Student and administrator swap places

Ken Sun and Jana Luker walked a mile in each other's shoes. / Photo: Owen Egan
Ken Sun and Jana Luker walked a mile in each other's shoes. / Photo: Owen Egan

A view from the other side

By Neale McDevitt

By her own estimation, the last time Jana Luker sat on the student side of an undergraduate class “the Earth’s crust was cooling.” But on March 16, Luker, Executive Director of Services for Students and one of the University’s funnier administrators, found herself trying to keep up in Biology 201.

“I didn’t have a clue,” she said with a laugh. “How humbling is that?”

Luker was shadowing Ken Sun (U2 Chemistry) as part of the Student Organization for Alumni Relations’ annual Trading Places event in which a McGill administrator swaps roles with an undergraduate student.

Actively involved in student politics, an executive member of the Scarlet Key Society and the former editor of the McGill Tribune, Sun is no stranger to meetings. But on March 13, when he tagged along with Luker for a day, he was struck by her workload. “She has an extremely structured agenda, with meetings stacked back-to-back,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people want some of her time.”

More than anything, Sun appreciated getting a glimpse of what goes on behind closed doors at McGill, in particular, the delicate diplomacy often required to achieve consensus. “Meetings with administrators are so much more nuanced and subtle than student meetings,” said Sun. “You really have to pay attention. It was wonderful to be exposed to a side of McGill that we all know about but most of us never see.”

“And you learned a dozen new acronyms,” added Luker with a laugh.

For her part, Luker relished the chance to connect with the constituency she serves. “It is an incredible opportunity for me,” she said. “It is a reminder, a confirmation, of what I do every day.”

“It’s like Ken said; we know all about McGill, the classes, the amazing students – but it is another thing seeing these people in action. It makes me very appreciative of what we have here.”

Appreciative as Luker may have been, she had trouble concealing her joy when Sun told her that one of the classes they were to attend together the next morning had been cancelled. “No physical chemistry? Darn,” she said with a laugh. “I guess I get to sleep in and go for coffee.”