Third-year Cynthia (CJ) Esparza became the President of Whittier College — for a day. On April 9, Esparza participated in the President for the Day, where one Poet got to live a day in President Oubré’s shoes, and President Oubré walks in that Poet’s shoes.
In early March, Student Assistant of the President Daniela Vega sent a Student-L for applicants to apply for President for the Day. This caught Esparza’s attention, seeing as she plans to earn a doctorate degree after Whittier College, and later earn the title of professor. “I was really curious to see what it is like, not just as a faculty member on the administrative side, but to see what else makes a college run,” said Esparza. The application process felt “easy in the sense [that] it was personal” to Esparza. “There was never a point where I felt under-qualified to try for a position like this,” said Esparza. Since one of her majors is Philosophy — the other English — Esparza felt her schedule would suit President Oubré. “They were curious to have the President shadow me in a class that is typically small, and not common here at Whittier,” said Esparza.
Being President for the day also gave Esparza more insight on how a small, liberal arts college runs. Having worked full-time jobs before, while at the same time being a full-time student, she was sure fatigue was not going to be an issue for her for the day. However, what proved to be the most challenging part of the day was how long it was. “To think . . . this President of ours, wakes up who-ever-knows how early to get here by 8 a.m., and then she’s in meetings all day, constantly with people until 5 p.m. [or] 6 p.m. at night,” said Esparza, “and then her job doesn’t end. She goes home and still has to do paperwork, and [an] assessment of what she did that day; it’s astounding to me. I was never alone for one minute of the day, which was pretty eye-opening.”
During her time, Esparza got to visit many offices on campus. “They were very personal, they wanted to get to know me, why I . . . applied for a program that’s only a day long,” said Esparza. Throughout the day, she got multiple encouragement from members of those offices that said they would support her through future endeavors. “Even if I didn’t have anything [connected] with them curriculum wise, they ended up being super supportive of me,” said Esparza.
Having lived a day in President Oubré’s life, she has a new perspective of the work that is done behind the scenes of faculty. “To understand that everyone has a common objective and goal as to what the College should stand for is something I really appreciate,” said Esparza. “It made me feel 100 percent supported by the campus, even by the people I don’t get to meet personally.”
Esparza was able to make a speech she prepared for the faculty meeting about something she was passionate about. “I’m a humanities person, and I am in fear that [with] our current political climate, our humanities is going to be under fire. I really appreciated that Whittier College has remained supportive for all of my majors and minor,” said Esparza. She felt encouraged by the “flood of emails” of support from her professors on her speech.
Because President Oubré had other matters to attend to on April 9, she will shadowing Esparza on another date that has yet to be determined. President Oubré will be shadowing Esparza in classes and meetings, lunches, or other events she has to get the full student experience. Since having lived a day of her life, Esparza recognizes that President Oubré has an extremely impacted and blocked day, where even her lunch time can get compromised. “I’d like [President Oubré] to have a chill day,” said Esparza, when asked about how their shadowing day would go. Esparza is excited to show her a day in her life. “I always felt busy until I did that day; until I realized that I do get time to myself, or my friends,” said Esparza. “Even if it’s just getting lunch for an hour, I do get to have a sense of reflection throughout my day, rather than [at] the end of my day.”
Throughout her day, Esparza experienced a great amount of support from faculty and staff of the Poet community, exhibiting the sense of unity the College has. “Everything is so much more accessible to me now,” said Esparza. Before, Esparza felt intimidated at the idea of visiting offices, including the President’s, to ask for something. “From speaking with them and working with them for a day, their priority is the students. They really do want to make a place that people want to come to learn and feel safe,” said Esparza. “When [offices] told me ‘come to me if you need anything,’ I have no doubt in my mind that is something I can do.”