On Tuesday, November 6, first-year chemical engineering major and Bodenhamer Fellow Christina Trexler became the second student Dean for a Day in the Honors College. Her deanship was jam-packed with meetings: she spoke to Chancellor Joe Steinmetz, Provost Jim Coleman, current honors students, staff and program directors…but, following in the footsteps of inaugural Dean for a Day Andrew Palmer, she made sure to make a little room for some office shenanigans, as well. Here, Dean Trexler reflects on her experience as our fearless leader.
I am saddened to announce that my reign as Dean of the Honors College is over; however I am sure that the experience will stick with me forever. I attempted to enter into Tuesday, November 6th, with no expectations, but the Honors College never ceases to surprise me.
My schedule was definitely intimidating at first glance. I was to meet with Chancellor Steinmetz first thing in the morning, followed by Provost Coleman. Afterwards I was to meet with fellow honors students, Honors College staff, and the directors of the honors programs on campus.
Though I was anxious leading up to my first meeting, Chancellor Steinmetz immediately made me feel comfortable. We talked about his past in academia and what ultimately led him to administration, and his story inspired me. As a first-generation college student, he switched majors five times before finding his passion in neuroscience and research. After a long and hugely successful career revolving around neuroscience research, he found that his passions began to shift from himself to his students, and he became eager to watch them succeed. He embraced this shift, and that eventually led him to become the chancellor of the University of Arkansas. I told him that I am also very interested in pursuing a career in research, and that his story inspired me and made me consider the possibility of ultimately finding my place in administration. Chancellor Steinmetz was also kind enough to offer to read over and provide constructive criticism on my personal statement for a research program that I am applying to this summer, which exemplifies just how eager he is to contribute to the success of his students.
Next, I headed to the office of Provost Coleman, where I was intrigued to find out that he too comes from a background in science and research. In fact, he hated the idea of being an administrator for a long time (and called it “the dark side”). However, we as a university are lucky he changed his mind, because Provost Coleman cares deeply about student success and the advancement of the University of Arkansas. As a plant physiological ecologist, he views the campus as an ecosystem, and he has a vision for a university where there is less emphasis on separate individual experiences, and more focus on an intertwining system of experiences.
Following my meetings with the Chancellor and the Provost, I got the chance to talk to honors students Katherine Games, Sydney Haldeman and Anindhitha Sudhakaran about the things we cherish about the Honors College, and ways we as students think it could be improved. We all agreed that our Honors College is hard to criticize, but we thought that the addition of an “honors peer mentor” could facilitate the transition of first-year honors students from high school to college. Also, Katherine was adamant that the addition of an “honors dog,” particularly a golden retriever, would improve the lives of honors students.
I was able to voice these ideas to honors staff and honors directors in the afternoon, which was a great opportunity to represent honors students first-hand, in a manner that cannot be done on any average day. I was pleased and excited to see that each staff member and director listened to my ideas with an open mind, and there wasn’t a moment when I felt I wasn’t being heard. They are eager to help students, and they want to discover the best ways to communicate with us, so I helped them brainstorm the most effective ways to do so. Heads up to students — Remind101 may be on the rise.
With all of that being said, there were also some less serious parts of the day that I would regret to leave out. First of all, the periodic messages from *student* Lynda Coon greatly enhanced the quality of my day, from her attempt to make her motor work by throwing Latin prayers at it in her 7:30 a.m. physics lab, to her 10 pages of very detailed notes in Honors Calculus 3. Second of all, I and the rest of my Bodenhamer class followed in our former Dean for a Day Andrew Palmer’s footsteps during my office hours, and scattered relics of our presence across Dean Coon’s office. This includes, but is not limited to, cut-outs of our faces imposed over those of medieval banqueters on Dean Coon’s Bayeux Tapestry. If all went as planned, she will be finding these relics for months.