Dean Mandeep Kaur takes charge – for a day. Photo: Whit Pruitt.

“Okay, now what?”

That’s what I thought after I won the Dean for the Day Election. I was going to be the head honcho of the Honors College and had no clue what it would entail but luckily, I had my dean boots and my fresh energy to help me. While my energy remained the same, my day had an ever-changing energy.

A Bollywood Morning

Chancellor shakes hands with student dean.

Chancellor Steinmetz welcomes Dean Kaur.

Growing up, I lived and breathed Bollywood movies. I did not even know that music existed outside of Bollywood until I started first grade. Hence, it’s only logical that I think of my life as an extension of a Bollywood movie.
I started the morning as the clueless hero. My name on the door, a personal name-plaque and the corner office was new to me but I was excited. What I was initially less excited about was the meeting with the Big Boss: the Chancellor. Stereotypically, any person in that high of a power position is thought of as terrifying to the mere mortal.
So, off the clueless hero went, occupied by her loyal companion, Associate Dean Popp, to face the Big Boss. However, the Big Boss was less intimidating and more welcoming than I thought he would be. During our thirty-minute conversation, we discussed research and the goals of the University which includes the addition of an interdisciplinary research building. I left feeling as if I did not face the Big Boss but met an ally who would help me later on in my Bollywood life.
However, what Bollywood movie is complete without a musical interlude. When I got to my office, I busted out the glue and googly eyes, cranked the Baazigar soundtrack, and got to work. At first, I was hesitant about sticking the googly eyes on, slightly worried about Dean Coon’s reaction, but I soon relaxed and made anyone that entered my office grab a glue stick and get to work. Hence, my musical interlude with backup dances – or in this case backup gluers – and the movie was complete.

Holly Jolly Afternoon

Reproduction of a page from a Carolingian manuscript, adorned with google eyes.

Following Dean Kaur’s tenure, this reproduction of a Carolingian manuscript page has its eyes on Dean Coon. Hrabanus Maurus, “In Honor of the Holiday Cross,” Vatican manuscript, ca. 830, with addition by Mandeep Kaur.

While having a Bollywood fantasy was nice, I could not live my fantasy out the entire day. I decided to switch up the Bollywood music to Christmas music to bring out the holly jolly mood. An important part of Christmas and the holiday season, in general, is reflection. During lunch with the Honors College staff, I reflected that I am grateful for the scholarships that the Honors College offers since it allows first-generation students such as myself to attend college and to further my education. The only reason that I was able to become aware of the Honors College and apply to these programs was that my sister went to the University of Arkansas. Without her, I would have been clueless about what to apply for and why I should be in the Honors College. It is very likely that are other high school students like me who are clueless about the college admission process, since their parents have never gone through the system.
Another issue that I was able to bring awareness to during the staff lunch and my meeting with the provost was the issue of becoming the representative of your race and culture instead of being considered as an individual. Due to my introduction about Bollywood and my skin color, it is very obvious that I am Indian. While I take pride in my identity, often when professors or staff are discussing issues regarding race or have a question about cultural differences, they look toward me, especially when I am the only person of color in the classroom. Outside of a classroom setting, I have had advisors ask me personally invasive questions since they were curious about my race and culture. While I do appreciate their effort to become educated, oftentimes, I feel as if they are looking at my life as a curiosity; something to be studied instead of something that exists alongside the majority culture. I brought these concerns to the Provost and also informed him that I was not angry at the faculty or the staff who have done this, but I do wish for change. Most times, these situations arise out of ignorance, and I would like to see education implemented on the theme of diversity. Through my reflections, I gifted the University with knowledge of issues on diversity that they may not have been aware of.

However, since I was feeling extra generous, I continued the gift of giving in Dean Coon’s office. During my office hours, I had a hefty army of gluers who continued to work tirelessly even when I had to go to a meeting. With their gracious help, Dean Coon’s office now happily holds over 600 eyes. (Dean Coon if you’re reading this: We’re always watching.)

Jazzy Retirement

Dean Lynda Coon and Student Dean Mandeep Kaur greet guests.

Dean Coon and Dean Kaur greet guests at the Faculty Awards Reception.

While my reign as Dean for the Day was fun and educative, it couldn’t last forever. My last task as a Dean was being the Welcome-Man at the Honors College Faculty Awards Recepton. Standing out by the door, I must have introduced myself to more than 50 people – even though I couldn’t understand anyone over the trombone quartet. Yet, this was not my only responsibility of the night. I had to give a welcome speech as an opening to the ceremony that was mostly improvised. While at the podium, Dean Coon also informed me that I would be putting the medals on the six honorees, which was probably the most complicated part of the day. While I was putting the medals on, I had someone say to me, “I don’t know what to do; I’ve never been knighted before.” Well, to be fair, I never had knighted someone before either.
Despite a few awkward knightings, I would 100 percent take the responsibility to be Dean for the Day if I ever have the opportunity again. I was able to be in a position where I felt my voice was heard even if I had to improvise at times. Overall, a smile never left my face and my boots never left my feet. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and my reign is now over so this is goodbye.


Peace Out,

Mandeep Kaur
Dean Emeritus of the Honors College