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Get to know the finalist for University of Arizona president

Posted at 10:27 PM, Mar 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-09 00:59:24-05

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) For the first time the public got the chance to ask questions to the man who will likely become the next president of the University of Arizona. 

Dr. Robert Clayton Robbins was named the presidential finalist on Tuesday, and a public forum with Robbins was held Wednesday afternoon on the U of A campus.

Robbins is currently the president and CEO of the Texas Medical Center in Houston. 

While addressing the audience Wednesday, Robbins says he wants the U of A to be more student centric and he will take the time to listen to students. He said there is a way for the college to leverage technology and the U of A has the opportunity to be a leader in that field. 

Students often have internships off-campus, but Robbins also expressed interest in getting big companies to come to the U of A to give students real-world experience.

When asked what his vision was for getting to know students, Robbins made it clear that he wants to be visible on campus and accessible to the community. 

"I will be involved, I will be accessible," Robbins said. "Now can I get to know all 40,000 students personally? No. But I can be accessible and hope to learn their hopes and dreams."
Questions from students and faculty included topics ranging from fine arts, to the mental health of students, and scientific research. 
"This is a safe haven for academic freedom," Robbins said. "We're in the knowledge discovery and knowledge transfer business, and I think we should defend that and protect that with every ounce of our fiber."
Robbins was also asked about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. 
"I would say all of the students should feel that we have empathy for their situation, compassion," Robbins said. "...we'll provide them a safe place on campus at all times and we'll protect them to the utmost that we can under the law." 
The Arizona Board of Regents will finalize its selection for president on March 13th then contract negotiations will begin. 
Robbins confirmed to reporters that he makes more than $1,000,000 at his current job, and would be shocked if he doesn't take a pay cut for his position at the U of A. According to U of A officials, President Ann Weaver Hart has a salary package of about $660,000 per year. 
Robbins says he isn't motivated by money, but has a passion to return to academia.
"Obviously I would love to make money and be able to live a comfortable life, but I'm not motivated by money," Robbins said. "I'm motivated by the mission."
Robbins says he wants to serve as the U of A president for 10 years. He's a huge sports fan, and plans on watching the Wildcats advance in the tournament and hopefully win the whole thing this year.