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Stories this week at Wake Forest University

August 29, 2007


What do the Simpsons, professional wrestling and romance novels have to do with religion?  More than you might expect, according to Lynn Neal, assistant professor of religion at Wake Forest.  Neal draws some surprising correlations between popular culture products and the religious lives of their devotees.  Neal will teach a first-year seminar course this fall which will encourage students to question how popular culture is influencing individual spirituality, religious vitality and American culture.

Contact:  Audrey Fannin, or (336) 758-4393.


Long before Johnny Depp swaggered across the big screen as Captain Jack Sparrow in “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” pirates have captured people’s imaginations.  In a new first-year seminar, “Under the Black Flag:  the Anthropology of Piracy,” students will learn about the myth and reality of piracy and the long fascination so many have had with it.   Eric Bowne, the visiting assistant professor of anthropology who teaches the course, can’t resist using some pirate humor and calls himself “the captain” and the class “the crew,” but he is actually serious about studying pirates.  Students will discuss the social and political world in which piracy in Atlantic and Caribbean waters developed between the 16th and 19th centuries and how piracy helped to shape the modern world.   They will study famous pirates (like Blackbeard and Henry Morgan), read historical accounts of life among the pirates, look at the current archeaological exploration of Blackbeard’s flagship “Queen Anne’s Revenge,” and review how pirates have been presented in popular culture.  “The crew will learn something about the ways in which history can be transformed into myth and vice versa – a process that shapes our understanding of the past,” Bowne said.

Contact:  Cheryl Walker, or (336) 758-6073.

FIRST-YEAR SEMINAR FOCUSES ON FOOD – Wake Forest students who enroll in Angela King’s first-year seminar, “What We Eat,” will be introduced to weightier concerns than avoiding those extra pounds known as the “freshman 15.”  King, senior lecturer in chemistry, wants students to examine how modern agricultural and food industry practices affect the safety and nutrition of the foods people eat, the social and economic conditions of those who produce and consume them and the health of the environment.  “The overall goals of the course are to develop the analytical and critical thinking skills of students and their ability to express their opinions and ideas,” King says.  “By choosing this topic as the framework for the class, all students can relate to it, bring some food-centered experience to the discussion table and will hopefully leave with an increased awareness about the impact of choices they make regarding what they eat.” The course aims to take students  beyond their familiar experiences with grocery shopping and dining to consider complex food issues like small-scale agriculture versus corporate farming and the relationship between food costs and controlling pollution.  Through a variety of texts, from the 1906 classic, “The Jungle,” by Upton Sinclair, to the 2001 bestseller, “Fast Food Nation,” by Eric Schlosser, students will survey how the American food industry and diet has changed over decades and discuss such issues as portion sizes, advertising, wages paid to farm and food processing workers and the impact of using fossil fuels to fertilize crops and transport food across long distances.  Beyond the classroom, students will gain real-world experiences by volunteering with local agencies that prepare and serve food.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5238.

LIBRARIES TO UNVEIL HISTORICAL PHOTOGRAPHY WEB SITE AT BOOKMARKS FESTIVAL – A coalition of public and private libraries will unveil a new Web site,, featuring historical photographs of Forsyth County during BOOKMARKS 2007.  The third annual one-day book festival is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 8 at Historic Bethabara Park in Winston-Salem. Wake Forest’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library and Coy C. Carpenter Medical Library, the Forsyth County Public Library and Winston-Salem State University’s C.G. O’Kelly Library are partners in the three-year, $225,000 project, which is funded by a federal grant.  Project Manager Susan Smith, who is head of information technology for the Z. Smith Reynolds Library, says the Web site will debut with 1,200 images scanned during the first year.  Viewers can browse by decade or category and post comments on the site. The library coalition plans to digitize 12,000 photos from the four respective collections over the course of the project.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5238.

UNDERGRADUATE CLASSES START AUG. 29 — All undergraduates enrolled at Wake Forest and students enrolled in the Graduate School, Calloway School and Divinity School started classes Aug. 29.  Classes began Aug. 20 for 81 new full-time students in the Babcock Graduate School of Management.  Students enrolled in the evening programs in Winston-Salem and Charlotte began classes Aug. 27.  The new MBA Executive Fast-Track program students started classes Aug. 24.  The Babcock School’s one-year master’s degree in management program began classes July 16 with 16 students.  First-year students at the Wake Forest School of Law began classes Aug. 20.   

PROFESSOR WEIGHS IN ON SARBANES-OXLEY ACT FIVE YEARS AFTER PASSAGE – Five years after passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), the federal law aimed at restoring investor confidence in public company financial reporting is beginning to realize its potential, says George Aldhizer, PricewaterhouseCoopers Professor at Wake Forest’s Calloway School of Business and Accountancy.  That is especially true in the area of internal control reporting (SOX Section 404), he contends.  After the passage of SOX in 2002, company managements and their accounting firms spent large sums addressing accounting processes and related control problems that had been building for over a decade.  Thus, it was not surprising that the cost of SOX 404 compliance was extremely high in 2004 and 2005, he notes.  Beginning in 2006, however, good news concerning SOX 404 began to circulate. For example, the percentage of larger public companies reporting material weaknesses in internal control declined by 30 percent as companies corrected problems found by their auditors in 2005.  Not coincidentally, larger public companies reported a 14 percent decline in earnings restatements in 2006; in contrast, smaller public companies, those with market caps of less than $75 million who were preparing to comply with SOX 404 for the first time in 2008, reported a 40 percent increase in earnings restatements in 2006.  Sir David Tweedy, chairman of the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), in a recent interview with Aldhizer, agreed that SOX (including Section 404) has spread and will continue to spread across the globe over the next few years, since it represents a crucial component of good corporate governance.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5238

PARENTS AND THE EMPTYING NEST — When children leave home to begin college, parents often need help making the transition, according to Johnne Armentrout, assistant director of the Wake Forest Counseling Center.  For the past 16 years, Armentrout has led a “Family Relationships in Transition” program for parents of first-year students during orientation.  She helps parents understand some of the changes freshmen will experience and makes suggestions on how to encourage their children without being too intrusive.  “Too much parental involvement can make freshmen less confident in the choices they are making,” Armentrout says. “It is important for parents to let them have some freedom to make their own mistakes,” she says.  If parents find themselves particularly worried about their children’s safety in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, Armentrout suggests parents try to talk with friends, relatives or counselors, but to avoid focusing too much on those worries when talking with their freshmen. 

Contact:  Cheryl Walker, or (336) 758-5237.

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