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Clarkson University President Tony Collins Swaps Roles with Freshman for the Day

Those looking for Clarkson University President Tony Collins in his office on a recent Tuesday may have been startled to find freshman Mathew Spencer sitting at his desk instead.

Clarkson University President Tony Collins (left) and freshman Mathew Spencer recently switched roles for the day.And students were likely surprised to see Collins wearing a Clarkson sweatshirt and jeans, carrying a backpack and taking Spencer’s place in his calculus recitation and advanced physics class.
The two swapped roles for the third annual “Presidential Switch Day” at Clarkson.

Spencer won a contest earlier in the semester sponsored by the Clarkson University Student Association, providing him the opportunity to leave his life as a first-semester freshman for the day and live as president --complete with a suit and tie -- instead. The CUSA raffle benefitted the Make-A-Wish Foundation

Spencer, a civil engineering major from Essex Junction, Vt., met with a variety of University officials and maintained Collins’ schedule for the day.

“The transition from student to president was really nice,” Spencer said. “I got a new appreciation for what President Collins does for the school and how he interacts with it.”

The experience also made Clarkson’s administration and staff more approachable to Spencer, he said. “You know they’re nice people and you can talk to them."

Collins said he enjoys the new perspective he experiences each year he switches roles with a student. This was his first year experiencing life as a freshman; he had switched roles with a sophomore and a junior previously.

“It’s a useful experience,” Collins said. “Everyone should do it, just to remind ourselves that we’re all in this together.”

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption:  Clarkson University President Tony Collins (left) and freshman Mathew Spencer recently switched roles for the day.

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[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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