Off to a good start: Associate dean helps students find their way

With Move-In Weekend in the rearview mirror and the first day of classes quickly approaching, UNT faculty and staff are ready to help students start the school year on the right foot. One example of that helpful spirit in action is Steve Cobb.

Cobb has spent the first two days of every semester the same way he has for the past 24 years – offering students a friendly face and a map.

“There is nothing worse than being late on your first day of class and getting off to a bad start,” Cobb says. “I am just there to offer some reassurance.”

Cobb, associate dean for administrative affairs and director of the Center for Economic Education in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, greets students outside between the General Academic Building and the Language Building. He began the tradition of greeting students in the fall of 1994, while working in Wooten Hall.

A smile and some encouragement

“These days I have kids come up to me, and they are just overwhelmed,” he says. “I had one kid tell me our campus is bigger than the town they grew up in.”

Cobb said that’s why it’s so important to him to give students as a helping hand.

“In the morning, it is all about helping them find their way to their first class and then, in the afternoon, I have conversations with some of the kids about their schedules and how to find their way the rest of the day and week.”

And it’s not just students that sometimes need help. During the start of the semester last fall, Cobb helped then-new provost and vice president for Academic Affairs Jennifer Cowley find her way to a meeting.

“That was a fun one,” Cobb says.

Setting an example

Cobb says some of his favorite moments are when students he helped as freshmen stop by to say “hello” in their junior and senior years.

"They tell me they are now helping new students find their way,” he says. “They are paying it forward, and that is just wonderful to hear.”

Cobb says it has been fun watching UNT grow from 15,000 students when he began as an economics professor in the fall of 1986, to more than 38,000 today.

“We were a regional school, and now we have a national identity,” he says.

Even though Cobb still teaches a class each semester, in his daily role as an administrator he doesn’t have much interaction with students, which makes those first two days of the semester even more special.

“I think as faculty and staff, the more we can be out there with the students, being a friendly face and providing them with a home base until they establish a place for themselves, that is all for the better,” Cobb says.