Last week, Staff Writer Arturo Garcia spoke with San Diego State President Elliot Hirshman to find out more about the university’s new leader.
The Daily Aztec: First I was planning on going to the past. It’s your first year at Yale — what music are you listening to?
President Elliot Hirshman: I’m pretty sure it was the Talking Heads here (laughing).
DA: What was your favorite hobby back then?
EH: Oh, I would say sports in general.
DA: What was your biggest challenge during your college years?
EH: That’s an interesting question. Probably managing financial challenges, like tuition, student loans, working at the same time as going to college.
DA: Traveling a couple of years later, it’s your first year as SDSU president. What music are you listening to currently?
EH: I’ve actually been listening to the soundtrack of “Country Strong” a lot, which I’ve really been enjoying.
DA: What is your hobby now?
EH: No hobbies at this point, only focusing on San Diego State University.
DA: And your biggest professional challenge today?
EH: The biggest professional challenge is probably the budget situation that California faces.
DA: Continuing on the personal side, could you name a few things about yourself that most people do not know?
EH: At this point, I’m not sure. But I guess people may not know that I’ve been married for quite a few years, that I have two children: Wendy, who is a junior in college and Nathan who is a freshman at the University of Virginia.
DA: Did you have a model or idol whom you aspired to be when you were growing up?
EH: Don Maynard. He was a receiver for the New York Jets. I thought I was going to be a professional football player at this time. At one point in time he was the leading all-time receiver in the NFL, but he’s not as well-known now.
DA: How do you keep a healthy work and life balance?
EH: I think it’s important to stay in touch and keep communicating with the people who are closest to you. And take breaks from your work schedule to do things that are particularly enjoyable for you.
DA: So maintain a strong support from people around you?
EH: Yeah, certainly reaching out and forming relationships with the people around is very important for maintaining that work / life balance.
DA: Are there any political or social issues you feel passionate about?
EH: Sure, sustainability is an important issue in terms of environmental concerns. The political divisiveness that we’re facing in trying to address that is very important. Solid energy policy, health care policy — those are things that are very important to me and the university. I’d put economic recovery on that list also, economic recovery for job creation.
DA: Are you involved in any community organizations such as charity or church?
EH: My primary focus for charitable giving is SDSU. I hope others in the community, of course, can be encouraged by that.
DA: Do you have any advice for current students at SDSU?
EH: Stay optimistic, draw your own course, take control of your own destiny and understand where you want to go and what are the things you need to do to accomplish your goals. And have a good time while you’re here.
DA: Going back to the biggest challenge you faced, how do you think one should handle their toughest challenges?
EH: I wanted to elaborate on one aspect in addition to the budget challenges. I think one of the big challenges here is in how we can help in a big community, make it supportive of everyone who is on campus — student, faculty and staff. I often say that in terms of how do we help make a big community small, so that’s a challenge I think the campus faces as well as obviously the specific budget issues.
DA: You want the campus to feel more like a small campus so people would help one another and support each other?
EH: I want to help the campus build community so people feel supported and at home and part of the Aztec family when they are here on campus.
DA: During President Weber’s time there was an increase in academic stature, unprecedented student success, community engagement and campus growth. That’s what his administration is known for. What would you like your administration to be known for?
EH: Student success and academic excellence, research and creative endeavor, community outreach, diversity, internationalization and sustainability. My goal as president is to build current successes in those areas and move forward as the university continues to develop as a leading national research university.