Once a year, Hood College president Andrea Chapdelaine steps away from her office and into the classroom for a day, assuming the life of one of the college students on her Frederick, Md., campus. On the flip side, one lucky student gets to be Chapdelaine for the day, navigating her schedule and assuming presidential duties for 24 hours.
The program, called Chap Swap, gives students a special look behind the scenes of the inner workings of the administration and provides the president a pulse on campus life and student activities.
What it is: Chap Swap is Hood College’s version of “president for the day.” The program launched in 2019 and followed a Freaky Friday flow, explains Laurie Ward, vice president of marketing and communications at Hood, referencing the Disney movies in which a mom and daughter swap bodies for the day and live out each other’s lives.
After a few years, the college changed the process to be a co-role or job-shadow model, where the student participant joined Chapdelaine during her workday and vice versa, allowing for more connection and deeper insight into how each person’s day functioned.
“It was definitely … about giving an opportunity for amazing students … to have that kind of pull-back-the-curtain look at what a day is like for me,” Chapdelaine says.
How it works: Each spring, Hood College opens applications for students to be president for the day.
Giant poster-board playing cards are scattered around campus with a “reverse” symbol from the game Uno on them. Students can fill out an application on the back of the playing card in person, sharing their information and up to 100 words on why they should be selected for the role. Students can also apply online.
In past years, Hood College administrators coordinated schedules between the student and president after the selection process completed. In recent years, they shifted to preselected dates, prior to receiving applications, that would work well to make the experience more seamless logistically. Administrators try to curate a day that will be engaging for the student, with public events as well as the traditional office and campus duties.
After receiving the applications, officials select a student participant based on their short essay with a priority on their involvement on campus.
“We also look at it from a public relations standpoint—who’s going to have an interesting day,” Ward says. Over the years, Chapdelaine has shadowed a variety of majors and taken part in several types of extracurriculars, including a theater class and field hockey practice, she shares.
President Anna: This year, fourth-year student Anna LePlatt had the opportunity to be president for the day. LePlatt is in Hood’s art therapy program and is a resident assistant, president of Hood’s Queer Student Union and a Blazer Ambassador in the admissions office.
LePlatt said they had an interest in being president after seeing their peers participate in the program and wanting deeper insight into the president’s role at Hood, they say.
On the big day, LePlatt joined Chapdelaine in a meeting with Tammi Simpson, vice president for community and inclusion, writing a monthly email to the campus community and hosting the opening ceremony of the School of Business’ Data Driven Frederick Center.
For her day as a student, Chapdelaine attended an English class, a psychology class and an art class with LePlatt. She also did rounds with LePlatt and the other resident advisers in the residence halls.
The impact: The event is well-known on campus by students and seen as a fun opportunity to connect with the administration, LePlatt says. Chapdelaine says she has interesting conversations with student leaders about their experiences at Hood. “I think it gives me a real sense of walking in somebody else’s shoes and really understanding. I learned so much.”
By the end of the swap, both Chapdelaine and LePlatt knew each other and their work on campus well.
“I learned a lot of the role distribution that I didn’t think I understood before,” LePlatt says. “Especially with the Data Driven Frederick [opening], I met so many people that were there for the event that I got to introduce myself to, and now I have that connection going forward.”
Additionally, the two swappers said they became stronger colleagues, as well.
“I feel like I made a new friend,” Chapdelaine says. “That was my biggest takeaway: that I really got to know Anna, and I want to continue the relationship.”
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