Charles Wight is the President of Weber State University. He was interviewed by Abigail Payne, Arts & Entertainment editor for The Signpost.
Q: With graduation coming up, what do you hope that graduating students will take away from their time spent here at WSU?
A: I think that this is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates. If I had my way, this article wouldn’t be about me; it would be about our graduates. I’ll be here for years to come, but this is kind of a milestone in our graduates’ lives.
Commencement really means a beginning, and it’s maybe somewhat paradoxical that commencement happens at the end of their college stay here, but it’s really the beginning of the rest of their lives.
I think . . . that WSU is a place where we help students transform their lives for good, and I hope that each one of our graduates is really able to reflect on how they were able to change while they’ve been here at WSU. As they go forward, I think I would encourage them to be observant of the world around them and prepared to seize unexpected opportunities. Some of the best opportunities have been completely unexpected. I think it’s important that people have a plan, but also take advantage of the unexpected.
Q: What is your passion for Weber State?
A: My passion is to jealously guard the really great relationship that students have with the faculty here. So many of our faculty members just go the extra mile in developing those one-on-one relationships with students, which is, I think, the secret sauce to success here at WSU. So many of my friends and colleges at other universities tell me that WSU graduates are so well prepared for graduate programs or to go into the work force in a variety of different fields here in northern Utah. I think that the ability of our faculty to take students from wherever they are when they come to WSU and get them completely ready to go out into the work force or to go on to graduate programs is really very special, and maintaining that and nurturing that and preserving that is a large part of what I hope to accomplish here at WSU.
Q: As the president of the university, what are you most excited for during graduation?
A: For me, it’s about celebration. You know, part of it is just getting dressed up in robes and doing the academic processions. I always look forward to the commencement addresses, and I know that Ann Millner is going to do a fantastic job with the address. Her life has changed a lot since she’s been away from the university for the past year. But now she’s back as one of our faculty members, and now she’s running for the Legislature as a senator, and I think she has probably developed a perspective of the university that is a little bit different than the one that she had as president. I think she’s going to give some fantastic advice to our graduates. For me, it’s about the milestone. It’s not the same for me as it is for the graduate; for the graduate, this only happens once, and I’ve been to many commencements and I always enjoy them.
Q: If you were to be giving the commencement speech, what advice would you be giving to graduates? What would you be saying to them as a final farewell?
A: Well, first of all, it wouldn’t be a final farewell. We want to maintain that relationship with our graduates, not as students, but as alumni and as potential donors who can give back and help the next generation of students through the college experience that our graduates have enjoyed. I think that the advice that I would give has to do with being prepared for that unexpected opportunity. I think it’s important to have a plan — at least a five- or a 10-year plan for your own life and how you fit into the world, but also paying attention to the world around you and being ready for that unexpected opportunity where your life will suddenly take a left turn, but for the good, is really important. Sometimes we get so busy in our lives with our heads down in what we’re doing that we don’t recognize some of the opportunities that come our way. Being able to recognize and prepare for those opportunities is a really important part of being a successful person.
Q: That’s all the questions I have for you. Is there anything else you’d like to add about what you’d like graduates to know as they’re graduating?
A: I think this is the time for graduates to celebrate, to accept all the accolades that we give them, to be really happy and celebrate for a few days, but then to get back to work. I think that this is a wonderful time to celebrate their achievements and to begin the rest of their lives, to commence with their lives.