February 2012: Reaching out

Dr. Antoine Garibaldi treated 11 freshmen to lunch Monday to learn about their first-year experience and to take suggestions to improve the university.

The students, recommended by various university officials, got to speak candidly with the president and bounce ideas off one another in his board room on the fifth floor of the Fisher building. The vice president of enrollment, dean of students and associate dean of students all sat in on the lunch to write down the students' ideas.

"It's a great opportunity to find out what their experiences are," Garibaldi said. "They had very valuable insights on matters that we can address."

After all students introduced themselves, Garibaldi served as a moderator, tossing questions out to the group.

The first dealt with what they've learned from their first semester.

Answers varied from bringing warmer clothes and getting more sleep to joining clubs and getting work-study jobs.

"Having more stuff to do makes you more time efficient," said freshman Chase Zebari, a member of the club hockey team who works in the audio-visual department.

The talk soon turned to where the students live. Some students thought staying on campus was vital.

"It's necessary to make that transition and get the independence you need," said Hillary Miller, a member of the UDM dance team.

Others disagreed, saying the same experiences could be gained by commuting.

Garibaldi mentioned that one of his long-term goals is to increase the population of students on campus and hopefully build another residence hall.

Regardless of where they stayed, most students agreed that more could be done to get UDM's name out in the community so more high school students would choose it.

They said they chose Detroit mainly because of its small class sizes and respected academic programs. They all said the typical stereotypes that Detroit is dangerous are completely false and more should be done to highlight its positives.

Food was the most popular topic when Garibaldi asked for ways to improve the campus. Students suggested healthier choices, longer hours and better coffee options.

Garibaldi promised more renovations to the Loft for next year and said officials are working at expanding the hours of the new Subway and Titan-To-Go.

Most students enjoyed the talk.

"It was interesting," said freshman Ray Wilson. "(Garibaldi) was really nice and genuine. He seemed to care about all of the students and he treated us like superior people, not just freshmen."

Zebari agreed.

"It was fantastic," he said. "I like getting my comments out there and we all played well off each other. I couldn't ask for a better president."