Changing places and perspectives
Mar. 5, 2013
An IUPUI administrator and a School of Engineering and Technology student shared the experience of “walking a mile in another man’s shoes” in late February as Vice Chancellor for Student Life Zebulun Davenport and mechanical engineering junior Tim Allen took each other’s place in IUPUI’s “Vice Chancellor for a Day” event.
For both, the experience offered a unique glimpse of life from a different perspective. Davenport had to go to class, hang out with fellow “students,” and even take a quiz; Allen had to attend meetings, review Student Life facilities and programs, and even meet with Chancellor Charles Bantz’s Chief of Staff, Andrew Klein.
And the switch would not have been complete without media exposure, both social and traditional; Twitter provided the former, and the WISH-TV Channel 8 “Daybreak” program the latter.
“All of my friends found this whole thing to be humorous, because to them, I am one of the least serious persons anyone could ever meet,” said Allen. “For them to see me take on the job of running IUPUI for a day made them laugh.”
At first, Allen could have done without the Channel 8 spotlight. “Being on TV was probably one of the most nerve-wracking experience of my entire life,” he declared. “But looking back on it, I am glad it happened, because it turned out to be a great experience.”
The event started on Tuesday, Feb.19, when Davenport joined Allen and his classmates in the mechanical engineering class “Theory and Analysis of Mechanical Measurements.” Unfortunately for the vice chancellor, he walked into an academic buzz saw in the form of a class quiz, likely one of his more difficult tasks during the day.
But Allen and Davenport spent time doing other things that Allen and his fellow students do on a normal Tuesday; lunch and social time in the Campus Center food court, and walks from class to class and building to building.
Allen believes the vice chancellor experienced one of the things that he hoped would occur. “I wanted Dr. Davenport to see how much it means to the students that are involved in campus to have things to do, and places to gather,” Allen said.
Davenport echoed Allen’s thoughts. “I really enjoyed the swap, and it taught me a great deal about what it’s like to be a student at IUPUI,” the vice chancellor said. “My experience as a student for the day reinforced that having places to connect on campus is so important -- both in and out of the classroom.”
On Friday, Feb. 22, Allen took his turn in unfamiliar shoes, donning a suit-and-tie “uniform” for a day filled with meetings with Davenport’s staff in IUPUI’s Student Life operation, going over operational plans and reviewing facilities such as Student Governance spaces and the new residential units in University Tower (formerly University Place Conference Center and Hotel).
Allen found the work interesting, and believes that -- whether they realize it or not -- the Student Life experts are using the same type of skills that mechanical engineers use.
“As a mechanical engineer you are taught to look at a problem and consider every possible solution to a problem, no matter how far out there some of the solutions might be,” said Allen. “We then take those solutions and consider all of the possible outcomes of each solution. We do this until we narrow it down to the best decision.”
From what he saw, the same process applies in supervising Student Life. “These skills are particularly helpful with a job like Dr. Davenport’s, because he faces problems that need creative solutions every day.”
Allen even had a chance during his meeting with Klein to lobby a bit for some personal passions: Greek life (he’s an avid participant, and qualified for the “VC for a Day” program because of his role in the first annual Greek Olympics last fall) and the IUPUI Relay for Life. The Relay for Life is a nationwide program to fight cancer, and IUPUI will hold a 12-hour fundraising event April 13 to 14 to join the fight against the disease.
From Allen’s point of view, the “Vice Chancellor for a Day” event gave him a different vantage point on life on the IUPUI campus, and allowed him to bond with someone he might otherwise never have known.
“Dr. Davenport and I got along great the entire time,” Allen said. “We talked about a lot of things, and I learned that even though our jobs are very different, our lives are very much alike.”