White Paper III

The Collegiate University: The Liberal Arts and The Professions

The third in a series of four white papers. Published March 11, 2009.

“We should work to usher in an era when interdisciplinary departments, programs, and centers do not supplant or replace the traditional disciplines but serve instead to create pathways and intersections, bringing faculty and students together for the common endeavor of intellectual exchange … When no one discipline or method is privileged over another and all the disciplines are connected, students learn to be critical, syncretic, original thinkers who interrogate authority to find the best and most viable answers regardless of the question.”

Ethan Kleinberg, Liberal Education
Winter, 2008, Vol. 94, No. 1

“It is a truism, but the more educated you are, the more options you will have in a flat world.”

Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat


Wake Forest juniors Marcus Keely ('10), in blue sweater, Austin Jones ('10), in light blue shirt, Ben McGeever ('10), in white shirt, and John Tucker ('10), in green, outside Reynolda Hall on Hearn Plaza on Monday, July 28, 2008.

The same characteristics that make it difficult to place Wake Forest in a single category of universities also give it great strength and the potential to grow stronger: the University’s size and configuration, carefully sculpted over the years, are assets that serve us well and hold the keys to our distinctive place as a collegiate university in a diverse and competitive higher educational environment.

Wake Forest has long been recognized for the breadth and depth of its commitment to excellence in liberal arts education; and a constellation of strong graduate and professional programs have established national academic reputations within their respective disciplines. All our schools — intimate in scale — have remained faithful to Wake Forest’s principles of attention to the individual, the teacher-scholar model, and service to others. Thus, emerging as a priority within our strategic plan is the opportunity to reinforce the inherent connections among the liberal arts college and the graduate and professional schools, giving each of our schools and departments more tools with which to work. The combination of Wake Forest’s size with the academic and co-curricular assets of a much larger institution positions the University uniquely to benefit from strengthening these connections. Success in fulfilling this priority — leveraging strong assets that already exist and selectively creating new ones — will result in richer teaching, learning, research, and service experiences, and therefore better preparation of all students for the world in which they will live, work, and serve.

To create new advantages by forging stronger links between and among all schools within the University, our strategic activities will focus on nurturing creative interdisciplinary collaboration; building a nationally-recognized mentoring program; enriching international studies programs; and developing career services that reflect both our attention to each individual and the challenge of an evolving work world.

Creating Advantage Through Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Professor in class

Building new bridges among schools and disciplines at Wake Forest is a timely initiative. Given the complexity and rapid convergence of global issues, government policies, science and technology, health care advances and costs, environmental concerns, and business challenges, universities have more responsibility than ever to ensure that our graduates are prepared to think both analytically and creatively. Indeed, throughout academe, there is renewed recognition that “siloed” learning misses abundant opportunities to broaden and deepen students … understanding of a primary disciplinary topic.

To foster new interdisciplinary courses and collaboration and create an environment that encourages faculty members to pursue projects and curricula that draw together different fields of study, we are taking several key steps.

  • The Provost’s Office is funding one-year planning grants for faculty proposals that envision new interdisciplinary centers within the University, designed to facilitate research and creative activity on topics that require a team solution, as well as topics that cross traditional departmental boundaries. Both teaching and research will benefit from the work of faculty members associated with the centers. Eleven proposals were generated in the spring of 2008, and six of them received planning grants. Those groups of faculty are now working on full five-year center plans. We anticipate that two or three of the center plans will be funded and initiated in the coming fiscal year. Another round of planning grant proposals will be received this spring, and we anticipate funding two more centers in the following year. Among the interdisciplinary topics generated by faculty thus far are bioethics, energy and environment, functional health, global humanities and cultural diversity, microenterprise and molecular signaling.
  • We have established the Provost’s Fund for Academic Excellence to further encourage other types of interdisciplinary projects that are likely to be forerunners of centers. During the current academic year, twelve grants from the Fund resulted in symposia, conferences, productions, workshops, and exhibits that drew from more than one discipline or school. Among the topics were energy policy and global change; creativity; public moral argument and social responsibility; equality-based perspectives on the free speech norm.
  • Through budget reallocations, new funds for the Z. Smith Reynolds Library have supported expansion of its interdisciplinary collection, providing more advanced resources to support faculty and student research.
  • The integration of our two business schools will bring new levels of collaboration among faculty members from each of the programs, leveraging the distinctive strengths of each. We expect the increased collaboration to improve core academic programs; to intensify discourse about ethics and social responsibility in business; to bring focus to the many aspects of corporate and social entrepreneurship; and to implement the best international study options for undergraduate and graduate business students, preparing them even more effectively for the global economy.
  • The Teaching and Learning Center, originally established to serve the College, has been expanded to serve the graduate and professional schools of the Reynolda Campus. It inaugurated a campus-wide course development grant this year, and has broadened its programming to include a campus-wide teaching fair and the hosting of sixteen events this spring. These events were planned to give novice and experienced faculty specific new teaching tools and offer innovative pedagogical approaches developed by colleagues from across the University.
  • Because of the innovation and creativity they bring to all pursuits, arts and culture on campus are benefitting from renewed attention as we reinforce connections among disciplines. The strategic planning process brought together representatives from all the arts departments as well as Secrest Artists Series, Reynolda House, Museum of Anthropology, Hanes Gallery, Archives and Collections, University Art Collections, and Wake Forest University Press. As a result, we have a comprehensive new arts and culture website (http://arts.wfu.edu). This initiative reinforces the opportunity for a large group of faculty and administrators to collaborate in strengthening an important University asset.
  • Interdisciplinary joint degree and certificate programs will help us to attract the best students to our graduate and professional schools. In the past year, we have implemented two new joint degree programs: the Master of Arts in Religion/Juris Doctor degree and the Master of Divinity/Juris Doctor degree, as well as a certificate program in the Divinity School for students in the School of Medicine. We have also added an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in medieval studies and expect to add an interdisciplinary Master of Arts in bioethics next year. In addition, we are working on programs for preferential admission of Wake Forest undergraduates to our professional schools.

Building on a Strong Tradition: Mentoring

Few Wake Forest traditions offer a more promising means to enrich student outcomes than does the practice of mentoring. Many alumni anecdotes from our first campus in Wake Forest, North Carolina, indicate the impact that faculty and administration mentors have had on students from the University’s earliest days. Once again, the relatively small size of our campus population and classes makes it easier for students and faculty to know one another and, thus, for informal mentoring to happen frequently. In recent years, more emphasis on faculty-student research has created further opportunity for students to expand their academic and career opportunities with the interest and guidance of interested, dedicated faculty members.

In a broader sense, the need for effective mentoring is urgent. Citizens of today’s society — while enjoying easier and more accessible means of communications than ever — are paradoxically more isolated than ever, with mobility and career demands fraying ties to family, neighborhood, and social organizations. A strong mentoring relationship can be an enormously valuable constant to young people as they navigate the opportunities and decisions that emerge during college and post-graduate education.

Wake Forest can establish a nationally-recognized mentoring program through more purposeful coordination of what we already do using resources already available to us, and selectively adding enhancements. Mentoring can become a distinctive program for students in all of our schools, engaging faculty, staff, and alumni in the effort.

To strengthen a mentoring culture and provide every Wake Forest student with a mentored experience through research, internships, public scholarship, and international study and service, we are implementing a number of actions.

  • A newly appointed Mentoring Strategy Committee, comprising faculty and staff and co-chaired by Provost Jill Tiefenthaler and Vice President Ken Zick, has begun work to oversee the creation and implementation of the University’s initiatives needed to establish a nationally-recognized mentoring program. The group will assess current mentoring experiences, identify best practices in a collegiate university setting, and establish principles for nurturing a mentoring culture on campus. Part of this audit will include identification of where effective mentoring is happening at Wake Forest and to develop new programs based on the characteristics of successful efforts, recognizing that these programs should offer choice to meet individual needs. For example, the CHAMPS/Life Skills program in the Athletics Department is a successful model that prepares student-athletes for life and work after graduation. The Chaplain Fellows program, now in planning stages, would bring to campus for short-term appointments divinity or rabbinical school graduates who are interested in university chaplaincy. The Fellows would provide spiritual mentoring for students interested in connections to Campus Ministry.
  • As described in an earlier white paper, the School of Law initiated an alumni mentoring program last fall for first-year students. We will continue phasing in this program so that all law students have an alumni mentor. Through the work of the Mentoring Strategy Committee, we will look for similar opportunities across the University to engage alumni in mentoring, including building on the existing Alumni Career Assistance Program (ACAP).
  • Academic advising is a critical component of mentoring, and our goal is to ensure that advising in all our schools is excellent. In the College, we are giving more focus to the quality of advising by adding a dedicated associate dean whose staff will give administrative support to the advising program, while faculty members do the actual academic advising. In addition to having a faculty and student peer advisor, every undergraduate will also be assigned to one of the associate dean’s staff — all of whom will be well trained in academic advising — for logistical/administrative advice on the process. This enhancement should make it easier for faculty to devote more time to actually discussing options with student advisees; and the students will have one additional resource person in the Dean’s office to assist them.
  • To better support faculty, staff, and alumni mentors, we will develop education and training programs on effective mentoring for use by the Teaching and Learning Center, Human Resources, and other campus offices. In addition, a new mentoring program offered by the ProHumanitate Center and the Office of the Chaplain, Reading Between the Lines, also helps faculty members develop their mentoring skills and to match them with students seeking the support and guidance of a trusted advisor.
  • Also referenced in an earlier white paper is the Undergraduate Research Center, which was established earlier this year as part of our strategic plan, so that all students committed to pursuing high-end academic research receive committed faculty support and resources to nurture their intellectual growth.
  • The Presidential Fellowships, implemented very successfully during this academic year, will continue to offer to recently-graduated Wake Forest alumni who are interested in careers in higher education, a year-long job in various offices within the administration.

Developing Global Perspectives: International Studies

Over the past decade, Wake Forest has been recognized as one of the nation’s top universities in the percentage of its students who study abroad before graduation. The Institute for International Education’s Open Doors Report in 2008 ranked Wake Forest third among doctoral universities with the highest percentage of undergraduates studying abroad. Sixty-five percent of our students earned credits in 2006-07 for courses pursued in other countries. Today, we offer more than 400 semester, summer, and year-long study opportunities in 200 cities in more than 70 countries. Increasingly, graduate and professional school students are eager to study in another culture.

Service trips to international locations — typically shorter in duration — also give students an opportunity to observe, participate in, and learn from other cultures. Living in the global community of today and tomorrow requires that students, faculty, and staff be informed about and prepared for international study, and our plan adds several new steps to enhance our international studies programs.

  • We have established a Global Advisory Board to recommend and review proposed global initiatives for the University.
  • We are creating an inventory of all international activities across the University and will create a Wake Forest in the World web page.
  • We are developing expanded academic and service opportunities for faculty and students across the campus with a particular focus on Latin America. We are pursuing partnerships with the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile and the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where site visits were recently completed.
  • site visit to several Asian countries is scheduled for the coming academic year to begin identifying potential academic partnerships.
  • minor in African Studies was approved in 2008, and a site visit is scheduled for this spring to West Africa to establish university partnerships for a summer program.
  • To increase the number of international students who come to our campus to study, we have added an international undergraduate admissions counselor, who spent most of the fall recruiting in Europe and will spend two to three weeks in Asia this spring.
  • Last month, we offered a workshop on intercultural skills enhancement with participants from our region and beyond. This and other new programs similar to our undergraduate intercultural competency program focus on better preparing faculty, staff, and graduate students for intercultural experiences both on and off campus.
  • We are developing a visiting professors program for international scholars. As an early step, we are in the process of formalizing an ongoing relationship with visiting scholars from Hebrew University.
  • Thanks to the vision and generosity of Tom Dingledine, an alumnus of the Babcock School and a Wake Forest trustee, the University will have a new academic and conference center in Managua, Nicaragua in the near future. The center will focus primarily on entrepreneurial education, supporting the established programs offered there by the Babcock School. It will also support undergraduate service-learning trips during summers and prospective opportunities for the other professional schools. Future plans call for the addition of casitas to accommodate participants in the various programs. When not in use by Wake Forest, the center and casitas will be available to organizations seeking conference space and/or accommodations in Managua. This gift provides students across the University with exceptional international learning experiences and opportunities to practice Pro Humanitate in varied and significant ways.
  • We continue to plan a Global Scholars program for selected entering freshmen that will draw explicit connections between their course of study at Wake Forest and international experiences across their college careers. Initiation of the program is depending on gift funding.

Successful Launches: Robust Career Planning and Placement Services

Student and professor

As we strengthen the academic benefits we offer our students, we must concurrently strengthen their opportunities to embark on careers and offer effective, specific preparation for entering the work world.

  • With the retirement of our long-time undergraduate Career Planning and Placement Director, we are searching for a successor. We plan to grow the resources of this office to better serve students in finding their place in the world. Beyond the traditional career search, our Center will help students to define their interests and passions along with their talents and skills, so that our students will make wiser choices as they seek internships and permanent employment. Developing this kind of clarity will also make them more attractive to prospective employers. Our signature will be a four-year program for undergraduates that begins with self-discovery and culminates in job placement.
  • Integration of the business schools gives us a chance to be far more effective in facilitating the placement of graduates of those schools. We are developing plans to ensure that we present to corporate recruiters in a well-coordinated manner. We will ensure strong coordination occurs between the undergraduate and business schools placement offices, to give non-business majors ready access to corporate recruiters.
  • A key point in the integration of the business schools is renewed focus on the Summer Management Program offered by the Calloway School and the relatively new M.A. in Management degree that the Babcock School initiated two years ago. Both of these programs offer non-business majors the chance to develop competency in fundamental business and management skills and, thus, remove a frequently-perceived obstacle to undergraduates choosing to pursue a major in the humanities, arts, or sciences. A solid liberal arts degree enhanced by either of these programs will result in more job opportunities for Wake Forest students.
  • As discussed in an earlier section of this paper, we will be deliberate in strengthening our alumni networks to assist not only in ongoing career mentoring, but also in using their own areas of professional expertise to help our students find internships and jobs.


We must be creative stewards of the abundant academic assets that have been carefully created at Wake Forest. Wise development of many intersections among disciplines and schools — integrated with a signature mentoring program, robust international studies, and career services that begin in the freshman year — will magnify these assets. It will enable our students to approach complex questions from multiple, well-informed perspectives, and prepare them more effectively for post-graduate life. Of equal importance, this augmented interdisciplinary approach will also give our faculty members richer opportunities to discover new knowledge through collaboration and to develop further their skills as teachers and mentors.

The fourth white paper on Wake Forest’s strategic plan focuses on the opportunity to reinforce the inherent connections among the liberal arts college and the graduate and professional schools.