Commentary  Trading places on campus

McGill student shadows Dean of Arts

As I was checking my email and surfing the Internet during a few spare moments at school one afternoon, an ad for McGill Trading Places 2010 popped up on the screen and caught my eye. The Student Organization of Alumni Relations (SOAR) holds this event every year. For a day, a senior member of the administration walks the halls of a faculty as an undergraduate; in return, a student shadows the administrator for a day in their work. This year, the administrator chosen was Christopher Manfredi, dean of the Faculty of Arts.

As a U1 B.Mus/B.Ed (jazz saxophone) student, I knew very little about Manfredi’s faculty, so the concept intrigued me. I had not yet taken a course in the Faculty of Arts, but had been involved with the orchestra for the Arts Undergraduate Theatre Society’s productions of HAIR and Cabaret. I knew a little bit about the main Arts Building from being around for those productions, but I had no idea what the Dean of Arts’ job involved. I put together my application immediately after seeing the web site, and was selected from the pool of applicants to trade places with Manfredi for a day.

While shadowing Manfredi one Wednesday morning, I had the opportunity to take part in many important meetings and to learn firsthand what the job entails. First of all, we met with the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) president Karina Gould and discussed the faculty and student life. It was satisfying to see that the dean takes a great interest in the development of student life within the faculty through AUS. There were also some upcoming AUS projects discussed in the meeting that could be very interesting to members of the Music Undergraduate Students’ Association.

The rest of the morning was filled with meetings about developing alumni relations abroad through the Hong Kong DAR representative, and about budgeting for the Dean of Arts Development Fund, which Manfredi has a significant amount of control over. I never realized how much travelling the dean’s job entails. It seems like a very busy position, but rewarding in that one does get to meet many different people, travel internationally, improve some aspects of McGill for arts students, and have an influential voice on many pressing issues that arise within the faculty.

When Manfredi shadowed me one week later, it was an interesting day of classes, but not a typical day at all: three classroom lectures, without touching a single musical instrument! We started out with Tonal Theory and Analysis II at 9:30, Advanced Wind Techniques at 10:30, a faculty tour at 11:30, lunch at 12:30, and Jazz History at 1:30. It was interesting having a dean with very little musical experience – a bit of experience on violin at a younger age – following along in a coursepack full of scores in classical sonata form, listening as the class analyzed bar after bar of music. Advanced Wind Tech was an extremely small class, with a guest speaker on Renaissance brass. After class was finished, we took a tour of the Faculty of Music before heading off for lunch with a group of other music undergraduates across the street at a café. Then we ran off to Jazz History.

The entire experience was a great opportunity to learn about the goings-on in McGill administration that students never hear about. It was fascinating to learn about Dean of Arts position, and then to show a McGill administrator through some of the high points of an undergraduate music education at the Schulich School of Music.

The print version of this article was truncated. This is the full version. Bethany McKenna is a U1 Music and Education student. Write her at