Meet a Deac – James Raper (MAEd ’02)

If you are a Wake Forest parent and attended the Just for Parents: Help with the College Transition session during move-in weekend, you might remember James Raper, Assistant Director of the University Counseling Center; James and Dr. Joanne Clinch of the Student Health Service led that orientation program. In addition to assisting parents with the college transition, James provides counseling and therapy to Wake Forest students.  We hope you enjoy meeting him in today’s Meet a Deac. 


What is your official job title?
Assistant Director of the University Counseling Center

How long have you worked at WFU?
I was fortunate enough to intern at the University Counseling Center (UCC) when I was getting my Masters at Wake, which turned into full-time employment after graduating. I then worked as a UCC staff counselor for four years and left Winston-Salem to attend further graduate training.  I was lucky enough a second time to return to Wake Forest and the UCC in 2008 and have remained here since (and they’re not getting rid of me!).

In laymen’s terms, what do you do at WFU?
In addition to consultation, community outreach and crisis response, the large majority of my time is spent providing individual counseling and therapy to the undergraduate and graduate students at Wake Forest.  Some students I’ll see for a few sessions to provide some immediate relief and coaching them through a variety of issues.  Sometimes I’ll end up seeing other students for a longer portion of their career at WFU.  It’s really a wonderful experience to witness their growth in many areas of their life.

I do also spend time co-chairing (with Police Chief Regina Lawson) the WFU CARE Team. That team meets weekly to help students, staff, faculty and other WFU community members who may be in some form of distress get connected with support resources.  Occasionally I’ll teach some courses to graduate students in the Department of Counseling.

What is your favorite course to teach?
It’s a tie (sorry): Advanced Counseling Skills and Crisis Management, and Special Topics in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  Both courses allow us to address very specialized counseling knowledge and skills, and process issues that often raise anxiety and discomfort in counselors (i.e., thoughts of suicide, sex and sexuality, anger, faith, etc.)  I can’t say enough about what amazing counseling students WFU continues to have.

How would you characterize Wake Forest students?  What are some common attributes they have?
I want to start with a caveat that while I get to know many students extremely well, I’m aware that I tend to only have access to students who are seeking counseling – I just want to own that. That being said, my experience with WFU students is that they are extremely caring, often thinking about micro (friends and family) and macro (their community and the world) issues with a passion that I’m really honored to witness.  Like many college age students, they worry about themselves, their friends, and they worry a lot about their parents and family.  However, they are amazingly resilient and I’ve been really fortunate to watch a first-year undergraduate evolve into a powerful, assured and commanding (but not perfect!) college graduate.

What advice would you give to students and parents?
I give this guidance a lot (I would have my counseling degrees taken away if I ever admitted to giving advice [laughs]), both to WFU students and their parents: seek opportunities to struggle, slip, fall, be mediocre, and even “fail.”  Sit with those experiences a bit, see what you can learn from them. Notice how they feel and think about what you’d like to do differently in the future.  Then go get support, reassurance, a band-aid, a cookie, etc., from trusted and safe friends, family members and mentors.

The best advice I give to parents specifically, I steal from another counselor (Johnne Armentrout, now retired after 30 years at the UCC): This too shall pass.  Let your kids figure it out for themselves, and don’t worry that they’ll be alone – you really can’t walk 15 feet at WFU without tripping over someone or some office being available to help you.

What do you like best about working at Wake Forest?
Without a doubt, the relationships.  I do a lot of work with WFU staff who go unnoticed. That in and of itself is not a bad thing – many of them would want it to be that way.  But I do feel very honored to be a part of a very large team that works very hard, often during day and night, to help students succeed.  Additionally, I wouldn’t have chosen the career I did if it wasn’t truly rewarding.  The staff at the UCC are incredibly well-educated and well-trained, and are really dedicated to working with any student who might come through our doors.

What a delightful reversal – peppering the counselor with questions, instead of the other way around!  Let’s move to the bonus round!

Book you’re reading now: Night Falls Fast – Kay Redfield Jamison.  This might be my 5th reading of this book, and it’s always inspiring.

What music are you listening to these days: Currently lots of Bing Crosby et al holiday tunes on my Pandora station.  I can’t stop listening to The National.  Great band. John Coltrane is my go-to no matter what mood I’m in, it always helps me feel centered and peaceful. I take any opportunity I have to honor my 6 year old’s requests to play Ray Charles at home.  That kid can get down.

Favorite movies: I love movies, so this is hard. I’ll watch Apollo 13 anytime it’s on. I love war movies, especially the Band of Brothers miniseries. Ken Burns documentaries (Civil War was my favorite).  It’s really a wide range from Boogie Nights to Elizabeth to Schindler’s List.  My most interesting documentary recently was a short one called “I Like Killing Flies.”

Websites you frequent: Santa came early and brought me an iPad, so recently it’s anything that the Google Currents app brings up that seems interesting: politics, higher ed news, technology, sports, etc.

Guilty pleasure: Peanut Butter Cups for food. Otherwise it’s naps (shout out to my wonderful wife Paige who lets me sleep in many if not most weekend mornings – and we have a 6 year old and a 21 month old!)

Favorite place to be on campus: Either walking the campus with my colleagues and friends (we do this most lunch hours when weather and time permits), or my office.

What most people don’t know about you: I sing pretty well, and was in a college a cappella group, but hate singing in public.  Weird, I know. 🙂

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