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

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

The Battalion

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VPSA Daniel Pugh reflects on first semester, future goals for A&M

Photo by Photo by: Wesley Holmes

A&M VPSA Daniel Pugh previously served in the same position at the University of Arkansas.

“Keep moving forward,” is the mantra Daniel Pugh brought to the position of Vice President for Student Affairs in his first semester with the university.
The saying, borrowed from Disney’s “Meet the Robinsons” has been a large part of Pugh’s philosophy since taking over the position in late May.
“How do we ‘Keep moving forward’ at all points?” Pugh said. “That’s what it is to be at a research university. We’re trying to solve that next great issue. We’re trying to connect more and more students to be successful. We’re trying to help better our peers around the country as well so their students can be more successful. That’s what this is about. So how do we ‘Keep moving forward?’”
Pugh was named the VPSA at A&M after previously holding the same position for the University of Arkansas.
“I did not run from Arkansas, I ran to A&M,” Pugh said. “And to me this is the best student affairs job in the country because of the students and the type of engagement and the type of leadership and the lab that it is. This job is like being shortstop for the Yankees. It is highly visible, highly coveted. Not many people would want it because of that, because you’re living in a fishbowl. And I embrace that.”
Pugh said one of his main goals is to find ways to support the university’s academic goals.
“Because ultimately, that’s your degree, and that’s where you want to go,” Pugh said. “So if it’s 25,000 engineering students by 2025, how do they see that growth happening? From the first year to a graduate program, where do we need to help or haven’t been made available to sustain those? Are there learning communities?”     
For Pugh, one of the first steps in supporting academics was speaking with deans to find out where growth is expected and what to tackle first.
On a day-to-day basis, Pugh said it is important for him to be accessible to students. As such, Pugh opted to live on campus in order to be closer to the students and attended every Midnight Yell, home football game and Silver Taps.
Matthew Vanderbloemen, deputy commander in the Corps of Cadets, said Pugh has made it a point to invest in the smaller traditions of the university, like the Corps runs on the mornings of home football games.
“We invited him and he came out to all six or seven of them, and on top of that, he invited other key student leaders,” Vanderbloemen said. “We didn’t have an agenda, but if it wasn’t for him wanting to extend the invitation to everyone else and really pushing that, those interactions may not have happened, and those relationship may not have deepened the way they did.”
Speaker of the Student Senate Aaron Mitchell said he thinks it is important for A&M’s administration to be reachable to the students in order to provide a quality education.
“People need to know how approachable and personal [Pugh] is, as well as serious as he takes his relationships with students,” Mitchell said. “[He takes walks] around the student government office just to say hello to everyone. He is great to be around, and he truly values his relationship with his students.”
Pugh said his role is to honor the history and traditions of the university, and while he embraces most traditions at A&M, traditions not endorsed by the university — like Ring Dunks — do not live up to the core values of the institution.
“How does [Ring Dunk] fit with the core values of this institution?” Pugh said. “You strive so hard for a ring that stands for so much that you’re going to put it in the bottom of alcohol, and then force yourself to drink five beers in 20 seconds. It isn’t consistent with self respect.”
Pugh said consuming alcohol in that manner is an unsafe and is a poor reflection of the tradition of earning a ring.
“They didn’t do it back then,” Pugh said. “This is a relatively new phenomenon that’s there, that’s sort of morphed into more of a ritual than a tradition. The tradition is the ring. The ritual is the dunk, and I think we somehow minimize that when we put it in beer, even in an ice cream. They don’t go together.”
Pugh said while he does not agree with the Ring Dunks, his main goal is to offer opportunities for students to grow and become leaders of the future and continue A&M’s core values that makes the university so distinct.
“This university is here to support and sustain,” Pugh. “We are partners in this process with students. And if there are things that students need to allow for more success, that’s what we ought to be working towards.”

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