Dean for a Day: Bridging the gap between students and faculty
By Cody Louie | Published Jan. 29, 2018
As part of an effort to bridge to the gap in communication, Sophomore Psychology major and General Education Mentor (GEM) Jianna Pisa swapped roles with Acting Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Jonathan Mercantini for a day.
“I learned about Dean for a Day from examining the Liberal Arts college at North Carolina State University,” said Mercantini. “ The dean there is a national leader and innovator and it was something he did — I thought it would be great to do it at Kean.”
The application was posted on Cougar Link and it attracted candidates from different majors at Kean.
Interested applicants had to submit their major, GPA, Thursday schedule and an essay on what they would like to achieve as Dean for a Day and how their schedule would be beneficial to Mercantini.
Pisa, a 4.0 GPA student was selected because of her accomplishments, schedule and involvement on campus. Her situation gave Mercantini the ability to learn about many different aspects of student life at Kean.
The event’s goal is to “publicize what the Dean’s office does besides being a mythical creature,” said Mercantini.
On Nov. 30, Pisa began her day as dean by meeting with a student focus group to discuss their feelings and to get a better perspective of what students go through at Kean.
The focus group was made up of student ambassadors from various departments in the College of Liberal Arts who volunteered at the most recent open house.
The students brought up issues pertaining to advisement, being more comfortable communicating with faculty and class difficulty.
“Not every student knows how to read their guidesheet,” said Joy Ann Dimaculangon, senior Psychology major.
The students voiced their opinions on advisement, and how a lot of the time, it can leave them feeling just as lost as when they went in. Issues with conflicting schedules with advisors, going to different ones and even how to talk to them without feeling nervous came to the table as well.
The focus group shared sentiments that it can be di cult for students to feel comfortable approaching professors and advisors for problems.
“The one thing that people draw upon from their past when they’re in college is their connection with their professors and I think it’s so important,” said Junior Theatre Performance major Connor McKenna.
“One of the things she and I really talked about was trying to come up with ways to lessen the distance in an appropriate way between faculty on the one hand, and students on the other,” said Mercantini. “I know I forget that it can be intimidating for students to come in and talk to a dean or professor.”
Pisa also met with Associate Provost Dr. Suzanne Bousquet to discuss the issues discussed in the focus group. She also held a Dean’s Leadership Meeting with directors from the various majors in the College of Liberal Arts. Both Mercantini and Pisa went on a tour of the residence halls as well.
“On my tour of the new Upper Residence Hall I started to think of ways to bring academic programming in exciting ways into the residence life community,” said Mercantini.
As a student, he attended Pisa’s classes, starting the day with Life-Span Developmental Psychology with Professor Lauren Mastrobuono.
He also attended her Research & Technology class with Professor Sharmistha Das-Iyer as well as ended the day with one of the Transfer to Kean classes she helps with. As a GEM, she assists incoming freshman transition from high school to college.
“Support during college is very important and GEMS are that support to help freshman succeed through their college years,” said Pisa.
Afterwards, both Mercantini and Pisa gained new perspectives on how things operate for dean and student respectively.
“I feel like I have a much better perspective on the student experience at Kean,” said Mercantini. “One thing that came out of sharing my day with Jianna was to work on some ways to encourage students to reach out and work directly with faculty/staff/administrators in different ways.”
“I was able to learn exactly what a Dean does and how much of an impact he has on our lives as College of Liberal Arts students,” said Pisa. “I was also able to see how much responsibility and professionalism is needed to perform the di cult tasks that he has to complete.”
Both parties gained new insight and brought ideas to the table to look out for in the upcoming semesters.