A&S student is dean for a day in campus role swap

April 10, 2024 by Talar Nersesian - A&S News

Camila Justino, a graduating student from St. Michael’s College enrolled in Book and Media Studies and Medieval Studies, got to trade places with Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, for one very special day.

Justino met with various members of Arts & Science and U of T leadership, including Bill Ju, associate dean, Vicki Lowes, executive director of experiential learning, Sandy Welsh, vice-provost of students, David Kim, Hart House warden, and the Arts & Science Student Union (ASSU) executive team.

“I am so dedicated to providing an outstanding student experience, and there’s no better way to do that than to walk in the shoes of a student and experience their time on our campus,” said Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science. “By becoming a student for the day, I experienced first-hand the value the colleges provide to the student experience both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Camila Justino and a group of faculty sit around a table.
Camila Justino met with faculty and ASSU leadership. Photo: Talar Nersesian.

The “Dean for a Day” was thrilled with the experience and overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for being selected.

“I went into this exercise with an open and curious mind,” said Justino. “Today was a great opportunity for me to learn about what goes on behind the scenes and to see first-hand how the faculty is always trying to improve the student experience and provide better opportunities for students on campus.”

The highlight of Justino’s day was meeting the many incredible and passionate people in the A&S community. “I was in awe of the women in leadership roles. It was very inspiring to see the work they do and the difference they make,” she said.

The dean, in turn, spent the day studying at Justino’s favourite libraries, and meeting with Irene Morra, the principal of St. Michael’s College, as well as other members of the college’s community.

Dean Melanie Woodin sitting with a book.
Dean Woodin visited the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies Library. Photo: Talar Nersesian.

Woodin visited the historic book-lined Shook Common Room, followed by the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (PIMS) Library — one of the most substantial centres of medieval scholarship in North America — where she was shown rare and ancient books, manuscripts and facsimiles.

“The highlight of my day was being in the PIMS library and seeing the medieval book collection. There are so many hidden gems across our campus,” said Woodin.

“I have the privilege of regularly meeting with the ASSU executive leadership, who are essential to providing me with feedback from the students about their experience. So, I was thrilled that they brought forward the “Dean for a Day” initiative. There’s nothing quite like the opportunity directly to walk in a student’s shoes,” said Woodin.

Camila Justino and Vice Provost Sandy Welsh.
Camila Justino met with Vice Provost Sandy Welsh at Simcoe Hall. Photo: Sarah Khan.

Originally from Brazil, Justino reflected on her experience by saying, “Being dean for a day gave me autonomy. I felt like I could make decisions, that’s why I decided to wear orange to raise awareness for ‘every child matters’ and wore a blue and green necklace to represent the colours of my country.”

“Just because you’re new to Canada and English is your second language, doesn’t mean you can’t come to the University of Toronto ... I feel very happy!”

As part of the initiative, ASSU and the Dean’s Office made a joint donation to the U of T food banks.

Camila Justino sitting at Dean Melanie Woodin’s desk.
Camila Justino sitting at Dean Melanie Woodin’s desk, preparing for her meetings. Photo: Sarah Khan.