Site Content

Inside WFU

Wake Forest news for faculty and staff

Guest Post

Allison McWilliams: Formal vs. informal mentoring

Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development, writes occasional articles for Inside WFU.  This is her second for the spring semester.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff drawn from her professional experience with students.

20111010mcwilliams4344Which is better, formal or informal mentoring programs? This is a commonly-asked question with no clear-cut answer. Informal mentoring relationships provide the benefit of connection with someone with whom one has a previously-established relationship, whereas formal mentoring relationships often pair two people as part of a program based on common interests or goals, but lack that initial shared trust.

Informal mentoring relationships can go on forever, with no clear-cut beginning or end point, goals, or objectives. They are, by their nature, “informal,” loose and a bit more fluid. Formal mentoring relationships are highly structured, with clear articulation of program and relationship goals, expectations, and outcomes. Many people say that they prefer informal mentoring relationships, because it just “feels” better, more natural and organic.

That being said, it’s important to remember that all mentoring relationships, whether formal or informal, are power relationships, and there is much greater opportunity within informal relationships, lacking the structure and oversight of their formal partners, to do harm. Of course, no relationship has a guarantee of success. But there are several key best practices that should be employed in any mentoring relationship, whether formal or informal, to provide the optimal opportunities for success and to minimize the power dynamics:

  • Set clear expectations. Take the time to talk through what both partners expect from the relationship. How often will you meet? How will you communicate? How will you honor confidentiality? When will you check in on the relationship?
  • Create goals. What will you work on together during this relationship? Set 2-3 SMART goals and related action steps as a framework for the work and the conversations.
  • Sign an agreement. Develop an agreement that clearly states the expectations and goals. This is your accountability measure and one of the best things that you can do to minimize power dynamics.
  • Be mentee-focused. Mentoring relationships are always about the mentee’s growth and the mentee’s goals. Ask: Where do you want to go and how can I help you get there?
  • Check in on the relationship. Periodically take the time to check in on the relationship. Are your goals still appropriate or do they need to be updated? Are we still working on the right things? Does this relationship need to continue?

 There is no magic bullet to a successful mentoring relationship. The best mentoring partners are ones who are invested in each other and the relationship, and willing to put in the time and effort to make it work. What strategies can you employ to make sure that your relationship is set up for success?


WFDD announces program changes to begin in February

This is a guest post from 88.5 WFDD:

88.5 WFDD, the public radio station licensed to Wake Forest, recently announced programming changes, slated to begin in February. Included in these changes is combining the Triad Arts and News teams into one unit.

WFDD News Director Emily McCord said that bringing the Triad Arts staff into the News Department will allow more flexibility in news and arts reporting and it paves the way for new projects that will deepen our relationship with the community. “We’re excited about the opportunity to find amazing stories and share them with our audience in the way only public radio can,” said McCord.

In addition, the station announced some new programs being added to the schedule, while others will be heard at new times. Assistant General Manager Molly Davis said, “We hope that our listeners have had a chance to hear new episodes of Across the Blue Ridge with Paul Brown. Starting on Feb. 6, Mountain Stage will join the weekend lineup, creating a nice block of roots and traditional music on Saturday and Sunday evenings.” The station has also added Bullseye with Jesse Thorn, described as a curated guide to culture, on Sunday afternoons.

Programs moving time slots include The Tavis Smiley Show, Fresh Air Weekend, Marketplace Weekend, and Ask Me Another. Listeners will now hear Here and Now, the live midday news program from NPR and WBUR, from noon until 2 p.m., Monday through Friday.

WFDD General Manager Tom Dollenmayer said, “WFDD carefully studies audience data and listening trends. These changes are an effort to integrate arts coverage into our news coverage and to add oft-requested programs to our schedule.”

WFDD’s complete program schedule is available at

Allison McWilliams: Preparing for Life After College

Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development, writes occasional articles for Inside WFU.  This is her first for the spring semester, following several published in the fall.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff drawn from her professional experience with students.

20111010mcwilliams4344Higher education puts a lot of focus on the transition from high school to college. We have formal orientation programs, social and well-being programs, resident advisors, student advisors, faculty advisors, faculty fellows, first-year seminars, student activity fairs, and many, many other resources and supports to make sure that our students effectively find their places, both academically and socially. This is important work, of course, but in all of our efforts to make sure that our students are doing well here, we must not lose sight of the end goal: we want them to do well out there, too.

Mentors play important roles in preparing students for the sometimes jarring transition from college to life after college. Effective mentoring relationships develop the practices and habits of mind that encourage personal and professional goal-setting, seeking out feedback on choices and decisions, and reflective thinking. And this is not a process that has to or should wait until senior year. Maturation is a cumulative process. By learning to solve small problems, students start to acquire the tools and strategies to help them to solve the larger problems. Effective mentors don’t say, “Let me fix that for you.” Effective mentors ask, “What have you tried so far?”; “Why do you think that worked or did not work?”; and, “What would you like to do differently in the future?”

Each year we celebrate National Mentoring Month here at Wake Forest during the month of January. Our theme for this year is “Mentoring for Life After College.” On our website you will find tools and resources including a mentor’s guide, videos with alumni reflecting on what they have learned, and the launch of Five for Your First Five, which is our take on what young alumni should be doing during their first five years out of college. In the coming months we will be adding tools and resources to support these five areas, for mentors, students, and alumni.

Mentoring is one important strategy to aid in the transition from college to life after college, and it starts on the first day that students step foot on this campus. Every experience, every interaction, every decision, is forming the people they will become. Mentors are facilitators of that growth and development, role models and champions.

Coach Manning: Faculty-staff appreciation day set for Dec. 22

This message was e-mailed to faculty and staff today on behalf of Coach Danny Manning:

Dear Faculty and Staff:

In the last year and a half, our staff and families have come to love and enjoy Wake Forest.  It is truly a special place and we want to thank you for all that you do to support not only our men’s basketball team but our entire athletics department.

Next Tuesday, December 22 we host a nationally-ranked Xavier basketball team in the Skip Prosser Classic and I want to invite you to attend the game with your family.

Wake Forest Athletics is offering free tickets and t-shirts to faculty and staff members and their families.  The game is set for 7 p.m. at LJVM Coliseum.

Tickets will be distributed starting at 5:30 p.m. at tables marked Faculty/Staff in the coliseum’s main lobby at the east entrance.  Staff and faculty may come to the tables and show their Wake Forest ID card to request the number of tickets needed for their family.  Athletics staff will distribute tickets at that time.

I hope to see you at the game.

Go Deacs!

Coach Danny Manning

Allison McWilliams: Mentoring and well-being

Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development, will write occasional articles in 2015-2016 for Inside WFU.  This is her fifth for the academic year.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff drawn from her professional experience with students.

20111010mcwilliams4344Earlier this year a study out of Gallup gained quite a bit of attention. In a survey of more than 30,000 college student graduates, the researchers found six key elements which, if present during college, were linked to long-term success in work and life:

  • having an internship or job to apply classroom learning
  • being actively involved in extracurricular activities and organizations
  • working on projects that took a semester or more to complete
  • feeling that they had a professor who made them excited about learning
  • feeling that professors cared about them as a person
  • feeling that they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams

Continue reading »

Staff recognized for service milestones; Employees of the Year named

This is a guest post from Human Resources:


Employees of the Year Darlene Starnes and Ken Bennett

Members of the Reynolda Cabinet honored service milestones of 213 Wake Forest staff members who were celebrating more than 2,780 years of combined service. These individuals were recognized at a luncheon on Nov. 10 at Bridger Field House.

Those recognized with 30 or more years of service included:

  • 30 years: Anita Hughes, Jay Lawson, Karen Bennett, Lynn Ebert, Scott Adair, Carol Anderson, Kathy Hines, Sandy Boyles, Mary Gerardy, Jim Carlin, and Lynne Heflin.
  • 35 years: Preston Stockton and Reid Morgan
  • 40 years: Doug Bland
  • 45 years: Carolyn Potts

Continue reading »

Human Resources message: Holiday schedule and pay reminder

This is a guest post from Human Resources:

Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable holiday season! Please note the following regarding Reynolda Campus holidays, Paid Time Off and pay schedule ​through the end of the calendar year:


Wednesday, November 25:  Departments who choose to offer early dismissal at 3 p.m. or two hours before the end of the regularly-scheduled shift may count this time as administrative leave.

Thursday, November 26 – Friday, November 27:  Thanksgiving Holiday – University Closed.

Monday, December 21 – Wednesday, December 23:  University open, with early release at 3 p.m. or two hours before the end of the regularly-scheduled shift on December 23. Staff employees may count two hours on December 23 as administrative leave. In cases where the entire department has agreed to close for these three days, each individual in the department will count the three days as PTO. December 23 is the last day to use PTO in 2015.

Thursday, December 24 – Thursday, December 31:  Winter Break – University Closed.

Friday, January 1, 2016:  New Year’s Holiday – University Closed.


2015 final pay date for all Wake Forest Reynolda Campus employees will be Wednesday, December 23, 2015​.

Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

Bard Center’s Goodstein to speak about Clean Power Plan

This is a guest post from the Office of Sustainability:

Eban Goodstein, director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 in the Z. Smith Reynolds Library auditorium.

Goodstein will be at Wake Forest to introduce the Power Dialog, an effort to mobilize 10,000 students to engage in face-to-face dialogue with state-level regulators about implementing the Clean Power Plan. Goodstein will meet with staff and faculty to talk about the ways they can support students in developing a voice in critical decisions that will determine their future, and the future of the earth.

Information about this event and the ways to get involved is available here. It is sponsored by the Office of Sustainability and the Center for Energy, Environment, and Sustainability.

WFDD to re-launch ‘Across the Blue Ridge’ radio program

This is a guest post from 88.5 WFDD:

88.5 WFDD, the public radio station licensed to Wake Forest University, is partnering with former 88.5 WFDD news director and NPR newscaster Paul Brown to re-launch “Across the Blue Ridge,” a program created by Brown at WFDD in the late 1980s. “Across the Blue Ridge” tells some of America’s most fascinating stories through the lens of Appalachian music and cultural history. It focuses on the southern Blue Ridge region known as a hotbed of old-time, bluegrass, blues, and country music. The show previously ran on WFDD for more than a decade until Brown left WFDD for NPR in Washington, DC.

WFDD logoBrown said, “I’m thrilled to collaborate with WFDD to bring ‘Across the Blue Ridge’ back to the airwaves, to the web, and to live performance venues. This is an amazing period in our music history, with a new generation of hot performers taking off in wonderful directions. I hope listeners will join me in sharing a truly fascinating, always-evolving story about the American south, its music, and connections to the wider world.”

88.5 WFDD has planned a January 2016 launch of the re-envisioned show, and has introduced an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to support the production of the program. “Producing a weekly radio program is costly,” said WFDD General Manager Tom Dollenmayer, “and we hope that our listeners who remember ‘Across the Blue Ridge’ fondly will want to contribute to aid in bringing back the show.”

Continue reading »

Allison McWilliams: Ask powerful questions

Allison McWilliams, director of mentoring and alumni personal and career development in the Office of Personal and Career Development, will write occasional articles in 2015-2016 for Inside WFU.  This is her fourth for the academic year.  In each, she shares observations and suggestions with faculty and staff drawn from her professional experience with students.

Allison McWilliams, the Director of Career Education in the Wake Forest Office of Personal and Career Development on Monday, October 10, 2011.

We all know the value of powerful questions in the classroom. A well-placed question makes us think, pushes us to make connections between events, challenges our assumptions, and generally helps us to learn. In much the same way, powerful questions help us to learn in mentoring relationships. A well-placed question causes us to reflect upon what has happened, to make connections, and to effectively assess how we can use this new knowledge in the future. This is, I believe, the gift of an effective mentoring relationship: it gives us the space and the tools that we need to be mindful and present in our own lives.

Effective mentors spend more time asking questions than they do answering them. A mentor’s role is not to be the information superhighway; we already have effective tools for that. A mentor’s role is to challenge assumptions, to offer objective feedback, and to push for clarity and accountability. She does so by making use of powerful questions. Powerful questions are open-ended, causing the mentee to reflect on the actions he is taking, the outcomes, and the next steps. Some examples of powerful questions include:

Continue reading »