Junior Kyle Adams has made a name for himself during his first three years at the university. He has a major in Philosophy, but his coursework is not what gave him his name. Adams is the current Student Trustee on the Board of Trustees. The last time a junior had this title was over two decades ago, and Adams has already delivered two presentations to the board on behalf of the student body.
Can you tell me about what your role as Student Trustee entails?
The Student Trustee is a full voting member of the board, which means that we attend all board meetings. We have quarterly meetings as well as special meetings for certain things that are going on.
In addition to being a full voting member of the board, the Student Trustee delivers a speech or report every quarter when the board comes to campus. Those reports are entirely up to the Student Trustee and what he or she wants to cover and wants to direct attention to the board members. It can be campus climate, it can be some other form of student experience, it could be something entirely different and [or we can] talk about other activities that the board is involved in.
The Student Trustee also serves as a liaison of communication between board members, administrators and students. It’s the only position on campus that covers every single constituency within the university, from the highest being the governing board and the lowest being prospective students, current students, staff and faculty and of course the administrators.
You mentioned that the Student Trustee delivers reports to the board. What reports have you done thus far?
I have delivered reports at our September meeting and, most recently, at our January meeting. In the September meeting, my report covered what I thought the board could do to become involved and invested in the work of the President’s Commission [on Race, Equity and Community] and more largely the work of creating a more equitable environment within Wake Forest — not just in terms of student social belonging but also the institution itself, in how all these different offices, departments and activities within the university create or don’t create an equitable situation.
My January report, which I delivered last weekend, zoomed out a little bit more and spoke about how we are making landmark decisions as a board at a very dizzying pace. We just signed a deal to create a medical school in Charlotte. We are investing heavily in the Program for Leadership and Character. We’ve created top of the line athletics facilities for basketball and football, millions of dollars are being spent. And that’s great, but at the same time we do have a duty to inform the constituents we’re serving about what the ultimate goal of these pieces and as a board we must have clarity on what the bigger picture is that these pieces are leading to. My speech for the January board meeting was asking for all of us on the board and administration to zoom out and think about what are all these decisions leading towards, what image of Wake Forest are we trying to create?
How has your role as Student Trustee impacted your time and view of Wake Forest?
It’s completely changed my Wake Forest experience. I have a view and a perspective of Wake Forest that I would have never had if I wasn’t in this position. I not only see Wake Forest through an academic lens or a student lens, but I see it through the administration’s lens as well as the board’s lens. I can understand some of the bureaucracy that goes on and, even further, I can see how the university is planning for 10, 20, 30 years down the road.
Even further, the board looks at the university as students look at it, which is an institution to socialize people and to create better citizens of the world. But at the same time, they have to maintain it as a business model. At the end of the day, we have to make sure the numbers are adding up so the university is on a sustainable path to continue doing the work that it does.
I’ve learned a lot about how decisions are made at the very top to help create financial aid opportunities or to help build a new building or to help facilitate different interactions or different spaces on campus. It’s been a drastic shift in how I understand how the university works and how the overall system of higher education works.
What do you want your legacy to be?
As Student Trustee, I want my legacy to center on honesty and being forthright with board members, and also the people whom we serve.
My goal has been to increase awareness on how [the board] can be more transparent to the university and also draw attention to the most underrepresented students who are affected by many of our decisions.
In a nutshell, my legacy that I hope to have is that I was honest, I represented the people who are frequently underrepresented and fought to create a more equitable institution.
What do you hope for the future of Wake Forest?
I hope that we can take risks as a university to be pioneers of change in the higher education world, particularly in crafting a better student experience. I think we’re doing so in a lot of other areas but in terms of student experience and creating equity we have been watching what others do and then following the precedent. I think that we have the ability to take more risks and be at the forefront of change and be champions for change in the high education world.
I hope that we can become a leading university in wanting to make our students feel loved, feel as though they have equal opportunity to resources and to things on campus, and also to create a better institution that does not have the polarities that exist not just in our campus but throughout the United States.
What other things are you involved in on campus?
I’m the president of club baseball. I’m also a President’s Aide, and I serve on the advisory board for the Call to Conversation when that rolled out last year. [Call to Conversation] was my first significant involvement on campus, helping roll that out for the Reynolda Campus. Those are the main three things.
Have these shaped your perspective on what you want to focus on as a Trustee?
Being in Club Baseball and also being in the President’s Aide cohort, I’ve been exposed to a lot of people that I wouldn’t have automatically been exposed to. I’ve been able to see the perspectives of our students who are in predominant Greek Life organizations, but at the same time, I’m able to be with students who have very different social lives from Greek Life. I’ve been able to be with students who are on full scholarship and some who are paying the full tuition to come here. That’s allowed me to gather a variety of perspectives of whom I’m serving.
Even further, running Club Baseball have been as much of a learning experience in terms of leadership as being a Trustee has been. Getting 26 college-aged guys to show up to practice consistently and be ready to play and work hard and keep everything organized is just as challenging as getting 45 board members to believe in a message that I’m putting out.