It’s the end of the week, and time for another installment of our Meet a Deac feature. We have many Wake Forest families from the D.C. metro area, and we also have a lot of students who want to go to D.C. after graduation. Did you know that Wake Forest has a Washington, D.C. office? Today I am pleased to introduce you to my dear friend and colleague, Jennifer Richwine (’93).
You know I know all of this, because Wake hired us both in ’99 and we’ve worked closely together for years. Not only were we thick as thieves, but there were people on campus who routinely thought I was you and vice versa. But for the sake of our Wake families who might not (yet) know you, let’s go through the niceties.
What is your official job title?
Executive Director of the Washington Office
How long have you worked at Wake Forest?
Sixteen and a half years. Fifteen and a half on campus, and the last year in Washington, D.C.
Why is there a D.C. office and what exactly is your job
D.C. is a key city for Wake Forest. We have 7 elected members of Congress who are WFU alumni or parents, we have alumni in the White House and every government agency, as well as over 50 alumni and parents who are staffers on the Hill. We have Wake Foresters here in every industry, including consulting, marketing, real estate, law, public policy, etc. And the number of students who want to intern here and/or move here after graduation has steadily increased over the last 10 years. We had over 100 students living in D.C. last summer with internships!
We are also revamping our semester internship & study program here and plan to open in Fall 2017 for students to live, study and work here during the school year. My job is to assist the University in getting this program off the ground, offering our students the best opportunities in our nation’s capital, including a leadership program, mentoring by local alumni and parents, and unique opportunities they cannot experience while on campus. I am also helping connect alumni in this area to each other, through industry and interest groups. It’s a city that thrives on networking, so we are helping Wake Foresters network with each other in unique ways.
Ultimately, we want to build a bridge between the Wake Forest campus and the nation’s capital, one that produces exceptional and unique opportunities to advance the University’s commitment to excellence, educating the whole person, and being a community of people who lead lives that matter.
Like me, you are an English major. In what year did you graduate and tell me how you came to decide on that major?
I graduated in 1993 with a degree in English. I came in convinced I was going to be a business major but decided that my passion was with English –and I’ve never regretted it for an instant!
What are some of your favorite memories of your time as a student?
The smell of the stacks in the library (it’s still there!), walking out of Ed Wilson’s “British Romantic Poets” and “Blake, Yeats, and Thomas” classes in a trance, storming the basketball floor after a great win against Carolina, and hanging out in the Snack Pit in Reynolda ordering grilled cheese and watching the wheel-o’-butter spin. [The Snack Pit was a fast food type venue in Reynolda Hall in the 80s and 90s; they made outstanding grilled cheeses by rolling the bread over a wheel of melted butter. They were delicious. Sadly, the Snack Pit is no more, and its former space is now home to the Center for Global Programs and Studies (aka study abroad).]
How would you characterize Wake Forest students? What are some common attributes they have?
Wake Forest students today are much more scheduled than we were in the early 90s. They have calendars and resumes that boggle my mind. They are very passionate about causes, much more so than we were, and they think a lot more about the years beyond Wake Forest than we ever did. They want to make a difference here and in the world. The idea of Pro Humanitate has always run deep in our students and alumni, but now I think students come in with those beliefs and we nurture them and help them discover ways to serve in much more creative and broad ways than we ever did before.
What advice do you have for students?
I always tell students to see their time at Wake Forest as a journey … not as a means to an end. To go deep in their experiences, not so much broad, and to stop thinking about every experience as a resume-builder. In my time at Wake Forest, my best moments happened in the “unplanned” so I tell them to plan for some unplanned time each day! I also tell them not to be afraid of making mistakes … once they feel freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, they are open to opportunities they would not have attempted before.
What do you like best about working at Wake Forest?
I love being a part of an institution that has been important to me since my earliest memories [both of Jennifer’s parents are alumni.] The people I have gotten to know, all across the University, have enriched my life in many ways. And I love that the students who were here when I first arrived sixteen years ago are now adults who are living some pretty amazing lives, and I enjoy reconnecting with them here in D.C. and throughout the country. They are wonderful reminders that what we do here makes a difference far beyond the campus grounds. I miss being on campus on a daily basis, but I love advancing Wake Forest in our nation’s capital and am excited about what lies ahead for us.
Ready for our lightning round?
Book you’re reading now: Industry related – T-Rexes vs. Kangaroos, by Lynne Wester, a great book about donor relations. Fiction – The Dark Road to Mercy, by Wiley Cash, described by Amazon as “equal parts family drama, Southern Gothic thriller, and road trip novel.” Non Fiction – Help, Thanks, Wow, by Anne Lamott. I just keep reading it over and over.
I should say, you are an author yourself, having written With Gratitude: the Power of a Thank You Note – a book about the power of saying thank you and writing thank you notes. Any new books in the hopper? No new books in the hopper – at least not yet!
What music are you listening to these days: Essential Yo-Yo Ma album; Joshua Radin; Vintage Music from the 20’s and 30’s
Favorite movie: Way too difficult. I’ll go with Steel Magnolias only because I’ve memorized the entire thing. One of my many favorite lines: “I do not see plays, because I can nap at home for free. And I don’t see movies ’cause they’re trash, and they got nothin’ but naked people in ’em! And I don’t read books, ’cause if they’re any good, they’re gonna make ’em into a miniseries.”
Tell me something most people don’t know about you: I’m terrified of trick-or-treaters … or anyone in a mask. I hate small talk but love public speaking.