On March 15, 2013, CHASS Dean Jeff Braden and Andriy Shymonyak, junior in Political Science and History, traded places for CHASS’ annual Dean for a Day event. Braden attended an array of meetings and activities posing as a student. Meanwhile, “Dean Shymonyak” attended Braden’s meetings and met with department heads. Here are the pair’s reflections on their experiences.
Student Jeff Braden’s Log
Thursday, March 14, 2013
5:15 p.m. D. H. Hill Auditorium
Our Dean for a Day experience gets off to a slightly rough start when I realize that I’ve sent Andriy to Hunt Library, but the event we’re to attend is at D.H. Hill. With the able assistance of Crissy Williams-Brown — the administrative assistant to the CHASS Dean, which is now Andriy — we arrange to meet at the reception. As I welcome people to the reception, I introduce myself as the “former and future” dean of CHASS, introducing Andriy as the current dean. My boss, Provost Arden, hears this and says, “Well, Andriy, you seem to be doing a pretty good job. We may have to consider whether Dr. Braden will return to his job tomorrow afternoon.” The fact that it’s my boss saying this, and that everybody in the room is applauding in agreement, makes me wonder if this Dean for a Day swap is such a good idea…
6:00 p.m. North Carolina History Museum
Dean Shymonyak and I arrive for the world premiere of Core.Sounders, a new documentary from the North Carolina Language and Life Project in CHASS. We meet Distinguished Professor of English Walt Wolfram and Emmy Award winner Neal Hutcheson, who produced and directed the film about the commercial fishing communities “Down East.” The reception is packed with residents from Down East, who rode three hours on a bus to be at this premiere. We enjoy a buffet featuring fresh seafood from the area, and so we are well fed as we enter the theater for the premiere. Walt insists on taking us in himself, and so we are ushered down to the front of the theater. Dean Shymonyak nods in appreciation; there are some perks to being dean! The movie is fantastic — I expected no less — but my cold is acting up so badly I can’t stay for the panel discussion afterwards. I head home and fall asleep shortly after.
Friday, March 15, 2013
5:30 a.m. My House
My alarm goes off for the first time this week. Usually, I’m up before it goes off. I roll out of bed and listen to NPR’s Morning Edition as I lift weights and do my stretching routine. After a story about the legislature discussing a law to rescind the deal making Dix a park, the next three stories are about NC State, and two of them interview professors about the ways in which NC State enhances our state and our welfare. I smile as I think the radio station should change its name from WUNC to WNCSU.
7:35 a.m. On the Road
I drive into work about 15 minutes later than usual; it feels great not to worry that I’ll be late for an 8:00 am meeting. I park in the dean’s parking spot that Dean Shymonyk was generous enough to let me use for the day, and I walk to D.H. Hill to read up on Ukrainian History. I go to the help desk on the second floor of the library and talk to the people working the desk; one is a major in Communication, and knows about the Dean for a Day swap! The other gives me the number of the book I’m looking for and directs me to the third floor stacks. I mention remembering when book numbering changed from the Dewey Decimal system to the Library of Congress system used today. She looks at me blankly and says, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I’m reminded that although I’m a student and no longer a dean, I’m still old.
9:10 a.m. Clark Hall
I show up about 10 minutes late for my meeting with Dr. Kershner, who coordinates nominations for the prestigious fellowships and student awards of the University Honors Program. We talk about the Rhodes scholarship, perhaps the best and most prestigious award in the world. Rhodes scholarships support students to earn a master’s degree at Oxford, and why it might be that no student from NC State has ever won one. Dr. Kershner notes that among the most talented applicants are STEM majors who have not taken courses outside their disciplines. Unfortunately, Rhodes reviewers view that pattern of course-taking as suggesting a lack of breadth of interest, and often reject candidates without further consideration — even those who engage in a diverse range of co-curricular activities. The problem is exacerbated when top students come in with AP credits that meet most (or all) of their GEP requirements and aren’t required to take courses outside their discipline. Most students in this situation opt to take additional courses within their disciplines rather than explore others. We talk about other issues, such as getting faculty to serve on selection and mock interview committees, before it’s time for me to move to my next appointment.
10:00 a.m. Peele Hall Conference Room
I arrive for a meeting to plan the Triangle Youth Leadership Conference. Devan, the group leader, wastes no time in challenging us to excel. The give and take within the discussion is nuts-and-bolts planning; we go through the agenda meticulously, and as problems are identified, solutions are developed, with people taking specific responsibility for implementing the solution. I marvel at the standards to which everybody in the meeting holds themselves — and others — accountable. I find myself wishing that some of the other meetings I attend in my role as dean were as productive.
11:00 a.m. Park Scholars Commons
Our meeting ends right on time — again, not something I often experience! — and I’ve got a half hour to myself to get my journal up-to-date, and — confession — I cheat. My Assistant Dean called my mobile phone earlier, and I know she wouldn’t do so if it wasn’t important. We are in the midst of making an offer to recruit a new faculty member to our college, and there’s pressure to get the letter of offer out today. I look it over and send it off just as my lunch date, Neel, shows up. I realize that the life of a student leaves little or no time for catching up.
11:34 a.m. Hillsborough Street
Neel and I walk to Mitch’s Tavern for lunch. Neel suggests we sit out on the balcony, and we eat our lunches in the sun. Like Andriy, Neel is a political science major who transferred into CHASS from the Poole College of Management. We have a great discussion, ranging from positive psychology to the role of the university in society. By the time I settle the check, we’re already running late for the biweekly meeting of Honors Village Fellows.
12:35 p.m. Clark Hall Honors Conference Room
Our arrival interrupts the discussion already in progress, and somebody remarks, “He’s filling Andriy’s shoes exactly right — he’s five minutes late!” Everybody laughs, and Aaron, the associate director of the program, invites us all to introduce ourselves. I’m impressed with the diversity of interests represented in the group. After the introductions, the discussion quickly shifts back to the practical, direct, problem-solving interactions that I’d seen in my 10 a.m. meeting. Ideas and problems are shared, opinions are voiced, and occasionally they challenge one another, but it’s all done with a can-do spirit of camaraderie that clearly demonstrates a level of comfort with one another that allows hard work to get done without worrying about who gets the credit. To a person, the group members exhibit commitment and confidence with an utter lack of arrogance or self-importance. They seem a bit surprised when I point out to them how they are practicing leadership in everything they do. I think to myself that if these are the future leaders of business, government, industry, and nonprofits, I’m a bit more optimistic about the future. I’m proud to be part of a campus with students like these.
1:30 p.m. Berry Lounge
I chat with a few students as we set up for a 2:00 p.m. Research Unplugged seminar. The students are uniformly friendly, outgoing, and not intimidated in the least by my presence. I wish I’d had such poise at their age! The seminar kicks off with the arrival of the faculty guests — most of whom I already know, as they are outstanding colleagues from CHASS. The discussion is lively, and I realize for the first time that the Civil Rights movement adopted what could be considered “feminine” tactics — nonviolence in the face of aggression — and was admired, and ultimately successful. But the Women’s Rights movement was often criticized for being too “masculine” in its efforts to be assertive. It reminds me once more that I’d love to go back and be an undergraduate all over again so I’d have time to explore these issues in greater depth.
3:10 p.m. Honors Commons
After cleaning up the lounge, we head out to set up for visiting prospective students who are likely to join the University Honors Program if they accept their admissions offer from NC State. Then I catch up on my journal, and when my fingers get too cold — how do all these students walk around in t-shirts and shorts without freezing? — I put away the laptop.
I chat with prospective students and their families, including a family whose daughter is interested in nuclear engineering. The father notes that his daughter has so many AP classes that she can waive all the GEP requirements, and take all of her courses in engineering. The parents are adamantly opposed. “She needs to have courses in the humanities and social sciences — even if she’s an engineer — so she can be effective in her work, and live a better life as a citizen and person,” her father says with passion. Her mother nods, so I venture, “Wow. You guys must be liberal arts graduates.” They laugh and shake their heads; he’s a soil science grad and she’s a nurse. “It’s because we didn’t have a deep immersion in humanities and the arts while we were in school that we want her to have it. She’ll never have another chance in her life,” the father says soberly. I’m humbled. Here’s a guy who really understands what we do and why it’s important.
4:30 p.m. Mitch’s Tavern
Dean Shymonyak and I meet up with our paparazzi to debrief. We are both excited, energized, and somewhat overwhelmed. We agree that we both have amazingly exciting lives, and while they both unfold on the NC State campus, they take very different perspectives. On a more literal level, I’m reminded that “walking a mile in his shoes” means Andriy and other students spend a lot of their days literally walking from building to building. And they have to carry everything with them as they do so. I’ve been spoiled as dean: I have a nice office, where I can leave everything when I arrive on campus, and that boasts space for meetings. Also, most of the people I need to meet come to me. My student experience had me walking all over campus carrying my coat, backpack, and more throughout the day. Walking in Andriy’s shoes gave me the privilege and pleasure to experience, if only for a day, what it’s like to be a student in this college on this tremendous campus.
Dean Shymonyak’s Log
Thursday, March 14, 2013
6:00 p.m. North Carolina History Museum
Premiere of Core Sounders: Braden and I head over to the North Carolina Museum of History to see the worldwide premiere of “Core Sounders” — a documentary film about the Down East communities along North Carolina’s core sound and the current challenges facing a community whose livelihood depends on the water. I had the opportunity to meet Neal Hutcheson, producer of the documentary, and Dr. Walt Wolfram, professor of English at N.C. State and executive producer of “Core Sounders.”
Post-documentary panel: After the documentary screening came to a close, a panel of three individuals from the Down East community took the stage for a Q&A with the audience. Hearing their stories and their comments on the challenges facing their community takes my mind back to Ukraine and my grandparents’ village. I start to wonder how changes in Ukraine are going to affect their village and villages around the country.
9:30 p.m. Becton Hall
Back in my room at the earliest hour in a while. I have a few things left to finish before heading off to sleep, but I haven’t been able to shake the jet lag since coming back from spring break, so I end up falling asleep within the hour.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Since I fell asleep so early last night, I found myself wide awake at 6 a.m. — something that is usually unheard of for me — unless I stay up that late. Unable to go back to sleep, I got up and started sending some emails.
8:05 a.m. Caldwell Hall
Arrived in my office as the dean, and stood in the doorway looking around for a few minutes, unsure of what to do. Set down my bag and started to talk to everyone around the office.
8:45 a.m. Tompkins Hall
Meeting with the Extended Administrative Team: I spoke with my administrative team and heard them discuss some of the recent changes, such as the installation of new flooring in Winston Hall, cluster hires, and new student orientation. I gave some of my thoughts on the subjects… although I provided more questions than actual answers.
9:30 a.m. 1911 Building
Networking Alliance Meeting, Center for Family and Community Engagement: I meet with center director Dr. Joan Pennell, and hear from a variety of individuals on different projects that the center is currently working on, such as the Strong Fathers Project. It was great to see so many passionate individuals devoted to improving the North Carolina community, all in their own ways, all in one room.
11:00 a.m. Cox Hall
Development Office Meeting: I left the Networking Alliance Meeting before it ends to make my way over to the CHASS development office. After getting lost amidst the biomathematics department offices, I finally arrived at the development office to meet with Marcy Engler, Executive Director of Development. We discussed what students could do to help in the fundraising process so that the college could continue to provide resources to students and hire world-class faculty. We also discuss how the college fosters the development of students as leaders and scholars, and what these terms really mean.
11:45 a.m. Park Alumni Center and State Club
Lunch with Brooks Raiford, CHASS Advisory Board President: As Brooks and I leave Cox Hall for lunch at the State Club, we run into Dr. Walt Wolfram, who I had met the night before, and stop to say hello. As we walked through the Park Alumni Center on our way to the State Club, I admired the beautiful interior. The food served for lunch was delicious and the conversation over lunch was riveting. Brooks described his story to me — from first arriving on N.C. State’s campus to serving as President and CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association today. We discuss the importance of a liberal arts education, whether an individual should have a degree in education to work in university administration, and the need for continued cross discipline cooperation on projects and initiatives.
Break time: With 25 minutes of free time before my next meeting, I decide to get a little bit of work done. My email shows a request from student Braden to donate four ‘CHASS Creates’ CDs as gifts for speakers and panelists at the fourth annual Triangle Youth Leadership Conference scheduled for this weekend.
2:15 p.m. James B. Hunt Jr. Library
Meeting with the Institute for Nonprofits at Hunt Library: I speak with Dr. Mary Tschirhart, Director of the Institute for Nonprofits and Eileen Ferrell, Program Coordinator. Dr. Tschirhart discusses the Institute’s purpose and goals while Eileen Ferrell shares information about the nonprofits minor. I also speak with Ashley and Katie — two students who went on the Institute’s first ever Alternative Spring Break trip to New Jersey to assist with post-Hurricane Sandy work. We discuss the positives and negatives of their trip and compared it to my Alternative Spring Break trip to Italy. After looking at the time, I realize that our conversation had to be cut short.
3:10 p.m. On the Wolfline
Sitting on the bus heading back to main campus to meet with Dr. Jonathan Ocko — head of the History department — I feel a bit tired for the first time all day. I began to reflect on the day a bit and I wished that I had more time in all of my meetings as there was so much more that I wanted to discuss.
3:25 p.m. Withers Hall
Meeting with Dr. Jonathan Ocko, Department Head of History: Dr. Ocko’s office is one of the most interesting faculty offices I have ever been inside — the set-up was much different than any I had seen before and there were some unique pieces of furniture throughout the room. The two of us discuss his journey to becoming head of the history department at N.C. State, current things unfolding around the department and the importance of asking “why?” as it pertains to everything we do, but especially with our education. I found this last conversation to be very interesting as it is something that I discuss with a number of individuals.
4:00 p.m. Caldwell Hall
Meeting with Dr. Traciel Reid, Department Head of Political Science: I make my way over to Caldwell Hall for my last meeting of the day. Dr. Reid and I discuss the current trajectory of the Political Science department and the different initiatives taking place, both by students and faculty. I share with Dr. Reid an idea some of my friends and I had to start an annual international human rights event –- beginning this fall with an event about the Catholic-Protestant conflicts in Northern Ireland. Dr. Reid seems very receptive of the idea and we discuss a variety of logistics that surround this concept.
4:30 p.m. Mitch’s Tavern
Debrief with Braden. The day was very exciting and I enjoyed every moment of it. The one downside was the fast pace of the day and having to stick to the schedule, which sometimes resulted in cutting off some very interesting conversations.