Wake Forest Freshmen Get an ‘Irreverent’ Take on Orientation

July 25, 2017

Wake Forest U.
In the pages of Wake Forest’s hardcover orientation guide, students are introduced to the Demon Deacon, the university’s mascot.

Among the more playful suggestions Wake Forest University offers its first-year students is this: Be sure to keep a secret stash of double-roll toilet paper.

No, it’s not for those unexpected bathroom needs, but for a more recreational endeavor. After a victory by one of the college’s sports teams, students often cover the quad with TP. To ensure "maximum impact and tree coverage," use the extra ply.

That’s a tip from Forestry 101, a 138-page hardcover book that Wake Forest hands out to all freshmen. Part campus guide, part keepsake, the publication is the university’s unusual attempt at ditching the stuffy orientation brochures for something more whimsical.

Forestry 101, which was first published five years ago, includes all the necessary details and deadlines a new student should know. But it also makes a point to illustrate quirky details of the university’s history and traditions, like the toilet-paper tip on a page devoted to "How to Toss Like a Boss" after a big athletic win. (Which, for the record, might as easily be an instruction guide for students with less baseball experience and weaker arms.)

As fun as it might be, in the age of the internet, is printing and mailing out a hardcover book really worthwhile?

Yes, according to Wake Forest students. In a recent survey, about 95 percent of them said the college should keep publishing it, and perhaps more importantly, they reported that their parents love it. One student noted that her mom likes it because it keeps her organized.

Sharing the ‘Essence’ of Wake Forest

The guidebook intentionally attempts to strike a "tongue in cheek" tone that’s "less institutional," said Hayes Henderson, assistant vice president of creative communications at Wake Forest. It has fun with a process that’s "usually very dry and scientific," he said. "It turns it on its head and makes it irreverent."

Wake Forest U.
The Wake Forest guidebook includes a remedial lesson on how to throw toilet paper.
Not everyone sees an orientation book primarily as an opportunity to boost school spirit. Christy Buchanan, the senior associate dean for academic advising, is more concerned with getting students the essential information in a straightforward manner, she said, so they don’t feel like they’re being "thrown to the wolves" as they sign up for classes or navigate housing deadlines.

So a balance between entertaining and informational content is key, Mr. Henderson said. Conveying the facts is important, so students can use it as a guidebook, but in a way that "carves out enough real estate to build the essence of what Wake Forest is," he said.

Publishing a guidebook like this each year is probably too expensive for many institutions. Wake Forest pays $50,000 annually to produce Forestry 101.

But the university’s effort to poke fun at institutional stuffiness may seem refreshing to many students and even allows the college to highlight some campus traditions that might seem anachronistic. The image of Wake Forest’s mascot, the old white Baptist "Demon Deacon" in a silk top hat and stern tuxedo, is woven throughout this year’s edition.

As Mr. Henderson put it, "It’s kind of weird to have an old man in a top hat as our mascot, so why not embrace it?"