The Daily Deac continues its Meet a Deac feature, where we profile Wake Foresters who touch the lives of students and parents in different ways. Today we want to introduce you someone who helps make your students’ campus experience as enjoyable and enriching as it is. Meet Mary Gerardy (MBA ’92), Associate Vice President and Dean of Campus Life.
What is your title, and tell me a little bit about your career at Wake Forest.
My job title is Associate Vice President and Dean of Campus Life. I’ve been at Wake Forest since 1985. I started as Director of the Student Union, which was housed in a small office in Reynolda Hall. I was attracted to Wake Forest in part by the opportunity to participate in the building of a university center. When the Benson Center opened in 1990, I became Director of the Benson Center and Student Union. In 1993, I became the Assistant Vice President for Student Life and in 2003 I was promoted to Associate Vice President for Student Life.
Campus Life has always seemed all-encompassing to me, especially knowing the wide variety of things you do. Tell me a little bit about your day-to-day.
I love the fact that I am doing something different every day. As Dean of Campus Life I supervise a dedicated, talented group of administrators who work with students in the following areas: student philanthropy, volunteer service, Campus Kitchen, Wake Alternative Break programs, international service trips, The Barn, weekend programming, the student activities fee, Student Union, the Benson University Center, student organizational life, Greek life, and leadership. In addition, we implement the Student Life Strategic Plan, My Journey.
It has really been exciting to work with the entire division of student life and other units on campus to create the best possible college experience for our students. On any given day, I meet with individual students and student organizations, often helping them to solve problems; meet with a variety of committees working with various aspects of campus life; create and implement new programs; attend student events; and so much more.
What are your observations of trends in students and student behavior?
Of course, when we try to characterize any large group we can always find notable exceptions. On the other hand, having seen Wake Forest students for over 25 years, I can definitely point to some characteristics of the current generation. Our students are very high achieving. This is great and I love watching students discover and/or enhance their passion for particular areas of interest. But with exemplary achievement often comes high stress. Students seem to be less resilient than they were when I arrived at Wake Forest.
Wake Forest students are very altruistic and dedicated to a variety of causes. While this is commendable, it provides many teachable moments for faculty and staff. I often suggest to students that they would be better served by deep engagement in fewer organizations or volunteer placements rather than trying to do everything (ande often failing).
Today’s students are incredibly connected. With computers, tablets,and smart phones, they are constantly communicating with their parents, friends, and others. Personal interaction may be more difficult, but it is also much more rewarding. I am concerned when I hear stories about roommates texting each other while sitting in the same room. I am also puzzled by websites like Second Life. Why not live your first or “real” life well instead of inventing a different persona?
What advice do you have for Wake Forest parents?
The best piece of advice I would give to parents is to let your student resolve his or her issues at Wake Forest. In a few short years, he or she will be out in “the real world” and will have to take care of work. and personal life. As a parent, I know how much we want our children to be successful and independent. We want to ensure that their college experience is meaningful and fruitful. When we intervene, however, we take away an opportunity for growth, even if that growth comes with some unhappiness.
What do you like best about working here?
My favorite part of working at Wake Forest is the chance to watch students grow in confidence, knowledge, and personal passion. One area that has allowed me to participate in this transformation is international service. In 1998, I served as the staff advisor for the City of Joy program working with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India and was completely hooked.
I founded our service program in Vietnam when I was a program director for our Lilly Grant (now completed). I’ve traveled to Vietnam eight times with Wake Forest students. On seven of those trips we have assisted with the building of schools; on the other program we helped to build two “mercy houses.” Six of these programs were international service and two were summer international service-learning programs. Exploring this beautiful country, spending time with children and adults in remote villages, confronting poverty, and coming to terms with the relationship between Vietnam and the United States leads to numerous teachable moments — with individual students and with the entire group. We always travel with Vietnamese students, and the exchange that takes place is wonderful to witness.
You did not attend Wake Forest as an undergraduate, but you have a graduate degree from the Schools of Business, right?
I completed my MBA in 1992.
Let’s talk fun!
Book you’re reading right now: I never read one book at a time; I always have a few going at once! I just finished Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute. I’m also re-reading Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. I just downloaded John Grisham’s new book, The Litigators, to my Kindle. I’ll probably read it over winter break.
Music you’re listening to these days – When you work with college students, you are exposed to a lot of music you might not find on your own. Right now, I am listening to singers from Adele to the Black Eyed Peas, to Jimmy Buffet to classic songs from Broadway musicals.
Favorite movie: I love movies and my husband and I go as often as possible. I am so happy that a/perture cinema is open in downtown Winston-Salem. The best film I’ve seen there recently is The Way. This fall, my favorite movie was The Help. Viola Davis should win an Academy Award for her performance!
Guilty pleasure: My favorite guilty pleasures are several fun TV shows. I particularly like Being Erica and Royal Pains.
Something that people don’t know about you: Hmm… That I have a secret desire to be like Martha Stewart. That my goal as a high school student was to act on Broadway. Or that both my my parents were minsters and that I married a minister. My BA is in religion, but I decided not to go to seminary.
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