On February 12, Dean Jeff Braden and Tiffany Johnson, senior in Political Science and Communication, traded places for CHASS’s annual Dean for a Day event. Despite a major snow storm, the two had remarkable and memorable experiences. Here is their combined diary.
Dean Johnson: 5:00 pm, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. MEET THE DEAN. The dean’s executive assistant, Crissy Williams-Brown, introduced me to “Student Braden.” We went over our schedules, and the new holes that appeared in it due to adverse weather. My 1:00 pm meeting—the leadership review in the College of Management—was cancelled, as was my meeting with Mike Giancola, Director of the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics and Public Service, and Jeff Braden’s 1:30-2:45pm political science class was cancelled. My schedule was laid out on the table in a plastic folder. Student Braden told me the good thing about being dean is that Crissy lays out your schedule daily. Then it was down to business. He briefed me on the purpose of high-end faculty attending basketball games. It’s not all fun and games. They are called upon to introduce themselves to people who they feel are beneficial to their college.
5:40 pm ARRIVE AT PNC ARENA. The Dean has a close parking pass! Then at the Chancellor’s ticket will call window, we were given name tags. Mine said, “Tiffany Johnson; Dean for a Day – CHASS.” We went through the security and onto the elevator, where an employee sits and pushes your floor level for you.
6:00 – 7:00 pm CHANCELLOR’S RECEPTION It was a bunch of fun. Dean Braden introduced me to the chancellor, the provost, the athletic director and many wonderful staff, faculty and guests. I saw some of the people I was supposed to speak to who we had identified as friends of my college, and Dean Braden introduced me to them as Dean Johnson. To be honest, it was so much information—and some of it went over my head—that I forgot what I was supposed to talk to them about. The food at the reception was wonderful! The barbeque and cole slaw were my favorite. They also had Oreo Cheesecake Bites for dessert.
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm GAME TIME! Our seats were wonderful. We had a center view of the court. I had never sat in 200 level seating at the PNC Arena, so I was soaking it all in. Student Braden really enjoys watching basketball like myself, which means we were excited, yelling, and shouting throughout the whole game. We also did a bit of work, too. In the first half, I switched seats with Bob Creeden’s guest so I could sit next to him and talk to him about Social Entrepreneurship and probe his thoughts in that area. Not everyone we expected was able to attend the game. I was bummed Terrence and Torry Holt did not make it to the game. It would’ve been wonderful to meet them. During halftime, we went down to the chancellor’s box which appeared to be called the Wolves Den. It was very crowded. However, here they also had more food! Hotdogs, popcorn, cookies, soft drinks and water, and more fruit. Then we returned to our seats to enjoy the rest of the game.
Student Braden: 9:30 pm I have decided that every Dean for a Day should begin with a basketball game. Tiffany and I met in my office, and I gave her the rundown for the game. It was fun to explain to her that it’s not just about showing up, eating, and watching the game (although let’s face it, that is a lot of fun!). We spent some time talking about our guests, why we had invited them to the game, and what we hoped their role would be. I think Tiffany was surprised at how much planning went into such an event, and how important it was for us to use events like basketball games to cultivate alumni and donor relationships to our college and our campus.
Once we got to PNC Arena, I took Tiffany to the Chancellor’s reception. Everybody was happy to meet her, and I spent most of my time introducing her to various members of the university community, including the chancellor, provost, members of the UNC Board of Governors–and taking lots of pictures of Tiffany posing with them. I did so in part to document the Dean for a Day, and in part so she could show her mom she was hanging out with VIPs. Although the weather prevented about half of our guests from coming, it was a great game to watch. Best of all, we beat Wake Forest!
Student Braden 7:15 am Wed, Feb. 12, 2014 WAKE UP IN A PANIC. Not only was it light out (perhaps the first time in a couple of months I’ve woken up after it got light), but my alarm clock radio was on. I was stunned; although Tiffany had directed me to sleep until 7:50 am, I had set my alarm for 6:30 and fully expected to wake up well before. I usually do, after all; my alarm is normally set for 5:25. I realized I haven’t slept through an alarm since … could it be my undergraduate days?
Dean Johnson 8:05 am ARRIVE AT OFFICE I got situated, reviewed my schedule and checked my emails.I stepped out for a run to Port City Java and my usual ham and cheese crescent as well as a tall hot apple cider. I returned to the office for introductions to my staff for the day. When they left, I wrote to my former professor, Dr. Ryan Hurley, saying, “Hi Dr. Hurley, This is my first email as “Dean for the Day.” I just wanted to thank you again for all of your hard work and help. As your “boss,” I recognize your efforts! Ha ha – “Dean Tiffany Johnson.” Later in the day, Dr. Hurley responded “Dear Tiffany, Thank you for acknowledging my hard work! You are a true gentlewomen & a scholar. May I post your kind & encouraging email on my Facebook page? Thanks and take care, Ryan. PS – You are awesome & hysterically funny.” (I really enjoyed being able to do that!)
9:00 am ADMINISTRATIVE TEAM MEETING. I met with Betty Byrum, Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration; Vicki Gallagher, Associate Dean of CHASS Academic Affairs, Tom Birkland, Associate Dean for CHASS Research, Extension, Engagement and Economic Development; and Crissy Williams-Brown, Executive Assistant to the Dean. To start off the meeting, I learned what Dean Braden would normally do under adverse weather. There were a lot of technicalities involved in how to send employees home, and the procedures certain types of employees should follow. Next I learned how much CHASS spends during the year, as well as how many departments it involves and how many employees the college employs. I asked each person on my staff to go around the table and tell me a little bit about themselves. I learned so much! A lot of these staff members have been at this for two decades or more. An interesting fact: Vicki Gallagher was the first female to be appointed Professor in the Department of Communication in 2004.
Student Braden 9:25 am ARRIVE ON CAMPUS. I did my workout, although not exactly as Tiffany had outlined. She had said for me to run 1.5 miles, do 300 crunches, and a few other things. I explained to her that I usually lift weights MWF and run T/Th/Sat. I think she was surprised when I explained I usually run 5 (not 1.5) miles on weekdays–but I did have to reach to finish the 300 crunches she’d listed for me. Thanks for that, Tiffany!
Tiffany had asked me specifically to get a snack after my workout at the Atrium and to introduce myself to Ms. Sherrie, who worked the register every day. I did so gladly, filling up my coffee cup (and as I did so, I got a nice shout out from Anthony–thank you, sir!) and heading to Ms. Sherrie’s line. Tiffany was right: Ms. Sherrie is truly a gem. I was struck with the depth of affection and support they share with each other. My brief but thoroughly enjoyable interaction reminded me that it’s not just the professors and professional staff on our campus who profoundly affect the lives of our students. Indeed, it was clear to me that Tiffany and Ms. Sherrie have a relationship that is meaningful for both of them, and that they both value as an important part of their lives. It is humbling–but totally awesome–to realize and appreciate that. I shamelessly took a selfie with Ms. Sherrie to remind myself of the power of those who quietly and graciously make our campus home to our students.
I now find myself in Caldwell Lounge with a few minutes to kill before I head downstairs to my ENG 282 class. It’s pretty cool to be here as a student, especially when I look up and see our Associate Dean of Research and Engagement going into the dean’s suite for a meeting I usually attend. I commiserate with a professor sitting across from me. At first, I think he’s pretty emotional, and he keeps rubbing his eyes, inhaling deeply, and softly sniffling. Finally, I ask him if he’s OK. He says yes, he’s trying to fight off a cold so that he can continue teaching for the rest of the day. “After all, teachers are never supposed to be sick,” he adds with a wry smile. I return the smile and nod, again appreciating the dedication of my colleagues to their work.
Dean Johnson 10:10 am MEET WITH SPIA DIRECTOR I then met with Dr. Richard Mahoney, the director of the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). SPIA is actually the only school within CHASS and it was created in 2003 with two departments: Public Administration and Political Science. It was interesting to talk to Dr. Mahoney because I discovered he has a Ph.D. and a JD. He earned one of his degrees from Princeton. I really enjoyed speaking to him because he did practice law and that is a route I’m not sure if I want to go down yet. One thing I will take away from this meeting is something he said to me: Ask people for things you want and need that they can do! This really hit home for me because of course the concern is not wanting to intrude on others. He told me not to worry about that and a lot of the time people are willing to help.
Student Braden 10:15 am CLASS GETS UNDERWAY. We’re tasked with assembling in our groups to discuss the film “Pleasantville.” I offer to take notes for our group, as I saw the movie so long ago I barely remember it. My fellow classmates, a mix of CHASS juniors and seniors and one biological sciences major, discuss the movie in ways that surprise me. What had seemed to me to be an interesting and moderately entertaining film suddenly takes on a whole new meaning as the class explores (with thought-provoking questions from the instructor) what various scenes mean. I’m reminded that few things are as they seem. To be more precise, although there is an overt plot, setting, and characters (what our instructor called the framed narrative) there lie rich layers of meaning below the surface (what our instructor called the embedded narrative). I’ve never taken a film class in my life, and I am utterly fascinated. Not only are there metaphors and symbols that I saw and never considered, I am also fascinated with deliberate references in the movie to scenes from other movies (most notably, To Kill a Mockingbird). I don’t want class to end, and I vow to head to Netflix to watch Pleasantville again. Armed with my new insights, I know it will mean much, much more to me.
The most meaningful take-away for me was the reminder that the disciplines in our college are those ultimately engaged in meaning. Other disciplines on our campus help us understand and, through technology, design, and innovation, enhance our physical world, which is very important indeed. Their work provides us with practical knowledge and products essential to our lives. The disciplines in our college help us understand who we were and who we are, and why it matters. The richness and depth that just one film studies class adds to my understanding of a film is a tantalizing example of what the humanities and the social sciences bring to our college, our campus, and our community. I leave the class inspired, grateful, and hungry for more.
Dean Johnson 11:00 am DEVELOPMENT OFFICE APPOINTMENT Since we were unable to have lunch due to adverse weather, I spoke briefly on the phone with Brandi Orbin, CHASS Associate Director of Development. I shared my experience with Robert Creeden with Brandi and she explained that is basically what she does in her job. Her role here is to primarily raise gifts from alumni. CHASS has 32,000 living alumni, which is great considering it recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. When she meets with alumni, Brandi told me she tries to discover how to get them more involved in the college. On some days she might cold call uninvolved members and invite them back to campus to become involved once again.
11:15 am COMMUNICATION DEPARTMENT MEETING I met with my former professor and Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Studies, Edward Funkhouser, since Department Head Dr. Ken Zagacki was unavailable due to adverse weather. He spoke to me a little bit about the curriculum, and all the effort it takes to add new courses to the curriculum. (It’s really complicated!) He them informed me he was getting ready for Communication Week which I had no idea existed. It takes place March 31 – April 3 of this year and I think I will go check it out. They have cool events ranging from Public Relations Day to a speech contest called Wolfpack Speaks. Before our meeting was over I had to ask him about photography tips. I recently bought a professional camera and I’m excited to get my hobby up and running. We looked through a few pictures from his work and he broke down a couple pictures and gave me great insight on how to capture the perfect image.
11:45 am MEET WITH CHASS COMMUNICATION DIRECTOR Lauren Kirkpatrick sought my advice on the design of the cover for the new Accolades alumni magazine. I don’t want to share too much information about what we discussed since the issue has not been released. However, I truly enjoyed our meeting.
12:05 pm DEBRIEF AND LUNCH Student Braden came back to my office and we debriefed on all the events that happened during our day. We took a few pictures, and then we headed over to Applebee’s to meet a few of my friends for lunch. My friends were very excited to meet Student Braden. We learned a lot about Student Braden’s life and all he has been through in his years as a 42nd year psychology student. My friends and I also shared our experiences of what it is like to be African-American at a predominately white institution. That is always a touchy subject to discuss, but we handled it well. Overall, the lunch was definitely one to remember.
Student Braden 12:10 pm CHASS DEAN’S OFFICE. Despite our plans to trade places for a full 24 hours, the weather has other plans in store for us. Classes are canceled at noon in advance of the largest snow/ice storm of the season to date. As a consolation, I invite Dean Johnson to join me and the friends she had arranged for me to meet for lunch. Although she has sent our CHASS office staff home for the afternoon, and I remind her that I usually stay and staff the desk until the regular closing time at 5:00, she has declared (rightly) that she’s leaving, too. So, we drive to Applebee’s on Hillsborough and Gorman just as the snow begins to fall.
Dean Johnson’s friends are everything that I find NC State students to be–gracious, funny, and smart. They readily welcome me into their group as I learn more about them and they learn a little bit about me. However, I can’t help but appreciate they afford me the opportunity to understand something I’ll never experience: what it’s like to be a student of color. I listen with rapt attention as they note how pro-diversity NC State is, and how the multicultural student center and other aspects of campus provide them a rich and varied set of opportunities to make friends and better understand diversity issues. Clearly, NC State is welcoming, and is large enough to have a critical mass of students from diverse backgrounds so that they are not alone. They speak of professors (two specifically in my home department of psychology: Dr. Brookins and Dr. Nacoste) who both inspire and educate, creating rich new insights into understanding diversity. However, they also talk about being the only one (or maybe two) in their classes, and how uncomfortable they feel when issues of race are discussed. I’m pleased (and I think they are, too) that our professors engage in such topics head-on, but I appreciate their discomfort with feeling that, when they speak, they are somehow speaking for all black people–or, if they remain silent, they are agreeing with the other opinions expressed. These are real issues from which they do not flinch, but which they have also lived throughout their lives. I reflect on how easy it is for an unimpaired, well-educated white male to be oblivious to these issues, and how much I appreciate their trust in sharing with me their candid and honest thoughts and feelings. Once again, I appreciate how much the Dean for a Day experience opens my eyes to what it’s like to be a student on our campus.
Jeff Braden 2:45 pm HOME AGAIN. I’m back at my house, grateful the power is on and the place is warm, having just taken over an hour to make what’s normally a 10-15 min. drive. As a guy who grew up in Wisconsin and learned to drive on snow, I’m a little puzzled by all the hoopla (if Wisconsin shut down every time they got a few inches of snow, they’d be closed 4 months out of the year!). However, I recognize that, even though I know how to drive on snow, I’m not going to go any faster than the car in front of me. Although I’m disappointed that my Student for a Day experience is ending a few hours early, I’m still pleased to have had the chance to trade places. I feel fortunate to be reminded of the great staff who make our campus a home to our students, our faculty who inspire them to deeper levels of understanding, and most of all, our students, who enrich my life–and those of my colleagues–every day. I do indeed have the best job on the planet, even if I have to give it up one day a year to remember that fact.
Tiffany Johnson HOME AGAIN The Dean for a Day experience taught me a lot about adversity. The Wolfline that I usually ride to campus was running late because they were under adverse weather policies. As a result, I was a little bit late to work. Some of my meetings were adjusted due to weather, but it reminded me about something Dean Braden emphasized both during the Dean’s Brown Bag Lunch and at today’s lunch with my friends: Some of the best things happen when they are not planned. Sometimes life is about going with the flow, and I certainly did that today. I became calm because everyone was so nice and wanted my day to go well. Everyone was a bit sad that I didn’t get to enjoy to whole day. However, I was able to join the dean and my friends for lunch and was able to go home and relax and watch the rest of the snow fall. My 24 hours as Dean has been amazing! I enjoyed every second of it, and Dean Braden is such a standup guy that he helped me to not be nervous and enjoy myself. I know this job is not all play, so I’m happy to return to my life as a student and let him get back to all the hard stuff. But I will never forget this experience! Never ever ever!