The Perks of Being a Highlander

Photo courtesy of pe.com

“UCR is pretty cool, but I’m probably going to transfer,” reads one of the most notable posts on the UC Riverside Meme Facebook page. Aptly attributed to the naïve college freshman meme, the aforementioned quote is one that nearly every UC Riverside student has stated or overheard at least once during their undergraduate career. But while many students undoubtedly find the quote hilarious (myself included), the sentiment evoked by the quote is very much alive and well among students. This mindset, however, can have a devastating impact on your experience at UCR—which will only continue to maintain the unfortunate levels of apathy and indifference that persist on campus.

As my own observations at UCR revealed to me, this attitude creates a cycle in which apathy fuels mediocrity, and vice versa. Take for instance the university’s lack of a concrete athletic rival. This scenario involves students’ complaints that UCR lacks an athletic rivalry such as that existing between USC and UCLA. Perhaps most ironic, though, is that these same students tend to be the least likely to show up at athletic events aimed at fostering a rivalry in the first place (e.g. the burning of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo’s mascot, Musty the Mustang).

Therefore, I urge UCR students to embrace their university and break the cycle of apathy and indifference. Approach every endeavor with passion and enthusiasm—after all, you are a proud student of UC Riverside. Luckily, aims to break the mold have been undertaken by growing numbers of UCR students whose commitment to university involvement and societal improvement earned UCR a top spot in Washington Monthly’s 2011 university rankings. The rankings, which contained unconventional criteria such as a university’s promotion of service and social mobility, are exactly the sort of recognition that the UCR community should strive for. We are a unique university with exceptional levels of ethnic and religious diversity, high numbers of first-generation college students and sky-high ambitions—essentially, everything that a world-class university should strive to uphold.

This is not to say that students should turn a blind eye to traditional college rankings, which are another source of the “I’m probably going to transfer” mentality. If your values place a higher preference on a university’s reputation, then you too can help support UCR’s ascension on rankings whether they be made by the U.S. News and World Report, Washington Monthly or any other ranking. It is not enough that the administration moves forward with the opening of the UCR School of Medicine or the planning of the UCR School of Public Policy; this step toward prominence requires UCR students themselves to lend an active hand in the process of improving the university. In other words, this requires that our own students earn a spot in these graduate programs, become competitive in the workforce, and continue to show the world that UCR creates high achieving graduates.

But the pursuit of excellence is by no means limited to performance in the classroom. If you want to make the most out of your undergraduate education and show the nation that UCR is the place to be, you must also consider the importance of campus life. Many times, students complain about the consequences of being a commuter campus. This is another entirely resolvable problem that is most readily addressed by becoming involved with campus organizations, attending seminars and even participating in a protest. A university is only as good as its quality of life and this too requires an active hand and a step out of your comfort zone. This insight is particularly relevant to my own experience, when an initial curiosity toward journalism led to my first attendance at a Highlander Newspaper meeting and, despite a disastrous start, eventually blossomed into my position as the Highlander’s news editor. Exploring, testing boundaries and even experiencing failure are all hallmarks of an authentic college experience.

The “I’m probably going to transfer” mentality will not disappear overnight or even with the establishment of an athletic rival, medical school or any other administration-led initiative. It will occur from the ground up, beginning with students’ willingness to embrace UCR for all of its greatness, peculiarities and even its flaws.

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