"President Nathan O. Hatch" Archive

COVID-19 update from President Hatch

President Hatch sent the following email to students, faculty and staff on April 30:

Dear Wake Forest community,

Today, as I update you on important matters at Wake Forest, I again want to express my gratitude for your flexibility and patience as we adapt to the changing circumstances related to the COVID-19 crisis. We have experienced a great disruption in the ways our community engages, and I appreciate your effort and resilience. We will have more challenges ahead, and I am confident we will continue to confront them with a spirit of unity and hope.

For now, I want to share more information and details about several specific topics.

Structured Move Out of Undergraduate Residence Halls

We are moving toward a highly structured, phased move out starting the week of May 11th. Please note, there will be a robust set of expectations associated with this process. These expectations are meant to prioritize student and family safety and the safety of our campus community. Individuals who meet certain conditions should not return to campus. Students and families should NOT travel to the Winston-Salem campus to retrieve personal belongings unless approved to do so by the Office of Residence Life and Housing.

If the public health guidance changes, we will have to adapt our plans for the safety of all involved. Because of this, there is a possibility that our move-out plans could change quickly, which could mean postponing or canceling move-out appointments. We share this so you can make an informed decision about your travel plans to Winston-Salem. In the event move-out appointments are canceled, the University will pack and store student belongings.

For students and families who are unable or choose not to come back to campus to move out, the University will provide access to options for pack-and-store or pack-and-ship.

For additional details on our move-out process, including an informational video, please visit go.wfu.edu/s20moveout.

Virtual Conferring of Degrees

As you know, out of necessity, this year’s commencement will look different than our traditional commencement festivities. We will have two parts to our celebration of the Class of 2020. A virtual conferring of degrees for our undergraduate and graduate students will take place on Monday, May 18 at 7 p.m. (EST). The entire Wake Forest community is invited to be part of this celebration and will be able to participate at go.wfu.edu/wfugrad20. Some schools and departments may plan complementary virtual events to celebrate graduates.


As we started planning an in-person commencement celebration, we benefited from the input of our graduates. The desire for community — to be reunited with your friends and your class — was overwhelmingly clear. While each graduate school will conduct its own hooding ceremony, the undergraduate and graduate school commencement will take place outside on Hearn Plaza, weather and public health conditions permitting.

Our plans to celebrate the Class of 2020 are as follows:

  • Commencement for the Class of 2020 will take place on Saturday, October 31 at 1 p.m. (EST).
  • Graduate and professional school hooding ceremonies will also be held during that weekend. Details are forthcoming from each program and school.
  • Should public health concerns prevent us from gathering in large groups on October 31, our alternate commencement date will be Saturday, May 22, 2021.
  • Additional information, ticket distribution, registration and a schedule of events will be updated frequently. Please visit wfu.edu for the latest information.

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The Days Ahead: Uncertainty and Confidence

President Hatch emailed the following message to students, faculty and staff on April 14:

Dear Wake Forest community,

I am writing to you today to share my thoughts on the days ahead. I want to be realistic about the pain and uncertainty that all of us feel. I want to share my profound appreciation for all that is being done in the face of daunting challenges. And I want to express my unwavering confidence in our future.

A month ago, when we were still working in Reynolda Hall – with social distancing – I encountered a colleague in the hall and blurted out, “Welcome to a new year.” We had entered, it seemed, a whole new dimension of time.

That shock has only continued. I don’t underestimate for a moment what each of you and your families are going through. The stress, the disappointment, the uncertainty almost take our breath away. There are good reasons why we feel so deeply.

Some in our community have actually contracted COVID-19 – with its pain, its very real threat and its forced isolation. Many have watched loved ones and friends endure this trauma. And still others have had to be isolated and quarantined because of potential exposure. All of us fret about any unexpected contact.

Like so many around the globe who are selflessly dedicated to those they serve, our doctors, nurses and staff at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are working under acute stress. Their lives disrupted and their days precarious, they are the true heroes of the moment.

This pandemic struck at an unparalleled pace – like a bolt out of the blue. On the Friday that spring break began, I remember a budget meeting when everything seemed normal. By Monday, three days later, we were in full crisis mode, with meeting upon meeting. Another 48 hours and we had come to the difficult decision of asking students to stay home and faculty to teach remotely. With little time, and no real applicable experiences, we moved forward in lock-step with our public health advisors.

We are also exiled in our own homes. Unlike crises of the past – World War II, the 9/11 attacks or the financial meltdown of 2008-09 – we cannot physically come together to face the crisis and build solidarity. Zoom and WebEx do provide amazing platforms for communication. But even at their best, they do not allow the deep satisfaction of being together – rigorous back-and-forth in the classroom, banter in the hallway, engagement with dozens of friends and colleagues each day, taking note of a colleague who is downcast, celebrating a birthday. I miss terribly a regular Saturday morning basketball game where the quality of teasing and “trash talk” – out of friendship – far exceeds the quality of play. We miss all the occasions of connection that provide meaning, purpose and joy to our lives.

Our professional lives have been radically reordered. Many research labs remain dark, art studios empty, internships postponed and practice fields vacant. Faculty have worked with enormous energy and creativity to teach courses remotely, and students have embraced this new medium with grit and goodwill. All of that determination, on both parts, doesn’t alter the deep sense of loss of the kind of interpersonal exchange in classrooms and faculty offices that is a hallmark of Wake Forest.

Families also face new levels of stress. For some, that involves the challenges of unexpected home schooling of younger children. For other households, it means finding appropriate privacy – and bandwidth – for your own work and that of high school or college students.

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Categories: Inside WFU

Wake Forest recognized for exemplary personal, career development

Wake Forest has been awarded the 2020 National Career Development Association’s (NCDA) Exemplary Career Center Program Award. The award recognizes a career center program for their commitment to thoughtful, innovative and effective initiatives that support career development.

Under the vision of President Nathan Hatch and leadership of Vice President, Innovation and Career Development Andy Chan, the University has become the national model for creating a college-to-career community designed to help students prepare for a lifelong career journey, not just a first job after college.

After 2008 during the Great Recession, when many colleges and universities cut funds for career development, Wake Forest invested. Under Chan’s direction, the University’s new Office of Personal and Career Development set out to prepare students to launch careers in less than ideal economic conditions.

“Though students often have a career and life vision, we know that over a person’s lifetime crises happen that may involve job insecurity. Our most important work in career development is to prepare students for whatever economic environment they may face,” Chan says. “It’s easy to get a job in a good economy when the wind is behind your sails, but sometimes the wind changes direction.”

The entire story is available here.

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Categories: Inside WFU

A message from President Hatch

President Hatch emailed the following message to students, faculty and staff on March 30:

Dear Wake Forest Community,

My message today is one of continued gratitude. Thank you, to our faculty and staff working to sustain our vital educational mission through remote learning options. Thank you, to the essential staff still on campus delivering resources and support to approximately 400 students, who, out of necessity, still call our campus home. And thank you, to our students who are adapting to a new learning experience and adjusting expectations along with the rest of us for how this semester will play out. I am grateful to all of you for your flexibility in these unprecedented times.

The public health community is now unified in their advice that we will not be able to resume in-person classes this spring. Therefore, Wake Forest courses will be delivered remotely for the remainder of the semester. This one decision has an impact on final exams, refunds for housing and meal plans, summer school and summer international trips, and the logistics of safely retrieving personal belongings from residence halls. Of significant importance to all graduate and undergraduate members of the Class of 2020, we must also rethink our plans for a traditional Commencement ceremony this May.

Final Exams

Final exams will be delivered virtually. The University has extended the pass/fail decision period to minimize the impact of final exams being delivered remotely.

Academic deans will communicate with faculty about options and resources to support remote delivery of exams. Students should direct questions to their professors for information about expectations specific to each course.

Refunds for Housing and Meal Plans

Undergraduate students will receive a prorated refund for meal plans and on-campus housing and will receive information about their refunds on or before April 17.  Please note, there is a high degree of variability based on room and board packages, and we have created different options to claim your refund. We are grateful to those families who have indicated a desire to decline any refund and to contribute these funds as a charitable gift to the Wake Forest Crisis Response Fund, and we will provide information about how to do so.

Retrieving Personal Belongings From Residence Halls

Wake Forest will continue to put the safety and health of students, their families and University staff among our top priorities. The University asks students and families NOT to travel to our Winston-Salem campus to retrieve personal belongings. Access to residence halls is currently restricted to those currently approved to be living on campus.

On March 27, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued a “stay at home” order that runs through April 29. This order is in addition to the “stay at home” order issued earlier in the week by the mayor of Winston-Salem. These orders restrict travel and activities throughout the state with exceptions for essential activities as defined by these orders. On or before April 30, we will send an update about plans regarding retrieval of personal belongings, as well as options for storage of such belongings.

Commencement for Class of 2020

My heart goes out to the Class of 2020. I regret the need to postpone the opportunity to walk across the stage and hear your name called in front of your classmates, family, friends and faculty. We will soon address plans to celebrate your accomplishments in an email specific to each undergraduate, graduate or professional school.

We will be in touch to seek your input to help shape the postponed Commencement experience.  In general, you can anticipate two things:

  1. A virtual conferring of degrees on May 18
  2. An in-person Commencement ceremony when it is safe to gather in large numbers (undergraduate, graduate and professional schools will each tailor a ceremony to meet the needs of their respective students)

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Taking stock when it feels the world is falling apart

This message was sent by President Hatch to faculty staff and students 

The last two weeks have seen our world turned upside down. The spread of COVID-19 and necessary steps taken to fight its spread have led to the greatest disruption to higher education in our lifetime.

I am profoundly grateful to the Wake Forest community – faculty, staff, students, administration, trustees and alumni – and for the many ways they have responded to this crisis. We have had teams working day and night assessing in real time the advice of health experts, other universities, local and state governments, and experts in crisis management. And, on a daily basis, we have had teams giving advice on how best to structure academic life remotely, how to maintain operations for those students who remain on campus, how to handle visitors to campus and many other questions.

I am especially thankful to the faculty who this week are reorienting their whole approach to teaching, turning from in-person engagement to the delivery of quality remotely. And I am grateful to all the staff who are working with might and main to assist in that process.

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