Winter 2010 letter to students

Update on campus and community activities

Dear students,

Welcome back to campus and to a promising and hopeful spring. As we look forward, we must also acknowledge that our campus has experienced significant loss: two student deaths since my last update letter and a number of struggles as the national economic crisis has continued. The recent earthquake in Haiti was a terrible reminder that our lives can be shaken with no warning, making the use of each moment a decision worth careful thought. Though our pain and loss are real, the long history of successes and our ability to rally support and come together as a community at Wake Forest despite the difficulties of the past suggest that we should be hopeful. I hope you will resolve with me to draw on the resources and opportunities in this community to make the most of each and every day.

Let me focus on some changes and innovations that you will notice this semester:

Steve VirgilInstitute for Public Engagement

We are continuing to make investments in areas that have long distinguished Wake Forest. The Institute for Public Engagement was launched during the fall semester, and the Provost has recently appointed Steve Virgil, associate clinical professor of law and director of the Community Law and Business Clinic, as the Institute’s Director. The Institute will help prepare students for civic leadership and civic engagement by supporting reflection and creative work to build social capital. The term “Institute” indicates that this is not just a coordination of volunteers, but rather a sustained engagement of faculty, students, administration, alumni and the broader community in teaching, research and projects focused on service to humanity.

Campus Building Projects

Work has begun on the new Visitors’ Center adjacent to the current admissions facility in Starling Hall. This building is our “welcome mat” for the University; our front door. With applications up 50% over two years and the number of campus visits by prospective students and their families growing exponentially, we need to make sure that we are putting our best face forward. This building will not only offer a warm welcome to our visitors, but it will also provide much-needed new space for our Admissions staff and volunteers. The building itself will offer spectacular views of the campus and I think all of us will be proud of the way we will soon be able to greet our visitors.

Work is also progressing on schedule for the new freshman residence hall near Collins Hall. Although current students will not have the chance to live there, it is an important part of our commitment to provide much needed on-campus residential space. Providing as vibrant a campus community as possible remains a strong commitment as well.

The Bridge, a combination of the IS Service Desk and the ZSR Information Technology Center, is now open in the library to provide one place for technology needs. This combination has allowed for expanded service hours (as late as 1 AM during the week) and a location at the center of student life.


Wake Forest is the newest campus to participate in the Zipcar car-sharing program that offers 24-hour access to fuel-efficient vehicles for use by students, faculty and staff. Two vehicles, including a hybrid, are currently available, and the Zipcar Web site explains how to join the service.

We are working on several fronts to make our campus life more sustainable. Another example is the new reusable to-go box offered by the Office of Sustainability and our campus dining partners for any member of the Wake Forest community who takes out food from the Fresh Food Company, the Magnolia Room, and the Benson food court. Nearly 250,000 disposable to-go containers were used last year, and so this will result in a substantial waste reduction.

Upcoming Events

While I know the demands of Wake Forest keep you very busy, I hope you will try to make time to attend some of this semester’s special events. Of particular note is the visit by Tom Friedman as part of Voices of Our Time and the “Energizing the Future” Conference on February 10 at 6:30 PM in Wait Chapel. The energy conference, which includes a number of other interested sessions that are all open to you, is drawing from our rich campus resources in the sciences, economics, law and business to explore the ways our campus and community can affect issues of energy and sustainability (

Founders’ Day Convocation at 4:00 PM on February 18 will also be an important event for our community, this year featuring the winners of the senior oration competition. I hope this will be a new tradition that celebrates the outstanding work that Wake Forest students do here every day.

Facebook Page

facebook logoAs many of you have heard, I am looking forward to communicating on a more frequent and informal basis through a new Facebook page. I hope you’ll visit the page online ( To start off the year, I’ve shared links to a set of articles on making the most of the college experience collected by the New York Times from well-known educators across the country. I hope you’ll take their advice to heart. The value of education expands in response to investment. You make the best use of your work toward and investment in your education if you take advantage of not only classroom content, but also the varied cultural and social opportunities in our community.

I continue to be encouraged and motivated by the creativity and energy of Wake Forest students. Many of the changes and innovations that I have noted in this letter have had their start in conversations with students. Our progress, whether it is in the form of new programs, new buildings, or new ways to engage the world, is also the story of Wake Forest: challenging, intensely personal, deeply supportive, opening doors to vast opportunity for students, holding its members to the highest standards of academic excellence and broad-minded service. You are already a part of a world that is ever-changing and increasingly connected. That will only become more so as you leave here to enter the work place, continue with post-graduate education, or devote some time to service. Those graduates who can make intentional choices will be better-suited to take advantage of the diversity of opportunities that life after Wake Forest will offer you. In the meantime, we are striving every day to help make your experiences here as integrated as possible.

Best wishes for the spring semester, and I look forward to seeing you around campus.

Nathan O. Hatch