One East Carolina University student recently had the opportunity to serve as “Dean for a Day” in the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences.
Dana Shefet, an EC Scholar and Honors College freshman seeking dual degrees in mathematics and public health studies, entered and won a contest to fill in for Dean William M. Downs on April 11.
“At ECU, we are committed to shaping tomorrow’s leaders. We designed our ‘Dean for a Day’ initiative to give one talented arts and sciences student some firsthand experience with university administration,” said Downs. “Just as important for me was the chance to switch places with Dana, to walk in a student’s shoes for the day and to listen to students’ ideas for improving their educational experience. As the day turned out, it was an invaluable experience for both of us to learn about life on the other side.”
In interviewing for the opportunity to be dean, Shefet said her goals included finding ways to make students feel like more than just a number in the college and to get them engaged outside of the classroom to prepare for their careers.
“I thought ‘Dean for a Day’ would be a great idea,” said Shefet. “I was very excited and honored that I was the inaugural participant.”
Acting as dean gave Shefet and the ability to see the leadership required in running the largest and most diverse academic college at ECU.
Shefet met with the college’s staff and advisers, associate deans, professors, students, the THCAS Dean’s Student Leadership Council and ECU’s Chair of the Faculty Dr. John Stiller and Provost Ron Mitchelson.
“The thing that most surprised me was how many positions within the college exist, and I think if more students knew about the structure and the different people they could turn to for help besides their adviser, they could be a lot more successful,” said Shefet.
Through her experience, Shefet said she heard multiple times how the college and faculty are here to assist the students. “They are trying to learn what is best for the students for them to succeed and thrive,” she said.
While Shefet whisked between meetings across campus, Downs’ day started by joining a group of arts and sciences students for coffee at the Wright Place Starbucks. He later hosted a luncheon for Shefet’s peers in the dean’s conference room.
“I gathered so many good suggestions, and I am eager for us to get busy implementing them,” said Downs.
That afternoon, Downs attended Shefet’s Chemistry 1160 class taught by Dr. Robert Hughes.
“I had not sat in a chemistry class as a student in some 34 years,” Downs admitted. “It was both engaging and, candidly, a bit humbling. I observed a star faculty member in action, and I gained some serious appreciation for the students around me who were mastering the principles of electrochemistry.”
One of the aspects of the day that Shefet said she enjoyed most were the connections she made with the professors who really wanted her feedback.
“I can’t wait to see the college continue this in future years,” said Shefet.
Shefet is active within the Greenville and ECU communities. She is class president of Alpha Omicron, a chapter of the Gamma Sigma Sigma international service sorority; clinic volunteer at the Greenville Community Shelter; vice president of Pirates for Israel, an advocacy organization; and vice president of East Carolina Hillel, a Jewish youth group. She is a member of the Brody School of Medicine Peer Mentor Program, Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-health professions honor society and the ECU chapter of the American Medical Students Association.
Shefet will complete her degrees in 2021 before applying to medical school. Her career goal is to go into a family medical practice serving the rural populations of North Carolina.
-by Lacey L. Gray, University Communications