By: Tony Hoppa

As NC State prepares for a normal fall semester, visitors to the dean’s suite in the Wilson College of Textiles will be greeted once again by the Dean’s Pages – a small cadre of students trained to provide a strong service-friendly, first impression of the college. And for Amanda Padbury, executive assistant to the dean who oversees the Dean’s Pages program, the timing couldn’t be better.

“Like so many others, I’ve really missed that sense of connection that comes from meeting people in person,” she said. “We’ve been able to maintain the program virtually but I’m looking forward to interacting with the Dean’s Pages in the office beginning this summer.”

Introduced in January 2016, the Dean’s Pages program provides an avenue for students to engage with the college while honing their professional and leadership skills. The program has steadily grown since its inception, expanding from five students to an average of 10 per year who provide office coverage throughout the day and lend project support.

For Padbury, it’s a sense of déjà vu: as an undergraduate student at Michigan Technological University, she worked in the Office of Institutional Analysis, the department responsible for all things data-related for the university.

“I learned to work in a professional work environment and liked seeing the inner workings of the university,” said Padbury, who earned a B.S. degree in mathematics and a minor in behavioral studies, and later, an M.S. in statistics from the University of Vermont. “I felt respected and appreciated by adults – and now it’s kind of come full circle with Wilson students working for me. It’s a win-win; the college benefits from the Pages’ work and the Pages develop professional and soft skills.”

Wilson College alumnus and current dental school student Santiago Tellez ’18 counts learning how to interact with visitors, students and faculty among the most significant skills gained as a Dean’s Page. “There were always new faces coming through the office and being on my ‘A-game’ to represent the college quickly became second nature,” he said. “I now hone in on this skill with each new patient that I meet to establish a trusting patient-dentist relationship which is critical for successful patient care.” 

Over the years, Padbury has recognized that mentoring is different for each page, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to a remote working environment has presented new challenges.

“I’ve had to learn how to adapt to different mentoring needs and learning about Pages and the best ways to support them since we left campus in March of 2020,” Padbury noted. “It was hard for us to initially pivot when the pandemic hit because their job relied on them being in the office, working in person. We had to create ways so that the experience was meaningful to the college to benefit from their work and also deliver professional development.”

In Padbury’s view, the Dean’s Pages program is as much a personal and professional growth opportunity for her as it is for the students. Case in point: Leeman Smith ’22, majoring in fashion and textile design with a concentration in textile design. 

Working remotely, he has devoted his time developing an art collection – from painting to weaving to illustration – that not only demonstrates textile technology in the Wilson College but his talent and passion as an artist. The pieces will be displayed in the Dean’s Suite as visible examples of how textiles enhance the quality of life for all.

Mentored by Padbury, Smith explored options, researched materials, developed a budget and submitted a proposal — essential skills as he pursues a career in textile design.

“I’m not their parent but an adult, and Leeman and all the Pages bounce ideas off me,” said Padbury. “I really enjoy discovering and developing their individual strengths and helping them grow.”

“Amanda did a great job of nurturing each of the Pages’ individual strengths which ultimately made the program feel cohesive,” Tellez recalled. “She genuinely cared and wanted to make sure we as students also saw benefit from working as a Page.”

The mentoring doesn’t end at the end of the semester – or after graduation, for that matter. Dean’s Pages continue to reach out to Padbury as they reach milestones in their lives or even just to ‘check in.’

“As a Dean’s Page, I was able to develop a lot of those types of soft skills that many people do not develop until later on,” said Grace Bunemann ’17, now vice president for the Class of 2023 at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine. “The support system I gained through the program has also meant a lot to me. I still regularly communicate with Amanda and other Pages, and love hearing about all the new plans in development for the program.” 

Amanda Gregory ’19, dyehouse systems manager at American and Efird, had a similar experience. “My job environment now is very different from my time as a Dean’s Page but I still translate a lot of the things I learned in that time to my daily life in my career in the textile industry,” she said. “Amanda taught me so much and helped push me out of my comfort zone to grow as a leader and to become better at the things I wasn’t as good at.”

Padbury – who acknowledges she is not a “futuristic person” – has enjoyed watching the program evolve and grow naturally. But looking ahead, it “would be fantastic if it expanded to all the administrative offices within the university” to support student success.

“I really enjoyed my time at Michigan Tech and the college environment – it was so magical. And the opportunity to mentor students now during this time is something I truly enjoy.”