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Betsy Chapman

Senior Oration: Elizabeth Carlson ’15

The Daily Deac is continuing to feature the finalists for Senior Orations.  Today we will see Am I Enough? An Addendum to Wake Forest’s Motto by Elizabeth Carlson ’15

But before we get there, you’ll note that today is a snow day here on campus.  That announcement has a link to Campusdish, which gives food service hours of operation (fear not, there is food to be had here!)

graham daily deacAlso, I received this lovely photo from a sophomore, Graham (’17).  He took the photo last night and thought that parents might like to see it.  This is an exceptionally pretty photo, and my thanks to Graham for letting me share it.

– by Betsy Chapman


And now, here is our Senior Oration from Elizabeth Carlson.


There are several times in a young person’s life when one simple question plagues her identity: Am I enough? Am I smart enough? Involved enough? Do I participate in enough community service? Am I enough? Be it applying to college or a full-time job, these transitional stepping stones call into question our essential being. Having now passed through these pivotal moments and with the finish line of Commencement in sight, I can tell you one key difference between standing here today in this moment and standing here exactly four years ago: I now know I am not enough.

Walking into Wait Chapel for the new student Convocation with hoards of other frightened freshmen, I was convinced that in order to be successful I needed to be a one-woman show. I had to play the leading heroine, supporting friend, and comic relief all at the same time. And so, despite a varied class schedule, robust extracurricular involvement and healthy social life, a constant sense of inadequacy hovered around me because I wasn’t single-handedly “everything,” whatever this theoretical “everything” might be.

Amid this quest to be it all, I applied to CHARGE: Wake’s Emerging Leaders. Led by the formidable Mike Ford, the leadership development program began with a weekend retreat in the mountains. Nestled around a crackling campfire on a brisk January day, we discussed our results from the Strengths Finder assessment, a survey pinpointing the 34 most common human talents. I am an achiever, learner, arranger and maximizer. In other words, I’m a detail-oriented perfectionist who likes the process of learning more than the end result but still has to get things done. Mike began by sharing the inventory of our group’s strengths. With a chart composed of each of the 34 talents across the top and each group member’s name down the side, we individually checked off our top 5. I watched the grid slowly fill in until our group had every talent represented.

It dawned on me then with my friend the “relator” beside me and the “includer” across from me that I would never possess all 34 talents. I began to wonder if I really needed to; while my strengths fortified the team, my weaknesses were compensated for by the very same people. This simple act of filling in a grid showed me that while I may contribute a fundamental piece to this greater puzzle, it is still just one piece. A group made solely of maximizers and achievers like me may get a lot of things done, but without the “developers” how would we arrive at an idea to begin with? Without the sociable “Woo-ers” how could we market what we produce? The idea of “I” has become so engrained in our daily vernacular that the concept of “we” has been left by the wayside. By isolating ourselves, we miss the rowdy debates, impassioned defenses and gracious compromises that form the heart of remarkable ideas. While once I believed that asking for help meant admitting failure, now I realized that failing to ask for that guidance was a far greater injustice to the group itself.

My time as a CHARGE mentor over the following two years continued to reconstruct my long-held notion of success. One such moment came during the annual Play-Dough Challenge. Group members were instructed to re-create the Quad in Play-Dough. The tables turned, however, as mentors took away the power of speech from the chatty participants, use of the dominant hand from the proactive, and sight from the observers. Forced to counteract their weaknesses with the remaining strengths of others, I watched as reserved members talked the blind through the making of Reynolda’s stairs. I saw an overzealous right-handed person without use of that hand hold a piece while someone else molded the chapel. In this moment, I was struck by the potency of each member’s recognition that alone, they could never be enough. When their efforts combined, however, a fully-functioning emerged. It was this very cohesion that then successfully addressed the demands of an ever-expanding campus as students struggle with how to efficiently and effectively take breaks. The concept of a nap room in the ZSR was born to offer a quiet refuge closer to studies. When we first discussed the ZieSta Room, none of us could imagine the overwhelmingly positive – or even national – reception it would later receive. Today I happily invite you to witness the power of “we” as you hunker down in a cozy recliner on the mezzanine of the 24-hour room.

It wasn’t until this year as director of CHARGE, that I fully grasped the importance of our being enough, together. As student directors, we interview potential mentors and participants. Throughout this process, I realized I was not simply evaluating each applicant on individual strengths, but also on what he or she would contribute to our emerging group dynamic. Lessons I had observed as a participant and mentor culminated as I understood the fact that this humanity we work for is not an idle body staring back at us, but a dynamic group working right beside us. Leadership is not an independent task, but rather an intrinsic interaction that functions best when fully collaborative.

So no, I am not enough. You are not enough. And as such, a university made entirely of “me’s” or “you’s” is not enough either. But we, we are enough. A university built of me and you and us, that is enough. Earlier this year, as I sat in Wait Chapel listening to a heated town hall discussion, I felt the familiar sense of inadequacy creeping in. I didn’t have answers for the troubling questions of racial tension or religious intolerance being debated, but a sense of urgency to find those answers overwhelmed me. Then I realized that pesky little first person pronoun had crept back into my vocabulary. The problems facing our community won’t be resolved by me or by any single person. But together, our cumulative strengths can tackle these very challenges. For in these four years I’ve realized that a successful life is one lived not solely for humanity but also with humanity. Not just Pro Humanitate, but also Cum Humanitate.


Senior Oration: Conor Stark ’15 and MamaDear

The Daily Deac continues to showcase the finalists for Senior Orations.  And with whispers of possible more snow to come this afternoon or tomorrow, we’re preposting Thursday’s Daily Deac just in case.

mamadearThere is a basketball game scheduled for tonight (WFU vs UVA at 7 pm here at the Joel).  A colleague in Athletics let us know that alumnus Parker Bradway (’11), a former Screamin’ Demon and member of Chi Rho, will be peforming the national anthem at the game Wednesday night with his band, MamaDear, as well as a halftime set.  My colleague wrote: “MamaDear got its name from the last line of our alma mater, thanks to Parker!  Having recently signed with entertainment-giant CAA, they were named the top up-and-coming band at the 2014 CMA Festival in Nashville.  You can find information on them via Facebook and they have songs available on iTunes.  Additionally, Parker and lead singer, Kelly, recently got married!”  They are playing Ziggy’s here in town on Thursday, so your students who like country music can hear more.

And without further ado…today’s Senior Oration is Losing Your Feet, by Conor Stark ’15.

– by Betsy Chapman


I’ve always been struck by our desire to tell stories. It truly is one of the most peculiar facts about human beings, namely that—for some reason—we feel compelled to understand and be understood by one another. In our best stories, it seems to me that we keep returning to three questions in particular, questions which confront any reflective human beings: namely (1) who am I, (2) why am I here, and (3) how, then, should I live? And so we look stories to provide the context in which these questions can be asked and answered effectively. They tell us how we can understand the world around us and how we might relate to it in a meaningful way, in a way that might make our lives happy and whole. Who better, then, to hear such stories than college seniors, those of us who are about to wrestle with uncertainty, whose business it is to contend with the future? Indeed, we must not deceive ourselves here, we must admit that, although we may be anxious, uncertain perhaps, we, as befits our age, are also full of hope, which may lack a name as of now, but which bears all the marks of passion and resolve. (Pause) While only a foolish person approaches his life without anxiety, only an ornery one does so without hope, without that uniquely human hope that at the end of every story, lies a conclusion and a meaning. But perhaps it would be better to show such stories, as opposed to telling you about them.

One night, a man was seen walking outside of a town near Athens. In the sixth century, the night brought its necessity with it. It was time when meaningful labor ceased, when tired hands put down the plough and reached out for home. But this man’s day was just starting. It was as if the night’s warning was lost on him, as if he saw freedom where others had seen only compulsion. To many, it seemed that man was in the habit of talking to himself. But how differently he understood himself. As a child might wait under his covers, eager for his parents to come and finish yesterday’s story, so too this man waited upon the stars. If they had descended, he would try to speak with them for a while. But no secrets would be shared that night, for in his passion to shine a light onto heaven, the man tripped over his feet into the dark and fell head first into a hole in the ground. Justice had been served—and the night had claimed its due. Thankfully, a young girl came to his aid, and, after lifting him up, scolded him for his folly. The man’s name was Thales, and he was, by most accounts, the first philosopher. As of that moment, he succeeded in establishing what would be a long and glorious tradition of Western philosophy, of posing odd questions to yourself and seeming odd to just about everyone else. Being a philosophy major myself, I must acknowledge the truth in this story: one day, for example, I got so caught up trying to figure out how minds were related to bodies, I neglected the fact that my body was at once, hungry, tired, and several hours late to dinner.

Of course, these stories are comical. The person who forgets that he is on earth, although trying to storm heaven on top of syllogisms, is no doubt ridiculous. However, I’ve come across another story lately, one that is perhaps more tragic than the other comical, a story which has unfortunately become more commonplace and acceptable to us. A certain man was born, raised, and married in the company of good people. As he made his way through life, he made a reasonable amount of money, kept a reasonable number of friends and acquaintances at hand, and maintained a reasonable home life with his family. The man’s life passed quietly in this fashion, and, after he had died, everyone decided, as if by committee, that the man had lived a long and happy life, that others could only be so fortunate to have half of what this man achieved for himself. He was, in the end, a good person, who minded his own business and left his eyes on the ground, on life’s problems and demands. And yet, something happened to the man during his life that was most unfortunate. The man had forgotten or had allowed himself to forget that he had never known himself, had never known whether he was a good or bad person, or had lived the right kind of life. While Thales had neglected the ground beneath his feet, our honorable man had lived his entire life unknown to himself, neglecting a need he had always felt, which had always made him a bit uneasy.

In the Symposium, Plato has someone say that, underneath every passion and every love, lies a desire for happiness and for good things. In his words, “love always wants to possess the good forever, [since] that’s what makes happy people happy.” Indeed at the end of our striving, whether for money, grades, security, friends or family, lies a desire to be happy. And there we can go no further, since if someone were to ask you why you wanted to be happy, you would rightly respond, ‘What do you mean, why do I want to be happy—I just do’.  But it seems we’ve omitted a few things. For don’t we say that courage makes someone happy? What about justice, moderation, or wisdom? Surely we don’t call the person happy, who in cowardice shirks his duty, who, through intemperance, cannot control his actions, who, because of ignorance, stumbles recklessly through life? It seems, on the contrary, that, if we want to be happy, we need virtue. That’s a good thing, too, since, although other people may rob us of our wealth or tarnish our character, the virtues are lost only through negligence. It’s curious, then, that, while the virtues are so essential to our lives and to our happiness, they have been so unceremoniously abandoned.

Recently, we have talked about the differences between races, genders, and classes, and have asked ourselves many questions in favor of those suffering injustice. How can equality be won for this group? How can we give freedom to crowds of disenfranchised people? Valid and difficult questions no doubt, but are there not also questions with a different sort of character? Questions that, as it were, take it upon themselves to search through the crowd, saying nothing to the group, but saying everything to individual, overlooking entirely the issues of gender, class, or race? Indeed, these questions find every man in the protest, every member of the cause, and whisper to him “are you the person you should be, are you living the right kind of life?” In short, they take us aside one by one, in order to examine each of us about virtue and what it means to live a good human life.

Pascal said that mankind’s problems, for the most part, would be solved, if we could all just learn to sit quietly with ourselves, alone in our rooms. While not that drastic, I’ve often wondered what kinds of misunderstandings and injustices we might avoid if, instead, we focused on being understanding and just people, in whom we might see the virtues of wisdom and justice at work. While it is not wise to lose one’s feet or forget the world’s problems, it’s certainly far more foolish to wander through life without stopping to look at oneself properly—to examine whether one’s life is good and happy. For it is this reflection, this refusal to be deceived by oneself, and this love of excellence, which makes, and has always made, a human being a human being.


A Surprise Snow!

Mother Nature pulled a fast one on all of us early this morning.  We woke up to snow that had not been predicted or expected.  This was not a huge snow event, a light powdery covering that was enough to obscure the grass but it was not inches and inches deep.  The event was really that no one saw this coming – and subsequently there had not been the kind of pre-snow brining of the roads that you’d come to expect.

At first the campus was delayed until 9:30, but that was revised to 11 am to give time for the road conditions to improve.  I drove to campus at 10 am and did not encounter any difficulty in my very short commute (only a few miles from campus).  Once I got here, I made a loop around campus and checked out the appearance of the roads and sidewalks.  God bless our Facilities crew, they had already done a remarkable job clearing the walkways and salting the paths.  During my drive around campus I saw several people walking along the paths.  They were being careful and not walking at a super brisk pace.  Happily, I did not see any of them appear to slide or slip.  (Aside: I saw one young man jogging in this mess.  That is dedication).

While we try to remind you in various ways of closings or delays, you and your students would be wise to bookmark the Wake Alert website.  You’ll notice in a delay or closing that there is a banner that appears at the top of the Parents’ Page (as well as other websites within, but Wake Alert is the place with full details.

2 24 quad camI don’t know if it will be cold enough all day for the snow to last, but as of 11 am you can still see it on the Quad Cam.  This is a screen capture from moments ago.

There’s not enough snow to make a big snowman or to try to sled, but I bet our students will find some fun in the snow nonetheless.


– by Betsy Chapman


Golden Moments

If you were watching the Oscars last night, you saw the golden moment of Wake Forest’s own Kelly FitzGerald (’17), whose short film was chosen as one of six winners in a Team Oscar contest.  You can see Kelly at the Oscars here, and there is a wonderful story in the Winston-Salem Journal about Kelly, with commentary by our own Mary Dalton, Professor of Communication and Film Studies and Faculty Fellow for Luter Hall.

Speaking of winning moments, Dr. Dalton was recognized at last week’s Founders’ Day Convocation as winner of the Schoonmaker Prize for Community Service.  She was among a number of faculty members recognized for excellence in teaching, service, and more.  Congratulations to all the winners; you can read more about each of them at the link above.

Each year at Founders’ Day, three seniors are selected to deliver an oration that addresses how they have changed during their four years at Wake Forest.

The winners of the 2015 Senior Orations competition were:

I hope you’ll take the time to read these orations and see the talent and depth of thought of our seniors.  We’ll continue to feature the other Senior Oration finalists in the coming weeks.

Finally, there was a senior video shown at Convocation.  Senior parents, grab your hankies.  Freshmen parents, four years goes fast.  Enjoy every minute!


– by Betsy Chapman

Senior Oration: Anne Hillgartner ’15

In the coming weeks, the Daily Deac will feature the finalists for Senior Orations.  Three students were chosen to read their Senior Oration during Founders’ Day Convocation.  But all of the top ten orations are worth sharing, and we’ll publish one at a time.

Today’s Senior Oration is Mentorship, by Anne Hillgartner ’15.


I can remember the best week of my life: it was in September of my sophomore year at Wake Forest.  I was only three weeks into my new internship with the Secrest Artists Series and we were hosting our first event, the Wayne Shorter Jazz Quartet.  One of my responsibilities was transporting the artists to and from the airport, their hotel, and wherever they wanted to go.  This was not a chore, but rather it meant I got to interact with musicians I had admired for years.  At the end of the week full of film screenings, master classes, and performances, I was driving the pianist, Danilo Perez, to the airport at six o’clock in the morning.  Despite the hour and his exhaustion, he was talkative, asking me about what it was like to be a student and helping me study for my Spanish test later that day.  In our conversation, he gave me a piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten.  He said, “Believe in other people and the enthusiasm they have.”  When he got out of the car, I scribbled down some notes on a scrap of paper and this line was one of them.

Now two years later, I realize the importance of having enthusiasm for the work and passion of other people.  My Wake Forest experience has been set apart because my mentors characterize Perez’s advice.  The support I have received from professors, supervisors, and friends has done more than made me knowledgeable, write effectively, and hone my musical skills.  It has left me with a profound sense of gratitude for those who showed excitement for my interests; who took the time to support my academic pursuits; who were essential parts of the web of resources.  Wake Forest’s greatest gift to me has been my mentors. 

So, who are they?

I was lucky to have an internship with the Secrest Artists Series not only because it exposed me to wonderful musicians like Danilo Perez and Wayne Shorter, but also because it introduced me to my first mentor: Lillian Shelton.  She was an example of how to call upon all the resources of the university—the Secrest series was run only by two people: Lillian and me.  Yet what made the Series possible was the support of so many other offices at the university.  For the Wayne Shorter event, we partnered with the biology department, the office of sustainability, campus life, and IPLACe. Lillian always took me to meetings with advisors, artist managers, and administrators even though I was only a student.  She insisted on introducing me to all the people she knew.  The result of her mentoring was that I realized early in my college career the great wealth of individuals that wanted to work together, were happy to provide free thoughts and advice, and wanted to see our work at the Secrest Series prosper because they believed it added value to the Wake Forest community.

Academically, Wake Forest prides itself on the close relationship between students and faculty encouraged by research, office hours, and small class sizes.  I experienced this benefit myself when I decided to write a thesis for my history major.  I wanted a way to combine my interest in history, my passion for music, and my love of Venice (where I studied abroad).  So, I dreamed up an idea to study a little known Venetian composer named Luigi Nono, and ask the question, “how did an upbringing during the revolution of Mussolini’s Fascism affect his life experience?”.  I knew his archives were located in Venice, and that his widow was still alive, so I wanted to return to the city to research and meet with her.  As you can guess, this wasn’t going to be an easy or inexpensive dream.  But, when I walked into Dr. Peter Kairoff’s office to pitch the idea, he just said “done” practically before I had finished my sentence.  Through his resources, he connected me with the composer’s widow for an interview, helped me find funding, and secure a place to stay.  Dr. Kairoff had confidence in me, something that I really needed as I undertook this giant, risky project.  Similarly, my history advisor, Dr. Alan Williams, supported my alternative topic and helped me take the experience and translate it to my best possible thesis.  He was not just concerned with the successful completion of the paper.  He cared about the process—making sure that broader research methods and critical thinking across disciplines were the real things I was learning.

These are just three examples of mentors, but I could name well over fifty individuals that have left an impermeable mark on my college experience.

As an upperclassman, I was confronted with a situation where I was needed for support.  After my junior year, I had to make the decision to quit or continue marching band.  My first two years of band had been exhausting: I had seen Wake Forest lose more times than win.  I had a great family from marching band, but, let’s be honest: it was not always fun to be out in the cold, fingers bare, wind whipping through the stadium, raining, playing a clarinet for five hours, staying all the way to the end of the game, especially at a game that we might lose.  My senior year there would be two new coaches and new band director, and the rebuilding year would present many new challenges.  Nevertheless, I decided to continue in the marching band.  Call me crazy.. My decision was inspired by the example of my mentors who had supported me even if it made their lives a little harder.  Though I hadn’t seen great years in Wake Forest sports, it was more important to me to be a source of support for the teams than to have my Saturday afternoons to myself.  Often times the marching band members are counted on to be an example of enthusiasm for the stadium. I really believe that our presence does not go unnoticed by the players and I think our supporting role is an invaluable contribution to the school spirit of Wake Forest.

As I venture into post-graduate life, I will take with me the inspiration and lessons of mentorship at Wake Forest.  My mentors taught me the value in showing excitement for other people’s ideas, not just my own.  They showed me that great things could happen not only when you are a leader, but also when you are a great supporter of the work of other people.  They taught me to appreciate and use the talents and resources at Wake Forest.  Their selflessness was found not a single act, an afternoon of volunteering, or an evening at the soup kitchen, but in an enduring commitment to their students. Their approach to life valued working together and the strength of ideas when combined rather than standing separate.  My mentors have showed me the validity of Danilo Perez’s advice in the car when I was nineteen: to believe in other people’s enthusiasm.  The greatest lessons of my education could not have been learned through books alone.  These lifelong lessons were the product of the joint effort and collaboration with my Wake Forest mentors. Their example is my continuing source of inspiration.

Vote for a Deac

I received an email the other day about a photo contest featuring one of our very own Deacs, senior Emily Jobe (’15) of Summerfield, NC.  Emily was studying abroad last summer in China.  She just happened to have her umbrella with her when her classmate (also a WFU student) snapped this shot of her in front of the Shanghai skyline.

totes contestThe photo has now made it into a contest that Totes, the manufacturer of said umbrella, is hosting on Facebook.  It’s a lovely picture, and you can vote for our Deac Emily online via Facebook. (The first thing you see is a “Fans only” window, which I skipped.  Then you see Emily’s photo where there is a “vote” button at the top left.)  I hope the Deac Nation will rally with lots of votes for her!

In other campus news, it is bitterly, brutally cold.  Colder than we have seen this year, and it looks to stay that way through the weekend.

Speaking of cold and pictures, there are a lot of great pictures of students in the snow this week on Instagram, including this fun slide show.  You can look for the Wake Forest University Instagram account.  Are any of your Deacs in those pictures?


– by Betsy Chapman

WFU to host TEDx ‘Hearts & Minds’

Wake Forest students are very entrepreneurial in their thinking and their activities.  A few years ago, they started TEDx events on campus – these are local versions of the TED Talks you might have seen on YouTube.

The organizers of this year’s event wanted parents and families to know about TEDx ‘Hearts and Minds’ for two reasons – 1) to invite you to attend if you are able, and 2) to encourage your students to take advantage of this exceptional lineup of speakers.  Their formal press release is below and it includes information about how to register.

To go back to one of my favorite analogies – Wake Forest is like a wonderful smorgasboard buffet.  The more bites you take of all we have to offer, the richer your experience is.  If your student hasn’t tried TEDx, maybe it’s time to take a spoonful and put it on the plate?

– by Betsy Chapman


Wake Forest University will host TEDx, an independently organized event licensed by TED, on Feb. 21 from noon to 5 p.m. in Wait Chapel. The student-organized event will feature thought leaders ranging from the CEO and founder of an online therapy site to a best-selling author exploring the intersection of technology and health.

Nine health and wellness speakers will present TEDx talks, including:

Larry Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health

Al Vernacchio, a sexuality educator, former TED presenter and author of “For Goodness Sex: Changing the Way We Talk to Teens about Sexuality, Values and Health.” 

Jennifer Pharr Davis, long-distance hiker, author and 2012 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year.

Wake Forest Hall of Famer Hunter Kemper, a four-time member of the USA Olympic triathlon team and the most decorated U.S. triathlete in history.

A complete list of speakers is available on Wake Forest’s TEDx website.

Registration and tickets for TEDxWakeForestU 2015 are available online. Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for non-WFU students, and free for Wake Forest University students, faculty and staff. Registration is required to attend.

“The theme ‘Hearts & Minds’ represents innovative thoughts surrounding the health and wellness field,” said senior student organizer Katie Franklin, Director of Publicity. “All of us will be able to relate to issues the speakers will address, and I am so excited that these ideas will be shared with the Piedmont-Triad community.”

The TEDx program is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.

“The really powerful contribution of TEDx talks is not just each of the talks themselves, but the interplay of ideas between the talks,” said Polly Black, assistant vice president and director of Wake Forest’s Center for Innovation, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship. “This enriches the experience exponentially.”

Visit the TEDxWakeForestU 2015: Hearts & Minds website, like the Facebook page and follow @TEDxWakeForestU #TEDxWFU2015.

Snow Day!

Today campus is closed because of snow.  The 3-5″ we were predicted to have didn’t come to pass.  We only have an inch or two, and that got tapped down by sleet lastnight.  You can check out the snow (while it lasts) via the Quad Cam.  For those of you who are wondering about dining options on campus, there are still some.  Check out ARAMARK’s Campus Dish website for hours and availability.

Since I can’t get to work and bring you any stories from campus, I’m bringing you a different story and a plea for help.  Wake Forest has a new project, the Innovation Quarter, which has been selected as a finalist for the Great Places NC People’s Choice Award in the National Historic Rehabilitation Category.

The Wake Forest Innovation Quarter is in the historical downtown business district. The Innovation Quarter is a unique community that is being developed to support life science and information technology research and development. The quarter is being developed around the expanding biomedical campus for Wake Forest University Health Sciences (WFUHS) that will create a nexus of intellectual activity attracting new biotechnology investment and development to the heart of the city.

Great Places in North Carolina is an awards program created by the American Planning Association in 2012 to highlight Great Places and the communities and people that have created them.

Will you show your WFU pride and help vote for the Innovation Quarter?  Voting is open now and ends at 5 p.m. on February 27. We are currently in second place.   Vote for the Innovation Quarter online.


– by Betsy Chapman

A Few Thoughts on Academics and Grades

A few thoughts on academics today.  Occasionally I receive a message from a parent or family member (or sometimes the student him/herself) about grades.  Typically these are from freshmen students or parents, and the questions are in the vein of ‘I wish the grades were better and how does a student improve?’

Disclaimer: this is just my take on the situation, a starting place, and not the final answer.  It takes a village, so students with these kinds of questions should talk to their faculty members, the Office of Academic Advising, and other trusted sources to get a variety of opinions.

So any time a student comes to me and says his/her grades are not where they wish they were, I ask some basic questions:

  • Have you been going to class, or have you been cutting? If you have been cutting (other than for established and valid reasons like illness), you need to stop ASAP.
  • Have you been to see your professors during office hours? Either to get specific help on issues, or just to show your face and get to know the faculty, so they know you are engaged and trying your best?  Sometimes a faculty member knowing who you are, and knowing you are motivated enough to come to office hours, helps form a bond that makes it easier both in class and out to ask for help.
  • Have you taken advantage of some of the tutoring options? For papers, there is a Writing Center.  For math, there is a Math Center.  For chemistry, there is a Chemistry Center.  Those are all great places to start.  In addition, we have a Learning Assistance Center that provides individual and group tutoring on many basic and divisional classes.  Graduate assistants in the LAC can also meet with students to talk about improving study habits and effectiveness.
  • The Z Smith Reynolds Library can also help students be more effective.  Students can sign up for an individual research session with a librarian.  There is also a LIB100 class that helps teach students how to use effectively library and internet resources.
  • Can you look yourself in the mirror and say you’ve done absolutely all you can to perform to your best capacity? Spent the requisite time working on homework, studied effectively, got a tutor if needed, made sure you aren’t doing too much playing and fun stuff and too little work?If the answer is Yes and you’ve done all those things right, the grade you have may be the very best you can do.  At this point, if you’ve done your very best, let it go.  We can’t all make As in everything.  If, on the other hand, you haven’t been disciplined in some or all of those areas, you should try from here on out to do more – and see if the grade improves.

My personal experience – and that of the vast majority of my advisees, is that the first semester grades tend to be the worst.  The reality of the first semester of college for most of us is that we find the pace and the depth of the work is a lot more than we bargained for, and things we did fairly well at in high school (As and Bs) might be things we struggle with in college (Bs, Cs, or even Ds).  Example: I got almost all As and the occasional B in Biology in high school and my Wake bio class darn near killed me.  I was working as hard as I could, and I barely scraped by.

So if a student had all As and a few Bs in high school and now has lower grades, I would not yet panic.  While I know they probably don’t want to see a C on midterms or finals, it can be very difficult for most first semester students to get all As and Bs.   The key to improvement might lie in using the resources outlined in the bullets above.

In the second semester, if students have a lot of new activities they are involved in (Greek Life, a theatre production, a larger role in some other organization, etc.), they need to be careful to prioritize academics over the extracurriculars.  If they spend 80% of the time on the fun stuff and 20% of the time on classes, their grades might very well suffer.  So time management and discipline can be incredibly important.

One student who graduated a couple years ago spoke at a New Student Reception for our office and described his time management strategy: treat college like a job.  You go to work at the same time every day (8 am, 9 am) and finish at 5 pm.  During the day, whenever you are in a class, that is like a meeting.  When you are not in class, that is office time/work time.   You take your lunchbreak, but you spend the bulk of the daylight hours studying in a place that suits you best (and for every student that can be different – their room, the library, Starbucks, a quiet place in a campus building) but you really work at everything during the ‘workday.’  Then at 5, once you’ve spent all day studying and doing homework, you have the rest of the evening to play and have fun (and get enough sleep).

So those are some initial thoughts on academics.  We do have great resources for students to use, but they must ask for them.  They must also do their part by prioritizing their academics and devoting proper time and effort to them.


– by Betsy Chapman

Happy Black and Gold Friday!

It’s Friday, and as always, I hope you’re making it a Black and Gold Friday wherever you are.  Wear WFU colors and show your school pride!

Correction from yesterday: the Kissing Kanines booth is in the Benson Center 3rd floor. Hope your students get the chance for a big pooch smooch today!

This weekend is the University Theatre production of Waiting for Godot.  Given our recent Five Senses of Scales, there’s no better time than the present to encourage your students to see some high quality theatre.

It was really cold yesterday – and WINDY!  The wind howled much of the day and into the night lastnight.  The wind is supposed to be diminishing today so perhaps it won’t be quite so cold.  Here’s the Deac-end forecast.

love-sunsetFinally, I wish all our Deac families a very happy Valentine’s Day.  May you feel the love of those closest to you.

Don’t forget to send an e-Valentine to your students through our Deacon Greetings.

– by Betsy Chapman