University Provost Phil Hanlon — who has been a University faculty member since 1986 — and Manish Parikh, Business senior and current Central Student Government president, met in the Daily’s newsroom to look back on their time at the University. Parikh graduates this spring, and Hanlon will leave to serve as president of Dartmouth College.
Hanlon and Parikh discussed the following question: What would you tell someone starting their time at the University to do that you didn’t do?
Phil Hanlon: It took me too long to discover the University. I spent too many years deep in the math department just doing stuff with the math faculty, math students, math seminars and I didn’t come to appreciate what a fantastic University this is and how many cool things there are all around the University … I think what I would tell someone is get out of your department go explore the University, go to the Clements (Library), look at what’s there — they have amazing stuff at the Clements — they have stuff like the letter that launched the American Revolution. Did you know that was there? The letter from General Gage to his troops in Boston telling them to march on Lexington and Concord, that letter’s in the Clements.
Manish Parikh: Wow. I have to agree with the provost on this one. One thing that I would tell incoming students is, “You know the burning questions that you have, Google them.” There’re so many times that I have asked my roommates and friends at college silly questions which I could probably find the answer out to in a few seconds online. There are buildings on campus that I’ve always admired but never found the time to peek inside. The Complex Systems Building, which kind of overlooks the arch a little beyond the Diag, is an example of one of the beautiful buildings on campus.
PH: So what about for students when they come in. What do you think is the thing that they fail to do the most often?
MP: Well this may be contrary to academics, but I would say that while your GPA. and your professional goals and your resume are important, the things that I’ve found most meaningful at Michigan and at life are being kind and being happy, making good friends and being compassionate. Academics and 4.0 are important, but so is being kind and happy and compassionate.
PH: Yeah, one thing that I think is the biggest change in the students I’ve taught since I’ve been here is (the) incredible interest in students today to impact the world in a positive way. It’s different. It’s certainly different from when I was a student. We weren’t thinking about that so much. We were looking to the college and our studies. Boy, today I just so admire students … they’re out working in Detroit, they’re out running around the globe, they’re starting companies, they’re doing all sorts of stuff that’s trying to better the world and I think that’s a huge change for the good.
MP: Another small piece of advice — provost, I think at the faculty level it’s far different too because you’re used to waking up on time — but something I struggled with as a freshman was finding a good alarm clock. It really did take a while. Waking up on time and attending class on time is really important, and I think half the challenge at Michigan is just showing up.
PH: Yeah, I’ve always taught early in the morning — 8:30 classes, 8:30 calculus class, office hours at 8:00. Students get there, they’re kind of awake.
MP: Have you ever struggled to wake up for classes back when you were a student?
PH: Oh yeah, I do remember that I was sleepier back then. Now I’m more wide-awake. So you’re near graduating right?
PH: So what do you think is the most important thing you’re taking away from Michigan?
MP: I think for me as a junior, I felt really frustrated with myself that I wasn’t doing anything much or accomplishing anything at Michigan and that I would graduate in a year and I would have made a few good friends, taken a few good classes, but that couldn’t have been what this Michigan experience was all about. I’ve really enjoyed this role in CSG making a small difference, leaving a small mark. I think that’s pretty exciting for me.
MP: In your time here at Michigan, what would say are yours and President Coleman’s biggest accomplishments? How has Michigan really evolved over the last five, six, ten years?
PH: Well I think, one thing you have to say that jumps right out at you is that the last decade has been a decade where the University has seen its most severe financial challenges since the Great Depression, and I think the thing that I really am proud of — and it’s certainly not just me, but the whole institution — is that we’ve actually grown stronger during this period. I think we’re at a better place than we were 10 years ago. We were one of the very few universities in the country that didn’t have severe disruption in 2009, and I think I can credit the careful planning we did but also the hard work everyone did on campus to execute the plan. I think that’s one of the things I’m very pleased about. I do think that we’re very strong academically right now. We’re on an upward trajectory. I have no hesitation in saying we are the best public university in the country right now, and I’m very excited about the future here.
MP: And speaking about finance and money, a small piece of advice that I would give to incoming students here is that it’s very easy to lose track of how much money (you) have in your bank, and it’s very easy to spend a lot of money at Zingerman’s. Another piece of advice I’d give is keep a notebook and be acutely reminded of finances and that kind of thing.
PH: I can understand that. I think one of the worst moments of my life was when I was a student and I was hitchhiking in New Zealand and I ran out of money. I just literally ran out of money and back then there was no way to get hold of my parents or something like that. There was just no way to communicate. So I was in Wellington and I had to get to Auckland the next day to catch the plane, and so I threw myself at the mercy of the bus company and they let me ride in the freight bus to go overnight in the back with the boxes. But I got there. Very entrepreneurial.