Taylor Milam, a junior at the University of San Diego and student writer for Inside USD, took part in last week’s USD Associated Students’ opportunity for students to chat and have tea (or coffee) with an administrator. Milam jumped at the chance to do so. Here is her first-person account.
I can now say I’ve had tea with the President of the University of San Diego. Before last Tuesday, I’m not entirely sure I would have recognized her in a crowded room, but we’re practically on a first-name basis now — okay, the last part isn’t quite true, but I would definitely say hello if I saw her walking around.
Students were offered a unique opportunity last week: a chance to talk with the school’s administrators over coffee and tea. Students could request to chat with President Mary Lyons, Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez, Vice President for Business and Administration Russell Thackston, or Vice President of University Relations Dr. Tim O’Malley. Each time slot was 20 minutes and the only requirement for students was business casual attire.
The 16 time slots were quickly filled. My meeting was originally with Dr. O’Malley, but due to a last-minute cancellation, I found myself at a table with Dr. O’Malley, Dr. Lyons, and Vice Provost Thomas Herrinton. As I walked towards the table with notebook in hand, the handwritten questions I had prepared now seemed childish. My wedges suddenly appeared to be the wrong color for my blazer and as I looked down at the offending heel, I realized I was nervous.
With a deep breathe and plastered-on smile, I sat down. They smiled at me and laughed about my “misfortune” of speaking with all of them at the same time. After the initial introductions, I began to loosen up. They told me about what other students had asked and what concerns had been raised. Many students had brought forward initiatives they are currently working on or are hoping to see in the future. Some of these include student-to-student mentoring in the business school, extra preparation for post-graduate scholarships and retaining more students of color on campus.
In regards to the students they had spoken with that day, President Lyons said, “I look at them as our future alums who will continue to make the university better and better.”
Mr. Herrinton echoed that view, stating, “It was clear that each concern brought forward was thoughtful and informed.”
Dr. O’Malley nodded in agreement. “This is a great exercise for us. We’re able to learn a lot and grow.”
After asking what other students had asked, I plunged into what their hopes are for USD as a university. President Lyons summed up the responses, saying: “I hope for the university to be truthfully perceived as both prestigious and academically challenging. And to also produce students who are true Changemakers and have the ability to get things done.”
I finally took a deep breath and asked a personal question: why are gay rights such a hot button issue for USD?
I was greeted with a smile from Dr. O’Malley and a thoughtful conversation ensued. I was given a unique opportunity to hear an answer to a concern and it was fascinating.
Perhaps the most memorable moment was when Dr. O’Malley said, “We want to focus on the individual dignity — their identity or expression of self-actualization.”
President Lyons nodded, adding, “Every human deserves love, respect, and dignity.”
I walked away from the talk feeling more engaged and informed about the school I not only attend, but also pay for. It was an opportunity I’m grateful to have had and I feel similarly to Dr. O’Malley — it was an opportunity for personal growth.
— Taylor Milam ’15
Missed your chance to talk to a USD administrator? Vice President of Student Affairs Carmen Vazquez will host a “Conversation with Carmen” for students on Tuesday, April 16, 2-3 p.m. at La Paloma. RSVP at (619) 260-4588.