Zhang, Harris Enjoy their President, Student for a Day Roles

Tiffany Zhang joyfully started her Thursday much earlier than expected as the 2019 University of San Diego President for a Day. The reason why, admittedly by her, was because she wanted to fulfill a truly fun perk that she felt could only be realized if she applied for this special role.

President for a Day 2019

“I would be forever grateful for the chance to take Ruby and Penny (the Harris family’s dogs) for a walk around campus,” Zhang said in her application.

So there she was on campus by 7 a.m. to meet USD President James T. Harris, who on Thursday assumed Zhang’s scheduled activities, to walk Ruby and to get her day off to a great start. (Check out @uofsandiego's Instagram story for a recap of the day.)

Saying that being chosen President for a Day would be “the ultimate way to culminate my experience as a Torero,” it showed quickly and often that the always smiling Zhang, a graduating senior behavioral neuroscience major with minors in communication studies and leadership, truly enjoyed her opportunity.

Her official day began by meeting with the presidential staff members, Elaine Atencio, Cyndi Casillas and Stacey Truver. She then had one-on-one meetings with Andy Allen, PhD, vice president for institutional effectiveness and strategic initiatives, Gail F. Baker, PhD, vice president and provost, and Minh-Ha Hoang, director of USD’s undergraduate admissions office. A meeting with the Internal Anchor Institution Committee followed and spilled over to lunch.

From there, she met Rick Virgin, USD’s vice president for university advancement and they left campus to meet with two USD donors. She returned to campus and, along with Harris, enjoyed a Fireside Chat event on the lawn next to Aromas. The event had refreshments such as ice cream, USD cupcakes, Sunset Punch and fruit-enhanced ice water. It also featured the presentation of a unique President for a Day gift — Zhang’s own bobblehead doll!

The day capped off with both Harris and Zhang attending her Leadership Capstone class — eight female students, team-taught by two females in the School of Leadership and Education Sciences — and Harris was the keynote speaker for the class, sharing his personal leadership philosophy and telling many stories in which his leadership skills were put into action during his academic career, which including USD, consists of three college presidential roles.

Harris, meanwhile, definitely enjoyed his day of seeing USD through the lens of a student. His day began with a two-hour work shift at USD’s Outdoor Adventures office. He helped with cleaning up returned tents and sleeping bags, learned the computer system to handle business orders, called a student to remind him that equipment he rented was overdue by two days and learned about OA’s pre-trip procedures process. After lunch, he went to Linda Vista’s Montgomery Middle School to take part in a health fair where USD students from the Health Psychology class work with students to offer activities that educate about health issues.

Harris said he worked at a booth that taught students about heart health and cholesterol. By way of the game, cornhole. The opening for the small beanbags that are thrown from one end to the other to go through a hole, was easier to make for those who adhere to a heart-healthy lifestyle. The opening was smaller and tougher for the beanbags to make it through if you have a clogged and unhealthy heart.

In all, both Harris and Zhang truly appreciated the chance to gain from their respective viewpoints. Zhang stated she gained a much better perspective of the job that Harris has as well as newfound respect for administrators as she asked a lot of good questions during her meetings and got plenty of honest answers in what were very meaningful conversations. Harris reiterated his appreciation for Outdoor Adventures, a USD entity that he’s actually connected with often for outdoor walks in Tecolote Canyon and for scaling Mt. Whitney last year.

The President for a Day idea, one that Harris has employed at previous institutions where he’s been president, completed its fourth installment. Previous President for a Day students (see videos, photos and stories) are Will Tate (2016), Olivia Gonzalez (2017) and Christina Saad (2018).

Zhang's role might have only been for a day, but because of her passion for Linda Vista, a platform she ran on in her finalist presentation earlier this month, she will appear at this Saturday's 34th annual Linda Vista Multicultural Fair and Parade between Comstock and Ulric Street to present a $1,000 check to the event's organizers. The donation is the amount that each President for Day winner receives and designates for the charity of their choice. Zhang said she looks forward to seeing members of USD's People of the Islands perform a hula dance during the 11 a.m. parade and presenting an oversized check — a la Ellen DeGeneres on her television show, "Ellen," she said enthusiastically on an Instagram post — to Linda Vista officials.

— Ryan T. Blystone


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