C2C Snapshots

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Leadership & Character | Washington, D.C.

Group photo from the Call to Conversation breakfast in Washington, DC on May 10, 2018

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over breakfast in Washington, D.C. on May 10, 2018 to discuss Leadership and Character.

Overview and highlights of our Call to Conversation:

  • Our initial question – “describe a time when you saw character in action” – helped us focus on the outcomes such as building communities, helping people who are suffering or injured, helping people less fortunate, supporting people who are different; and acts of character often times included situations of great personal sacrifice, as well as simple acts of kindness.
  • Another highlight in our discussion was the conversation about personal accountability. One of us asked, “Have we lost the obligation to be ethical with each other?”  Other thoughts included in this highlight had to do with personal credibility versus institutional hierarchy.
  • We also explored such ideas as respect and fairness and discussed the aspiration of being able to disagree on ideas/issues but still respect the other person and their opinions.
  • Wake Forest’s motto, Pro Humanitate, provided an opportunity to discuss our commitment to live out “service to others.”  We agreed that Pro Humanitate was an excellent motto for discussing character.
  • We closed our conversation by talking about what we would want Wake Forest students to hear from our conversation.  A number of our group suggested such ideas as having a passion for giving back and serving a cause greater than ourselves. Another idea was to be respectful of the differences that separate us.

Leadership & Character | New York City, NY

Group photo from the Call to Conversation Signature event in New York City on May 9, 2018.

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in New York City on May 9, 2018 to discuss Leadership & Character.

Overview and highlights of our Call to Conversation:

  • During our conversation, we learned much about instances that made an impression on us as we shared and reflected on examples of character in action. From helping someone in need, witnessing acts of kindness, seeing one’s true nature after being fired and many things in between, our group experienced a number of varying instances that showed how character can be portrayed.  
  • We bonded over these key character traits – compassion, common decency and providing support when in need. And with our group, we are hopeful and optimistic that many of these traits have been taught and imparted on the current generation of Wake Forest students. Furthermore, our conversation delved in to the Greek system on campus and its relevance in our academic community, but for the purpose of our discussion, whether values and character are being taught through these experiences.
  • With that said, one of the recurring themes from our dinner  was the question, “Can character be taught?” Some believe that a person’s character and understanding of integrity are set at an early age and can’t be altered later in life. People can be taught to act better if it’s in their interest but their true character is fixed. Others, like ourselves, are hopeful and believe that character can be changed and people can be taught not to act better but to be better. We learned that character is indeed ever evolving and truly built over time. We all have a certain amount of character and it was noted that it may fluctuate at times but what we do each day brings value to our lives and to others, even if it isn’t immediately realized.

Leadership & Character | New York City, NY

Group photo from the Call to Conversation Signature event in New York City on May 9, 2018.

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in New York City on May 9, 2018 to discuss Leadership & Character.

Overview and highlights of our Call to Conversation:

  • Key themes about witnessing Leadership & Character were: Openness, Dependability, Empathy, Kindness, Selflessness and Generosity.
  • When considering how to teach leadership and character, anecdotal stories seem to be effective.
  • “You can tell the strength of someone’s character by how they treat someone that they don’t need to depend on.” “Easy to be ethical when you have nothing to risk.”
  • People make decisions based on the value gained. Can we help frame decision making through teaching better questions that are grounded in integrity, character, empathy and leadership?
  • Effectiveness vs. Empathy – How does today’s society and environment acknowledge / reward these two things?

What students need to know:

  • Learn from failures
  • Vulnerability is important to understand
  • Adversity is a good thing
  • Be self reliant
  • Learn the importance of balance
  • Perfection is not always needed
  • We thought “Work Forest” has a more negative connotation than beneficial

Leadership & Character | New York City, NY

Group photo from the Call to Conversation Signature event in New York City on May 9, 2018

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in New York City on May 9, 2018 to discuss Leadership & Character.

Overview and highlights of our Call to Conversation:

  • During our time together, we touched on many different examples of Leadership & Character, including individuals who had given everything when it likely felt like they had lost it all, the idea of “everyday character,” through having lunch with someone we don’t know or acknowledge someone who has become a staple in our neighborhood.
  • Themes such as accountability, kindness, mindfulness and compassion quickly rose to the top. We also discussed the importance of doing something without anything to gain, and the people we encounter who help us to understand that we can do better in our everyday lives.
  • More than anything, we realized that this experience was grounding for all of us. Whether as a member of a community who pulled together after the tragedy of 9/11, selflessly giving a kidney to a stranger or the students who created a movement following the Florida school shooting. These experiences mean something; they leave a lasting impression on us and shape the way that we view life.
  • A few of our recurring themes were: empathy, sincerity, curiosity, perseverance, self respect, courage, vulnerability, commitment and openness.

Leadership & Character | New York City, NY

Group photo from the Call to Conversation Signature Event in New York City on May 9, 2018

A group of Wake Foresters gathered over dinner in New York City on May 9, 2018 to discuss Leadership & Character.

Overview and highlights of our Call to Conversation:

  • A consistent theme that weaved through the conversation was the idea of service leadership – serving something larger than yourself. On the question of when do leadership and character overlap, the group agreed that individuals committing themselves to a larger purpose most often lead with character.
  • We were all enriched by accounts of character shown and the people who displayed it: people going about their work who unexpectedly stepped into trying situations and who faced the crisis or challenge with remarkable courage and selflessness — Captain “Sully” was an example; a dramatic fictionalized representation was appreciated as a model of the ideal of leadership; examples of youth doing “the right thing” in serving others even above and beyond expectations and at the expense of a more socially conventional path; professional colleagues making courageous decisions in the workplace to challenge behaviors antithetical to civil and ethical standards; political figures showing restraint in the face of antagonistic, combative verbal attacks; and family members who have set indelible examples of serving the greater good in extraordinary ways.
  • We found agreement in our societal need to demonstrate and call out authentic personal character and leadership in contrast to the impersonal and cynical influence of social media culture.
  • When asked, “Can we and should we teach character and leadership at Wake Forest?,” we enjoyed mixed reactions: skepticism that these values can be part of a curricula in a traditional classroom, text-book scenario and that at their core, these values must be seeded and nurtured by the family; that in-the-moment action and decision-making are where ethical behaviors are best demonstrated and instilled.
  • We spoke about the importance of weaving a focus on these values into the “fabric” of the Wake Forest experience — including the classroom, literature and case studies, but also the calling-out of exemplary actions within and outside of the community; important too is an articulation of a community code of ethics and expectations of members to act, respect, seek out and model opportunities to lead with character.