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2011 October

On the Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Homecoming was this past weekend, and with the exception of a regrettable loss on the gridiron, it was a fabulous weekend.  We celebrated reunions for classes ending in 1s and 6s – everyone from the Class of 1961 to the Class of 2006.  Having a couple thousand alumni on campus reminded me how much this place means to them.  They come back to see the beauty of the campus, to reconnect to friends and classmates, to visit former professors, and to remember what they learned here.  Whether it was 5 years ago or 50, they come back in droves.

What do they remember about their education?  What do they value?  In education and psychology, there is the theory of primacy and recency.  Wikianswers defines this effect as:

Primacy and recency are terms used in psychology to describe the effect of order of presentation on memory. The primacy effect results in information presented earlier being better remembered than information presented later on. The recency effect results in better recall of the most recent information presented. Together, these two effects result in the earliest and latest information in a given presentation being recalled best, with information in the middle being least remembered

And on the morning after Homecoming weekend, I am looking to a recent graduate for inspiration about what a Wake Forest education means.  We have a terrific young alumnus, Marcus Keely (’10), who worked at Wake Forest last year as a Fellow, and is now managing the START (student art) gallery in Reynolda Village.  Marcus wrote an exceptionally thoughtful piece about the value of a liberal arts education for the most recent WF Magazine (full article here).  In it, he talked about the frightening job market and the insecurity some liberal arts students feel in defending their choice of major:

“One of my close friends, a member of my graduating class, echoed this sentiment. A history major, she, like myself, had mastered the art of researching and writing a thorough paper on an obscure subject, but now, facing an unpredictable job market, felt wholly unemployable. ‘What can you do with a liberal arts degree?’ It seemed like every direction she turned there stood the question, an obstruction blocking her path.

While it is easy to harbor such an attitude in an economy that appears to reward hyper-specialization and college majors like engineering and microbiology, my five years as a member of the Wake Forest community (four as an undergraduate student and one as a staff member) compel me to think otherwise; that receiving a liberal arts degree is not a roadblock, but instead a crossroads.”

In this day and age, it would be tempting to think a liberal arts degree is not a safe path.  But Marcus gets it right:  “With the right preparation and perspective what at first appears to be a roadblock often is actually a crossroads; a place full of opportunity where, when an unbridled curiosity is met with limitless possibilities, one has the ability to choose, to mature and, with a measure of hope, to succeed.”

President Hatch said in a speech not long after he came to Wake Forest that (and I am paraphrasing here) “you don’t bet on strategies – you bet on people.”  We help train young minds to be nimble, quick, thoughtful, and principled.  Employers tell us that our students have exceptional critical thinking skills and a strong work ethic.  It doesn’t matter the major – our graduates excel.

I have always believed that you can take a recent graduate/new hire at a business and teach him or her how to be a banker [or insert any profession here], but if that person doesn’t already know how to think and communicate well, you can’t teach that.   In that way, I think we are betting on our people – the students – knowing they can learn the strategies specific to a profession as needed.

I don’t know if Marcus came to realize all he did based on the primacy of his lessons at Wake Forest, or their recency.  But he makes me proud.

Welcome Home for Homecoming!

Happy Homecoming Friday!  As you can imagine, it’s a busy time for us on campus.  Here’s a look back at some of the best photos from Homecoming 2010 to show you what a great time we’re going to have this Homecoming!

Campus Experiences Checklist

My colleagues in Campus Life do a terrific job creating a vibrant atmosphere on campus and offering a wide variety of activities, events, and outlets for students’ energies and passions.

They put together a checklist that is intended for first year students, but I would argue that most of the activities that are listed would be applicable to students of any year at Wake Forest, with a couple exceptions that are clearly meant for the beginning of a student’s time at college.

Does your student know this checklist exists?  Do you think he or she is taking advantage of all the things WFU has to offer?  Deac families, you might want to review this list and ask your student about some of these activities when your student is home for Fall Break or Thanksgiving break.  Not in a way to make them feel pressured to do/attend any of these items, but just to see which kinds of experiences your student is having here: artistic, cultural, career, athletic?  Which ones does he or she value the most?

And whenever you come to campus, this list might give you ideas of things you might like to try as well.

Coach Jim Grobe

Some of you might have seen this article in the Washington Post: “Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe achieves beyond the numbers” (written by John Feinstein, a Duke alumnus and sportswriter.)  If you haven’t, it’s a good read.

While I am by no means a confidante of the coach, I’ve invited him to speak at several events on campus, and I can tell you this man is as nice as the day is long.  Polite, kind, a twinkle in his very blue eyes.  He is a warm, welcoming man.  And a real stitch too – he has his own lexicon, and those familiar with his press conferences will remember him talking about telling his team to “play like their hair’s on fire” and he is also known to talk about playing so hard “you get snot bubbles.”

After WFU won the 2006 ACC championship and went to the Orange Bowl that year (which, as an aside, had the greatest migration of Deac faithful to South Florida ever recorded), he won the national coach of the year award and was understandably wooed by a lot of very good teams.  Coach Grobe didn’t go.  With all the options he had, he stayed at Wake Forest.  Reason # eleventybillion to like him.

One of my lasting memories of Coach Grobe was his speaking engagements with Coach Prosser, our men’s basketball coach who died of a massive heart attack on campus in July 2007.  All of our coaches support each other here and attend each other’s events, but there was a special camaraderie between Coaches Grobe and Prosser.  They did a lot of speaking engagements together, and it was beautiful to watch their repartee – Coach Grobe, whose style was much more “aww shucks, fellas” and endearingly friendly but also very smart, and Coach Prosser who had an encyclopedic mind and could pull out the most intricate facts of history or literature and combine them with his razor sharp wit.  To see them together on stage, with their different styles, their give and go – well, it was like watching an intricate pas de deux with two expert dancers.

Wish I had a picture of one of their events to post here, but I don’t.  How I’d love to hear one more press conference with them both.

Homecoming Week is Here!

Happy Tuesday, Deac families!  In case you missed it, we had a monster win this past weekend over Florida State.  If my sports facts hold true, we were the only team to upset a Top 25 ranked team this week.  The Quad got rolled, everyone was happy.  A wonderful way to start Homecoming week.

Our Homecoming festivities for alumni start this Thursday and continue through the weekend – a full schedule of events is online here.  Select highlights include:

A Voices of Our Time speaker event on Thursday evening, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps.  Mark Shriver is the guest speaker.  Mark is the son of Sargeant Shriver, who was brother-in-law of President John F. Kennedy and the driving force behind and first administrator of the Peace Corps.  There is a great article in the most recent WF Magazine about Wake Forest’s enduring ties to the Peace Corps.

There will be a Reynolda Mile Gallery Walk on Friday at 4:30, which showcases all the best of the arts and museums associated with Wake Forest.

Your students will not want to miss the President’s Ball on Friday evening at 9 pm. Alumni, students, faculty and staff will come together for the 4th biennial President’s Ball honoring President Hatch. With a live band and dance floor in the arena and additional spaces with a jazz band and bars, the Ball is sure to be a fabulous night spent with fellow Deacons.

On Saturday morning from 9-noon is the Festival on the Quad, which will have free food and drinks, carnival games, live music and more.  Tell your students to get up early and go to the Festival.  It’s such a great event – and sooner than they realize, it will be their 5th reunion, hard as that is for you – and they – to believe.

View the full Homecoming schedule – and if you are an alumni family, we hope to see you on campus!  Go Deacs!

Studying Abroad and Cross Cultural Engagement

About 60% of Wake Forest students go abroad at some point in their tenure.  Having done it myself in the Dijon, France program, I can say it was easily the most rewarding and memorable of my semesters on campus.  As an academic advisor, I urge all my students to consider going abroad if they have interest and if it is feasible for their families.

One of the great enhancements to the study abroad experience has come through our expanded Center for International Studies.  They now offer courses on Cross Cultural Engagement to help students prepare for the cultural aspects of studying abroad. These cross-cultural engagement courses (1 hour each) may be taken individually or in succession and will help students hone the skills necessary to study, live and work effectively in cultures other than theirown. These courses are optional, but certainly recommended.

You and your students can learn more about Cross Cultural Engagement online.  There are also some very compelling quotes from students who have participated in these courses.

And if your student is just at the beginning of his or her first year, and is considering going abroad, the Center for International Studies website is the place to get started.

Hit the Bricks Recap

Yesterday was Hit the Bricks, and what a glorious day it was.  The morning kicked off at 11 with some speakers from the football team (since the event is in memory of our famous and too-soon-departed alumnus football player, Brian Piccolo).  We heard from Stan Cotten, the Voice of the Demon Deacons at sporting events.  We heard from the director of the Cancer Center at WFU Medical School.  We also heard that since this event was started in 2003, Wake Foresters have run 100,000 laps for Brian Piccolo.  This is a record year for team participation – 90+ teams.  It was a fantastic day for the event – sunny and low 70s, breezy, gorgeous in every way.

The mechanics of Hit the Bricks are that you can have a team of 10 people, and one of your teammates carries a baton around the Quad.  The baton has a barcode on it, and the code gets scanned once each lap, or twice if you are wearing a backpack full of sand.  If you work harder via the sand backpack, you get the extra credit.  Each team member pays $15, which goes to cancer research.

There’s a lot of friendly rivalry, particularly among the fraternity and sorority entrants.  There is one faculty-staff team who was charmingly (but perhaps maniacally) hardcore about it.  They ran in shifts, and had each member who was running with the backpack.  They were very fast runners and began with a commanding lead and it pretty much held throughout the day.  This team – along with any others who were earnestly trying to win, they had “swap out” runners stand at the scanning station, so they could quickly get their backpack and baton to the next guy or girl and barely break stride.  It was impressive to witness.

Also impressive was the way student organizations who are sponsoring teams set up tents on the Quad.  Some pulled out sofas and chairs, other had drink stands, cheering sections, and signs.  There was music all day – a combination of DJ and live bands – and about once an hour they updated the giant white boards with all the scores of the individual teams re: how many laps they’d run thus far.

Hit the Bricks was also a nice example of students, faculty and staff working together.  There was a student group who helped plan the event (with help from some administrators).  During the walk, students saw some of their professors, deans, and faculty walking.  There was lots of conversation, lots of camaraderie, especially during the ‘cool down’ moments after folks stopped running.

The camaraderie and excitement was palpable.  As I did my laps (totaling 7 miles, according to my pedometer!) I saw some parents with students who were clearly visiting campus for the official tour and interview, and I thought “if every single visiting student today doesn’t apply, I’d be amazed.”  You are not going to find another happier day – unless of course, it’s Project Pumpkin!

We had a few moments of levity too.  At some point I saw a male student running in a Halloween costume that was a bottle of tequila. Some students wore funny hats – top hats, Santa hats.  We had a couple of the ‘green men’ type bodysuits that covered up their full bodies (heads too); these were in black and gold.

At the end of the event, there was a lap in memory of those who are battling/have battled cancer.  Some people purchased luminaries in their memory.  Then there were remarks in front of the chapel.  And at the end of the day, everyone was excited, tired, happy, and a little reflective.

I am proud to say that at some point during the day, our Parent Programs team was ranked as high as 3rd in the faculty-staff category.  Woo hoo!

Today We Are Hitting the Bricks

Today, the Parent Programs office (and the authors of the Daily Deac) will be up on the Quad doing “Hit the Bricks.”  We’ll bring you a full recap of the event tomorrow.

Here’s a few shots from the past couple of Hit the Bricks events, to give you an idea of what’s taking place today.  There will be musical groups, a scoreboard for the different divisions, lots of running and walking, just before 7  teams will take a final silent lap around the Quad, then gather to remember cancer victims and their families.

African Writer Event Thursday Night

A colleague from the International Studies area sent me an email about an event tomorrow evening (October 6th) that looks very interesting.

This event is part of Winston-Salem and the World Scene: a collaboration of institutions of higher education within Winston-Salem.  The group is focusing on Africa in 2011, which is very timely given the news coming from the Horn of Africa.
Tomorrow night (Thursday, October 6) at  7: 00 pm, Salem College invites students to join them for Purple Hibiscus: An Evening with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  Adichie will be giving a reading from her first novel, Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. The Thing Around Your Neck, her most recent book, is a collection of short stories that was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in Africa. A recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, she divides her time between the United States and Nigeria.
If your student loves literature, is interested in Africa, or just wants the opportunity to hear from a renowned writer, please share this information.  Salem College is a very short drive – just to downtown Winst0n-Salem.

Hit the Bricks on Thursday

Thursday there is a wonderful event on campus called Hit the Bricks.  It’s a fundraiser for the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund, and teams of up to 10 people run (or in my case, walk) laps on the Quad.  Teams can be formed by: fraternities, sororities, freshmen halls, faculty/staff, or “open” teams, which could be any other group of students (whether from a club, intramural team, etc.)

Each team is given a baton to carry, which gets scanned every lap to track the team’s progress.  You get one lap credit per scan if you walk/run unencumbered, but two laps credit if you wear a Hit the Bricks backpack full of sand.  It’s more work, so you get more points.

There is some not-so-subtle competition between teams, because the urge to win is strong among Wake Foresters.  There are bragging rights to be won, and it’s not just the student groups either.  I was talking to a staff member yesterday who said his team has an elaborate strategy, unlike anything else they’ve ever done.  This team is serious.  They want to win the faculty/staff category.

This event involves so many members of our campus community.  Teams drag out sofas and coolers of drinks for their group – so if you aren’t running, you can relax and rehydrate for a few minutes.  There are cheers, there are real time stats being kept on a giant scoreboard throughout the day.  It’s full of energy and excitement.

The actual kickoff was on Tuesday night, where they held the time trials for fastest lap.  Each team was encouraged to send a runner.  The fastest male and female runner won a Balfour class ring.  There is going to be a captain’s meeting tonight (Wednesday) to go over the procedural  aspects of the run, followed by a pizza and pasta dinner and a showing of the movie “Brian’s Song” about Brian Piccolo.  Then on Thursday, team captains are supposed to claim their baton, wristbands and backpack of sand between 9-10:45 am.  The event proper starts at 11 and runs til 7.

The Parent Programs office will be represented during Hit the Bricks, so if you are a regular reader of this Daily Deac blog or the Parents’ Page or Facebook, know that we’re out there doing our part for Brian Piccolo.  And hopefully not being trampled by your much younger, much faster, children!