Monday, July 15, 2013

Hall, Laurencin Share President for a Day Experience

Senior Marsha Laurencin swaps roles with President Hall for a day …
Editor's note: Laurencin is UVI's first President for a Day. She swapped roles with UVI President Dr. David Hall for one day so that each could gain a different perspective. The next President for a Day role reversal will be held on UVI's Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix.

Last President’s Day, University of the Virgin Islands Biology major Marsha Laurencin awoke early, donned a trendy skirt suit and got into her four door sedan. She drove down to UVI, a drive she had taken many times over the last three years attending classes. But instead of hustling off to an 8 a.m. organic chemistry class, she pulled into the UVI president’s reserved parking space and headed to the president’s office to begin her day as UVI’s President for a Day.

Laurencin stepped into her office. Waiting for her were Executive Assistant to the President Una Dyer and Chief of Staff Dr. Noreen Michael. Laurencin’s schedule was packed. She had meetings with UVI’s Student Government Association, a board of trustees member, the vice president of Institutional Advancement, the director of the Reichhold Center for the Arts and, the most highly anticipated meeting on her schedule, a session with UVI’s top administrative team – the President’s Cabinet. “I was nervous about their opinion – how it would turn out,” Laurencin says. “It was great. The feedback I got from the cabinet was great.”

The cabinet meeting was especially important to her as she hoped the board would pass a proposal that is close to her heart. As an organic chemistry intern, Laurencin is passionate about projects that aim to preserve the environment. She proposed that UVI create a Composting and Campus Sustainability Project.

Laurencin says she learned much from being president for a day, including that the job is not a one man show. She adds, “I did expect back-to-back meetings with presidential staff, making important decisions for the University, but my actual experience involved more work than I thought and was more intense than I imagined.”

Student: David Hall

UVI President Dr. David Hall thought he was prepared to step into the shoes of a student. Then his wife, acting as his parent, asked if he had sheets, a pillowcase and towels for his room. “Don’t they provide that,” he asks. He got another bag and put those things together. “It dawned on me, because its been awhile, students have to bring a lot of stuff,” says Dr. Hall.  Then he realized that with an 8 a.m. class and room orientation at 10 a.m., he had no way to get his bags to his room. So he did as many students do, he asked his wife, now acting as his parent, to do that.

“That early experience before even arriving made me feel like I really am a student,” he says. “I am having some of the nervousness that students have. I think that really shapes the day.”

Now he was almost ready to take on the role of a student and walk uphill to his 8 a.m. organic chemistry class. He wore a T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. Hall donned his headphones and grabbed his backpack.   
 “I was very nervous about being late for class that morning,” says President Hall who planned to leave his home at 7:30 a.m. to walk uphill to UVI’s upper campus. “I just knew it was going to take me 30 minutes. I really got there in 10 minutes. Though our campus has a lower campus and an upper campus, I realized the St. Thomas Campus is more compact than I realized and students can navigate pretty well.”
Satisfied that he was early for the teleconferenced advanced chemistry class, Dr. Hall was ready to get into his role as a student… until the lesson began. “The major challenge was organic chemistry,” he says. “I did not know what was going on.”
Dr. Hall adds, “The class was well taught and was well organized. The students there were very much engaged in the class.”
He listed the most challenging experiences of his day in order as organic chemistry, Zumba and video games. As part of the President for a Day swap, Dr. Hall spent the night in West Residence Hall. “My suite mates at night in the residence hall invited me to play video games,” said Dr. Hall. “I don’t play video games. It really was a challenge. I was losing badly. It was clear that they were having joy.” He says many students came into the residence hall and he feels this reflects the comradery among UVI students. “I was so proud of our students,” says Dr. Hall. “We have some wonderful students.”
Dr. Hall and Laurencin shared their President for a Day role reversal experience in a follow-up session in West Residence Hall that was teleconferenced to both UVI’s campuses and the St. John Academic Center. It was also heard via live broadcast on the student-run radio station WUVI 1090.
“I felt like a new student and had all of the nervous anxiety that new students have,” said Dr. Hall recalling his experience. “Will anybody talk with me? Will anybody allow me to sit with them? How will I become a part? And students just reached out to me in such a warm thoughtful way from the organic chemistry class to the study group. I was no longer alone and that felt wonderful.”
President Laurencin
Laurencin says she enjoyed her President for a Day experience. “I just felt that initially it was a great idea, to bridge the gap between students and the University administration and also I was attracted to the learning scholarship opportunities because it provided privileged exposure,” says Laurencin.
Visit UVI’s YouTube channel to see highlights of UVI’s first President for a Day experience.