Undercover Boss

At the suggestion of a member of a student affairs Facebook group, I watched the season finale of Undercover Boss.  In this episode, a camera crew follows the chancellor of UC Riverside as he works as a chemistry TA, library assistant, assistant track coach, campus tour guide.

In cognito, he discovers several areas requiring improvement.  For instance, he realizes the need for a new track facility after becoming aware of the poor condition of the track surface and condemned bleachers.  The fact that the bookstore isn’t open for prospective students and families during Saturday tours shocks him.  He believes that any UCR products prospective students purchase may serve as advertisement for the campus to the prospective student’s high school classmates.  While watching these revelations, I wondered why these issues did not reach him prior to his undercover experience, especially the poor condition of the athletic field.

In addition to the logistical problems encountered, the episode investigates the outside influences that affect the ability of students to succeed in the college environment.  One student discusses the difficulties of balancing financial obligations.  As a teaching major, she must purchase business attire in addition to paying tuition fees.  To meet her obligations, she works up to 19 hours/week at the library and supplements her income with student loans.  Still, she manages to find time to pursue her passion for tutoring at risk students who may not otherwise meet the requirements for college admission.  Another student shared the pressure of living at home to help her mother after her father suffered a tragic accident.  The work ethic and tenacity of these students impressed me greatly.  I agree with the chancellor, I would fail to exhibit the grace which these students display as they balance the obligations of daily life and their college careers.

Overall, I believe that this episode sheds light on the challenges of working in higher education administration.  As an administrator, one must strive to meet the needs of the students within the confines of financial realities.  The chancellor at UCR serves as an exemplary model for student affairs professionals.  Despite the enormous workload he faces daily, he finds time to interact with the student body.  One student mentioned his practice of greeting students with cookies during finals week.  I hope to approach my graduate career with the same passion and sense of duty Tim White displays as Chancellor of UCR.

If anyone is interested, the episode can be viewed online through the following link:




One thought on “Undercover Boss

  1. I haven’t watched the episode yet, but I do know the quality of Tim White. Before going to UC Riverside, White was the President of the University of Idaho (a great institution I might add). I didn’t have much interaction with him, but one stands out as remarkable.
    While playing a game of frisbee golf around campus, Tim White came out of the Admin Building presumably to head home for the day. Instead of walking quietly by, he interacted with my group of 6 undergraduate male students. He wanted to know how finals week was going, how much studying we’ve been doing and what our goals were after graduating from Idaho.
    It’s too bad that he left the University of Idaho, but I’m glad that he has gotten attention for his good work in the field of higher education. All college and university leaders can learn from Tim White.

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