Trading Places: University president and SGA president swap lives for a day

Students were astounded Tuesday morning when President George Ross walked into their classroom with a backpack over his shoulder and sat down to attend their class in place of Student Government Association President Marie Reimers.

To gain a better understanding of what each office does throughout the day – and to get a better view of what’s going on around campus – Ross and Reimers swapped lives for the day yesterday for the first time ever.

Ross got the idea of the switch from one of his old bosses back in the '90s, William Stacy, former chancellor of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Stacy would switch places with the student body president for a day to better understand what being a student was truly like.

“(Ross) called me into his office and I was really nervous, not knowing what he wanted,” Reimers said. “He told me he wanted to do this switch, and I loved the idea."

Ross spent his day following Reimers' schedule, doing everything she would normally do throughout the day from taking care of SGA business to attending Reimers' classes, going as far as taking a quiz in one.

Many students knew who he was while walking around campus, but there were still some who didn’t recognize him right away, taking a moment to ask themselves why he looked so familiar.

“I’ve been enjoying the experience,” Ross said. "I can walk through campus, backpack over my shoulder with some ear buds on listening to some Luther Vandross. This is actually a lot of fun."

Between attending classes and handling SGA meetings, Ross enjoyed sitting in the SGA office, casually dressed with a name tag stamped with “acting SGA president” and talking to everyone who came to the office.

Reimers, on the other hand, was busy throughout the entire day, attending back-to-back meetings with university and local officials as the acting university president.

“This has been very eye-opening,” Reimers said. "I got to talk to a lot of people I normally don’t talk to being the SGA president. The only rough part of the switch is the 'go-go-go' nature of being the university president.”

Having eight to nine meetings a day is normal for the president’s office, Ross said, indicating how busy being the president is.

Switching places benefited Reimers by letting her see what it is like to be in a huge position of power in the university, but for Ross, it was all about really getting in touch with the students of CMU.

“I get to meet students during special events when I have them over for dinner or have lunch with them, but that doesn’t compare to walking into their class with a backpack and be with them in the classroom,” he said.


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