A Mercer University administrator and student leader recently experienced what it was like to be the other person for a day.

Earlier this month, Dr. Doug Pearson, vice president and dean of students, switched places with Rylan Allen, president of the Student Government Association. It was the first time Dr. Pearson traded places with a student.

“I had shared with Rylan that this had been brought up as a joke many years ago, and Rylan got excited about the idea and said we really ought to do it,” Dr. Pearson said.

Allen, a senior double-majoring in political science and sociology, was especially excited because he plans to pursue a master’s degree in higher education leadership.

“It was a good starting point for me to understand that realm of student affairs,” he said.

A young man wearing a suit sits at the head of a board room table
SGA President Rylan Allen, serving as dean of students for the day, attends a provost council meeting on Oct. 10. Photo by Leah Yetter

Dr. Pearson majored in sociology in college, so it made sense for him to attend two of Allen’s sociology classes. He also oversaw an SGA meeting.

Allen attended a meeting of the provost council and led a student affairs directors meeting. He also participated in a mock incident report meeting where he considered how a student code of conduct violation should be handled. (Actual student issues were not discussed due to confidentiality.)

“I only learned about 10% of what Dean Pearson actually deals with on a daily basis,” said Allen, who wore a navy blue suit for the switch. “But it put into perspective that while students are going to classes and doing daily activities, faculty and staff have jobs to do, and those jobs can be very time consuming, can be very rigorous.”

Dr. Pearson said he gained a similar perspective after spending the day as a student.

“I see students going to class, but I forgot the feeling of actually being in class and the preparation for it,” he said.

Dr. Pearson, dressed down in khakis and a Mercer sweatshirt, attended Allen’s sociological theory class and discourse and power class. He did the required reading in advance to make sure he had something to contribute during small group work, and he took notes.

A man wearing a gray Mercer sweatshirts sits at a desk and holds a pencil over a pad of paper
Dean of Students Dr. Doug Pearson takes notes during one of SGA President Rylan Allen’s sociology classes on Oct. 10. Photo by Leah Yetter

The most fun part for him, though, was running the SGA meeting, he said.

“You think running a meeting would be easy, but they follow some pretty solid parliamentary procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order, and I’ve got to admit, I got tangled up on a few of them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Allen — who was serving in Dr. Pearson’s regular role of SGA adviser — observed the proceedings.

“I’m used to interjecting or adding a point of information. … A few times I did do an outburst without raising my hand, and I’m like, ‘Darn, I’m forgetting all that I have learned over the years about parliamentary procedure,’” he said.

Allen said the SGA Senate enjoyed observing the switch.

“They thought it was hilarious,” he said. “They thought it was interesting just to see the SGA adviser running Senate and then me acting as an adviser.”

A young man wearing a gray T-shirt stands next to a man wearing a navy blue dress shirt
SGA President Rylan Allen, left, and Dean of Students Dr. Doug Pearson. Photo by Bekah Howard


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Jennifer Falk
Jennifer Falk is director of digital communications at Mercer. She edits and writes feature stories for The Den and examines web data and analytics to drive content decisions. She also creates and supervises the creation of content for primary University web pages and e-newsletters.