Our Aspiration for Our Students
The student journey at Wake Forest fosters the development of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. At Wake Forest we believe, and history shows we have always believed, that the content of peoples’ minds, their personality and their character inform who they can be and what they can become. Wake Forest conceives of education as comprehensive human development. It states a fundamental principle of our past, present and future. Wake Forest believes in the supremacy of the person. Such supremacy arises, not from selfish pursuit, but through a journey that finds purpose in service to humanity, expressed in our motto Pro Humanitate. That belief, in turn, generates extraordinary human networks which form the basis of the rich and enduring culture and heritage of our academic community. In our life together we strive to practice true humanity toward one another. The future of the world depends upon it.
The offices of Student Life aim to facilitate the student journey through activities, encounters, relationships, and an environment that seeks to cultivate the most salutary features of good character. We believe that education outside the classroom should be just at creative and formative as education inside the classroom. We understand that student growth is often challenged by struggles to find place, passion, purpose, and people who share common interests. It is a time of highs and lows. It can be a time of upheaval as students face disappointments, mistakes in judgment, illness, stress, and anxiety. It can also be a time of joy and success as students develop an emerging concept of self, independence, and confidence. In this journey we look upon each student experience as an opportunity for learning and growth. Our cadre of professionals – teachers, counselors, advisors, physicians, coaches, chaplains, and mentors aim to seize upon each experience, small and large, to aid the student in learning more about themselves. We expect in turn that students will embrace a myriad of opportunities, resources, and activities to enhance their growth. They must be active partners in exploring their destiny. They must reach out for advice and guidance if we are to be successful. Without such reciprocity we cannot fulfill our role as guides to the world beyond college.
Education of the whole person is a process which involves a thoughtful journey within to self, as well as outward to society. It is a journey of exploration, connection, and becoming. Like all endeavors in life it requires concentration, reflection, choice, aspiration, adaptation, and good judgment. Youth is not naturally inclined to pursue experience with prudence and deliberation. The freedom and impetuous nature of youth lends an air of excitement, high spirits, risk, and often drama, to such pursuits. Moreover, peers can often steer friends away or toward greater understanding of education’s real purposes. College can become a crushing crucible of stressful challenges, a comfortable cradle of complacency, or an exciting voyage toward new frontiers and lands. Few times in American history have students been more challenged by the clammy grip of an uncertain future. In such uncertain times education means even more for securing our future as a nation.
We have chosen the phrase, Discover, Connect, and Become, as our guiding advice for students on the Wake Forest journey. It reflects the stages of student life at Wake Forest which we aim to facilitate in a student’s growth toward mature self-actualization and bonding with our community’s values.
Discover. Learning in its truest form is about discovery. Discovery often requires struggle. We insert ourselves in that struggle as mentors, counselors, advisors, coaches, and physicians to awaken and interpret the meaning of struggle, conflict, and paradox. Each problem is an opportunity for learning and growth. The Greeks used to say that we suffer our way to wisdom. We know as higher education professionals that our students grow when they learn something which is different from or in opposition to what they already know. Discovery may be exciting, startling, or both. Our job is not only to create opportunities for discovery, but also to provide guidance as students navigate their personal revelations and discover what impact their new knowledge will have on their lives.
Connect. David Brooks wrote in The Social Animal: “The research on human nature done today reminds us of the relative importance of emotion over pure reason, social connections over individual choice, character over IQ, emergent, organic systems over linear mechanistic ones, and the idea that we have multiple selves over the idea that we have a single self. The unconscious is impulsive, emotional sensitive. It has its shortcomings. It needs shortcomings. It needs supervision. But it can be brilliant. Most of all it is also wonderfully gregarious. Your unconscious, that inner extrovert, wants you to reach outward and connect. It wants you to achieve communion with work, friend, family, nation, and cause. Your unconscious wants to entangle you in the thick web of relations that are the essence of human flourishing. It longs and pushes for love. Of all the blessings that come with being alive, it is the most awesome gift.” Our job is to be midwives to the wisdom of human flourishing – to create an inclusive community of sharing and to get students out of their comfort zones. All learning outcomes, practical competency, interpersonal communication, empathy, leadership, self-confidence, grow as a function of their application in community affairs. It happens in the residence halls and playing fields, clubs and organizations, community service and civic engagement, and overseas study. We aim to engage students in exploring the “big questions” and experiences that can transform human existence. When students explore and discover their truths, it is our job to create opportunities to connect them with ways to express them. What is the point of our internal discoveries if we cannot share them with the community around us? In these ways we build community among our students – by encouraging them to share their discoveries about themselves and the world with one another.
Become. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his essay, On Self Reliance: “This one fact the world hates, that the soul becomes. That thought, by what I can now nearest approach to say, is this. When good is near you, when you have life in yourself, it is not by any known or accustomed way; you shall not discern the foot-prints of any other; you shall not see the face of man; you shall not hear any name;–the way, the thought, the good, shall be wholly strange and new.”
We must continually invent and re-invent ourselves. Our fast changing world demands it. We re-invent ourselves not through conformity to the world, but by transforming ourselves to transcend the world of things and find our true essence – our calling. Our students will find a career. We want them to find a life. In this way we must ask the hard questions of them. Do your actions conform to your conception of the good? Is your knowledge tethered to your ethical sense? What is real happiness? As mentors we need to be alive to that moment when we can ask these deeper, bigger questions of life. They may not take hold. They will often be resisted, sometimes perhaps with frustration or anger. But our mission is to hitch exploration and connection to the horse of becoming. Emerson observed that” the world hates the person who knows himself.” But to know one-self means being truly connected to the love of others and the good of humankind. “Becoming” means first seeking to understand and then to be understood. Emerson uses the word,” becoming,” to show that the soul is transcendent of the world. To him such people aspire to be part of the supreme consciousness of nature and perceive the role of humans to shape it, and them. In the spiritual sense it is to know the face of God.
We too want our students to transcend. This effort requires an internal struggle, reconciling what they have discovered and taken to heart, with the ways of the world, and conforming this learning to their actions.
College is a journey toward realizing one’s true potential for purpose, passion, and meaning. It introduces us to yet other journeys which we could not imagine when we began the first one. T.S. Eliot captured our aspiration for our students well in his poem, Little Gidding.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning…..
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Come join the Wake Forest journey! “Mystic thy name to cheer!”
Vice-President & Dean, Student Affairs