“We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
I remember reading these words a several years ago, and although I was able to translate the modernist language into something more natural sounding for our generation, this line by T.S. Eliot has taken on new meaning after my year in the Wake Forest Fellows program.
When we began this fellowship last July, the ten fellows for this academic year did not know each other well. We were assigned to our individual offices—Logan planning campaign strategy with advancement, Paige helping elevate the wellbeing of campus, Muhammad examining college curricular initiatives, me doing whatever it is the Provost’s office does. In professional development workshops, we heard words like “intentional”, and “deliberate” as they applied to planning our post-Wake career paths. At lunches with influential university and committee figures, we gleaned bits of wisdom about leadership and the value of making sound investments and decisions.
And yet, for me, those statements proved much easier said than done. One wedding. Two engagements. Two broken wrists. Several protests and petitions. Numerous committees. Staff changes. The creation of new offices. For both the fellows and for the university that teaches, trains, pays, and supports us, it has been a challenge to remain unwavering in our intentionality and in our personal and professional strategizing amidst a time of such rapid and dramatic change.
But this is where T.S. Eliot’s words speak to me. This year, I’ve found that this chaos, this undoing, led to a beautiful exploration, and in that, an increased ability to live intentionally, to ask the questions that need to be asked to progress, to make plans based both in expertise and in emotion, and to build the relationships that will sustain you through these processes. For this year’s group of fellows, the broken bones, changing relationship statuses, questions about our own identities and social location within Wake Forest, tough discussions and several mistakes brought us closer together. Because of our closeness, our little, slightly too silly, too boisterous, too curious family then began to explore each other’s offices, opinions, and experiences.
Through my relationships with each of the other fellows, I have learned an immense amount about what it means to persevere, to excel as a young professional, to be selfless and giving, and to serve my alma mater with both strength and humility. The ten of us have explored, and continue to explore. And on the occasions when we retreat inward, we know more about the needs and practices of our own offices – the intersecting challenges of higher education in a diverse and technological age – because we have explored together. And moving forward, I will know more about myself come June 30th when I leave, because so many good people – the fellows, my mentor, and my unofficial mentors – have provided me with wonderfully reliable maps when I am lost, flashlights when I cannot see, and simple insights to give me the confidence to walk alone, if necessary.
To next year’s fellows: I would encourage you to explore the parts of Wake Forest that you did not get to see as a student. Ask difficult questions of yourselves, and evaluate why you think the way you do. Remain curious, and do not sacrifice (though seek to professionalize) your candor. Bring your full selves to work, and show your full selves to one another. Do these things, and you will see a new, brighter, collaborative Wake Forest. You will be able to know this place for the first time.
Kimberly Quick, Fellow in the Office of the Provost
Delivered April 21, 2014