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2012 February

Some Images from Speak Out

Last week was Tie a Yellow Ribbon week on campus, which is meant to raise awareness of sexual assault.  There is a week’s worth of activities, which culminates in the Speak Out in Wait Chapel.  Speak-out is a ceremony honoring sexual assault survivors. Anonymous testimonials submitted by Wake Forest students are read, and there is also music and time for reflection.

Here are some pictures from the event.  While I was not able to attend, I know this to be a very powerful event on campus for those who go to it.  Also, this was the 20th anniversary of Tie a Yellow Ribbon week on campus – an important milestone.

Something to Celebrate

There was a good deal of activity on campus this past weekend.  There was Spring Family Weekend, the TEDx conference, opening of City of Angels at the University Theatre – a lot of incredible choices for how to spend your time.  There was also a pretty darn good basketball game.

Our Deacs played Boston College on Saturday and for the first time in a long time, handed out a proper drubbing.  85-56 was the score.   While the team has been beleaguered for most of the season, they found their stride.  We led for most (or maybe even all) of the game.  There were some impressive, thrilling moments – CJ Harris dunking right over someone was my personal favorite.  It was a much-needed shot in the arm.

Sadly, there were not nearly the number of students there that I would have liked to see.

I understand, it was Spring Family Weekend, and they might have been out with their Deac families.  But we have had slim pickins in the student section this year.   I wish I could tell all our students that this is the only time in their lives (most likely) that they will have access to so many sporting events for free (or virtually free).  And they should go!  Support their classmates and the school by going to games, whether we are winning or losing.

Similarly, I wish more of them took advantage of lectures, and the arts, and all the other amazing opportunities on campus.  But for now, I’d settle for more tie dye shirts in the Joel.  Last chance is tonight against Duke.  We need a strong showing there, so egg on your kids for us!

Procrastination Blockers

Last week, my colleagues from the Office of Academic Advising and the Learning Assistance Center sent this information to the Parent Programs office.  I think it is a truth universally acknowledged that between students’ cell phones, laptops, and iPads, they literally have the entire planet at their fingertips at any moment.  And whether it is texting or instant messaging, surfing the web or playing the hottest new app, there are ample distractions.
The LAC offers this advice to help the situation:
“Sometimes we need a little extra accountability in order to break old procrastination patterns. If you find yourself being easily distracted by commonly visited websites (i.e. email, social networking sites, online videos), try downloading one of the following programs. Each one allows you to temporarily block specified sites in order to help you stay focused and get your work done.
Self-Control (for Mac only)
LeechBlock (for Firefox only)
Chrome Nanny (for Google Chrome only)
If you think your student could benefit from any of these tools, please share this with them!  And as we have said before, Fridays are a great time to call and give your student that subtle reminder of home and parental concern – so maybe it’s worth a phone call!

Imagining a Different Campus Culture – Part II

Last night I was one of probably 200-250 members of the campus community who participated in a discussion about campus culture.  Dr. Katy Harriger of Political Science led this exercise.  Dr. Harriger and and Jill McMillan, Professor Emerita of Communication, have worked with the concept of deliberative dialogue – and they used this model with our large group.

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory defines deliberative dialogue this way: “a face-to-face method of public interaction in which small groups of diverse individuals exchange and weigh ideas and opinions about a particular issue in which they share an interest. In some methods of deliberative dialogue, such as the study circle, participants begin the discussion from their personal experience with the issue and proceed over time to examine multiple views and perspectives. In the end, whether or not they come to consensus, the group will ideally understand the complexities of the issue and come to an informed opinion about it.”

That definition accurately mirrored our exercise.  As a large group, we all began in Pugh Auditorium while Dr. Harriger talked about the process and our goals – to consider three different perspectives on what our campus might want to emphasize if we want to move our campus culture in a different direction.  We watched a short video made by a student that represented the three perspectives of the exercise:

1) imagining a more inclusive community – how do we live with each other better, how do we understand differences and respect each other, have better relations between campus organizations (particularly in Greeks and independents), etc.

2) imagining a more vibrant intellectual community – a lot of this discussion was about the difference between working hard just to achieve a grade vs. engaging fully in lots of opportunities to live ‘the life of the mind’ in and out of class, all week long; 0ne of the discussion points here was the idea that some students believe that if they worked hard all week and did well in their schoolwork, they earned the right to spend their free time however they like – and for many, that might be a weekend of parties and non-intellectual pursuits.

3)  imagining a more engaged community – Wake Forest’s motto is Pro Humanitate (for humanity) and while many of our students are involved in service, are we really getting past the ‘Wake Forest bubble’ and learning more about our larger community? are we offering our skills and help, in partnership with the city and beyond?  should we be?

Following the film, we were broken into groups of 20 people and assigned to an area to discuss each of the three perspectives.  My group had students of all years, as well as some faculty and administrators; I am sure the other groups were similar.  Each discussion group had moderators (many of whom I know and like a lot) and ground rules – listen, don’t interrupt, try to understand the points the others make, even if they disagree directly with your opinion.

So we sat together and talked about what we have experienced in terms of intellectual engagement, service, and inclusion.  We shared positives and negatives for each.  People were very honest.  In my group we had Greek students and independents, students who did not drink at all, some who were very involved in service organizations, some who were RAs, some student athletes.  We had science majors and English majors, students of all class years, including one who sadly said she was transferring because she felt like she had not found enough people who shared her values.  It was fascinating to hear their perspectives, and to share mine.

We talked a lot in our group about the first perspective, the inclusive community.  I told the group that one of the things that has pained me the most in the past couple of years is that I have had 2 young women advisees transfer because they didn’t get in to a sorority, and a 3rd of mine is in the pr0cess of deciding now whether to stay or go.  I explained what these women told me, which was they felt like they were on this small campus with all these girls in the sororities who had ‘judged them’ during recruitment and must somehow be looking at her now like ‘there goes that girl we didn’t want, ha ha ha.”  I was impressed with the reactions of the Greek students in our group  I am not sure they realized the effect that recruitment can have, or how seriously some people take that rejection.  These were girls in some of the most popular groups on campus, and I felt like they were genuine in their dismay.

Our group agreed that we need to have more social outlets – and more cross-pollenization of the various campus organizations.  We debated the merits of keeping recruitment during second semester freshman year (it allows students to find a niche and a group to belong to, and is after they have acclimated to the academic life), and the idea of waiting until sophomore year (pro: it would give students a full year to find their friend groups and give them time to mature more to handle potential disappointment; con: it could create a divide between freshmen and ‘everyone else’  because of lack of mingling, and for those who really need a group to belong to, why make them wait?).

The goal of the exercise was not necessarily to find solutions right then and there.  It was more to explore, discuss, listen, understand.  Each group was asked to come up with some potential suggestions and action items that could be looked at further.  All the groups’ feedback was collected, and it will be shared with the campus community.

I left thinking a few things:

1. We have amazing students.  They came to the table with genuine interest and engagement.  While a lot of them in my group might not have shared the same organizations/friend groups, they were kind, respectful, friendly.   I wish I knew all of them better, frankly.

2. Civil discourse is a great thing.  Not one person in my group got hot headed, angry, dismissive.  Everyone participated with the right spirit.  I was proud of the respect shown to others.

3. It is good to break out of your own mind pattern and experiences to consider that of others.  I know what “I” think, and my reasons always make perfect sense to me.  But it was enlightening and refreshing to have heard these other perspectives – because I don’t walk their same path, I wouldn’t know what it is like unless they tell me, and I listen.

4. The faculty and staff present are wonderful, giving people.  They were there because they care about the campus, our students, and our shared experience – enough to sacrifice time at home with their families so they could meet at a time convenient to our students.   There is no merit pay for this sort of thing.  This is because they are just genuinely awesome people.

5. If we could harness the brainpower and goodwill of that group, I wonder if there is anything we couldn’t accomplish, working together.

6. I wish we could have found a way to involve more of the campus.

Finally, one of my friends (who had moderated) said on Facebook following the event: “This was, hands down, one of the coolest things I’ve ever done at WFU!!!!”

She’s right.

Imagining a Different Campus Culture – Part I

Tonight there is a campus-wide deliberation event being held in the Benson Center from 7-9 pm.  It is meant as a venue for the campus to reflect on our campus culture and what kind of community we are.  Are we living the values that are embodied in our Pro Humanitate motto?  Are there ways we should strengthen our campus culture?

In the pre-meeting reading (which is a paper that summarizes interviews with a cross section of faculty, students and administrators, as well as various documents and surveys over recent years),  Dr. Katy Harriger (Political Science) and Dr. Jill McMillian (Professor Emerita of Communication) note: “the first step in this process is to talk together about our experiences, aspirations, and ideas for change….By listening to those with whom we disagree or whose experiences are not like our own, we can learn to be more understanding of those who see the world differently than we do.  But we can also discover what we have in common and use that discovery to make Wake Forest a stronger college community.”

This promises to be a very interesting event – and I hope to bring you a recap tomorrow morning.

TEDx Is Almost Here

There is a great event coming up this weekend – the TEDx Conference.  For those unfamiliar with the TED concept, here’s a quote from the TEDx at Wake Forest web site:

“TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 26 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. At TED, the world’s leading thinkers and doers are asked to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes. Talks are then made available, free, at TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.”

Deac families, if you have some time to surf the internet and check out some of the past TED talks, there are some that are truly amazing and inspirational.

Today, Andy Chan, our Vice President for Personal and Career Development, talks about TEDx in his blog, Heart of the Matter.

Are your students going to TEDx?

Campus Miscellany

Yesterday morning was pretty breathtaking.  Snow covered most of the trees and branches on campus, and while there was very little of it on the ground – maybe just an inch, it clung more to the trees.  Driving onto campus from the Reynolda-Silas Creek entrance, winding through the trees, it looked like a real Winter Wonderland.  If you are a Facebook-er, check out some of the casual pics from the Wake Forest Parents Facebook page.

Alas, the snow was short lived.  It was sunny yesterday and bright, and much of it melted before the day was out.  The only places that have any snow still are spots where the sun doesn’t shine.  Today is a cold morning – 34ish degrees – but by Thursday it is supposed to reach 70 degrees.  Some of the daffodils on campus had been trying to come up last week, and a few of the cherry blossom trees had started to spring.  I hope that the snow hasn’t set that process back too far.  Spring at Wake Forest is a beautiful time.

Our office received a message yesterday from the Residence Life and Housing office.  They had sponsored a program last week Wednesday for the North Campus Apartments/Student Apartments area.  They invited an officer from University Police to come to mingle and hand out “Operation ID” where students can register their valuables so if they are ever stolen, they can be traced back to their owners.  The Resident Advisers also ordered sushi (a food most college students won’t get to eat during these kind of programs) and it was a big hit.  Over 50 upperclass students attended the program.  Students can get more information on Operation ID or sign up online.

Finally, another gem from Facebook.  Our Wake Forest University Theatre is trying to win a new lightboard in a contest.  To help them win, you can vote for their video submission by “liking” it at the button on the page.  Even if you don’t want to vote – but of course we hope you do! – there is a great montage 0f some of their work, both practices, performances and stills.  We love our Theatre!

Senior Orations

Founders’ Day Convocation was held this past Thursday, and as part of the event, three senior orations were featured.  It’s always so interesting to me to hear seniors’ reflections.  They are close to graduation – now just some 3 months away! – and are starting to think back on what they learned here, what they experienced here, what they will miss, what they loved, what was hard, and what was exhilarating.  And what’s next in their lives.

Three outstanding students read senior orations at Convocation, and you can read them all online.  Jean Chen (’12) made an emotional speech about what her life had been like in Taiwan, and the vastly different educational system there, how she came to an independent decision about the choice of major and found an academic passion.  Amy Gardin (’12) shared a story about how a B made all the difference in her outlook on education: should one study what one loves, or what comes easy?   Brandon Turner (’12) talked about his love of science, his fear that science meant we reduced everything into explainable formulas and theorems and left the beauty and mystery out of life, and how he got past that discomfort.

Not every senior oration can be read at Convocation.  There was one this year that was not read in Wait Chapel, but may be of special interest to parents and alumni, because it tells the story of one senior’s family’s Wake Forest history.  I know we have alumni parent readers of the Daily Deac, and I wanted to put this out there especially for you.  You’ll recognize some of the storied names of emeriti faculty.  Enjoy this oration from senior Emily Hershman.


Wake Forest: A Family Affair
By Emily Hershman (’12)

When asked to describe my relationship with Wake Forest, there is always one personal connection that supersedes all others: without Wake Forest, I would not have been born.  Had my parents not met each other in Dr. McDowell’s German history course in Tribble Hall, it is very possible that I would not be here today.  My past and present have been inextricably linked to this university, leading me to reflect on what I feel is a defining aspect of the quality of the Wake Forest experience: its dedicated faculty.  As the often unsung heroes of our pro humanitate motto, Wake Forest professors urge students to attain their full human potential by maintaining high standards of character and of scholarship.

Early in the Spring semester of 1968, my mother knocked on the door of Dr. James O’Flaherty’s office in the German department.  She was not happy.  A first year student, she had planned to become a German major, but a few long nights of trying to translate Nietzsche for his literature course had doused cold water over her aspirations.  Dr. O’Flaherty listened politely to her concerns, then told her that she should “wait a bit” before dropping the class and the major.  She took his advice, and this June will mark the end of her thirty-sixth year teaching German.  After my father edged his way past Dr. David Smiley’s ferocious pet dachshund, he found him to be a repository of both support and academic rigor as he composed a master’s thesis in Southern history.  Yet they were only two of the Wake Forest professors who would become household names for us because of their scholarship, intelligence, and kindness: Dr. Edwin Wilson, Dr. Richard Zuber, Dr. Timothy Sellner, and Dr. Edwin Hendricks.

Much has changed at Wake Forest since my parents were here.  Female students are no longer policed by dorm mothers and strict curfews.  The minority students of that era paved the way for our current commitment to diversity.  The faculty members I have worked with during my own undergraduate career, however, have convinced me that Wake’s tradition of academic excellence has remained consistent.  At once encouraging and demanding, these professors assisted me in cultivating skills of critical thinking and analysis.  A variety of literature, history, drama, social science, and foreign language classes provided me with a well-rounded education and close interaction with instructors.

It is nearly impossible to acknowledge every wonderful faculty member who has influenced my work and my life at Wake Forest.  During my freshman year, I took a fascinating first-year seminar on Martin Luther with Dr. Larry West, who had previously taught my mother.  Further courses with Dr. Grant McAllister and Dr. Alyssa Howards showed me that the German department’s high standards are alive and well.  Countless English professors have supported me and provided constructive criticism in developing a concise writing style and a clear argument.  In his inexhaustible knowledge of Irish literature and culture, Dr. Jeff Holdridge has offered invaluable insight as I compose my honors thesis on Samuel Beckett and Theodor Adorno.  Dr. Mary Deshazer’s classes introduced me to sophisticated analysis of the many forms women’s fiction, poetry, and history can take.  Along with Dr. Patrick Moran, she has helped me every step of the way as I struggle to plan my future.

Classes outside my English major allowed me to develop unique interdisciplinary perspectives.  Dr. Monique O’Connell’s course on the Italian Renaissance explored humanist intellectual traditions even as it tackled controversies of historical interpretation.  Dr. J.K. Curry’s class on theatre history introduced me to centuries of dramatic genres and criticism that in retrospect have been critical to my interpretation of Beckett.  Representing different fields, these teachers and scholars compel their students to ask the difficult questions, to be ever cognizant of the significance of a liberal arts education.  Their tutelage has inspired me to re-assert the relevance of the humanities in a society all too quick to undermine their importance.

During my four years here, my family ties to Wake Forest emerged in quirky and ironic ways.  In 1969, my father was a history graduate student living in Dr. D.A. Brown’s basement apartment.  In 2009, I was honored to receive the D.A. Brown Award for Excellence in Writing from the English department.  Although I am proud of what I have accomplished at Wake Forest, I know it would not have been possible without the support of dozens of professors whose passion, dedication, and intelligence have inspired generations of students.  Upon graduation I will enter a new phase of my life armed with the best possible training, as my parents did before me.  I am humbled to have taken part in this great academic tradition.  Thank you, Wake Forest.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week is Next Week

One of my colleagues sent me a flyer about Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week, which will be held February 20-23.  Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week  is a sexual assault awareness week sponsored by the student group PREPARE.  Throughout the week there will be visual reminders of the effort – from yellow ribbons worn on lapels to balloons and signs and more.

The full information is available on the Tie A Yellow Ribbon flyer. The schedule of the week’s events is below.

Tie a Yellow Ribbon Week
February 20-23, 2012
Sponsored by PREPARE

Buy your t-shirt at the Pit and wear a yellow ribbon!

SING OUT: A capella concert
Brendle Recital Hall, 7 pm

RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) Short Course (for women)
Luter Lounge, 4 pm
sign up at the Benson Ticket Office

20th Annual SPEAK-OUT
Wait Chapel, 5:30 pm

Seen and Heard

This week I have had a number of appointments around the center of campus, so I’ve been through a lot of the high-student-traffic areas.  Here’s just a few things I’ve noticed.

  • I was in the Pit around noon on a Saturday, and while I can’t be absolutely certain, it looked to me like some of our young men and women were wearing pajamas.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.
  • Some intrepid soul had scattered a lot of red and pink rose petals near the entrance to the Z. Smith Reynolds Library on Valentine’s Day.  I don’t know if this was a student wooing another student or a librarian wooing another librarian – or something else altogether! – but it was really sweet to see.
  • Students continue to go to Starbucks in huge numbers.  It was my temporary refuge for a few hours earlier this week, and the lines are steady.  Lots of students appear to head there for breakfast, and most of the tables, banquettes, and comfy chairs are being used (unless you get there very early!)
  • The weather got very nice yesterday – up into the low 60s.  Our students were outside, without coats (or with very light jackets), some even in shorts toward later in the day.
  • I heard from a parent this week who told me about something her daughter’s high school does.  Every day, five minutes of “silent space” – where no one talks, texts, looks at homework.  You have five minutes to be in silence, thinking your own thoughts, clearing your head, centering yourself – whatever feels good to you.  This could have great applicability to our students here.  Even if we never declare a formal ‘Five Minutes of Silent Space’ for the whole campus, students could elect, on their own, to practice that for themselves.  I may try it for a week myself!
  • Finally, and hilariously, yesterday’s Carilloneur was playing Lady Gaga at the 5:00 hour.  I love when we do something whimsical like this!

Reminders of campus events coming up today:

  • Founders’ Day Convocation is today at 4 pm in Wait Chapel.  Open to everyone, but seniors will want to take special note because the event will feature seniors.  Three of our seniors will present orations, and the senior class will be honored in a video. President Hatch will award the highest honor bestowed by the University, the Medallion of Merit.
  • Tonight at 7 pm in Auditorium 404 of the Z Smith Reynolds Library is a speech by Chad Harbach.  Harbach is the author of “The Art of Fielding.” This novel was Amazon’s “Number one book of 2011, and was one of the New York Times “10 Best Books of 2011.”