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McGill Reporter
March 2, 2006 - Volume 38 Number 12
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Principal Heather Munroe-Blum spends day as undergrad

Caption follows
The McGill mascot gives Principal Heather Munroe-Blum a hug after her stint as a student, while Student Organization for Alumni Relations president Esther Oh looks on.
Owen Egan

There was a new student in Professor Myron Frankman's Economic Development class this week. Seated among the usual faces was Principal Heather Munroe-Blum who listened closely, did some group work and shared in the discussion.

Wanting to see firsthand what student life is really like, Munroe-Blum stepped into the shoes of an undergraduate for a day. She joined a gaggle of students for lunch, passed some time at the bookstore café and then waded through the bustling hallways to be on time for her 2:30 class.

"I'm jealous - I'd love to do more of this," said Munroe-Blum on emerging from Leacock 219. "The format is great, nothing [in the class] was spoon-fed. I'd like to try this again before long."

Speaking later to a group of students in her office, she explained that the role reversal had given her a new opportunity to really experience the good (lazy time in the café) and the bad (Leacock washrooms) aspects of daily life as a McGill student. She was also impressed by the nature of the students she encountered.

"They're really smart, really thoughtful and they're confident," she said when asked to describe what her interactions had been like during the course of the day.

Munroe-Blum concluded her day as a student by welcoming a gathering of undergraduates to her office where she called attention to Group of Seven paintings and the original desk of James McGill. She and the students swapped experiences about campus life, and Munroe-Blum reflected on the differences between the undergraduates she went to school with and those she knows today.

She observed that Canadian university students of the 1970s were consumed by activism and by equity issues, also noting that generational ideologies among students held sway both then and now. She also remarked that undergraduates at McGill today are carrying forward new concerns - especially about the environment - that were almost unheard of when she was a student.

The students appeared impressed by her knowledge about student issues and university life.

"Anything I said to her, she understood already. She knew the issues, she knows what students want and what the campus needs," said Ross Margulies, a U2 who is doing a joint honours degree in Political Science and International Development.

Come March 17, Margulies will get a chance to see for himself how McGill should be run when he steps into the Principal's shoes for a day. He is excited about the opportunity, though he admits that he might not be up for making the job's early start time.

The trading of spaces and places between Munroe-Blum and Margulies came about thanks to the Students Organization of Alumni Relations (SOAR) who came across the idea while exploring old files. They discovered that the former Principal, Bernard Shapiro, had exchanged a suit for sneakers one day in 1994, and then decided to approach Munroe-Blum with the idea.

Town Hall

Heather Munroe Blum
Owen Egan

After a busy day walking in the shoes of a student March 1, Principal Heather Munroe-Blum held a Town Hall meeting at Douglas Hall residence.

An audience of mostly students filled the piano room to engage the Principal on a variety of questions.

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