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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


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Senior Oration: Conor Stark ’15 and MamaDear

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

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

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

– by Betsy Chapman


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

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

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

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

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

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


Senior Oration: Anne Hillgartner ’15

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

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


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

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

So, who are they?

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

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

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

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

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

A Few Thoughts on Academics and Grades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


– by Betsy Chapman

Business School Decisions

Sophomores who applied to the Business School are getting their decisions this week.  This is a highly competitive program, and there is always more demand than supply for spaces in the program.

In the event that your student did not make it in to the Business School – or didn’t apply, but wants to get some business knowledge – I wanted to draw families’ attention to two terrific programs that can be alternate routes for liberal arts or science students (anyone but business majors).

The Business School runs a very popular Summer Management Program, which is an intensive program during the first session of summer school typically.  Often referred to colloquially as ‘business boot camp for non-business majors,’ this program is a great way to learn business concepts and receive valuable career coaching along the way.  Details about the program are online.

The B-School also has a 5th year program that students can begin shortly after graduation.  It is the Master of Arts in Management.  This program is designed to give students ” a competitive edge in the business world. Combining coursework in finance, marketing, operations, business analytics, ethics, organizational behavior and leadership with hands-on collaboration, the program cultivates an experiential, ethical and teamwork-driven approach to business solutions, preparing you to excel in a complex marketplace.”

One of the beauties of this program (in my opinion) is that it allows students who are passionate about a non-business major to pursue that interest, and then come to the perhaps tougher business concepts at a time of greater emotional and intellectual maturity, so that they are better armed to tackle difficult concepts.

I have an alumni friend whose son was a liberal arts major here – a fine student, great young man.  He wanted to enter the business world and while recruiters really liked him, he didn’t have enough business heft to land the job he wanted.  He went into the MA in Management program and at the end of the program, he went back to interview at those same places and then had his pick of jobs.  True success story.

So if your student is not getting into the business school and is upset about that, or just feels like he/she wants to have the benefits of some business training without dedicating a major to it, know that there are these two terrific programs available to them.  Combine one or more of those with some very purposeful work in the OPCD in career counseling, internship seeking, job shadowing, and coaching – and your student can position him/herself to land very well after graduation.

Sometimes your students might not have the perspective to know there are many paths to a great destination, not just one.  So if they fall into that camp, let them know of these options and reassure them to take a long view and see that they can go great places from any major.


– by Betsy Chapman

Bid Day

Many (most?) of our students moved back over the weekend and we sure are glad to have them back.  While classes don’t start until tomorrow, there is activity on campus for sure.  The female students who went through sorority recruitment over the past several days learned this morning if they are getting bids.  Those bids will go out later today, and then there will be a frenzy of activity.

Normally the receipt of bids culminates in all the new pledges joining their sisters on the Quad, gathering together jumping and screaming.  I can’t remember if some of the groups do this or all of them, but in past years we’d have girls run a lap around the Quad in their new Greek letter shirts.  Today is a pretty nasty weather day – overcast and rainy, somewhere between a drizzle and a real rain – so I am not sure if that will curtail the fun or not.  Probably not.

Hard to believe that the long winter break is over.  Tomorrow is back to business with a new set of classes.  Here’s to your Deacs having a great semester!


– by Betsy Chapman



One Last Motivational Moment

Finals are wrapping up.  There’s today, and then one day more, tomorrow.  Because it is coming down to the wire, and students must be getting tired and weary, I was trying to think of motivational  or humorous pop culture pick me ups.

Here’s what came to mind.  Sure, they don’t directly correlate to finals.  But they are about being in a tough spot, being strong to face a challenge (even one that seems overwheming), or just about persevering through adversity.

Some of these are probably a lot younger than our students and I am showing my age.  But it’s Friday and let’s have a little fun.

One Day More - from Les Miserables

Bluto’s speech from Animal House (warning, mildly NSFW language)

Aragorn’s speech at the Black Gate – from Lord of the Rings

They will never take our freedom – from Braveheart

[a very grainy] Stay Alive – from Last of the Mohicans

So dig in, Deacs!  Finish strong.  You’re smart and talented and prepared and you are going to ROCK your finals!  Do your best and let it rest, and then let the comforts of home and family recharge your batteries during the winter break.


– by Betsy Chapman

PS – this one always makes me smile when I am facing some sort of adversity.  Obviously only appropriate for the over 21 crowd.liztaylor

Finals Continue

Last night was the “Late Night Breakfast” – which is held in the Pit from 10pm-midnight.  Faculty and staff work alongside our ARAMARK/Campus Dining staff to serve breakfast to students.  We know our students are studying for finals and need a break – maybe some carbs and protein too! – to power them through as they burn the midnight oil.

LNB is always a fun affair.  There’s great music – thank you, Wake Radio! you were playing some great tunes – and it is fun to see students’ reactions to administrators they may know who are serving food or helping take trays to tables, etc.  The Demon Deacon was there as well, high fiving students, sitting at tables and looking at books with them, even dancing.

Speaking of dancing, there were a few moments of pure, unadulterated awesomeness lastnight.  Occasionally one or more students would break into a spontaneous dance – tons of energy and verve, great to see.  At one point, there were a couple of students and a couple of staff doing a line dance together.  The coup de grace for me was a young man in a white t-shirt and red shorts.  He was cutting a rug like nobody’s business.  Really amazing.  I credit both his dancing skills and his confidence.  He was rocking it and it was a joy to see.

My job lastnight was to click a counter as students came in the door.  Normally when they come in, they have to show their ID and swipe it to use a meal from their meal plan – but last night’s feast was totally gratis, paid for by Campus Life.  When students would try to show me their card, I got to tell them ‘this one’s on us, compliments of Campus Life.  Eat, drink, and be merry!’ and you would think I had just handed them a $50.  Free food for tired students facing finals is always a win.  All told, we served 513 students between 10 pm and midnight.

In other campus news, today from 12-2 there was an opportunity for students to come together on the Quad to ‘Claim Our Space.’  The Claim Our Space flyer gives the background about this student-initiated project.  Students could tie a red ribbon around the trunk of one of the Quad trees, and/or they could write a message on a notecard and tie that up there.  My time there was just before the start of the event so I didn’t get to see it in full swing.  Hopefully there will be some pictures.

A final word on finals.  Think back and remember how you felt during your own finals week.  Students are stressed out, tired, and it’s hard to feel cheerful with exams looming.  However, at the Daily Deac, we’re trying to find some light moments.  A quick search on finals week memes brought up some funnies.  Your students might not be ready to laugh at these, but maybe you are..?

finals meme 2 finals meme 3 finals meme 4 finals meme 5



– by Betsy Chapman