A group of University Advancement staff members of varying departments gathered over lunch on April 25, 2017, in Alumni Hall at Wake Forest University to discuss the residential campus experience.

We began by sharing a time when we returned home after being away for a period. We quickly realized the experience had a similar impact on each of us. We learned that leaving home stretches a person, expanding world views as diverse experiences and people are encountered, and that returning home, while often affording a feeling of normalcy, is never the same; the experience of home has changed because the individual has changed.

We began a group discussion about how a residential campus experience can foster, and even force, students to experience diverse people and perspectives. However, we realized that there is a delicate balance between mandatory programs, workshops and events that immerse students in diverse environments, and leaving it to students to explore on their own. For example, one person in our group mentioned that his residence hall living experience was the first time he had encountered certain cultures, belief systems and ideologies. It was a growth moment that he appreciates as one that only this type of residential living experience can offer.

After a lengthy discussion, we considered what the leadership at Wake Forest might do, or might do differently, concerning residential campus experience, and we again realized that there is a delicate balance between making opportunities available for students to experience diversity (in many forms) and mandating these types of experience. We commended the University for its requirement of three years of on-campus residency. We also encourage University leadership to continue to fund and promote opportunities that create diverse experiences for students.

Our conversation facilitated a deeper appreciation for the task at hand for Campus Life. One member of the group expressed concern that Wake Forest is becoming increasingly unaffordable for lower and middle-class families, which inhibits diversity. He underscored the need for the Wake Will Lead capital campaign in light of this challenge.

Our conversation concluded with each of us sharing what we would take away from the conversation, and some clear themes emerged. A residential campus experience:

  • Affords an opportunity for personal growth.
  • Exposes a person to diverse viewpoints and individuals.
  • Creates an appreciation for a person’s place of origin.
  • Stimulates an evolution of perspective.