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2012 January

It’s Time to Get Lethally Serious About Doing Stuff That Actually Matters

A dear friend of mine and Wake Forest alumna posted a link on Facebook to an article from the Harvard Business Review entitled “Create a Meaningful Life Through Meaningful Work.”  It is a short, thought-provoking read.  The author recounts his time spent in various hipster pursuits in Manhattan, and ultimately how tedious it feels.  He comes to this idea: “maybe the real depression we’ve got to contend with isn’t merely one of how much economic output we’re generating — but what we’re putting out there, and why. Call it a depression of human potential, a tale of human significance being willfully squandered (on, for example, stuff like this).”

He suggests that instead of chasing whatever trivial pursuits we’re pursuing, “it’s time to get lethally serious about doing stuff that actually matters.”

He says that in thinking about life and work, we should pose the following questions:

Does it stand the test of time?

Does it stand the text of excellence?

Does it stand the test of you?

I think about our students and where they are in their developmental and educational processes.  Our students are vastly smart and are – or are on their way to becoming – excellent critical thinkers.  I trust they will easily be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and discern which things can stand the test of time and the test of excellence.  For the third question, however, that one is a little more tricky, because many of our students aren’t used to training that critical eye inward.  This is where, parents and families and trusted friends, you might be able to help your students begin to examine themselves – and think about what matters to them.

The author of the blog post says of the third question: “So while I too sometimes feel enchanted by the seductive power of glittering fantastic excess that seems to have mesmerized my little informal sample of Manhattanites, I’d also like to challenge them — and you — to consider the questions of mattering in a slightly more sophisticated, humane, considered way. It’s one thing to work on stuff that seems sexy because it’s socially cool and financially rewarding. But fulfillment doesn’t come much from money or cool-power — all the money in the world can’t buy you a searing sense of accomplishment.”

If your student is already well on his or her way to having a clear vision of his skills, values, interests, strengths, and passions – congratulations!   And if he isn’t, I would recommend again taking advantage of the many tools that the Office of Personal and Career Development offers our students.  Start at the beginning – take some of the assessments that are available; these can help students gauge interests in potential majors or careers, or discern values that will be important to their life and work for the rest of their lives.  If your student doesn’t have a mentor, this might be the semester he wants to get one – so there is a trusted adult who can provide support and guidance as he starts making choices both about how to spend his time here at Wake Forest and throughout the rest of his life.

I would bet that most of our students want to “do stuff that actually matters.”  That’s just part of the DNA of being a Wake Forester.  We want to help them get there.   I think it starts with Know Thyself.

Big News, and Happy Birthday, WFU!

There was big, wonderful news on campus this past Friday.  Wake Forest has hired a new provost (chief academic officer of the university).  Our new provost is Rogan Kersh, a member of the Wake Forest Class of 1986 and one of our first Reynolds Scholars.  He studied at Wake Forest’s Venice House (Casa Artom), and was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, Phi Beta Kappa, and Theta Chi fraternity.  He went on to be an outstanding teacher and scholar at NYU.

While I don’t know him personally, I know of him through my years at Wake Forest.  Of the faculty and administrators I know well and respect, they are all thrilled – and their endorsement goes a long way.  I could not be more excited to have him come back to campus.  In his remarks to the campus after he was formally announced as provost, you could hear how deeply he understands Wake Forest’s culture, and how much he respects the faculty who helped shape him as a scholar and as an administrator.  He has a lot of love for this place, and wants to make it even better.  I see many good things on the horizon!  More about Provost Kersh here.  Welcome home, Provost Kersh!

In other happy news, Wake Forest has a birthday coming up next week.  “Mother So Dear” (as sung in the alma mater) will be a youthful 178.  And for all our age, we still roll the Quad and have a lot of fun!

David Cox (’11), a past co-chair of the Traditions Council and now a Wake Forest Fellow, is helping to organize a week of festivities in honor of Wake Forest’s birthday.  He’s written a lovely piece on the main WFU web site, which I recommend to everyone.

“Wake Forest’s birthday is like any other birthday: It is a time for celebration and reflection.”  Please encourage your students to be part of the festivities!

And if you need to brush up on Wake Forest’s history and traditions, you can read more here.

A Very Good Reason to Call Your Students Today

It’s always good to talk to your children.  As a parent myself, I feel that deeply in my heart.  We all want to connect with our children and maintain the bonds of love, the channels of open communication, and warm feelings – even when they are far away.

Today you have an extra good reason to talk to your students.  Tonight is Pledge Night for the Greek system, and that means there will be parties for the new pledges and generally a lot of social activity on campus.  Whether your student is Greek or independent, at some point during the evening, your students will likely have the opportunity to drink.  Some will, some won’t.  Regrettably, there have been some disturbing incidents with excessive use of alcohol at past Pledge Nights – not solely by Greek students, by the way.

And this is where you come in, parents.

Studies show that if parents call and talk to their college students on Friday afternoon or evening, those students are less likely to engage in high-risk behavior such as excessive alcohol use.  My colleagues in the faculty have studied this issue extensively; I believe it was our Psychology department.

Think about that.  Pretty amazing.

I have heard our Vice President for Student Life, Ken Zick, talk about this phenomenon.  If my memory serves, he told me that the studies show the parent doesn’t have to explicitly talk to his student about alcohol – it’s the simple fact of talking to the student, with its implicit reminder of family connections, responsibilities, and parental expectations for behavior – that affects the student and serves to reduce risky behavior.  Of course, many parents will speak more directly, urging their students to be sensible and safe, especially in regards to alcohol.

My party line has always been that parents and students probably should talk once a week anyway.  But why not make it Friday afternoon, especially since Friday afternoon talks with parents have this effect of reducing high-risk behavior?

Parents, I’m asking you to try this today.  Call your students this afternoon. Talk about whatever you like.  Be overt about drinking and expectations if it suits your personal style and family dynamics, or be very general and subtle and simply remind your student how proud you are of him or her, and tell them to be safe in whatever they do.

You have nothing to lose – and everything to gain.

Then repeat it every Friday : )

Students Looking for Their Niche?

One of the things that I feel pretty strongly about is the importance of students finding their niche on campus – some sort of identity or friend group that provides a social outlet, sense of belonging, etc.  When I talk to my own advisees, or even potential new students, I always talk about how it is a good exercise to find a place that feels comfortable, separate from your roommate or friends on your hall, so you have some companionship and shared experiences.  Many of our first year students have already found their place in a club sport, student organization, Greek organization, etc.

If your student is still looking for his or her niche, I recommend highly an event that is coming up this Friday.  We have an outstanding Volunteer Service Corps, and they do a terrific job securing opportunities for students to volunteer on campus and in the larger community.  It may be that your student now has time and inclination to branch out socially and try some new extracurriculars.  If so, they should check this out.  Full details are in the email I received below.



If you’re Interested in volunteering more on campus this semester, come join VSC for Fifth-Floor Friday on the fifth floor of Benson (the VSC office) from 4pm-6pm, this Friday, January 27th. Come early for free pizza and take some time to meet and chat with leaders from various organizations on campus to see how you can get involved. The event is an open house, so come in and leave at your convenience.

Please contact if you have any questions.
Check us out online to learn more about volunteer opportunities.
Visit us in Benson 506!
Find out more info by clicking “Like” VSC on Facebook

Blogs Worth Reading

I found out yesterday about a great new blog from the Dean’s Office.  DEACademics has some very nice stories and an eye catching design as well.  It bills itself as “A Collegiate Guide for the Successful Student.”  Two very timely blog posts are at the top; one on Academic Resolutions and the other on getting Back in the Habit [of schoolwork].  This is one worth bookmarking.

Also, there are a couple of new blog posts by Vice President Andy Chan of the Office of Personal and Career Development.  One is on LinkedIn – which if your students aren’t using yet, they will want to do so as they get closer to their job search – and the other is on Andy’s talk to our Wake Forest Fellows.

Student Opportunities – RA Selection

Residence Life & Housing is beginning to accept applications for Resident Adviser (RA) positions for the 2012-13 academic year.  There will be a number of RA information sessions held over the next few weeks (schedule here, scroll down to find it); the deadline to submit an application is available on that page as well.

RA positions are pretty coveted, because RAs get their on-campus housing for free, are assigned to single rooms, and receive a $3,000 stipend.  There is a good outline of the roles and responsibilities of RAs online.  If your student is interested, be sure to direct him or her to this web site.  (Several of my academic advisees have gone on to be RAs and they seem to enjoy the position.)

Because of the financial benefit to being an RA, it is a competitive process.  So if your student signs up and he or she does not receive an RA position, please know that demand always exceeds supply and do not take it personally.  But for very responsible students who can make the commitment to being an RA and who would enjoy it, I hope they will consider it.

Click here to learn more about this wonderful leadership opportunity.

Meet a Deac – Joanne Clinch

Today’s Meet a Deac is Joanne Clinch, a physician in the Student Health Service.  Our Student Health Service serves as the primary care physicians for our students.  The SHS is a comprehensive office and offers a wide variety of services, including: acute care for illness and injury, care for chronic illness, physical examinations, gynecological services, HIV and STD testing, preventive health, allergy injections, immunizations, referrals to specialists, health education, international travel clinic, laboratory testing, pharmacy, Sports Medicine Clinic, psychiatry consultation, day observation, and urgent care 24 hours during fall and spring semesters.  We hope you enjoy meeting Dr. Clinch.


What is your official job title?
I am one of the physicians in Student Health Services here at Wake Forest.

How long have you worked at WFU?
I have been part of the Wake Forest community for a little over two years. I have been practicing medicine now for twenty years; the first half of my career was in a typical family medicine private practice setting. When my family moved to Winston Salem in 2000, I joined the UNC School of the Arts Student Health Service as their medical director. It was there that I fell in love with the specialty of college health. I was fortunate to join the Wake Forest community when our Student Health Service expanded its staff to add another full time physician to meet the growing need of our student community.

In laymen’s terms, what do you do at WFU?
Part of what I love about my job is the variety of ways in which I function to serve our community. Primarily, I provide care to the students of Wake Forest University. The medical providers of Wake Forest Student Health Service embrace a comprehensive approach involving health education, health maintenance, acute care, appropriate care of chronic illnesses.

Much like family medicine, the type of medical conditions I might treat include infectious diseases, asthma, depression, injuries, acne, women’s health, STDs, eating disorders and health maintenance. Part of my role includes providing consultation for our travel medicine clinic, our physician extenders (PA and Nurse practitioner) and teaching fourth year medical students from Wake Forest School of Medicine who spend a month working in our clinic. I also liaison with  members of our Wake Forest Community as the medical provider to the Eating Disorder team, the CARE Team and the Crisis Management Team.

How would you characterize Wake Forest students?
Our students are wonderful! They are intelligent, caring and highly motivated. One of the things I love most about my job is the opportunity to get to know these fabulous students!

What advice would you give to students?
The advice I would give to students is to strive to find a balance between academics, social life, involvement in organizations and their health. There are so many wonderful opportunities at Wake Forest, it can be challenging as a student to avoid becoming over extended. I often see that students end up having to sacrifice attention to wellness to meet the demands of their schedule. This often means lack of appropriate amount of sleep, exercise and just “down time”. Those elements are so crucial to overall health and wellness, but are the first things to go when things get busy.

I would also advise both students and parents to think of the resources in Student Health Service as their primary care providers while away from home. Once students begin at college, they spend more time here than at home and it is important to develop a relationship with a medical provider. This is especially important for students with ongoing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, depression and others that require routine visits to make sure these conditions remain under good control. Our staff is very comfortable and has the expertise to help students with both acute and chronic medical conditions.

What do you like best about working at Wake Forest?
There are so many things I love about working at Wake Forest. I suppose it is that it is such a fabulous community. The professionals with whom I collaborate are amazingly talented, deeply caring and committed to supporting our students and their families. The opportunity to get to know and work with our students both in providing care and through outreach is exciting. It is a privilege to be a member of this team!

This is always my favorite part!  Let’s go!

Book you’re reading now: Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.

What music are you listening to these days: Adele, Jack White and Bruno Mars

Favorite movie: That is always a tough one for me! I love inspirational stories, so films like Apollo 13, Miracle, The Blind Side and Remember the Titans energize me. I am also intrigued by “out of the box” movies- my favorite being Memento.

Guilty pleasure: Spending the day in my most comfortable sweats and curling up on the couch to spend the entire day reading a great book.

Favorite place to be on campus: Walking on the Quad at lunch on a warm spring or fall day admiring the incredible landscaping and the energy of the students! Off site favorite campus spot is being in the sea of Demon Deacon fans in a stadium full of the energy and excitement of football and basketball!

What most people don’t know about you: I am a certified cake decorator!

Wrapping Up the Week

There was a glorious, beautiful sunrise over campus this morning.  Probably most of our students missed it, sadly, but those who are early morning joggers or walkers might have seen it.  The sky looked a bit like a wonderful rainbow sherbet – oranges and lilacs and pinks – with the sun coming up large and gold and glowing.

This week was of course a short one, with classes just having started mid-week.  Having that short week is probably a nice transition for your students.  Helps ease back into the academic routine.  The weather over the next week looks like it will be a mishmash – it had been very cold here earlier in the week, like low 40s, but it is going to jump to mid 50s today, mid 60s tomorrow, then back to low 40s and then nearly 60s again.  The forecast shows rain over the weekend, but at least it will be warmer.

Our men’s basketball team traveled to Durham  lastnight to play Duke.  We lost by 18, which is regrettable, but Duke is a very good team and perhaps an 18 point loss can still be construed as a moral victory, in the words of one of my friends and favorite colleagues.  Let’s hope the Deacs get into a good groove as ACC season heats up.  Parents, remind your students that part of being a Wake Forest fan is to be unswervingly loyal in good and bad times.  Our student presence at games hasn’t been as strong as this alumna would like to see.  If you can egg them on a bit, please do.

Finally, we decided to post our Weekly Message for First Year Families a little early this week.  The topic is Social Justice, and the reason we’re posting early is because there is a program on Monday night at 7 pm in Wait Chapel with television journalist Soledad O”Brien – and we hope you might encourage your students to attend.  A notable speaker is always something to take advantage of, and it promises to be a good program.

Hope you and all your Deacs have a happy weekend!

Welcome Back

Students are back, which brings a life and vibrancy to our campus that I have to say I missed over the winter break.  It feels much emptier without your kids here!  They are getting back to their routines – classes, Starbucks, jogging and other active pursuits, student organizations, dining in the Pit and Benson, late night fun, and more.

This first week there is typically some shuffling around in students’ schedules.  Some students are wait listed for a class they want, and as someone drops a course, the ripples can be felt among the others waiting in the queue who wish to take that student’s place.  Things tend to settle out after the first week or 10 days, and then students will be locked in to their new schedule and classes.

President Hatch made a welcome back video for our students (watch it here).  In it, he mentions that at the start of a new semester, every student gets to refresh, and no one has less than an A (of course, because nothing has been graded).  It’s a good sentiment to remember – whatever the challenges of the past semester, they are over now, and students should look ahead.

It’s a good time to remind parents to remind their students that if they are having issues in a class, seek help early.  Do not wait until midterms – seek assistance as soon as possible.  It’s much easier to keep up with issues as they arise than waiting until they become much larger.  The Learning Assistance Center, Writing Center, Math Center and faculty office hours are there for you.

Welcome back, students!

National Mentor Month

January is National Mentor Month, and Andy Chan, Vice President of Career Development, has a new post on his blog about mentoring relationships.  His office has created a really nice Mentor Toolkit as well.  As parents and families, you should take a look and see what’s out there.  More importantly, you should talk to your students about mentoring.  Do they have a mentor? Do you have one, and can share some stories of how the mentor has helped you over the years?

This is an especially good time for students to engage a trusted adult in a mentoring relationship.  It’s the beginning of a semester and a time to look to the coming months with fresh eyes.  For new students, they still may be settling in to their Wake Forest experience and could use a guiding light to help reveal opportunities and possibilities for campus engagement, academic pursuits, or plain old personal growth.  For juniors and seniors, they may need to look more purposefully to the future – careers or grad school? where to live? what to do with their lives?  What better way to chew on some of these big topics than with the help of a trusted mentor?