Donning Demon Deacon earrings with a coordinating black sweater and gold scarf, the Dean of Campus Life, Mary Gerardy, epitomizes school spirit. Her enthusiasm for working is both admirable and inspiring.
She is in charge of a vast array of projects and organizations on campus and affects all students’ campus experiences, whether or not they know who she is. Greek life and school-wide social activities all stem from the Campus Life department.
Where is your hometown?
I grew up in Philadelphia. I went to school in Ohio and worked there for 9 years, and then I’ve been in Winston-Salem at Wake Forest for 26 years.
How did your studies lead you to a career in Campus Life?
It’s kind of ironic because when I was in college, I didn’t know about student life. I was a religion major and then got my masters in higher ed administration. I am a perpetual student. I love going to school you know, I just love learning.
How did you make the most of your own college experience?
I was not involved in a ton of organizations in college—I went to small school in Ohio. Sometimes we lament that we don’t have stores and restaurants right around Wake Forest, but my college was on the top of a hill in a teeny tiny town, so we had to make our own entertainment.
What is your role on campus?
Multifaceted, I would say. I work with a campus life unit, which is part of the division of student life, and we work on things like student philanthropy, campus kitchen, international service trips, student organizational life, student leadership, Greek Life, Benson, Student Union, Weekend Activities and then we also work with students and groups that have particular needs.
What is the campus life unit’s main goal?
We all are passionately interested in educating the whole person and making sure that Wake Forest is a vibrant place.
How has your role changed since you first arrived on campus?
I arrived as director of Student Union, and the Benson center wasn’t even built yet. I became the director of Student Union and Benson, and then in the early 90’s I became the assistant vice president of student life.
What was your first project?
During the first seven years I worked on Women’s Greek life the most. I was charged with taking all of our local societies national, which was a very interesting experience for me coming from a school with no Greek life.
How would your best friend describe your personality?
I’m very passionate, particularly about social justice, and I think my best friend would also say I’m really funny—something that the students don’t know. Sometimes it’s a pretty rough world, and we all need to laugh more. I really enjoy telling stories.
How do you interject your own personality into your career?
I do have a theatre background, so I love to dress up. It’s just fun. I was a pirate girl for Halloween—the Campus Life staff all dressed up. We dressed up and passed out candy to students.
What makes your job worthwhile?
If I had to pick one thing, I would have to say the students. To watch a student from the time they arrive on campus and then watch them mature over the four years is an incredible experience. Also, when I come on this campus each day, I think what a beautiful place this is.
What memories stand out in your career thus far?
I have so many memories—working on two presidential debates was incredible. I am a huge sports nut – I grew up with all brothers – so the ACC championships in ‘95 and ‘96 were unforgettable.
What advice would offer to students?
Over your four years at Wake Forest you need to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. Go to a lecture you think you would fundamentally disagree with. College is what you make of it. If you sit in a room and don’t get involved, you won’t make the most of your four years here.