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Higher education back-to-school story ideas

By Cheryl V. Walker
August 4, 2005

HOT SUMMER READING: MIDDLE EASTERN BESTSELLER — Books that give a personal perspective of life in the Middle East are high on best-seller lists and on college summer reading lists. One such book, Azar Nafisi's "Reading Lolita in Tehran," was selected by Wake Forest University as the orientation assignment for incoming freshmen. Wake Forest is one of at least six colleges and universities that selected a book from this popular new genre as its fall 2005 freshman reading assignment. Charles A. Kimball, professor of religion at Wake Forest and Islam expert, says this trend likely plays into the increased interest in Islam and a recognition of the need for an understanding of Islam that reaches beyond the stereotypes still espoused by many people. "Using best-selling books like these not primarily focused on Islam is a less threatening way to help put a human face on Muslims and hopefully, raise the level of informed discussion on our campuses and within the wider society," Kimball said. As part of Wake Forest's orientation-related events, Kimball will present a public talk at the university titled "Politics, Society and Religion under Islam, Christianity and Judaism."

Contact: Maggie Barrett, or 336-758-5237.

FRESH FOOD, MADE TO ORDER, AT COLLEGE? — The days of mystery meats and other frozen, processed foods are long gone at most college dining halls. Students and parents are demanding fresher, healthier options from schools, and Wake Forest University has responded by becoming one of about 10 universities in the nation to offer the Fresh Food Company concept from Aramark, a Philadelphia-based food service company. "With this program, all of the food is fresh and it is made to order in front of you," said Connie Carson, executive director of residential services at Wake Forest. The concept, which has been incorporated in the "Pit," Wake Forest's main campus dining hall, offers a variety of themed stations where trained chefs prepare food to order for the customer. The design is almost kitchenless, with virtually all prep work and cooking taking place in the dining room as customers order food. People with food allergies can ask chefs to leave items out of dishes and health-conscious customers can regulate what goes into their food. Food servers and back-room cooks have been retrained as improvisational chefs, able to whip up a meal and banter with students as they wait. Some of the stations in the new concept include a Produce Market/Deli with a large salad bar, an International Grille, a Pizza/Pasta station, a Southern Kitchen, and a Grill, where students can get burgers, sandwiches, hot subs and French fries cut from fresh potatoes at the station.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.

LIKE-MINDED LIVE, LEARN TOGETHER AT WFU — Wake Forest University, like most national universities, has offered theme housing for about 20 years, but it has gained in popularity in the past several years. Connie Carson, executive director of residential services at Wake Forest, says a change about 10 years ago that allowed students to start coming up with their own ideas for theme houses has driven this popular trend in college living. "We have pretty much gone to a student-driven system that requires them to come up with their own programs and faculty advisors," Carson said. "The interest has gone back up in recent years, and we see it peaking for groups that advocate social causes and other special interests. What the theme houses do really is offer students a smaller community within the larger campus community." This year at Wake Forest there will be seven theme houses, including the new Environmental House, focused on recycling and deepening students' understanding of the environment and ecology. Other theme houses include: Technology Quarters, a house run by the University's Information Systems department that gives students a chance to live with and test the newest technology being considered for campus use; Nia House, named for one of the seven principles of Kwanzaa and geared towards African-American women; a house called World Scope, which has been organized by an internationally-focused group of students dedicated to multiculturalism; the Methodist Wesley House; a house for members of the club crew team; and a house for the theatre group Anthony Aston Players.

Contact: Jacob McConnico, or 336-758-5237.

WAKE FOREST HELPS PARENTS DEAL WITH EMPTY NEST — The transition to college often can be harder for the parents than the student, says Johnne Armentrout, assistant director of Wake Forest's counseling center. Helping parents understand the changes their freshmen will experience while encouraging them to focus on their own lives can help, says Armentrout. She and her husband lead Wake Forest's "Family Relationships in Transition," a program for parents of freshmen. This year's program will be held Aug. 18 from 7 - 9:30 p.m. Wake Forest's counseling center has offered a program for parents as part of freshman orientation for the past 23 years. The program will focus on how the changes that occur as students develop and mature may affect their family relationships and provide practical tips on how to help families cope with the empty nest. "The challenge for some parents is not to become overly involved," says Armentrout. "I would like to convince parents that the more they can let students tackle problems on their own, the better."

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

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