Last but certainly not least, we come to our final Senior Oration feature. This is from Shoshanna Goldin ’15, and it is titled Near and Far: The Impact of a Demon Deacon
College. The word implies mountains of textbooks and rivers of lukewarm coffee. Entering Wake Forest University, we were eager to dive headfirst into biology lab and literary analysis. Four years later, we reflect how experiences in the Forest equipped us to take on local and global challenges as a community. As we prepare to write our next chapter, I ponder three questions.
Why does Wake Forest feel like a family? How have we engaged with the Winston-Salem community? What have we learned from global experiences?
Many of us consider the Wake Forest community to be family. “Family” consists of people who help us discover who we want to be. The people we seek out to be comforted and challenged. How did we turn a collection of strangers into a support system? Conversation was key. Through conversations that stretched us far beyond our comfort zones, we formed a family.
Families argue and reconcile. The Wake Forest community is no different. From Deliberative Dialogues to Town Halls, we have challenged ourselves to find a collective vision for a stronger Wake Forest. This year, we have shown that we care about the spectrum of voices in our community. We have not stayed silent when challenging moments have arisen. Instead, we have rallied against currents of exclusivity. Together, we formed a stronger network of advocates and allies.
A family is a rooted in relationships. As the co-founder of the Interfaith Themed House, I have been inspired by cross-campus partnerships. While across the world, we see a wide variety of ideologies crashing against one another, Wake Forest strives to create a cohesive environment. Here, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian students engage in open dialogue. As we understand the stories, faiths, and dreams of those around us, we establish a safe space. By forming this family, we learn to accept difference and create community. These conversations were key to providing valuable skills that we carry forward into graduate school, a profession, and adult life.
As wide-eyed freshmen, we heard upperclassmen speak of the Wake Forest bubble. They talked about this sphere as if it were tempered glass: a permanent wall. But our class has done an incredible job at poking the bubble.
Through our collective fight against local hunger, we bridged this invisible separation between Wake Forest and Winston-Salem. Concerned about chronic childhood hunger, Wake Forest students realized that this fight would require more than a food drive. We rallied students, faculty, staff, and community members to create a unified front. Over the last four years, we have expanded Campus Kitchen’s community partners and implemented a hunger awareness program within Wake Forest’s student orientation. We initiated campus-wide collaboration for the Forsyth food backpack program and hosted Hunger University’s mobile exhibit. In the process, we have been recognized as the best Campus Kitchen in the state.
Last fall, Wake Forest hosted the statewide North Carolina Campuses against Hunger Conference. Wake Forest and Winston-Salem’s partnership inspired 175 students, researchers, and policymakers across North Carolina to focus on local hunger solutions. As the student chair of the planning committee, I was thrilled to see our collaborative work address this complex problem.
As we move forward, I want us to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the place we call home. And, if we come across another bubble—remember that it is simply waiting for someone to come along and poke right through it.
As we leave Wake Forest, our future has no borders. Class of 2015, we are entering an increasingly global workforce. As Wake Forest students, we are well-prepared. Our passion to improve the world is reflected in our collective global impact and experiences. We studied the nature of bees in France and analyzed dance styles in Brazil. We tasted life in Italy and Nepal. We lived Wake’s motto of Pro Humanitate on international service trips to Vietnam, Russia, and Rwanda. Through study abroad, we developed lasting relationships. These friendships will remind us in years to come of the commonalities and uniqueness of individuals around the world.
As we reach the close, I’d like to return to the three questions we began with. Why does Wake Forest feel like a family? How have we engaged with the Winston-Salem community? What have we learned from global experiences?
Our next mountains will not be located in the Forest (unless you plan to be a double Deac). Our challenge now is to draw on these lessons as we embark on our next chapter. Because, as Wake Forest Demon Deacons, our potential to improve our communities and world is limitless.