Site Content

academics

From the Forest

While many people think of March Madness in basketball terms, for admissions offices around the country, March Madness could just as easily be the final push to determine the incoming freshman class and to get the decision letters out the door.

Some of you may already have discovered the From the Forest admissions blog; I am ashamed to say I only found out about it this week.  The admissions team has been blogging about the final days of mailing letters, and today’s blog post has a letter from Martha Allman, dean of admissions, about the slate of applications they received and the difficult decisions they had to make.  It’s a good read.

The view from the forest (at least from where I sit) is that today began as a foggy day.  It’s cleared up to a degree, but is not the kind of sunny and beautiful spring day we had this time last week.  We appear to be due for some rain tomorrow and it will be cooler, but thankfully back into the 70s next week.

We’ve received a couple of questions in the Parent Programs office about families coming to visit for Easter weekend, and where are good places to eat?  As a reminder, the best first line of defense for questions is to try our Parents’ Page Q&A – we cover a lot of commonly asked questions there.  Towards the end of the section on Dining we have some links about restaurants parents and alumni have recommended.

– by Betsy Chapman

New Dean of the College Named

michele.gillespie.620x350-460x260Today was a big news day.  The new Dean of the College was named, and it was a familiar name to our campus: Michele Gillespie:

“Wake Forest University has appointed Presidential Endowed Professor of Southern History Michele Gillespie as Dean of the College, with academic oversight for the undergraduate school of arts and sciences. Gillespie will begin serving as dean July 1.

Gillespie joined the Wake Forest faculty in 1999. She was named Kahle Family Professor of History in 2003 and served as associate provost for academic initiatives from 2007-2010. In 2013, Gillespie was the first Wake Forest faculty member to be honored with an endowed Presidential Chair, which recognizes and supports faculty who excel in both academic leadership and outstanding scholarship. She also serves as the faculty representative to the Advancement Committee of the Board of Trustees”  (see the full news story.)

There have been many times when she has been a part of programs or events our office has planned, and those events have always been exceptional.  She is recognized as one who embodies the teacher-scholar ideal, and connects well with students as well as others on campus.

Full disclosure: I have known Michele for many years and she has been a trusted friend and colleague.  She helped mentor me when I was in a terrible bind professionally and did all she could to help me – even when she didn’t have to, and even though helping me didn’t benefit her in any way.  That’s the kind of person she is.  I will always be grateful to her for that – and for the example she set that it is always better to try and help someone if you can.

So what does this mean for your students exactly? The Dean of the College has oversight for the undergraduate arts and sciences programs (i.e., everything except business).  So she will be working with the academic departments in the arts, literature, humanities, social sciences, and math and natural sciences to help make our already-great programs even better.  She begins her new position on July 1st, and I know there will be many good things to come.

My kudos to the search committee, who had the unenviable job of sorting through a lot of wonderful applicants.  Happily, one of Wake Forest’s own rose to the top.

Welcome to your new role, Dean-Elect Gillespie!

 

– by Betsy Chapman

Senior Oration: Shoshanna Goldin ’15

Last but certainly not least, we come to our final Senior Oration feature.  This is from Shoshanna Goldin ’15,  and it is titled Near and Far: The Impact of a Demon Deacon

———————-

College. The word implies mountains of textbooks and rivers of lukewarm coffee. Entering Wake Forest University, we were eager to dive headfirst into biology lab and literary analysis. Four years later, we reflect how experiences in the Forest equipped us to take on local and global challenges as a community. As we prepare to write our next chapter, I ponder three questions.

Why does Wake Forest feel like a family? How have we engaged with the Winston-Salem community? What have we learned from global experiences?

Many of us consider the Wake Forest community to be family. “Family” consists of people who help us discover who we want to be. The people we seek out to be comforted and challenged. How did we turn a collection of strangers into a support system? Conversation was key. Through conversations that stretched us far beyond our comfort zones, we formed a family.

Families argue and reconcile. The Wake Forest community is no different. From Deliberative Dialogues to Town Halls, we have challenged ourselves to find a collective vision for a stronger Wake Forest. This year, we have shown that we care about the spectrum of voices in our community. We have not stayed silent when challenging moments have arisen. Instead, we have rallied against currents of exclusivity. Together, we formed a stronger network of advocates and allies.

A family is a rooted in relationships. As the co-founder of the Interfaith Themed House, I have been inspired by cross-campus partnerships. While across the world, we see a wide variety of ideologies crashing against one another, Wake Forest strives to create a cohesive environment. Here, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian students engage in open dialogue. As we understand the stories, faiths, and dreams of those around us, we establish a safe space. By forming this family, we learn to accept difference and create community. These conversations were key to providing valuable skills that we carry forward into graduate school, a profession, and adult life.

As wide-eyed freshmen, we heard upperclassmen speak of the Wake Forest bubble. They talked about this sphere as if it were tempered glass: a permanent wall. But our class has done an incredible job at poking the bubble.

Through our collective fight against local hunger, we bridged this invisible separation between Wake Forest and Winston-Salem. Concerned about chronic childhood hunger, Wake Forest students realized that this fight would require more than a food drive. We rallied students, faculty, staff, and community members to create a unified front. Over the last four years, we have expanded Campus Kitchen’s community partners and implemented a hunger awareness program within Wake Forest’s student orientation. We initiated campus-wide collaboration for the Forsyth food backpack program and hosted Hunger University’s mobile exhibit. In the process, we have been recognized as the best Campus Kitchen in the state.

Last fall, Wake Forest hosted the statewide North Carolina Campuses against Hunger Conference. Wake Forest and Winston-Salem’s partnership inspired 175 students, researchers, and policymakers across North Carolina to focus on local hunger solutions. As the student chair of the planning committee, I was thrilled to see our collaborative work address this complex problem.

As we move forward, I want us to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the place we call home. And, if we come across another bubble—remember that it is simply waiting for someone to come along and poke right through it.

As we leave Wake Forest, our future has no borders. Class of 2015, we are entering an increasingly global workforce. As Wake Forest students, we are well-prepared. Our passion to improve the world is reflected in our collective global impact and experiences. We studied the nature of bees in France and analyzed dance styles in Brazil. We tasted life in Italy and Nepal. We lived Wake’s motto of Pro Humanitate on international service trips to Vietnam, Russia, and Rwanda. Through study abroad, we developed lasting relationships. These friendships will remind us in years to come of the commonalities and uniqueness of individuals around the world.

As we reach the close, I’d like to return to the three questions we began with. Why does Wake Forest feel like a family? How have we engaged with the Winston-Salem community? What have we learned from global experiences?

Our next mountains will not be located in the Forest (unless you plan to be a double Deac). Our challenge now is to draw on these lessons as we embark on our next chapter. Because, as Wake Forest Demon Deacons, our potential to improve our communities and world is limitless.

Thank you!

Senior Oration: Gianna Blundo ’15

Today’s Senior Oration is Humans Are Like Onions, by  Gianna Blundo ’15.  Enjoy!

——————————————

Humans are like onions: we have layers. Skin color, hair, eyes, height, weight…. each of us has our own unique external beauty. However, we often get lost in the superficial differences between us and fail to see the beauty of all life…of ourself. We are blinded by the variations of appearance and culture. We forget what we have in common: we are human. This element is both empowering and limiting. Our motto Pro Humanitate serves to remind us to unite at Wake Forest to use our common basis of humanity for the collective good. In this way we can work together toward the amelioration of the problems of today and tomorrow. Our humanity is also limiting, because it is what reminds us of our imperfections, our differences, and our boundaries as mistake-prone individuals. We are human. We are different.

When first coming to Wake Forest I struggled to find a community and find that “home-away-from-home” feeling. For many months I felt as though I was just a guest, a stranger to most of my hall, and even to myself. Since I was little I have known my appearance is that of a minority. I am Asian-American but, having been adopted by an Italian-American family, I don’t identify as Asian. I have always identified with the Italian-American culture in which I was raised.

It has come to my attention that no matter what my age, my looks are still an overpowering association. On regular occasion a stranger will ask me, “Where you are from?” I say Wilmington, North Carolina but repeatedly people say, “No, no…I mean where are you from? What country is your family from?”. This question equally confuses me because my parents were born and raised in the Unites States, “Tennessee… Virginia.” I offer. Naturally I ask myself why I feel as though I must lay out my family tree to some stranger with a simple question.  Though I was adopted as a baby from another country, that is not who I am. It is only a small part of me. You see, people look at each other too often and see, “Different.” or  “Other.”.

At Wake, I have not felt mocked by my peers as I was on the playground when I was younger for my eye and face shape. I did feel however my peers’ tendency to judge others based upon differences. Differences even as rudimentary and elementary as style, height, and brand. I became caught up in the differences between all of us too. In fact, I found myself ensnared in an old trap of negative body image and struggled with my adolescent eating disorder problems once again. I lost sight of what health really means. While re-searching for nonexistent perfection I lost sight of how wonderful difference and uniqueness are. But this is no humdrum story, because Wake Forest allowed me to grow even more so by learning to break free from the chains of surface-level judgments that tried to restrain me.

My escape from superficial delineation had much to do with academics. It was through taking an array of classes with professors who had a passion for their subject that I let go of superficial comparisons and was reminded of perspective. My sophomore year in my Intro to Buddhist Traditions class, Professor Johnston familiarized me with the concept of mindfulness, the power of now, the power of understanding suffering and the transient nature of life. That same year my Health Psychology class with Doctor Katula studied Tuesdays With Morrie, which seemed to magically line up with many notions in my Buddhism class. I was reminded that we all face battles of varying degrees and that transient things such as skin and beauty are just that: transient. We age. We change. I was further re-grounded by the loss of one of the biggest mentors of my life: my Martial Arts Sensei of 13 years. Through seeing life happen around me and taking diverse classes I discovered how much I had zoomed in on my life perspective. Bodily imperfections, racial difference…enough! I was reminded of what a tiny part I am in this large and mysteriously complex universe. I found that there are many people at Wake who see beyond our differences and embrace them in their daily lives. There are those who equally thirst for knowledge and understanding of cultures, even worlds, beyond their own. Our small Wake community let me reach out to professors and connect with those students.

To learn the value of now is something of infinite importance. To try to let go and be in the moment is cathartic. It is a skill to be able to sit with oneself in silence and be in good company. Even though we might feel restless and uncomfortable, there is value in shoving aside pestering thoughts to just …be. Breathe…. sit…and unplug. I have found that having the eyes and curiosity of a child allows our differences and our self-criticism to slip away. Too often humanity fractures itself due to alienation based upon differences in skin, height, culture and weight instead of embracing diversity. I look Asian but was adopted by Italian-Americans. I speak French, but love Indian and Vietnamese food. You cannot tell much from the outside who a person is because it tells not even where they’re from. Each of us has different types of battles, and our own stories that are still being written. If we look at the world not by the spaces that separate us but instead with the curious non-judgmental eyes of a child, then we can learn to accept differences to see the world in a fascinating new light. As Aristotle elegantly reminds us, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”.

 

 

 

 

Senior Oration: Jim Le ’15

We’re coming down to the wire with our Senior Oration feature.  These have been wonderful glimpses into the experiences, thoughts, challenges, and dreams of some of our students.  Today we have Breaking the Formula by Jim Le ’15.

——————————-

It’s funny how sometimes stereotypes do fit. Vietnamese American families want their children to become either doctors, lawyers, or CEOs. As a first generation Vietnamese American, my family wanted me to go to either medical school, law school, or business school. Their thinking is that good grades lead to good schools, good schools to good jobs, good jobs to lots of money, and money to happiness. Seemed like a pretty straightforward formula to success. And boy do I know a thing or two about scientific formulas! My family told me that science and math were the keys to becoming a doctor. Through high school, my life orbited around the letter ‘A’. Extracurricular activities were important, not because I enjoyed every one of them, but because they built up my resume. I kept this ambitious mindset as I applied to colleges and I was excited when I got accepted to a top-30 ranked institution. Can you guess which one?

Going into college, I applied the same clear-cut formula. Go to class, pay attention, work comes first, and join any group that could help me get into medical school. Yet, by the end of my first semester, I was unhappy with what I saw in the mirror. My drive to success was tearing me apart. Although my grades were superb, neither the numbers on my transcript nor the titles on my resume reflected who I was. Wake Forest provided everything I could want in the classroom, but after the intense hours of lectures every day, I felt lost in the forest. School was draining my love of learning and I had cut out the parts of me that were not necessary for success. I became more like a robot than a person.

Returning to Wake for my spring semester, I began to question the formula. I dropped the organizations I was using only to boost my resume and took a leap of faith by going on the spring Wake Alternative Break to New Orleans. There, I shared in fellowship and the strenuous work of renovating homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. As the sweat and dust covered my face and my shoulders ached from painting the ceiling, I started to question myself, “I could be at home playing Halo 4 right now rather than suffer in this miserable humidity and heat.” Our group was invited one hot afternoon to attend a house opening ceremony for a family close to our work site. Standing in a crowd of strangers, I watched as a mother with a baby in arm and a toddler by her side cut the ceremonial red ribbon. Tears of joy streamed down her face as she took the first steps into her new home with family and friends. In that instant, I started to realize why community service was so important. Seeing the gratitude and happiness that my actions can bring to another human being was worth all the sweat and blood of volunteering. Whether or not this activity applied to getting into medical school, I did not care at the time. From that moment on I continued to volunteer on service trips and events ranging from within our own campus to New York City to Ben Tre, Vietnam.

As a science major, it is ironic that the performing arts would become my salvation. My mother has evidence of me as a toddler dancing and singing to Michael Jackson. In college, I rediscovered dance. Instead of becoming a robot, I learned to do the robot. I was popping and locking my way to class, from class, and sometimes even in class. Once I started dancing, I did not know how to stop. I could not get enough of the adrenaline rush in front of a screaming crowd nor the silliness, camaraderie, and love that I shared with my dance teams: Momentum Crew and Crunchy Beats. These groups have grown to become a part of my family at Wake. I found the same satisfaction in playing my ukulele, banjo, and guitar in a folk Americana band. Through both dance and music, I expressed myself in forms beyond words. This artistry was not a part of my four-year plan. “Amateur dancer and musician” does not improve a med school resume, but it brought out a side of me I did not know existed. For once in my life, I was not fulfilling the expectations of others, but satisfying my own aspirations.

As I grew to appreciate this part of myself, I began to wonder how my ability to moonwalk or play a riff on the banjo would help in medicine? Indeed, was becoming a doctor my own aspiration or was I fulfilling the expectations of others? Volunteering as a student EMT on the Wake Forest Emergency Response Team reminded me that the medical field was where I felt most confident and excited about helping others. This experience reaffirmed for me that good medicine heals all aspects of a human being.

To my fellow graduating seniors, please remember this observation. Wake Forest’s motto, Pro Humanitate, literally ‘for kindness’, ‘for humanity’, the motto urges us to strive to help others in any form we can. However, before we can be missionaries of Pro Humanitate we must take one important step. We must learn to accept and nurture who we are, because this awareness is the essence of everything we do. Our passions are essential to our being. To suppress our true selves is to deprive us of genuinely understanding, appreciating, and relating to each other. Only when we know who we truly are can we devote ourselves to the good of humanity.

Success in life should not be reduced to a formula. We cannot calculate every decision and result. There is no one set path. To my fellow graduating seniors, I hope that you all will remember as you are tested and judged in your future endeavors that you are worth more than your grades, or rank, or list of accomplishments. Formulas are designed for repetition and evaluation, but individuality cannot be replicated. Never lose sight of what makes you who you are, because that is what makes you beautiful, even when you are playing the banjo.

 

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.