Students Become ‘Dean for a Day’

The pilot program gives six students the opportunity to shadow university administrators.

student sits with members of student affairs staff at circular table
George Washington University student Quincy McGee became "Dean for Day," during a day-long shadowing experience with Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller.
December 09, 2013

By Brittney Dunkins

Six George Washington University students traded the classroom for the office to participate in the Dean for a Day program, a new effort developed by the Division of Student Affairs (DSA) leadership team that paired administrators with students for a day-long shadowing experience.

The pilot program was launched in October in honor of National Careers in Student Affairs Month to provide a transparent view of university leadership and management in the areas of student affairs, career services, outreach and planning, student administrative services, student engagement, student support services and student wellness and prevention.

“The Dean for a Day program provides an opportunity for students to gain a first-person experience in university leadership and allows administrators to reflect on our work and see it through a student's perspective,” said Assistant Provost for University Career Services Rachel A. Brown.

After completing an application process, students Antwain Thomas, Zinhle Essamuah, Joey Maman, Shelby McKay, Michelle Dubow and Quincy McGee were chosen to shadow administrators in Student Affairs including Ms. Brown, Executive Director of Planning and Outreach Robert Snyder and Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine.

Assistant Vice President Andrew Sonn, Associate Dean of Students for Student Administrative Services and Senior Advisor to the Dean Danielle Lico and Associate Dean of Students Tim Miller also participated.

Each mentor involved students in their daily routine, from meetings with various staff members to discussions of current university initiatives, in order to give a 360-degree picture of their position within the university.

“Mr. Thomas joined me in meetings and had the opportunity to talk individually with staff in the Center for Career Services,” Ms. Brown said. “This experience provided a great opportunity for everyone to get to know each other on a different level and share feedback; the information flow definitely went both ways. It was an enlightening and enriching experience for us and I hope for the students as well!”

Mr. Levine said that the day he spent with Mr. Maman allowed him to think creatively during his staff meetings and consider the insights that Mr. Maman shared from his classroom and work experience.  

“The day was busy with staff meetings, committee work, budget discussions and parent conversations, which I think it gave him a snapshot into the rewarding field of student affairs. I am sure he will be a great dean of students one day!” he added. 

Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said that the program could be considered the formal re-launch of one created by former Dean of Students Gail Short Hanson. Through that program, Dr. Konwerski became the first undergraduate to shadow an administrator more than 22 years ago.

“I believe the option came up from Martha's Marathon, a Residence Hall Association fundraiser, and Dr. Short Hanson offered to have a student (me) shadow her for a day,” he said. “I had a terrific experience learning what her day was like, attending meetings, and meeting with staff and other students."

“Personally, it helped me see the value of a career in student affairs,” he added.

For Shelby McKay, a master’s candidate in the Graduate School of Education and Human Development’s Higher Education Administration program, the experience was equally inspiring. Ms. McKay chose to shadow Ms. Lico.

“My dream job would be an athletic director at a Division I institution,” Ms. McKay said. “The shadowing experience allowed me to see the different functions of a manager of students. We covered budget, housing issues and policies, all things I would never see as a student.”

“If a student is interested in working in higher education then this program is something he or she should take part in,” she added.

Zinhle Essamuah, a sophmore working as a house staff member in student affairs and corporate communications intern for the National Council of Higher Education Resources, became interested in the program after seeing a tweet from Dr. Konwerski and receiving an email from Mr. Miller encouraging interested students to apply.

She was paired with Mr. Snyder.

“One of the most engaging experiences of the day was sitting in on the DSA Assessment Committee meeting with representatives from Career Services, the Center for Student Engagement, Administrative and Hallmark Programs and the Presidential Administrative Fellowship Program,” Ms. Essamuah said. “I now have a notebook full of new terms, ideas and observations about this career, and I made professional contacts who I hope to continue connecting with and learning from.”

Transfer student Antwain Thomas shadowed Ms. Brown and also found that the experience helped him build new relationships that will facilitate his development as a student leader.

“I cannot say enough about my experience in this program,” Mr. Thomas said. “As a student, you are given an opportunity to share your ideas, contribute actionable solutions and develop key relationships to assist you in your personal and professional development. The value proposition of this program puts the student in the driver's seat to effect change.”

The Division of Student Affairs is currently determining whether it will offer the program again in the spring semester. Updated information regarding the status of the program will be available on the Dean for a Day website.

Student Life