Chancellor for a Day, With a Twist

Chancellor Henry and Tay Willinghan
Photo by Mark Robertson-Baker II

Yesterday, UVA Wise celebrated the annual tradition of Chancellor for a Day, an event that gives students the opportunity to spend a day in the life of the leader of the College. This year’s Chancellor for a Day was senior Tay Willinghan, a nursing major and lacrosse player from Baltimore County, Md. 

As the tradition goes, students compete for the honor by donating nonperishable items to Smiddy’s Cupboard, the College’s pantry that aids in eliminating food insecurity, and the Wise County Food Bank. The student who donates the most items gets to switch roles and become the Chancellor of the College for one day, while UVA Wise Chancellor Donna P. Henry assumes their schedule, attending their classes and taking part in their other extra-curricular activities. 

This year, the day kicked off unlike any of the past Chancellor for a Day traditions. After getting acquainted with her new office, the first thing on Chancellor Willinghan’s list was to attend a roundtable discussion with Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, as well as community and business leaders from our region. Before Governor Youngkin made it to his seat, he warmly welcomed Willinghan and expressed interest in the lacrosse season that just recently kicked off. 

“Being a part of such an official event was a surreal experience,” said Chancellor Willinghan. “It was interesting to witness government officials interacting with local leaders.”

After the roundtable discussion, Chancellor Willinghan and student Henry met in front of Greear Gym to switch backpacks. Student Henry went off to meet with Coach Dennehy while Chancellor Willinghan returned to the office for a cup of coffee.

When asked how she managed to win the food drive competition, she smiled. “I am the head of community service for UVA Wise Lacrosse, as well as secretary of the Student Government Association (SGA) where I do a lot of leadership outreach. Because I already do so much community service in my extracurriculars, I knew this would be a fun opportunity to be a part of.”

Willinghan’s secret to winning the food drive was 300 cans of tuna. 

“My Mom helped me out with collecting donations. The Chancellor for a Day students have often coincidentally been men, and I wanted to change that this year,” she added.

While the Chancellor had lunch with her new colleagues, student Henry headed over to the C. Bascom Slemp Student Center to hang out in the Office of Student Engagement wing.

“Seeing the campus through the eyes of a student gives me a different perspective on the work that we do here at UVA Wise. Today I am looking forward to being a nursing student, so that I can see some of the clinical work our nursing students do on a regular basis,” said Henry.

In the afternoon, both Henry and Willinghan traveled to Coeburn Middle School where Willinghan’s Community Health Nursing class spoke to fifth, sixth and seventh graders about different aspects of healthcare. The class presentation was meant to educate students and grow the regional pipeline of registered nurses and allied health professionals and was made possible by a grant from the Claude Moore Charitable Foundation. 

“To see our students out educating and encouraging middle school students was the best part of my day,” said Henry. “It was really important to witness those middle schoolers thinking about nursing as a career, college in general and all of their options.”

Student Henry then made it back to campus to participate in weightlifting and lacrosse practice with the lacrosse team. 

The pair ended their day by reuniting at the Lila Vicars Smith House to walk student Henry’s dogs, Bailey and Shark. After that, they switched backpacks once again, returning to their traditional roles. 

“It was very interesting meeting the Governor this morning, but nothing beats walking the Chancellor’s dogs, that was definitely my favorite part,” said Willinghan. “Today has been very rewarding, knowing that I got to have so much fun today while benefiting the food drive.”