There is something magical about springtime on a University campus. After the sometimes dark and cold of January and February, the days start to get longer, flowers and trees begin to bloom, and our community takes the rhythms of campus life outdoors. On an unseasonably warm day last week, from my office window in Reynolda Hall, I saw students studying, eating lunch, and chatting with friends on Manchester Plaza. From the Reynolda patio, I observed colleagues looping around the brick path of Hearn Plaza on walking meetings, and tour groups of prospective students pausing to take in the beauty of Wait Chapel (and the frisbee throwing!).
I always feel a sense of gratitude during this time of year for the seasons and the change they bring; along with the natural building of excitement and anticipation for spring break and the momentum that carries us to commencement weekend.
And just as the cherry blossoms and daffodils signal the end of winter, so too is our community navigating its own season of change. Over the past year, we have come together to think about who we are as Wake Foresters, and who we aspire to become, as part of the University’s Strategic Framework process. We have asked ourselves big, hard, and thought-provoking questions about what we value, and about our commitments and shared hopes, while also being honest about the challenges we face.
Last week, the campus community participated in feedback sessions facilitated by five working groups as part of the Framework process. This direct input will help define where we are now and shape where we go from here with regard to our current, emerging and aspirational distinctions. No outcome is predetermined in this process; rather, the goal is to be open to new ideas and open to change.
I believe our imperative is to innovate in ways that acknowledge our past as well as our current state and future potential. To do so means considering new opportunities and taking into account transformative dynamics happening across our local, national and global communities. Change is driven by astounding discoveries and technological breakthroughs, as well as necessitated by current realities, injustices and tragedies. In planning for the University’s future, we must be attentive to the multiple directions and intersections change creates and presents to us.
There is no denying that change can be intimidating and unsettling. Faculty, staff, students and alumni have expressed to me a range of emotions from excitement to trepidation about forging new pathways toward our third century. But there is good reason for hope, just as the coming of the tulips indicates springtime’s long-awaited arrival. I have great confidence in Wake Foresters’ collective ability to find solutions and to navigate together the university’s seasons of change now and in the future. My confidence is rooted in our strong foundation and the continued cultivation of trust that comes with teamwork and transparency.
As I shared on Founders Day last month, our strong foundation – who we are as a community, the strength of our identity, our deep commitments to people, place, and Pro Humanitate – enables us to weather seasons of change while remaining constant and true. Indeed, Provost Emeritus Ed Wilson – who recently turned 100! — reminds us through his papers now on display at ZSR Library, change is also a constant at Wake Forest. For nearly 200 years we have continued to evolve and respond to change with Pro Humanitate as our North Star.
With the traditional spring break for our classes beginning this weekend, I hope each of you finds moments to enjoy more strolls across our beautiful campuses and to embrace this season as an essential and continual cycle of renewal for both nature and our university’s future vision.
Categories: From Wente's Desk