Stories this week at WFU

By Jacob McConnico
April 26, 2006

LAW STUDENT EARNS DEGREE DESPITE YEAR OF ACTIVE DUTY — When Mike Soto graduates, he will not only take away a law degree but also the confidence that he can overcome any challenge. A former staff sergeant in the Army Reserve, whose term of service ended in 2005, Soto was called to active duty the second semester of his first year at law school and served in Operation Enduring Freedom for one year. He said he originally joined the Army to pay for his education and re-enlisted because of a sense of duty. "I think everyone should give back to their country, whether it's in their community, through the military or some other way," he said. Returning to law school after a year's absence was extremely difficult for the 32-year-old. He said he could barely remember what legal writing was, and his confidence was shaken. Fortunately, he had been assigned to the Judge Advocate General Corps (JAGC) office at Ft. Eustis, Va. He said the experience of working with real attorneys, along with the encouragement of his wife, friends and legal writing professor Christine Coughlin, is what saw him through. While at Wake Forest, Soto started the Hispanic/Latino Law Student Organization and was recognized for helping an elderly woman at the Elder Law Clinic recover more than $39,000 she had lost in a sales scam. He will join the law firm Hedrick, Eatman, Gardner and Kincheloe in Charlotte as a worker's compensation and civil defense attorney.

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

SENIORS WILL KEEP MAGIC ALIVE AFTER COMMENCEMENT — Theatre majors Matt Gutschick and Ben Whiting, who founded MagicMouth Productions, a nonprofit, educational theatre company they created while students at Wake Forest, will be able to devote themselves to further developing their company without having to worry about supporting themselves after graduation thanks to the university's Fifth Year Student Institute in Entrepreneurship. Offered by Wake Forest's Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts, the program allows graduating seniors to remain at the university for an extra year, during which they continue to develop the ventures they began as undergraduates with assistance and resources from the Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts.

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

CHRISTIAN ART IN CHINA? — For renowned Chinese artist and professor He Qi, a painting of the Madonna was what introduced him to Christianity and encouraged him to create a new form of Christian art. He Qi creates his work from an East Asian perspective — a perspective he says is more historically accurate. He blends Chinese and western art styles to create vibrant, contemporary paintings that focus on Bible stories and Jesus Christ as a messenger of peace and rejoicing. He Qi will discuss the history of Christian art in China and his work at a free, public lecture at Wake Forest at 10 a.m. May 1. The lecture will be held in Wingate Hall, Room 202. Some of the artist's work will also be on display following the lecture.

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

RHODES, MARSHALL SCHOLARS PREPARE FOR GRADUATE STUDIES IN ENGLAND — Wake Forest seniors Lakshmi Krishnan and Blake Brandes will start their graduate studies in England next fall as a Rhodes Scholar and a Marshall Scholar, respectively. Krishnan, a senior from Sugar Land, Texas, is majoring in English and German at Wake Forest. She plans on pursuing a master's degree in English literature at Oxford University. The tenth Wake Forest student to be named a Rhodes Scholar, Krishnan said her ultimate goal is to go to medical school after completing her studies at Oxford. While at Wake Forest, Krishnan was president of the university's chapter of Amnesty International, as well as an intern with the nonprofit organization, Physicians for Human Rights. Brandes, a senior from Hickory majoring in English and French, will study at the University of Kent where he will specialize in post-colonial studies. Brandes has traveled abroad to study various topics related to Arabic language and culture. A hip-hop performer whose lyrics address social issues, he founded the Hip-Hop Culture Club at Wake Forest, and runs his own DJ services and production company. He said he hopes to use the Marshall Scholarship to address social and political issues related to urban youth, specifically in regards to the connections between hip-hop, youth culture and political and social identity. Brandes is the first Wake Forest student to win a Marshall Scholarship since 2001, and the third Marshall Scholarship winner in university history.

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

POLITICAL SCIENCE MAJOR PLANS TO WORK FOR HIMSELF — While many graduating college seniors will begin careers this summer working for long established corporations, Scott Hurff, a senior at Wake Forest, said he and some fellow graduating seniors will work full time for themselves running Groupvine, an Internet campus organization service they co-founded and launched this year. Hurff, a political science major and chairman of Wake Forest's College Republicans, said he and classmates Josh Hemphill and Charles Beck came up with the idea for Groupvine after experiencing the frustrations of running a campus group. "People abuse e-mail lists, there's too much paperwork to fill out, meetings rarely get people on the same page and important files get lost," said Hurff, who is originally from Dublin, Ohio. According to Groupvine's Web site,, the service can assign to-do lists, keep track of events, archive important documents, store messages and collaborate with other campus groups. So far, the College Republican Federation of Virginia and a newspaper at the University of Pennsylvania have purchased Groupvine programs. Hurff is optimistic about the venture's future as he and his Groupvine colleagues are in the process of discussing opportunities with investors. Hurff, Hemphill and Beck launched Groupvine with help from the university's Office of Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts.

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

WHO ARE THE GRADUATES? — While the university is busy preparing for former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner's May 15 commencement address, the approximately 1,500 Wake Forest graduates who will hear Warner's speech are busy preparing for their next step in life. As commencement nears, the News Service can connect media with members of the graduating class who have inspiring or unusual stories. Among those students who will march during the ceremony: an undergraduate from Monroe, La., who has been home three times to help with recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; a law student who holds the position of University Carillonneur, playing the 48 classically-controlled bronze bells in the chapel tower several days a week; and a fifth-generation Wake Forest student from Raleigh who was recently given his great-grandfather's class ring from 1912.

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

MEDIA ARRANGEMENTS FOR COMMENCEMENT — The Wake Forest News Service will be distributing information about media arrangements for the university's May 15 commencement soon. Former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner will deliver the address during the 9 a.m. outdoor ceremony on Hearn Plaza (the Quad). The ceremony is not open to the public. Parking passes and media credentials will be required for all members of the media. To arrange coverage of the event by your organization, contact Jacob McConnico at or (336) 758-5237.