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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

Wake ‘N Shake Recap – Project Pumpkin Planning

If you hadn’t already seen it, there is a terrific story on the WFU main page about Wake N’ Shake, the campus dance marathon to raise money for cancer research:

“More than 1,300 students teamed up to fight cancer on Saturday and raised $164,157 for the 10th anniversary of Wake ’N Shake, a 12-hour dance marathon to benefit the Brian Piccolo Cancer Research Fund. This year, faculty, staff and alumni were invited to join students in honoring loved ones affected by cancer.

‘Wake ‘N Shake is such an important event because it allows students from all over campus to come together and fight for a common cause,’ said senior Cat Draper, who co-chaired the event with seniors Anna Morten and Jordan Schuler. ‘Every student at Wake has been touched by cancer in one way or another.’

More than 50 student organizations, including sports teams, theatre groups and Greek life, participated this year.”

$164,157 is an impressive number!  Many thanks to all our Deacs who gave their time, talent, and treasure to fight the good fight for Brian Piccolo.

Looking ahead to future Pro Humanitate efforts, the Volunteer Service Corps listserv has information about how students can apply for Project Pumpkin Steering Committees:

“Have you ever seen Project Pumpkin and thought to yourself, now there is something I want to have a larger role in??

Well, you’re in luck!! the steering committee applications are live.

They are due next Monday, March 30th and then the co-chair applications will be available.

The steering committee oversees the co-chairs and the co-chairs oversee everything else!  And with the help of Head Pumpkin, the Halloween dreams of children all over the Winston-Salem area come true!!

If you’re interested in applying for the steering committee, here is the link!!

Even though it is only March, it is not too early for your students to think about Project Pumpkin.  Applying to be on a steering committee could be a fantastic outlet for your students – they can learn about leadership, organization of a huge event, rallying volunteers, etc.   And of course, serving humanity, as our motto suggests.

– by Betsy Chapman

 

Thursday Roundup

Today is starting out grey and cool, and will devolve into rain within a couple of hours.  After the early part of this week was sunny and 80 degrees, this is going to be an unpleasant surprise to your Deacs.  A good day to stay inside.

So we turn our attention to a few things that are coming up in Deacdom.  Next Thursday at 6:00 pm in Wait Chapel we have a Voices of our Time event (part of our speaker series on important topics from renowned thought leaders).  This one is “The Human Face of Environmental Inequality” and the speaker is Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland (Bio).  Please, please encourage your students to attend.  There will likely never be another time in their lives when they can be in an audience of only 2,400 people to hear from a former president.  This is a rare and wondrous opportunity.

Today and tomorrow, the Z Smith Reynolds Library is hosting a symposium entitled “Mass Incarceration and the Criminal Justice System Student Panel and the Opening of Release: From Stigma to Acceptance.”  This will be held in the ZSR Auditorium (404) and will have a faculty panel today, a student panel tomorrow followed by an opening reception in the atrium.  Looks like a wonderful opporunity for students to reflect on the role of the criminal justice system and to consider their thoughts on an important societal issue for all of us.

Also tomorrow night is Wake-Appella, Wake Forest’s First Annual a cappella festival hosted by Demon Divas and Plead the Fifth.  This event is bringing together collegiate and high school a cappella groups from throughout the Southeast, and is a fundraiser to help the arts community in the Triad area.  If your Deac is a fan of Pitch Perfect or Glee, or just wants to hear some amazing music, this is an event for them.

On Saturday from noon until midnight, Wake ‘N Shake will take place.  This is one of the signature Pro Humanitate events of the year.  Reynolds Gym will be rocking with 1,300+ students who will be on their feet for 12 hours to raise awareness and funds to support cancer research at the Wake Forest Cancer Center via the Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund.  If your Deac isn’t involved but wants to be, or if you want to help their efforts, visit wakenshake.com.

There are other events too of course – and your Deac can visit the Events calendar to see more.

The range of opportunities at Wake Forest is enormous.  Your students have so many potential opportunities outside of class to think, to serve, to participate in important conversations, to reflect, to dance, and to simply enjoy.  To use (once again) my smorgasbord metaphor, this is a rich buffet filled with so many dishes.  Encourage your Deac not to be a picky eater, but to try a bite of as many things as they can.

 

– 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

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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!

Required Reading – ACC Tournament

Yesterday was our Deacs’ chance at the ACC Tournament.  It was a tough game – we were down by about 10 at the end of the first half, then we outplayed VA Tech in the second half to make it a close game, but ultimately lost at the buzzer.  A hard ending to the season for sure.

Because of the Tournament yesterday, our local paper ran two articles about former Deacon great Randolph Childress (’95) and his son Brandon, who has committed to the Deacs.  Having a look at former greatness (and potential for future greatness) took some of the sting out of the loss.

[Before we go much further, an editorial disclaimer: I am an unabashed Randolph Childress fangirl.  Filter accordingly.]

Yesterday’s Winston-Salem Journal had a wonderful piece on Randolph Childress (’95), our legendary, extraordinary basketball player who through sheer force of will pulled us to an improbable win in the 1995 ACC Tournament.  His play over those 3 days is considered by many as the greatest and grittiest individual performance in the history of the tournament; he holds the individual tournament scoring record to this day.  Randolph was then, and remains now, my all-time favorite Deacon – with all due respect given to the amazing players who have come before him and since.

The story should be required reading for all Deacon fans.  I watched the 1995 ACC Tournament on TV and it was a combination of the ridiculous (when we were losing and should not have been) and the sublime (when we were on fire).  The W-S Journal captures Randolph’s major highlights nicely:

“Many of the details have been blurred by time, but three moments will live forever in ACC lore.

the shot AP file photoTwo were from the championship game — the audacity of Childress motioning for a fallen Jeff McInnis to get up while he was draining yet another 3-pointer; and, of course, the climatic shot [Editorial note: seen here in an AP file photo; fans simply call this “The Shot”].

But the third was not a shot, a pass or even a defensive gem. It was the timeout Odom called in the first half of the quarterfinal against Duke. Only 8:33 remained on the clock, but Odom didn’t feel he could wait for the next media timeout.

The Deacons trailed by 18.

“I remember the play,” Childress said. “I remember coming down the right side of the floor and I lost the ball. It went out of bounds and I remember it hopped over someone — it might have been a photographer or somebody — and went into the crowd. I think that’s the section my parents were sitting it.

“I was shaking my head. And I was more upset, like, ‘This can’t happen.’ I remember walking to the timeout and the coaching staff would always kind of huddle up and speak. And I just remember walking over to Scooter (Banks), and I just remember going off on those guys. I started off with Scooter because I told him: ‘You’re a senior; this is your last go-around, like mine. We’re not going to let this happen.’”

My recollection was that during the huddle, the TV cut to Randolph and he said to his teammates (with the wonderful combination of bravado and intensity he always had):

“Just give me the ball – every time!”

They listened, Randolph and the team were on fire, and we won that game and the next ones to take the Tournament title for the first time in 30+ years.  There was a Quad rolling and jubilation like nothing Deacdom had ever seen.  To this day, there are Deac fans who, if they are having a bad day and need a pick me up, go back and watch the ’95 ACC Tourney.  It’s that good.

The second wave of Randolph-related jubilation came when he retired from playing basketball in Italy. He returned to campus a few years ago to be part of the Athletics staff, then moved to the men’s basketball coaching staff.  When Coach Manning came to WFU, Randolph retained his position on the bench (and a collective sigh of relief was heard from Deac fans everywhere).

Now there is another Childressian reason to rejoice – his son Brandon will play for the Deacs.  The Winston-Salem Journal also ran a great story about Brandon, a companion piece to the ACC Tournament piece on his father.  It will be a wonderful thing to see him grow and develop and make his own mark on the WFU program.

I’m calling it here and now: we will see ACC Tournament greatness again with this team, this coaching staff, and the new slate of players.

 

– by Betsy Chapman

Senior Oration: Gianna Blundo ’15

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

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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.

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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.

 

Friday Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

When and where are you the happiest?

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

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

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

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

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

 

– by Betsy Chapman

Big News Today! Stephen Colbert!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more detailed information about preventing malaria please see:

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

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

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

Campus Kitchen is advertising this to students as follows:

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

– by Betsy Chapman

Snow Photos and Senior Oration by Gracie Harrington ’15

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

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

– by Betsy Chapman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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