David Mayer is on a mission. The kinesiology graduate and current Faculty of Education student is hoping to draw attention to the tremendous school spirit exhibited by York University’s varsity athletes. He wants to highlight to the University community the importance of athletics in enhancing student engagement and success.
Mamdouh Shoukri and David Mayer before they swap roles for a day
As a multi-talented student and an accomplished track and field athlete, Mayer should know a thing or two about athletics. He was the anchor runner on the York Lions’ silver medal track and field relay team. He is also a student mentor to first-year students and a successful graduate of a demanding program. Mayer is rounding out his sixth year on campus and is halfway through his studies to become a teacher after completing his bachelor’s degree.
So when the call for entries for York University’s President for a Day contest happened, it was an opportunity that Mayer said he couldn’t pass up. “I wanted to leave my mark on the school,” he says, and putting pen to paper, he crafted an essay in response to the President for a Day contest entry question: “What would be your top three priorities that would directly impact students if you were appointed president of York University?”
Mamdouh Shoukri attends one of student David Mayer’s classes
Mayer’s essay addressed the need to increase student pride, promote the University’s successes and athletes, and enhance the student experience. He was selected from 40 entries and became only the second student to become President for a Day.
On Feb. 26, Mayer swapped roles with York University’s President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri. Mayer managed the institution, attended all of the president’s meetings and took care of his many other obligations and duties. That same day, Shoukri attended Mayer’s classes and participated in his many extracurricular activities to really appreciate student life.
David Mayer in the president’s office
Early the next morning, Shoukri and Mayer met for a breakfast meeting to discuss their respective experiences.
For his part, Mayer’s day began with an early morning meeting with Brendan Schulz, executive director, Strategy and Planning, in the Office of the Vice-Provost Students. “Brendan presented a five-year plan to improve the student experience and student engagement,” said Mayer. “I realized the University is very aware and committed to its students. We also discussed the need to consider how exams are scheduled, particularly for first-year students who have a number of mandatory courses.” Mayer suggested to Schulz that a two-day window between each mandatory course exam would help first-year students better cope with learning how to write exams and offer a benefit in giving students enough time between each exam, which he felt would offer better outcomes.
“He was very receptive. I know this is not going to happen overnight, but it is very important,” said Mayer.
From there, he went to a meeting with Gary Brewer, York’s vice-president finance & administration, to discuss how to improve food services on campus. Mayer said that he stressed to Brewer the need for a greater number of late-night and weekend food options on the Keele campus. “I lived in residence for two years,” he said. “There are not a lot of food options available on Sundays and late at night. That’s when students need sugar and caffeine, in addition to healthy food options. This is really important during exams because students are in the libraries and studying during the evening.”
David Mayer (right) as acting president meets with Gary Brewer, vice-president finance & administration
Mayer learned that there are three different entities controlling food services at York, something he said he was not aware of and found surprising. He also suggested to Brewer that the University consider allowing athletes to run a juice and protein shake bar in the Tait McKenzie Centre. “It would offer a healthy option and could generate revenue that could be put back into athletics,” he said.
As President for a Day, Mayer also spoke at a Career Centre event and sat for an interview with the Excalibur student newspaper. He chaired a meeting with the other candidates for the President for a Day contest.
Mamdouh Shoukri visits the Tait McKenzie Centre
One of the highlights of his day was a meeting with Guy Burry, chair emeritus of the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors. The two spoke about engagement and Burry offered advice to Mayer about how to extend his strong school spirit into a role in the Alumni Association. They also discussed the importance of inviting student athletes to the association’s annual golf tournament fundraiser.
Mayer rounded out his busy day with a meeting with Susan Webb, York University’s chief communications officer. The two spoke about the need to promote student success and athletics. Mayer asked Webb about setting up a regular news feed to students to encourage student engagement with the University, something he feels would enhance student pride in York U.
David Mayer deliver remarks at one of the Career Centre’s sessions
“It was a great day,” said Mayer. “I learned the University is committed to change and enhancing student success and engagement. I also learned that being president is not as easy as everyone thinks it to be.”
As a York Student for a Day, Shoukri attended two of Mayer’s classes, Models and Foundations of Education with Professor Greg Rogers, and Physical Education and Children with Professor Lindsay Lamorremet. He also met with the first-year student Mayer mentors and participated in a meeting with the Sports Council.
“I was very fortunate to replace a student who is studying kinesiology and education,” said Shoukri. “There is an interesting culture in the people there who are studying to be teachers and there is a strong sense of collegiality between the students studying education and the athletes.”
Mamdouh Shoukri mentors a first-year student in David Mayer’s place
“I found all of the students very outgoing and used to the idea of teamwork and debate,” he said. “The two classes were wonderful and the experience with students in both classes was absolutely incredible.”
During the second class, Shoukri said he was introduced to the concept of physical literacy, something he found compelling because of the many years he volunteered as a soccer coach when his children were young. “This was a new concept for me. Preparing children for sports through games and physical activities is very important because it allows them the ability to adapt to a broader range of sports as compared to being tied down to one specifically.”
“I learned that as a teacher, playing games ensures that students with various capabilities are engaged,” he said.
David Mayer (right) meets with Brendan Schulz, executive director, strategy and planning, in the Office of the Vice-Provost Students
In both classes, he had to engage in a warm up by doing “Sit Up, Sing, Dance and Learn” activities. “I was happy to oblige,” he said.
“What impressed me were the outstanding instructors. Both were very compelling,” he said. “I enjoyed the guest speaker in the law course and the students.”
He had lunch with members of the women’s volleyball and hockey teams, and met with members of the sports council who all identified options that are needed on campus to engage the larger student population in sports and varsity events.
“There is an incredible spirit in our athletes. They are very close to one another and support other athletes. I was very impressed,” said Shoukri.
That same spirit was further magnified during his mentorship meeting with a first-year student who is a sprinter. “He has a real love and enthusiasm for his studies and sport,” he said.
Shoukri then ended the day by coaching the track and field team, relieved by the fact that it was only coaching and not actually having to do all the training.
He said his key learning outcomes from his time as a student for a day focused on the quality and tremendous school spirit exhibited by York’s athletes and students, the outstanding knowledge and teaching of the faculty he met and how they engaged students in their learning.
“It was really an incredible experience!”
For more information, visit York University’s President for a Day website.