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2012 May

Construction Photos

All is not quiet on the northern and eastern fronts.  Major construction continues on the new residence halls (north side of campus) and Farrell Hall (northeast side).  The new residence halls can actually begin to be seen – there is a large concrete wall going up at the back part of big parking lot Q behind Wait Chapel.   We still are sporting a giant pile of dirt in that lot.  While I was there, a bulldozer was making its way precariously around the bottom of the slope, seemingly against all odds of gravity.  If you look closely, you can see little indentations down the pile, where rainwater has cut paths through it.  The red clay earth is beautiful to see.  (For those students coming here from the north of the country, as I did, this is a foreign-looking soil the first time you see it.)

Farrell Hall is coming along really nicely.  If you stand in Lot Q and look toward what will be the front entrance, it is a lovely, curved shape.  Right now the sides and back of the building are covered in these yellow sections of some form of construction wall or prep area for glass (there is a word about glass on the papers covering the walls).  It is, as you can see, a vivid canary yellow.  For a campus generally known for its beautiful but understated architecture, seeing so much yellow in one place is a jolt.  Of course it will be covered up at the end and this building will assume a place on the landscape and look like it has been here forever.  That’s one thing Wake Forest is a master at – adding new buildings in a seamless manner.

Here are a few more pictures of construction.  The last one is what I am referring to as “chia grass.”  It is a grid of intertwined fine threads that has some sort of backing underneath to grow new grass in a formerly barren place.  This chia grass is right outside of the University Services Building, where the Parent Programs office is located.  Most of our grass had been taken out during the creation of our new patio and entrance to the building.  Not to worry, we unrolled some chia grass and little by little its been coming in for us.  Just as with the buildings, it will blend in seamlessly before you realize it.

Campus Misc.

Here are a few items of interest from campus:

The Office of Academic Advising has posted an Open Course Report, which shows spaces still available in classes.  If your student needs to register for additional classes, this report can show him/her where openings exist.  Note that this information is current as of yesterday, and that as students begin to fill those spaces, the landscape of openings will change.  If your student has any issues with his or her schedule, the Office of Academic Advising is there to assist.

For those who are interested in learning more about Wake Forest’s history, few are as qualified to tell our story as alumna Susan Powell Brinkley (’62).  She recently appeared on Bill Friday’s TV show, North Carolina People, and there is a nice article on the WFU website about her volunteer work for the Old Campus.  I have worked with Ms. Brinkley in the past on events at the Old Campus, and she is a dynamo.  She loves Wake Forest and bleeds gold and black like the rest of us.

If you didn’t see the May 21st Wall Street Journal article on “Colleges Get Career-Minded,” it is a good write up of some of the national trends.  Wake Forest is on the forefront here, which is terrific.  Worth your time to read.


Colleges Get Career-Minded

More Liberal-Arts Schools Stress Skills Development, Ruffling Academic Feathers


At Wake Forest University, students can hedge their bets, majoring in history and balancing out Napoleon or the Prussians with a minor in Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship.

The five-year-old program, the school’s most popular minor, requires students to learn the practical aspects of starting a business. It is a sign of change in liberal-arts colleges, which are grappling with the responsibility of preparing students for a tight and rapidly shifting job market while still providing the staples of academic inquiry.


D.L. Anderson for The Wall Street JournalAndy Chan, who runs career services at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., prepares for the school’s graduation ceremony.


Some schools are beginning to make career development a mission-critical aspect of the college experience, with everything from ramped-up career services to academic programs emphasizing real-world applications and efforts to engage faculty in practical mentoring.

“We’re seeing the emergence of a new model of education that blends liberal and applied learning,” said Debra Humphreys, head of public affairs at the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

The changes are sparking a debate on college campuses over the extent to which job preparation and training should be part of a liberal-arts education.

For decades, liberal-arts schools largely have been insulated from such questions, even as for-profit and community colleges have faced scrutiny over low graduation rates, high rates of loan defaults and whether they truly prepare students for employment in their chosen fields. And the benefits of a liberal-arts education, such as critical thinking and communication skills, are still highly valued.

But with tuition increases far outpacing inflation and graduates entering a bad job market with record debt, students and parents are demanding a clearer—and quicker—return on their investment.

Some schools are warming to the idea of working directly with employers in the classroom, something more common on the community-college campus. Indian IT firm HCL Technologies is developing a six-month elective course in technology and business innovation to be offered at about 12 schools around the country, including at least a few four-year universities.

The University of Chicago promises each student a substantive internship. Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Conn., has launched College of the Environment, an interdisciplinary program that combines science, policy and the humanities. Fifteen students this year will graduate as majors in the program, and 35 members of the class of 2013 have declared it as a major.

“A lot of the environmental jobs of the future haven’t even been created yet, but those jobs will appear, and they’ll be interdisciplinary,” said Julia Michaels, who majored in the program and will graduate Sunday. “You’ll have to be at the cutting edge of science and policy and ethics and technology in order to really be able to face the important issues.”

Other students cobble together their own combinations. Lesley Gustafson graduated Monday from Wake Forest with a double major in political science and computer science. The former gives her the opportunity to enjoy the liberal-arts focus on “debating and reading and practicing critical thinking,” said the 21-year-old, while the latter gives her coveted skills to take into the job market this year.

Survey Results

Responses to a survey about how recent college graduates have fared in their careers, asked of 444 people who graduated between 2006 and 2011 across the nation.

How well did your college education prepare you…

To look for a full-time job?

Not well at all: 24%

Not very well: 24%

Pretty well: 27%

Extremely well: 8%

To get a full-time job?

Not well at all: 10%

Not very well: 23%

Pretty well: 37%

Extremely well: 16%

To be successful in your full-time job?

Not well at all: 5%

Not very well: 18%

Pretty well: 46%

Extremely well: 16%

How prepared are college students to enter the labor market, compared to a generation ago?

Less prepared: 48%

Better prepared: 28%

No difference: 21%

Read the full report.

Source: John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University

Such initiatives can encounter resistance.

“There is a tension to this,” said Paula David, head of communications at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. “We just had a series of difficult discussions with faculty called ‘Educating for What?’ Professors do not want us to suddenly become a vocational school.”

So administrators must convince professors. Andy Chan, who runs career services at Wake Forest, in Winston-Salem, N.C., and his team have met with more than 150 faculty members, and he has a staffer dedicated to initiatives such as encouraging history professors to bring students to the career-services office for webinars with successful alumni. Reception from faculty has been mixed.

Mr. Chan said calls he received from more than 30 schools asking about Wake Forest’s programs prompted him to organize a conference last month titled “Rethinking Success: From the Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century.” It was attended by administrators from more than 70 schools, including Yale, Emory, Brigham Young and Stanford. “Many career directors at schools are feeling this pressure but are trying to figure out: How do we get our whole institution to get behind this?” Mr. Chan said.

Some point to a risk in developing courses based on business trends or software languages.

“When we see a deep structural shift, that means our students need experiences they didn’t need before,” said Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College in North Carolina, which offers an extracurricular program in entrepreneurship. “But we won’t change our curriculum based on what we would perceive as a transitory need for a particular skill.”

Write to Lauren Weber at

Summer School begins

The University is back to work after the long Memorial Day weekend, and today begins the first session of Summer School.  There are two sessions each summer:  Summer I runs May 29-July 3, and Summer II runs from July 9-August 11.  They cover the same material as a 15 week semester, but in a compressed fashion.  It’s intense, but it has some tremendous benefits.

For example, if your student has a subject he or she is struggling with, summer school is an ideal time to tackle it. The student can focus just on that one class, without the distractions of friends and the social life of the normal semesters, and get through it.  Make that class the student’s only ‘job’ and let it be the sole focus, and the chances of succeeding in it can be greater.

Summer school is also a good option for students who want to change the pace of their scholarship.  It could be that they want to double major but feel it is too much to tackle in the traditional 8-semester tenure.  It could be that they want to go a little bit slower – feeling they want to take maybe 4 classes every semester instead of the typical 5, and make the other one up in summer school.  Each student will define their path differently.

In its own weird way, summer school can also be fun for the students.  It can be a bonding time, as the classes are typically longer in length and meet more frequently during the week.  Students can connect via that shared experience.  It’s also interesting to experience the campus when the regular semester is not in session – see what goes on during the summer.  Most students never get the chance to see the flurry of building projects and renovations that happen over the summer, never feel the heat of  July, never see the tons of summer campers (both kids and adults alike) who use the campus for conferences.  We’ll get debaters, and cheerleaders, and soccer players, opera singers, writers and more.   Summer school is the chance to peek at university life behind the curtain.

If your student has not registered for the Summer II session but wants to, here’s their web site for more information.  And if not this year, tuck the idea away for a future summer.  It might be a great option for your Deac.

Memorial Day

The University is closed today for Memorial Day.  Because this is a special day of commemoration in this country, the Daily Deac thought this would be a great day to show some of the best pictures of flags on campus.

Hope your family is enjoying the long weekend.  Go Deacs!

What’s Happening on Campus?

Now that the students are gone (and the ones coming for Summer School won’t be here for a few more days), the campus is trying to take care of major and minor construction projects that are best accomplished in a relatively empty campus.

You already know about the big construction (Farrell Hall and the two new residence halls).  But they are also working in the Benson Center. If I understand correctly from my contacts in the Benson Center, it sounds like the current Copy Center (located on the 2nd floor near the food court) is moving to the 3rd floor, near the Benson Ticket Office.  The Wells Fargo (formerly Wachovia) bank branch that is currently in Davis Hall on the Quad is going to move down to where the Copy Center had been.  I have heard the Subway dining venue will be expanded in the space where Wells Fargo had been, but I have not been able to confirm it.

There is work in Babcock Residence Hall as well.  On the Facilities web site, it is titled as “Restroom Renovations & Elevator Renewal.”  Starling Hall, which had been the site of our Admissions office before the Porter B. Byrum Welcome Center was built, is undergoing “repurposing and renewal” but I am not sure what is destined for that building.

There are a number of improvements happening to classroom buildings, particularly the science labs, and working on spaces for professors’ offices.  For those of us who work on campus, it’s amazing how walls can be erected (or taken down) to make new spaces.  When I worked in Reynolda Hall, there were old, large rooms that had been reconfigured in numerous ways as staff was added or workspace needs changed.  Our Facilities staff are quite clever in how they can reshape things.

They are also adding new and much nicer looking street signs.  They aren’t just the plain green-with-white-lettering signs that you see everywhere in America.  These are nice black signs, with the University crest and white lettering.  They had started adding these throughout the year (hence this picture with the snow on it), but now there are more of them popping up along campus.

Finally, the large parking lot near the Polo Road entrance/Farrell Hall construction site/Worrell Professional Center is torn up right now.  They are working on the final portions of the road, focusing on curb, gutter, sidewalk, lighting and landscape improvements.  Right now it is a tangle of construction fencing and orange and white road blocks, but by the time the fall semester begins it will all be completed.

Commencement Lagniappe

For those of you who are familiar with New Orleans, you may have heard the term lagniappe thrown about.  According to the online dictionary, it is used to “denote a little bonus that a friendly shopkeeper might add to a purchase. By extension, it may mean ‘an extra or unexpected gift or benefit.'”  A little something extra.

Well, here’s your lagniappe of the day for Commencement.  In addition to the excellent coverage from our News team and Wake Forest Magazine team (as seen on this page), you can also view a time lapse video of Commencement.  This starts pretty close to 6 am and runs through the entire ceremony and recessional.  Each second of the video is roughly four minutes of real time, according to our University Photographer, Ken Bennett, who arranged this (and all the other excellent photography of the day).

If you watch closely, you can see that the morning started with some gloomy looking clouds (I was a bit worried about rain, if you want to know the truth).  Then the clouds give way to clear sky, and you can see the sun rising across the grass in front of the empty seats where the graduates will sit.  The sun creeps from right to left in this image.  Then once the graduates arrive and the ceremony is underway, if you watch the sky over Reynolda Hall there is this great collection and passing of big puffy clouds, sort of like a dance in the sky.

For those of you who have not been to a WFU graduation (yet!), you’ll notice a break around the one minute mark where it looks like everyone is up and total pandemonium (at this speed at least).  That’s the break where we let the graduate students and their families move on to their respective diploma ceremonies.  Order resumes and people sit down after the short break and you can see the undergrads walk across the stage.

This video is only a minute and a half long, and around 1:23 you can see the tossing of the mortar boards in the air.  And then it’s over.  Nearly six hours of the Commencement experience, compressed into 90 seconds of time lapse video.  I think that’s pretty cool.

And since we’re using the term lagniappe today – here’s your little something extra for reading all of this.  What looks like it could either be outer windows or wall materials are going up on Farrell Hall, the new building for the Schools of Business.  Right now there are tons of panels being assembled and put into place, and it looks like giant yellow post it notes all over the facade.   The “skeleton” phase of the building is ending, and people strolling campus will no longer be able to see through the building to daylight on the other side.

Commencement Recap

Yesterday was Commencement, and it was a terrific one.   There had been some reports of potentially bad weather a few days ago, and we may have even had a little rain late Sunday night/early Monday morning, but the day broke with beautiful purple skies and it turned into a sunny and glorious day – if a bit warm.

The Quad opened at 6 am yesterday, and there were families there from the very earliest time they could enter campus.  Those first parents arrived just as the dawn was breaking, and they had the opportunity to find their perfect seats, grab a cup of coffee, and enjoy the calm of the early morning.  They also got to watch the flurry of WFU staff as we all took care of our particular jobs.

There started to be more traffic in the 7:30 timeframe.  Closer to 8:00 you’d begin to see students coming to find their parents, take pictures, and look with excitement at the pomp and circumstance that was about to begin.  About 8:45, a University representative encouraged everyone to find their seats, and there was palpable excitement because you knew things were ready to begin.  The Carillon bells rang and the ceremony was underway at 9:00.

An academic processional is always a fun ceremony to see.  Each professor’s robes and mortar board represent the school from which the graduate degree was awarded.  Many of them are brightly colored (either the gown or the stripes on the sleeves).  Some of the robes are puffy with Henry VIII type hats, some are more austere black.  After the platform party of faculty and Trustees, the students arrived and filed neatly into their assigned seats.  I saw some students with flowers, or black and gold leis.  Many wore sunglasses, and it was a good thing – it was hot and sunny.  Finally, the president and speakers arrived.

Wake Forest has a dedicated web site that is running stories and videos and photos about Commencement, and I encourage you to look there for a wide range of good content.  In particular, I recommend to you Dr. Hatch’s speech to the graduates, which urged them to nurture the art of real conversation (truly a lost art in my opinion).

Charlie Ergen (MBA ’76), was the Commencement speaker.  He is the chairman of satellite broadcaster DISH Network Corporation and EchoStar Communications Corporation, but on this day he was also a father to daughter Kerry (’12).  His speech, which you can read here, was peppered with fatherly advice and references to Dr. Seuss, was brief and light.  There is a terrific story on the WFU website about his speech; read it here.

After Mr. Ergen’s speech, honorary degrees were conferred by the various schools of the University, Dr. Hatch made his remarks, and retiring faculty were recognized.  Then the graduate students’ degrees were conferred and they moved to their respective ceremonies with their families.  A 15 or so minute break was called to let the graduate students and families depart, and then the ceremony for undergraduates resumed.  During the break, people circled the Quad in search of restrooms, coffee, or more likely cold drinks.  Some of the families had moved their chairs closer to the residence halls to get a bit of shade.  It was quite hot in the sun.

Each graduate then passed across the stage to hear his/her name called, to shake hands and receive his/her diploma cover (actual diplomas are mailed to the student later).  It is a wonderful thing to hear the names called – because you can see parents and siblings and grandparents standing up with pride, taking pictures, and cheering.  Every so often a loud and proud group would all cheer in unison for their student, and at one point there was even an air horn (mercifully briefly).

When some of our higher profile student-athletes graduated, there were great cheers from the audience.  I was briefly standing near the very tall brother of our basketball player, Nikita Mescheriakov, and we chatted for a bit.  His brother told me his mother had been able to make the trip to see him graduate; I assume he had meant she came from their home in Belarus.  He could not have been a nicer guy.

At the end of the ceremony was the commissioning of the ROTC cadets, now officers in the Army.  It’s always one of the very proud moments in the ceremony.  Sobering, too, because you know these young men – who have been on our campus as residents and students – could now be sent anywhere in the world with the Army.  The applause for these newest soldiers is always very generous.

At the end of the service, after the benediction, is the recessional.  The platform party comes off stage down the Quad toward Reynolda, and the faculty always stop toward the end of the Quad and line up so they can shake hands with the graduates.  The students stop, hug or shake hands with those faculty they know, and walk to the end of the Quad and wait to find family and friends.

My colleagues and I always watch the line walk from the balcony of Reynolda.  It’s the best viewing, and you witness so many happy and tender moments.  Hugs.  Tears.  Kisses.  Family photos.  Sheer joy.

I say this every year: Commencement is the best day on campus.  There is so much joy, and pride, and excitement, and happy tears.  And with such pretty weather, students and families will remember this for a long time.

Congratulations, Class of 2012.  Go forth, and live lives of meaning and purpose.  Do well, and do good, in the spirit of Pro Humanitate.  And come back often and visit Mother So Dear.  You will always have a home here.


Today is Commencement, and because this is an all-hands-on-deck event, the Parent Programs office is at the ceremony this morning working.  For those of you who cannot attend but wish to see a broadcast of the ceremony via internet live feed, those should be accessible either from the main Wake Forest home page or the Commencement page.

Due to the wonders of blog software and the ability to pre-load a post, we’re going to show you some of our favorite pictures from last year’s Commencement today – and then we’ll give you the recap of the event in tomorrow’s Daily Deac.   These pictures represent some fun moments – from proud family members cheering during the ceremony and posing together afterwards, to students sharing hugs and moments together, to a gnome.  Yes, you read that right.  One of last year’s graduates had his gnome, Tom, with him for the ceremony.  Our students are the best.

Congratulations to the Class of 2012, and to their loving and proud families who shared in the special day!

Commencements Past

We continue to get closer and closer to Commencement.  Ticket pickup is today and tomorrow for the graduates, many of whom will be returning from Beach Week with suntans and an air of excitement and wistfulness.

If you’ve been following the Wake Forest Magazine or Wake Forest University on Facebook, you will have seen a lot of pictures this week of Commencement setup, as well as pictures of alumni who’ve sent in their past Commencement pictures.  Their respective Twitter accounts,  @wfumagazine and @WakeForest1834, have had a lot of fun trivia, as well as the @WFNewsCenter Twitter.

One of the items of trivia is the number of chairs on the Quad this year for Commencement: 12,000.  My addition to the blast from the past is this picture of the Quad from 1992, the year I graduated.  There were something in the nature of 900 students graduating in my class, and the chairs didn’t stretch past the halfway point of the Quad.

Commencement Prep

Commencement is on Monday and everything is shifting into high gear.  Despite the torrential rains of earlier this week, the Commencement tent is up and being prepped for the ceremony.  They’ve yet to lay the outdoor carpet on the tent’s stage, where the president, Trustees, speakers, and faculty will sit, but the structure is ready.

There will be approximately 12,000 chairs laid on the Quad grass.  Students will be seated closest to the tent, in the center sections, then there will be seats on the perimeter and the back half of the Quad for families and guests.  The chairs are arriving on large pallets, bound by what looks like Saran Wrap, and marked with the total number of chairs per bundle; in the case of the picture to the right, it was 225 chairs.

Earlier this spring, there were new markers laid into the brickwork of the Quad with the official name of “Hearn Plaza,” in memory of our late president, Thomas K. Hearn, Jr.  It’s also worth noting that the hydrangeas on the Quad flanking Efird and Huffman residence halls are ridiculously beautiful and enormous.  They are pure excess in every way – too big, too lush, too pretty.  Perfect, actually.  If I were coming and choosing a seat to view Commencement, I’d want these in my view.

While I was up there this morning, I also took a picture of Wait Chapel in extreme close up, long view.  Most of the time we are so busy looking at it from a distance, you don’t realize just how big it is.  Until you stop and take a moment to stand at the bottom.

The 5 day weather forecast this morning looked a little less ‘dry and sunny’ than I would have liked.   Again we implore you to add to the power of positive thinking and envision us with a day that is sunny and high 70s, with no chance of rain.  There is no better Commencement weather than that.