Looking and Listening

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.

Looking and Listening

By Robert C. Jones, Jr.
President Julio Frenk spends his first day talking with students and parents as he visited several areas of the Gables campus.

Frantzie Jeannot stood outside the entrance to the University of Miami's Hecht Residential College on Monday when a golf cart rumbled up and came to a stop only a few feet from where she stood.

Jeannot, a first year student fellow at Hecht, immediately recognized one of the cart's three occupants and needed no introduction.

"Settling in?" she asked the bespectacled gentleman in the dark suit.

"Yes," he said. "This is my first day."

And with that, physician and former Harvard dean Julio Frenk continued his first-day itinerary as UM's sixth president, walking into the Hecht lobby to meet more of the students who are now part of a new era of leadership.

"It's going to be exciting to see what he does for UM," Jeannot said.

Frenk was first introduced to the UM community at a press conference in April, and since then, anticipation has steadily been building over his arrival. By Monday he was totally immersed in the Miami Hurricane culture.

Inside the Hecht lobby, Frenk greeted some of the parents who were on campus to help their sons and daughters check into the residential colleges, as another academic year gets underway.

"Good luck in your new job," one parent shouted to Frenk.

As Frenk, escorted by Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely, walked to nearby Stanford Residential College, he paused for about five minutes to watch – and listen – to the UM Band of the Hour percussion section practicing on the intramural field.

He then walked into Stanford amid applause, courtesy of students working the front desk lobby. Standing nearby was Donald Dremluk, who was in town from Alexandria, Virginia, to help his daughter, Kate, a freshman, check in. "It's wonderful to see he's so engaging with students," said Dremluk. "This kind of interaction is wonderful."

Earlier in the day at the food court, Frenk met with about 20 program coordinators and orientation leaders, the group of students who help conduct UM Orientation, which this year has been themed Discover the U. Freddy Michaud, a biomedical engineering student, said he was impressed with Frenk's "inviting personality."

A meeting with University-wide student leaders at the Scott and Susan Fleischner Kornspan Study Lounge at the Shalala Student Center was Frenk's last stop of the day. He answered students' questions and spoke candidly with them, telling them a story about his late grandmother. "One of my many blessings in life is I had a grandmother who lived to be 106," Frenk told the students. He noted that she had a collection of "first times."

"Even at 100, she was still going to different places," Frenk said, noting that he has started his own collection of "first times," to which his many upcoming encounters at UM will be a part.