The Deacon Blog

A magazine staff blog with news of alumni and the WFU community

Class of 2012

Quite a coup for a new alumna

If you have a chance today, pick up  The Wall Street Journal and turn to page 3. “Colleges Get Career-Minded: More Liberal-Arts Schools Stress Skills Development, Ruffling Academic Feathers” discusses how some universities are beginning to make career development “a mission-critical” part of college.

While the article includes a large photo of Vice President for Career Development Andy Chan and quotes him extensively, it also includes one of Wake Forest’s newest alumni. Lesley Gustafson (’12) discussed how she graduated Monday with a double major in political science and computer science. “The former gives her the opportunity to enjoy the liberal-arts focus on ‘debating and reading and practicing critical thinking,’ said the 21-year-old, while the latter gives her coveted skills to take into the job market this year,” writes the Journal’s Lauren Weber. It’s nice to see national attention for one of our graduates who barely had a chance to send a mortar board airborne. (Gustafson of Minnetonka, Minn., has nothing to fear in the job market. She starts this summer as an entry-level analyst at Accenture.)

The article points to the emergence of a new model of education, as one educator puts it, that blends liberal and applied learning. Chan said members of his team have met with 150 faculty members to encourage them to link their students to career services and successful alumni. Earlier this year administrators from more than 70 schools attended a conference that Chan hosted at Wake Forest titled “Rethinking Success: From the Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century.”

Still, as the article points out, while there is a shift across the country to blending the rigors of academic inquiry with preparation for an ever-changing job market, it is not an easy transition. There remains resistance. Gustafson’s path in future years, and that of graduates from similar colleges, will help tell the story about whether such resistance is warranted.

The Wake Forest ‘mystique’

As an alum who worked on the Old Gold & Black when I was a student, I like to keep up with what the modern-day OG&B staff is producing in print and online. “Breaking the Wake Forest Bubble/Hamlin’s Ramblins” caught my eye in this week’s issue. Senior columnist Hamlin Wade of Charlotte addresses the question of what Wake Forest has to offer “in the sleepy town of Winston-Salem.”

He wrote days before the U.S. News and World Report announcement Tuesday that ranked Wake Forest once again 25th among national universities in its 2012 Best Colleges guide, a point of pride for many. Wade is interested in something else beyond metrics: “something perhaps intangible and undefined” about the University’s character. He recounts how student leaders last spring tried to come up with what composed the Wake Forest “mystique.” No one could pinpoint it.  There was no consensus.

“Wake is a place of reverence and passion, a place of community, and a place of individuality,” he writes. “The mystique of Wake Forest is its diversity and its layers. What may be mystical to one student may be completely common stance and mundane to another.” Take your pick: magnolia trees, bell tower, academic tradition, athletics, or, in Wade’s words, the university’s “long and storied history.”

What do you think? What is that mystique about Wake Forest that Wade urges us as individuals to define for ourselves? Send me an email, and I’ll share your comments:

P.S. I, for one, can point to one element of the mystique: enduring friendships. You know who I’m talking about, fellow Deacons.

Meredith-Leigh Pleasants’ confession

At a “Dancing with the Stars”-style event to raise money for a local homeless shelter this month, the conversation at my table took a turn as comic as the amateur hoofers’ spins that evening. Mary Pugel, President Nathan Hatch’s chief of staff, told me it had been interview time earlier that day for Wake Forest students who hoped to serve as President’s Aides. It’s always an impressive group of applicants. This year was no different. Mary said at the end of the interview the students were invited to divulge something unique about themselves that might not appear on their CV. One student had Mary in a state of happy amazement hours after the interview. I didn’t find out her name that evening, but I learned the distinction: The applicant was a chicken-clucking champion.

I knew I had to track her down.

I succeeded this week after acceptance letters went out. President’s Aides are student leaders who serve as representatives of Wake Forest and the student body and participate in a variety of University events throughout the academic year. They meet regularly with President Hatch, keeping the communication lines buzzing between students and the administration. The new group will include Meredith-Leigh Pleasants (’12), a student with a list of activities as long as her arm and unwavering pride in her hometown of Siler City, N.C., population 8,000, final resting place of Aunt Bee and, as the town’s website boasts, “known for its friendly people, prosperous business environment, and easy living.” And don’t forget the poultry.

“Siler City is not the cultural educational center,” Meredith-Leigh acknowledges. But she adds, “I LOVE my hometown.”

Meredith-Leigh (photo by Karleigh Ash, a first-year student)

In the interview for President’s Aides, she surprised even herself when she blurted out her singular distinction. The young man on one side of her had his answer. He had been abroad. Meredith-Leigh had that covered. She’d been to Germany. The young man on the other side of her revealed he had been struck by lightning. How could she top that? “I won the chicken clucking contest in my town!” In Siler City, they might have called it a ‘coop’ de main, such was her swift line of attack. She couldn’t believe she had said it. That bird was out of the hen house. There was no escaping the interview without demonstrating what landed her the championship in the children’s division at age 11 and a trophy she guesses is about two-feet tall with a hen on top. The panel thus invited her to cluck.

Her cluck was a winner, again. Look for Meredith-Leigh in the president’s office and all over campus. She’s the president of the Kappa Delta sorority, a resident adviser at Luter Hall, a representative for the committee on student life, an intern at Joel Coliseum and a marketing employee at Benson Center.

As much as she loves her hometown, she might love Wake Forest more. “You can get a degree anywhere, but you can’t get community like you can at Wake Forest,” she told me.

Too bad she can’t go home to cluck for old time’s sake. Siler City’s Chicken Festival is dead, replaced by the Siler City ALIVE festival. For now, hometown and Wake Forest fans will have to tune in here to marvel at Meredith-Leigh Pleasants’ award-winning cluck.

A postcard from Paris

I woke up to find this delightful note that several of us at Wake Forest received by email this morning from Paris:

“This is Amanda Bowers, a junior at WFU. She is in the Louvre painting ‘Les ombres de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta apparaissent a Dante et a Virgil’ by Ary Scheffer.

The concentration required in this setting is amazing. Thousands of people have come by her, taken photos, sometimes with flash, tap her on the shoulder and point right up to her painting, asking her questions. They are advised to not speak to anyone and to wear headphones because of the noise and to reduce distraction.

Amanda Bowers ('12) paints in the Louvre

We imagine that she is the first WFU student to paint in the Louvre. We’ll be having lunch with her shortly.


Karyn and Tom”


It’s a magical moment, and it had to be especially marvelous for Karyn Dingledine. Here’s what Wake Forest Magazine said about her and her husband, Tom, last year in celebrating her love of art and patronage for WFU art students. I think it bears repeating:

Landscape painter Karyn Dingledine knows exactly what it is like to dream about attending college but not have the means to make that dream come true. She also knows how just a little bit of support can transform a young person’s life. She’s lived it personally. And now, through the Karyn Dingledine Scholarship in Art, she is sharing the investment once made in her with students at Wake Forest.

Karyn Dingledine and her husband, Tom (MBA ’78), a member of the Board of Trustees, endowed the Karyn Dingledine Art Scholarship Fund for students planning to major or minor in studio art. Undergraduate financial aid is a major priority of Wake Forest President Nathan Hatch.

The first recipient of the Dingledine Scholarship is Amanda Bowers, a rising sophomore from Maui, Hawaii. “I am so thankful you’ve created a scholarship that supports the arts,” she wrote in a letter to the Dingledines. “I am even more thankful that it was given to me, and I am honored to be the first recipient. I want you to know that it was because of you that I was able to do so.


I don’t know about you, but I love Paris in springtime, and I love that Amanda is following her passion in the heart of the city. — Maria