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Dean for a Day Diaries 2012

The dean and the student talk about their days.

On February 16, 2012, CHASS Dean Jeff Braden and junior International Relations and Criminology major Laura Wilkinson traded places for CHASS’ annual Dean for a Day event. Braden attended Wilkinson’s  classes and took over her work as editor of the Technician. Meanwhile, “Dean Wilkinson” attended Braden’s meetings and even taught his PSY 200 class. Here are the pair’s reflections on their experiences. And don’t miss the pictures Communication Intern Lauren Williams took for our FaceBook page.

“Student” Braden’s Reflections

5:45 pm Wednesday – Dean Laura Wilkinson and I are invited to the Call Center at the Park Alumni Center to address the students who make calls to alumni to raise money. One of them asks about the importance of study abroad, and Dean Wilkinson shares her personal experience in Spain. She notes that study abroad not only helps students learn about other cultures and languages, but it also helps them learn about themselves and how they can better communicate with others. I say study abroad is only important for those who plan to live on this planet; otherwise, it’s really not needed.

6:20 pm – Dean Wilkinson and I compare our schedules for the next day over dinner at The State Club. We are so engaged that we miss the beginning of the talk given by Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Book Club, but do manage to catch about half of it. After dropping Laura off, I go to the Technician offices and begin getting the weather, police blotter, and calendar events ready for page 2 of Thursday’s edition. After editing a couple of pages, my grammatical sadism is in full swing, which was more than I can say for my energy level. As the midnight deadline approaches, I feel myself flagging. Still, we push to get things done in time. Despite the fact that the lead story is pulled at 10 pm and we have to scramble to replace it, I am assured that it is a relatively uneventful night.

Technician-editor-for-a-day Braden helps decide what will run on the front page of the student newspaper.

11:45 pm – I call to tell the N & O that the Technician is all in. Managing Editor Taylor declares, “It’s closing time” (a song we’ve heard repeatedly throughout the evening as we worked to finish the paper). The staff quickly disappears; Taylor sends me home telling me he’ll clean up.

12:15 am Thursday – I arrive home and am in bed shortly thereafter. I rarely stay up this late.

3:14 am – I wake up thinking about work.

7:02 am – I wake up and marvel at the time; I haven’t slept this late in months. I enjoy a few extra minutes of rest, reminding myself that I don’t need to get out of bed for almost an hour. However, I can’t just lie there, so I get up two minutes later, exercise, and leisurely read the paper for the first time in a long time.

9:05 am – I have the red and green plaid sport coat, matching bow tie, and green straight leg pants that John McIlwee, the director of the University theater, has loaned to me so that I can nail the 1960s student look. I’ll be the bee’s knees, the cat’s meow, a real Beau Brummell … yikes, that’s exactly what I’ll be! It takes me an extra 15 minutes to get dressed because I have to remember how to tie a bow tie.

9:50 am – The traffic into work is a breeze … much easier than the 7:30 am run I normally make. That is, until I get just past Avent Ferry, heading west on Western! The traffic backs up a few hundred yards in the left lane as apparently every student on campus has decided to come in and turn left on Pullen at the same time. My big cushion of time gets thinner, but I still manage to find parking and get to class a few minutes before it begins.

10:15 am – Dr. Boettscher’s PS 437 class on US National Security is fascinating. I am reminded why I fell in love with college; an energetic professor, lively discussion, and fascinating subject matter mix together to make a heady elixir. Beats the heck out of a budget meeting! I find myself raising my hand more often than I might have thought but that’s not because I was better prepared with respect to homework. Rather, it was because we were discussing the US cold war strategy against the USSR. To me, those events were not history–they were my childhood! Sigh…I’m older than dirt and know it. Still, I walk out of class excited to tell my wife about the potential for cutting Iran from using the SWIFT banking network (which would effectively eliminate their ability to trade in dollars–a big deal given that’s the currency for oil exchange). [Note: Sure enough, I’m watching the News Hour the next evening and they have a panel to discuss this very topic. How cool is that?]

11:50 am – I visit Library Director Susan Nutter wearing my cool duds. She laughs, rolls her eyes, and shakes her head, muttering something about crazy deans. I then rush to meet Laura’s friend Brian for lunch at the Atrium. I’m disconcerted by how many students walk by me, look up from their smart phones, see my hideous plaid jacket, green pants, and bow tie, and look back down at their phones without even cracking a smile. Do deans really dress so badly that students can’t tell when we’re trying to look goofy?

12:05 pm – Brian fills me in on the next class we’ll be going to, his background, and the fact he’s heading up to Virginia for a dance workshop over the weekend. The diversity of interests and students in our Wolfpack community is incredible. We head to the East Wing of D.H. Hill to catch up on emails (I suppose Brian is catching up on texts). I try to write this blog and respond to a few urgent emails. After all, Laura and I swapped schedules but not email accounts; some stuff just can’t wait. I run into a candidate for a professor position in the English department who is visiting campus today. He looks at me and what I’m wearing, and although he quickly stifles the look of horror, the damage is done. He nods good-naturedly when I assure him I’m only dressing like this because I’m a student for the day. I can tell as I walk away he’s mulling over whether his potential employer is mad.

1:20 pm – Brian and I find our seats in Dr. Murray’s IS 491 Senior Seminar in International Studies class. Dr. Murray has such a low-key, friendly delivery that it takes me a few minutes to realize that he expects—and clearly demands—a lot from his class. We soon break up into writing groups, and it’s clear he’s carefully organized the class so that (a) people do the work, (b) they have to share their work with others, and (c) they critique each other’s work. I learn that Laura’s classmates are working on papers related to female suicide bombers, the ethics of pharmacological experimentation (using the Nuremburg Code as a foundation for inquiry), and the economic (dis)incentives of acquiring a nuclear by non-nuclear states and groups. It’s fascinating stuff, and I’m genuinely disappointed as class ends that we can’t keep going.

3:45 pm – I detour past Thompson Hall on my way to Witherspoon to show John McIlwee his success in picking out my duds. Sadly, he’s not there, but two others eagerly take my picture, giggling all the while. Geez, it’s tough to be so brave when it comes to fashion.

4:05 pm – I arrive at the Technician offices in Witherspoon ready to apologize for being late for the budget meeting, but I am among the first to arrive. As others come in shaking off the effects of the steady, cold rain, we gather in the conference room for the budget meeting. It’s a good thing I was warned that their “budget meeting” has nothing to do with budgets; rather, it’s deciding who’s going to do what for the next day’s issue. We must all agree on the editorial (so it reflects the consensus of the editors), and we start the discussion with one of the writers suggesting that it’s too easy to change/add majors. Others seem to share that opinion, which I find surprising, as I’ve spent a lot of time talking with other deans, the provost, and university leaders on how we can make it easier for students to do so. I point out that it’s easy for students who have GPAs above 3.0, but it’s a lot harder for an average student with a GPA in the 2.0-2.4 range to change majors. They consider my remarks, and the next day’s editorial reflects well our discussion.

Last Thoughts – As I finish up the Police Blotter for page 2 of the Technician and end my day as Laura Wilkinson’s replacement, I find myself amazed at the pace and the energy of our students and our faculty. This is one great place, and once again, I pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming. Sure enough, I’m not–although I’ll definitely sleep well tonight!

“Dean” Laura Wilkinson’s Reflections

Dean Wilkinson and Student Braden pump students up at the Alumni Association's call center.

5:45 pm – Call Center Visit: It was great to see the fundraising side of the university. I knew people worked on fundraising, but I didn’t understand the actual operations side of it. I was able to answer a few questions about how CHASS has impacted me personally and why I would be proud to give back to my college. Hopefully I helped inspire some of the call center staff!

6:00 pm – Dinner at the State Club with “Student Braden” — I was blown away by the State Club – it’s very elegant, the staff is very nice and the food is delicious! I am currently thinking about joining just so I can eat that well again. Over dinner Braden and I talked about some of the challenges facing the college, specifically how the salary freeze has affected the retention rate of key faculty members. I was able to make some parallels between the types of duties Braden has as a college dean and the duties I have as editor-in-chief of Technician. We try to do the best for our organizations but also have to deal with a lot of stress and problems.

8:00 pm – Creative Writing Speaking Series — Braden and I caught the end of guest author Karen Joy Fowler’s reading. The event organizer and I chatted afterward and he had nothing but praise for the dean. He said Dean Braden consistently shows up to college-led events, which I think says a lot about how important the faculty and students are to the dean.

8:30 pm – Done for the night! I got to go home at a decent hour for once this semester! However, I still stayed up until 4:30 am to finish up the homework the dean would need to turn in to my professors the next day.

8:30 am Thursday – BORST Meeting – After going to the wrong building twice, I finally made it to the BORST (that’s the university’s Business Operations Realignment Steering Team) meeting on Avent Ferry Road. It was a very early start to the day for me, since I usually don’t get up until 9:15 am on Thursdays. At the meeting the board discussed the design of their new website and the benefits and drawbacks of a survey about small/large purchases. It was interesting to see people from each college debate back and forth, since I’m only familiar with CHASS.

10:00 am – Meeting with Dr. Karen Young, Assistant Dean & Director of Undergraduate Programs. Dr. Young has so much to do and not enough time to do it all in. She is a true advocate for CHASS students and I wish she had more time in the day to get everything done.

10:45 am – Meeting with Dr. Maxine Atkinson, Head of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology. Dr. Atkinson is a crusader. She’s very honest and straight-forward and I appreciated her openness. We talked about budget concerns and how she deals with faculty, as well as her accomplishments. I hope I can achieve as much as she has in the future.

11:45 am – Lunch at the State Club with Marcy Engler, Executive Director of Development and Emily Barbour, CHASS Advisory Board President. I was very excited to head back to the State Club again because I was ready for more delicious food. Marcy, Emily and I talked about fundraising for the college, the importance of giving back to the university to help future students succeed, and a little bit about what I wanted to do in the future. I was able to offer a few suggestions for how to get more students involved in alumni donations. They need more people to help with fundraising.

1:00 pm – University Advancement Committee Meeting. I had to hustle from the Alumni Center to Holladay Hall to make it on time to this meeting, but they ended up starting a little late so I didn’t feel bad. I was a little disappointed at the lack of diversity in the committee – the room was full of white males, with a couple of white females sprinkled in. The members gave an update on meeting the goal for the Chancellor’s Residence, progress made on the Lonnie Poole Golf Course and club house, progress on the Hunt Library campaign, Gregg campaign, Vet Center campaign, and an update on alumni giving. Alumni giving is up 30.12 percent from last year and the goal is to raise $1.5 million by June.

2:15 pm – Meeting with Dr. Tom Birkland, Associate Dean for CHASS Research, Extension, Engagement and Economic Development. Dr. Birkland was one of my favorite people to visit on Thursday. Although we spent some time talking about what his job entailed and about my work at Technician,we also discussed   various research projects faculty and graduate students were pursuing. One project in particular is an attempt at a recreation of St. Paul’s Cathedral, where English poet John Donne spoke in the 17th century. After Dean for a Day ended, I took a tour of the Hunt Library in which that same project was also mentioned. I’m very excited about the research the college does and Dr. Birkland is a huge part of making those projects happen.

The brave dean teaching Psychology 200.

3:00 pm – Teach Psychology 200 class. I was armed with a Powerpoint presentation and courage when I stepped into that classroom. The TA was very helpful when I had no idea what the subject material was saying, but I still felt very bad for all the students in the room. I did the best I could in teaching operant conditioning, but I’m pretty sure I left them more confused than more educated. It seems I’m not meant to be a professor.

4:30 pm – Meeting with Dr. Helga Braunbeck, Assistant Dean, Interdisciplinary Studies. Dr. Braunbeck and I first met my freshman year during orientation because she was my first adviser at N.C. State, and I was so happy when she said she remembered me from three years ago! After catching up a little bit, she talked to me about the history of Interdisciplinary Studies, which I had always found confusing in the past. Soon, though, it was 5:00 pm and time for debriefing with the dean. My day was over and I was sad to see it go (except for the dressing like a businesswoman – I’ll take jeans over a pencil skirt every day of the week).