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The Daily Deac

Friday Roundup

The potential ice or snow event did not happen at Mother So Dear, but it is once again really cold.  I was walking around campus this morning and saw a lot of big coats and scarves on students.  The sun is out, which helps a little, but it is in the low- to mid-30s.

Stopped by Starbucks for a meeting and to take in the atmosphere.  It was not as crowded as I expected it to be at 11:30.  There were plenty of students sitting at the tables and seating groups with ‘midterm style’ fashions (running pants, sweats, ponytails for girls or 2 day stubble for guys), but there were still seats available.  Most of the students looked focused but not fretting about exams or classes.  I saw a student I knew and asked about her spring break plans.  She said she is headed to a warm destination.  My hunch is a lot of our students are heading farther south.  You could tell who looked to be leaving campus by the students toting suitcases or waiting for car services in front of the Benson Center.

Turning to news of the day, Wake Forest joined “The Campaign to Change Direction,” a national initiative to create a new story in America about mental health, mental illness and wellness. As part of the collective effort led by Give an Hour, Wake Forest University joined 50 other campaign partners in this effort with its pledge to support this initiative through campus programs and services focused on mental health.”  You can read the full news story here.

Parents and families, you can encourage your students to “help change the direction” of mental health by taking a pledge on the Change Direction web site.  The simplest pledge is one that anyone can do: Learn the five signs of emotional suffering so you can recognize them in yourself or help a loved one who may be in emotional pain.  To learn more or to take a pledge, visit www.changedirection.org.  And the University Counseling Center announced a second Mindfulness Awareness Group that will be starting after Spring Break.  If your Deac is interested, feel free to share this Mindfulness Awareness Group spring flyer.

Finally, if your Deac is coming home to see you for Spring Break (as opposed to going on a trip with friends), think about having some good conversations about his/her time in college.  Our students are no doubt learning a lot in the classroom and are mastering academics, but it is just as important that they have time and space to reflect on who they are as people.  You can prompt your student with particular questions (see some suggestions below).  It may be that your Deac doesn’t know the answer yet (or isn’t comfortable sharing his or her thoughts yet, particularly if your student thinks you wouldn’t like to hear them).  But help plant the seed that introspection and reflection are going to be vital to your student knowing who he/she is (and isn’t).  Asking the right questions of yourself can shed light on so many things, and can help shape future decisions so you are moving in directions that will bring you the most fulfillment (vs. pursuing careers/hobbies/people that aren’t really where your heart is).

Here are some examples but you can add your own (thanks to the Mentoring Resource Center for some of these prompts):

When and where are you the happiest?

Which things/experiences/people are most meaningful to you?

What is the last class/idea/possibility that has truly excited you?

What is your biggest “a-ha moment” or lesson that you’ve learned about yourself this  semester?

How would you complete this statement:  “One year from now, I want to look back on my Wake Forest college experience and say “I’m glad I did…” and/or “I learned…about myself.”

Are there new experiences you are afraid of trying?  What is keeping you from doing those?  What might you learn if you try it?

 

— by Betsy Chapman

Super Soaker

3 4 15 quad camExactly the last thing your students want as they slog through midterms and projects is a soaking wet, miserable day.  And yet, that’s what they are getting.  This is how rainy it is: there are pools of water on the Quad as of early afternoon.  Check out the Quad Cam or see a screen cap at right.

It’s bad enough outside that I have holed up in my building all day (and I bet your students are doing likewise in their dorm rooms if they can).  There looks to be a chance of some snow or ice later tonight.

Seems even more cruel given the fact that yesterday afternoon and evening were divine weather wise.  Lastnight was clear skies and a warm breeze and a very beautiful almost full moon.

Lastnight also was the men’s Duke basketball game.  Bless our team, it was not a pretty game to watch.  Still, a true Wake fan sticks with the team no matter what.  So walk with heads tall and wear your black and gold with the same pride.  Wake fans take the long view, and there is much to look forward to with this team.  Just you wait.

On the good side, congratulations to the women’s basketball team on today’s ACC Tournament second-round upset over Syracuse, 85-79. They’ll play No. 4 Duke at 11 a.m. Friday.

Students will start peeling out of campus for Spring Break very soon.  Some tonight, some tomorrow, maybe a few on Saturday, but my hunch is we’ll be pretty cleaned out by Friday night.

If your Deacs are traveling, we wish them safe travels.

 

— by Betsy Chapman

 

 

A Beautiful Day

It is a beautiful day on campus.  We are still riding the Stephen Colbert high; I was talking to some faculty friends earlier today and they say their students are so excited about the announcement that he is our Commencement speaker.

The beautiful day extends beyond the Colbert news, though.  It is warm today – will reach nearly 70! – and though we started out with fog this morning, the sun is out and it feels fantastic.  Earlier in the day I had a meeting across campus and it was very breezy, too cold for shorts (though students were wearing them).  After lunch the shorts would feel just fine.

As I walked across campus it was during a class-change period.  All the students I saw seemed surprisingly chipper.  Perhaps the glorious day canceled out any stress they are experiencing over midterms and projects.  Speaking of stress relief, kudos to our Thrive team!  They advertised free 10 minute massages for today and tomorrow, and the 48 time slots for massages are already filled (it was on a first come, first served basis).  What a nice perk for our students, faculty and staff!

I read a great story on the web site this week about our first STEM Slam.  STEM is the acronym for “science, technology, engineering, math” and also health-related fields.  My colleague who forwarded the news story to me described it this way: “The goal was to host an event for students in the STEM majors, students that are not normally served by the typical on-campus recruiting events. We had a great turnout of students and companies and hope to make this an annual event.”  Read the full story here.

With this beautiful day, Spring Fever is in the air.  Take a gander at some of the best of Ken Bennett’s photos below and you’ll see what your students will hopefully be experiencing in just a few short weeks.

 

— by Betsy Chapman

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Big News Today! Stephen Colbert!!!

stephen cThis might be the biggest Commencement speaker news Wake Forest has seen since we announced then Secretary of State, Colin Powell.  Today at 10 am, we announced that the 2015 Commencement speaker will be comedian Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report.  I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when the seniors received the email from President Hatch announcing him as our speaker.  My hunch is that your students are super stoked.  You can read the official announcement here.

I’ve been at Wake Forest for 15+ years and I don’t think we’ve ever had a TV personality of this degree of fame speak at Commencement.  We have had many Commencement speakers from the political realm and the business realm, but rarely (never?) A-list entertainers like Stephen Colbert.  (Little known fact: we do not pay our speaker, so we have historically relied on our network of alumni, parents, and friends who have connections to potential speakers and can encourage them to accept an invitation from us.  You rarely get a big name speaker with a cold-call letter of invitation.)

There is no denying Stephen Colbert’s popularity, particularly among the Millennials and Gen Xers (and yes, I am a proud owner of one of his WristStrong bracelets; he and I both had wrist injuries about the same time).  The Colbert Report always had a strong fan following, but the last several episodes of his show were just tremendous.  And if you haven’t read his books, they are fantastically satirical, biting, and hilarious.  Loved them all.  His work on the show was recognized with multiple Emmy Awards and even a Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.

I predict a Stephen Colbert Commencement speech that is funny, pithy, and poignant at the same time.  I can’t wait to hear him – can you?  Would love to hear the reactions of your students, too.  If you want to share them (anonymously as always), you can email parents@nullwfu.edu.

While Stephen Colbert is certainly the biggest news of the day, it is not the only news.  Spring Break is just around the corner.  Student Health has asked us to pass on this Spring Break medical advisory for students who might be traveling to the Dominican Republic:

“The Quebec Department of Public Health has reported that three (3) Canadian citizens who traveled to resorts near Punta Cana and Bávaro Beach in the Dominican Republic since December 2014 have developed malaria. Previously, travelers to this resort area were not thought to be at risk for malaria.

Students traveling for spring break 2015 to resorts in the Punta Cana area or in the area nearBávaro Beach (in La Altagracia province in eastern Dominican Republic) should take precautions to limit their risk for acquiring malaria. These include:

1. Prophylactic antimalarial medication such as doxycycline or Malarone (atovoquone/proguanil). These are available through the Student Health Service pharmacy or can be obtained from your primary care physician.

2. Personal protective measures to minimize the risk of mosquito bites.

For more detailed information about preventing malaria please see:

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/diseases/malaria

If you are going to this region in the Dominican Republic for Spring Break and wish to get preventative medication from the Student Health Service, please contact the pharmacist by email (shs@nullwfu.edu) or by phone (336-758-5218 menu option “2”).”

Finally, we have some news about an opportunity for students who are interested in Campus Kitchen and leadership roles.  Every spring, Campus Kitchen offers a short mentoring program for students who are interested in serving in leadership roles within the organization but don’t know what that looks like.  Campus Kitchen has a cohort of eager mentors ready to go and they are still recruiting mentees.  This program is open to any student with no experience needed.  This might be a terrific opportunity for students who have shared that they don’t know how to get involved and are interested in a service/mentor experience.

Campus Kitchen is advertising this to students as follows:

“Are you curious about what it takes to be a Campus Kitchen shift leader?  Would you like to get “more involved” but you don’t know how?  Join the CKWFU mentoring program. The mentoring program is open to any student considering applying for the 2015-2016 leadership team.  Participants will be matched with current leadership team members for a three-week period from March 16-April 3rd.  During these three weeks you will shadow the shift leader and meet with them to talk about the responsibilities of shift leaders. The program will conclude with a reflection dinner where you can have any questions answered before CKWFU Shift Leader applications open. No prior experience is needed. Fill out this form by Monday, March 9th to enroll in the program. Contact Shelley Sizemore with questions at gravessa@nullwfu.edu

— by Betsy Chapman

Snow Photos and Senior Oration by Gracie Harrington ’15

As you no doubt heard from your students, we got snow last Wednesday evening.  On Thursday morning, our intrepid and award-winning photographer, Ken Bennett, ventured out in the snow to take some pictures of campus.  They are in a terrific web site, Snow in the Forest, which I recommend to you highly.  Ken caught what appears to be some epic snowball fights, some very large snowmen, college students romping and playing with the glee of schoolchildren, and pictures of iconic buildings and places on campus.  It’s a beauty.  Enjoy.

Speaking of enjoying things, I hope you have been enjoying the Senior Orations as much as I have.  Today we hear from Senior Gracie Harrington “15, with The Closet.

— by Betsy Chapman

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When I entered Wake Forest at the age of 17, I in all honesty did not know what to expect. As a senior in college, I decided to apply to Wake Forest because it fit every aspect I was looking for in a college: Wake Forest had small class sizes and a rigorous education, while still holding a traditional “university feel.” During freshman orientation I looked across the sea of students in Wait Chapel while the President of the University spoke, and to my eyes nearly every face looked identical. While I was dressed in old jeans and a t-shirt, designer brands of J Crew, Southern Tide, and Louis Vuitton sprinkled across the audience. Between speakers, I happily introduced myself to those sitting around me, yet received unenthusiastic replies back. This was the start of a new chapter in my life, and I already did not feel part of my class.

Immediately, a deep fear of being excluded was instilled within me. I made a point to study what the girls around me were wearing, and to purchase similar apparel. I realized that both religion and greek life were popular on campus, so I consistently attended fellowship meetings, fraternity parties, and gossiped with girls about which sorority we wanted to join during rush. Within a few months, I felt satisfied that I had properly conformed to the Wake Forest culture.

However, when I went home for holiday breaks, I was reminded of the many parts of me which I was not showing at school. I loved to sing and write music, but I had not been playing the guitar or performing at college. In high school I had been passionate about civil rights, but at university I did not allow myself to be too opinionated on the topics. I even limited myself in the ways of love, for at college I was not out of the closet.

Since the 8th grade I had been questioning my orientation, and since the 8th grade I had been virtually silent about my interest in both men and women. Looking back on my experiences, I see that by not admitting my sexual orientation to myself I was lying to myself, and by lying to myself I was not supporting myself. In a world of high standards and scrutiny, it is easy to be so focused on pleasing those around us, that we forget to accept ourselves.

As the weeks of freshmen year went on, the Gracie I knew in high school wore away. I felt exhausted as I spent energy day in and day out pleasing those around me. Depression grew on me, until I was at a point so low and cared about my own happiness so little, that it became evident to myself that something in my life had to change. Yes, I had finally fit in, but I was disappearing into the crowd. I wanted to be a face people knew and I wanted to make a positive impact on those around me. In order to make a difference, my full self had to come to Wake Forest. For starters, I had to come out.

As I began to process the idea of coming out as bisexual during my sophomore year of college, I started by searching deep inside myself: what was stopping me? What were my fears? I listed in my head the different people I could put off, disappoint, or anger by coming out: my extended family, my friends, the administration, etc.. I felt as though I had everything to lose by coming out, but hiding my identity as a bisexual woman was definitely not working.

I began to prepare. I chose my location: a Shorty’s Open Mic Night. At Shorty’s I could not only come out in an open forum to a group of people for whom I cared and respected, but I could as well perform a song I had written. The song, titled “With a Wife,” was written about my fears in coming out, because many parts of the law and culture did not approve of two women being married. “With a Wife” contained the following lines in its chorus: “Strength is the key to my dreams/ I learned love ain’t as sinful as it seemed./ I’m young but please hear me out/ Love is what this world’s about./ I dreamed of the fairy tale life,/ but why can’t I have it with a wife?”

I marked my calendar; the night would be April 20th. I began inviting nearly everyone I knew: sisters in my sorority, friends from classes, professors, and President Nathan O. Hatch, someone I hardly knew at the time but had always admired.

The days grew closer to April 20th. Knots filled my stomach. I looked around, and wondered what in my life would change after I came out. Would the people with whom I had lunch still eat with me? Would my friends still be in my life? Would my world turn upside down?

The night of April 20th arrived. I went up on stage and looked into the crowd. I could feel my voice quivering as I said the following words: “I am up here today, because I need to tell you something that has been on my mind for years.” As the words came out of my mouth, I was surprised, because in the process of coming out I had only thought about my fears. I had been worried, I had been scared, but what about the countless other people at Wake Forest who were living in a closet? Perhaps by coming out, I could encourage them to do the same. “I am up here, because we need a change in this nation, a change in this state, a change in this community, and a change at Wake Forest” I exclaimed. I played my song “With a Wife,” and was shocked by the most miraculous moment thus far I have experienced in my short life: eyes of tears filled the audience, and these tears were not out of sadness, but joy.

Over the following months, people surprised me. When I came out in my sorority chapter, I received a standing ovation. Professors and students emailed me with words of support and acceptance. Even President Hatch sent me an email, thanking me for sharing my experience to the Wake Forest community. In essence, I felt supported by the majority of the Wake Forest community.

Before I came out, I thought I was a Wake Forest student for superficial reasons. What I later learned was that by doing an act for which I thought would make me an outcast, I had become more of a Demon Deacon than I had ever been before. By giving myself the opportunity to be who I was, I was given the opportunity to give back to my school through positions including a President’s Aide, a Resident Advisor, and the President of the Gay-Straight Student Alliance. I began to view Wake Forest not through its stereotypes, but through the pillars for which it was founded. I began to understand the meaning of “Pro Humanitate.”

We all live in closets. Not everyone is LGBTQ, but everyone holds something about them they are scared for others to see. I challenge you to break down the door of your closet, and show Wake Forest and the world who you really are. Let our closets hold clothes, not us.

 

 

‘Socratic Friday’ with Dr. Michael Sloan’s Classics 261 Class on Greek Myth

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon where there were faculty members at each table and they talked to their non-faculty tablemates about what they taught.  I was seated with Dr. Michael Sloan of Classics.  He employs some very interesting teaching methods, including something he calls “Socratic Fridays.”  I had taken a Greek Myth class in undergrad and loved it, and I was intrigued by the idea of what the next generation of Classics classes looked like, particularly this thing called Socratic Fridays.

He explained Socratic Fridays as the old Socratic method of questioning students to see what they have learned.  Every Friday in class, he has a stack of index cards with each student’s name on it, and he calls out a name, has the student stand, and asks questions of him or her until he is satisfied.  One internet definition of the Socratic Method is this: “What is the Socratic Method?  Developed by the Greek philosopher, Socrates, the Socratic Method is a dialogue between teacher and students, instigated by the continual probing questions of the teacher, in a concerted effort to explore the underlying beliefs that shape the students views and opinions.”

Unlike my own time in undergrad, when Classics classes were somewhat modestly attended, this class had 64 people enrolled in a class that was originally slated for 50.  The high demand for the class appears be a testament to Dr. Sloan’s engaging style and youthful energy.  I was dying to see this class at work, and Dr. Sloan was kind enough to let me sit in the back and observe.  Here’s what I found.

First order of business was a quiz that all the students appeared to take on their laptops via Sakai, which is a suite of online educational tools we use.  This took about maybe 5-10 minutes.

socratic fridaysThen after the laptops were put away, Dr. Sloan announced “Welcome to the Agora [public assembly place]!  Stand and deliver!”  And he brought up a PowerPoint with a Jeopardy-type grid on screen that showed categories of Imagery, Gods, Quotes, Murders, and People.  There were five point total options at each question, ranging from 10-50.  I believe the students’ performance on the questions can add some points to their overall grade.

The first person who was to Stand and Deliver chose the Murders category and had to discuss the particulars of the Aegisthus and Clytemnestra murders.  She had to tell everything she knew about those murders.  Dr. Sloan probed a bit further and asked some follow up questions about the type of weapon that was used and why.  After he is satisfied with the answer, he allowed her to sit down again and thanked her for her comments.  (With subsequent students, he always thanked them, told them they did a good job, and/or pointed out something that they did particularly well.)

The next student to Stand and Deliver picked a real stumper of a question.  Dr. Sloan allows students to do the ‘phone a friend’ concept and ask someone else in the class for help.  In some cases, he is kind enough to suggest which student to phone for help.  And if a student is really stumped on the answer, he will help them by moving back to a lower point value in the same category with a different, easier question that can help lead the student to the answer of the original question they chose.

What I noticed throughout the proceedings was that if a student got an answer partially right, Dr. Sloan would redirect and ask additional questions to make sure the full question was covered.  My take was that he wanted to be sure that not just that student, but the whole class in general, got the full range of the intellectual point the question covered.

And lest you think that this is all dry and boring Greek myth that has no relation to modern life, you are wrong.  Throughout the questioning and some of his follow up thoughts, Dr. Sloan managed to bring in current events and tie them back to the text.  A theme of the text covered today was how in the Oresteia, there is a great deal of fury, and there are two ways a community comes together – either in mutual love of something or in shared hatred of something.

Dr. Sloan gave the example of how we might, as Deacs, be united in pulling against star basketball players from UNC and Duke when we play against them – but when those same students are playing on the USA Olympic basketball team we’ll root for USA because they are uniting for our country.  Common love of country trumps hatred of an individual blue-clad college player.

He gave a second example from the text.  The Furies stated we ‘have to have one common will for love and hate with one strong heart.’  History tells us that whatever civil strife we might have ends when there is a common enemy we must jointly confront.  He tied this to post-9/11, when patriotism was at an all-time high, or in wars between countries when everyone rallies around the flag.  It was interesting to watch how Dr. Sloan brought made these ancient texts come alive and related them to how we experience the world today.  Still relevant after so many centuries.

The more I observed the class, the more impressed I was.  The very nature of fragmented questions with varying levels of difficulty and a breadth of topics means he can’t do a straight-up lecture in logical order.  Based on which questions the students chose, he had to weave in themes and points.  It was almost like jazz – he riffed off the questions that got asked and kept the threads of various subjects weaving back and forth.  He was very nimble on his feet.  For me, it was a fascinating experience of class, and I can see why so many are clamoring to get his courses.

For those who want to know more, you can see Dr. Sloan’s profile here.  He also wrote an editorial in 2013 “In Defense of the Liberal Arts,” following some statements made by Governor Pat McCrory about the value of a liberal arts degree.

Many thanks to Dr. Sloan for letting me observe, and to his students for being good sports having a stranger in the back of the room.

PS – when you asked the question about what the Furies wore at the end, I was about 90% sure it was armor.  I hope I get partial credit!

 

— by 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.

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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

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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 wfu.edu), 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