POTSDAM -- Those looking for Clarkson University President Tony Collins in his office on a recent Tuesday may have been startled to find freshman Mathew Spencer sitting at his desk instead.
And students were likely surprised to see Collins wearing a Clarkson sweatshirt and jeans, carrying a backpack and taking Spencer’s place in his calculus recitation and advanced physics class.
The two swapped roles for the third annual “Presidential Switch Day” at Clarkson.
Spencer won a contest earlier in the semester sponsored by the Clarkson University Student Association, providing him the opportunity to leave his life as a first-semester freshman for the day and live as president, complete with a suit and tie. The CUSA raffle benefitted the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Spencer, a civil engineering major from Essex Junction, Vt., met with a variety of university officials and maintained Collins’ schedule for the day.
“The transition from student to president was really nice,” Spencer said. “I got a new appreciation for what President Collins does for the school and how he interacts with it.”
The experience also made Clarkson’s administration and staff more approachable to Spencer, he said. “You know they’re nice people and you can talk to them."
Collins said he enjoys the new perspective he experiences each year he switches roles with a student. This was his first year experiencing life as a freshman. He had switched roles with a sophomore and a junior before.
“It’s a useful experience,” Collins said. “Everyone should do it, just to remind ourselves that we’re all in this together.”