As Sam Dotters-Katz stood on the stage of Matthew Knight Arena during convocation on Sunday, he looked onto a sea of expectant faces and smiled. Pre-speech jitters gone, he felt a rush at the possibility of helping shape the college experience of the hundreds of freshmen seated before him. Stepping up to the mic, he delivered his advice:

“College is a search for a purpose.”

Nine years ago during his own convocation, Dotters-Katz was a freshman and a history major. Three years later, he spoke on stage as president and a political science student. This year, after obtaining degrees from the UO in both majors, being a former campaign manager for the 2010 Oregon State Senate race, and returning for law school, Dotters-Katz is certain of his own purpose.

“I am passionate about being a leader,” Dotters-Katz said. “You always hear … that as young people we’re the future leaders of the world — and that’s not just something that happens. It’s something that we have to grow into.”

During his speech, Dotters-Katz stressed that the future depends on the success of this generation in solving inherited global and societal issues – and by establishing the groundwork for an inclusive, diverse and nonpartisan ASUO. He hopes to help the institution give all potential leaders the skills to tackle the issues coming down the pike.

“Be unafraid to take a risk.”

Halfway through his fourth year, Dotters-Katz took a major risk by delving into politics for the first time. In early 2008, without any prior knowledge of the ASUO, he and a friend decided to run for executive positions. A month and a half later, Dotters-Katz had won his first presidential election.

According to his roommate, Kenneth Safley, spontaneity is commonplace in the life of Dotters-Katz. When they met, Dotters-Katz introduced himself out of the blue. The next day they were golfing. A week later, Dotters-Katz had invited people over to his house for dinner, starting a group that Safley now refers to as their “law school family.”

“Greatness is expected of you.”

There is perhaps no one to whom Dotters-Katz’s advice pertains to better than himself. As a public figurehead, he accepts appraisal for a job well done, but he also shoulders the criticism when things go wrong.

To maintain his sanity, he hits the gym daily. He plays with his dog, Sawyer. Hangs out with friends. Watches “Breaking Bad.” Really, he swears, he’s just a normal guy.

“The most important thing about Sam is his genuine passion for making this world a better place,” ASUO External Affairs Director Christina Hardesty said. “He has good intentions behind everything he does … but at the same time, he’s such a normal guy.”

Greatness is something she thinks Dotters-Katz can accomplish.

Sunday’s convocation was far from Dotters-Katz’s first, but he hopes it won’t be his last. Someday, he might like to stand on the stage once more as university president. For now, it’s a dream, but there’s just something about the university environment that he can’t seem to shake.

“When you’re in the position of the student body president … you realize how special a place any college campus is. It’s a marketplace of ideas,” he said. “There’s no better place to work than a college campus. I really believe that.”

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