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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    19 facts about the 19th President

    Robert Shelton, an avid sports fan, and his wife Adrian speak during halftime of the March 4 mens basketball game against Washington at McKale Center.
    Robert Shelton, an avid sports fan, and his wife Adrian speak during halftime of the March 4 men’s basketball game against Washington at McKale Center.

    Don’t know much about the UA’s 19th president, Robert Shelton? Here are 19 things to know about the man before he begins his term July 1.

    What exactly does a president do?

    Assembling a good team of administrators is the first priority of a university president, Shelton said.

    “”Luckily, I’m already steeping into a good team, so not a lot of work has to be done there,”” Shelton said.

    The president also serves as a spokesperson for the university, attracting faculty, funding and research as well as handling issues of controversy and tragedy, among other things, Shelton said.

    “”In a lot of ways the president is the face of the university,”” Shelton said.

    Se habla Espanol … kind of

    In preparation for his presidency at the UA, Robert Shelton spent three weeks in Cholula, Puebla, Mexico, studying Spanish at the Universidad de Las AmǸricas Puebla.

    While the UDLA Spanish classes were his first, they wont be his last, Shelton said.

    “”I already knew some Spanish verbs I picked up living in California, but putting entire sentences together is entirely different,”” Shelton said.

    Spanish is much a more valuable skill serving Arizona as opposed to Carolina, Shelton said.

    Revenge of the nerd

    Does having a Ph.D. specializing in experimental condensed-matter physics and authoring more than 240-refereed publications in the field make a person a nerd? Robert Shelton doesn’t seem to think so.

    “”What really saved me from being called a nerd as a kid – I don’t think it was nerd back then, it was probably something more like bookworm – but what really saved me was I always liked sports, and I was fairly good at them to a certain level,”” Shelton said. “”It didn’t seem like it helped me with girls any.””

    The scars to prove it

    Despite his athleticism in his younger days, Shelton said he hasn’t been to the hospital for much more then simple stitches.

    “”I ran into a bicycle once when I was young and got 6 stitches in my forehead, and once in graduate school a car hit me. I’ve got some stitches in my head from that,”” Shelton said.

    Other then having stitches in his a hand, head and a knee, Shelton said he’s never had medical issues.

    “”All the stitches were pretty much just from being a guy,”” Shelton said.


    Despite not being a ladies’ man in high school, Shelton said he met his wife Adrian while he was an undergraduate at Stanford University by way of pizza.

    Shelton said he met his wife at a dinner when a friend told him he could get free pizza at a women’s dormitory in exchange for soda.

    Shelton didn’t have any soda to bring, but went to the dinner anyway.

    “”It happened that I sat across from Adrian, who would go on to be my wife.””

    Shelton majored in physics, but his wife Adrian majored in history and East Asian studies, Shelton said.

    “”She put me onto some really superb history classes; one of the best classes I ever took was a class on the history of the civil war she told me about,”” Shelton said. “”Coming out of math and science classes, it was nice to hear someone speak so eloquently and in complete sentences rather than just writing equations all day.””

    Top 4 issues Shelton wants to handle

      1. Being a land grant university in the 21st century
      The UA is Arizona’s only land grant institution, which creates a unique mission, Shelton said.
      “”It is a wonderful thing to be a land grant institution because it directs our mission to areas of societal interest,”” incoming UA President Robert Shelton said. “”We address issues the state is going through, like water issues, growth issues, immigration, language and culture, and biomedical issues.””
      Traditionally, being a land grant institution has meant having great colleges of agriculture and life sciences, but being a land grant institution means more today, Shelton said.
      “”We serve the state in many ways, “” Shelton said. “”Our law school is one of the tops in graduating lawyers with a Hispanic background and who are bilingual.””
      There are many different levels and different dimensions to how the UA should serve the state and it’s a priority to find out how to do that best, Shelton said.

    2. The UA in Phoenix
    With the establishment of a UA College of Medicine biomedical campus in Phoenix, the presence of the UA across the state will become even larger, Shelton said.
    This falls in line with the land grant mission and will serve the state by continuing beyond the UA’s traditional boundaries, Shelton said.
    “”I need to understand more about funding, the public and private partnerships, and where all the health providers are on this,”” Shelton said. “”The relationship with Arizona State (University) certainly is important, as well as how our different schools of medicine, public health and pharmacy relate.””
    The Legislature did not come up with the matching funds that had been requested, so it is necessary to determine what the role of the Legislature is going to be, Shelton said.
    “”Many people who are directly and indirectly involved in this called me up and congratulated me and also said, ‘This is going to be a huge challenge for you, so don’t screw it up, because the whole nation is going to be watching,'”” Shelton said. “”It isn’t too often that you put together a whole new college of medicine, so we have to do it right.””

    3. Enrollment management
    The questions of how large should the university be, how many undergraduate, graduate and professional students should be accepted at the UA and other issues all fall under the area of enrollment management, Shelton said.
    “”Enrollment management covers a lot of dimensions and it has to do with the land grant mission, such as how far should we reach out beyond the boundaries of our campus,”” Shelton said. “”Should we reach out to Pima Community College? What should the mix of the in-state and out-of-state students be?””
    The UA will need to determine how to best serve the students and how to best serve the state, Shelton said.

    4. Access to classes
    Students are having issues with getting classes and the UA will need to find a way to handle the issue, Shelton said.
    “”That’s part of enrolment management as well,”” Shelton said. “”Arizona’s growing, so we need to be sure we are taking in more students, but we can’t take in more students if we can’t get them into the classes and give them a quality educational experience.””
    Providing more classes will require more faculty and more funding, but the resources have to be in place to do it right, Shelton said.
    – Nathan Olivarez-Giles

    Cultural appreciation

    As a student at Stanford, Shelton said he studied abroad in Germany, which provided him with a unique experience.

    “”There were big piles of manure in front of the house, which indicated the social status of whoever lived there,”” Shelton said. “”The higher the better.””

    The homes were all built over the top of barns because the animals below would provide heat, Shelton said.

    Stanford boys

    Outgoing UA President Peter Likins has been quoted as saying he envisioned the UA being the “”Stanford of the southwest.””

    While Likins and Shelton agree on many things, the Stanford analogy is not one of them.

    “”We both strive for excellence, but unlike Stanford we can’t ignore students from entire socio-economic strata,”” Shelton said.

    The main purpose of the UA is to serve the students and needs of the state, Shelton said.

    Shouldering the Likins tradition

    At one football game, every season, for the last nine years, President Likins has put a cheerleader on his shoulders.

    This unique UA tradition will however end with Likins presidency, Shelton said.

    “”I was not planning on continuing that. It might be hazardous to the cheerleader’s health,”” Shelton said. “”Pete was a pretty good wrestler in his day and his shoulders aren’t that far off the ground.””

    Shelton does not have a new tradition chosen as of yet.

    “”I’m going to have to think of something a little less dangerous, but I’m not sure what yet,”” Shelton said.

    Community Involvement

    The UA is a very important part of Tucson and should be very active in the greater Tucson community, Shelton said.

    “”My sense is that the university already has a good working relationship with the community, and it is a relationship we can continue to build on and strengthen,”” Shelton said.

    “”Unfortunately in Chapel Hill we had a lot of tension between the community and the school and sometimes we didn’t agree but I would always say, at the end of the day we’re all still going to be here tomorrow, so we would find was to make it work,”” Shelton said.

    Giving Tucson a landmark

    Under the Likins presidency, the UA has put into effect moves to build a science and technology center located on the west side of Tucson.

    The center may incorporate a controversial bridge extending from the new center across the I-10 and into the downtown area.

    “”The bridge would certainly give Tucson a signature structure, like the arch in St. Louis,”” Shelton said.

    The bridge and new UA facility would not only change the Tucson landscape but will also contribute to the further growth of the city, Shelton said.

    It’s a dry heat

    Shelton said he hasn’t lived in Arizona since he was in ninth grade, but that doesn’t mean he has to readapt to the heat.

    “”This is nothing compared to what’s happening in North Carolina,”” Shelton said. “”It’s about 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity. I’d take the Tucson heat any day over that.””

    Not-so-casual Fridays

    A suit and a tie come with the job of president, Shelton said.

    “”I guess it depends on the day, but basically with rare exception I wear a dress shirt and tie with some slacks and either a suit jacket or sport coat,”” Shelton said. “”But it is kind of fun to dress up, and it’s a lot easier for us guys then it is for women.””

    Bling, bling

    As UA president, Shelton will receive an annual salary of $420,000 with an annual housing allowance of $45,000, an annual automobile allowance of $9,400, a $75,600 annual contribution to a retirement program and a laptop.

    “”They bought me a little IBM ThinkPad,”” Shelton said. “”I’ll have a docking station at the office and at home so I can work pretty much anywhere.””

    The housing and automobile allowances are going towards any maintenance that comes up as well as anything needed to prepare the house to better entertain, Shelton said.

    “”The house will be used every once in a while for entertaining,”” Shelton said. “”That too is a part of the job.””

    Presidential down time

    Free time, when he finds it, goes to sports, reading and listening to music, Shelton said.

    “”I love sports and I’ve been watching the World Cup,”” Shelton said. “”When I was down in Mexico, everybody was going crazy. I told them my country isn’t that good, so maybe I’d adopt Mexico, but I guess that didn’t work out so well.””

    Most recently, Ernest Hemingway and books about Arizona have topped his reading list, Shelton said.

    “”It’s stuff I probably should have read in high school, but I didn’t,”” Shelton said.

    Shelton said he stays up to date with music with the help from his children.

    “”The (Associated Students of the University of Arizona) graduate issue. Should graduate students be represented? I’d like to see some resolution on that.””Mickey Randleman,
    general biology sophomore

    “”Stop building so damn many new buildings.””Rick Wilson,
    psychology senior

    “”Tuition. (Because) I’m coming from out of state, the increases have affected me a lot and have made it harder to come here. I want to finish here, but with tuition so high I’m leaning towards going back home.””Abel Soltero,
    communications senior

    “”We need a reorganization of some departments, especially like financial aid. Also he didn’t really tackle a lot of disability stuff. (Likins) said we would get funding and grants for scholarships.””Jennifer Frame, graduate student

    “”I don’t own an iPod, I just actually upgraded to the CD player,”” Shelton said. “”It’s funny, I did buy my kids iPods for Christmas though.””

    Family firsts

    As the first in his family to go to college, choosing a major was a new process, Shelton said.

    “”I grew up in the 50s and 60s and it was the time of Sputnik and all that, and my parents said, ‘Hey you’re good at math and science, and the country needs more engineers, so why not go into that?'”” Shelton said. “”I’m not sure they even knew completely what an engineer did. I sure didn’t.””

    Why higher education?

    Shelton’s first lures into a life dedicated to higher education were from teaching and research, Shelton said.

    “”I found that I really like doing experimental physics and I like teaching physics,”” Shelton said. “”There is a lot of satisfaction in teaching something very complex to people. I can still remember publishing my first paper. I thought, ‘Wow, there’s something with my name in it, and when I’m dead and gone people will read it.’ Or maybe not.””

    It’s harder to be a University of Arizona than a Stanford in terms of research, but the greater public good outweighs the benefits of a private institution, Shelton said.

    “”This is a pretty exciting place to work in,”” Shelton said.

    Presidential opportunity

    As a child, Shelton was unsure of what he wanted to do when he grew up.

    What really saved me from being called a nerd…was I always liked sports, and I was fairly good at them to a certain level… It didn’t seem like it helped me with girls any.

    -Robert Shelton, incoming president

    “”Being a university president wasn’t something in my childhood or even something in my tenure I thought about, but as I was finishing my fifth year as provost I decided to take a look at some very select places,”” Shelton said. “”When Arizona’s position became available I knew it was exactly what I wanted to compete for.””

    With the average tenure of a university president being four to five years, President Likins’ nine-year run is a testament to his work at the UA, Shelton said.

    “”I’m hoping to stay here for quite awhile, but I’m not going to worry about that. I’m going to worry about doing absolutely the best I can each day,”” Shelton said.

    Professor Prez

    Upon signing on as the UA’s 19th president, Shelton was appointed as a tenured professor in the College of Science.

    “”I doubt that I’ll be doing much lecturing, but it’s nice to have that peer recognition,”” Shelton said.

    In the next life

    If a life working in the administration side of education wasn’t possible, Shelton said there is no dispute over what he would spend his life doing.

    “”I would study languages. I just find the study of languages incredibly intriguing,”” Shelton said. “”It helps you communicate with people but it’s also a mathematical issue in terms of how languages form, come together and what they have in common.””

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