A spirit of the common good

Fall 2014 welcome from President Hatch to the campus community

Dear students, faculty and staff,

Welcome to the 2013-2014 academic year. It is wonderful to see so many familiar faces returning to campus and to welcome new members into our community.

Whether you have been at Wake Forest for several decades or mere days, a new academic year signals overwhelming promise and potential. I hope you are prepared to embrace the many opportunities that surround you this semester.

As a member of the Wake Forest community, I am grateful that I see many people – faculty, students and staff alike – who are deeply committed to the common good. We see it in the keen interest in making Wake Forest a better place to study and live, particularly in the attention that faculty and other academic advisors devote to individual students and their learning. We see it in the broad spirit of diversity and inclusion that has existed for more than 50 years on our campus. We see it in the work of so many, led by DeDee DeLongpre Johnston, who make this community more sustainable, and thus responsible, to our neighbors and our fragile world.

Magnolia and Dogwood residence halls opened this fall.

Magnolia and Dogwood residence halls opened this fall.

This concept of common good is evident in the attitude throughout the Campus Life Staff – from those in our Counseling Center to Residence Life, from our campus chaplains to our strong leadership programs. We see this spirit among our varsity coaches and in the Professional Development Center. It is also evident in the care that so many give to their work in our operations in maintenance, facilities, security and food service. This is a community in which the spirit of the common good is vibrantly alive, and for that, I am deeply grateful.

Earlier this month, Robert Putnam, the influential professor of Public Policy at Harvard, wrote “Crumbling American Dreams,” a fascinating and disturbing article in the New York Times detailing what has happened in the last half-century to his hometown, Port Clinton, Ohio. In some ways, it is the story of the collapse of a small manufacturing town, having undergone economic hammer blows not unlike what North Carolina has experienced in recent years. But what also accompanied the economic distress was a weakening of family and community bonds that had held the town together. I encourage you to read his entire article, which concludes: “The crumbling of the American dream is a purple problem, obscured by solely red or solely blue lenses. Its economic and cultural roots are entangled, a mixture of government, private sector, community and personal failings. But the deepest root is our radically shriveled sense of ‘we.’” [1]

At Wake Forest, we are striving to build a vibrant academic community premised on a strong sense of “we.” It allows people of different backgrounds and convictions to live and learn and flourish together. A university is a place where academic freedom and freedom of expression are fundamental; it is a place that encourages community members to give voice to their beliefs – whether progressive or conservative, radical or traditional. At Wake Forest, we need to welcome real diversity of thought – even to those whose opinions we do not understand or appreciate. At our best, we are – in some sense – a “community of communities.” Yet our central mission is to enhance the common good of the whole and nurture the goals we share in common, not those beliefs and identities that divide us.

Business students enjoy the atrium in the new Farrell Hall, home of the Wake Forest Schools of Business.

Business students enjoy the atrium in the new Farrell Hall, home of the Wake Forest Schools of Business.

We must continue to develop as a community of civility, encouraging the ability to disagree with courtesy and friendship, and ensuring that all of our members find ways to prosper. That is a balm that our nation and world desperately needs.

In an effort to promote the common good, we have seen many changes over the summer. We significantly revised our new student and faculty orientations, giving our new members of the community a solid transition to campus. We began the Faculty Fellows program that encourages more informal and meaningful connection between faculty and students outside the classroom. Two new residence halls were completed, and the first residents moved in a few days ago. Earlier this month, business classes were held for the first time in Farrell Hall.

Throughout the course of the semester, we have several opportunities to continue to practice a spirit of the common good on our campus.

  • North Carolina Campuses Against Hunger Conference – Sponsored in part by Wake Forest Campus Life and the Institute for Public Engagement, this two-day conference on Sept. 6 and 7 will engage campuses in North Carolina in an effort to end hunger. This collaborative conference, uniting students, faculty, staff and professionals, will develop a greater understanding of hunger issues locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. For more information, click here.
  • Voices of Our Time: Michelle Alexander – Michelle Alexander, author of the award-winning book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” will be at Wake Forest on October 1 at 6 p.m. to offer a lecture and engage in conversation surrounding how rights like serving on a jury and voting, as well as opportunities for employment, can be taken away from anyone with a criminal record, and what it means for black communities. For more information, click here.
  • Homecoming/Campus-Wide Picnic – Join us as we gather as a community to enjoy food, fellowship and celebrate the launch of our capital campaign on Friday, Oct. 18. The drop-in picnic will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Manchester Plaza. You won’t want to miss this event.
  • Project Pumpkin – Each fall, nearly 1,000 children from Winston-Salem flood Hearn Plaza to celebrate Halloween. Wake Forest students will mark the 25th year of providing a safe, fun and educational afternoon for our local kids on October 30.
  • 35th Anniversary of the Office of Multicultural Affairs – This year, the Office of Multicultural Affairs celebrates 35 years of supporting the University mission of Pro Humanitate. The OMA has been influential in recruiting and supporting students of color and engaging faculty and staff in creating a more diverse and inclusive campus environment.
  • Students congregate at Zick's.

    Students congregate at Zick’s.

    Zick’s Restaurant – Zick’s, a new restaurant that has opened on Hearn Plaza, is a place for students, faculty and staff to “unplug.” As we try to teach a healthy work-life balance, Zick’s is a place to relax and spend time with other people. For more information, click here.

As you seek your passion, guide young minds and actively contribute to our community, I hope you go about each day living with a bold spirit of the common good. I wish the very best for each of you this year.


Nathan O. Hatch

[1] http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/03/crumbling-american-dreams/

Categories: Letters