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Tony Dungy tonight at 6:30 pm

Just a reminder to your Deacs that there is a wonderful opportunity tonight to hear Tony Dungy speak in Wait Chapel.  Doors to the event will open at 5:45 p.m. with seating on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Here is what the Leadership Project web site says about this event:

Wake Forest & Leadership

Today’s students are graduating into a world that is more competitive, dynamic and uncertain than earlier generations. They will have many jobs and careers during their lifetimes. They will need to be equipped to make their own opportunities and navigate an unpredictable future. Simply put, they will have to lead.

At Wake Forest, our responsibility is to educate the whole person-mind, body and spirit – and to help students find their place in the world. It means that while at Wake, students discover where their gifts and talents lie and are challenged to explore questions deeply and to think about their own responsibility for making the world better.

Here you will see that embedded in the collegiate experience for our students is a diverse set of courses, programs and opportunities we use to develop those necessary leadership skills and capabilities.

Introducing the Leadership Project

In its inaugural event on Wednesday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m., the Leadership Project will present legendary football coach and bestselling author Tony Dungy to speak in Wait Chapel.

Dungy led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007, the first such win for an African-American coach. He joined the Colts in 2002 after serving as the most successful head coach in the history of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Widely recognized as an inspirational champion both on and off the field, Dungy has authored several books on topics of significance, such as living life with integrity, courage, strength and purpose. Read Tony’s full bio »

I wish I could go to cover the event, but I cannot.  We’ll try to get you a recap elsewhere.

This speech tonight is one more dish at the Wake Forest buffet – but a dish that will only be served once.  Now is the time for your students to take that bite if they can.

Bits and Pieces

Today’s Daily Deac is a little bit of everything.  One of the things on your students’ minds might be the upcoming registration period for Fall 2014 classes.  For freshmen and sophomores who have not declared their majors, they are likely to be meeting this week with their Lower Division Adviser (i.e., adviser you have from freshmen year until you declare your major) and will be getting ready for Round One of registration next week.  For those who have already declared their majors/minors, they will be advised and registered for classes within the major/minor department between March 17 – 28.   Each department governs advising and assignment of registration priorities and most registration procedures during Major/Minor Registration.

The Registrar has a comprehensive web site about registration procedures.  A couple of key points not to miss:  your student needs to make sure to clear any holds on his/her account prior to registration.  He should check his account daily until registration and make sure there are no holds.  Since registration takes place after normal business hours (at the urging of Student Government some years ago), administrative offices are closed – and thus if a student discovers a hold on his registration for an unpaid parking ticket or fee, he will be locked out of registration until the next morning when the office opens and he can pay it.

Second, there is a Google Mail Chat option for students who run across registration issues midstream.  Directions on how to use that are also on the Registrar’s registration web site.  As with so many things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so please urge your students to review the registration web site well in advance.

Changing topics, I also came across the Volunteer Service Corps application for service trips next winter.  If your student is interested in service in Vietnam or India, please urge your student to complete this form: Service Trip Application.Winter.2014.  Applications are due April 7 at 5 pm.

wake will studentI saw this flyer today for the student kickoff of the Wake Will campaign.  Entitled “An Afternoon of Friends, Food, & Philanthropy,” this will take place on March 27th from 11am-2pm on the Mag Quad (aka Manchester Quad).  Free food is always a draw for students.  I hope yours stop by!

It’s raining this morning but no snow so far, and it doesn’t look like we’ll be cold enough for it.  For all our Deac families who are bracing for yet another winter storm, I am wishing you lots of sunshine and warm weather as soon as possible.

 

Yesterday

There was some pretty big news on campus yesterday.  Our head basketball coach, Jeff Bzdelik, resigned following what some would call a difficult and sometimes contentious tenure on campus.  There is an article on Wakeforestsports.com about his resignation.

Here is a quote from Coach Bzdelik from that article:  ”‘During my year-end review with Ron, we discussed the overall status of the program which I believe is very positive,’ said Bzdelik. ‘The right players are in place who have the values that are important at Wake Forest. At the end of the discussion, I told Ron that I am resigning because there needs to be a positive environment for the players to realize their potential. I appreciate the opportunity that we have had at Wake Forest. I look forward to the future success of this program.’”

Following the press conference to announce his resignation, there was an interesting – and to me, disappointing – turn of events.  Hearing of his resignation, some folks rolled the Quad.  You might have seen it on the Quad Cam; there is still some toilet paper hanging in the wind this morning.  I was not there to witness it, and I have no idea whether it was students or local fans or alumni who led the charge.  But I am sorry that it happened.

Whether or not a person was Team Bzdelik or Team Time for a Change, I question whether rolling the Quad was the right thing to do.  We are a community, and while we may not always agree with each other, we ought to strive to treat each other with respect, kindness, and dignity.  I have to ask myself whether rolling the Quad satisfied any of those three ideals for our community.

I can certainly understand the Deacon faithful wanting to bring home a lot of wins, conference championships, and more.  We are an ardent fanbase and we bleed black and gold.  When we have long bad streaks, it hurts.  But to rejoice, and so publicly, in someone else’s resignation, are we acting in a classy manner, or are we showing a side of ourselves that isn’t living up to our values?

I am not an athletic director and I am glad I don’t have to choose coaches.  But I can say I have met Coach Bzdelik before.  He came to speak to a small group of alumni fans early in his tenure.  He was honest, direct, forthcoming, and spent more time with our group than I ever expected of a Division I coach.  My husband and son have gone to the WF Hoops Academy during Father’s Day weekend.  They enjoyed their time with him.  This is a man who I believe genuinely cared for Wake Forest and his players.  He is also a Wake Forest parent.

My Facebook and Twitter lastnight were full of people on both sides of the argument “to roll or not to roll?”  I saw remarks from athletes and parents of athletes, alumni, and even coverage from the Old Gold and Black.  Strong feelings emerged.

Is this the best Wake Forest we can be?

Is this the face we want to show to the world?

The controversy of rolling the Quad is something I hope that people on campus and beyond will discuss.

The Lost Art of Reflection

Do you ever marvel at the busyness of your students?  I absolutely do.  They seem to me to be in near constant motion and with jam packed agendas, and rarely alone, rather always in groups.  This feels like a sizeable deviation from my Gen X slacker compatriots.  My cohort seemed to be much more inclined to spend time on our own, thinking and reflecting (often about ourselves, granted!)

What worries me a bit is that as our students are zinging and pinging from one thing to the next, are they really sitting down and thinking through their activities? their likes and dislikes? what is working well (or not) in their lives?   When you are living in a campus community and constantly surrounded by friends, it is easy to get swept along in their activities and their plans – it’s easy to join in.  But is it always what is most satisfying?  Most true to one’s inner self?

Our students are here for four short years, and I hope they are wonderful.  But I hope that they spend some time reflecting on what really matters to them, because all too soon they will leave here for the Rest of Their Lives, and their lives will be filled with choices and decisions that they can’t bounce off everpresent roommates and best friends.

I would contend that until a person really knows themselves very well, it will be hard to make satisfying choices going forward.  Those choices could be jobs or partners or hobbies, or even just how to spend a Saturday night.  But in the end we all must be true to ourselves, and now is the time to begin figuring those matters out.  And reflection is the key.

I often encourage students to use a T-Chart, a simple and yet profoundly useful tool for reflection.

The T-Chart:

Draw a “T” on a blank sheet of paper.

At the top of the T, put the word “Likes” on one side, and the word “Dislikes” on the other.

As you go through the upcoming [weeks, semester, etc.], note things that you do or that you encounter that fall into each category. These may be classes that you are taking, work experiences, extracurricular activities, and so on.

Jot down a few thoughts about why you either “Like” or “Dislike” each item.

Then, in a few months, share the T-Chart in a discussion with your mentoring partner, or with a parent, family member, friend, or adult “fan.”

Talk about:

  • What specifically do you like and dislike about each of these items?
  • Looking at your list of likes, what do you like the most, and why?
  • What do you think you likes have in common with each other? And your dislikes?

The semester is almost over, and soon your students might be home for the summer (partial or full, depending on their plans).  Could you engage them in a conversation about reflection? About their likes and dislikes? Really listening fully and appreciating what they tell you (even if their likes and dislikes, major choice, etc. are far different than yours, or what you might have hoped?)  This could be a powerful conversation to have.

Wake ‘N Shake – You Can Help, Deac Families

20120324dance7334Wake ‘N Shake 2014 is coming up this weekend.   Wake ‘N Shake is a 12-hour dance marathon which benefits the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.  Wake Forest students will stay on their feet for up to twelve hours to raise money and awareness for the fight against cancer. In 2013, 1300 students participated and over $147,000 was raised for cancer research. 

As in previous years, we want to encourage parents and families to get involved in the following ways:

  • Support a student participant by donating to him/her
  • Donate to the cause in general through the regular donation portal.  You can also text SHAKE to 20222 to donate $10 to the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund. Organizers say “we began Mobile Giving last year as an easy way to donate towards the cause and are thrilled that it is an option again for the 2014 event.” 
  • Watch the Wake ‘N Shake event LIVE on March 22 from noon to midnight
  • Write a Note of Encouragement to a specific student participant, all of the student participants from a particular organization, or the entire student body.

This year, for the first time, Wake ‘N Shake’s organizers will be offering supporters the chance to leave a personalized message for a dancer or organization.  They will deliver these words of support to the recipients at the event, reminding these dancers why they have pledged to stay standing for up to 12 hours straight.  The organizers hope that these Notes of Encouragement will inspire the participants through the final hours of the dance marathon.   

For this new program to be successful, the Wake ‘N Shake organizers are hoping to reach out to as many families who know students participating in Wake ‘N Shake 2014 to write a Note of Encouragement to the dancers and organizations that they have a connection to.

So, Deac families, please show your support for Wake ‘N Shake.  This is a tremendous project for our students – doing good for others while having some good old fashioned fun.   

2014 Commencement and Baccalaureate Speakers Announced

Today Dr. Hatch sent the following email to Wake Forest seniors to announce the Commencement and Baccalaureate speakers (see bel0w).

Commencement is an incredibly exciting time at Wake Forest.  Other than Move-In Weekend, it is probably filled with the most joy.  If you will, Deac families, begin sending your prayers and positive thoughts out for a sunny and dry weekend.  There is no Quad like a Commencement Quad.

As we get closer to Commencement, the Daily Deac will give you some tips and perspective on the weekend.  For now, enjoy the announcement of the speakers.  Looks to me like these were good choices.

—————–

Dear Seniors:

As has become my practice, I am contacting you with advance word regarding our 2014 Commencement and Baccalaureate speakers. This information will be shared publicly shortly.

I am pleased to let you know that our 2014 Commencement speaker will be Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times. Abramson serves in the highest-ranking position in The Times’s newsroom and oversees its news and content in all its various forms.

Prior to being named the newspaper’s first female executive editor, Abramson was managing editor from 2003 until 2011. During this time, she helped supervise the coverage of two wars, four national elections, and devastating events such as Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill. She was also deeply engaged in the newsroom’s effort to change its approach to the dissemination of news and to expand to new and varied digital and mobile platforms.

In an industry undergoing monumental change, Jill Abramson’s ability to manage and evolve one of the most widely read and respected news outlets demonstrates the need for creative and visionary leaders. Her significant achievements as a journalistic pioneer provide a stellar example for Wake Forest graduates as they prepare to embark on their own journeys.

Abramson joined The New York Times in 1997. She was named Washington bureau chief in December 2000 and served in that position until July 2003. Prior to joining The Times, she worked at The Wall Street Journal from 1988 to 1997. While there, she served as deputy Washington, D.C., bureau chief and as an investigative reporter, covering money and politics.

The co-author of “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas,” a non-fiction finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award in 1994, and “Where They Are Now: The Story of the Women of Harvard Law 1974,” published in 1986, she is also the author of “The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout,” published in 2011.

Abramson is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The American Philosophical Society and has taught writing at Princeton and Yale Universities.

Also joining Wake Forest for the Commencement weekend will be Baccalaureate speaker Melissa Rogers, special assistant to the President and executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Melissa Rogers is committed to exploring religion’s role in public life. In her work for the White House, she serves as a guide helping to navigate the sometimes difficult pathways where issues of church and state intersect. She is dedicated to helping identify common ground among people who are working together on the challenges facing our nation by promoting partnerships to help people in need.

Rogers formerly served as director of the Center for Religion and Public Affairs at Wake Forest University School of Divinity and as a nonresident senior fellow in the governance studies program of The Brookings Institution. Prior to her time with Wake Forest University and Brookings, Rogers was the executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

In 2008 Baylor University Press published a casebook co-authored by Rogers, “Religious Freedom and the Supreme Court.” In 2009 President Barack Obama appointed Rogers to serve as chair of his inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In 2011 she was named to a subgroup of the State Department’s Religion and Foreign Policy Working Group.

I would like to thank the students, faculty members and administrators on our Commencement Speaker Advisory Committee who provided input and contributed to a more visible and transparent selection process. Their work has enriched our campus.

I wish you the best for your remaining weeks of the spring semester, and look forward to sharing with you and your families the excitement of Commencement weekend on May 18 and 19.

Sincerely,

Nathan O. Hatch

 

On St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day today, many people on campus will be wearing green and thinking about some of the various ways this day is celebrated (no doubt there will be some Irish foods and green cakes in the Pit today).  But right under your students’ noses – likely invisible – is a very important piece of Irish studies that I hope they will one day discover.

It’s called the D0lmen Collection, and it can be found in the Rare Books Room of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library.  In 2006, the News Service wrote an article about the collection, saying in part:

“Literary history buffs, Irish poetry lovers and scholars can now enjoy tracing the steps of Irish publisher Liam Miller and his renowned Dolmen Press at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library.  After nearly 20 years of careful documentation and cataloging, the library announces the official introduction of the archive.

Liam Miller

Following Miller’s death in 1987, Wake Forest purchased Miller’s personal papers and the Dolmen Press Archive. The archive includes manuscripts, papers, correspondence and artwork that track the history of the Dolmen Press and reflect the lives of prominent Irish poets, including William Butler Yeats, John Montague, Thomas Kinsella and others. One of the highlights of the collection is a series of illustrative printing blocks dating from 1902 to 1985, including a few from Cuala Press, the private printing press founded by Yeats’ sisters Elizabeth and Lily.”  (full article here)

Your students may not have such ready access to this sort of historical archive once they leave Wake Forest.  So urge them to take a trip to the Rare Books Room and read, touch, and experience Irish literary and artistic history.

Here is the ZSR’s description of the Dolmen Collection.

Biographical and Historical Note

Liam Miller was born April 24, 1924 in Mountrath, Ireland. Educated in Ireland at Ballyfin College and University College Dublin, he studied architecture.  He married Josephine Browne in 1947, and together they founded the Dolmen Press in 1951.  The Press operated in Dublin from 1951 until Liam Miller’s death in 1987.  A printing division was opened in the late 1950s as an additional revenue source, and was eventually shut down in 1979.  The division took printing jobs from publishers as well as theaters, art galleries, businesses and individuals.

Founded to provide a publishing outlet for Irish poetry, the Press also heavily featured the work of Irish artists.  The scope of the press grew to include prose literature by Irish authors as well as a broad range of critical works about Irish literature and theater.  The life and works of W.B. Yeats is a recurring theme in a variety of works, including the Yeats Centenary Series.  One highlight in the Press’ history was the publication of The Tain in 1969.  Thomas Kinsella’s translation of the Irish epic poem took 15 years from concept to publication and represented a milestone in Irish publishing.  By the 1980s the Press had created the Brogeen Books division for juvenile works, and many of the later publications were under this imprint.

Liam Miller was also a book designer.  Liam Miller’s major design projects stemmed from the post-Vatican II changes to the Catholic Church missals, mass books, etc.  Occasionally, jobs for the printing division were also works that Liam designed.  In addition to his role with the Dolmen Press, Miller was very active in the Dublin community.  An avid philatelist, he served for many years on the Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs’ Philatelic Advisory Committee.  Passionate about live theater, Miller helped revive the Abbey Theatre and the Abbey’s Peacock Theatre.  He became director of the Lantern Theatre, and frequently used his architectural skills to design and create sets for the Lantern’s productions.  An authority on Yeats and Irish theater, he wrote and spoke frequently on these topics.

Collection Overview

This collection consists of information relating to the publications and printing jobs of the Dolmen Press, the administrative and financial documents of its operation, and the design work and personal papers of Liam Miller.  The Publications and Printing and Design Series include author correspondence, general business correspondence, typescripts, proofs, art, galleys, reviews, paste-ups, dust jackets, and printing notes.  The Administrative and Financial Series consist of general business files, correspondence, publication files, awards, events files, office documents, personnel information, exhibition files, samples, bank files, invoices, journals, ledgers, receipts, and reports.  The Liam Miller Personal Papers Series features biographical information, correspondence, typescripts of speeches and writings, notes, journals, programs, original and reproduction art, and photographs.  The Printing Blocks Series contains illustrative printing blocks used for Dolmen publications. The documents range in date from 1890 to 1987, with the bulk of the documents dating from the 1960s to mid-1980s.

Major individuals, businesses and subjects found in the collection include Abbey Theatre,  Tate Adams,  Juanita Casey,  Austin Clarke,  Padraic Colum,  Columba Press,  Jack Coughlin,  Brian Coyle,  Mia Cranwill,  Dawson Gallery,  T.P. Donnelly,  Douglas Hyde Gallery,  W.A. Dwiggins,  George Fitzmaurice,  Thomas Flanagan,  Four Masters Press,  Eric Gill,  S.W. Hayter,  Seamus Heaney,  Humanities Press,  Irish Book Publishers Association,  Maurice Kennedy,  Anthony Kerrigan,  Kingdom Books,  Thomas Kinsella,  Lantern Theatre,  Louis LeBrocquy,  James Liddy,  Lilliput Press,  Liturgical Books,  Donagh MacDonagh,  Louis MacNeice,  Wolf Mankowitz,  Hugh Maxton,  John Montague,  Merrill Moore,  Richard Murphy,  Flann O’Brien,  Sean O’Casey,  Brendan O’Reilly,  Oxford University Press,  Pilgrim Press,  Anthony Porter,  Kathleen Raine,  Elizabeth Rivers,  Robin Skelton,  John Millington Synge,  Talbot Press,  Thoor Ballylee,  Arland Ussher,  Veritas Press,  William Morris Society, The  Yeats Association,  Jack Butler Yeats, and  William Butler Yeats.”

Senior Oration Finalist – Fahim Gulamali (’14)

Last but certainly not least, the Daily Deac concludes its coverage of the Senior Oration finalists.  Congratulations to all the students who made the Top Ten.

Today we invite you to enjoy “The Stronger Pull of Love” by Fahim Gulamali (’14).

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The renowned Muslim poet Jalaluddin Rumi once said, “Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” Rumi’s words have poignantly portrayed the feelings of my evolution as a first-year student, to my senior year  here at Wake Forest.  I came in to this university as a pre-med student; a potential biology major; a ‘heterosexual’; and an insecure human being. Today, I am leaving as a worldly religious studies major; an unfaltering feminist; a proud gay person; and so much more. I know that I would not have been able to come into my true self if, in my senior year in high school, I had not released my inhibitions and let the universe, a term I now understand as God, pull me towards the institution that I have come to love—Wake Forest University.

I spent my childhood in an imaginary space, one filled with magic and possible impossibilities. I would gallop on my trusty steed while trying to battle Voldemort to save Hogwarts. I would wrap myself in a bed-sheet and find myself flying to different parts of the world. I was happy because I gave the universe opportunity to draw me to my true loves.  I was so in tune with the universe, that I sprinted towards all that drowned me with love and happiness.

Somewhere between the  summer of middle and high school, I buried myself in self-loathing and insecurity. I weighed a mere 110 pounds and my hair began to thin. I had  become conscious of my ‘otherness’—the fact that I did not fit into society’s stereotype of a ‘masculine’ person—and I invested my energy in hiding who I truly was from the world. I joined a flag football team when I had no interest in football and dated a couple of girls, while secretly spending time with someone of the same sex to whom I was attracted. Nothing was right in my life because I buried myself in my reserves and cut myself off from that which I genuinely loved. I was unhappy. And then, in my senior year of high school, I accepted the offer to attend Wake Forest University.

From the moment I stepped onto this campus, I started to evolve. Retrospectively, I began to  grow into myself. I let go of my worries and what others thought of me. I dabbled  in the things such as WakeTV, service trips through Global Brigades, and Amnesty International. Really, anything that caught my attention. I let my classes mold me, challenge my belief system, and ultimately help me learn more about myself than ever before. I allowed my friends to empower and support me in every decision I made, and to take care of me when those decisions led me down rocky roads. I delved into every opportunity that Wake Forest offered me, and I grew stronger when I was faced with opposition. Certain recollections flood my memory when the true essence of Wake Forest came to play a role in my life-the week of April 22, 2012, when I “came out” to the world as a gay person.

That specific week, I was learning about the role that the queer community plays within various religious institutions in Dr. Lynn Neal’s ‘Religious Intolerance in the United States’ class. This was when I realized that I could not hide a part of my identity any longer. I had grown so much already—I had let myself be pulled in the direction of so much love, and I did not want to stop. I called one of my mentors on the way back from volunteering at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital on April 26 and said the words —‘Imran, I think I’m gay. No—I KNOW I am. I have always felt it.” These words liberated me. They let me breathe more than ever. I was already at an academic institution that I loved, studying subjects I was passionate about, surrounded by supportive friends and professors that had become my family, and it was time that I was true to the world and myself.

That week, I confirmed everything that I had learned about myself and the Wake Forest community that surrounded me. Faculty and staff embraced me with open arms. Religion Department Administrative Coordinator Sheila Lockhart even went to the extent of opening her home to me when I thought my own home would reject me. My friends showered me with love and affection when I was learning to become comfortable with who I was while also grieving my old self. I slept over at different friends’ homes because I was too afraid to be alone. These human beings shared a part of their hearts with me so I could fully embrace that which I loved. They embodied the motto of this university—Pro Humanitate. They did not let me fall.

Today, I ask each and every one of you to let go and be free. To follow what you love and let your heart and universe be the guide to pull you in the right direction. I also ask you to help others realize the freedom that comes from following their intuition and pursuing what they truly love, as my friends did when I was afraid to do so. Be a voice for those who have been silenced by what philosopher Michel Foucault would refer to as the ‘the dominant discourse’—a voice for my gay identity in a majority heterosexual world, for example. In the end, let us all release our apprehensions and surrender to the stronger pull of love.

Events After Spring Break

If your students are looking for things to do the week they get back from Spring Break, there are a plethora of options on the Events Calendar.  Lectures, sporting events, Student Union ‘short courses’ and more.

I want to draw your students’ attention to one of the events, and that is “The Big Disruption – the Coming Transformation of Higher Education.”  There is more information on the Big Disruption website, but I would submit to your students that this is a great opportunity to hear from campus leaders and alumni who are nationally-recognized experts in higher education.

College has changed from yours and my days, Deac families.  There seem to me to be so many more campus life offerings and and development opportunities for our students than there were during my own days knocking about Wake Forest as an undergrad.  And I suspect that the institution of college will need to change and innovate and be more nimble and flexible, to borrow words from President Hatch.

Your students are in the thick of it right now as college students.  This is a chance to have them hear more about what might be ahead by the time their children go to college.

Senior Oration Finalist – Claire Nagy-Kato (’14)

We’re coming down to the wire and sharing the last of the Senior Oration finalists.  We hope you have been enjoying them.

Today we invite you to enjoy “Practice Makes Perspective” by Claire Nagy-Kato (’14).

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In my early years at Wake, I was a screw-up. Well, I thought I was. I dozed off in classes. I joined over 20 clubs, and quit over 20 clubs. I missed countless meetings with professors and bosses. I broke plans with my textbooks to hang out with friends and I broke plans with friends to study. I became the master of procrastination. I enjoyed most of my academic courses, yet I received more F’s on tests than I can count on my two hands. A map of my brainwaves probably resembled a painting by Jackson Pollock. Not a small one, but a big one. Have you ever been to the Art Institute of Chicago? We’re talking a football field size work by Jackson Pollock. Yeah, that’s my brain.

I was surrounded by so many organized and driven people that when I revealed my flaws to them, they would look at me with dismay, and sympathy, sometimes even call me a quitter. I felt I had flaws that no Wake Forest student should have. And I hated that. I was asking myself, what is good about me? Why was I so unfocused? Why I could walk home with a smile on my face when I had an F in one hand, but a hummingbird in the other? I pulled many all-nighters for F’s. But then when I think about, what I thought was studying all night really comprised of a few hours of studying, and many more speculating with my friends about how a simple trip to CVS turned into a greater understanding of the inner connectivity of human life (that’s another speech). Unfortunately, I found that the word Failure often accompanied my priority for exploring the larger systemic forces in the universe. So freshman and sophomore year, I was convinced that the only way I could be a good student was to change my priorities. I had to focus more on my textbooks and less on my elemental curiosity.

Then something snapped. They were the sticks beneath my feet. I was in the woods again, except this time it was for my Evolution and Ecology class. Exploring dirt and trees for a grade? Inconceivable, I thought. This was my first hint that education that could be attained in and out of human-made walls. It didn’t hit me instantly, but slowly my perspective on knowledge didn’t feel so confined. With this new outlook, I was not a screw-up. I was curious. I had an imagination. Although many of my previous discoveries often distracted me from my schooling, I was educating myself. I was finding meaning in the existence of time, habits, words, and even creatures, even if it seemed downright mad to scoop up the tiniest bird in the world for a proper burial or find enlightenment in the magazine aisle of a CVS. I recognized for the first time that my tenacious curiosity was a personal strength that was equally important both inside and outside the classroom.

In the classroom, teachers say to their students, “you should not simply come to class and take notes; you should read the book before class, and be sure to check out the supplementary sources I posted on Sakai. Oh! And while you’re in the midst of your groaning, I want you to find real-world examples.” “There’s those words again,” I thought. “Real. World. Examples. I get it, it’s like how we use physics to build rollercoasters or math to calculate a tip at restaurants.”

Wow, I did not get it. My idea that divide exists between learning in the classroom and learning through living was at the root of my struggles in the majority of my life at Wake Forest. These professors were teaching us how to learn, how to be curious, not just in the classroom but in our lives. They were asking us to gain perspective on subject matter, and find that these lessons are prevalent in the real-world.

So after four years of contemplating and exploring Pro Humanitate, I learned that it means to search beyond the constructed subject matter presented to us in our courses. We develop a cognitive boundary, or bias, from our initial source of knowledge, often times it derives from our textbooks, friends, family, FOX news, some more unfortunate than others. I had developed a cognitive boundary about grades, and their abilities to measure intelligence, and this is what really constricted my flow of knowledge. As soon as I fully rejected this construction of how I should be learning, I flourished. I looked beyond my required readings and read counterarguments. I discussed with people who held different religious beliefs than I. I tried to harness the wisdom that lies within every crevice of life on earth. I found anything that we call matter and turned into a subject, and it’s no wonder grades couldn’t properly reflect that. Once we all begin to do this, none of us have to think we are screw-ups because we get F’s every now and then. We all provide our own gifts to Wake Forest, to the Winston-Salem community, and to the world. For me, Pro Humanitate is recognizing the symbiotic relationship we can form with each human being and all living things on the planet. Because that is what is good for humanity.

So how does one begin to live in tandem with Pro Humanitate? It starts with walking in someone’s shoes for a day. We’ve all heard that. Learn from another’s experiences before you make a judgment or decision. But why just walk? Why not run, skip, roller blade? What about the things that don’t move at all? And the things that don’t wear shoes? Me personally, I don’t really like shoes. Maybe that’s why I learn from trees and birds and bees before I make many of my decisions. We should look at all facets of life and life forms with a new lens, and do it not just “for a day”, but every single day.

Perspective is important, but the practice of perspective shows true growth. If we practice detaching ourselves from biases, nurtured values, our ideas of “normal” and “acceptable”, we can then connect one subject to another like Religion and Ecology, and also connect all of the human-based subjects with the remainder of the world’s greatest treasures. We can question the true efficiency of human-kind’s creations. How does modern medicine affect the ecosystems from which the plants derive? How does economics measure happiness? How does science measure spirituality? How does religion unite us all? What does the subject matter in our formal education teach us about the rest of the world? I found that teachers have wanted us to figure this out, but they also want us to find how the rest of the world holds the perspectives we need to truly understand our classroom education. Every place I go, from classroom to woods to the floor of a marketplace, I try to learn something, even if someone thinks I am a quitter. Even if someone calls me scatter-brained.  Even if I get one hundred more F’s in my life. I am a Jackson Pollock, except with a chemistry degree, and a ukulele.