It's all about the student.

That is the message and common theme elicited from the second candidate for the vice chancellor for Student Life position at UT, Daniel Pugh, Ph. D.

"The gateway to the American dream is still through the university," Pugh said in his public forum.

The forum was broadcast live from the Ray Mears room of the Thompson-Boling Assembly with around 65 people in attendance.

Pugh identified various improvements that could be made to support UT, but focused heavily on student encouragement and interaction.

"At the end of the day we do it for the student," Pugh said. "At the end of the day, at the heart of what we do is moving the student through that completion agenda, and supporting them in that process so they can realize their dreams like we're realizing ours.

"That's what this is about, and that's the opportunity that I welcome to be able to do here at the University of Tennessee."

Pugh described how he plans to make himself accessible to students.

"The individual student is what adds up to all these pieces. ... If you were to go online, I tweet, I follow, I engage with the student government," he said. "We do polls of students to try to get new inputs and try and be available and be present out there in the community, and dine with [students].

"You know, Friday night I was down at the campout going into the football game ... and every football game I'm down in the student section to participate."

While his doctorate degree is from the University of Georgia, Pugh was originally a UT graduate.

"I was given a great deal while I was here," Pugh said, "and I'm in a unique position to be able to come and pay that forward to other folks and help students to become as successful as they possibly can."

Though students were Pugh's primary focus, he did not neglect other areas needing improvement.

"Divisionally we need to be congruent," Pugh said. "We can no longer, in higher education, operate in silos. So we've got to have a common developmental approach in a theme that binds us together, so that one side's not doing something independently of the other, and we can do that...

"Every department in this program needs to be a Top 5 department."

Rob Graham, a junior in finance with an international business concentration and a member of SGA, said students should receive the most emphasis from the chancellor.

"I feel like they drive this campus," Graham said. "There's a lot of responsibility put on them."

Students, Graham said, should be the target customers of the university.

"You have to ... make sure that they're at the center of every decision you're making," he said. "In the business world, you have to make sure that everything revolves around that core customer."

Dedicated to the Top 25 mission, Pugh said he agrees that the quality of student life is directly related to joining the ranks of the elite.

"From a student life standpoint, we need to be looking at what we're doing for Top 25," Pugh said, "and what we can do is all geared toward the student."

Pugh is one of four candidates for the vice chancellor of Student Life position. The next candidate's public forum will be in the Ray Mears room of the Thompson-Boling arena on Tuesday Oct. 1 at 2:30 p.m.

For more information on each candidate, or to participate in an anonymous feedback survey regarding each candidate, click here.