President for a Day

USD President James Harris and Will Tate, who served as President for a Day


On April 12, junior Will Tate was selected from among 58 undergraduate applicants to trade places for a day with USD President James T. Harris III, DEd.

“Would you like to take a breather, Mr. President?” It was a good question. By 1 p.m., I had hosted six meetings in the president’s office, and had to admit that I was exhausted.

Already, I’d been privileged to learn about USD’s Campus Master Plan, had been brought up to speed on the rationale for student tuition increases, had learned about the process for admitting waitlisted students and hosted an open dialogue with top administrators about collaborative ways to meet the needs of underrepresented students who may not feel valued, supported or heard on campus.

I represented USD when I met with Linda Vista community leaders and City Council members, and was able to show my appreciation for all that the university has to offer. After meetings downtown, I returned to campus and accompanied University Relations Vice President Tim O’Malley to a home 20 minutes from campus for a donation solicitation. Surprisingly, the donor asked me about my organization, Pancake Ministry, and commented upon how passionate I was in describing my work there. She then turned the conversation around: “The same passion you have for serving, is the same passion I have for donating.” I was humbled; never have I met such a generous donor.

Upon my return to campus, I was interviewed in the president’s office by the student newspaper, The USD Vista, before accompanying student James T. Harris III to my Black and Womanist Theologies class. There, six students gave spectacular presentations about themes in our course. Student Harris was very engaged and asked plenty of great questions. This was a great opportunity, because student Harris not only learned about Womanist Theologies but he heard six different perspectives from students who each incorporated their own unique experience in their presentation.

We ended our day of trading places by attending the Take Back the Night event together, in which students raised awareness of sexual violence and sought ways to put an end to it.

Even though it’s been a few weeks since I served as USD’s inaugural President for a Day, I am still being hailed as “Prez!” Being chosen as President for a Day provided me with so many connections and so much support. It has been the best thing that has ever happened to me at USD, which is in no way downplaying my overall experience here at this university.

The main reason I applied for this position was to understand the interconnectedness of the decision-making that goes on at the university, in order to share those insights with my fellow students.

My main takeaway? USD does not stand for being neutral or complacent, but rather, this is a place for students and faculty to be challenged, to grow, to thrive and to be equipped with the necessary education, openness and leadership traits that will make us Changemakers on a worldwide scale after graduation.

When I applied for this opportunity, I stated that some of the greatest characteristics that leaders embody are humility, boldness and authentic love. I can state unequivocally that the University of San Diego is in good hands with our president, Dr. James T. Harris III.

— Will Tate ‘17

Inaugural President for a Day

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