I hope, by now, in reading this series of stories about the Shadow a Student Challenge, you’ve noticed each administrator views their experience from a slightly different angle. It is fitting that we finish this series of personal interviews with the words of wisdom from Dr. Jane Schuh, vice president for Research and Creative Activity.
Throughout our interview, Schuh frequently mentioned the importance of perspective. Administrators, faculty, staff, and students view the happenings at this university from slightly different perspectives. Each viewpoint is equally important, but when all are presented together, the significance becomes very powerful. It is evident this Shadow a Student Challenge has the potential to provide opportunities for change on campus.
I Got the Best Match
The initial introduction to shadowing a student came to Schuh by way of Dr. Carrie Anne Platt’s series of social media posts highlighting her first shadow a student experience. As a full-time administrator who is interested in how being a student has changed over the years, Schuh took note of Platt’s initial “aha” moments. The opportunity for Schuh to have her own enlightening moments came when Dr. Laura Oster Aaland mentioned in a President’s Cabinet meeting that she would like to bring the Shadow a Student Challenge to NDSU, in an effort to identify new ways to support students. Schuh could not pass up this chance to walk in the shoe-s of a North Dakota State University (NDSU) student. (pun intended)
Schuh wasn’t sure who made the matches, but as she put it, “I think I got the best match.” Her student for the day was Aaron Mercadel, a marketing major from California who also happens to be a Bison football player. (Don’t tell Schuh that all the administrators we spoke with said nearly the exact same thing about their matches.)
Collegiate Athlete Life
Since her match was a football player, a large portion of their day was spent in the dining centers on campus. That particular day the pair sat alone at a table. Schuh asked Mercadel if he usually sits with his fellow athletes. He indicated they were all sitting at different tables because they knew an administrator was shadowing him that day. But, Schuh, being a personable kind of administrator, invited them to sit at their table. A few of the basketball players took her up on the offer and came over to eat with the pair.
This dining opportunity gave Schuh a chance to really hear about what it means to be an athlete and a student. For example, football players, and many other athletes, are required to eat at the dining centers ten times per week. An athlete playing at a very high level burns through a lot of calories quickly. Eating frequent, well-balanced meals ensures athletes are meeting their daily nutritional and calorie requirements. While seemingly insignificant, the idea of maintaining good nutrition is just one more thing students need to balance in their day. Being a student athlete heightens the awareness of this basic need.
While seemingly insignificant, the idea of maintaining good nutrition is just one more thing students need to balance in their day.
Many students function with subpar resources for a variety of reasons. Mercadel’s daily activities are so busy he has no time for a job outside of school and athletics. This leaves Mercadel with little money left over for his everyday transportation costs. Schuh said, “His car is not the most reliable, but being the down-to-earth guy that he is, he makes it work.”
Many of Mercadel’s classes were in Barry Hall, a building located off campus. He often drives to and from campus many times during the day to accommodate his classes and scheduled eating plan. Schuh wonders how many students are in similar situations, lacking some basic need whether or not they have a job outside of school. Schuh suggests that “supporting the basic needs of all students is an opportunity for change that can make a significant impact on the success of our students.”
Schuh is proud that NDSU talks about students being our focus. She says, “Without students and without research, we really don’t have a university.” She goes on to explain, “Our land-grant heritage reminds us that education should be accessible.” Schuh reminds us of the value of the perspective of just one individual student, because it associates an individual’s face with the problems many students face. Advocating for change is much easier when you know the face of someone who is struggling in that area.
Advocating for change is much easier when you know the face of someone who is struggling in that area.
“This Shadow a Student Challenge has been enlightening, because it shows you that students aren’t all the same,” said Schuh. She noted, it is interesting to see that students have varying support systems and use them differently. Dr. Rhonda Kitch mentioned in her interview how important family support is for the well-being of students. Read about Kitch’s shadow experience here.
Mercadel is an excellent example of a student’s support system because he is very connected to his family and friends back in California. Schuh was impressed that he communicates with his mom nearly every day. I suspect receiving feedback, and the mature perspective of a parent or friend helps a student form a more complete picture of their life when they are struggling, which may help motivate them toward success. As a university, we should foster student’s use of their support systems in any way we can.
Later that day, Schuh got to participate in a time-honored football pre-game tradition with Mercadel. No, she did not put on cleats, a jersey, or pads, nor did she provide any offense or defense support for the team, but she was not just sitting on the sidelines either. That day he was ‘watching film,’ a term used in sports for reviewing plays of your team and/or an opposing team. Mercadel offered for her to skip out on that activity, but being the true football fan that she is; she was ecstatic to be watching film.
Schuh recognizes that, while administrators learn a lot about students during this experience, a one-day student shadow experience may not be a true reflection of every student’s life.
Schuh acknowledged it is a big undertaking to go to college, not just for athletes but for all students. She is impressed with students who balance school and other outside commitments, like athletics. Schuh’s overall impression of Mercadel is “he is such a mature individual who is also a lovely human.” She goes on to say, “NDSU’s athletic department, administrators, teachers, and support staff put ‘student’ before ‘athlete’. I’m really proud of that. The mentoring and coaching that Aaron has had on and off the field at NDSU are going to positively impact the rest of his life. I can’t wait to see Aaron’s impact in the world. I know it’s going to be great!”
If you are interested in participating in a future Shadow a Student Challenge, contact Dr. Carrie Anne Platt. Also, let us know in the comments below if you have any questions for Dr. Schuh regarding her experience with the Shadow a Student Challenge.
Read the experiences of other participants:
- Dr. Scott Pryor, associate dean for undergraduate programs of the College of Engineering.
- Dr. Rhonda Kitch, former NDSU registrar.
- Dr. Carrie Anne Platt, associate dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
- Dr. Tim O. Peterson, professor of management , College of Business
About the Author
In more than 14 years at NDSU, Jadrny has learned a lot about higher education. She curates this blog to allow all individuals to continue learning about higher education and best practices in teaching.
Let’s learn together!