Meet A Deac Monday

It’s Monday, which means it’s a new Meet A Deac. Earlier this semester, it seemed like it was non-stop news from Washington, DC – so today we are featuring one of our key Wake Washington staff members, Jenna Radford.

Jenna Radford. Program Coordinator of Wake WashingtonJenna, it’s been a long time since I was last in DC and visiting the Wake Washington Center – so great to talk to you. To get us started today, tell me your job title and how long you’ve been at Wake. I am the Program Coordinator for Wake Washington. I’ve been at Wake almost 6 years. From May 2012-January 2015, I was the Administrative Assistant for the Sr. Associate Dean for Academic Planning in the Office of the Dean of the College. I returned to Wake Forest in May 2018 with the Wake Washington program.

Share a little about your educational background. I went to Meredith College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Public History and double minors in Political Science and Ethics & Public Interest. I also have a Master of Arts in US History from UNC-Greensboro.

Also my graduate school alma mater! So in layperson’s terms, what do you do? I help support all facets of the Wake Washington Program. Jennifer Richwine is the Executive Director with the vision, and I help operationalize that vision. I wear many hats – I work on the budget, support the resident faculty while they’re in DC, coordinate housing for students and faculty, provide event planning support, help students with resumes/interviews/general career advice, ensure we’re compliant with DC educational licensure regulations. I also represent the Wake Washington Program on the steering committee for the Washington Program Consortium, a group of universities that have programs similar to Wake Washington that get together to discuss best practices and plan student life events.

What do you like best about working at Wake? Out of all the places I have worked, I’ve never felt so supported as I do at Wake Forest. Everyone looks out for everyone else, and they’re genuine. I kept in touch with many former colleagues from the dean’s office when I left, and it was those connections that led me back when my position opened. We may be on an island of sorts, being in DC, but I truly feel connected to what’s happening on campus.

COVID has changed a lot of things – how has it impacted your job? I’ve been volunteering some of my time to help with contact tracing efforts on campus. Prior to moving forward with our program in the fall semester, I had to draft our reopening plan for the DC government to ensure we were taking the appropriate steps to respond to COVID-19 and keep everyone safe (we were approved). One of my big challenges was figuring out how to do arrival testing for students in the spring. DC requires testing within 72 hours before and 3-4 days after arrival for any visitors staying longer than 3 days. With the recent increase in cases, there has been an increase in the need for testing, so some testing providers have put their group testing services on hold for new clients in order to meet those other demands. A fun additional duty has been updating the blog on the Wake Washington website. The fall students were responsible for creating the content, and I made sure it was posted. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about it, and other schools with similar programs seemed interested in it as well.

Other COVID-related challenges? Juggling the personal and the professional when the two worlds have collided has been the biggest challenge for me. My husband and I are both working from home, and our 19 month old daughter has been out of daycare since mid-March. We have to tag-team throughout the day to make sure someone’s watching her at all times, and that’s challenging when we both have meetings at the same time. We did hire a nanny to come to our home a couple days a week, so my husband is free to be super productive and I can go into the office for a few hours each of those days. It’s tough to be a good mom and be a good employee at the same time sometimes: I think of it as reverse mom guilt – I feel guilty for not being as productive some days because I have to watch my kid more. But I know it’s something everyone is dealing with, and it’s only temporary, and I still get everything done (even if it’s not on my usual Type A-oriented timeline).

As a working mom (of a much older kiddo), I feel all of that. I can’t imagine doing having a toddler during COVID. My hat is off to you.

You obviously interact with all the students who come through the Wake Washington program. What advice do you have for them, or for students in general? Whatever you choose to do in life, make it something you enjoy. You can get a job where you make a ton of money, but what use is that if you can’t enjoy your job and your life-work balance doesn’t let you enjoy the fruits of your labor? It’s a lot easier to get up in the morning and go to work when you’re doing something you love and believe in. When you’re in a job that’s really just a job, you aren’t motivated to do your best, and you’re often more stressed because you’re unhappy (believe me – been there, done that!). Also, you don’t have to decide what you want to do right now. Go into the world, experience things, be intentional with what you do.

What about advice for families? Be there to support your students, but let them make their own decisions and mistakes. If you’re constantly stepping in to handle things for them, they will not learn to handle things on their own. For younger kids, teach them how to make decisions. Teach them that they are free to make their own choices, but that they are not free from the consequences of those choices. That alone will take them far in life and help them make the most of their education.

Excellent advice. What do you miss about normal times at Wake Washington? Being able to interact with people face to face in real time. I feel like we miss out on a lot by not being able to just pop by someone’s office to discuss something or go take a walk with someone or grab someone to make a coffee run. It’s all telephone, Zoom, and texting now it seems. I miss seeing humans.

And what will be the first thing you do when we can live normal lives again, post-pandemic? Have my in-laws come up from Florida to watch our daughter and our dog for a week or two at our house while my husband and I fly to Hawaii for a vacation!

That is an outstanding plan 🙂 Now let’s pivot to the bonus questions.

Book you are reading now? I wish I had the time! I have about a year’s worth of Book of the Month books that I haven’t read, but hopefully I’ll be able to do so soon. The December book was In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren. I generally like fiction, especially historical fiction. I like a good thriller from time to time as well (like The Girl On The Train and The Woman In Cabin 10). Reading is an escape!

Dave Grohl of the Foo FightersMusic you love: One of my old standbys is Foo Fighters – Dave Grohl is a musical genius. My music depends on my mood – when I want to really focus and get things done, I usually listen to 90s and early 2000s hip-hop (Notorious B.I.G., Missy Elliot, Dr. Dre, etc.). When I just need something on in the background, I turn to 90s and 2000s rock/alternative (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Third Eye Blind, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, etc).

Forrest gumpTV, movies, Netflix favorites: One of my favorite movies of all time is Forrest Gump. Whenever it’s on TV, I watch it. I also love random cheesy movies from the 90s. I’m currently re-watching Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix and am up to season 6 (while also watching the current season). I’ve watched a lot of British TV over the past couple years – Call the Midwife, Great British Baking Show, Father Brown, The Crown to name a few. During the holiday season, I can’t get enough of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s my favorite Christmas movie! I even have a NLCV snow village on display, including the Griswold house and Cousin Eddie with his RV (yes, THAT scene…).

Websites you frequent: Mostly just social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. As a new homeowner, I also spend a lot of time on Lowe’s and Home Depot’s websites looking for tools and projects for around the house.

Guilty pleasures: Hallmark Christmas movies, craft beer, a bowl of ice cream most nights after my kid is asleep.

Introvert or extrovert? Introvert!

Something most people don’t know about you? Professionally, I’m on the steering committee for the Washington Program Consortium. The WPC is a group of colleagues from universities that have programs like Wake Washington. They meet every other month usually for professional development and information sharing. It started in the wake of 9/11 as a group to help support students (and each other) through the emergency, and with COVID-19, it has proven to be a wonderful resource to figure out best practices in uncertain times. After helping secure speakers and speaking up about our program, I was asked to join the steering committee. Right now I am co-lead of a task force related to a key DC regulatory body, and I’m also on the student life committee. Wake Forest is becoming more of a thought leader when it comes to DC programs as a result of our visibility within this group.

Wheel of fortune game showPersonally, I was *this* close to becoming a contestant on Wheel of Fortune while I was in grad school. The one thing that kept me from going to the second round of auditions was the fact that the audition was the same day as my final master’s research presentation at our graduate student conference. The graduate studies director would not give me a pass to audition, unfortunately. Also, two guy friends and I started a junior firefighter squad at our local volunteer fire department when we were in high school. We trained with the firefighters and could answer calls when we were not in school. The squad, founded in 2000, is still active.

Question you wish I had asked you? “What’s one thing on your bucket list that you’ve been able to check off?” Mine is actually two things – I wanted to see New Kids on the Block in concert and I wanted to see Backstreet Boys in concert. I was too young to go to concerts when those bands were really big (according to my mom). In 2011 when they went on tour together, I was working for a pharmaceutical New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys concert promocompany in Greensboro that had season tickets for the Greensboro Coliseum. We usually did drawings for employees interested in various concerts and performances. I won tickets for that concert!

Thank you, Jenna, for all you do for Wake Washington and our students!


— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

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