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Things have changed somewhat since Jane Everett last sat in a classroom as an undergraduate back in 1981. "For starters, classrooms are smoke-free now," laughed the Dean of Students, "and so am I."
Everett had just fulfilled her end of the bargain in the Student Organization for Alumni Relations' annual Trading Places event in which a McGill administrator swaps roles with an undergraduate student for a day. Accompanying her Trading Places cohort, U3 biochemistry undergrad Nicole Darricarrere, to two morning classes, Everett was impressed on several fronts, not least of which was that she was able to keep up. "I took biology in high school," she laughed," but my area really is French language and literature."
"It was very interesting to see how the professors used visual materials to make things easy to understand. I thought to myself that I should try this when I'm teaching literature because I only use the blackboard," she continued.
Originally from Uruguay, Darricarrere studied in Brazil and New Zealand before coming to McGill to complete her undergraduate work. She admits not knowing what to expect coming into the Trading Places experience. However, after spending part of one day following Everett as she went about her daily duties, Darricarrere was impressed. "Not only did I get to meet Jane Everett as a person and as the Dean of Students, I also got to see her as a researcher in French literature, something that is so different than my field," she said. "It is obvious that she loves her job."
In the end, student and administrator came away with a better understanding of what life is like for the other and, in some ways, a better understanding of themselves.
"I found that the relationship with professors is much less hierarchical today than it was when I was an awe-struck undergraduate," said Everett. "The students seemed as if they could ask questions freely and the two profs I saw seemed very comfortable with the interaction—which wasn't always the case when I was an undergraduate. That I knew anyway, as I've seen my own teaching style evolve, but never from the other side."