Chancellor, student switch places for day

Sports Editor Jordan Childress won the chance to switch places with Chancellor Donna Henry on April 17 after he donated the most food to the annual Chancellor for A Day Canned Food Drive held April 1-5. 

Below are stories of the day written by Childress and Henry. 

“Chancellor” Childress 

Chancellor Donna Henry returns junior communication studies major Jordan Childress’ backpack on April 17 after they spent the day in each other’s shoes for the NRHH Chancellor For A Day event. Photo by Corey Sanchez | The Highland Cavalier
Chancellor Donna Henry returns junior communication studies major Jordan Childress’
backpack on April 17 after they spent the day in each other’s shoes for the NRHH Chancellor For A Day event. Photo by Corey Sanchez | The Highland Cavalier

After donating more than 300 pounds of food with the help of many others, I got the chance to be chancellor for a day. I had to wait a week before the big day, but it came soon enough as I switched places with Chancellor Donna Henry.

After putting on my three-piece suit, I was ready to take charge and hopefully not run the college into the ground. I met Chancellor Henry in the student center Wednesday morning to make the switch. Chancellor Henry was no longer chancellor – she was just Donna. I briefed Donna on my daily routine and gave her information about my classes for the day.

She had to turn in my accounting homework and do the assignment we were supposed to do in class. I also gave her a heads-up about what to expect in my ‘Talking Appalachian’ class.

This was one of the main reasons I wanted to win Chancellor for a Day: I wanted Donna to learn and understand more about the Appalachian mountains.

After we exchanged places, it was time for Chancellor Childress’ reign to begin. Office Service Assistant Linda Miller took me to my office and got me settled in. I had my own assistant and personal secretary in Rue Gembach.

Rue and Linda, you are two fine ladies and I enjoyed our day together. Linda, thank you for taking all the photos for my mother and Rue, thanks for making sure I knew what to do throughout the day.

I was busy from 8:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.

I met of course the vice chancellors of their respective departments: Sandy Huguenin, Keith Fowlkes, Rusty Necessary and Sim Ewing. At noon, I had lunch with four members of the Staff Council. This was new as well; I didn’t know the staff had a council. I shared lunch with Holly Meade, Chris Owens, Randy Patrick and Heather Stallard and they discussed what they do during staff council meetings.

One thing I thought was really interesting out of this meeting was that Mr. Patrick works at the print shop over in Human Resources. I had no clue we had a print shop on campus, either. After lunch I met with members of the development staff.

Ewing came back and gave me a tour of the Lila Vicars Smith House, which would be my house for the day. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to kick back my feet and enjoy it for long.

I met with Ronnie Short and Beau Boggs of campus police at the end of the day and got to personally thank them for their service and protection of this campus.

My reign ended at 3 p.m., sadly, but it was nice to hear from Chancellor Henry on what she thought of her day.

Overall, my experience was pretty cool and I’m glad I got to do it.

People kept asking me if I made any big changes, but that really wasn’t why I chose to participate in the event. I just wanted to see what she does and put a face with a name to those who send me countless emails throughout the day.

I hope more people are able to try to win this contest next year. Trust me, it’s worth it. I got my own lasagna for lunch, a nice UVa-Wise coffee cup with a plate and a pin that only the chancellor gets.

I know you want to try to be chancellor for a day next year.


“Student” Henry 

I was touring campus with Vice Chancellor Rusty Necessary when I first learned about “Chancellor for a Day.”

It was my first opportunity to meet with Dean Worley and the Student Affairs staff. Chris Owens asked if I would be interested in participating in “Chancellor for the Day.”

He explained that I would swap places with a student, and told me that Chancellor Prior had great fun playing video games in the residence halls. I quickly replied that I would be happy to participate.

When I returned to the office, I told Mrs. Rue Gembach that I had agreed to this activity, and that she should expect a call soon to choose a date. It would be fun to “hang out with the students for the day,” I said.  After a knowing look, Mrs. Gembach shared that the day would also include attending classes, taking notes and doing everything that the student might do, and she said Chancellor Prior even attended an organic chemistry class.

Fast forward to last week. I closely followed the NRHH chapter Facebook page and campus email updates to see who was ahead in the canned food drive. I was curious to know who would be chancellor and which classes I would attend. When I learned the chancellor would be Jordan Childress, I asked a few questions about classes and what my day would be like. I was informed that I would not learn about my day until the morning of the swap. No preparatory studying for classes, I guess! I only knew that Jordan worked for the Highland Cavalier as sports editor. I did however see (from my calendar) that Chancellor Childress would have a full day. I assumed mine would be the same!

On Tuesday night, I asked my daughters, Jessie and Maggie, for advice on what a college student would wear. Thinking back to my days in college, bell-bottom jeans, preppy collared shirts and down vests were the style. I was told, emphatically, I must add, that “I could not go retro!” I took Jessie and Maggie’s advice and wore jeans with a UVa-Wise t-shirt. Maggie agreed to let me borrow her UVa-Wise jacket in case it was cold in the classrooms.

I woke Wednesday morning to rain! As I walked the dogs, an alarm sounded and I rushed back to the house to see if there was anything I needed to address. I learned it was a false alarm with a smoke detector. I thought at least Chancellor Childress won’t have an emergency to handle. As I drove to my parking spot behind Bowers-Sturgill, I called Mrs. Gembach to see about parking arrangements. I was informed that I was on my own to find a spot, just like any student. Fortunately it was early, so I easily found a space near Crockett Hall. I walked through Crockett on my way to the agreed meeting place in the atrium of the Slemp Student Center. Throughout the day, it was interesting to be “undercover.” As I approached familiar people, they would get very close before realizing it was me. I heard many, “Oh, Chancellor Henry! I didn’t recognize you!”

At the official transition meeting, Jordan Childress was dressed for the occasion in a three-piece suit and ready to serve as chancellor. He passed me his backpack with a very heavy accounting book, homework that I needed to present to Professor Tina Fast, the Talking Appalachia book written by Professor Amy Clark and a pencil.

“In accounting, you need a pencil to do the assignments,” he explained. It was then that I realized things were serious. In addition to attending these classes, Jordan asked if I could attend the Cameron Johnson lecture. He was hoping to get extra credit. I agreed. Goodness, how could I say no to the Chancellor? My day included lunch at 11 a.m. because Jordan has class at noon. I also learned that I would be attending organic chemistry, as a guest of student Ashley Blaylock. Even though Jordan is a communication major, I found that there was no way to get out of going to organic! To fill out the day, I would layout a page for the Highland Cavalier, and bake cupcakes with fellow students in a residence hall.

After a photo op, I headed off with fellow students Nathan McGlone, Katie Scott, Jessica Shartouny and Glenn Eary to play some pool. We had a little time before organic would start. I faced off with Nathan, admitting that it had been years since I played pool. Nathan didn’t take the bait when I suggested that he start by sinking the eight ball.  It appeared that he knew what he was doing. Long and short of it, Nathan took a quick lead and won the game. I said I might want to purchase a pool table for the chancellor’s house. The students said that Chancellor Childress might already have that planned in his day’s activities. At any rate, it was clear that I needed to practice pool before next year’s event!

Nathan escorted me to the Sandridge Science Center to meet up with Ashley for organic. Thank goodness, this was not an official “Jordan” class. The first thing Professor Margie Tucker shared was that there would be a quiz at the end of class! I remember studying organic as an undergraduate. I also remember that I didn’t really “understand” organic until I took biochemistry in graduate school. After discussion of alkenes, peroxyacids, epoxides, nucleophyllic substitutions and nucleophiles (both strong and weak), I thought, can I skip the quiz? I must say that after 34 years, I was proud of myself for being able to visualize the interactions between the molecules drawn on the board. Thank you Professor Tucker for the great lecture. I do apologize that I skipped the quiz. I will be better prepared next time!

I left organic and had to make my way to Smiddy Hall for accounting. I bumped into fellow student Evan Nunery as we side-stepped puddles and made our way down the Slemp outdoor stairs. As I entered Smiddy, I saw Katie in the lobby. She seemed relieved that I had found my way to my next class.  I found Jordan’s seat in the back left corner of a pretty full classroom. As promised, Professor Fast checked the homework that Jordan had organized for my presentation. Fortunately, the student in the adjacent seat helped me to find the correct page in the book as we reviewed the assignment. I was able to keep up and make a few notes so that Jordan could follow what had happened in class. I was happy to have the pencil; it was needed as I took notes and had to rearrange my answers into the correct columns! Thank you Professor Fast for making it easy for me to keep up!

Finally, a break and lunch, it was only 11 a.m. and I was hungry! As I trekked through the rain to the Smith Dining Commons, Jessica caught a few photos. I learned a few things about lunch. First, if you want a good dessert, grab it quickly. The pretty desserts disappear before most people get their lunches. Also, desserts don’t always taste the way they look. The pretty dessert looked like peppermint ice cream. As Nathan found out, we believe it was cherry Greek yogurt! A very different taste from what was expected. I also learned that the exhibition area had the best food! The chicken dish looked wonderful. We shared some stories and I learned a bit about senior seminar and research projects. We had a few minutes to spare before my next class, so we decided to head up to the Jefferson Lounge in the Slemp Center for the UVa-Wise  Student Activities Board’s “Scribe the Hide” event. I “made” a leather bracelet that reads, “Henry 8th.” As the eighth Chancellor at UVa-Wise, it appears that this nickname will stick!

We quickly moved on to my next class in Zehmer Hall. As I walked through Zehmer on my way to class, it was good to see many of the language and literature faculty. Sorry that I didn’t have time to chat, I didn’t want to be late for Professor Clark’s class. I had heard so many good things about this class. I didn’t want to miss anything. As I entered the classroom, I learned that Jordan sat in the back right corner of the room. I took out the text and my notebook, and a student asked if I had completed the readings. As I hadn’t, he quickly reported that to the rest of the class!  Professor Clark led a review of the concepts that the class had learned about the Appalachian dialect. She then discussed some of the research of Anita Puckett regarding empowerment and religion. I learned a great deal about the language and culture of the region. This class sparked my interest; I plan to buy the book!

Next, I met up with Nathan and we returned to the Slemp Center to hear Cameron Johnson, the inaugural speaker in the Alfred and Shirley Wampler Caudill Lecture in Entrepreneurship Series. The line to get into the Dogwood Room went into the hall and down the stairs. We barely made it to the back of the room for the start of the lecture. It was standing-room only! Mr. Johnson was a very engaging speaker. I particularly enjoyed his story about staying in the Trump Towers in the “Home Alone” Suite. There is a lesson in the story about being open about seeking out things that you desire. From the lecture, we walked down to the Highland Cavalier office so that I could work on the layout of the sports page for next week’s issue. Jessica gave me pointers on how to use the software. With a few questions and pointers, I was able to design a page that looked decent on the computer. After reading all of the tips on the walls for creating a visually pleasing print page, it will be interesting to see how much of my design will remain. It was a great learning experience! Much different from the work I did laying out my high school yearbook. That work was done in the literal “cut and paste” days.

The last stop of my day was a visit to Thompson Hall to bake cupcakes. Ashley, my organic buddy, and Briana Jamison shared their apartment so that several of us could convene and bake cupcakes. I did offer to help, and had the chance to stir the batter. I admitted that I felt more like my teenage daughters, sitting and reading Facebook, while others worked in the kitchen! It was fun to hang out for a bit after the busy day! We talked about TV shows and personal interests and before we knew it, it was time to head back to the atrium of Slemp to swap back my identity. The 3 p.m. meeting was delayed due to the chancellor’s busy schedule. We did meet up and shared things learned with Director of News and Media Relations Kathy Still. I shared information about Jordan’s classes, so that he would know that I tried to keep up! We concluded by swapping back the backpack. As I walked back to my office, I heard about Chancellor Childress’s busy day. I learned that he came prepared and ready with questions to learn about how the chancellor leads the college. The Chancellor for a Day event was a great learning experience for both Jordan and me. I am already looking forward to next year!

Editor’s note: This online version is an extended, unedited version of what ran in print.

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