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A Peek Inside

Today we are giving you a peek behind closed doors to get the inside scoop on internal processes.  Earlier in July, our incoming first year students self-registered for half of their fall class schedule.  The second half of their schedule is selected for them using information our new students provided on their Course Preference Survey (which asks about potential majors, electives they might want to consider, preferences in subject areas, possible prerequisites needed for potential majors, and more).

You might wonder how all that gets accomplished, slotting in all the first years for classes.  Well, it is a remarkably collaborative process.  A small army of staff from the Office of Academic Advising, Registrar’s office, select faculty and academic department staff (maybe even more folks than that) come together in a collaborative fashion to read through the Course Preference Surveys and find the best fits for students.

I was part of the schedule-completion team a few years ago, and I can tell you that great care is taken to try and rightly place every student.  Usually there was one staff member reading the Course Preference Survey and trying to suggest courses, and a second staff member would check online to see if the suggested course could fit into a student’s schedule without upending classes the student had selected for himself/herself.  When the student’s first choice was not available, the ‘reader’ of the CPS would go down to the next possible option and the ‘checker of the system/registration specialist’ would look for the class and try to find sections that did not conflict, and so on.

This operation was not just a ‘plug people into any class at all and be done with it.’  It was much more purposeful and deliberate than that.  If we saw a student who had accidentally requested two courses on the CPS that we knew were not wise to take in the same semester (such as the First Year Seminar and the Writing 111 class), we’d make sure to find a different elective so he or she would have a manageable load.  In instances where a student’s expressed preferences were full, we tried to read through the CPS and think about what might be a ‘close second’ to what they had wanted.

The process was also very equitable.  In the first pass, we’d give each student just one additional class, and then all the forms got shuffled and randomized so we could be fair about mixing up the order for the second class we’d add to their schedules.  That way, no one was stuck with being ‘last to get classes’.  Surely there have been even more enhancements to the process with each passing year.

Here’s a few shots of some of the staff working on registration this year.

— by Betsy Chapman
Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar's office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually  registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015.

Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar’s office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015.

Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar's office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually  registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015.  Theatre professor John Friedenberg works with Melissa Cumbia and Minh Nguyen on a student's schedule.

Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar’s office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015. Theatre professor John Friedenberg works with Melissa Cumbia and Minh Nguyen on a student’s schedule.

Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar's office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually  registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015.  Math professor Frank Moore talks with Sasha Suzuki about a student's schedule.

Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar’s office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015. Math professor Frank Moore talks with Sasha Suzuki about a student’s schedule.

Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar's office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually  registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015.  Theatre professor John Friedenberg works with Melissa Cumbia and Minh Nguyen on a student's schedule.

Wake Forest faculty join staff members from the registrar’s office and academic advising to provide a personal touch by individually registering first year students for classes based on their preferences, in Reynolda Hall on Monday, July 27, 2015. Theatre professor John Friedenberg works with Melissa Cumbia and Minh Nguyen on a student’s schedule.

 

Books to Consider

Now that it is nearly August and we’re rolling towards the last of the summer hurrahs, maybe you are looking for something to read on the beach or the plane or in the car as you head to a vacation destination.   Well, there is a great list of eye-opening, thought-provoking books already online for your perusal: you could dive into the books our incoming freshmen participating in Project Wake are reading.  In fact, if your incoming freshman is doing Project Wake, maybe you want to read the same book and have a family book discussion?

Of course you don’t have to have a freshman to read these.  Maybe you want to read something that makes you feel like you are going back to college (or going in the first place).  Something that is not in your normal repertoire, but gives you an opportuntity to learn about subjects you hadn’t explored before.

A caveat:  these are books that will make you think.  May challenge you.  May provoke strong or uncomfortable feelings.  They will almost certainly expose you to different opinions and experiences from what you have known.  They might take you out of your comfort zone.  But my hunch is they will stretch your mind in new ways.

There is a reason these books were chosen for Project Wake.  A college education is about challenging the mind.  It isn’t about just giving students safe, sanitized, comfortable material all of the time.  We would be doing your students an injustice if we didn’t ask them to learn about things that are new, maybe even unsettling.  The world is a complicated place, and we all bring different experiences, backgrounds, and voices to our little corners of the world.   Your students will be better prepared for Life After Wake Forest if they are well versed in people, cultures, traditions, experiences, etc. that are not their own.  It will deepen their understanding of others, perhaps their empathy and compassion too.

Here are the titles and links to the books if you want to purchase online.  Parents, if you are coming for Move-In, there are also copies of the books available in the Bookstore.

— by Betsy Chapman

Accidents of Providence, by Stacia Brown – Rachel Lockyer is pregnant, and the father of the baby cannot marry her. Not only is he married to someone else, but now he is imprisoned for treason. The tides of political change are sweeping 17th century England as Cromwell rules the land, but in the absence of a king a kind of religious absolutism is taking control of the justice system.

A Hope in the Unseen, by Ron Suskind – This book follows Cedric Jennings’ imposing journey from a failing inner-city Washington, DC high school to the Ivy Leagues.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr – This beautifully written book describes the intersection of two lives during World War II. Marie-Laurie is a blind young woman from France, which later becomes occupied by Germany. Werner is an orphan from Germany who is recruited into the Nazi forces.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – This award-winning novel by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie deals with race and identity in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay – Bad Feminist is a smart, fun and important contribution to contemporary feminist debates. This series of essays deals with everything from her love of Sweet Valley High Books, to her domination of Scrabble tournaments, to her survival of sexual assault, to her challenges as a young, black woman college professor.

Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel, by Helen Oyeyemi – An adaptation of the classic Snow White story set in 1950s Massachusetts, Oyeyemi’s novel raises questions about identity, race, vanity, and perception.

Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics, by Marie Gottschalk – This book will expose students to the rise of prison-culture in the US in a comparative/global context.

Disgraced, by Ayad Akhtar – Winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Disgraced is a highly provocative play about stereotypes of religious and ethnic identity in contemporary America. It grapples with competing ideas of Muslim identity.

Everything that Rises Must Converge: Stories (1965), by Flannery O’Connor – This is O’Connor’s second short story collection, published posthumously in 1965. The stories will interest students who find themselves grappling with the many categories of difference that intersected with O’Connor’s life and writing: religious, regional, racial, medical, and gendered.

Finding Zero: A Mathematician’s Odyssey to Uncover the Origins of Numbers, by Amir D. Aczel – The invention of numbers is one of the greatest achievements of humankind, evidenced by their acceptance into all facets of everyday life.  The number zero was an abstraction that came relatively late in the history of numerology.  Its discovery had a significant impact on ideas.

Gray Mountain, by John Grisham – This book is set in western Virginia and the main character is a young attorney. The book follows her experiences with issues surrounding coal mine families in Appalachia, including, poverty, health, and environmentalism.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder – This is the story of Dr. Paul Farmer and his groundbreaking work with Partners in Health in Haiti.  Farmer’s story, as told by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Tracy Kidder, takes us from Harvard to Haiti and beyond as he pursues his calling to cure infectious diseases and bring life-saving medical care to poor communities.

Quiet, by Susan Cain – Introverts can get a bad rap in our society. They can be classified only as “shy”, and because of the different ways their strengths manifest, can be overlooked.  Introverts themselves can also miss opportunities to build on their strengths, thinking they need to behave, think, and speak more like extroverts.  (Aside: this book was a gamechanger in my life.  If you are an introvert – or you love an introvert, work with one at the office, etc. – I cannot recommend this book enough).

Sacred Ground:  Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, by Eboo Patel – In this prophetic and thought-provoking book, Eboo Patel speaks to the necessary work that must be done to support, strengthen, and promote religious pluralism in the United States.

Sacred Hunger, by Barry Unsworth – A beautiful and unsettling historical novel of the Atlantic slave trade. The book follows William Kemp, a failing merchant who pins his last hope to a slave ship; his son whose love of a rich young woman demands a fortune; and his nephew, a broken man who has lost all he has loved, who sails as the ship’s doctor.

Talking to Strangers, by Danielle Allen – This book revisits an important time in American history and education, Brown vs Board of Education, and invites us to reflect on the need to engage those like and unlike us.

The Book of My Lives, by Aleksandar Hemon – A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Book of My Lives is a memoir published in 2014 by the writer Aleksandar Hemon, who came to Chicago in his mid-twenties just before the outbreak of the bloody civil war in Bosnia separated Hemon from his family and his earlier life in Sarajevo.

The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot – This historical account describes the source of the HeLa cells. Henrietta Lacks was an African American, tobacco farmer, who had a sample of her tumor cells removed without her permission and disseminated throughout the scientific community. The HeLa cells have enabled innumerous scientific discoveries in the last 60 years including over 60,000 publications.  (Aside: also a gamechanger for me in understanding socioeconomic and racial experiences in the US.  And if you really want to read something truly outstanding on that topic, try The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson.  It showed me a side of American history I never learned).

The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd – This fictionalized story of the real-life Sarah Grimke gives an eye-opening and compelling view into the lives of slave owners and slaves in the 1800s.

Think Like a Freak, by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner – This book attempts to examine non-obvious approaches to problem solving. The book isn’t valuable for the solutions to the problems it discusses, but, rather, for the processes it outlines for approaching problems.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, by Naomi Klein – Deploying thorough reporting and compelling storytelling, Naomi Klein argues that the very system that has enabled mankind to prosper — capitalism and the fossil-fuel economy — is now imperiling the health of the earth.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirzig – This is the story of a summer motorcycle trip by a father and son but it is also a reflection on how we perceive and judge the value of seemingly conflicting aspects of science and art, objective and subjective, in our world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Family Weekend Registration, Project Wake, and Intellectual Wellbeing

Today’s Daily Deac is a trifecta of upcoming events.

1. Family Weekend

Mark your calendars, Deac families.  Tomorrow (July 15) is when Family Weekend registration goes live.  It’s advertised on the Family Weekend website as registration opening at 10 am (Eastern), so set your timers on your calendar or phone and order your tickets tomorrow.  Events can and do sell out, so register sooner rather than later if you want to have your choice of events and options.

As I hope you know already, Family Weekend will be held October 2-4.  Mark your calendars and make your travel and hotel arrangements if you haven’t already.  Note that the football game time will not be set until 10 days before due to television scheduling.  Game times can range from noon until the evening and everywhere in between.  Family Weekend is a world-class weekend with tons of great activities.  Please do come!

So that is an event announcement for all parents and families.  This one is just for parents of incoming first-year students.

2.  Project Wake

This year, our new students have the opportunity to take part in something called Project Wake: Exploring Difference, Embracing Diversity.  Sign ups are due by July 17th.  Project Wake is an optional program, and  one I highly recommend.  It functions similar to a book club in that students will choose one of 25 possible books to read, they read the book this summer and then at a specified time during Orientation, their reading group comes together to discuss the book.

This is a wonderful way for your students to begin the process of engaging in intellectual dialogue.  They will meet other students in a small group setting (helping to build their social network) and they will also have the benefit of connecting with the faculty or staff member who is leading the discussion.  It’s always a good thing to be able to have an adult in your corner when you are starting out in college – someone who knows you, who you could go to for advice and counsel if needed, etc.

The books are very interesting too.  You might have read some of them in your own book clubs at home (my book club had read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – for me a game-changer in understanding a part of our racial and medical ethics history I had not previously known).  I can also highly recommend Quiet by Susan Cain, which is about introverts (I am one) living in an extrovert ideal.  I read this in my 40s and wish I had read it in my 20s so I could be a little more comfortable in my skin when I was your students’ age.

So if you are a parent or family member of an incoming first-year, do encourage them to join a Project Wake group. Yesterday the Office of Academic Advising had sent out information about Project Wake to students.

3.  Thrive Event on FDOC (First Day of Classes)

This idea of engaging in reading groups and discussions (outside of class activities) is an example of ways our students can exercise their intellectual wellbeing.  Intellectual wellbeing is one of the eight dimensions of wellbeing we are focusing on in Thrive, our ongoing efforts to promote holistic wellbeing on campus.  We’re going to have a Thrive event on the first day of classes (see below).  I was at a meeting the other day with our intellectual wellbeing team to talk about possible activities our group might do for the Thrive event.  All the Thrive teams are working on some fun activities, food, and displays to showcase how students can attend to the eight dimensions of wellbeing.   Whether your Deac is a new freshman or a senior, you’ll want to tell them to go to the Thrive event on August 25th for sure.  More details on that closer to the time.

Three events worth participating in – for you and/or for your Deacs.

— by Betsy Chapman

7 14 15 thrive save the date

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Annual
THRIVE Fall Event
Tuesday, August 25th – First Day of Class
Manchester Plaza*
4pm-6pm

Column A, Column B

Deep. Breaths.

For all our new P’19s, there might be some flutters in your stomachs (or more likely your Deacs’ stomachs) as the new students self-register for up to 8 hours of their fall schedules this week.  Upperclassmen parents, you probably remember the drill yourselves.

This tends to be an anxiety-producer all around:  what should I take? am I choosing the right things? what if what I want is closed before I can register? how do I know what is the best thing to do?

Stop, and take a deep breath.  Or two, or three.

There’s lots of resources out there to understand the academic requirementsregistration process, and advising process – and links on the left menus show places to get more info.  And there are some videos at the top of the Virtual New Student Reception page plus this email from the Office of Academic Advising to the first-years about registration.

The good news for our freshman – you haven’t fulfilled any of your Basic or Divisional requirements yet, so pretty much anything you take within those groups will advance you toward a degree.  The other good news: things tend to work out – so trust the process.

A note to students (and parents!) though, that you might not get your first choice of classes your first semester, because sophomores, juniors, and seniors registered before you (as they should).  So, students, make your choices given your best available options at the time.

Aside: this is a mantra I stress over and over to all the students I meet with:  life is about choices.  And while it would be great to have the luxury of choosing from Column A and Column B every time, sometimes you can choose one, not both.  [I jokingly refer to this as the Betsy Binary.]  So if you have to choose Column A or Column B (not both), rather than lament the fact you can only choose one, just make your best decision and move on, knowing that we can’t have everything exactly as we wish all the time.

Before each registration period while I was a student at Wake, I tried to craft my Dream Schedule (A list), but also had a B-list and a C-list and a D-list schedule, so I had backup plans and options.  If you get lucky, you’ll get some A- and B-list items the first year – if not, your backup classes are still things that will check off requirements on the Course Completion Checklist and move you towards your degree.

In terms of choosing classes, there may be some courses you’ll put your foot down about and say “I must have ENGXXX class with Dr. YYY and if I don’t get it this time, I’ll try again next semester.”  There may be other times when you say “I wanted REL111 with Dr. ZZZ but it is closed.  But I see an opening for REL111 with Dr. AAA and I’m OK with that.”

Part of the exercise of going to college and growing into adulthood is about evaluating options and making choices.  Parents, you can help here by reminding your students that sometimes life is about getting “A or B” not “A and B” – and that’s OK.

— by Betsy Chapman

 

Summer Management Program

As the first session of summer school closes down, there is a program that you may not know about that bears highlighting.  It’s our Summer Management Program (affectionately referred to for years as ‘business boot camp for non-business majors’).  It is a program for students who are majoring in anything other than business and it is designed to give an intensive look into business concepts and skills.

In my role as an academic adviser, I see a lot of students who think they want to major in business, and something along the way changes their mind.  It could be that one of the three prerequisite classes (Math 111, Economics 150, and Accounting 111) do not agree with them, or it could be that their overall GPA is not as competitive as the rest of the applicant pool, or it may be that they don’t want to commit to two full years of mostly business classes (whereas on the liberal arts side, there is a lot more room to explore other classes and areas of interest).

Sometimes these changed-their-minds-about-business-school students feel regret that they can’t follow their original path, others are relieved.  Many still want to dip a toe in the business pond and learn something about business – and that’s where this program comes in.  It is a wonderful choice for students who aren’t ready, willing, or able to commit to a business major, but want to learn the basics and have a solid working knowledge of business concepts.

There is a news story online about the Summer Management Program – well worth your read (or your student’s) if this might be a class worth exploring.

— by Betsy Chapman

“College Is Not a Commodity”

A couple of Wake Forest parents sent me a link to this article last week.  There’s a lot of good food for thought in here.  Might be worth reading – maybe sharing with your Deac too – and talking about over the dinner table, during a long car ride, a hike, etc.

— by Betsy Chapman

From the Washington Post, June 9 

College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one.

What truly makes an education valuable: the effort the student puts into it.

Hunter Rawlings is president of the Association of American Universities and a former president of Cornell University and the University of Iowa.

Pick up any paper or magazine, and you’re likely to see a front-page article on college: It costs too much, spawns too much debt, is or isn’t worth it.

I entered academia 52 years ago as a student of Latin and Greek expecting to enter a placid sector of American life, and now find my chosen profession at the center of a media maelstrom. With college replacing high school as the required ticket for a career, what used to be a quiet corner is now a favorite target of policymakers and pundits. Unfortunately, most commentary on the value of college is naive, or worse, misleading.

Here’s what I mean. First, most everyone now evaluates college in purely economic terms, thus reducing it to a commodity like a car or a house. How much does the average English major at college X earn 18 months after graduation? What is the average debt of college Y’s alumni? How much does it cost to attend college Z, and is it worth it? How much more does the “average” college grad earn over a lifetime than someone with only a high school degree? (The current number appears to be about $1 million.) There is now a cottage industry built around such data.

Even on purely economic grounds, such questions, while not useless, begin with a false assumption. If we are going to treat college as a commodity, and an expensive one at that, we should at least grasp the essence of its economic nature. Unlike a car, college requires the “buyer” to do most of the work to obtain its value. The value of a degree depends more on the student’s input than on the college’s curriculum. I know this because I have seen excellent students get great educations at average colleges, and unmotivated students get poor educations at excellent colleges. And I have taught classes which my students made great through their efforts, and classes which my students made average or worse through their lack of effort. Though I would like to think I made a real contribution to student learning, my role was not the sole or even determining factor in the value of those courses to my students.

A college education, then, if it is a commodity, is no car. The courses the student decides to take (and not take), the amount of work the student does, the intellectual curiosity the student exhibits, her participation in class, his focus and determination — all contribute far more to her educational “outcome” than the college’s overall curriculum, much less its amenities and social life. Yet most public discussion of higher ed today pretends that students simply receive their education from colleges the way a person walks out of Best Buy with a television.
The results of this kind of thinking are pernicious. Governors and legislators, as well as the media, treat colleges as purveyors of goods, students as consumers and degrees as products. Students get the message. If colleges are responsible for outcomes, then students can feel entitled to classes that do not push them too hard, to high grades and to material that does not challenge their assumptions or make them uncomfortable. Hence colleges too often cater to student demands for trigger warnings, “safe rooms,” and canceled commencement speakers. When rating colleges, as everyone from the president to weekly magazines insist on doing nowadays, people use performance measures such as graduation rates and time to degree as though those figures depended entirely upon the colleges and not at all upon the students.

This point is made succinctly by an apocryphal story about a university president who said this to new freshmen each year: “For those of you who have come here in order to get a degree, congratulations, I have good news for you. I am giving you your degree today and you can go home now. For those who came to get an education, welcome to four great years of learning at this university.”

So let’s acknowledge that college is not a commodity. It’s a challenging engagement in which both parties have to take an active and risk-taking role if its potential value is to be realized. Professors need to inspire, to prod, to irritate, to create engaging environments that enable learning to take place that can’t happen simply from reading books or watching films or surfing the Web. Good teachers “supply oxygen” to their classrooms, in the words of former Emory University president Bill Chace; they do not merely supply answers or facts. And good colleges provide lots of help to students who face challenges completing their degrees in a reasonable amount of time.

But students need to make a similar commitment to breathe it in and be enlivened by it. They owe this not only to their teachers but also to their parents and themselves. After all, the decision to go to college is a decision to make an investment in their future, an investment of time and money. And for many, a college education is expensive. Students have to play a major role in making sure it’s money well spent.

Students need to apply themselves to the daunting task of using their minds, a much harder challenge than most people realize, until they actually try to do it. To write a thoughtful, persuasive argument requires hard thinking and clear, cogent rhetoric. To research any moderately complex topic requires formulating good questions, critically examining lots of evidence, analyzing one’s data, and presenting one’s findings in succinct prose or scientific formulas.

For many students, being required to produce critical thought in front of a class is a new sensation, often a not very pleasant one. I remember too well my feelings when I had to read my first freshman paper in front of my classmates and English professor. It was a disaster, a sort of primal humiliation because it took only four or five sentences for the class to make it clear to me that I should not read any further. I learned more that day about the requirements of effective writing than in the previous 18 years of my life.

The ultimate value of college is the discovery that you can use your mind to make your own arguments and even your own contributions to knowledge, as do many students pursuing research in college. That too is a new sensation, and a very good one. Yes, it generally leads to higher career earnings. But it is the discovery itself that is life-changing.

To create what is, for most of us, that “new sensation,” you need a professor who provokes and a student who stops slumbering. It is the responsibility of colleges and universities to place students in environments that provide these opportunities. It is the responsibility of students to seize them. Genuine education is not a commodity, it is the awakening of a human being.

Dwindling Numbers and Gearing Up for Commencement

It’s finally getting to the “hot” stage in our weather year.  We have been around the mid-80s both yesterday and today, as well as sunny.  For those students who have already left campus for Post Exams/Beach Week, they must be enjoying some fine weather.

The number of students on campus is dwindling as finals come to an end.  And the number of parents and family members on campus is increasing as they come to help move out their students.  (Special thanks to the kind Daily Deac readers I chatted with in Starbucks today!)

2015 comm stageBecause Commencement is only 12 days away, we are starting to get some questions for P’15 graduating families about the weekend’s events.   Your best place to go for information about Commencement weekend is our Commencement web site: http://commencement.wfu.edu/

The schedule of activities is here: http://commencement.wfu.edu/schedule/.  Your son or daughter may have ideas about which events he/she wants to attend, so it would be a good idea for you to talk your graduate about what he/she wants to do and which events you’d attend.

Some of our students (but certainly not all) attend the Baccalaureate Ceremony on Sunday morning.  It is similar to a worship service.  Students do not sit with their parents, they march in wearing their caps and gowns and sit as a group (no mention of them by name or anything like that).  It is very important to note that space for Baccalaureate is limited, and you’ll want to take note of all the information here so you understand about availability of seats: http://commencement.wfu.edu/baccalaureate/.  When the doors open at 9:30 for families who have queued in the line to get in,  you will want to line up in advance of 9:30 for seats.  (And unfortunately I can’t tell you an exact time to get in line to guarantee you will get in.  Supply and demand for Baccalaureate vary from year to year.  I believe I have seen people in years past lining up at 8 am but it varies every year.)

Many of our students and parents go to the departmental open houses on Sunday afternoon.  Those give students a chance to visit with the faculty members in their major and introduce their families to them.

Formal graduation exercises (Commencement) is Monday morning.  More information is available here: http://commencement.wfu.edu/graduation-exercises/

The Commencement web site also has a Checklists and FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) that may be helpful: http://commencement.wfu.edu/checklists-and-faqs/

Now the informal advice from me.

– Bring some paper towels or a washcloth from your hotel (return it of course) to wipe the dew off your chairs.  Even though our Facilities team and Commencement volunteer staff try to wipe down seats, you might wish to do it yourself.

– Pay attention to the weather forecast and dress accordingly.  Consider layers that you can add or remove as you see fit.  In the sun, it can be quite hot, but if it’s a cool day it can be quite cool.

– Wear sunscreen.  3 hours outdoor is a long time and I have seen many a sunburn from people who wished they’d had sunscreen.

– Leave your fanciest shoes at home.  The grass will be wet with dew, and 10,000ish people will be treading the same paths to get to and from their seats.  Even with the amazingly lush grass we have, those paths can get muddy.  If you don’t want your most expensive, dressiest shoes to potentially be wet or muddy or grass stained, bring a different pair.

– Consider the comfort of older relatives.  My grandmother wanted very much to see me graduate, but she was very sensitive to too much heat and sun, and was not able to walk a long ways.  While we do our best to make everyone comfortable, if you have relatives for whom an outdoor event would not be good for them, consider that before you all come.  Each family needs to make the decision that is best for them.  There is a live feed of Commencement into Pugh Auditorium (in the Benson Center), which is indoors and a great option for folks who may not waish to be outside, are sun sensitive, need closer access to restrooms, etc.  Space is limited.

– Speaking of bathrooms…some of the Quad residence halls and Reynolda Hall are open, but there will be lines.   (We may also have portojohns, though I don’t know that yet).  To avoid lines, you might consider going to the Benson Center (a short walk) or Scales Fine Arts Center (closer to the Quad) if you don’t want to wait.  Because we read every student’s name, you will be able to see how long it takes as they begin and can plan your restroom break accordingly.

And for those of you who believe in a higher power, please send prayers and supplications for a mildly sunny day, 72-75 degrees, with a light breeze.  That is optimal Commencement weather.

— by Betsy Chapman

How Do You Know It’s Finals?

One word:  glasses.

I was in the ZSR Starbucks this morning and couldn’t quite put my finger on what seemed different.  And then I realized – it was so many students in glasses.  Particularly young women.  Normally you don’t see a ton of glasses on students, and it would be easy to assume either they have contacts or are still young enough to have 20-20 vision (ah, how nice that time was!)  The answer appears to be that a lot of our students regularly wear contacts and they must all be soaking their lenses and relying on the glasses instead.

So between the tired eyes, minimal makeup (women) and two day stubble (men), and the very relaxed clothing (somewhere between workout pants and tshirts that look like they had seen a lot of wear of late), our students are dressed for finals.

5 5 15 1There was not much of a line at Starbucks at 9:15 this morning, and you could find a seat downstairs as well as the comfy chairs in the loft.  I expected to see a bigger crowd, but then when I went to the other parts of ZSR I saw that the lack of bodies in Starbucks was because they were Everywhere Else.  In desks in the stacks.  At every table in the Atrium. In large reading rooms.  In the 24 hour study room.  Tons of students tucked away in every quiet nook and cranny.

My favorite glimpse of a student today was a young woman deep in study.  From my perch near Reference, I could see her through the windows of the old part of the building.  She kept making a motion that caught my eye and I couldn’t see at first what it was.  Looked like a brief wave of white.  And then as I watched her, I realized she had old school flash cards.  She’d pick one up, look at it a moment, and then do a flip to the reverse (where the answer presumably was).

I wondered what she was studying: foreign language vocabulary or verb conjugations?  Chemistry or math equations?  Dates for a history exam?  It had been ages since I’d seen anyone with flash cards, and it brought me back to my old days at Wake (back when the Card Catalogue consisted of a billion tiny drawers, not a screen on a computer).

5 5 15 2The feeling in the library was one of absolute quiet.  Yes, libraries are typically quiet, but at finals it is much more so.  The seat I’d chosen to observe the scene was not particularly close to the nearest student, yet it was quiet enough I could hear him typing on his ThinkPad.  Those keys are not loud.  It was quiet enough you could hear people turning pages in books – just little rustling papery sounds.  Occasionally you could hear a cough, or someone asking a question at Reference.  But overall, very very quiet.

5 5 15 3The ZSR has free coffee and lots of fun streamers and decorations in the Atrium.  That’s become a tradition each Finals Week.  Near Reference, some enterprising person had done this sheet of Tearable Puns (clever!)  And the student group DoRAK (Do Random Acts of Kindness) had chalked a lot of good luck messages on the sidewalk outside the main entrance.  Those tiny things can make a big difference and can give study-weary kids a momentary grin.  Well done, DoRAK!

5 5 15 4 5 5 15 5Finals continue through the 7th.  Steady on, Deacs – you’ve got this!  And special shoutout to Flashcard Girl.  I hope you get a great grade in whatever you were studying for!

— by Betsy Chapman

Reading Day

Reading Day is the day before final exams begin.  It’s one day off to prep for the finals to come.  Today I was in the center part of campus between 8:20-10:20 am and I could have counted the students I saw on one hand.  Not sure if they were all sleeping in, or all studying in one of the designated study spaces on campus, but your Deacs were not out and about first thing in the morning.

The report from ZSR was that typically on a reading day, it starts slow but students come in as the day progresses and it starts to get packed around 6 pm.  Wake the Library is starting tonight.  That takes a little bit of the pain out of finals.  There will be food at midnight (good stuff too – I am told ice cream, Biscuitville and more) – and my reliable source also tells me there will be some dogs on Sunday evening outside on the Starbucks patio.  So if your Deac would feel better having a dog to pet, tell him or her to keep an eye out Sunday night.

A few reminders for you as the year draws to a close:

– encourage your students to do Deacs Donate vs throwing everything way.  Reduce, reuse, recycle!

– there are summer storage options off campus as well as shipping services on campus

– remind your Deacs to be aware of check out policies for their residence halls

– have you sent your student a Deacon Greeting?  Send an e-card today and wish your Deac good luck on finals!

We’re thinking good thoughts for all your students as the semester ends.  Let’s do this, Deacs!  We have faith in you!

— by Betsy Chapman

Almost Finals

And you can tell it, too.  I was on campus yesterday and spent a few minutes in the library.  Lots of students.  Lots of low-maintenance clothing (think workout gear).  Lots of people with coffee and wearing their ‘hard at work’ faces.

hang 10Speaking of finals and the library, the ZSR has once again had its ‘secret decorators’ add some festive cheer to finals.  Check out the ZSR Facebook page for more.   Also, they have a final drop-in research session today from 2-6 pm: “Our final drop-in research assistance session of the semester is happening tomorrow from 2:00-6:00 pm. We’ll be camped out in Room 476, ready to assist with our laptops, our citation guides, and a buffet of refreshments! Stop by and see us.”  The ZSR is open 24 hours during finals to help students with the crunch; see hours here.

One more end-of-year related note, the Office of Sustainability has a great message about donating unwanted bikes.  This is a wonderful idea – pass it on to your Deac if he or she has outgrown having a bike on campus.

Bicycles cannot be left in the bike racks or with Residence Life & Housing over the summer.* All abandoned property, including bicycles, will be removed following commencement.**

*Students in summer school will have the chance to notify us that they will have bicycles on campus for the entire summer. All bicycles should be registered for easy identification.

**Students who are living in interim housing should move their bicycles to their interim residence hall bike racks. Any bicycles left behind at the interim housing residence hall will be removed on June 1.

At the end of the academic year, students should consider shipping, storing, or donating their bikes. If a student would like to donate his/her bike to the Office of Sustainability, student volunteers will refurbish it over the summer and it will join a fleet of bikes in a new bike-sharing program on campus. Simply email sustainability@nullwfu.edu and we will arrange for someone to pick up the bike and any other related items, like a lock or reflective gear, that the student would like to donate.

If you have any questions, please contact sustainability@nullwfu.edu.

— by Betsy Chapman