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The Daily Deac

The Great Outdoors

After a couple of chilly days, we’re getting back up to the 70s and magnificent spring weather. And right now, there is no better place to be than outdoors on our beautiful campus.  You’ll see in the photos below that the trees and flowers are really spectacular.

Also to note: your Deacs are taking advantage of the grassy areas to study or relax, and to steal a few moments of joy on the swings.  Way to find those mindful moments outdoors!  It’s good for the body and the mind.

Spring brings tons of smiles and lots of ooh-ing and aah-ing from campus visitors when they see all the beautiful flowers and flowering trees.  Spring also brings us an abundance of pollen, and so it’s time when it is not unusual to hear the sniffling and sneezing of allergy sufferers.  Our Student Health Service ran an article a couple of years ago about seasonal allergies, and now is probably the time to share it once again.

One program note: there is a Purim Open House today from 4-5 pm at the Hillel Lounge in Collins.  There are a number of additional activities in the coming days and weeks surrounding the Jewish holidays – see more here and share with your Deacs if you wish.

Have a great day, Deac families!

— by Betsy Chapman
Farrell Hall, the home of the Wake Forest University School of Business, is lit by the early morning sun on Wednesday, March 16, 2016.

Farrell Hall, the home of the Wake Forest University School of Business, is lit by the early morning sun.

Daffodils bloom on the south campus of Wake Forest University on Wednesday, March 16, 2016.

Daffodils bloom on the south campus of Wake Forest University.

Wake Forest students enjoy a warm spring afternoon outdoors on campus on Thursday, March 17, 2016.

Wake Forest students enjoy a warm spring afternoon outdoors on campus.

Wake Forest students enjoy a warm spring afternoon on the swings on Davis Field on Thursday, March 17, 2016.

Wake Forest students enjoy a warm spring afternoon on the swings on Davis Field.

The cupola of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library is illuminated in the pre-dawn darkness on the Wake Forest campus on Friday, March 18, 2016.

The cupola of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library is illuminated in the pre-dawn darkness.

The bell tower of Wait Chapel is illuminated in the pre-dawn darkness on the Wake Forest campus on Friday, March 18, 2016.

The bell tower of Wait Chapel is illuminated in the pre-dawn darkness.

Senior Orations – Daniel Sechtin (’16)

Last but not least, our Senior Orations comes to a close. Today we feature the work of senior Daniel Sechtin, with “What is Pro HumanitateThe Power of Asking.”



Since setting foot on campus at Wake Forest University, I’ve often thought about our motto, Pro Humanitate, and wondered: What do these words really mean? Anyone can Google Pro Humanitate and learn that the phrase means “for humanity” or “we do what we do for the sake of humanity, for the people of the world.” These translations got me thinking about how we can embody a motto like this. How can we be pro humanitate in the flesh? How can we be “for humanity” in the most purposeful ways?

I believe the answer lies in the power of asking. Asking can come in many shapes and forms–asking a question, asking for advice, asking for a favor. Asking can take us very far, as long as we’re asking the right people the right questions. I experienced this truth firsthand last summer when, as a small town guy from Florence, South Carolina, I had the opportunity to intern at CNN Headquarters in Atlanta. It’s been my dream for as long as I can remember to be a news anchor, but once I actually arrived for the first day of the internship, I worried I might be in over my head. So I started asking. I asked reporters, anchors, and producers for advice, storing away precious pieces of information.

One day, all eyes turned to my home state of South Carolina and the confederate flag flying over our capitol. Then I asked a question that opened the door to my future. I asked my employers if they ever thought about sending someone to a college campus in order to gain a student perspective. Unexpectedly, they handed me a camera and said, “Go for it.” Just by asking one question, I was living out my dream of being a news reporter, and later that week, I reported my story live on national television.

Some of you may now be thinking: “what does this have to do with Pro Humanitate?” Well, it all comes back to this: When I returned to Wake Forest for our senior year, I started rethinking the way I pose questions. I began asking more of myself and less of others. I asked questions like: Am I following my passion? Am I being the best person that I can be? And most importantly, how am I responding when others ask me for help? What am I doing for the sake of humanity? For the people of the world? Now I started to feel that I was asking the right questions.

Most of us are asking one big question right now: What the heck am I doing with my life after graduation? Luckily, we all are leaving here with a degree from an amazing institution and we’ll probably end up just fine. However, as we go into the real world and our lives begin to change, it’s imperative that we continuously ask ourselves: What are we doing to change the lives of others? What are we doing to make the world a better place? After all, we can remember how much we’ve benefited from the right people asking the right questions.

Where would we be if Maya Angelou hadn’t once asked why society treats the life of an African American woman with lesser value than any other human being? Her question set an example for generations to come and helped fuel the American civil rights movement.

Where would we be if Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, hadn’t asked, “How far can we push technology for medical advances?” leading a team at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to create the first lab-grown organ for human implant.

Where would we be if Amy Xie, who is in our graduating class, hadn’t asked, “Why do astronauts experience back injury and sleep deprivation while in space?” a question that inspired her to invent a new sleeper pod that will change the lives of future astronauts.

And where would we be if a group of Wake Forest Management students hadn’t wondered what they might do to help hungry children in our own community of Winston-Salem? They stepped up and assisted The Backpack Program in feeding kids who go without food an average of 108 days out of the year when school’s out for weekends and holidays.

Service projects like Hit the Bricks, Wake n’ Shake, and Project Pumpkin show that we’re already on the right track. But we are the generation of the future and it’s our responsibility to keep asking the important questions whose answers may have the power to change lives. We also share the responsibility to act when others ask us for help.

I’ll leave you with one final example. Every summer, I serve as a counselor at a week-long camp called Palmetto Boys State, leading a group of forty rising high school seniors through rigorous competitive exercises in issues of government and politics. At the end of last summer’s session, I asked one of my campers: what did you learn? His answer was wise for someone only 17 years old. He said, “I learned with enough hard work and dedication, seemingly impossible goals become realities.”

Imagine what we can and will accomplish together as Wake Forest alumni when we all embrace one common goal: to make the world a better place by constantly asking ourselves: What can I do to help others? What can I do to better myself? What can I do to make the world a better place? Questions like these are at the heart of living for the sake of humanity. Questions like these are Pro Humanitate.

Best Breakfasts in Winston-Salem

For any of you who might be traveling to campus in the coming weeks – either to spend Easter Weekend with your student, or for move-out in May, today’s Daily Deac is all about food.  Our provost, Rogan Kersh (’86), is guest blogging today to share some of his top picks for best eats.  (Editorial note from Betsy: Rogan nails it with his #1 pick; it’s one of my very favorites).

Top 5 Best Five Breakfast Spots for Parents Visiting Winston-Salem

Weekday or weekend, early or mid-morning: you’ll find rewarding sustenance at each of these.  A later list will cover best weekend brunch spots, but these are day-in, day-out favorites.

#5. Pane e Vino: close proximity to campus, if you’re meeting a son/daughter with morning classes! Best coffee drinks north of Camino Bakery.

#4. Famous Toastery: recently opened in burgeoning Trade Street corridor, the 7th or so of this North Carolina franchise. They get biscuits right.

#3. Midtown Cafe: enormous pancakes buried in fruit, if that’s your thing. But omelets are nicely done, and this is Winston-Salem’s power breakfast spot: arrive early and you’ll see CEOs, nonprofit chairs, university administrators, and religious leaders scattered through the dining room.

#2. Mama Zoe Michael’s: Greek-flavored southern breakfast (think homemade pita in place of biscuits) that never disappoints. Sweet potato hotcakes and breakfast corn pudding…νόστιμο (delicious)!

#1. Mary’s Gourmet Diner (aka Breakfast Of Course): On a once-quiet stretch of Trade Street, Mary’s anchors a flowering of hip–in Winston!–spots like Mission Pizza, Famous Toastery (see #4 above), and Camel City BBQ. Mary’s is low-key and delicious (the cinnamon swirl french toast never disappoints); expect a lively mix of blue- and white-collar workers, the art crowd (check out the Art-o-Mat, a repurposed cigarette vending machine that now dispenses local art works)…and a steady stream of WFU students.  Arrive early on weekends, or prepare for a wait.  Mary herself generally emerges from the kitchen every hour or two to circle through the dining room.

— by Rogan Kersh (’86)

Senior Orations – Buck Hinman (’16)

It’s the end of a glorious week on campus.  It’s been in the 70s and 80s all week, but to my dismay we’re about to hit a cold and possibly rainy stretch this weekend and early next week.

Big, breaking news of the day: there was an announcement this morning of Biomedical Sciences and Engineering programs that will start at Wake.  This story will be covered in Wake Parents & Families e-newsletter too (which I hope will go out today or Monday). But for now, do read the story online. So exciting.  Stay tuned.

And just as the week is ending, we are coming to the home stretch of our Senior Orations – one today, one next week.  Today we have “Creating Community Through Pro Humanitate” by Buck Hinman (’16).

Make it a great weekend, Deac families!  (And because it’s Friday, we remind you to talk to your students.  You love and miss them – give them a call).

— by Betsy Chapman


I read a story recently about a pregnant woman who found, reportedly, a human finger in her salad at an Applebee’s in California. Apparently, the finger belonged to one of the cooks, who didn’t even notice his finger coming off. When I saw this article, the journalist inside of me said, “You know this is a dumb story. This reads like one of those old tabloids claiming to prove the existence of marvels like the ‘Bat Boy’ and mermaids.” But do you know what I did? I devoured every word of that article. I couldn’t stop reading! I mean, come on, don’t you want to hear how the heck something like that can happen?

Yet, when I saw articles about the amazing expansion of Innovation Quarter here in Winston-Salem or the rapid revitalization of the downtown area, I just couldn’t bring myself to read the whole thing. I could get through the headline and maybe the first few paragraphs, sure, but rarely did I ever read the entire article. This struggle became especially apparent in a Community Journalism class I took with Professor Phoebe Zerwick here at Wake. We took quizzes each week with questions asking basic information about important local stories in Winston-Salem, and, for some reason, studying for those quizzes proved immensely difficult. I just couldn’t remember information about newly-elected city officials, business deals, or major construction on the highway as easily as I could recall that woman with a finger in her salad.

Sure, the reason this happened seems obvious – local reporting simply doesn’t seem to have the overarching consequences or heightened shock value as national political scandals or wars abroad. Reading big, investigative reports in the New York Times feels much more weighty and impactful than a local politician embezzling funds. But does that difference justify my negligence and occasional disregard for local news? These are stories that significantly impact the community in which I live and the lives of the people around me.

But that story about the finger is just so interesting, isn’t it?

So, let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. Don’t worry, it’s fine – there is no need to stress about a wrong answer. Just tell yourself the truth: how many of you read any issues of the Old Gold & Black this semester? I know some of you who have never even looked at a copy in your four years here at Wake!

Or, consider the place you call home. Can you name the mayor of your town or city? Any local officials? Your state senators? These are people who make the day-to-day decisions that affect your quality of life, and that of your neighbors. In addition to fighting for our allies and those struggling around the world, are you standing up to fight for the people you grew up with? How about those who you greet on the street every day and who make your food, or keep your electricity running?

Our generation lives in an incredible and wacky world where you and I can confidently discuss the Sunni and Shi’ite conflict plaguing the Middle East yet remain blissfully unaware of institutional racism or high numbers of sexual assault on our own university’s campus. We receive so much information every day through our phones, our TV, our friends, and our classes, that only the most attention-grabbing headlines hold our interest.

For the record, this speech isn’t only about being news-savvy. Following every news story reported every day would be exhausting – just ask the editor or news director of any major news outlet. This is about how the macro and the micro have importance. This is about how we often pursue the grandest goals and ideas without remembering the importance of the smallest.

As Wake Forest students, we tend to think big. Our teachers push us and we push ourselves to shape the world in the spirit of Pro Humanitate. A lot of you will leave here to run some of the largest financial sectors in the country, fill positions in our national government, or work on world-altering advances in medicine and technologies .In those worlds, it’s easy to forget what’s happening in our immediate surroundings and how we treat those in our communities, including ourselves. But we cannot forget that, however lofty Pro Humanitate sounds, it is crucial we apply it not just to those one thousand miles away, but also to those immediately around us. With the skills and talents we have developed at Wake, our class has the ability and the responsibility to improve the communities in which we live.

I’m hopeful about us. In my time at Wake, I have met people who will undoubtedly become dedicated public servants, and people who will always be willing to help someone in need. I know students at this school who spend hours every week going to shelters and organizations around Winston-Salem and helping out because they know they can use their knowledge and skills to improve the lives of people around them. And because of this, all the “strangers” that we have been taught to fear or ignore become friends faster than one might think.

The next time you feel disconnected from the people around you or you miss the strength and richness of the Wake Forest community, remember that we can recreate what we had here at Wake in every city around the country. It’s up to us, as we leave the Wake Bubble once and for all, to stop forming bubbles altogether.  Wherever you end up, go and learn about your community, engage with your community, and  work to create an environment where Pro Humanitate isn’t just an ideal, but a reality. Thank you.


Much To Say – Even More to DO!

You are probably all tiring of the descriptions of the superb weather we are having here, but it bears repeating. It. Is. Glorious.

Lots on the docket to talk about today, most of it coming in the vein of ‘items on the WFU smorgasboard’.  Urge your Deacs to loosen their belts and sample plentifully of all there is to offer.

A disclaimer – this is but a portion of things on the horizon, but because I was just at a meeting where many of these things were discussed, I wanted to share in a timely fashion. As always, our Events Calendar has a much broader swath of activities to see.

Global Wake Week continues. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, ARAMARK/Campus Dining is hosting an Irish themed dinner tonight in the Pit. Your Deacs can also take Virtual Reality tours of international locations tonight. There will be food trucks tomorrow from 12-2 on the Mag Quad.  The Global Wake Week site has all the events that wrap up this week.

Wake N’ Shake has over 1,250 dancers registered for the dance marathon, which starts at noon this Saturday and runs til midnight. Students can dance and/or can support others who are dancing. Really cool event every year.  (FYI, also on Saturday is an EMS drill to simulate a mass casualty situation; this is just a drill!)

There will be a celebration of the vernal equinox and the official start of spring on Sunday. (And while I never dreamed I would be talking about an event that included the words “sheep shearing,” never say never, because that is part of the deal.  Read it for yourself.)

zenThe Chaplain’s Office has a session coming up Monday at 7 pm on Zen meditation and mindfulness, taught by a leading practitioner. If your students are inclined to stress, urge them to consider learning more about mindfulness. Lots of great research of late showing the positive and lasting benefits of meditation. Next week there will also be a variety of events by and for students from various faith traditions.

There is a Women’s Leadership Symposium 2016 taking place on Tuesday the 21st.  Wake Forest alumna Jessica Shortall (’00 ), co-founder of the Campus Kitchens Project, will be here, and it looks like a great program overall.

A little farther out in time…

The Office of Sustainability is seeking nominations for the Campus Sustainability Awards (due March 28).

The Thrive Office is doing a major study on wellbeing an how Wake Forest has impacted students. Students will get an email April 11 (or shortly after) about how to participate in this research study and help shape the WFU experience for others. Plus, they get a gift for participating. Urge your Deacs to respond to the call of the Wellbeing Study.

The LGBTQ Center will host its Lavender Graduation on April 27th. This is open to the whole community – faculty, staff, students of any year, LGBTQ and allies alike.

Finally, a giant, giant mea culpa on my part. Yesterday’s blog put out a call for advice for incoming P’20 parents. As I live and breathe, when I tested it everything worked beautifully. Somehow in the translation of inserting the form in the blog, it went a bit kerblooie. (I am not a tech person but think it may have had something to do with filling out the form via phone/iPad vs regular computer, but I can’t be sure).

I know it worked for some people, because I did get answers through the form.  But to my dismay, I heard from some of you who submitted answers (and they did not come through), or that you spent time typing them in and then got a form error. I am so, so sorry.

For those of you who didn’t submit yesterday and wanted to, don’t use yesterday’s blog to do so.  This is a link to the form (hosted on its own web page this time). You can also always email us at with your advice.

Again, sorry to anyone who experienced difficulty!

— by Betsy Chapman

Been There, Done That. Tell Us What You Know.

I have the worst case of Spring Fever ever, and I gotta be honest, it is really hard to want to sit in my office and work when I could go outside and enjoy the sunshine and nearly 80 degree weather.  So today’s Daily Deac will be brief – and it will be a call for action for you!

We are beginning to work on the New Students web site for the Class of 2020 and could use the help of our ‘Been There, Done That’ parents. We want to hear your best advice to new families.  What do you wish you had realized/done during your own Deac’s first year at Wake Forest?

Please share your thoughts in this form; answers may be used (anonymously) in our advice for new parents web site. Complete as much or as little as you like.

Thank you in advance for helping me – and helping our soon-to-be P’20s!

— by Betsy Chapman

Advice for Incoming Parents of the Class of 2020

This is a survey for current parents (P'16, '17, '18, and '19) to provide advice to parents of incoming freshmen (P'20s). Please provide any helpful advice in the questions below.


It’s Almost Unfair How Nice the Weather Is

I went out to lunch today to The Porch (which, if your students have not discovered, they need to. Great tex-mex and the best queso in the city).  It was the first time I had been out of my building today, and the weather is absolutely glorious.  What’s it like, you ask?


Light breeze.

Trees are in bloom.  Pink flowers on the prettiest of them.

Daffodils popping up everywhere.

Students in shorts and sundresses, with flip flops and sandals.

You see lots of happy faces – the way you get when it’s such a nice day it just seems to make everything better.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

poll shuttleSo I urge your Deacs to get outside and enjoy this weather. And for those who registered to vote in NC, today is primary day, so I hope they will get to their polling place.  Our College Democrats and College Republicans have a shuttle to take students registered to vote in NC to the voting spot – shuttles run from the Benson Center circle every half hour until 7 pm.

One of the goals of a Wake Forest education is to prepare students to lead lives that matter and to go forth and do for the good of humanity. I would argue that voting matters a great deal and we want our students to be engaged, involved citizens who are voting.  (I don’t even care if you vote for my candidate – I just want you to vote, period!)

Have a Super Tuesday wherever you are, Deac families!

— by Betsy Chapman

Welcome Back!

Spring Break seemed to go by in a flash for us – did it for you and your Deacs? Happily, they are coming back to a campus where spring has sprung. If you drive in the main entrance off of Silas Creek Parkway and Reynolda Road, you can see the start of a carpet of daffodils popping up, and creeping phlox. It makes for an especially pretty picture.

We’re jumping right into the week with announcements about a few opportunities for your students to engage in meaningful ways.

Global Wake Week 2016Global Wake Week:

This week is Global Wake Week, and there are a TON of activities, as you can see at this link.  One change to mention, due to the possibility of rain, the Zuzu African Acrobats will perform at 7 pm tonight in Brendle Recital Hall.  Also – for those of you who have Deacs who love dogs, tomorrow there is a Rent A Puppy on the Mag Quad from 1-4 pm.  Hope your Deacs will take advantage of the many, many fun activities planned.

Voices of Our Time

This Thursday is a Voices of Our Time event: “Aging, Health & Longevity in the 21st Century” with S. Jay Olshansky, PhD. It will be held Thursday at 6:00 p.m. in Farrell Hall, Broyhill Auditorium.  His research focuses on the upper limits to human longevity, health and public policy implications associated with aging, and the pursuit of the scientific means to slow aging. This will be a wonderful opportunity for students to hear from a leading voice in this field.

From the Dean of Students office:

Finally, this one is an opportunity for Deacs who want to be involved in campus leadership and the work of the Office of the Dean of Students:

Are you looking to give back to WFU at a higher level? Have you been searching for a meaningful way to help others?  If so, these advanced leadership opportunities are for you! 

Apply today to be a student member of Wake’s Judicial Council (JC), Honor and Ethics Council (HEC), or Board of Investigators and Advisors (BIA). Information about each position and the joint application are found on our website at

Applications are due Friday, March 25, 2015 by 5 pm.  Information Sessions will be held on the following dates from 6-7 pm in Benson 410

– March 16, 2016

– March 24, 2016

Lots of ways to be involved, stretch your mind, learn something new.  Make it a great first week back!

— by Betsy Chapman

Senior Orations – Alexa Erb (’16)

Today is the last weekday of Spring Break – so our empty-feeling campus will be populated with your students very soon.  Hope you enjoy one last Senior Oration, this one by Alexa Erb (’16).  Here is “Lessons from My Mother…So Dear.”


In 182 years, you can accrue quite a bit of wisdom. Mother So Dear has never been stingy sharing it with us. In my time at Wake Forest, I have had the immense privilege of being taught some of her very best lessons. As I get ready to leave this beloved home of mine, I’d like to thank you, Mother So Dear, for three lessons in particular. Lessons that have not only defined my time here at Wake Forest, but have transformed me and my trajectory forever.

Lesson 1: Look for the Love

Being at a Top 30 university, excellence is expected—from the institution, from the faculty, and from your peers. Those expectations can lead to amazing discoveries and a vibrant, intellectual atmosphere. They can also lead to too many all-nighters in a row, caffeine addictions, and anxiety-induced meltdowns. I have had my fair share of all of the above. But Mother So Dear, you have never stopped reminding me to look for the love in the midst of overwhelming stress. The understanding professors who extend a deadline after a tear-filled meeting, the mid-study Cookout runs with the windows down and the radio all the way up, and Miss Roz’s smiling face as she hands you your fourth cup of coffee before noon.

Since starting our Wake Forest journeys, the class of 2016 has seen a lot of heartbreak in the world. The European Refugee Crisis, the attacks in Paris, the Peshawar School Massacre, the lack of justice for individuals like Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Sandra Bland, and hundreds of mass shootings in this country alone. In the moments of despair, you urged us to keep our hope alive by noticing all of the love around us. In the pledges of solidarity tied to the trees on the quad, the flowers outside of Imam Griggs’ office, and the moments we take to hug the ones we love a little bit tighter.  Love is everywhere on this campus. You’ll find it in Ms. Mary’s greeting as she swipes you into the Pit, in the music of the carillon on the first sunny day after a rainy spell, and in every roll of toilet paper lobbed through the air. You’ll find it your classrooms, your extra curriculars, your residence hall. Mother So Dear, thank you for always pointing it out when we need it most.

Lesson 2: Nobody’s Perfect

Right off the bat, this lesson seems like a no brainer. Of course nobody’s perfect, Hannah Montana taught us that in 2006. Nobody’s perfect, Mother So Dear—including you.

Racism exists here. Sexism exists here. Homophobia, Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, classism, elitism, ableism, entitlement, drug addiction, mental health issues, sexual assault. All of those dirty words we sweep under the rug when prospective students come around or when another university gets called out in the media—those things are here.

As heartbreaking as it was to find out that these things were living in my Wake Forest, their presence has played an integral role in my life. In the midst of your imperfections, I have had the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in, to teach, to debate, to discuss, to learn, to grow.

You didn’t shield us from the tough stuff, Mother So Dear. But you didn’t teach us to just endure it either.  You taught us to be bothered by injustice, even if you were the one perpetuating it. You taught us to get up and do something. Without that push, we wouldn’t have student led initiatives like Campus Kitchen, Trailblaze, Not on My Campus, or Campus Climate Town Halls.  With perfection comes stagnation. With your flaws came the inspiration to strive for change.

Lesson 3: You Can’t Stay Forever

Teachers, the good ones anyways, give you all the love in the world, all the resources you need to figure out who you are and where you’re meant to be, and when it’s time, they let go.

Mother So Dear, you were there for all of my milestones—the big ones and the seemingly insignificant. You were there when I kissed my family goodbye for the first time. You watched me timidly enter into a world of uncertainty. You smiled knowingly as I was united with the people I didn’t even know my soul needed. You patiently observed each time I thought I found love and when I finally stumbled upon the real thing. You beamed with pride as I made the transition from “undecided” to “I have found my passion.” You were there for the very moment that a terrified little girl realized this was exactly where she was supposed to be.  And now, Mother So Dear, it’s time for me to go.

I know that I can’t stay here forever. Soon, another class of Deacons will arrive and start writing their Wake Forest stories. It’s time for me to write the next chapter of mine. The thought of leaving this place is a scary one. A sad one. But also an exciting one. Maya Angelou writes, “You will be surprised that these years of/ Sleepless nights and months of uneasy/ Days will be rolled into/ An altering event called the/ “Good old days.” And you will not/ Be able to visit them even with an invitation/ Since that is so you must face your presence./ You are prepared/ Go out and transform your world.”

That’s a tall order. But thanks to you, Mother So Dear, I think I’m ready.


Senior Oration – Camry Wilborn (’16)

Today’s Spring Break coverage of Senior Orations features the work of Camry Wilborn (’16).


On the Wake Forest Admissions page there is a section referring to Pro Humanitate. It reads:

It’s not about you. It’s about us, and the greater meaning of what it means to be human. Our motto, Pro Humanitate (For Humanity), is a calling to use our knowledge, talents and compassion to better the lives of others. It can mean donating time and resources to our communities or simply a lifelong commitment to pursuing our best self. No matter your personal interpretation, it’s an opportunity to leave the world better than we found it.

And although it is on the admissions page, I did not actually encounter the phrase “Pro Humanitate” until I had begun attending the school. It was probably during one of those dragging sessions during freshman orientation. You know, one of the many, many that we’re required to go to. This philosophy however, was nothing new. Since I was a little girl, I was groomed to embody Pro Humanitate. I watched in amazement as my mother gave of everything: money, time, herself. And she watched her mother do the same. They never complained, just kept giving, and giving, and giving.

My entire experience as a black woman has consisted of being regularly told, it’s not about you. See the humanity in others. Fight for others. Be superwoman. Never be empty. It’s not about you.

The dilemma in being told it’s not about you arises when a group is not included in the “collective us”. Historically and currently speaking, black women are the bloody lambs sacrificed by the gods of white supremacy and patriarchy. I remember the first time I was exposed to the horrific truth of the feminist movement, which I, as a feminist, had idealized. That horrific truth is that feminism itself was whitewashed. Black women were not included. I enrolled in an Intro to Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies course, which would later become my second major. In learning about the feminist movement, starting with the first wave, I became aware of the ways in which black women were persuaded to fight for the greater good as a part of the suffrage movement, though the suffrage movement barely fought for them.

The exclusion did not end there. My thirst for knowledge around my racial identity led me to see firsthand the exclusion black women feel in relation to movements surrounding race. The Civil Rights Movement is often credited to two black men: Martin and Malcolm. Depending on where you fall on the radical totem, you are likely to choose one over the other. It wasn’t until I joined a book club sponsored by the Anna Julia Cooper Center that I learned about the influence that Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hammer and Daisy Bates have had.

I noticed a pattern. Despite black women being excluded, they continue to embody Pro Humanitate–they see and serve humanity. You see, to be black and woman means to constantly see the humanity in others, while people refuse to see yours. It means that you are not included in the collective us. Even if you’re respected, you are labeled as a queen, goddess–everything else except human. But when we place ourselves at the center of our stories, it’s self-indulgent. This is what I know to be Pro Humaniate—to serve. History validates it and the world affirms it. I am here to serve others. It’s not about me.

I’ve known that I wanted to attend Wake Forest since I was about nine. In fact, it was the only school I applied to. Looking back, that was kind of risky, but I’m here now. When I got here, like many other girls who look like me, I struggled to find my place. When social environments weren’t welcoming, I turned to the only thing I knew, service. My involvement with service has truly made my Wake Forest experience. It was my safe space—where I was comfortable. Safe spaces are not frivolous, they’re imperative, and the service community was mine. And through it, I have been able to give back to the city that raised me. However, just as the national arena ignores black women in favor of black men and white women, I began to believe that the motto Pro Humanitate was reinforcing that.

My classmates want to save little girls who look like me. They build them desks, tutor them and give them Halloween candy but ignore black women in the discussion surrounding sexual assault on our campus. Humanity is forgotten when black women are labeled as stereotypical tropes and never allowed to be multi-dimensional beings. Humanity is forgotten when a party theme is offensive, discriminatory and institutionally protected. Humanity is forgotten when we stop fighting for you and fight for us. I began to feel like I was for Wake, but Wake wasn’t for me. Humanity wasn’t for black girls like me. I was taught that seeing the humanity in everyone, despite myself, is what would guide my journey as a black woman in a white space; and that thinking wasn’t enough for me anymore. How long do black women have to serve before we’re allowed to be human? To feel. To fail. A precondition to serving humanity, should be to be seen as human first.

Fall semester of my senior year, I had the opportunity to attend the White House for a Research Summit on Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color. This conference was co-hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls and our own Anna Julia Cooper Center. Stakeholders from academic, nonprofit, government, and philanthropic sectors came together to discuss the issues facing women and girls of color. I must admit that, despite writing a myriad of research papers and presenting the information at conferences and symposia, I’ve never liked research. The act of investigating independent variables to establish a conclusion never aroused any sort of academic curiosity within me.

However, the conference surpassed all of my expectations. I have never been in a room with that many black female academics. It was refreshing and affirming. No triggers. No microagressions. No need for safe spaces. It was all safe.

Out of all of the speakers that day, only one white man spoke. That gentleman was our Provost Rogan Kersh, someone that I was lucky enough to have a relationship with before the conference. I learned that day that Wake Forest University would be partnering with twenty-three other schools to collectively give 18 million dollars to support research for women and girls of color. Yet, if I were to walk into the pit and ask a white male about the experiences of black women I would not be surprised if I were met with a mediocre colorblind answer or complete silence. There is a disconnection between commitment and practice. Though we committed to providing money and institutional support for research, I want to see these concepts of equity and the experiences of black women explored on our campus. I want to see more students visit my website, The Angry Black Collegiate. I want to see the cultural diversity requirement improve. I want to see mental health initiatives focusing on the alarming rates of depressions amongst black women. I want to see more women who look like me in front of the classroom. It’s not enough to commit money to research, if that research is not going to inform our own policies.

Therefore, I am leaving this stage with a challenge. We, the community of Wake Forest must not only commit to living out Pro Humanitate,  we must practice that everyday—as black women have been doing for a long time now. It’s time to center the experiences of black women like me. It’s time to make it about me. After all, I’m human too.