EAS Student Union Vice-President becomes 'Dean for a Day'

April 18, 2023 by Christine Elstub - A&S News

Chelsea Wang, vice-president of the East Asian Studies Students’ Union, recently got to trade places with Melanie Woodin, Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, after winning a raffle held by the Arts & Science Student Union (ASSU). For one day, Wang attended Woodin’s meetings, while Woodin attended Wang’s class and worked a shift at her on-campus job as a tour guide. The raffle raised $3,735 for U of T food banks.

“The Dean for a Day fundraiser was a wonderful opportunity for Arts & Science students, faculty and staff to come together to learn from each other while giving back to the community,” says Woodin. “Trading places with Chelsea gave me fresh insight into the student experience, and my team gained invaluable feedback from Chelsea’s participation in meetings.”

Student Chelsea Wang posing with the dean in U of T Tour Guide tops
Dean Melanie Woodin covering Chelsea Wang’s shift as a U of T tour guide.

Wang’s day as dean kicked off with a series of back-to-back meetings with members of the academic leadership team, including acting vice-dean of undergraduate students Bill Ju, vice-provost of students Sandy Welsh, acting associate dean of student affairs Alana Boland and Faculty of Engineering dean Christopher Yip.

Chelsea Wang leading a meeting with
Chelsea Wang and vice-provost of students Sandy Welsh. 

The highlight of her day was chairing a meeting of Arts & Science vice-deans, where she learned about ongoing initiatives, such as improvements to student spaces like Robarts Common and the Sidney Smith Commons. She was pleased to learn about the team’s efforts to solicit student feedback on these projects and even shared her own insights during the meeting. “I was able to give feedback on what the student experience is like in those spaces,” says Wang. “I offered ideas about what can be improved, especially during exam time.”

Chelsea Wang leading a meeting of Arts & Science vice-deans
Chelsea Wang leading a meeting of Arts & Science vice-deans.

Meanwhile, Woodin attended Wang’s Modern East Asia lecture, where she chatted with EAS Associate Professor Yurou Zhong, interacted with students and even participated in the class discussion — although she admittedly had not completed the required readings.

After the lecture, she headed to the Nona Macdonald Visitors Centre to cover Wang’s shift as a U of T tour guide. Here she greeted a group of incoming students and their families before they toured the St. George campus.

Dean Woodin in a undergrad class
Dean Melanie Woodin arriving early for Chelsea Wang's morning lecture. Photo: Christine Elstub. 

“I really enjoyed attending class and chatting with current and future students. It was a great reminder of what it’s like to be a student here,” says Woodin, an Arts & Science alum.

For Wang, who is involved in student government, her experience as dean was also not entirely unfamiliar. “I found the meetings I attended similar to how student government meetings work, with members of different teams working together to get feedback and make improvements.”

Wang says she would participate in any future Dean for a Day raffles and encourages other students to do the same. “It supports a great cause, so it’s a nice way to get to know ASSU and participate in administrative life for a day.”