Dear students, faculty and staff,
Welcome to a new academic year! I hope you come to campus seeking growth, anticipating challenge and desiring to fully engage as a member of our community.
I have often read works by professor and theologian Henri Nouwen, and I am intrigued by his description of hospitality. “Hospitality,” he wrote, “means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring others over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”
This is a compelling idea of what the Wake Forest community can be – a place where all are welcome and free to share themselves with others. We can make space for grappling with complex topics, and through discussion and debate, continue to shape our perspectives and grow in understanding. This year, I look forward to embracing this idea of hospitality with all of you.
In that spirit, I’d like to welcome five new and vibrant leaders into our community: Jane Aiken, Dean of the School of Law; Jonathan Walton, Dean of the School of Divinity; Eric Maguire, Vice President for Enrollment; John Currie (’93), Director of Athletics; and E. Ashley Hairston (’92), Associate Dean for Academic Advising for Wake Forest College. I am grateful to all who assisted during the searches for and transitions of our newest members of the administration.
Additionally, I look forward to welcoming several guest speakers to campus this year as we consider topics surrounding race and inequity. Our guests include former mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu on September 17; British-Ghanaian philosopher and cultural theorist Anthony Appiah on October 17; novelist Jesmyn Ward on February 6, 2020; and author and public intellectual Cornel West on March 20, 2020. I encourage all of you to join in the conversation and events when these notable voices are on campus.
Along with hospitality, it also takes courage to challenge our perceptions and look at things as they are so that we can make them what they should be. Whether it be adjusting to a new life on campus that was different than you anticipated or examining how we can be better as a collective community, progress and solutions begin with authenticity.
As I mentioned in a message to campus on July 31, Wake Forest is currently wrestling with its own complex history and legacy. We are committed to seeking and understanding the truth, acknowledging our past and taking action to address inequities in our community. The work of the President’s Commission on Race, Equity and Community along with the Slavery, Race and Memory Project and the Committee on the Intersection of Bias, Expression and Conduct are responsible for providing an honest assessment of our community. Throughout this year, you will have opportunities to follow the progress of these groups and lend your voice and input to members of each body.
I am pleased to announce the members of the President’s Commission on Race, Equity and Community, co-chaired by José Villalba, Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion/Chief Diversity Officer, and Erica Still, Associate Dean for Faculty Recruitment, are: Student Trustee Kyle Adams (’21), Olivia Bayard (’21), Jack Beyrer (’21), Trustee Donna Boswell (’72, MBA ’74), Rian Bowie, Carmen Canales, Simone Caron, Kami Chavis, Tracey Coan, Mercy Eyadiel, Steve Folmar, Adam Goldstein, Todd Hairston (’96), Justin Herron (’18, MALS ’20), Derek Hicks, Alexander Holt (’20), Tanya Jachimiak, Tamika Jackson (MDIV ’20, MA ’20), Shonda Jones, Pat Lord (PhD ’86), Nina Lucas, Marianne Magjuka, Eric Maguire, Angela Mazaris, Sean McClure (MDIV ’19), Jonathan McElderry, Mellie Mesfin (’20), Mary Pugel, Rais Rahman, Tanisha Ramachandran, Malika Roman Isler (’99), Ally Swartzberg (’22), Liz Torres-Ramirez (’20), Jack Walsh (’20) and Ya-Wen Yang.
This year, you may publish papers, secure coveted internships, receive national recognition, design a new course, ace an exam and accept your first professional job offer. For all the success that we are bound to celebrate, we also have an opportunity to make our time at Wake Forest of greater consequence. What we are here to accomplish should not overshadow how we reach those goals. Our intellect may be stretched by the task, but our character will be tested by how we approach our responsibilities, relationships and inevitable challenges.
In my first meeting with the members of the Class of 2023, I offered them further ideas about hospitality and welcoming one another with freedom to become who they are meant to be. Ultimately, we are here for more than ourselves; we are here to help better the world we live in. It is this spirit of Pro Humanitate that drew us together, and it is this same spirit that will drive us onward.
This year, may you all have experiences encouraged by hospitality, enabled by authenticity and focused on our greater purpose of bettering this world. I’m grateful to be in community with you and anticipate a meaningful and productive year ahead.
President Nathan O. Hatch