As we continue with summer break, we have had the opportunity to visit with some of our terrific colleagues at Wake Forest and interview them. There are so many wonderful people here who touch the lives of our students in profound and lifechanging ways, and it is our hope to help you get to know some of them. Today’s Meet a Deac is with one of my very favorite Deacs – Tim Auman, our University Chaplain.
What is your official job title?
How long have you worked at WFU?
Fifteen years total; for the first five years I was the United Methodist campus minister.
In laymen’s terms, what do you do at WFU?
I do two things: 1) provide oversight for the religious and spiritual life of students, faculty,and staff, as well as pastoral counseling, and 2) serve as the point of entry for off campus denominations, which includes working with programming, collaborations with our campus groups.
How would you characterize Wake Forest students? What are some common attributes they have?
My sense is that everyone who comes to Wake Forest is making big decisions about their future. They use different language – calling, career path, vocation, etc. – but they are all thinking about how to use the gifts and graces in our lives.
I bet you hear a great deal of things from students, between Campus Ministry work and pastoral care. Tell me a little about your conversations.
Students ask the really interesting questions, and one of the purposes of higher education is to encourage those questions and realize that the rest of the world is also asking those same things, though maybe in different ways and at different stages. Who am I? Why am I here? Who is my neighbor, and what is my responsibility towards him or her? Is there a sacred element to life? Is there a God? If so, how am I to be in relationship with God?
Wake Forest students are ambitious, and largely they have natural leadership skills. They are privileged in terms of having the opportunity to be here, whereas half of the planet lives on virtually no money and a quarter of the planet is starving. That kind of thinking creates opportunities and challenges for our students: with privileges come responsibilities.
William Sloane Coffin Jr. once said: “We like to put our best foot forward, but it’s the other foot that’s interesting.” We all want to appear smart and articulate, expending a lot of energy propping up our storyline, and we project that image into the world – the image of ourselves that we’re most proud of. But it’s the foot we drag behind us that is most curious. It represents what we think are our shortcomings and our liabilities. And the problem with dragging one foot behind us is that it makes it nearly impossible to stand upright.
Yet, our faith tells us that our greatest potential is found in that other foot. We find out greatest strengths there, in our most authentic self, even though it feels like our weaknesses. Students sit up straighter in their seats when I tell them this.
That’s pretty powerful stuff. What else would you say if you were giving advice to students?
Failure and disappointment are incredibly important in becoming genuine, authentic people. Most of the profound lessons I have learned have come from false starts and disappointments. Much like the foot we drag behind, we learn the most from our toughest times.
I am a big fan of falling flat and then picking yourself up, dusting yourself off, and finding mentors to help us interpret and learn from our mistakes. Mistakes are an important part of all our stories. Most of us do everything in our power to hide our mistakes, but they are an important part of life, and acknowledging them helps us become more authentic people.
What do you like best about working at Wake Forest?
I always wanted to be around exceptional people, people who are courageous in discussing life’s big, fun questions. It is my privilege to work with great colleagues. And I like to see people’s lives evolve over time – that is fun about working with students.
When I was young, I felt life was long. I know now that life is short. And if you invest in people, you realize they are extraordinary. Even when it is messy, when we behave poorly, just being conscious and alive is amazing. And this is a work environment where I can explore big truths.
This is always my favorite part – the bonus round, short answer questions.
Book you’re reading now: Seeking the Sacred: Transforming Our View of Ourselves and One Another by Stephanie Dowrick
Favorite movie: Babette’s Feast
Website you frequent: White Blaze, which is a site about hiking the Appalachian Trail
Guilty pleasure: I like good chocolate – dark chocolate with chilis
Favorite place to be on campus: the walkway between campus and Reynolda Gardens, or up in the steeple of Wait Chapel where the bells are
What most people don’t know about you: I like to dogsled, and once on a trip across Canada I got to see the Northern Lights, just me and the dogs out in the middle of nowhere. It was amazing. I also like photography.