Meet a Deac – Steve Giles

One of the great pleasures of the Wake Forest community is being surrounded by so many interesting, talented, and committed people.  Parents and family members cannot always see and meet the people who impact their students’ Wake Forest experience, so we created Meet a Deac to introduce you to some of our wonderful Wake Foresters.  Today we meet a faculty member in the Department of Communication, Steve Giles.

Steve, you and I know each other, and I am in a book club with your wonderful wife Annamae.  So I know some of this already – but for the rest of the reading audience let’s start at the beginning.  What is your official job title?
Associate Professor, Department of Communication

How long have you worked at Wake Forest?
Full-time at WF since 2002, was research associate at Tanglewood Research Inc., a small research company, from 1998-2002 (and an adjunct at WF during the same time).

In laymen’s terms, what do you do here?
I specialize in health communication. I teach courses in research methods, health communication, health communication campaigns, health ethics.

How would you characterize Wake Forest students?  What are some common attributes they have?
Ambitious, idealistic, anxious. These are broad generalizations, but increasingly I see students who are driven to excel, but that drive can also lead to anxiety.

What advice would you give to students?
I once had a student ask me, “What do I need to do to get an ‘A’ in this class?” I told her that I thought she was asking the wrong question. The better question would be, “What do I need to do to maximize my learning in this class? To fully enjoy learning in this class?” I know that grades are important to students. They were important to me when I was in college. But no one is going to care about your GPA in a year, 5 years, 10 years. But your passion for learning is something you will take with you in all phases of life. Will you be a person who reads captivating novels or poetry when you have three children running around the home? Will you scrutinize political arguments that are presented on cable TV? Will you endeavor to stretch your worldview by traveling and learning new languages?  Grades are only one metric of success; they are not singular, or even ultimate.

So what I would tell parents is to relax a bit on emphasizing grades and focus more on process. Is your child enjoying their classes? If not, what can they do to take more responsibility for their education? I would also encourage parents to really help their children think occasionally about something other than themselves. College is a great place for introspection and growth, but too much time spent inside one’s self can be depressing! Students should join churches, community groups, or volunteer (without it counting toward class credit!) If professors offer opportunities to connect outside of class then students should take advantage of that opportunity. There is certainly more to life than school, classrooms, and grades. Life is the best classroom and some students need to get out a little bit.

What do you like best about working at Wake Forest?
The sense of community and quality of life that comes with community. We have a beautiful campus that affords us opportunities to walk, run, sit, and enjoy nature. As a faculty we are truly dedicated to the Pro Humanitate mission of the University. There are many professors here who are brilliant. They could be doing something else and probably make a bunch of money doing it! They could even be at research one Universities where they could focus only on their research. But the people who have come to Wake Forest are people who are nationally and internationally renowned in their fields and they delight in teaching and getting to know their students. That is the unique essence of this place. It is not easy and it is not always evident, but it is the foundation of this place.

And now for my favorite ones – the frivolous questions!

Books you’re reading now: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, Uses of Argument by Stephen Toulmin, Inkspell (audio book) with my kids.  [Might I add, your three kids are some of the most delightful, bright, and charming that I have met? You and Annamae are terrific parents!]

What music are you listening to these days: Whatever is on Pandora. Usually it is classical or soothing so that I can work with it on in the background

Favorite movie: Boy, this is a tough one. I guess it is always the last movie I watched. I did enjoy Bridesmaids (gasp!)

Website you frequent:

Guilty pleasure: See website above.

Favorite place to be on campus: My office. I have a Trek desk with a treadmill and can walk while I work.

What most people don’t know about you: I was on the homecoming court when I was in college. I did not win because the selection committee was apparently biased and delusional. I also played soccer in college.

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