Chancellor's Friday Letters

Support Students During Finals

Support Students During Finals

December 2, 2011

Dear Friends,

I admit to having been wrapped up in the issues of our times at UCR, and so it startled me a bit when I came to realize recently (by walking into a retail store) that just on the horizon are many celebratory events, from Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Ashura to the Winter Solstice.

Part of the problem for me is that this geographic region lacks the environmental clues that I grew accustomed to during my over 3 decades of living in places such as Canada, Michigan, Oregon and Idaho.

Clues such as unending grey skies, a chill always in the air, fallen leaves and bare branches, a dusting of snow, as well as down jackets, gloves, scarves and runny noses.

Now that I am fortunate enough to live in mostly sunny Riverside – I know the folks who have lived here their entire lives think it’s chilly now – but all you have to do is look at a colored weather map of the USA to see blues and greens most everywhere except here, where it is typically orange, red or yellow.

We have only two seasonal clues here. One is the Santa Ana winds that often howl this time of the year across southern California, as they are doing today.

And the second clue is the fact that at UCR we enter “the season” with finals – Final exams…Final papers…Final projects…Final performances.

A final moment this term for students to demonstrate their abilities.

A final push by our faculty and graduate student teaching assistants to evaluate students’ work, which occurs on top of their ongoing research and creative activity efforts.

And a final effort by our staff to deal with the mechanics of grades, transcripts, and the like, as well as preparing for winter term just around the corner in January.

It is a time of great intensity and academic importance… an auspicious time for each of us to provide extra support and encouragement to our students, faculty and staff.

Particularly for our students this is a time of higher stress, and I encourage friends and family to offer extra support by word or deed.  This is especially true for students who have not experienced finals before at the University of California, where the importance and expectations are high.

If you have gone through finals as a student, pause and reflect on your feelings back in the day.  It will help inform how you might help now.  A word or two of loving support – a call, a text message, or a tweet.  Ear plugs.  Energy bars.  Probably not an unannounced visit to their residence halls or apartment … but try a box of cookies and chocolate milk, or whatever comfort food works.  Perhaps Brussels sprouts?

Next week my dog Bella and I will search out students huddled somewhere in an alcove in deep study.  I’ll interrupt for a moment or two. Many will happily play with Bella, and I’ll offer a cookie if they are so inclined (most are).  With a wink, I’ll inform students that it’s worth a point or two in their toughest exam if they give Bella a pat.

Last year this insider information prompted one of our students to jump out of his chair, onto the floor, and give my dog a full and prolonged hug. I looked the student in the eye and asked, “Are you failing a course?”  He rather sheepishly nodded yes.  I guess he was looking for as many points as possible from Bella’s good luck.

You simply have to love college students for their creativity and resourcefulness.

And if you can, give them a little extra support, love and encouragement.

Best regards,


Tim White, Chancellor

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