President Wente visits Wake Forest classes

Wente visits Wake Downtown engineering class.

On Sept. 3, Wake Forest President Susan R. Wente took a seat in the EGR 211 Materials and Mechanics class at Wake Downtown to learn about the electronic conductivity of metals and semiconductors and get a student’s view of the academic experience at Wake Forest.

It is one of several classes Wente has visited so far this semester.  She plans to join a divinity school class in the next few weeks and looks forward to additional classroom and lab visits later this year.

“One of the foremost attractions of Wake Forest for me was the commitment to academic excellence that the faculty embrace and students seek,” Wente said. “Discovery and exploration of knowledge is at the heart of the University, and I am so pleased to see how Wake Forest delivers on those elements of the academic mission.”

Michael Gross, associate professor of engineering and David and Leila Farr Faculty Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, taught the class with Patricia Clayton, an associate professor who specializes in structural engineering.

“We were conducting lab experiments that day, and it was wonderful to see Dr. Wente interacting with students in this mode of exploration and active learning,” Gross said.

Clayton added, “She donned her safety glasses like the rest of us and seemed just as excited as the students to watch materials fracture in the tensile test machine.”

Assistant Professor of Sociology Andrea Gómez Cervantes welcomed Wente to her Contemporary Families class, where the discussion was focused on the origins of the American family by examining white and Black women’s roles in the southern plantation household.  The class discussed violence and systemic racism issues in the past and how the past forms family experiences today.

“It is constructive for the president to spend time where the everyday actions happen,” Gómez Cervantes said. “This also allows faculty and students to feel more comfortable sharing any potential needs or concerns with the university leaders.”

When Wente stepped into a marketing class, she took a spot in the back row. Associate Professor Michelle Steward, who teaches the core principles course for undergraduate business students, then asked the president about her biochemistry research. The question kicked off a discussion of how business professionals need to learn to communicate with experts across a wide variety of specialties.

Wente sits in the back of Steward’s marketing class in Farrell Hall.

“For our students to hear a top-notch scientist who is now also the leader of an extraordinary university, was an experience that will be part of the portfolio of meaningful experiences that they have at Wake,” she said. “We certainly hear what people say, but we watch what they do. The fact that Dr. Wente took the time to join our marketing class was not lost on our students.”

Even before her first official day on the job, Wente joined Professor of Biology Gloria Muday’s spring semester class via Zoom to share her knowledge of the Aspartate transcarbamoylase enzyme in a virtual lecture that also covered her career path as a woman in science. Then, on the first day of classes, Wake Forest’s new president taught a seminar in Winston Hall called “Gatekeepers of the Nucleus.”

Wente particularly values observing and engaging with faculty and students in the classroom and looks forward to future visits around campus.

“From my visits to classes and learning spaces, I witnessed the high-caliber of education at Wake Forest, and I am looking forward to achieving further excellence together.”

Exploring learning spaces

In addition to classroom visits, Wente also attended an exhibition and opening reception  at the Hanes Art Gallery last month. WFU seniors Lucy Owens and Leah Rodman, two students in last fall’s Global Contemporary Art class, gave her a tour of the works chosen by the class for Wake Forest’s Student Union Art Collection. The class was led by art professor Jay Curley, studio artist David Finn and curator of collections Jennifer Finkel. Read more about the class and their work.

To get a glimpse of what academics look like for MBA students, Wente traveled to Wake Forest’s Charlotte Center and talked with School of Business students about their academic journey. Read more about their conversation.