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Stories this week at Wake Forest University

May 13, 2009

MEDIA ARRANGEMENTS FOR COMMENCEMENT ADDRESS BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN — Members of the media are invited to cover Wake Forest’s commencement ceremony at 9 a.m. May 18, featuring Vice President Joe Biden as speaker. Wake Forest News Service-issued parking passes and media credentials will be required for media to enter campus the day of the event.  Later this week, News Service staff will contact everyone who has requested credentials.  Media outlets that have not yet requested credentials need to contact the News Service immediately. Due to security considerations, media arrangements are subject to change, so please watch for an advisory later this week regarding parking instructions, and media screening times and locations.  Check for updates on the News Service Web site at  To arrange morning or noon live shots, contact the News Service as soon as possible.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5237.

‘NETWORKING IS VITAL’ IN TOUGHEST JOB MARKET IN YEARS — Bill Currin, director of Career Services at Wake Forest since 1989, acknowledges that 2009 graduates face the toughest job market in years.  Currin reports a 10 percent decline in the number of organizations that sent recruiters to the Wake Forest campus this year and a 16 percent decline in the number of interviews that were conducted. “Networking is vital in this market,” Currin advises.  “Many students rely too heavily on Internet job postings. They need to spend about 97 percent of their time networking and no more than 3 percent pursuing Internet postings. Our alumni volunteer database—alumni and parents who have agreed to help our students network and give advice—has been very helpful.”  He sees the best employment prospects in the government and health-care sectors and suggests graduates broaden their search to include “bridge jobs,” such as internships and service opportunities like the Peace Corps.  Enrolling in a master’s degree program makes sense only if it was already a long-term goal, he adds.  Currin is available for interviews about the job market.

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5237.

TEACH FOR AMERICA POPULAR PATH FOR GRADUATES – Keron Morris is among 17 students who have been accepted into this year’s Teach for America program and will teach in Jacksonville, Fla.  An increasing number of college seniors across the country are applying to the Teach for America program.  Teach for America received more than 35,000 applications this year, a 40 percent increase over last year.  The program expects to place about 3,600 first-year volunteers in classrooms this fall who will serve in big cities and rural areas across the country, including New Orleans, Kansas City and small towns in eastern North Carolina.

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

THE BUCKET LIST’ INSPIRES 76-YEAR-OLD TO FINISH COLLEGE — Fred Hastings, who will turn 77 three days after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest, says watching the movie “The Bucket List” inspired him to finally get his diploma.  In 1956, Hastings was an ROTC student in his final semester when he was commissioned by the U.S. Army.  He left Wake Forest one course short of earning his degree.  After serving a couple of years in the military, he went on to start a family and have a successful career in sales.  His oldest son graduated from Wake Forest in 1982.  For more than 50 years, Hastings has been a passionate supporter of the university, serving long stints on the President’s Club and Alumni Council, all while everyone thought he had graduated.  After seeing the movie last year, he revealed his secret and worked out a plan with business school administrators to complete the remaining accounting course at a college near his home in Florida and transfer the credit.  Getting his diploma on Commencement Day this year at Wake Forest—57 years and more than 100 miles from where he began on the old campus—will be a special moment for Hastings.  “It’s going to be fantastic,” Hastings says.  “It’s the culmination of a dream.”

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5237.

FIVE ARMY ROTC CADETS TO BE COMMISSIONED — Five Wake Forest students will be commissioned into the U.S. Army May 17 at a 3 p.m. ceremony in the Worrell Professional Center Auditorium. Col. Benjamin McDonald, a 1983 graduate of Wake Forest University, will be the guest speaker during the ceremony. McDonald is the U.S. Army Reserve advisor to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg. The seniors are being commissioned as second lieutenants in the following assignments:

  • Sean Birmingham of Edgewood, Ky., will serve as an infantry officer at Fort Bragg
  • Phillip Conway of Glenmont, N.Y., will serve as a signal corps officer at Fort Hood, Texas
  • Joseph Pecko of San Antonio, Tex., will serve as a medical service corps officer at Fort Bragg
  • Andrew Schneider of Newton, Mass., will serve as a field artillery officer at Fort Campbell, Ky.
  • Cameron Smith of Colorado Springs, Co., will serve as a quartermaster officer in the U.S. Army in Europe

Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, 42nd Army Surgeon General, will confer the commissions on the cadets during the commencement ceremony on May 18.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, or (336) 758-5237.

SENIOR RECOGNIZED FOR HELPING LOCAL CHILDREN IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES GRADUATING — Gastonia native Trayonna Floyd, a senior sociology major, spent the summer of 2008 as a Pro Humanitate non-profit intern at The Children’s Law Center of Winston-Salem, where she served as Guardian Ad Litem for children in domestic violence and high-conflict custody cases.  During her internship, she wrote a grant application for $20,000 which was awarded to the agency.  She received the 2009 “Building the Dream” award on Martin Luther King Jr. Day for the work she did during her internship and the volunteer activities she has since undertaken.  Floyd will spend the next year working in the Division of Student Life at Wake Forest, and plans to start law school in the fall of 2010.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, or (336) 758-5237.

TWO SENIORS AMONG TOP STUDENTS IN COUNTRY ACCORDING TO USA TODAY —  Patrick Nelli, a Wake Forest University senior, was one of 20 students in the country named to the first team of USA Today’s 2009 All-USA College Academic Team, which honors students for outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership.  Yan Zhao, also a Wake Forest senior, was named to the third team.  Nelli, a physics major from Gastonia, was recognized for his research on ultrasound devices used to break up blood clots in stroke and heart attack victims.  He will start a job in Charlotte.  Zhao, who organized a benefit concert for Chinese earthquake relief, plans to go to medical school. Zhao is one of three Wake Forest seniors selected to present senior orations during commencement weekend at 2 p.m. May 17.

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

AMERICORPS VOLUNTEER HEADED TO TAIWAN WITH FULBRIGHT PROGRAM — For Grace Johnson, a senior political science major from Champaign, Ill., volunteer service is a part of daily life.  Johnson was recently recognized by the N.C. Campus Compact with its inaugural NC-Acts! award for completing more than 300 hours of AmeriCorps service in one year.  Johnson is part of the Wake Forest Campus Kitchen leadership team, leading cooking and delivery shifts, training new volunteers and helping to organize the annual Thanksgiving fundraiser, Turkeypalooza.  Johnson also volunteers several days a week with World Relief, a refugee resettlement organization, and is this year’s winner of the Schoonmaker Student Prize for Community Service.  “Grace’s breadth and depth of service involvement over the past four years is truly outstanding,” said Brighid Jensen, assistant director of student development and volunteer services. “She exemplifies the spirit of Pro Humanitate by utilizing knowledge from the classroom to solve a variety of problems that affect people in our local community as well as communities across the world.”  Johnson will spend the next year teaching English in Taiwan as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant.

Contact: Audrey Fannin, or (336) 758-5237.

MORE GRADUATING STUDENT STORIES — John Clayton, an economics and Chinese major, speaks five languages and has visited 33 countries.  Nadine Minani, a religion major, escaped genocide in Rwanda to live in the United States.  Jane Reeves Ellis, a senior from New Orleans, plans to be an interpreter for Hispanic patients at a clinic in her hometown.  Jamie Dean, a blind student who will earn law and MBA degrees, also won a silver medal in the Paralympics in Beijing.  To meet more 2009 Deacons, go to the Wake Forest Web site at

Contact: Eric Frazier, or (336) 758-5237.

COMMUNICATION EXPERT AVAILABLE TO COMMENT ON VICE PRESIDENTIAL SPEECHES — Allan Louden, associate professor of communication at Wake Forest, says speeches by vice presidents have not always enjoyed the attention they receive today.  “My sense is they have become more important in the Internet age, when media outlets need updated news every few minutes to be competitive,” Louden said.  “Hence, even a minor speech by a vice president is announced, parsed and made into some kind of news.”  As the media have paid more attention to statements by vice presidents, the use of vice presidential communication has been altered.  Louden points to an increasing tendency to use vice presidential speeches to send up “trial balloons” or to make policy statements in “real time” as world or national events are unfolding.  Louden is available to discuss the evolving nature of vice presidential speeches.

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

COMMENCEMENT TO BE WEBCAST LIVE BEGINNING AT 9 A.M. — The entire commencement ceremony, including the speech by Vice President Joe Biden will be broadcast live on the Internet beginning at 9 a.m. at  In the event of rain, the ceremony will be moved to Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum and will not be available on the Web. 

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

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