freeing. I encourage you to reach outside of your comfort zone. The university experience is about embracing differences and learning about things you might not have otherwise considered.
For example, take a class on a subject that you know will challenge you. Make a friend from a different part of the country or the world. Go to an event hosted by a group you are unfamiliar with. Try something new. One of the remarkable characteristics about the U is that there are no boundaries to your imagination. That is why we call it Imagine U.
5. Find gratitude
The final tip I have to help you thrive in what can be an intimidating place is to find gratitude. Why gratitude? According to well-documented research, gratitude helps you feel positive and deal with adversity, it allows you to relish good experiences, it improves your overall health and it helps build stronger relationships. In general, giving thanks makes you happier.
If you use these five tips of finding someone, something, wellness, balance and gratitude, I think you will soon realize that you belong here. Welcome to the U. I hope you have an excellent academic year.