Then and now

Lynn Neal and first-year seminar class April 2011.

Religion professor Lynn Neal and her first-year seminar students spent a semester in 2007 exploring the relationship between religion and popular culture in contemporary American life. Neal invited those students, now seniors, who were in that Surprising Spirituality course for a reunion. Here’s how the group said they have changed from that first semester to the last.

2007 first-year seminar class "Surprising Spirituality" with Lynn Neal

Students in religion professor Lynn Neal's first-year seminar class, "Surprising Spirituality." (Fall 2007)

then: focus on grades (we did all earn “A”s in high school, right?)
now: realize the process of learning is more important than the final product

then: inexperienced
now: confident

then: nervous at presenting in front of a group
now: will talk the entire class if you like

then: a five-page paper was stressful
now: ready to produce a 20-pager, no problem

then: experienced state of shock upon realization college classes were not a continuation of high school with room and board
now: realize that it is possible to delve more deeply into one paragraph on one topic and come up with more knowledge than I acquired my entire year in 12th grade

From Lynn Neal's first-year seminar reunion 2011

then: grades = academic success
academic success = the ability to think critically, write clearly, find help when I need it and use available resources

then: never thought to ask professors questions and engage them in conversations
now: have emailed, phoned, texted and stalked professors to learn how to improve my understanding

then: had little understanding of failure
now: have learned how to handle disappointment — knowing I won’t vaporize from the experience

then: was nervous about meeting new people different from myself
realize that the more I know my classmates, the more I get out of the class

then: when a professor gave me a cell phone number and told me to call I thought it was a joke
now: know professors at Wake go out of their way to be accessible and responsive

then: thought I was an excellent writer
now: acknowledge the Writing Center has been my best friend

then: thought I knew it all
now: have a healthy sense of humility

then: thought the professor would teach
now: learned that the people around me have something to teach me too

then: wanted to take classes in areas I thought I was already good at
now: realized how much I’ve enjoyed classes that took me out of my comfort zone

Oh, the places they’ll go!

  • Bailey Anderson, hometown Dallas, Texas — Joining a commercial real estate company, Stream Realty, LP
  • Anna Baitchenko, hometown Atlanta, Ga. — Taking a year off to work or travel before attending law school in fall 2012
  • Natalie Deuschle, hometown Knoxville, Tenn. — Heading to Ohio State University to earn a masters in school counseling
  • Joshua DeWitt, hometown Sioux Falls, S.D. — Marketing analyst, PepsiCo
  • Laura Pinnie, hometown West Chester, Pa. — Heading to New York City as a government, nonprofit, Healthcare credit analyst with JP Morgan Chase & Co.
  • Varian Tunstall, hometown Vienna, Va. — Remaining in Winston-Salem as a Wake Forest Fellow in the Dean’s Office
  • Alison Sielbeck, hometown Brentwood, Tenn. — Heading to Nashville, Tenn. as an investment bank analyst for Avondale Partners
  • Mary Catherine Lindsay, hometown Atlanta, Ga. — Heading home to pursue a career in film and television

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