Westminster's dean faces students on court
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Stan Sarkisov
December 14, 2007
After office meetings and returning e-mails, Dean of Students Mark Ferne has a quick lunch. He needs the energy for Westminster College's Beat the Dean program.
Students sign up every Thursday to play racquetball with the dean. If they win, Ferne buys them dinner.
Most students spend face to face time with their dean for school violations. Beat the Dean gave Ferne an opportunity to better connect with the students.
'I didn't know Mark at all before the game,' said Aaron Salazar, an MBA student at the college.
After last year's intermural sports program, Ferne finished as the undefeated racquetball champion. Still, his confidence began slipping after he offered the challenge.
'If my elbow doesn't heal next year, it will be beat the dean at pingpong,' Ferne said.
Beat the Dean also allows Ferne to maintain relationships with students. Even though Westminster is small, Ferne said, it is difficult to spend one-on-one time with students.
Beat the Dean is only one of Ferne's programs. He also has Dessert with the Dean, a program in which out-of-town students have dinner with Ferne and his wife. A precursor to that program was the Dean Delivers, which involved the dean delivering food to Westminster's resident halls during finals.
Such programs are popular with students.
When we're on the court I forget that he's the dean of students, and I just treat him like any other player,' said Ryan Helber, who will graduate this June.
Even so, Ferne is a dean first, not merely a friend.
"It goes without saying that the dean of students is an authority on any college campus, Ferne said. "However, I would hope that Westminster students see me as a student advocate and someone that cares about their success."
Beat the Dean helps make Ferne more visible on campus and have fun with students. It is also another way to carry on the glory of his reign as racquetball champ.
While his matches with Ferne have always been close, Helber recently pulled ahead.
'I told Mark there was no way he could have won that match because as we played that day, I felt like a Spartan conquering the hoards of Persians,' Helber said.
Beat the Dean is on the calendar for the Health and Wellness and Athletics Center activities. Students will have the chance to score dinner all semester long.