Welcome to UF. Let’s take on our freshman year together

I am so pleased to welcome all our new students to the University of Florida. I consider myself a freshman and a member of your class, since I started at UF in January. You bring new energy to campus, enlivening the university after a productive and restful summer. I offer a special shout out to transfer students and new international students.

After my seven months at UF, I have two observations about being a member of The Gator Nation.

First, it is a JOY to be a part of the University of Florida family. Like many first-year students, I live on campus and get to experience all aspects of the university. The beauty of our historical campus and community, combined with broad excellence in academics and athletics, creates an environment where students enjoy working hard in their studies and learn to excel personally and professionally – all while having a lot of fun.

Although being at UF truly is a joy, I have a word of caution and encouragement, based on my experience as a new student at three different universities and schools. After graduating from Miami Killian High School, I attended Duke, where in the first month I joined lots of groups, made numerous friends and went to lots of events. But then I took my first chemistry exam. I scored 47 out of 100. The professor generously curved the exam and awarded me a D. I had similar experiences my first year as a master’s student in divinity school at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and my first year of electrical engineering doctoral studies at the University of Illinois.

What I learned each time was that I needed to focus on academics, be persistent and not allow myself to get discouraged by one low grade or other academic misstep – all while enjoying school.

Second, it is a PRIVILEGE to be a member of the University of Florida family.

This is an institution that isn’t complacent about its position as one of the world’s greatest universities. We have even greater aspirations. During your years as a student, you will see many new faculty, new buildings and new programs. This is a university that loves the word "innovation." This is a university whose degrees will be even more valuable in the future than they are today.

We are blessed to be a part of the University of Florida. With that privilege comes responsibility to each other and the place that will someday be your alma mater.

We need to care for each other just as the university cares for us. If your experience is like mine, you will face difficulties and challenges. If you do, there are academic and personal support organizations across campus to help you. Take advantage of them. If all else fails, please contact me and I will have the right person reach out to you. My personal email is kent.fuchs@ufl.edu.

I look forward to seeing you in the library, walking across campus, in a coffee shop or at an athletic event. Please stop and say hello. I’m happy to take a selfie, as long as you send me a copy for my Twitter account @presidentfuchs. Welcome home!