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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

New president Young pledges student-oriented campus vision

Presidential finalist Michael Young speaks to media members at a briefing Feb. 8.
FILE Presidential finalist Michael Young speaks to media members at a briefing Feb. 8.

When A&M announced Michael Young as the sole presidential candidate to fill the shoes of the iconic R. Bowen Loftin, students were left to piece together who this man from Utah is.
Young — who has served as president at the University of Washington and the University of Utah — said his decision to come to Texas A&M was influenced partly by a meeting with a few A&M student leaders before the Board of Regents put forward his name for the president’s vacancy.
The most critical element of any great public university system are the students, he said, and he has been active and visible with student bodies in the past.
“I love to be connected to the students,” Young said. “I love to get to know them better, to be in opportunities to get to know them. I mean, in past lives I met with Student Senate, I met with the student leadership, I met them at student events, I met them at athletic events all the time. And certainly I intend to continue all that.”
Kyle Kelly, student body president, was on the presidential search committee and selected the three students with whom Young met.
“And so from what I’ve heard, that meeting with those first three students is one of the big reasons why he is here,” Kelly said. “We have incredible facilities and faculty and staff, athletics, and we are a top university in the nation for academics and research, but I think what he saw is something you can’t tell or talk about. We call it the Spirit of Aggieland. It’s been called a lot of things, but it’s just our great people.”
Hannah Wimberly, Student Government Association public relations vice president, attended the meeting and said Young seemed interested in the A&M student experience.
“He seemed to and does generally care about the individual students’ experience, not just about in the classroom but holistically,” Wimberly said. “So he had questions for us — anything about, ‘What is your classroom environment like?’ to study abroad opportunities, to student involvement and everything in between.”
Joseph Benigno, student body president-elect and former SGA executive vice president, was also present and said the students were not told the significance of Young’s visit at the time.
“He was asking us all the questions — ‘Why are traditions important at Texas A&M? What is the culture like here? What are your experiences with academics? Your professors? Your classrooms? What have you been involved in your freshman year, your sophomore year?’ He just really wanted to know what it was like to be a student at Texas A&M and what our experiences had been,” Benigno said.
Benigno said the students didn’t get to ask Young many questions, but that he enjoyed the visit.
“He was very complementary of us then and then we left and I thought, ‘That’s interesting,’” Benigno said. “Obviously later we found out who he was. He has been very, very kind to the three of us who were in the room and he said very specifically that we had a large influence over his decision to come to Texas A&M and accept the position.”
Patrick McGinty, head Yell Leader, was the third student leader. He said the meeting went on for about an hour and was an overall casual event.
“My impression of Mr. Young was that he was very interested in the students and student life here at Texas A&M. He took a genuine interest in the traditions, culture, and values that Texas Aggies hold dear,” McGinty said. “He and his wife were both involved and asking questions the whole time. It was a very pleasant experience.”
McGinty said Young and his wife seemed genuinely interested in understanding the atmosphere of campus. After hearing that Young said the meeting helped him decide to come to A&M, McGinty said he was humbled.
“I think it’s just a testament to this student body and Texas A&M as a whole. I don’t think it has anything to do with the three of us, but more that we had the opportunity to tell him about the students of Texas A&M,” McGinty said.Young said he was also intrigued by A&M for its leadership in research and training for solving world issues such as food supply, energy, preservation, environmental sustainability, natural resource extraction and more.
“The number of engineers that come out of that school, it’s just absolutely amazing,” Young said. “High-trained, sophisticated engineers in the sciences but also in the humanities. And to do that with an eye on these great global challenges are and the role that great university can play in both addressing them in research but also training people who are going to be the leader in those going forward, I think that’s an enormously exciting role for a university to play.”
His vision for A&M is still forming, and Young said more conversation with school leaders will be necessary in the future. For now, he hopes to take the best parts of the university and deepen and expand them even further.
“My sense is — and this will take a lot more conversation with people to get a sense of what the real opportunities are for the university — but it has a wonderful strategic plan already in place that does something very important which I think takes the university and expands and deepens its capacity to do what I already think it’s doing really well,” Young said.

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