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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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President Young, on his first day: ‘The passion for the university is something I’ve never seen’

President+Michael+Young+and+his+wife%2C+Marti+Young%2C+speak+with+The+Battalion+reporters+during+his+first+official+day+at+A%26amp%3BM+Friday.
Tanner Garza

President Michael Young and his wife, Marti Young, speak with The Battalion reporters during his first official day at A&M Friday.

A revitalized Kyle Field is months from its unveiling, enrollment continues to rise, construction projects dot the campus landscape and a handful of new deans are in place. And now, one more change at a university full of them — the president’s office has a permanent occupant.
Seated around a large wooden conference table in a conservative blue shirt and floral maroon tie, A&M president Michael K. Young spoke exclusively with The Battalion Friday morning about his first official day, his perceptions of the student body and his vision for the university’s future.
His optimism for the path on which A&M heads is rooted in, among other things, the nature of the students and the way he has been received.
“The passion for the university it something I’ve never seen,” Young said. “When you have all these former and current students and tremendous faculty supporters, all kind of galvanized behind this university, it really is unique.”
Young, who was previously president of the universities of Utah and Washington, was put forward by the Board of Regents as the sole finalist for the A&M presidency on Feb. 3. Since then, a rapid transition took him to the table at which he sat Friday. He has had to formulate a leadership trajectory while indoctrinating himself in the unique Aggie culture. 
Luckily, he said, he’s had plenty of help.
“In some ways people have a remarkable enthusiasm to tell me how to run the university,” he joked.
Still, he has undergone an education of the university and its history, drawing on people like Marky Hussey, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences who served as interim A&M president. Hussey said he has had regular contact with Young about the student body, the Corps of Cadets, the core values, the “little renovation project” that is Kyle Field, ongoing searches to fill dean vacancies and more.
Hussey’s advice for Young is simple: Listen well and adapt to the Texas A&M environment, something he said applies to all leaders entering new roles and new locales.
“You may come in with a set of ideas, but there’s nothing that’s cookie-cutter about it,” Hussey said. “You just can’t pick up what you did one place and replicate it somewhere else. Each institution, each leadership opportunity is really different.”
Young’s first day concludes a week marked by student outcry over the regents’ decision to modify the university seal and rename the MSC Flag Room. An online petition garnered more than 10,000 signatures and Student Senate unanimously passed a resolution in opposition. 
Young said the problem does not come from “mistakes of the heart.”
“I’ve worked with a lot of higher education boards over the years,” Young said. “And I’ll tell you something that I’ll hope you credit, because I think it really is true: I don’t think I’ve ever dealt with a board that has the kind of love and passion for students that this Board of Regents does.”
Still, he said if, “we haven’t looked as carefully about how we create some mechanisms to ensure people really do have input and these conversations that engage everybody who has an interest and a stake in it,” then it can be addressed.
A practice of seeking student opinion, beginning with student leaders, has become commonplace in his time in higher education, Young said. But it’s important to consider, he said, that the biggest impact he can make on a student’s experience comes through drawing the best faculty and keeping tuition affordable.
He’ll have to negotiate student engagement from off-campus, though, as he won’t live in the president’s residence. 
“I would hope that from 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock at night to six in the morning you left the president alone,” Young joked. 
His wife vouched for his approachability. 
“He is your friend. He really is,” Marti Young said. “He may not get to see every single person and shake every single hand, but I’m married to him and I know why he does what he does.”
All Texas A&M vice presidents submitted letters of resignation prior to Young’s arrival, another decision from Chancellor John Sharp that drew attention in recent weeks. While Young said he appreciates the gesture, it wasn’t his idea. Within a year, he’s expected to decide which letters, if any, to accept.
“I have no intentions, as I think my past reflects, of coming in and doing a blood-letting,” Young said.
Though his term began Friday, Young has been around College Station for a couple weeks. On April 21, he attended his first Aggie Muster, a ceremony he said moved him deeply.
“Unless you’ve sat through it, you can talk all day long about how the generations of this university connect, how these traditions transmit and what really binds Aggies together,” Young said. “But you sit in Muster and you get it. It was incredibly powerful. And when the Ross Volunteers walk in, the hair on the back of your neck just stands up.”

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  • President Michael Young and his wife, Marti Young, speak with The Battalion reporters during his first official day at A&M Friday.

    Tanner Garza
  • President Michael Young speaks with The Battalion reporters during his first official day at A&M Friday.

    Tanner Garza
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