In the first year of the UC Davis Leadership Job Shadow Program, launched by Chancellor Gary S. May in April, students spent a day with campus executives to learn about the day-to-day responsibilities of what it takes to run a world-class public university.
Kelly Ratliff, the vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration, welcomed two students, second-year transfer undergraduate student Lizeth Velarde Perez and fifth-year Ph.D. candidate Laura Paul, to shadow her in May.
Velarde, who studies managerial economics, applied to the program because of her interest in learning what a large work environment was like.
“I really enjoyed how Kelly handled new ideas,” Velarde said. “Usually big organizations are less receptive to change, but I got to see that the university isn’t doing things just because they’ve always been done that way.”
Velarde sat in a meeting about the Long Range Development Plan and saw the impact the plan had on student housing. Because the plan affected her directly, Velarde had a lot of questions.
“I was encouraged to ask questions, and people were really receptive,” said Velarde. “With my managerial economics perspective, I was able to understand how the increased cost of building drove up costs of living, which affects the entire state of California.”
Laura Paul is a Ph.D. candidate in agricultural and resource economics, and her research focuses on drought risk among corn farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. She applied for the Leadership Shadow Program because she was interested in going behind the scenes to learn more about university administration, which she felt was an overlooked part of students’ academic careers.
“Because I am pursuing an academic career after finishing my Ph.D. next year, I wanted to learn more about university management, which plays a huge role in our lives,” said Paul.
Paul went with Ratliff to a meeting with Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter, where she saw how the administration collected and evaluated as much data and as many reports as possible to make informed financial decisions.
“The administration is making decisions that affect a lot of people, but they’re doing it with as much context as they can and seeking as much information as possible,” said Paul. “They really care about the university, and I was happy to see that.”
Both students came out of their shadowing sessions with a lot more insight into how the administration directly affects their lives. Paul saw how administrators make decisions about student credit hours, which impacts her work as an instructor on campus, while Velarde observed how Ratliff met with Assemblymember Rocky Chavez at the State Capitol to discuss effective methods of cost reduction at public universities.
“Kelly was so patient and calm, and she always focused on the students and what’s best for us,” Velarde said. “I’m grateful that the best people are in the administration and that they’re doing the best for students with their limited resources.”
Applications for the Leadership Job Shadow Program for the 2018–19 academic year will open in October 2018. Read more about other students’ shadowing experiences on Dateline.