Kidd You Not
with

Dr. Shea

Welcome to this brand new podcast hosted by Wake Forest University’s Vice President of Campus Life, Dr. Shea Kidd Brown. The purpose of this podcast is to connect you, the audience to our shared humanity. Often times we observe one another from a distance, but it’s surprising how human we all are when we get up close. On this podcast, we will discover what connects us to our commonalities, our differences, our stories, and yes our humanity.

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*Kidd You Not is brought to you by Wake Forest students Vir Gupta (’25) and Mary Anna Bailey (’25) and supported by the Division of Campus Life.



In this episode, Dr. Shea looks back at the year that was. You’ll hear about what are some of Dr. Shea’s key takeaways from the episodes and guests we’ve had so far. She also talks about some of her favorite moments from interviews, what makes this such a special project for her, and so much more!

Transcript:

Shea Kidd Brown (00:05):

Hey, it’s Dr. Shea, and it is our season one finale episode, believe it or not. So we have been talking through and thinking through what we have learned, and I say we because it’s a team that has created this podcast over the last year, and today is really just about wrapping up our episodes and looking forward to the future. So far, we have recorded 17 episodes, including this one, and we are so appreciative of everyone who has listened in. And to remind you, our guests have included Dr. Jose Villalba, who’s our chief diversity officer, Dave Clawson, who serves as head football coach. There have been some reflection episodes sprinkled in. We’ve also had Dean Jackie Krasas, who serves as the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in the graduate school. We’ve had Heidi Robinson, who was one of our Associate Vice Presidents who supports our students’ career and personal development.

(01:05):

We’ve had Jackson Butler, who is one of our seniors. He’s also our Student Body President. Our Chief of Police, Regina Lawson. Senior Austin Terrain. We’ve had head basketball coach Steve Forbes and President Susan Wente, and we’ve had an episode with me that featured my son, Jack Wilson. We’ve also heard from Vir Gupta, who is our producer, but we also got to hear his story. We’ve heard from everybody’s favorite, Sonny Davis, and the class of 2024, Cate Pitterle, Badr Merdassi, Sydney Smith and Sean Brady. Whoa, that was a mouthful. I’m just taking a moment right now, because there are so many people that we’ve been able to hear their stories and elevate how important our shared humanity is through lots of different perspectives and lenses and world views. So I’m so, so, so grateful for everyone who has been a part of this.

(02:02):

And speaking of gratitude, I mentioned at the beginning, it is a we thing. So there’s lots of gratitude as it relates to the team who is supporting the podcast. So first and foremost, Vir Gupta. You have heard me talk about how this podcast came to be, and it was really about a student reflecting back to me that I could do this. And so I thank Vir for that initial nudge, but also for producing the podcast. He has carefully edited and helped with sound balance and all of the various things that go into the podcast. So, thank you, Vir. I know you have a very, very busy schedule, so I really appreciate you.

(02:41):

Gretchen Castelloe, who serves as the Campus Life Fellow at Wake Forest University, and Gretchen has assisted with lots of different logistics, from scheduling to helping with preparation, and to just keeping me on track, which can be hard to do. So, much appreciation to Gretchen. Also, I want to thank Abigail Brumfield and Debbie Mason, who serve as wonderful colleagues within the Division of Campus Life, and they also assist with a lot of the administrative logistical aspects of the podcast. Paul Whitener and the WakerSpace. Each time I get to go into the recording studio, Paul greets me with a warm smile, and just being able to have a facility on campus where students and faculty and staff can work on their craft, so no matter what that is. In my case, a podcast. So many, many thanks to Paul and the WakerSpace team.

(03:36):

Certainly our student assistants and students in general. So I appreciate when I can bounce an idea off and a student says, “Hey, we should do this,” or, “Have you thought about this,” or, “What about Ms. Sonny in the Pit?” So I always, always appreciate student feedback and the work of our student assistants in keeping this moving forward. And finally, I want to thank you, our listeners. So without you, you know, we just are sitting in a booth recording and don’t necessarily have anyone who’s listening. So thank you to our listeners, and all of our guests who have been a part of birthing this new project.

(04:12):

So in this last episode, it will be short, but I really just want to express how appreciate I’ve been. Uh, I’ve learned so much from each guest. And as I play things back, admittedly I am not a fan of hearing my own voice, but I think we all share that awkwardness and sort of cringey moments when we hear ourselves, but that’s not what this is about. It’s about the things that I’ve learned. So some of the things I’ve learned is, I talked about in a recap episode last year, I generally begin each podcast with this question about home and origin story. So through that, of course there are some themes and commonalities. And, uh, one of those things is that home is really more than a stationary place. So when I say, “Where is home for you,” I think most guests would say what that place is. In my case, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but you almost immediately hear people describing what that is and why it’s home. So it’s not just a stationary place, but it’s a feeling.

(05:13):

I remember Heidi Robinson, one of our early episodes, said, “Home is a place where you can take your shoes off.” And I think that’s such a good imagery of just a sense of comfort that comes from home. I love asking that question of our students. When I say, “Where’s home for you,” they will often recount where they live on campus, which I think is the ultimate compliment, that home, even after a few months, particularly for our first years, is their residence hall. You know, we’ll continue to start our podcast, more than likely, with that question, because I think it just is a great place to launch a conversation.

(05:49):

Another theme that many people talked about is this fact that we need people. So there’s no one that I have sat down with who has said, “I got here on my own and I’m enjoying this life of solitude.” (laughs) Um, everyone talks about the importance of mentoring and community and building friendships and relationships and being able to navigate hard things in community with other people, and being able to celebrate successes in community with other people. So that’s a commonality that I continue to see, and it’s just important. At Wake Forest, we talk about pro humanitate, and that’s our motto. And it’s a Latin phrase meaning, “For humanity.” And so it is this really interesting concept. And I think of course we all have different ways of understanding what community means, but I’ve seen that throughout all of the conversations that I’ve had, that we truly need people, and we’ll continue to build on that in our future episodes.

(06:50):

We also have unique talents and strengths. And, you know, I think back to when I interviewed Coach Forbes versus President Wente versus our students, and how each person has these unique talents, whether it’s motivation or being able to understand complex ideas as it relates to the sciences or taking a life experience and making that their own and launching that into academic pursuits. So I think we all do. And as you’re listening, you know, it’s not just the guests that I talk to that have talents and strengths. We all do. So, you know, I want you to think about what are those things you’re naturally good at? What are those things, when you wake up in the morning, that just become, they’re really organic and they’re just really easy for you? We all have those things. So how do we think about refining that?

(07:39):

And also, how do we think about that in our lives? Just a life of positivity and thinking about what’s going right in our lives. And certainly, we can’t ignore the things that are not going so right, but it creates a different way of thinking and knowing and understanding the world. So encourage you to think about that.

(07:59):

Another theme that has emerged is that we all want to belong. So we all have this deep desire to feel connected. I remember as I interviewed Sonny Davis, she said, “You don’t have to fit in. You’re already in.” And that’s something I need to embroider on a pillow or put on a canvas or something, because I think that’s such a great way to think about this notion of belonging. Maya Angelou, who taught here at Wake Forest for many, many years, has a quotation that is, “The ache for home lives inside of us, the place that we can go as we are and not be questioned.” And I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but, and we all have that ache for connection and belonging and home. And I love her quote particularly because she says, “Place where we can go as we are.” So unapologetically who we are, that’s really the notion of belonging.

(08:56):

Many of you know if you listen to me very long, that’s a passionate area for me, is this world is thirsty for connection, and sometimes it manifests in just the opposite. But I think we are all interested in that. So that’s an interesting theme that has come out. You know, I continue to learn. There’s certainly a lot of reflective opportunities, but I’ve just so enjoyed sitting across a table with someone else, not checking my phone, not checking my email, and the same goes for the guest, but just being locked in. So even if you say, “I’m not ready to host a podcast,” I would encourage you to think about who are those people you really want to connect with, and find some time to maybe go tech-free and connect deeply around story, because we all have one.

(09:43):

As we prepare for a little bit of a break, when you work in higher education, there are these natural seasons. So I live my life in academic semesters. So when I talk to my friends outside of higher ed, I’ll say, “Well, in May, you know, there’ll be a natural break,” and we don’t, as an administrator, we work year-round, but the season makes it a little bit quieter on campus. And so that creates a little bit of a break for the podcast. So as we prepare for this break and plan out the academic year, we’ll be thinking about what’s next on the podcast. So we’ll begin planning for next year. And as I get feedback from those around me, I imagine you’ll hear from more students, more campus celebrities, and maybe JW will even come back, my son.

(10:29):

I just want to end as I began, by thanking you. Thank you for being a part of this community that strives to lead with hard work and heart work. And I encourage you, whatever you do in life, whether you work in higher education or maybe you don’t, live your life in semesters, I encourage you to take a few moments to reflect and renew. Think about, what are you grateful for? What lessons is life teaching you right now in this moment? What are you looking forward to? All of those questions are important. And in this life that tends to just continue to be busy and noisy, we all need these moments to sit still with our thoughts. So I encourage you to do that.

(11:10):

And just know that you matter, that we all have an amazing stories to share. I Kid You Not. So until next time, until the beginning of season two, I encourage you to keep leaning into that hard work and heart work. And we’ll be back in the fall. Thank you again for listening.

MaryAnna Bailey (11:29):

This episode was produced by Vir Gupta, in association with the university’s campus life team. For any thoughts and suggestions on what or who you want to hear next time, reach out to us on our socials using the information in the show notes. I’m MaryAnna Bailey, and this was Kid You Not.


In this episode, Dr. Shea sits down with four graduating seniors from the Class of 2024. This is the second part of our special two-parter episode with these guests! Cate Pitterle, Badr Merdassi, Sydney Smith, and Sean Brady all join us once again to reflect specifically on the things and people they are most thankful for in their time here at Wake. They also leave us with advice that they would each like to share with underclassmen in the forest and what they may have done differently when looking back.

Shea Kidd Brown (00:06):

Hey, it’s Dr. Shea, and I’m back with these four Wake Forest seniors from the class of 2024. As we approach the end of the year, and as some of our students are about to experience a huge milestone, commencement, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look back on the last few years, how we got here, obstacles we’ve overcome, and successes we have celebrated. In the last episode of Kidd You Not, seniors Cate Pitterle, Sydney Smith, Badr Merdassi, and Sean Brady discussed their transition to college for the Fall 2020 semester, during the height of the global pandemic. We discussed feelings of uncertainty and isolation, but we also talked about the joy of finding community through residence halls and student organizations.

(00:54):

We ended our last conversation by turning the corner from the bleak first few semesters during COVID to asking when Wake Forest began to feel like home. Today, we’re gonna jump right back into our conversation, and I’m so excited to hear what they have to say. In sort of keeping along that thread of home, um, who are the people, the resources, the offices that really helped? Um. Badr described it as safe and comfort. Are there particular personalities, faculty that you feel like really helped in that way?

Cate Pitterle (01:32):

So many.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:33):

(laughs).

Cate Pitterle (01:34):

Um. I love this question, because I love to brag about all of the mentors and role models here.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:38):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (01:39):

Obviously, working at Campus Life for the last two years with you, Dr. Shea, and with Debbie and Abigail, and now Gretchen, has been really, really wonderful and that’s become like a little space for me where I feel very safe.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:49):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (01:49):

But there have been other offices too, the scholar’s office with Jackie Sheridan-

Shea Kidd Brown (01:53):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (01:53):

… and Acacia, some of my favorite people on the planet, I love them so much.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:57):

(laughs).

Cate Pitterle (01:57):

Leadership and Character has been really wonderful.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:58):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (01:59):

Ann Phelps, Michael Lamb. Jazz, now, who is so cool.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:02):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (02:03):

There’s just a lot of really, really cool people. Definitely professors as well. Um. She’s gone now, she was a visiting assistant professor, my first two, maybe three years, Carolyn Coberly in the Politics Department. I don’t know if anybody’s had her classes, but I took three classes with her.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:17):

Wow.

Cate Pitterle (02:17):

Also, Dr. Hallier, I took three classes with.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:19):

Wow.

Cate Pitterle (02:19):

I became known for this, where I would take-

Shea Kidd Brown (02:21):

(laughs) three classes.

Cate Pitterle (02:23):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:23):

Frequent flyer.

Cate Pitterle (02:24):

Yeah. I was, literally, I would take like two or three classes with the same professor because I would find a professor that I would like, and I would just like, “All right, what are you teaching next semester? How can I fit it into my schedule?” Actually, the Russian Department only has two professors, so very similar experience as well.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:39):

(Laughs). Nice.

Cate Pitterle (02:39):

So I’ve gotten to know a lot of professors very well, and that’s just been something I think that I’ve sought too. Leadership and Character has this idea too of a moral exemplar, which is essentially just a really fancy way of saying role model.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:51):

Oh. A moral exemplar.

Cate Pitterle (02:52):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:52):

Wow.

Cate Pitterle (02:53):

It’s a really good phrase. Use it at parties, totally.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:56):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (02:57):

Totally a point of conversation, because it’s allowed me to view my role models through the light of having a quality or a virtue, or a value that I really want to emulate. So for me, like my parents, for instance, are moral exemplars for me in different ways.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:12):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (03:12):

But also the people who I’ve met at Wake are moral exemplars in different ways. So people who I think are really passionate or really compassionate, people who are really kind, people who are really patient. Just people who have qualities that, like, I seek to cultivate in myself. And I’ve been able to find a lot of that at Wake.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:28):

I have the benefit of seeing you all, and your posture, your body language, all shifted when I asked that question. And so I can’t wait to hear the other responses.

Badr Merdassi (03:37):

The list is too long at this … and I’m so grateful to be able to say this.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:42):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (03:42):

You know, it-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:42):

That’s a gift.

Badr Merdassi (03:43):

It’s a, exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:44):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (03:44):

And we shouldn’t take it for granted because we’re able to do this just because Wake Forest allows us to be in such a small community that can actually call itself a community. Because we do genuinely develop bonds that I think transcend just our four years here.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:00):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (04:00):

And I wouldn’t make it where I am today without the people I was able to know. And the first two weeks, first name that popped into my head is Maria Henson.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:10):

Mm.

Badr Merdassi (04:10):

Extraordinary person, who I met in the parking garage of my first-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:16):

(Laughs)

Badr Merdassi (04:17):

No, it’s, it’s true. It’s parking garage of my first quarantine. She came with, just to say hi to students she never met before, just to say hi and just offer some strong word of support. And from there, she’s become a mentor of mine. Dr. Susan Fahrbach, who was my FYS, and lower division advisor. I had her fall semester freshman year, and my only small time, in a sense of community at Wake Forest was her office hour on Monday, through Zoom, 6:00 PM Tunisia time. Thanks to her, I made it through that semester, truly-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:52):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (04:52):

And she knows that. And across those years, I can say that Dr. V is one of those role models for me. So many others I’ve been able to just develop relationships with. And you as well, Dr. Shea, I’m happy to count you in there. And I’m very grateful for that.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:08):

Thank you. And I love the name drops because I think our faculty, staff, administrators do this because they love it, and don’t ever know, like what was the moment in the parking lot, you know, or it was a moment in time often that is etched in your memory forever, and for them, they have many moments, and so even thinking about how critical that period was for you, when you were so disconnected from everything that’s happening in Winston-Salem, and even the impact of time.

(05:37):

I think about that now for our international students. I was talking to a student a couple weeks ago who will be on a different podcast, it’s like a crossover. But Vir Gupta, who you all know, but home is India for him, so hearing him talk about even, we only have like this little window of time that I can connect back to my family, and you only have this little window of time that you could connect with faculty.

Badr Merdassi (05:58):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:58):

Or you were really tired and trying to figure out how to navigate.

Badr Merdassi (06:01):

No. That’s, that’s totally it.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:01):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (06:02):

I think what you said earlier, before we kind of began, was just the posture change and like the-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:06):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (06:07):

You know, everyone’s face, I think accurately reflects the question as the sense of home that Wake Forest provides, because that’s like one of my favorite questions because to answer it defines what Wake Forest is to me.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:16):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (06:17):

Some of the departments I’m, you know, eternally grateful for because they did shape my time at Wake Forest, they made me realize this is home, is certainly Student Engagement especially, our lovely friends in S.O. Office-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:29):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (06:29):

As well as the, uh, Student Organizations Office. And outside of that, you know, my awesome friends in Pi Kapp and AKPsi certainly shaped my experience at Wake. I think the one that I always, like, think about a little bit now is you’re never like abandoned at Wake in that sense.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:42):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (06:42):

Where, you know, two of the professors that stick out the most to me were ones that I had in my sophomore Fall, and one that I have right now, which I think is unique in that they stand out both at the beginning of my real Wake Forest time-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:54):

Right.

Sean Brady (06:55):

And at the end of my time, which is, you know, Professor Cianci, from the Accounting Faculty, and uh, Professor, uh, Harris-Perry from the Politics Department, and both for kind of unique reasons, which is, you know, Professor Cianci showed me kind of like how a professor tries to kind of find like the light or the uniqueness in each student, and kind of let them find that for themselves in the subject, right? I felt like the professor believed me, her happiness was driven by our success in the classroom, and that was Wake Forest to me.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:21):

Mm.

Sean Brady (07:21):

And now with Professor Harris-Perry this semester, like someone who comes into a classroom and understands it’s, you know, her duty to kind of like captivate us all, right? Like that it’s more than just we’re gonna listen to her present on the subject matter that we’re learning about that day, but that it’s a two-way discussion.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:37):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (07:37):

It’s a two-way conversation. And you know, for that, very grateful. Those are the people, especially some of my closest friends right now, that have defined Wake Forest for me.

Sydney Smith (07:45):

Yeah. When we talk about Wake Forest being home, people say, “Home is where the heart is.” If you’re from the South, people make jokes like, “Home is where your stomach is, and where the good food is.”

Shea Kidd Brown (07:51):

(Laughs)

Sydney Smith (07:52):

So I’ll definitely talk about some of the staff members on campus who honestly help us eat, right?

Shea Kidd Brown (07:59):

Mm.

Sydney Smith (08:00):

So you guys know Ms. Sonny in the pit.

Sean Brady (08:01):

Oh, yeah.

Sydney Smith (08:01):

Everyone knows Ms. Sonny in the pen. So Ms. Sonny, for those of you who don’t know, all the listeners, right? So she’ll be sort of at the main checkpoint and when you’re swiping at the main dining hall, the pen. So you know, you swipe your Deacon One card, and whether it’s the morning or the afternoon, she always has the sweetest thing to say to you. When I was-

Sean Brady (08:15):

Morning, sweetheart.

Sydney Smith (08:15):

Yes. “Good morning, sweetheart. Good morning, baby.” She’s so sweet. I think it’s really nice that even, like as we’ve progressed through COVID, which it was so nice to have someone, when you’re going to get as close of a equivalent to a home-cooked meal as you can have when you’re away from home, someone who’s really sweet when you’re walking in and who makes that experience a little bit better.

(08:32):

So Ms. Sonny, all of the individuals who work in the pit, honestly. Miss Jessica. You guys might not know her, but she’s the head of catering at Wake Forest. All of the individuals who are behind the scenes making, we’ll say the eateries, happen. They go out of their way, or in my opinion, they’ve gone out of their way during my time at Wake to not only say kind things and acknowledge me kindly when I’d like to eat, but asking me how my day is. The same sort of energy that I hope to give to them and be like, “How are you?” And if they tell me on a Monday about their cousin, I’ll be like, on Tuesday, “How’s your cousin?” They’ll ask me about my classes, about my tests and everything, and that, in my opinion, was so unique to me. I expected that a lot from my professors, and I got that, but to go away from the academic setting of Wake Forest and still have those meaningful conversations was really nice. It made it feel like home even more.

(09:13):

And I’ll also say that when I toured at Wake Forest, my tour guide, Danny Meyers, he sat us down, the tour group, in a classroom. He was talking to us about how, you know, Wake Forest is great, all the typical things a tour guide will say, and then he said, or he reminisced on the time that he and some of his classmates were invited by a professor to the professor’s house for dinner. And my mom, she was like, “You need to be one of those smart kids who gets invited over to your professor’s house for dinner.” I was like, “I don’t know how to go about that. I feel like he’s just saying that to say it.”

(09:39):

When I chose Wake, this goes even more into it being like home, Leigh Meyers, who works in the Benson University Center, my mom somehow became friends with Danny and now is friends with Ms. Leigh, and Leigh Meyers, um, she talked to me about it, she was like, “Oh, you know, have you gone to anyone’s house for dinner yet?” I have gone to people’s house for dinner.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:56):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (09:56):

My professors will invite classes over and everything. Corey Walker, who I think he was just named like the new Dean of the Divinity School or something.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:02):

Right.

Sydney Smith (10:02):

He was over at the Journalism Department down there, and he was just, you know, speaking all sorts of knowledge to us. So back to my core beginning-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:09):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (10:09):

It’s like home is where the heart is. Home, I guess really is where the food is because-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:13):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (10:13):

Everyone who I’ve had a meal with, who has helped me, serve a meal, like they’re just always so kind and it’s made my experience so good.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:18):

Yeah. I very much connect with that, and I think about, as you were all talking about home, home really is routine and familiarity.

Sydney Smith (10:27):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:27):

And safety, and so many people have been a part of that happen for you, even in a dark time, dark period, and that’s what’s been pervasive, I think, about the Wake Forest culture, has been tested in the most obvious ways, through global pandemic, and yet that light still shines through. And as I mentioned, you know, I plopped in your second year, when we, we were still masked, if y’all even remember your spring of your sophomore year-

Sydney Smith (10:54):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:55):

… until spring break, we were masked and couldn’t have food with events, or events with food. So I was in that with you for at least a time, but I love hearing pervasiveness, and I love the Sonny shout-out.

Sydney Smith (11:08):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (11:08):

And, um, by the time this episode drops, we will have already dropped an episode with Ms. Sonny.

Sydney Smith (11:14):

Oh.

Cate Pitterle (11:17):

Oh, that’s so exciting.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:17):

Yeah. Yeah. So-

Cate Pitterle (11:17):

And she deserves that.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:18):

She’s amazing and she loves our students. And I think having that commitment from everyone who’s here, they’re getting up thinking about you, it’s really special and it’s even more special to hear you reflect that back. So we rounded the corner in various ways, some ways, like Cate said, not a specific time and place, but curious, what are you most proud of as you think about this whole synthesis, at this point, of a college experience.

Sean Brady (11:43):

Some of the things I’m most proud of is, at the end of the day, I think similar to kind of what you alluded to, a phrase that I think we will all recognize and kind of live with for the rest of it, is kind of the, “Our way forward,” mindset.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:54):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (11:54):

Right? That was Wake’s kind of early on, kind of way of addressing our way, which I think is unique in the sense of it’s not a, you know, we need to restart, and it’s not that we need to like change permanently, but it’s how we’re going to move forward. And I think that mindset allowed for me to internalize it on my way forward.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:09):

Mm.

Sean Brady (12:09):

Recognizing like COVID is not going to be the only obstacle or the only kind of life-altering moment in all of our lives, but especially our own. That opportunity freshman year really showed me, you know, the importance in a, “My way forward,” thought process, where things are not always going to go perfectly, but being able to kind of pivot, pick up, change direction, and adapt, is key to being successful in just all that you do. And I think about all the times where I would ask for more hours in the day-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:36):

Mm.

Sean Brady (12:36):

Because of how much was going on, right?

Shea Kidd Brown (12:38):

Right, yeah.

Sean Brady (12:39):

That you’re going to bed at three, four in the morning, back up at 7:00 AM. Those days were tough because there’s so much to fit in a day, and I would probably be a little over-extended at times with commitments and opportunities, leadership stuff. But that made Wake Forest not only worth it, but what I’ll remember forever.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:54):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (12:54):

And I think that’s what I’m proud of, is the idea that I think it could’ve been easy for a lot of us just to say like, “I’m gonna just kind of put my head down and four years will go by-“

Shea Kidd Brown (13:02):

Right.

Sean Brady (13:02):

“And I can forget all about that,” but I think this campus allowed for us all to be like, “Hey, we might only have three years, but we’re gonna make it feel like an entire lifetime in that time.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:11):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (13:11):

I totally agree with that. I developed this mindset of having to take advantage to everything that I’m possibly given. I wanted to do every opportunity, I wanted to go to every event. I started using Google Calendar my sophomore year-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:23):

Oh, there you go.

Cate Pitterle (13:23):

And it was full. And I will say, like actually it’s really interesting, all of my friends are like that too, like the people who I know who are seniors, they all are go-getters, they want to take advantage of everything, and I think when you’ve had a lot of things stripped away, with freshman year, when you really didn’t have any opportunities in a lot of the sense of the word, you want to go do as much as possible when you finally have the opportunity. I actually started making bucket lists, so when I was abroad, I had my London bucket list with everything I wanted to do in Lon- … Oh, and I also have a senior year bucket list. Like I just have, like all these things.

Sean Brady (13:56):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (13:56):

I think it really just gave me this mindset of there is only a limited amount of time that you have at Wake, that you have in life, just in general, if there are things you want to do, you might not get the opportunity to do them again.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:06):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (14:06):

What COVID really taught me is, for instance, like my senior year of high school, there was a sense that … we went in trimesters. We were super weird, we went in trimesters.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:13):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (14:13):

The third trimester was the one where you’re supposed to have fun. What was the date? Like March 11th or March 13th.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:18):

March 13th.

Sean Brady (14:19):

Sounds about, yeah.

Cate Pitterle (14:19):

So it was, I think it was the 11th for us, and then I remember everything everybody else on the 13th, because I remember that was like, it was like Friday the 13th.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:25):

Eh.

Cate Pitterle (14:25):

Yeah. Oh my gosh, it was Friday the 13th. Yeah, but I remember like that date, we were on our break and we were supposed to go back to school for the third trimester, and all I remember thinking was, “Why didn’t we start doing the fun stuff more?

Shea Kidd Brown (14:36):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (14:37):

Because it all got cut off and we just had kind of spent the previous two trimesters applying for colleges-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:42):

Right.

Cate Pitterle (14:42):

Kind of putting our heads down, doing a lot of work. However-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:45):

But there was an assumption that you would get to do that.

Cate Pitterle (14:47):

Right.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:47):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (14:47):

There was an assumption that once that third trimester came, senioritis would be allowed to kick in, and that was when we would spend more time with our friends and get to do all those senior traditions.

Badr Merdassi (14:55):

It’s kicking.

Cate Pitterle (14:56):

It is kicking in right now. Yeah.

Sean Brady (14:57):

Hard. Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (14:59):

But there was this sense, like it was guaranteed. What has really happened to me, and probably to a lot of you guys as well, we no longer have the sense that things are guaranteed.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:07):

Mm.

Cate Pitterle (15:07):

For me, I just spend as much of my time as possible trying to create a balance of, obviously working really hard, but also spending time with my friends and going to like a baseball game or a basketball game, or a football game, like it’s something fun like that. Or taking time to explore Winston-Salem, go to coffee shops.

Sydney Smith (15:22):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (15:22):

I love going to coffee shops.

Sean Brady (15:24):

(Laughs)

Sydney Smith (15:24):

You and me both, girl.

Cate Pitterle (15:24):

Oh, yeah.

Sean Brady (15:24):

You picked a good spot for it.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:26):

We talked about your fancy coffee yesterday, and how there was a certain look when I told Cate I use K-cups and she was like, “Oh.”

Cate Pitterle (15:33):

Oh, yeah.

Sydney Smith (15:33):

What?

Cate Pitterle (15:33):

You have to use espresso.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:33):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (15:36):

My roommate got an espresso machine and changed my life. Anyway, we’re going off of … I’m really proud of how I’ve been able to take advantage of things, so …

Shea Kidd Brown (15:43):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (15:44):

I like that. Something that has come to me. This is definitely some quote on Pinterest or something, but I’ve been saying it a lot recently, but basically when someone else gets something good for them, so they receive a blessing, if you will, that doesn’t mean that’s something taken away from you. And I think that, especially being the senior class and seeing like this freshman class, like your sister, Sean, it’s like they’re having the time of their life right now.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:04):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (16:04):

Even last year’s freshman, like they were really getting into it and they were enjoying what is supposed to be that next stage of life. We talked about, you know, struggling with jealousy, or just being a little envious about that, and I mean, I did too. And so now, as I’m graduating, or about to graduate Wake Forest, I think I’m really proud not only taking that lesson from COVID times and reckoning with how this year freshman are having all the fun things and I didn’t have them, but also, I mean, you guys are all seniors, you guys go on LinkedIn, my gosh.

Sean Brady (16:31):

(Laughs)

Sydney Smith (16:31):

I’m sure you guys have some amazing opportunities lined up, and I’m sure that, knock on wood, I’ll have some soon as well, but you scroll through LinkedIn, and you see all these seniors not just at Wake, but at other surrounding universities talking about this position and that position, and all the good things that are coming their way, and you’re so happy for them, for your friends and your family, but if you aren’t there just yet, you’re like, “Oh my gosh. Why not me?”

(16:50):

But recently, couple months ago, I was starting to realize, just because something good happens to someone else, that doesn’t mean that’s something taken away from me.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:56):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (16:56):

And I think that is something that I’m definitely going into this, hopefully without COVID, I’m going to this next stage of life, into my twenties and into my younger professional career, realizing that wherever I end up, if someone gets the promotion first, that’s not a jab at me, it’s just because something else is coming-

Shea Kidd Brown (17:11):

Your way.

Sydney Smith (17:11):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (17:11):

That’s such a great way to think about things.

Cate Pitterle (17:13):

It really is.

Sean Brady (17:13):

I like that a lot.

Sydney Smith (17:14):

Thank you.

Badr Merdassi (17:15):

I’d say the thing I learned at Wake, that the most precious thing you could give someone is your time. I really go back on how I’m here today because people gave me their time, and just met with me. I mean, how many universities can a student actually meet with the President or like with other senior administrators? And that’s just, you know, what I remember sophomore year, quad laps, right there with Rogan Kersch was the provost and-

Sydney Smith (17:42):

Quad laps, I love it.

Badr Merdassi (17:43):

Um, and we were just having coffee. And you can imagine how busy a Provost of Wake Forest can be, and taught me that, in the future, I have to give back the most precious thing, which is my time, to other people and hear their story genuinely, without looking at them and thinking, “Okay, what’s next?”

Shea Kidd Brown (18:03):

Right.

Badr Merdassi (18:03):

Just be in the moment.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:05):

Being present.

Sydney Smith (18:05):

Uh huh.

Badr Merdassi (18:06):

And be present, and genuinely hear what they have to say. And I’m meeting right now with alums, and extremely successful alum said to me, “I’m here thanks to other people who paved the way for me, and I want to give back.” And yeah, that just resonated with me a lot, because this happened like a month ago. And I’d say that’s my biggest takeaway from Wake; give your time to people.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:27):

Well, all of you, I mean, what you’ve shared, question was what you’re proud of, and I think a lot of seniors might be talking about titles and jobs, and next steps, and what you’ve really talked about is learning. And I think that’s so indicative of what we do here, you know?

Sydney Smith (18:43):

(Laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (18:44):

That we, you have a great time and you meet people, and you become a better person. And as we’re kind of on that same thread, you have the clarity of the rear view at this point, so you are inching toward commencement and those next steps. So as you think about your first year selves or the students who are coming after you, what advice would you give them?

Badr Merdassi (19:07):

Get yourself out there. That would be the most important thing at Wake. We all say that Wake is about people, you have to get yourself out there to meet those people. The earlier, the better. If you just keep that in mind, if you get yourself out there, good things will come to you. Just be genuine in every action you take, and even if sometimes it’s wrong, well it was a genuine action and you’ll think through it.

Sean Brady (19:33):

Kind of a two-parter, but you are your own person, your own unique person, like you can only let someone tell you, you know, who to be. And at a place like Wake Forest, to do Wake Forest successfully, you have to be okay with being your own person, right? I think a lot of people want to show up and, you know, they kind of have to find that initial pod of people, and that pod of people can potentially have you, in your senior year, being like, “Why did I choose that major? Why did I choose, you know, this, that I’m involved with? Why am I doing that?”

(19:58):

And I think recognizing that you are your own person and there’s value to that, and that’s the best way to give back to the Wake Forest campus is bringing your unique self to it, and everything that you have, that’s the best way to not only give back, but you’ll find your people that way, you’ll find your major that way, you’ll find your interest that way. And I think it’s very easy for freshmen, and just about anyone in any situation, to feel a need to kind of connect to a group, whether that’s really for them or not in the long run.

(20:24):

I think being open-minded and realizing that like, at a place like Wake Forest, you can just be yourself and it’ll work out, is the greatest thing. For me, that might’ve taken me til my junior year, but I’m grateful for it.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:34):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (20:34):

But similar to what being said earlier, it’s like give it the time. You know, appreciate what you can bring to the campus.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:40):

Mm-hmm. Give it the time, like we all want to know, can we just fast-forward to the end? Like this is going to be okay and it’s where that, we come through that with way more awareness and clarity.

Cate Pitterle (20:51):

This is such a funny question because during that same mentorship meeting that I mentioned earlier, my genuine, genuine advice to two first-year students was to open a high yield savings account.

Sean Brady (21:01):

(Laughs)

Sydney Smith (21:01):

Yes. That part. That part. Please.

Cate Pitterle (21:02):

And that was what I was thinking about at the time, was how I needed to open a high yield savings account, and I wished I’d done it earlier. And long story short, that was my advice and they gave me two very blank stares.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:14):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (21:14):

Um. And I think that one thing I’ve learned at Wake that is advice that I do regularly give younger students who ask, is to do the things that you’re passionate about, and do the things that are meaningful to you. It’s not always going to be possible to take a non-profit job, doing something that you’re really, really passionate about, making no money. Like there’s logistical and logical elements too, but do the things, even if it’s just a hobby that you find meaning in, that you find joy in, that you feel like, if you contribute your time, and in some sense, your life to it, that brings you a sense of personal fulfillment, and I think that it’s so easy to get caught up in the peer pressure and the need to look impressive to other people.

(21:57):

One thing that I’ve definitely noticed is, as you get older, it’s a lot easier to kind of grow out of that mindset and start to realize that the things that matter to you personally are what really matters, and that the need to … This is a term that is rarely used now, but I think it’s still pretty relevant to our culture here, is Wake Face.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:13):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (22:14):

The need to put on this kind of mask, for lack of a better word.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:17):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (22:18):

Like Wake Face is basically like the need to perform.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:20):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (22:21):

Like the need to look impressive to other people, and I do think that is definitely a prevalent part of Wake Forest culture, and definitely with other colleges with high-performing students, but I think that it’s just really important to, as early on as you can, get out of that mindset and just do the things that you really want to do, not because they look good or because you’re chasing titles, or anything like that, but because they’re important to you. That would be the actual advice-

Shea Kidd Brown (22:44):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (22:44):

That I would give.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:45):

That’s good. In addition to the-

Cate Pitterle (22:47):

In addition to the high yield savings account.

Sean Brady (22:48):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (22:49):

Amen. (Laughs)

Sydney Smith (22:51):

I’ll start with this. I’m going to pat myself on the back briefly, because I did just write the Letters So Dear.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:55):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (22:56):

That hopefully the incoming fist-year students-

Cate Pitterle (22:58):

Nice.

Sydney Smith (22:59):

… will, you know, read. And I did give, uh, my top ten pieces of advice.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:01):

Okay.

Sydney Smith (23:02):

So I was trying to figure out which one I felt like I should say for this. Originally, I was going to say stop comparing yourself to everyone else, but I feel like that combines everyone else’s advice, so I’ll say it. Stop comparing yourself to everyone else, please, please, please.

(23:13):

But honestly, I would rather give a piece of advice that’s more general and less specific to Wake. My dad, growing up, would always say this to me, and I kinda always thought it was silly, but you should find at least one thing to smile about every day. One specific thing.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:27):

Hmm.

Sydney Smith (23:27):

I tried to be really good about it, I would try to do one good thing a day, I’d write it down because even if you had the worst day in the world, at least one good thing happened. And I feel like, especially when you’re away from home, in whatever capacity, whether it’s at Wake or some other place, when you’re in that new stage of your life as a incoming college freshman, it’s really easy to fixate on the negative things, or the things that aren’t going according to plan. And I think acknowledging that at least once before you go to bed that night is just so, so important in college and beyond. So.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:54):

Yeah. Such good lessons. So on that same thread, I want to know what is one good thing that you’re looking forward to as you think about the future?

Sean Brady (24:03):

I guess I’ll jump in. I think like it is definitely sad, I think we’re all feeling that way, that because this feels like home, right?

Shea Kidd Brown (24:10):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (24:10):

And there’s a little sentiment in my mind of, “I wish I had that year back,” in a way.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:14):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (24:14):

Right?

Shea Kidd Brown (24:14):

Of course.

Sean Brady (24:15):

Like I see what value this has brought to my life, and ability to grow, and I wish I had that freshman year to capitalize on. I never feel like I’m truly leaving, foresee Wake Forest being a, a component of my life forever, and I think it’s like a goodbye for not, but not forever.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:29):

Right. Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (24:30):

In, in that sense, but I think because of people I’ve met, I’ll always see Wake Forest wherever I go. And the ability to be fortunate enough to have a job, going up to New York City next, in the fall-

Shea Kidd Brown (24:40):

Congrats. Exciting.

Sean Brady (24:40):

And I know a lot of people that are going to be there.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:42):

Yeah, exciting.

Sean Brady (24:42):

And I think that’s the most exciting part is, is that I don’t feel the freshman self of, “Ooh, who am I going to meet? Who am I going to know?” I know there’s people that I’m going to get to meet and that I’ve never seen before in my life, I think it’s comforting to know that I’m kind of moving with a team of Demon Deacons up there.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:56):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (24:57):

Some of my best friends here at Wake Forest are going to be going up as well, and I think that’s what I’m excited about.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:01):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (25:01):

As someone who’s not exactly sure which city I’m going to end up in yet-

Shea Kidd Brown (25:05):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (25:05):

First of all, I’m very grateful for the fact that Wake Forest has hubs in a lot of the places that I would really be excited about going to.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:10):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (25:11):

And as someone who was a little nervous coming in their freshman year, even though people will say, “Oh, yeah, you know, you’re talkative,” obviously. Um. “You have a bigger personality, you don’t need to worry about how you’re going to make friends or how that process will go smoothly for you, or if it’ll go smoothly, because you’re doing fine.” I still get nervous about it though.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:26):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (25:26):

And instead of focusing or fixating on the nerves of, “Who am I going to talk to all the time next year? What is it going to be like when I’m in my first, you know, big girl job?” I’m excited for it.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:35):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (25:35):

Because I don’t know who those people are yet, and I think that spins something, especially, like post Spring Break, as we really move closer to graduation, I’ve had to get comfortable with, or try to get comfortable with the idea of not being a freshman again, but being new again.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:47):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (25:47):

Even if you do have the Demon Deacons around you, it’s like, “Where’s this place and where am I?”

Shea Kidd Brown (25:51):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (25:51):

“Who am I? And who do I want to become?” I’m excited for that.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:56):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (25:56):

And I want to know what’s coming next.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:56):

Something to look forward to, for sure.

Cate Pitterle (25:57):

That’s so true. I feel like you’re kind of talking about something that I’ve really been like hitting on lately, is embracing the unknown.

Sydney Smith (26:03):

Yes.

Cate Pitterle (26:04):

This idea, I was just talking about this with somebody, that when you’re in middle school, you go to high school. When you’re in high school, you go to college. And then when you’re done with college, what next?

Sydney Smith (26:11):

Right. (Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (26:12):

So I think, for me, like just not really knowing what working is going to be like and that sort of thing, that’s something that I have just really learned to embrace.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:20):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (26:20):

I’m just really excited to explore, to try new things, to meet new people, and I do think, like to your point, that not knowing where my friends are going to be, not knowing whether or how I’m going to be able to be regularly in touch with a lot of my friends at Wake Forest, just kind of taking a step back, allowing myself to reflect, kind of sit with that uncertainty, and just kind of understand that like it’s going to be okay and that the people who are really meaningful in your life, you’re going to stay in contact with them. And coming home for Homecoming will be really wonderful, so I’m really excited for a change, honestly.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:52):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (26:53):

I know that we’ve had three, four, however you want to qualify the years at Wake Forest, of college, and even though it hasn’t all been typical, it’s definitely become like very routine, and it’s become very normal-

Shea Kidd Brown (27:05):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (27:06):

And I kind of have this schedule, I have my day-to-day, like I have the things that are normal and familiar to me, and I’m really excited for things to not be normal and familiar anymore.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:13):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (27:13):

And that’s just something that I think at first was really scary, but now I’m, I’m just really excited for it.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:18):

You’re ready.

Cate Pitterle (27:19):

Yeah, I’m ready.

Badr Merdassi (27:20):

The certain uncertainty one can, although it can be sometimes overwhelming, and one can appreciate the day-to-day was still sort of organized.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:29):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (27:30):

So now there’s a huge, not just uncertainty, but you know you’re going somewhere else, and that’s exciting.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:36):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (27:36):

But one thing I’m just so excited about is my mom finally coming here-

Cate Pitterle (27:42):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (27:42):

Um, for graduation.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:44):

(Laughs)

Badr Merdassi (27:45):

I mean, I just can’t wait for that. And that’s one thing I’m really looking forward to, but if we’re talking about future, future, Homecoming is definitely something.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:54):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (27:55):

I can’t even, you know, we’re still processing graduating-

Shea Kidd Brown (27:58):

Right.

Badr Merdassi (27:58):

So Homecoming is still very far away, but still very exciting to think that we’ll be back here, that’s for sure. One thing I can certainly say is that every single student on this table is coming back at Wake at a certain point in time. Maybe we’ll do this exact podcast.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:14):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (28:14):

Just imagine that.

Sydney Smith (28:14):

Oh, a reunion podcast.

Badr Merdassi (28:14):

Just the Reunion Podcast.

Cate Pitterle (28:16):

Aww. That would be cute. Yeah, that’d be really sweet.

Badr Merdassi (28:16):

Like just imagine that. Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (28:16):

Not how to college, how to adult.

Sydney Smith (28:23):

Adult, yes. It’s a series, I like it. Wow. Stop it.

Cate Pitterle (28:25):

Don’t say that.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:25):

Y’all got me all in the feels right now. The way I would love to end our time together, thankfully I have the best job on campus, and it’s not ending, but at least for today. I just want to know what you’re grateful for right now.

Sean Brady (28:40):

Without a doubt, absolutely grateful for my family and friends. And I know that can sound kind of like straightforward, but I’m very thankful for my family for being able to provide the opportunity for me to attend an institution like Wake Forest, and to help set me up for success to take advantage of this environment I’m in, and I’m absolutely thankful for my best friends here at Wake, and the six guys who I’m referencing, they know who they are, but uh, without them, Wake Forest wouldn’t be what that is, what it is to me, and I don’t think I would’ve succeeded at Wake Forest without my family or friends.

Badr Merdassi (29:11):

It’s going to sound repetitive, but definitely my family, but especially my mom. I mean, I definitely would not be able, not only to be here, but stay here and also succeed here.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:23):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (29:24):

And you know, every day it’s just, when it’s a struggle, I just call my mom, and even with the time difference, struggling and all over everything, and she just grounds me back.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:35):

Mm.

Badr Merdassi (29:35):

And, and that works even with a phone call.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:38):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (29:38):

And that’s powerful.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:40):

It is.

Badr Merdassi (29:40):

So I’m very, very grateful to her. I’ll let here know when this podcast airs, and uh, she’ll listen to this, so …

Shea Kidd Brown (29:47):

And even that powerful relationship spans-

Badr Merdassi (29:49):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:50):

No matter how far away you are.

Badr Merdassi (29:51):

Exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:51):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (29:52):

Exactly.

Cate Pitterle (29:52):

I think we all might have the same answer.

Sydney Smith (29:53):

We definitely do.

Cate Pitterle (29:58):

I was just thinking, I was like, “What else could I say I’m grateful for,” because I … the people are what come to mind-

Sydney Smith (30:01):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:02):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (30:02):

First as well. I mean, my parents, of course. Like they have been just my in-built, like support system forever, but my mom and dad are very familiar with my walking to class calls.

Sean Brady (30:13):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (30:13):

Just like the designated, like random times of day, where I just am like, “Hey, I just wanted to update you on this random mundane thing that happened.”

Sean Brady (30:20):

(Laughs)

Cate Pitterle (30:21):

And it’s very important to me that you know this right now, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I’m going to get lunch, and I’m going to go get Chick-fil-A, I’m going to eat chicken nugget,” like just like, you know, like just-

Sydney Smith (30:29):

The daily.

Cate Pitterle (30:30):

Just the daily.

Sydney Smith (30:31):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (30:31):

And I’m very grateful that they are willing to listen to that, but also that they have been there for me throughout all four years, and obviously will continue to be there for me. But that’s just something that I’m really grateful for, that … I was just on the phone with them, so I’ve just been, been thinking about that. But also the people here, who have kind of become like those advice givers for me, I feel like I have a few people, you included, Dr. Shea.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:54):

Oh, thank you.

Cate Pitterle (30:54):

Who have given me just really great advice, who have kind of been a listening ear, who have sat and listened when I’ve needed it, who have been the people who I can go to if I’m, like if I have an actual problem, which is, luckily, rare. But, but also just if I, you know, want to talk or want to get some advice on something, or … It’s been really nice to have people who I feel like I can go to with anything.

Sydney Smith (31:16):

I will round it off with a similar answer, but I’ll try to make it somewhat different-

Sean Brady (31:21):

(Laughs)

Sydney Smith (31:21):

With a brief anecdote. I almost didn’t apply to Wake. I came up and I toured, and I did the interview-

Shea Kidd Brown (31:26):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (31:26):

And my application. And then, because I said earlier in the podcast that I am indecisive, but I like having a lot options-

Shea Kidd Brown (31:32):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (31:32):

That I didn’t decide until May 1st. I was driving home one day from high school, before the COVID, you know, came in to attack us. And my mom called me on the phone, she said, “Oh, how are college apps going? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” I said, “You know, I think I’m just about done. I’ve gotten them all in, I’m going to wait and hear back now.” And she said, “What about Wake?” I was like, “Oh, I didn’t apply.” She was like, “Why not?” She was very upset. She was very upset, obviously. And I was like, “Well, I just, you know, it’s already up, like past 10 schools, I think I’m okay.” And she said, “You already went up there, you already did the interview, just apply. Just take the opportunity.” And I did, and good things happen.

(32:02):

So people ask me if I can describe Wake, you know, a couple of words or one word, I usually tend to say that it’s an opportunity, and it was definitely a very large opportunity that was made affordable in a lot of ways for me, and I’m just so grateful for that. So to answer your question, my family, of course. Especially my mom, because I wouldn’t be right-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:19):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (32:19):

Literally, in so many ways.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:20):

Without that nudge.

Sydney Smith (32:21):

Yes, without that nudge.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:22):

Push, maybe.

Sydney Smith (32:23):

Yes, it was a push. Also, I’m grateful for the opportunities, plural, that Wake has afforded to me. When you told my introduction on the podcast, you wrote … you said Homecoming Queen, and even being on Homecoming Court, it was like, it felt so superficial, to a degree, because it’s like same ol’, same ol’, it’s like high school again, and now I’m working with people on the court, trying to figure out, you know, next year, what sort of service opportunities they could do, what’s like the next step? And I just feel like Wake has compounded upon itself in my life as opportunities-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:50):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (32:51):

And just how I can either make an opportunity available and affordable to me, or to others. So I’m grateful for my family and the opportunities that Wake has afforded to me.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:59):

Well, you can’t see the chills, but I do have chills-

Shea Kidd Brown (33:02):

As you’re talking about, you know, the people in your life and the connectivity through all of your gratitude, I think is really powerful, and for your families to know how critical they’ve been to your success, and to hear your chosen family that you found at Wake, be it friends, family, uh, friends, faculty, administrators, staff. And Sydney, how you ended, just this whole spirit of Pro Humanitate, and how the human connection really is what makes this experience so unique. So I’m very grateful to be able to sit at this table with you and also the table that we get to create in a lot of different environments, and I so appreciate you sharing your stories, you know, stories of resilience and stories of uncertainty, and trying to figure life out as an 18-year-old, and your stories of accomplishment, meaning, you know, what did you learn about yourself and other people, and how did other people bring you along?

(33:58):

So it’s just been such a rich conversation, and I’m so grateful, and I’m so excited for you, as you think about the future, for some it’s still unknown, but we all know you’re going to be just fine because this education, which you know happens in formal ways and really informal ways, has prepared, and you’re ready. There is no doubt that you’re ready for the world. A lot of people will say, “Can’t wait to see where the journey takes you,” and I can’t wait to see where you take the journey, because you get to really decide and dictate what those twists and turns are going to be, and just know that it’s going to take you far.

(34:33):

And so I feel so grateful, and this community is enriched and so much better because of each of you. So thank you for being here-

Badr Merdassi (34:41):

Thank you.

Sean Brady (34:41):

Thank you. That was wonderful.

Cate Pitterle (34:41):

Thank you, Dr. Shea.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:43):

Yes. I can’t wait to celebrate you on the quad.

Sydney Smith (34:45):

See you on May 20, yes.

Cate Pitterle (34:45):

Yes.

Sean Brady (34:46):

Yeah, be here before we know it.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:49):

Very much so. So thank you all.

Sean Brady (34:50):

Thank you.

Cate Pitterle (34:50):

Thank you.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:53):

Oh my goodness. My cup is so full, and I said this when I was talking to the students, but I have the best job on campus. I mean, just hearing these amazing students and their stories, and how they have made sense of these last four years, I have so many things that I need to process, based on all the wisdom that they shared. These students were second years when I began, and it is absolutely amazing hearing their stories. No doubt, they are going places and I know they will take this special time with them for a lifetime.

(35:27):

I hope you took note of all of the knowledge that they dropped, and I want to thank you so much for listening. In a world that has a lot of noise, I appreciate you dedicating the time to hear their experiences. And truly, I think it’s an opportunity for us to think about what we’ve all learned through the last four years, what lessons have we learned about ourselves? What are we grateful for? What have we overcome? I think those are all important things for us to reflect on, particularly for this episode. We all have a unique story to share, I kid you not. So let’s keep leaning into the hard work and heart work that life brings our way.

MaryAnna Bailey (36:09):

This episode what produced by Vir Gupta in association with the University’s Campus Life team. For any thoughts and suggestions on what or who you want to hear next time, reach out to us on our socials using the information in the show notes. I’m MaryAnna Bailey and this was Kidd You Not.

In this episode, Dr. Shea sits down with four graduating seniors from the Class of 2024. This is a two-part episode! And, we begin this with Cate Pitterle, Badr Merdassi, Sydney Smith, and Sean Brady all joining us to share tales from their first-year, what it means to be known as the Covid class, how graduating in 2020 in the peak of a pandemic changed their lives, and so much more!

Shea Kidd Brown (00:00):

Hey, it’s Dr. Shea, and I’ve got an exciting episode for you.

(00:13):

This time of year on a college campus is all about the celebration. This year we are especially mindful of the class of 2024 and their journey since 2020. From abruptly ending high school to a bumpy start in college in isolation, there is so much learning that has happened with this group. I’m truly amazed each time I learn about their experiences.

(00:37):

And today we have four graduating Wake Forest seniors. And let me tell you, I cannot wait to jump into this conversation.

Cate Pitterle (00:47):

Hey.

Shea Kidd Brown (00:47):

Hi.

Sydney Smith (00:47):

Hey.

Shea Kidd Brown (00:49):

How you doing?

Cate Pitterle (00:49):

Good, how are you?

Sydney Smith (00:49):

Good.

Shea Kidd Brown (00:50):

Good, I’m great. I’m even better now that I get to see y’all. How are you all doing?

Badr Merdassi (00:55):

Pretty good.

Sydney Smith (00:55):

Good.

Shea Kidd Brown (00:56):

I have to say, I am so glad to be sitting with each of you. And for all the listeners out there, I am sitting with four very accomplished students. And between you, I am going to do a little bit of reading ’cause I wanna get this right, three different kinds of scholars, two presidents aids, representatives from student government, a student athlete, and homecoming queen (laughs), student employee, members of Panhellenic Council, NPHC, and the Interfraternity Council.

(01:22):

We have in state students, out of state students, and an international student. At least six languages are represented here. Courses of study in STEM, humanities, economics and politics, and representatives from too many clubs to count.

Badr Merdassi (01:37):

(laughs).

Cate Pitterle (01:37):

(laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (01:38):

So you’re such a great snapshot of Wake Forest students, so I’m really, really excited that you’re here today.

(01:44):

There’s one really important thing you have in common, you all started in the fall of 2020 at Wake Forest. If you think back, college courses were meeting remotely, student gatherings were restricted, weekly COVID testing was the norm.

Sydney Smith (02:01):

Oh, God.

Cate Pitterle (02:01):

I forgot about that.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:02):

I know. Fast-forward today, you’re all thriving seniors who, I noted earlier, you have all been super involved on this campus and our community locally, regionally, nationally, internationally.

(02:13):

I wanna hear about what that journey has been like for you. So before we get into all that, I do wanna do a quick round of introductions. So let’s start with your name, where home is for you, and your major. Like I said, where you call home, so often I don’t say where are you from, but I wanna know where home is for you.

(02:32):

So we’ll start maybe with Badr.

Badr Merdassi (02:36):

All right. Well, my name is Badr Merdassi. I’m double majoring in biology and in economics. Home for me is Tunisia, and that’s also where I’m from. And I look forward to this podcast.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:48):

Yeah. Only a few more weeks.

Sydney Smith (02:50):

Stop.

Cate Pitterle (02:50):

Don’t say that. Don’t say that.

Sydney Smith (02:50):

Don’t say that again.

Cate Pitterle (02:50):

[inaudible 00:02:54] (laughs).

Sean Brady (02:54):

Yeah. So my name’s Sean Brady. I’m also a senior, as we’ve all talked about. Home for me is Wilmington, Delaware. I’ve been able to be a double major in economics and politics.

Cate Pitterle (03:03):

I’m Cate Pitterle. I’m from Cary, North Carolina, which is kind of near Raleigh, if you’re familiar. I’m a politics major, with minors in Russian and history.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:12):

Excellent. So politics and politics. Let’s see if Sydney continues some-

Sydney Smith (03:16):

Oh…

Shea Kidd Brown (03:17):

… contagion of connectivity with majors (laughs).

Sydney Smith (03:20):

Only a smidgen. So, hi, everyone. My name is Sydney Smith. And I’m also a fourth senior here. Home for me is Lawrenceville, Georgia, but I lie when I’m at Wake, and I tell everyone that I’m from Atlanta. Um (laughs), so I’m maybe, you know, 30 minutes outside of Atlanta-

Cate Pitterle (03:32):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (03:33):

… if I’m gonna be truthful on the podcast.

(03:35):

I’m a communication major, and a journalism minor. I took French for the first two years here, but I will say that one of my on campus jobs has allowed me to start very, very, a smidgen, learning Russian.

Cate Pitterle (03:45):

Cool.

Sydney Smith (03:45):

Only a little bit. Only a little bit.

Cate Pitterle (03:47):

Oh, interesting.

Sydney Smith (03:48):

Yes. You can’t ask me any of it, it’s all on my phone right now, but (laughs)…

Cate Pitterle (03:49):

Yeah, you probably can’t ask me either (laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (03:52):

I love it, I love it. So thank y’all, thank you again for being here. I think as we were trying to put the season together, it felt important to me that we hear from students who are nearing a really important milestone, but also very different from the average student in May, like, your whole formative years in many ways have been shaped by a global pandemic. I think back to high school and what was happening there, and also your start to college.

(04:21):

So let’s rewind back to high school, you were likely finishing your senior year, many of you, from a computer screen. Not exactly what you imagined. Perhaps the hopes of prom were dashed, perhaps a senior trip, or various parties and graduation, so you didn’t really have that celebration. And then as you thought about college (laughs) and what that might look like, you’re getting ready for a huge transition in your life.

(04:46):

So I think the first question, for some of these I may direct to particular people or… but feel free to react to each other certainly as we’re talking. But what were you thinking during that summer 2020? And how did you approach that transition to Wake Forest?

(05:01):

So maybe let’s start with Cate, and then maybe go in order of distance to your travel to Wake Forest, so maybe that would be Sydney, and then Sean, and then finally Badr, whose transition involved the ocean.

Cate Pitterle (05:16):

(laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (05:16):

How does that sound?

Badr Merdassi (05:16):

That’s-

Sydney Smith (05:16):

Sounds good.

Cate Pitterle (05:16):

Yeah. I definitely remember feeling like things were very uncertain. More than anything, I remember doing a Netflix party with my best friend, watching High School Musical 3, which is the movie where they graduate, and just hoping that we would have something similar.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:35):

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (05:35):

My high school really, really tried to prepare something for us, so we ended up did, having a very small graduation ceremony. And I think that sense of ritual, celebration-

Shea Kidd Brown (05:42):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (05:43):

… was really, really important. And I think that’s something that we lost, that in particular the cost of 2020 of high school was really, really craving… we realized how much ritual meant to all of us.

(05:53):

But I was kind of straddling between these two worlds of not really knowing if I was gonna get to technically graduate high school, but also trying to prep myself for this really, really big transition of going to college.

(06:04):

I do remember being very grateful that I wasn’t moving too far away from home.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:07):

Sure.

Cate Pitterle (06:07):

And the one thing I do remember thinking especially as we were going into August, having a lot of friends who went to UNC Chapel Hill, and NC State, was just this hope that we were gonna be able to remain on campus-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:17):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (06:18):

…for the year. All of the students at UNC Chapel Hill and NC State were sent home after, I think, 12 days.

Sydney Smith (06:23):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (06:24):

So I was just really grateful when right after they had all been sent home, we were able to move onto campus.

(06:29):

And there was a lot going on in my brain back then, but that was definitely, I think, where my head was at.

Sydney Smith (06:33):

Similar to you, so being from Georgia, or we’ll put it in quotation marks, so being from “Atlanta” it was weird during the summer of 2020. There was a lot going on with COVID, and also just with social activism, and a lot was happening in the United States.

(06:46):

I remember back in March when college decisions were coming out, also a very indecisive person, I like to have a lot of options, so I actually didn’t choose Wake until the May 1st decision day (laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (06:54):

(laughs).

Sydney Smith (06:55):

When I finally settled on that, and I was trying to, you know, get excited with my parents, even though COVID was still at large, if you will, I was like, all of a sudden it hit, “Oh, you know, I am going out of state.” Which I was always excited to do, I always wanted to be an out of state student.

(07:09):

Also, a lot of my friends were very surprised when I chose Wake, because it is a smaller, more community knit type of school. And they were all like, “Oh, you’re gonna go to a big state school,” and that was sort of my personality going into college. But then it hit, you know, “I don’t know anyone.” And then we’ve all been inside of our houses for weeks and months at a time, like, “Do I still know how to talk to people? Am I gonna be good at this? Will I make any friends?”

(07:29):

So I actually growing up doing gymnastics and cheer in high school, I told everyone in high school I was not gonna try out for cheer. I thought it was very silly at the time.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:36):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (07:36):

And then COVID being COVID convinced me to step (laughs) out of my comfort zone. So my head was sort of at, “Try anything, try everything, make a couple friends, and nothing can hurt.” Which is why when I got to Wake I was really grateful for already having that sort of student athlete community on campus.

(07:50):

And similar to what Cate was saying, I was like, “Oh, I might be a part of a team. But is that team gonna be able to remain on campus?”

Shea Kidd Brown (07:54):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (07:55):

And that was a really big part of my, I guess, anxieties. I was really happy that we were able to stay, and also happy that we were even able to attend the sporting events.

(08:03):

I would say, moving into my freshman year my mind was just, “Just go for it.” Because I don’t wanna miss out on any small things, since so many things were taken away our senior year.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:11):

Right.

Sean Brady (08:11):

For me, my kinda thoughts kind of began actually the summer prior, so I di- had an opportunity to visit Wake Forest in July. I was sold on Wake Forest right away, that’s where I did early decision. Like, I came back down in September on a beautiful fall day, people all out over the quad, and I had a vision of what Wake Forest looked like.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:27):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (08:28):

I had seen it on a summer day, but I had also seen it on a fall day, and a lot of similarities, maybe not as many people in July. But I knew what the Wake Forest campus looked like and felt like, and it had so many, you know, connections to where I went for high school.

(08:40):

And prior to that, ’cause I went the same place all 14 years, it was s- small class sizes-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:45):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (08:45):

… personal connections with your professors and administrators and others on campus.

(08:49):

And COVID began to hit, and that kind of feeling in high schools across the country, right before spring break, of, “What is this thing that everyone’s talking about in the news? Are we gonna be back afterward?”

(08:58):

It was all a lot of thoughts at once, because having been accepted to Wake Forest in the fall, I had a lot of time to plan out everything I thought I was gonna do at Wake Forest.

Sydney Smith (09:06):

Right.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:06):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (09:06):

Right? Like, I’m a bit of a, of a planner in that sense. And I thought, “This is the group I’m gonna join, this is the club or organization, these are the classes I’m gonna take.” Having all that time, and, you know, COVID hits. It’s similar to what we were talking about, it’s like this sense of unknown and kind of a, a loss of connection, and unsure of…

(09:20):

But I think, for me, what brought me comfort was compared to other classmates of mine back home, Wake Forest seemed to have a very, like, deliberate approach early on of being very present with the incoming class, but also the students that are currently here.

(09:35):

May or June and I was getting on a Zoom, and I saw two people I had no idea, but they were President Hatch and Vice-President Rue.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:42):

(laughs).

Cate Pitterle (09:43):

(laughs).

Sean Brady (09:43):

And they, they were just their face, no one else. And I knew there was a thousand other people on this screen, that was kind of my first, like, true connection to Wake Forest post-COVID, were two faces that were trying to be inspiring in this uncertain time of really selling the class on, “We’re gonna bring you back. Might not know every particular of that, but Wake Forest is a community, and that’s what we’re built on. And we believe that has to be in-person to the best of our ability.”

(10:05):

So I think because of that I felt more comfortable-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:07):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (10:07):

… over the summer, knowing that it may look different, but the campus was working to recreate.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:12):

Yeah, there’s a plan.

Sean Brady (10:13):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (10:13):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:13):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (10:14):

It’s kind of funny to remember all this right now, you were just, um-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:17):

This can also feel like therapy for y’all, if that, if that helps (laughs).

Cate Pitterle (10:17):

(laughs).

Badr Merdassi (10:20):

Yeah. And, I mean, in a way it’s therapy/PTSD, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:24):

Oh, I’m sorry.

Badr Merdassi (10:24):

No. That time was definitely something I was not prepared for, but I don’t think anyone was prepared for that.

(10:30):

The last part of my high school was online. And Tunisia at that time didn’t have a lot of COVID cases, but because I went to French school and France had a lot of COVID cases, the president of France at that time just decreed that all schools, even at home or overseas, would close and go online. So we went online, although in Tunisia COVID was not that widespread in 2020.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:54):

And what month was that, do you remember?

Badr Merdassi (10:56):

That was around April 2020.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:57):

Yeah, so a little bit…

Badr Merdassi (10:58):

We went online beginning of April. I had accepted my admission for Wake Forest in March. And then we actually had a ceremony for graduation, and it was really fun.

(11:08):

I had, I would say, quite a fun summer. There were not a lot of restrictions in Tunisia. The last part, August, they really changed. The whole country was on absolute lockdown, curfew. You know, the semester was going to start, and I just, “Where am I going?”

Shea Kidd Brown (11:24):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (11:24):

“How is this gonna be?” My parents were so afraid, they weren’t talking about a vaccine at that time.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:30):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (11:30):

Which it seems crazy to us right now, but that was the case. So they decided that I would be doing fall semester from home. I remember receiving an email from the registrar’s office that was saying, “Well, you didn’t register for any classes. What is happening?”

(11:45):

I didn’t even know we had to register for classes.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:48):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (11:49):

I didn’t know what a credit meant. I’m coming from a different system, and I was just so sad that I was missing on this experience. I was thinking, “Oh my God, everyone is having the fun-“

Shea Kidd Brown (12:00):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (12:01):

Like, “They, you know, deserve in college. They’re starting their freshman year,” and I’m just here in my room, and that’s college for me. And I just couldn’t believe it.

(12:10):

You know, I was looking at people on the screen, and was like, “Right after classes I’m sure they’re going to do something.”

Cate Pitterle (12:16):

(laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (12:16):

(laughs).

Badr Merdassi (12:17):

“They’re going for, you know, university clubs,” and things like that. But it wasn’t the case.

(12:20):

And then I came spring semester. And spring, sun, everything was blooming. And then that’s the Wake Forest I’d seen in the videos-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:28):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (12:29):

… and on YouTube, because that’s the extent I had seen before coming. It was just I’ve never come to North Carolina, never visited Wake, so that was my start.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:36):

Thank you. You all have some connectivity to your stories, but it’s all very distinctly different. It’s really interesting to hear how everyone was making meaning, someone from in state, someone from not too far away but a different state, someone from the northeast, and then someone international. Even the timeframes are different for you, Badr-

Badr Merdassi (12:53):

Mm-hmm, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:54):

… because this thing was so geographically oriented.

Badr Merdassi (12:57):

Oh, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:57):

Which is we now are in a place where we can reflect back a little bit-

Badr Merdassi (13:01):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (13:01):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:01):

… about all the things that were happening.

(13:03):

So, Badr, you started us on this track of, like, what that first semester was like. So I would love to just hear a little bit about what did it feel like to be on campus? What were the words that you would use to articulate? And this is, you know, anybody who wants to jump in.

Sydney Smith (13:19):

Uh, color orange, right? (laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (13:21):

Color orange.

Badr Merdassi (13:22):

Oh, yeah.

Sydney Smith (13:22):

Yeah, burnt orange.

Cate Pitterle (13:23):

Burnt orange, yeah.

Sydney Smith (13:23):

That’s what it was. So I personally liked when I got to Wake’s campus, especially in comparison to those larger state schools, being from, like, the SEC territory, or even you were talking about being from in state, you know, NC State and UNC.

(13:35):

The way that Wake did it was that we were at, like, a yellow sort of status, and that was denoting, you know, how bad COVID had spread on campus..

Shea Kidd Brown (13:42):

So there was the whole color coding spectrum?

Sydney Smith (13:44):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (13:44):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (13:44):

And we knew what would happen-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:45):

And I wasn’t here yet-

Cate Pitterle (13:45):

See, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:47):

… that’s one thing that I didn’t share, but… Yes.

Sydney Smith (13:48):

I was gonna say. So they had yellow for the most part, right?

Cate Pitterle (13:51):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (13:51):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (13:51):

Throughout our first semester.

Sean Brady (13:53):

It was almost through the end of September, right?

Sydney Smith (13:54):

Yes.

Sean Brady (13:55):

I think it was right around, like, the normal fall break-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:57):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (13:57):

… is when we had some orange pop up.

Sydney Smith (13:58):

Some spikes and everything.

Cate Pitterle (13:59):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (14:00):

So we never went to red.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:01):

Okay.

Sydney Smith (14:01):

Which I thought was-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:02):

And that was the worst?

Sydney Smith (14:02):

That was, like, your whole-

Cate Pitterle (14:03):

Purple was getting sent home.

Sean Brady (14:04):

I think that-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:04):

Oh, okay.

Sean Brady (14:04):

Yeah. I think red was, like, a complete s-, uh, cease of all campus activity.

Cate Pitterle (14:09):

Yeah, you’re right.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:09):

Okay.

Sean Brady (14:09):

Like, no in-person class, I think we-

Sydney Smith (14:10):

Like, you can’t leave even your room, right?

Sean Brady (14:12):

Yeah. I think we went to a darker orange.

Sydney Smith (14:13):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (14:14):

That, like, a, a new color orange-

Sydney Smith (14:15):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (14:15):

… just to avoid red at the time.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:16):

Okay.

Sean Brady (14:16):

Just to kind of keep somewhere in the middle.

Sydney Smith (14:18):

Mm-hmm. So when burnt orange, like, came out and everyone, they changed it, it was on lower quad and they had this big sort of not tarp, but almost like a poster board that would denote what level color we were at.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:29):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (14:29):

And they changed it to burnt orange, and everyone, especially the freshmen, we were like, in my opinion not going crazy, but we were so worried.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:35):

You were nervous.

Sydney Smith (14:35):

Yeah, nervous-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:36):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (14:36):

… ’cause you don’t wanna get sent home or have anything really bad happen.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:38):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (14:39):

We didn’t know what was gonna go on.

(14:40):

I remember my friends in the basement of Babcock, the day before we thought it was gonna go to burnt orange everyone was Uber Eating and everyone was Instacart-ing things from Publix, ’cause they were like, “We’re gonna have to stay in our dorms.”

Sean Brady (14:51):

Like hurricane preparation, right?

Sydney Smith (14:53):

Yes. It was like a natural disaster preparation, we were so nervous. And then I think it was burnt orange for, like, a little bit, and that was short-lived. And then things started to sort of mellow out after a while.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:01):

Okay.

Sean Brady (15:01):

Remember the day that we shifted? Because I think the first thing I’d do every morning when I’d wake up is check COVID dashboard.

Sydney Smith (15:07):

Yes.

Badr Merdassi (15:08):

Oh, yeah, that…

Sydney Smith (15:08):

Yes (laughs).

Cate Pitterle (15:08):

Yeah, daily routine.

Sean Brady (15:08):

It was, like, my most visited bookmark, ’cause I was like, “This dashboard will depict kinda how the day goes,” in that sense. And trying to get a better understanding of what campus looked like. And so some days it would seem normal, and then other days you would be like, “Oh, wait, is this-“

Sydney Smith (15:20):

Oh gosh.

Sean Brady (15:20):

“This is… There’s five people now today, what would that be?”

(15:23):

It just seemed almost, uh, like, fake in a way. But, like, as I was coming up the, the lower quad to the Pit, the wonderful people from facilities and campus services, but they were dawning a new banner over the Pit stairs, and was to indicate orange.

(15:37):

And, like, you kinda see this, and overwhelming feeling, ’cause you’re like, “I don’t know what this means,” you know?

Sydney Smith (15:42):

Right.

Sean Brady (15:42):

“What are they trying to say? Can I even go into the Pit now?”

(15:45):

A lot of our first semester was kinda defined by the visuals on campus-

Sydney Smith (15:48):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (15:48):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (15:49):

… there was a lot of posters, there were the little things that hung on the door handles to your dorm room-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:53):

Oh, no.

Sean Brady (15:53):

… kinda offering safety tips, or stickers on the bathroom wall, or whatever it might be. I think those kind of alluded to me where we were with COVID on the campus, when there’s more signage things weren’t s great, when there’s less signage more people were outside, things seemed to be better.

Badr Merdassi (16:07):

You know, my first semester, I would say, in college was spring. And I came in and I had to do a mandatory first week quarantine, although I was negative, because of international travel. And then I came in, and it was yellow at that time, beginning of spring semester.

(16:21):

And then I got exposed to what the dashboard meant, it fluctuates. And that’s how your semester fluctuates.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:28):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (16:28):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (16:28):

It fluctuates with the number of cases.

(16:30):

And when we went into dark orange, I remember it was 390 plus, I don’t know exactly the number, cases a day. And what defined that moment, I will never forget it, were the buses on campus that shuttled students to hotels in the Winston-Salem community.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:52):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (16:53):

We were getting tested, but if you were positive then the suite mates you were living with also had to be quarantined.

Sydney Smith (17:00):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (17:00):

Would go, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:00):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (17:00):

I didn’t have COVID, but I was contact traced, that’s another word-

Shea Kidd Brown (17:04):

Oh, you’re bringing back all these terms.

Cate Pitterle (17:07):

I remember [inaudible 00:17:08].

Badr Merdassi (17:08):

Contact tracing, oh yes. And, believe it or not, but I remember two people all in white came into my room and sprayed my room-

Sydney Smith (17:16):

Yes.

Badr Merdassi (17:17):

… because it was COVID.

Sydney Smith (17:17):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:17):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (17:18):

And then the bus picked me up, and stopped at probably every dorm on this campus to pick other people up, and dropped us at hotels.

Cate Pitterle (17:26):

It’s so interesting everybody brings up the hotels, because I remember, and this is something I thought as really, really weird around younger students now, is that-

Sydney Smith (17:32):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (17:32):

… the Best Western especially became kind of notorious.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:34):

Yes.

Cate Pitterle (17:35):

And nobody understands.

Badr Merdassi (17:36):

Oh, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:36):

Best Western on the plus.

Cate Pitterle (17:36):

We’re the only ones left who understand. Yeah.

Sydney Smith (17:38):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (17:39):

Like, just like certain, like, things that happened, and like inside jokes that I feel like our grade had.

Sydney Smith (17:43):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (17:43):

Or like at least that, like, my friends and I had.

Badr Merdassi (17:46):

Absolutely.

Cate Pitterle (17:46):

Like, about the hotels, or like, you know, like, “Oh, I’m going to the Besty Westy.”

Sydney Smith (17:48):

Westy (laughs).

Cate Pitterle (17:48):

Like, “Oh…” Yeah (laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (17:49):

Yes.

Cate Pitterle (17:49):

Like, I feel like it’s just really odd now to be the only ones, kind of how everybody during COVID, especially like that fall and spring semester ’20, ’21, was this craving for information.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:00):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (18:01):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (18:01):

Nobody had any information. I actually joined the Old Gold & Black partially because I wanted information, and so I could at least communicate that.

Sydney Smith (18:10):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (18:11):

Like, try to, like, create some sort of link between administrators and all of the health-

Sydney Smith (18:15):

Right.

Cate Pitterle (18:15):

… policy people who I got to know, honestly, very well.

Sydney Smith (18:17):

And there’s comfort in knowing.

Badr Merdassi (18:17):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (18:20):

Right. And I just remember, like, just calling administrators. I got very, very close with, like, a few administrators, like Penny Rue, who’s your predecessor, Peterson, like, they were all fantastic.

(18:28):

And I just remember, though, like, I would tell my friends, like, some stuff that was happening, and the rumor mill was just-

Shea Kidd Brown (18:32):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (18:32):

Godawful.

Cate Pitterle (18:33):

… out of control. And it was really, really hard to stay above that, it was just a lot of anxiety, I think, that was in the air.

Sydney Smith (18:41):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (18:41):

And definitely during my time there it was also wonderful, because the OGB was one of the only clubs on campus that was able to meet in person, so that was a great sense of community for me. But it was also just really great in terms of being able to get, yeah, some of the comfort of knowing what was going on-

Sydney Smith (18:55):

Right.

Cate Pitterle (18:56):

… and not being so susceptible to the rumor mill.

Sydney Smith (18:58):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (18:59):

Information that was coming at us at times, it wasn’t even a lack of information, it was almost too much information.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:04):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (19:05):

And it w- felt overwhelming at times.

Sydney Smith (19:07):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (19:07):

And that’s something that I definitely haven’t really felt since, I think. That was just really exacerbated during COVID, was just the amount of information flying at you.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:15):

Yeah. And processing also being a student-

Cate Pitterle (19:17):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:18):

… during this period of time.

Cate Pitterle (19:18):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:19):

And classes.

Cate Pitterle (19:20):

It’s super true.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:21):

Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, so much of what was scary about that period of time for all of us was the not knowing, you know? And I, I was at the University of Tennessee the spring of your high school, very much trying to hold as much as I could. And was dealing with students, and so working alongside the administration around… This was different for y’all, but maybe not.

(19:45):

In colleges we sent students home for spring break, and thought, “We’ll be closed for a little bit,” you know? And that was, I think, a lot of people’s perspective too, was that this was gonna be much more short term than it ended up being. It’s conjuring up some memories for me as well.

(20:02):

Many of you talked about, “Okay, this is what it was like.” How did you find connection and community? Cate, you mentioned the OGB was one of those ways. So maybe it’s a two-parter of what are the ways you remember coping? Who were the people who really helped you and supported you? How did you find that connection and belonging as you moved through that first year?

Badr Merdassi (20:24):

Sense of community sometime was about doing what was needed, while doing your best to maintain everyone safe and healthy.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:34):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (20:34):

While also trying to make a community. Although, even if meant, you know, risking getting caught by the RA, or anyone else at night in the basement of Babcock.

Sydney Smith (20:47):

That is so funny you said the basement of Babcock. So, for context, I did live in the basement of Babcock my freshman year. I did not know Badr, but I do know him now.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:54):

(laughs).

Sydney Smith (20:55):

And I also have been an RA for the past three years, so I, ironically, this doesn’t usually happen, but I have lived in Babcock all four years.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:02):

Wow.

Sydney Smith (21:02):

No idea (laughs) how that happened. But I started in the basement, and now I live on the third floor, so I guess somebody up there is working something out, right?

Shea Kidd Brown (21:08):

Mm-hmm (laughs).

Sydney Smith (21:09):

I think that, for whatever reason, the specific floor that you were placed on, it was for our freshman year-

Cate Pitterle (21:15):

Yes. Yes.

Badr Merdassi (21:15):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (21:15):

… that everyone jokes about your freshman year friends, “And that won’t last, because it’s college,” and, you know, you keep on changing and progressing as a person.

(21:24):

You guys all might have different experiences, for me personally, my cohort freshman year of friends, I mean, we’re getting brunch on Easter, because we were all in Base-cock, if you will, we were all in the basement of Babcock our freshman year.

(21:34):

And so I think that we really bonded more than any other-

Badr Merdassi (21:36):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (21:37):

… school year.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:37):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (21:38):

I mean, you know, typically you might live on the basement of Babcock, but of all of the COVID restrictions it was like, “Well, this is my floor, and these are my people.”

Shea Kidd Brown (21:43):

These are your people.

Badr Merdassi (21:44):

Exactly.

Sydney Smith (21:44):

I’m about to get a chance to know you. So in my opinion that’s how it was.

Cate Pitterle (21:47):

I’m so excited that you brought that up-

Sydney Smith (21:48):

Aye.

Cate Pitterle (21:48):

… because my freshman year friends are some of my best friends. Like, we’re doing our senior photos next week.

Sydney Smith (21:54):

Yes.

Cate Pitterle (21:54):

I do agree, I feel like when I’ve been talking to younger students about their freshman year friends, and their experiences making friends freshman year have just been so, so different from ours. For the most part community building occurred in residence halls-

Shea Kidd Brown (22:08):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (22:08):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (22:08):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (22:08):

… and it’s actually really interesting, when I started to talk to more people, as things started to open up, where you were placed kind of randomly that freshman year really determined your entire social life for that freshman year.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:20):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (22:20):

Yes.

Badr Merdassi (22:20):

Absolutely.

Cate Pitterle (22:21):

So I got really lucky, I was on Huffman third floor, which is a really interesting place to live-

Sydney Smith (22:26):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (22:26):

… because freshmen do not live there anymore. But it was 13 girls. I don’t know, I just really became close with a lot of the people on my floor, and it was really wonderful. But it was definitely hard to talk with multiple people, we had a really strict RA. It was just so, so restricted.

Badr Merdassi (22:42):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (22:42):

So we had to kind of figure it out, figure out how to make, like, a friend group-

Shea Kidd Brown (22:48):

Right.

Cate Pitterle (22:48):

… when you couldn’t really gather in a group. But I think there’s that unique experience of bonding that you get when you go through that sort of thing together.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:57):

Certainly.

Cate Pitterle (22:57):

Especially because we all ended up randomly being just very similar people.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:00):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (23:01):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (23:01):

Um, (laughs) which I thought was really funny. So I’m really grateful for that.

(23:04):

But I also think that it wasn’t until probably second semester freshman year, quite frankly when I joined a sorority, that in was able to start making more friends outside of that too.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:14):

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (23:14):

And once I did that it was easier, but it was very, very difficult outside of your residence hall-

Shea Kidd Brown (23:18):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (23:18):

… to find community.

Sean Brady (23:20):

I do think that, like, some of the people, um, that lived on the same hall I did in Babcock, I was third floor.

Badr Merdassi (23:24):

(laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (23:25):

Babcock, representing.

Sydney Smith (23:26):

Everywhere.

Sean Brady (23:26):

Um, indeed, indeed. And it was interesting to see where, like, I think pretty much everyone who was on that floor with me, like, were also very friendly, in the send of I see them around campus we’re gonna say, “Hey, how’s it going?” You know, and our friend circles have kind of overlapped at some point.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:37):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (23:38):

But, you know, kind of where I was, it was a little more of a quieter floor, a lot of people kinda kept to themselves. So it was an interesting dynamic to see.

(23:45):

And one of the things that I still kind of search for, even going into senior year, was kind of like, “What does the freshman year experience look like at Wake?”

Shea Kidd Brown (23:51):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (23:52):

And it’s funny, I’ve had the opportunity to kind of witness it in a way, ’cause my sister’s a freshman here now.

Sydney Smith (23:56):

That’s right.

Cate Pitterle (23:56):

Oh.

Sean Brady (23:57):

So I’ve seen a, a normal freshman year from her perspective. And it, and it is fun, it is everything that-

Sydney Smith (24:01):

(laughs).

Sean Brady (24:01):

… sold me on the Wake Forest way.

(24:03):

A freshman year experience is always gonna be unique for everyone. And I think, you know, we all certainly had a unique experience, but we all shared it together.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:10):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (24:10):

Which allowed for it to kind of be a more even playing field, in a way. So much of how people interact with each other, what we do is, is all perspective based.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:17):

Yeah, totally.

Sean Brady (24:18):

And COVID, while it certainly took a, a lot of lives away from our communities all across the world, and brought a lot of badness to families, and a lot of chaos to the global landscape, everyone treated it a little differently, right?

Cate Pitterle (24:30):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (24:30):

Yeah, absolutely.

Sean Brady (24:31):

I remember some people being like, “Nope,” like, “I was a, a great athlete in high school, like, my lungs are good to go. Like, I can take on any kind of virus illness.”

Shea Kidd Brown (24:39):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (24:39):

And others were extremely afraid, and whatever it may be. And it was an interesting balance to kind of hear between both, because on that side of things, like, RAs also had mixed views.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:49):

Right.

Sean Brady (24:49):

Some were like, “I get it, I’m a sophomore, I know how valuable freshman bonding is.” Others were, “This is my job,” like, “I’m not the one deciding to enforce it, it’s just what I have to do.”

Shea Kidd Brown (24:58):

Right.

Sean Brady (24:59):

And I think that was the most unique part for me, it was everywhere you went it was a case by case, you know-

Shea Kidd Brown (25:04):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (25:04):

… situation of who was in charge, in a way.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:07):

Right. And then that whole environment shaped-

Sean Brady (25:09):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:09):

… how you were making sense of it. Even picture, you know, you on the quad, and even your outlook to green space, versus if you’re on South Forest and what that might’ve-

Sydney Smith (25:19):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:20):

… meant, versus who randomly you were around. Like, all of those things connected with your experience.

Badr Merdassi (25:26):

You just said something that just gonna h- hop on.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:27):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (25:29):

You talked about green space, et cetera.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:31):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (25:31):

I can’t say h- why or how, but things were just less colorful freshman year.

Sydney Smith (25:38):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (25:39):

You know, Wake puts a lot of effort into making this campus beautiful, and there wasn’t that much emphasis freshman year. And rightfully so-

Shea Kidd Brown (25:47):

Right.

Badr Merdassi (25:48):

… because the folks were somewhere else.

(25:50):

And you said, Sean, something that’s exactly on point, which was every dorm had a specific, you know, situation.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:58):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (25:58):

And instead of bar hopping, it was dorm hopping.

Sydney Smith (26:03):

Yes (laughs).

Badr Merdassi (26:03):

And re- that’s, that’s exactly what it was. It was, “What dorm is the most flexible today?”

Shea Kidd Brown (26:07):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (26:08):

“Who’s there? Who’s not there?”

(26:10):

And I don’t know if I’m the only one, but it’s really hard for me sometimes, you know, when I give advice to freshmen. Especially this year I was able to speak to the entire class on how to college, thanks to you, Dr. Shea.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:24):

(laughs).

Badr Merdassi (26:25):

And I felt jealous, a bit.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:27):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (26:27):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (26:27):

I really did.

Cate Pitterle (26:28):

Yes.

Badr Merdassi (26:29):

And I just could not resist it. And I continue to feel that.

(26:32):

I am really happy that they don’t have to go through what we had to go through. The amount speed and, like, they make friends with, they’re just-

Sydney Smith (26:43):

Mm-hmm, yes.

Cate Pitterle (26:43):

Definitely.

Badr Merdassi (26:43):

… thriving and doing amazing things that we were only able to do, what, maybe even spring semester of sophomore year, just because we needed to settle in back in this campus.

Cate Pitterle (26:50):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:50):

Yeah, yeah.

Cate Pitterle (26:53):

Do you know what’s horrible? Do you remember the t-shirts they created for each residence hall-

Sydney Smith (26:57):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:58):

This past fall?

Cate Pitterle (26:58):

… on South Campus?

Badr Merdassi (26:58):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (26:58):

Such cute t-shirts. I, to your point about jealousy, I remember I saw the t-shirts for the first time, and I was just so jealous-

Badr Merdassi (27:05):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (27:06):

… that these freshmen were getting these t-shirts they would probably only wear for two weeks, because then it would be uncool. And then I realized a lot of it was also just because I didn’t have a connection to South Campus.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:14):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (27:15):

Like, I walk around S- South Campus-

Badr Merdassi (27:16):

No.

Cate Pitterle (27:16):

… I still don’t always know where I’m going.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:18):

Yeah, ’cause you were never there.

Cate Pitterle (27:18):

I was never there.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:19):

Well, and we’ve said, it’s funny y’all mention the t-shirts, because that started this past fall, and it’s the first years, just everything’s new when you’re a first year. So, “This is how Wake Forest has always been,” you know (laughs)?

(27:29):

And I remember seeing second years this past fall, they were like, “Wait, where’s my t-shirt?” Or, you know-

Cate Pitterle (27:33):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:34):

… y’all are mentioning this as seniors, so, uh, it is interesting. And even just this conversation, I hope the first years can listen, because it’s also, I would imagine, there’s great value now in the bright spots, that it is more colorful, that Wake Forest that you knew has emerged, um, in your experience.

(27:51):

So I am curious, this first year, probably year and a half, really challenging from an aspect of, “I’m a first year student, I’m making meaning of what it means to be a college student. I’m really far from home,” in some cases, “Making sense of a global pandemic in my own health, or the health of my friends.”

(28:07):

So at what point did Wake Forest start to feel like home? Or you started to see that actual sunlight? I joined you the spring of your sophomore year, and I remember, just getting back to what Badr said, that Cate and I were talking, and I was just getting connected with students as a new vice-president. And she’s like, “Dr. Shea, we do not know how to college.”

Cate Pitterle (28:30):

(laughs).

Shea Kidd Brown (28:30):

And (laughs) so that is actually how the, the panel emerged, is, like, “How do we help students to re-socialize with the college experience?” And I’m digressing a little bit, but I think the question I would love to know is, when did you start to turn the corner from this really dark, bleak time to, “Okay, this place is starting to feel like home, I’m starting to feel connected, starting to feel like I belong”?

Sydney Smith (28:53):

First I will say, as a tour guide I, you tend to, um, finish my tours talking about this point. But, you know, I always say, “I got here in 2020. Oh, poor me, miniature violin.”

Shea Kidd Brown (29:02):

(laughs).

Sydney Smith (29:03):

And all the parents and students they say, “Oh, I’m so sorry.” I say, “No, it’s okay.” I say, “When you’re touring schools and touring colleges, specifically now at Wake, some of your are here right now as juniors and seniors in high school. And you’re so excited because you’re on this campus, and you feel like, ‘This is it, this is the one for me.’ And you know it.”

(29:18):

I have friends who are on the dance team, and the cheer team especially, who grew up in North Carolina. And they’re like, “Wake has always been for me, and I’ve know it.”

(29:25):

Personally, when I toured, I loved it. But I didn’t know that.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:28):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (29:28):

I was impressed, but I wasn’t, like, “Let me early action, early decision,” that just wasn’t really a part of my being, I suppose.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:35):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (29:35):

And so I always finish my tours by saying, “And it’s really important and nice that you might feel that way now, for this school or any other school. But what’s more important in my opinion is to make sure that feels like home after all of, like, the glistening glamour sort of dies down.”

(29:47):

And for me, I really like Wake Forest because it was easy to make it feel like home once I got here, even in the midst of COVID.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:53):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (29:54):

When I was a freshman I got back late one night from cheer practice, a hard practice with a lot of running (laughs), that I wasn’t expecting. And my friends on, you know, Babcock basement floor, they knew that I had a rough practice that night, ’cause one of the dancing girls, who’s still my friend ’til today, came back and told them earlier.

(30:10):

They went out to the P.O.D by Subway and they got me, like, a Twix bar and a KitKat, and, like, wrote me a little note, and they were like, “Go to bed early, like, we love you.” And it was the people.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:19):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (30:19):

Only a couple of months in, even during COVID, that was a real-

Shea Kidd Brown (30:21):

So that was your first year?

Sydney Smith (30:22):

Yes. And that, they made it feel like home.

(30:24):

On the flip side, because COVID was still going on, I’ll say probably when you got here, the spring of my sophomore year was when COVID out of the way, that’s when it started to-

Shea Kidd Brown (30:33):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (30:33):

… feel like home, because I was realizing that now I was part of all these different leadership organizations, I could do all these different things on campus. Felt like home when I felt upset because I had to choose between being able to different things.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:46):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (30:46):

‘Cause when you were a freshman during COVID, it was like, “Oh, well, I’m just grasping at straws to do one thing.”

Shea Kidd Brown (30:50):

Right.

Sydney Smith (30:51):

‘Cause you could only do so much with COVID restrictions, when I was an RA, and also a cheerleader. Maybe even during the fall of our sophomore year when I was seeing how the freshmen were welcomed into the dorm, and I couldn’t be a cheerleader outside welcoming them in with pompoms, but I could be an RA sitting there at the desk.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:05):

Mm-hmm.

Sydney Smith (31:06):

I was like, “Wow,” like, “I’m happy now, because I get a chance to have to choose.”

Shea Kidd Brown (31:09):

Right.

Sydney Smith (31:09):

Like, a choice, in my opinion, was like a privilege.

Sean Brady (31:11):

I think for me it was similar to you, it was certainly maybe the end of my sophomore year that I finally felt connected. And I think for me my biggest issue was, is I’m kind of the person, like I think a lot of us are, like as soon as you do something you wanna buy-in, right? You wanna commit to it, you, you know, we’re not doing things kind of partially or anything like that.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:28):

Right.

Sean Brady (31:29):

And for me, I knew what I wanted was there, ’cause that’s why I chose the place. But up until then everything felt surface level, right? It felt like every kind of interaction I had with people was very surface level.

Sydney Smith (31:40):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (31:40):

And not because of anything, like, wrong between that, just like maybe our schedules were off, or, you know, where I was living in Babcock maybe there’s only a couple people around me. Sort of knew each other, but not really that well.

(31:51):

And so everything was like I could go out and be able to, like, say hi to somebody as I was walking to class, or to the Pit or something like that, but were they my true friend, or something like that. And that’s kind of what I felt like I was missing, was like organizations to belong to, and kind of that group of people-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:04):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (32:04):

… that you call.

(32:05):

I remember still to this day, it’s the greatest thing I, I did not end up doing. But I remember, like, early on in my sophomore fall, like, there was a period of probably about two weeks that, like, I was thinking like, “Maybe this is not the school for me.”

(32:15):

And I think it was ’cause I kind of knew there was something else out there at Wake that I was waiting to find. And I’m very thankful that that did come across, you know, my sophomore spring, ’cause that’s what kept me here. And then I was able to go abroad in the junior fall-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:28):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (32:29):

… and I felt like all I kept doing was building friendships.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:32):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (32:32):

And now here I am getting ready to graduate, I have the greatest group of friends I could’ve ever asked for. You know, people that I hope to know forever-

Cate Pitterle (32:40):

That’s really sweet.

Sean Brady (32:41):

And, like, it’s one of those ones similar to what you were saying-

Sydney Smith (32:42):

Yeah.

Sean Brady (32:42):

… which is, like, I think what makes me realize Wake is home in that sense is that I can take it away from the campus as well.

Sydney Smith (32:47):

Mm-hmm.

Sean Brady (32:48):

So these are people I like to go on trips with, or go to a concert with, or go do fun things if we’re all in the same area over the summer, stuff like that. I feel like Wake Forest can go on the road with me now, which makes me realize this is where I was supposed to be.

Sydney Smith (33:00):

Love that.

Cate Pitterle (33:01):

That’s, like, actually just a really nice thought, ’cause I was thinking about that the other day with, “How am I gonna keep in tough with all of my friends? We’re all moving to different cities.” But, like, finding home in community…

(33:09):

And I know, just to go back to your original question, you talked about turning the corner. And I was kind of thinking about this question, and I didn’t really know how to approach it, because I don’t ever think I turned a corner. I think the process of Wake Forest becoming home to me was very gradual, I don’t remember a specific moment-

Shea Kidd Brown (33:24):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (33:25):

… where I thought like, “Okay, this is home now.”

Shea Kidd Brown (33:26):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (33:27):

Or, like, I… Or a moment where I felt like I, it wasn’t home but then suddenly it was. I think it was always kind of it started at a point and then it just progressed. Until one day I was just talking to my mom and I was home for the weekend-

Shea Kidd Brown (33:39):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (33:39):

… or something like that, and I said, “All right, I’m gonna drive home now.” And then-

Shea Kidd Brown (33:42):

Ooh (laughs).

Cate Pitterle (33:42):

And, oh.

Sydney Smith (33:42):

Yeah (laughs).

Cate Pitterle (33:44):

I do, I do actually remember… I don’t remember when that was, but I do remember for the first time I said that. And mom was like, “You’re driving home?” And I was like, “Oh, back to Wake.” Like (laughs)-

Shea Kidd Brown (33:51):

(laughs).

Cate Pitterle (33:52):

Like, “This is home, but, like, also that’s home.” And I, I just kind of got to a point where I felt like I had two homes.

Sydney Smith (33:58):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (33:58):

And I think my sense of home has really evolved and changed, just how I define the word, since I’ve been at Wake.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:03):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (34:03):

Because I went abroad and for a while the Worrell House was home.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:06):

Mm-hmm.

Cate Pitterle (34:07):

And I interned in DC for two summers, and I actually lived in the same building both summers, so for periods of time the Wake Forest, Wake Washington housing was home.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:14):

Right.

Cate Pitterle (34:15):

And I think I’ve just allowed myself, having lived in the same town my entire life, to create home in different places, and to allow myself to feel settled into a place, and allow myself to call that place home even if it’s only temporary.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:27):

Yeah.

Cate Pitterle (34:28):

And Wake is only four years, it is temporary-

Shea Kidd Brown (34:30):

Right (laughs).

Cate Pitterle (34:30):

… as we’re all very, very aware right now.

(34:32):

But I don’t think it was ever turning a corner at a certain point, I came here and it was always home, but it just started evolving into more of home.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:40):

Mm-hmm. Yeah, more comfort making-

Cate Pitterle (34:41):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:41):

… with home?

(34:41):

And that’s, the way you described it, is also, Sean, you were saying you can take home with you (laughs) now.

Cate Pitterle (34:46):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:47):

So you’ve done that internationally in another city, so that’s great.

Badr Merdassi (34:50):

The concept of home is really interesting and very t- something I’ve… I wouldn’t say struggled with, because that’s a negative connotation, which in this case doesn’t at all. But as an international student, this isn’t just another place, this is another country-

Shea Kidd Brown (35:06):

Right.

Badr Merdassi (35:06):

… another state, another culture, just everything that’s different.

(35:10):

And one can say that that’s a lot harder to make it home, but for the first day I wanted to have it all.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:17):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (35:18):

I was like, “I’m gonna make this place my home.”

Shea Kidd Brown (35:21):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (35:22):

“It’s not gonna come to me, I’m gonna make it.” And it was really hard to do that spring semester of freshman year, but I, you know, discovered so many people.

(35:31):

And then I realized that it’s not much the geographical place that make it home, ’cause you know, you can recreate Wake probably somewhere else than in Winston-Salem, but if you take the people that make Wake-

Shea Kidd Brown (35:43):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (35:44):

… it’s not gonna be Wake Forest. You can name it something else, in a way.

(35:48):

And a lot of things happened summer going into sophomore year, but the first day of sophomore year, getting back onto this campus, I’ll never forget the feelings that I had. And it was, “This is it.”

Shea Kidd Brown (36:02):

(laughs).

Badr Merdassi (36:03):

“This is home. This is where I feel, you know, not just safe, but this is where I feel like I belong.” And, and it just made so much sense sophomore year. I call sophomore year my actual freshman year.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:15):

(laughs).

Sydney Smith (36:15):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (36:16):

I would say really the first day of sophomore year. But the settling part, the part where I’m like, “I’ve got it,” quote unquote, “… all covered, I know what I’m doing,” was probably junior year.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:28):

Yeah.

Sydney Smith (36:28):

Mm-hmm.

Badr Merdassi (36:29):

And that might sound late, but I guess for me, or for our class, junior year I was like, “Yeah, I mean, I know this place very well now. I’m well established, and I’ve got it.”

(36:40):

It’s a tricky answer, but, um-

Shea Kidd Brown (36:42):

Yeah.

Badr Merdassi (36:42):

But, yeah, it’s a great question.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:43):

By the head nods, I don’t think it’s an odd response. I think, you know, referencing Cate said, “Dr. Shea, we don’t know how to college,” it was because your first year you didn’t have the, the orientation experience at all, so this whole onboarding that we take great pride in from a first year standpoint.

(36:59):

Your second year you were no longer a first year, so you didn’t get that onboarding (laughs) your second year. And then for third year, and y’all didn’t go into this, but third year many of you were heading abroad. So it was like you were much more comfortable, and you were doing this different experience. And so it’s really, like, a year and a half that you’ve had what might have felt like what you expected in a college experience.

(37:25):

Wow, what a great start to our conversation with these seniors. From their transition to Wake Forest in the height of a global pandemic, to finding their people and finally being able to call Wake Forest home, they truly have shared so many memories and stories, and tidbits of wisdom.

(37:44):

Tune in next week to hear the second part of my conversation with Cate, Sydney, Badr and Sean, where we move beyond the pandemic years and start shedding some light on the rest of their college experiences here at Wake. From successes to lessons learned, to looking forward to life after Wake Forest.

(38:02):

Thank you for listening and for hearing these students’ stories of resilience, and community, and hope, and home. We all have stories to share of perseverance and trying, I kid you not. So keep leaning into the hard work and heart work.

MaryAnna Bailey (38:20):

This episode was produced by Vir Gupta, in association with the university’s Campus Life team.

(38:27):

For any thoughts and suggestions on what or who you want to hear next time, reach out to us on our socials using the information in the show notes. I’m MaryAnna Bailey, and this was Kid You Not.


In this episode, Dr. Shea sits down with one of the most recognizable staff members from The Pit, Miss Sonny Davis. You’ll hear about what brought our guest to Wake, what drives her to keep going every day, why greeting students is so important to her, how she keeps track of students’ names, and so much more!

Shea Kidd Brown (00:04):

Hey! It’s Dr. Shea, and today I have the pleasure of talking with Ms. Sonny Davis. Most people just know her as Ms. Sonny. Born in North Carolina, Sonny has lived in both Pennsylvania and North Carolina, and before joining Wake Forest, she worked downtown at the Piedmont Club. For nearly seven years, Ms. Sonny has brought the sunshine to our students and everyone who has come in contact with her. Truly, her name says it all. She first began her career at Wake in The Magnolia Room, then later moved to the Pit. And if you’ve dined in the Pit, then you’ve likely been welcomed by her most amazing smile, style, and presence. I am so delighted to talk with her today. So, how you doing?

Sonny Davis (00:52):

I’m doing pretty good.

Shea Kidd Brown (00:52):

Good.

Sonny Davis (00:53):

No complaints.

Shea Kidd Brown (00:54):

So, hey.

Sonny Davis (00:54):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (00:54):

You gotta, you gotta greet me like you just-

Sonny Davis (00:56):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (00:56):

… greeted me. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (00:56):

(laughs) Hello, Dr. Shea! How are you?

Shea Kidd Brown (00:56):

Ms. Sonny, I’m good.

Sonny Davis (01:00):

This is such a pleasure.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:02):

It’s such a pleasure just-

Sonny Davis (01:03):

Oh, I’m-

Shea Kidd Brown (01:03):

… to see you.

Sonny Davis (01:04):

… so nervous.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:05):

Hey, don’t be nervous.

Sonny Davis (01:06):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (01:07):

Hey, secret, I’m nervous, too.

Sonny Davis (01:09):

Are you?

Shea Kidd Brown (01:09):

Yes.

Sonny Davis (01:10):

You’re amazing.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:11):

No! You are amazing. That’s-

Sonny Davis (01:12):

Mm-hmm. I’ve been watching clips of you.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:13):

Oh.

Sonny Davis (01:14):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:15):

Well-

Sonny Davis (01:15):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:15):

I hear about you all the time through our students.

Sonny Davis (01:19):

How is that possible?

Shea Kidd Brown (01:20):

Because you bring the sunshine.

Sonny Davis (01:22):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:22):

Seriously.

Sonny Davis (01:22):

Do I really?

Shea Kidd Brown (01:24):

Yes, because I’m fairly new here. You know that, right?

Sonny Davis (01:27):

No.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:27):

I’ve only been here two years. And so- Yes. (laughs) Y’all can’t see her face, but (laughs) she’s-

Sonny Davis (01:34):

Oh my God.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:34):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (01:34):

That’s … Well, that’s pretty awesome, ’cause you’re well-talked-about.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:36):

Well … Oh!

Sonny Davis (01:36):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:37):

And as are you.

Sonny Davis (01:38):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:38):

So seriously, when I launched the podcast, I was talking to students.

Sonny Davis (01:41):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:42):

Like, “Who do I need to bring?” They’re like, “Ms. Sonny! You have to bring Ms. S-

Sonny Davis (01:45):

Wow.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:45):

I promise.

Sonny Davis (01:45):

Things like that.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:47):

I promise. And I have eaten in the Pit, you’ve seen me in the Pit.

Sonny Davis (01:49):

Yes, yes, yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:51):

And you just exude this joy-

Sonny Davis (01:53):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:54):

… and just a great personality. So I’m just so glad you’re here today.

Sonny Davis (01:57):

Thank you.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:58):

There’s nothing to be nervous about.

Sonny Davis (01:59):

Okay.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:59):

First of all, your name.

Sonny Davis (02:00):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (02:01):

It’s Sonny, S-O, right-

Sonny Davis (02:03):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:03):

… N-N-Y.

Sonny Davis (02:03):

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:03):

And I think about S-U-

Sonny Davis (02:03):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:03):

… N.

Sonny Davis (02:07):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:08):

I think about the sunshine. Like, that’s what I said in this, in your intro. But, I always start podcasts as I get to know people with this-

Sonny Davis (02:15):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:15):

… idea of home.

Sonny Davis (02:16):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:16):

So, where’s home for you?

Sonny Davis (02:18):

Well, it’s here, but I’ve lived in Pennsylvania.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:20):

What part of Pennsylvania?

Sonny Davis (02:21):

Reading.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:21):

Reading.

Sonny Davis (02:21):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:21):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (02:21):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:21):

Was it too cold or you just-

Sonny Davis (02:21):

Philadelphia. No.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:21):

… did you … You just decided to come back home?

Sonny Davis (02:26):

I loved it.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:26):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (02:26):

No. I loved it, it’s just, I don’t know, my grandparents was here.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:30):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (02:31):

My father was here. So I was-

Shea Kidd Brown (02:32):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (02:32):

My sister moved back here, so I went following behind her.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:35):

Yeah! It’s like-

Sonny Davis (02:36):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:36):

… family.

Sonny Davis (02:36):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:37):

It’s important, that they-

Sonny Davis (02:38):

So that brought me here.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:39):

Yes.

Sonny Davis (02:39):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:39):

So, and I always ask the question where is home for you? Because you get to include North Carolina-

Sonny Davis (02:44):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:45):

… and Pennsylvania-

Sonny Davis (02:45):

This is home.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:47):

… and any … This is home?

Sonny Davis (02:47):

This is home.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:48):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (02:48):

This is home.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:48):

You lived there, but this-

Sonny Davis (02:50):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:50):

… is home.

Sonny Davis (02:50):

This is home.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:50):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (02:51):

(laughs) Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:51):

In Winston?

Sonny Davis (02:52):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:52):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (02:52):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:54):

So, the second part of that question is, what does home mean to you?

Sonny Davis (02:57):

Family, friendships.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:58):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (02:59):

Just friendly faces and-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:00):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (03:00):

… you know, hospitality.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:01):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (03:02):

And that’s what Winston is for me-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:03):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (03:03):

… it’s hospitality.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:04):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (03:04):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:04):

I agree.

Sonny Davis (03:05):

I love it. It sticks with me. I worked at the Piedmont Club, so I was there for-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:08):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (03:09):

… 18 years.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:10):

Okay. Yeah.

Sonny Davis (03:10):

That’s where it all began for me.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:12):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (03:12):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:13):

And then you came to Wake seven years ago.

Sonny Davis (03:14):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:14):

Right?

Sonny Davis (03:15):

Yes, ma’am.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:16):

Okay. Well, and we’re gonna dig into that in-

Sonny Davis (03:17):

Oh, boy.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:17):

… a little bit.

Sonny Davis (03:17):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (03:18):

A little bit.

Sonny Davis (03:19):

(laughing)

Shea Kidd Brown (03:19):

But I want to know, so you talk about home is, is family.

Sonny Davis (03:23):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:25):

It’s comfort.

Sonny Davis (03:25):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:25):

It’s smiling faces. And-

Sonny Davis (03:26):

Food.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:27):

Food. Yes.

Sonny Davis (03:28):

I love to cook.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:29):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (03:29):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:30):

Tell me more. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (03:30):

Okay.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:31):

What do you like to cook?

Sonny Davis (03:32):

Everything.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:32):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (03:33):

I do Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Father’s Day, and Fourth of July for my family-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:38):

Ooh.

Sonny Davis (03:38):

… every year. Every year.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:39):

Is there a set menu?

Sonny Davis (03:40):

Yeah, pretty much.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:40):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (03:42):

You know? Our Father’s Day is always fried fish, fried chicken.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:44):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (03:44):

… or ribs, what the fathers love the most.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:46):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (03:46):

So I do a lot of that for them. ‘Cause they don’t get their opportunity.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:50):

Ooh.

Sonny Davis (03:50):

So they get to set out in the yard, play their little cards.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:52):

I love that.

Sonny Davis (03:52):

And, you know, and play dominoes and-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:55):

And let people take care of them.

Sonny Davis (03:56):

Yes. And we take care of them.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:59):

So what’s your-

Sonny Davis (03:59):

They deserve that.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:59):

What’s your favorite thing you like to cook?

Sonny Davis (04:02):

I guess I would say, uh, potato salad, baked beans is one.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:04):

Now is your potato salad mustard or mayonnaise based?

Sonny Davis (04:06):

Both.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:07):

Ooh.

Sonny Davis (04:07):

I use both.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:08):

Is that a secret?

Sonny Davis (04:09):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:09):

Not a secret anymore!

Sonny Davis (04:14):

No, it’s not. (laughs) I use both. But, that’s what I … Coleslaw is one of my-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:16):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (04:16):

… big things, you know?

Shea Kidd Brown (04:17):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (04:17):

And I like to do, I do it in bulk, you know-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:19):

Of course.

Sonny Davis (04:20):

… for them, you know, and-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:20):

For the whole family.

Sonny Davis (04:20):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:22):

Now what proteins?

Sonny Davis (04:23):

Deep-fried fish. I have two f- I have a fish fryer and a chicken fryer.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:26):

Speaking of which.

Sonny Davis (04:27):

And I have a grill on the side of me and I barbecue the ribs.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:30):

If y’all could see, she’s, like, motioning-

Sonny Davis (04:32):

Yes. I have it-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:33):

… all-

Sonny Davis (04:33):

Yes. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (04:33):

… they’re all- There are all, the things (laughs) are laying out.

Sonny Davis (04:34):

I’m blocked in from all this-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:36):

Right.

Sonny Davis (04:36):

… and I’m-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:36):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (04:36):

… just going at it, and they’re just-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:37):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (04:38):

They’re all surprised that I do this.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:40):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (04:40):

And, and then my uncles and everybody come down from Pennsylvania.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:41):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (04:43):

And I cook for them around Fourth of July, every year.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:45):

Oh, that’s amazing. It’s funny, as you were talking about your fish and chicken in different pots.

Sonny Davis (04:49):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:49):

And my husband’s from Baton Rouge.

Sonny Davis (04:51):

Ooh.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:52):

Exactly. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (04:53):

Ooh.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:53):

So-

Sonny Davis (04:54):

He know some stuff.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:54):

He knows some stuff!

Sonny Davis (04:55):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (04:56):

In fact, when we moved here, we had a team that was helping us move and they said-

Sonny Davis (05:00):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:01):

“Excuse me? Mr. Brown, are you a chef?” (laughs)

Sonny Davis (05:02):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (05:03):

And he said, “No. Why are you asking me that?” And they were like, “You got all these pots!”

Sonny Davis (05:07):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (05:07):

(laughs) “what are you gonna do with all these pots?”

Sonny Davis (05:07):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (05:09):

They’re propane, we got our-

Sonny Davis (05:11):

Everything.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:11):

… crawfish pot, you got-

Sonny Davis (05:12):

Oh, my.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:12):

We do catfish.

Sonny Davis (05:13):

Oh.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:13):

‘Cause I’m from Mississippi.

Sonny Davis (05:15):

You got to have catfish.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:15):

So, gotta get-

Sonny Davis (05:15):

Oh, my.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:16):

… have a catfish pot. And we don’t fry it in- inside, everything is fried outside.

Sonny Davis (05:19):

Everything’s fried outside. That’s my son.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:21):

And then … And then he’s got his pots for-

Sonny Davis (05:22):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:23):

… jambalaya, gumbo, all those kinds of things.

Sonny Davis (05:25):

Oh, boy.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:25):

So we can have a time.

Sonny Davis (05:27):

We can have a great time.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:29):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (05:29):

We could. We’ll-

Shea Kidd Brown (05:29):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (05:29):

… have to plan that.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:29):

I mean it. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (05:29):

I’m serious.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:29):

I mean it.

Sonny Davis (05:29):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (05:34):

I am, too. So I know family is important to you.

Sonny Davis (05:35):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:36):

And I heard you have a new grandbaby.

Sonny Davis (05:38):

I do.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:39):

Tell me about your grandbaby.

Sonny Davis (05:40):

Oh, his name is Kairee.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:41):

Aw.

Sonny Davis (05:42):

He was a little early.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:43):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (05:43):

He stayed in the hospital for about a m- three weeks.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:46):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (05:46):

And, uh, he got his weight up, and-

Shea Kidd Brown (05:47):

Oh.

Sonny Davis (05:48):

He’s home. I just-

Shea Kidd Brown (05:49):

How old is he now?

Sonny Davis (05:50):

He’s two months.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:51):

Oh my gosh. So he’s really young.

Sonny Davis (05:53):

He’s really young, yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:53):

Oh my gosh.

Sonny Davis (05:55):

He’s amazing. Oh my God.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:56):

Yes.

Sonny Davis (05:57):

Just to look in his face and he just … He’s making goo-goo noises, now.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:59):

Oh. Now-

Sonny Davis (06:01):

I’m like … I’m like, “You’re moving a little fast.”

Shea Kidd Brown (06:02):

Yes. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (06:02):

“Slow down.”

Shea Kidd Brown (06:02):

Exactly.

Sonny Davis (06:02):

Just-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:02):

It happens-

Sonny Davis (06:02):

… he just-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:02):

… so fast.

Sonny Davis (06:05):

Oh my God. They’re coming out, walking. They-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:09):

Yes. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (06:09):

… do that.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:09):

It’s like there’s something in the water.

Sonny Davis (06:09):

There’s something in the water. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (06:11):

So what is he gonna call you?

Sonny Davis (06:12):

He’s gonna call me Nana.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:13):

Oh, that’s my mom’s name.

Sonny Davis (06:14):

He’s gonna call me Nana, ’cause-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:15):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (06:15):

… my granddaughter, she calls me Nana.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:17):

Oh, I love that.

Sonny Davis (06:18):

And she’s six.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:19):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (06:20):

Who’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:20):

My mom was Nana. I have Nana and Pops.

Sonny Davis (06:22):

So I got their room together in there.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:24):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (06:24):

So he got his-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:25):

How far apart are they?

Sonny Davis (06:26):

He’s two months.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:26):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (06:27):

And she’s six years old.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:28):

Oh, six.

Sonny Davis (06:28):

But then-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:28):

You just said that.

Sonny Davis (06:28):

But they’re different sons, different sons got these babies.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:30):

Oh. But you-

Sonny Davis (06:30):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:30):

… have rooms for them.

Sonny Davis (06:33):

Yes. I got it ready already. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (06:35):

Now, my mom says, “Gr-being a grandmother is grand- “

Sonny Davis (06:47):

It is. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (06:47):

… because I can have this room.

Sonny Davis (06:47):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:47):

And then I can say-

Sonny Davis (06:47):

I can say, “Yeah.”

Shea Kidd Brown (06:47):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (06:47):

Yeah. Mm-hmm. ‘Cau-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:47):

That was fun. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (06:47):

Then, “goodbye.”

Shea Kidd Brown (06:47):

“See you later.” (laughs)

Sonny Davis (06:47):

(laughs) If I want to change it, I can change it.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:47):

That’s right.

Sonny Davis (06:47):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:47):

That’s right.

Sonny Davis (06:48):

Mm-hmm. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (06:48):

Well, so I started off the podcast by saying your reputation, you know? Like-

Sonny Davis (06:54):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:54):

Students love you.

Sonny Davis (06:55):

Ah-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:55):

S-

Sonny Davis (06:55):

I love them.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:56):

Well, I know that.

Sonny Davis (06:57):

This place is d- Oh, I don’t know what I’ve been doing all these years-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:00):

Aw.

Sonny Davis (07:00):

… without them.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:01):

Aw.

Sonny Davis (07:02):

And each year it gets better.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:03):

Yeah?

Sonny Davis (07:03):

I couldn’t imagine anything else.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:05):

Really?

Sonny Davis (07:06):

Just seeing their faces, and-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:07):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (07:08):

The breaks are too long. I have it rough because I look forward to seeing them every day.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:11):

Uh-huh.

Sonny Davis (07:12):

So when they get a break, I be … They don’t realize, I be really sad, for real.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:15):

Oh.

Sonny Davis (07:15):

It’s not for … It’s not play.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:16):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (07:16):

And my family, I just talk so wholly they be like-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:18):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (07:19):

“Let me go back the work. I be glad when you go back to work.”

Shea Kidd Brown (07:21):

Right.

Sonny Davis (07:21):

You know what I mean? ‘Cause I just-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:21):

So you see your students.

Sonny Davis (07:23):

I just wanna see my babies.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:23):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (07:24):

He, “You don’t love us no more. It’s all about your babies.”

Shea Kidd Brown (07:26):

Right.

Sonny Davis (07:26):

“All y’all my babies. But- “

Shea Kidd Brown (07:28):

That’s right.

Sonny Davis (07:28):

“These are my babies.”

Shea Kidd Brown (07:29):

So tell me about that journey to Wake Forest. How did you decide-

Sonny Davis (07:33):

Oh my God.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:33):

… to come here?

Sonny Davis (07:34):

I left Piedmont Club, and I was-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:36):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (07:36):

… just sitting at home. It w- I was in my second month.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:39):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (07:39):

My first week of the second month of being outta work.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:42):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (07:42):

‘Cause we closed down.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:43):

Oh, okay.

Sonny Davis (07:44):

And I was just sitting. And I was like … And I seen they had a job fair come up.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:47):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (07:47):

And I kept debating. And I’m like, “I remember I tried to get in there a long, long time ago.”

Shea Kidd Brown (07:51):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (07:52):

But they were full. They had no openings.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:54):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (07:54):

‘Cause everybody was wanting to work here.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:55):

Right.

Sonny Davis (07:56):

So that’s how I wound up. But I waited, and my t- and my time, I was like, “I’m going to the job fair.”

Shea Kidd Brown (08:01):

Your time came. Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (08:01):

The time I walked in that Coliseum, saying-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:04):

(laughs) You were at the Joel?

Sonny Davis (08:05):

… I ran … y- Yeah. I ro- I walked into the Coliseum and I ran into Ms. Danny-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:10):

Uh-huh.

Sonny Davis (08:10):

… and Ms. Jessica. And they, and they … And I told them who I was, and what had going. And it was like immediately, right-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:15):

Hired on the spot.

Sonny Davis (08:16):

“Grab her.”

Shea Kidd Brown (08:16):

Oh my God. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (08:17):

“She … Don’t let her go nowhere.” And they sent me to get my urine test, and they hired me-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:21):

Oh-

Sonny Davis (08:21):

… on the spot.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:22):

… my goodness.

Sonny Davis (08:23):

And I’ve been here ever since.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:24):

Oh.

Sonny Davis (08:25):

And I started here on my mother’s birthday, which is July 25th.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:27):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (08:28):

That’s the day she was born. It’s the day she passed.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:28):

Really?

Sonny Davis (08:31):

Yes. It’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:31):

What a-

Sonny Davis (08:31):

it’s an amazing day.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:32):

… special day.

Sonny Davis (08:32):

Exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:33):

Wow. Wow.

Sonny Davis (08:33):

It is very special to me.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:34):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (08:34):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:34):

And so I-

Sonny Davis (08:36):

It just was meant to be.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:37):

It was meant to be.

Sonny Davis (08:37):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:37):

Well, we are better because of it.

Sonny Davis (08:38):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (08:41):

So you s- So you say you’re sad when the students leave.

Sonny Davis (08:46):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:46):

So tell me some of the things that you miss, some of the things you learned from them?

Sonny Davis (08:48):

The, “Good morning, Sonny’s,” the … I don’t know. It’s just it’s a feeling.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:52):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (08:52):

You know what I mean?

Shea Kidd Brown (08:53):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (08:53):

And it’s not all the same.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:54):

Right.

Sonny Davis (08:54):

But they’re all great.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:54):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (08:54):

You know what I mean?

Shea Kidd Brown (08:54):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (08:58):

You know, just the, “Good morning, Sonny.” Just the smile.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:59):

Right.

Sonny Davis (09:00):

Even t- some of the international students-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:01):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (09:02):

… they just … I can’t pronounce with all their names.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:03):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (09:04):

So they are sweethearts. They’re sweet as can be- 

Shea Kidd Brown (09:04):

Right. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (09:04):

… to me, you know?

Shea Kidd Brown (09:04):

Right. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (09:06):

And, and they appreciate that.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:08):

Absolutely.

Sonny Davis (09:08):

You know? Instead of me saying y-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:09):

And personalize.

Sonny Davis (09:10):

Yes. And they’re-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:10):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (09:11):

… our … These kids are our future.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:14):

Mm-hmm. I hear you have a way, uh, for keeping names.

Sonny Davis (09:16):

Oh, yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:16):

This true?

Sonny Davis (09:17):

I like to jot ’em down in this little book I have.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:18):

Yeah?

Sonny Davis (09:19):

(laughs) I got all the football players-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:21):

Oh my gosh.

Sonny Davis (09:22):

… in one … in one area of the (laughs) book, then I got-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:23):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (09:24):

… the baseball players here-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:25):

Right.

Sonny Davis (09:26):

… the soccer players-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:27):

Oh my gosh.

Sonny Davis (09:27):

… and then all my students are like mixed in all of this.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:29):

Uh-huh.

Sonny Davis (09:29):

So I have to keep flipping sometimes-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:30):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (09:31):

… just to get my memory back.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:33):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (09:33):

You know what I mean?

Shea Kidd Brown (09:33):

Yeah. It’s a lot-

Sonny Davis (09:33):

When we’re out on-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:33):

… to remember.

Sonny Davis (09:33):

… when we’re out on break.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:33):

Right.

Sonny Davis (09:36):

So I have to get all this back, ’cause I don’t want them to think I forgot them.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:38):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (09:39):

So I have to see them for the first couple days. And I’m gradually pulling names-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:42):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (09:43):

… off my top of my head.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:49):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (09:49):

I don’t even have time to look at the book.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:49):

Right.

Sonny Davis (09:49):

‘Cause I know these kids.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:49):

Of course.

Sonny Davis (09:50):

I know these-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:50):

You know their-

Sonny Davis (09:50):

… names.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:50):

… faces. Yeah.

Sonny Davis (09:50):

So it just come to me like this.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:50):

I love that.

Sonny Davis (09:50):

That’s so ra- And they smile, like, “Wow, Ms. Sonny remember my name.” You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (09:54):

That’s great.

Sonny Davis (09:54):

It s- makes me smile, that they know I’m Ms. Sonny.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:56):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (09:57):

You know what I’m saying? So it’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:58):

Oh, they all-

Sonny Davis (09:58):

… a great-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:58):

… know. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (10:00):

It’s a great feeling-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:01):

It is.

Sonny Davis (10:01):

… seeing these kids. If, if something’s wrong, it’s almost like I can sense it.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:05):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (10:05):

You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (10:05):

That’s what I was gonna ask you. So you know how I was asking you about home?

Sonny Davis (10:08):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:08):

How do you create a home for these students? ‘Cause you just mentioned, like, learning their names, and all those kinds of things. But what are thinks that you do to make sure they feel comfortable here?

Sonny Davis (10:17):

That, “Good morning. How’s your day?” Or, “Have a beautiful afternoon. I’ll see you at lunch.”

Shea Kidd Brown (10:22):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (10:22):

“Is everything going well? How’s Mom and Dad?”

Shea Kidd Brown (10:26):

Aw.

Sonny Davis (10:26):

You know? “Do you have- “

Shea Kidd Brown (10:26):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (10:26):

” … any siblings?” Or-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:27):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (10:28):

“Let me see you. Do you have a dog? Let me see your dog.”

Shea Kidd Brown (10:30):

“Let me see your picture.”

Sonny Davis (10:30):

You know? “Let me see a picture of your dog.” You know? Those are important.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:32):

They are.

Sonny Davis (10:33):

‘Cause they’re their babies. You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (10:33):

That’s right.

Sonny Davis (10:34):

They got pups they left at home, they’re sad. They miss their pups.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:37):

Mm-hmm. It’s very true.

Sonny Davis (10:38):

And it’s just … Hm. I just fill up.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:40):

Yeah?

Sonny Davis (10:41):

Just them coming in doors is fill me. I don’t care how many, just keep coming.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:43):

I wish I could-

Sonny Davis (10:43):

Just keep coming.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:44):

… see my face because-

Sonny Davis (10:45):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (10:46):

… it is like- (laughs)

Sonny Davis (10:46):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (10:47):

… you’re just emanating so much-

Sonny Davis (10:50):

Uh.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:50):

… energy. And it’s funny, you know? I have a job where I work with students a lot, too.

Sonny Davis (10:55):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:55):

And so much of what you described is so much of what I feel, too.

Sonny Davis (10:58):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:58):

It’s like, almost can’t put it into words, their energy, their excitement to-

Sonny Davis (11:03):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:03):

… see me.

Sonny Davis (11:03):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:04):

You know? For me, they say-

Sonny Davis (11:05):

Exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:05):

“Hi, Dr. Shea.”

Sonny Davis (11:05):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:07):

You know? And you know, we’re a better place because of them.

Sonny Davis (11:09):

Oh, yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:10):

And some days they are having hard days. And you can pick up on it.

Sonny Davis (11:12):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:13):

Uh, I was in the Pit, actually, (laughs) a few weeks ago, and I said to a student, “You okay?”

Sonny Davis (11:17):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:17):

You know, just-

Sonny Davis (11:18):

You’re good. Yeah, you’re good.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:18):

I just ask.

Sonny Davis (11:19):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:19):

And she’s like, “Well, Dr. Shea. I- “

Sonny Davis (11:19):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:21):

” … didn’t get a lotta sleep (laughs) last- “

Sonny Davis (11:22):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:22):

” … night.” And everything was fine.

Sonny Davis (11:24):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:24):

But she was really tired.

Sonny Davis (11:26):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:26):

And so to have people like you-

Sonny Davis (11:27):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:28):

… who notice.

Sonny Davis (11:29):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:29):

You know?

Sonny Davis (11:29):

I insist-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:30):

That’s-

Sonny Davis (11:30):

… on them getting some hot tea, and-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:31):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (11:32):

… just some coffee to boost ’em up a little bit. And-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:34):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (11:35):

“Ms. Sonny, I’m going straight there.” And, and to, “Stop rubbing your eyes and touching the doors. I- “

Shea Kidd Brown (11:39):

Oh, yeah. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (11:39):

Oh, that’s definitely-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:40):

“You’re gonna get something.”

Sonny Davis (11:41):

“I don’t want you to do that.”

Shea Kidd Brown (11:42):

Right. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (11:42):

“Now, you stop doing that.” (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (11:42):

There are these things called germs. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (11:42):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:42):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (11:45):

I keep track. I try to sanitize.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:46):

They’re everywhere. Right.

Sonny Davis (11:47):

I sanitize those doors. I sanitize the handles and-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:50):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (11:50):

… the area they lean and lay, I try to make sure that it’s safe as possible-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:54):

Right.

Sonny Davis (11:55):

… when they enter that door.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:55):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (11:56):

You know? That goes for all of us, you know what I’m saying?

Shea Kidd Brown (11:57):

Right.

Sonny Davis (11:57):

‘Cause germs spread. It’s not intentionally happening. It’s just-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:01):

No, it’s just-

Sonny Davis (12:01):

… what they do. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (12:03):

… hard. And exactly. So there’s one student who talked about you in a speech-

Sonny Davis (12:06):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:06):

… recently. Do you know about this?

Sonny Davis (12:08):

Oh, boy. Austin.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:10):

Yes. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (12:11):

Oh my God.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:13):

So Austin Torain.

Sonny Davis (12:14):

Oh, he-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:14):

Tell me about that relationship.

Sonny Davis (12:16):

Oh.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:16):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (12:18):

This young man is something im- He’s amazing.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:21):

He is.

Sonny Davis (12:22):

Music is-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:22):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (12:23):

… is a go-to for me.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:24):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (12:24):

And he won me-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:25):

Oh.

Sonny Davis (12:26):

… instantly.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:26):

Was it day one?

Sonny Davis (12:27):

Day one.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:27):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (12:28):

And that’s all it takes.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:29):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (12:30):

I think music is, is uplifting. And just-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:32):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (12:32):

… for him to go around campus, and everybody tends to fall in, now. You know? Everybody falls in.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:36):

Right. Right.

Sonny Davis (12:37):

At first it was like, “What’s- “

Shea Kidd Brown (12:38):

“What is going on?” (laughs)

Sonny Davis (12:39):

“Why is he walking around with his … Is he crazy? It’s loud in here. What are trying to … ” It all blends in.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:43):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (12:43):

You know? Just give it a chance and it all blends in.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:46):

Right.

Sonny Davis (12:46):

You could still hear each other. You could still communicate. And you got some that need that. It’s actually needed in this world-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:53):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (12:53):

… the way things-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:54):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (12:54):

… are today.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:54):

So do you remember that day when you first heard music-

Sonny Davis (12:57):

Oh my God.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:58):

… what that was like?

Sonny Davis (12:59):

Oh, God. It was amazing. And I was like, ’cause we … They took the music outta the Pit.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:02):

Oh.

Sonny Davis (13:03):

Because everybody kept plugging their phones up.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:05):

Okay. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (13:06):

And the manager was like, “Enough of this.”

Shea Kidd Brown (13:07):

Okay. Yeah. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (13:09):

“Enough of this.” ‘Cause they was playing music that’s not music we should be playing.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:11):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (13:11):

“So it, it’s gotta go.”

Shea Kidd Brown (13:13):

Was not the G-rated.

Sonny Davis (13:19):

“It’s gotta go.”

Shea Kidd Brown (13:19):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (13:19):

So with him coming up with all those great songs, and-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:19):

Well-

Sonny Davis (13:19):

Oh, my.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:19):

A lot of it is-

Sonny Davis (13:19):

It just-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:19):

… like Motown, and-

Sonny Davis (13:19):

It’s everything.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:19):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (13:20):

He, he plays it all.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:20):

He does.

Sonny Davis (13:21):

Country, ev- whatever.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:22):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (13:22):

Let’s get … Let’s get it.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:23):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (13:24):

‘Cause I feel like I know all those songs. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (13:25):

Yes.

Sonny Davis (13:25):

One of them, I know all of ’em. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (13:25):

Right.

Sonny Davis (13:31):

And he came in, it just was like, “Oh my God.” And I was looking for the manager at first, like-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:32):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (13:32):

“Don’t get in trouble.” (laughs) Oh, God.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:32):

Right.

Sonny Davis (13:36):

And I looked at … We had looked at each other. I was like … she was like … it was like-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:39):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (13:40):

Okay. And I just broke out dancing.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:41):

Right?

Sonny Davis (13:41):

And then he started dancing. It just-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:42):

I love it.

Sonny Davis (13:42):

… was like, “Oh my God.”

Shea Kidd Brown (13:44):

It’s like connection.

Sonny Davis (13:44):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:47):

It’s a connection. I shared this. Austin was on the podcast last-

Sonny Davis (13:50):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:50):

… fall.

Sonny Davis (13:50):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:51):

And I shared as a new person, I was like, “I walked in the Pit, and I was like, ‘Okay.'”

Sonny Davis (13:54):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:55):

And then I was like, “Wait, the music moving. Where? What’s- “

Sonny Davis (13:58):

It … Yeah. It-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:58):

” … going on?” Because it’s-

Sonny Davis (13:59):

… yeah, you-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:00):

… attached to him.

Sonny Davis (14:00):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (14:01):

And so, like, “I gotta know more.” And, you know-

Sonny Davis (14:04):

You know.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:04):

Eventually I got a chance to meet him. But I want you to know-

Sonny Davis (14:07):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:07):

You were a critical part of his connection to the university.

Sonny Davis (14:11):

Well, he-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:11):

You probably feel like he has-

Sonny Davis (14:13):

No, he-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:13):

… brought connection.

Sonny Davis (14:14):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:15):

But he talks about you.

Sonny Davis (14:16):

You serious?

Shea Kidd Brown (14:17):

I am so serious.

Sonny Davis (14:18):

He’s amazing.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:19):

So you never know your-

Sonny Davis (14:21):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:21):

… impact.

Sonny Davis (14:21):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:21):

And I want you-

Sonny Davis (14:22):

Oh, of course.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:22):

… to know that. You know? That our-

Sonny Davis (14:24):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:24):

… students look to you, and-

Sonny Davis (14:26):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:26):

… you’re such a important part of this-

Sonny Davis (14:28):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:29):

… community.

Sonny Davis (14:30):

Thank you. That means a lot to me.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:31):

Well, it’s true.

Sonny Davis (14:33):

I, I (laughs) want it to be so, but it does feel hot.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:35):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (14:35):

You know? But that’s hard. You know what I mean?

Shea Kidd Brown (14:38):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (14:38):

I remember back in … When it was Thomas Hearn s- and all these guys.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:41):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (14:41):

I was at Old Town Country Club.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:43):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (14:43):

I worked over there eight years.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:44):

Really? Before Piedmont?

Sonny Davis (14:46):

And I … Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:47):

Okay.

Sonny Davis (14:47):

It’s just … Uh. I call it pride in belonging.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:50):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (14:50):

You know? Being a part-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:52):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (14:52):

… of something. So my boss always say, “You know, Sonny, you got, we gotta be on s- It’s almost time to perform. It’s time to get on stage. This is fine dining. People come in here, and they’re, they’re not coming here just to throw their money around.”

Shea Kidd Brown (15:01):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (15:01):

“They’re looking for something special.”

Shea Kidd Brown (15:02):

Right.

Sonny Davis (15:03):

“And we gotta give it to them.”

Shea Kidd Brown (15:04):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (15:04):

So it’s always been like, “You know, we gotta get on stage.”

Shea Kidd Brown (15:07):

Yeah. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (15:07):

And that mean that- [inaudible 00:15:09]

Shea Kidd Brown (15:10):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (15:10):

Yes. (laughs) And I took heart to all of that, even with, we do with the costumes, and when we did the thing where you march around at the room behind each other, with the-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:18):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (15:18):

… cha-cha thing. And-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:18):

Oh. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (15:18):

We did so much.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:19):

You love it.

Sonny Davis (15:19):

But Peter Grzan was a huge inspiration for me back, years ago.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:22):

Oh, really?

Sonny Davis (15:23):

Peter Grzan, he the one started the Sonny.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:25):

Really?

Sonny Davis (15:26):

He started-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:26):

So was-

Sonny Davis (15:27):

… the Sonny.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:27):

So was Peter here-

Sonny Davis (15:28):

Pe- he was at-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:28):

… at Wake, or-

Sonny Davis (15:28):

He was at the Piedmont Club.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:29):

At Piedmont, okay.

Sonny Davis (15:30):

Mm-hmm. 18 years ago.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:31):

And so tell me more about that. He started calling-

Sonny Davis (15:32):

He started-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:32):

… you something.

Sonny Davis (15:32):

… miss- Yeah, he started calling me Sonny. And his family-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:37):

Hm.

Sonny Davis (15:37):

… his kids, they went to school here.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:41):

Okay. At Wake?

Sonny Davis (15:41):

So yes. But I was n- I didn’t know-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:44):

You weren’t connected.

Sonny Davis (15:44):

… anything about … No.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:44):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (15:46):

And it’s just like I used to always say, “I’ve always wanted to work there.” You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (15:47):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (15:47):

“How is it?”

Shea Kidd Brown (15:47):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (15:47):

“How is the school?” You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (15:47):

Right.

Sonny Davis (15:47):

“How’s the kids?” You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (15:47):

Right.

Sonny Davis (15:54):

“Oh,” the, the people always used to say, “Oh, them some big, big brats. They this.” You … How you gonna judge somebody or judge something if you haven’t even experienced it yet?

Shea Kidd Brown (15:57):

Right.

Sonny Davis (15:58):

You know? That’s contradiction.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:58):

Right.

Sonny Davis (15:58):

I don’t like that. Don’t do that.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:00):

It’s moving up close to people-

Sonny Davis (16:02):

Mm-hmm. That’s it.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:02):

… getting to know them.

Sonny Davis (16:03):

That’s it.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:04):

Like you said, dog. We all have similar emotions.

Sonny Davis (16:09):

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:09):

You know?

Sonny Davis (16:09):

They’re-

Shea Kidd Brown (16:09):

Similar background.

Sonny Davis (16:09):

And if they’re coming in the door, if they’re not smiling, I know it’s something.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:11):

Right.

Sonny Davis (16:12):

Because everybody comes through that door with a smile.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:14):

Right. ‘Cause they’re ready to eat.

Sonny Davis (16:14):

Yeah. They’re ready to eat.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:14):

They’re ready to see you.

Sonny Davis (16:14):

They’re ready to eat. That’s the big thing.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:18):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (16:18):

You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (16:19):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (16:19):

And I … Just for me to be there, and then if I’m not there, they just be like, “Where was you yesterday, Ms. Sonny?”

Shea Kidd Brown (16:22):

Right. “We missed- “

Sonny Davis (16:22):

“Is everything- “

Shea Kidd Brown (16:22):

Oh, I know.

Sonny Davis (16:22):

” … okay?”

Shea Kidd Brown (16:22):

When you are not at that door-

Sonny Davis (16:26):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:26):

… I’m like-

Sonny Davis (16:27):

A lotta people just turn around.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:28):

“I’ll just go.” Yeah. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (16:31):

I’m- (laughs) Like, “Ms. Sonny, I didn’t come in here today ’cause you weren’t here. You didn’t tell me you weren’t coming.”

Shea Kidd Brown (16:33):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (16:33):

“What?”

Shea Kidd Brown (16:33):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (16:35):

“You gotta give us your phone number. We need to know when you’re not- “

Shea Kidd Brown (16:37):

Oh, wow.

Sonny Davis (16:37):

” … gonna be here.”

Shea Kidd Brown (16:37):

Wow. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (16:40):

“If you’re ever gone.” D- (laughs) It’s like it took for them-

Shea Kidd Brown (16:42):

That’s serious. (laughs)

Sonny Davis (16:42):

… go like, “You serious right now?” (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (16:45):

My gosh. Well, that-

Sonny Davis (16:45):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:45):

That’s love.

Sonny Davis (16:46):

It’s that-

Shea Kidd Brown (16:46):

So where does that come from? Where does this-

Sonny Davis (16:49):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:49):

… sunny personality, this-

Sonny Davis (16:52):

It’s just, I’m a people person.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:54):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (16:54):

I love people. The big thing about it is that these are kids. I get to see it from the beginning.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:59):

You do. From move in-

Sonny Davis (17:00):

To the graduations-

Shea Kidd Brown (17:02):

Yeah.

Sonny Davis (17:03):

… and the, the going on, beginning their life, and just … Ah, it was a couple, Coleman. I’m trying to think of her name. They were students here. And they were having a big dance out there in the-

Shea Kidd Brown (17:12):

Mm-hmm.

Sonny Davis (17:13):

… up in the field over here on the other side of the Magnolia Room.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:15):

Oh. Uh-huh.

Sonny Davis (17:16):

And I convinced him to ask her out.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:19):

You did?

Sonny Davis (17:20):

‘Cause they did … they were like wanting to go but

Shea Kidd Brown (17:22):

Right?

Sonny Davis (17:22):

… did have a date.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:23):

(laughs) Right.

Sonny Davis (17:23):

I’m like, “She don’t have a date, you don’t have a date.”

Shea Kidd Brown (17:23):

(laughs)

Sonny Davis (17:25):

And I think me and Maria both was working in there at that, that … at that time.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:28):

‘Cause she started the Mag Room.

Sonny Davis (17:29):

Yes. Shea Kidd Brown (17:32): Yeah. Sonny Davis (17:32): And he asked her. Is it McKenzie? Yeah. Coleman- Shea Kidd Brown (17:33): Okay. Sonny Davis (17:33): … and McKenzie. Shea Kidd Brown (17:34): Okay. Sonny Davis (17:34): They got married. Shea Kidd Brown (17:35): Stop. Sonny Davis (17:36): I swear to God. Shea Kidd Brown (17:37): Oh my gosh. Sonny Davis (17:38): They sent me pictures, and- Shea Kidd Brown (17:38): Oh. Sonny Davis (17:41): Oh, it was the most amazing thing ever. Shea Kidd Brown (17:43): Right. Sonny Davis (17:44): Them coming together, and they just kept going. Shea Kidd Brown (17:46): So it’s this notion, what you’re describing was your why is really you’d be a part of creating these small moments- Sonny Davis (17:51): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (17:52): … that may be small moments or they may be big moments. Sonny Davis (17:55): We never know. Shea Kidd Brown (17:56): You never know. Sonny Davis (17:56): Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (17:57): Huh. Sonny Davis (17:57): And some of them be d- indecisive about what should their- Shea Kidd Brown (17:59): Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (18:00): … field be. You know? Shea Kidd Brown (18:00): Right. Sonny Davis (18:00): A lot of ’em be like, “I’m indecisive, Ms. Sonny. I wanna be a doctor, internal medicine doctor.” Shea Kidd Brown (18:04): Hm. Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (18:05): “But I also wanna go and do this.” Shea Kidd Brown (18:07): Right. Sonny Davis (18:07): “How is it possible that you can?” “Uh, you could do both.” Shea Kidd Brown (18:09): That’s right. Sonny Davis (18:10): “You don’t have to decide.” (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (18:14): Right. Sonny Davis (18:14): “You can have both those.” Shea Kidd Brown (18:14): Exactly. Sonny Davis (18:14): You know? Shea Kidd Brown (18:14): And this is- Sonny Davis (18:14): You- Shea Kidd Brown (18:14): … a great place to explore that. Sonny Davis (18:15): They say they wanna be a part of the actual internal medicine patient-doctor- Shea Kidd Brown (18:19): Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (18:19): … relationship. But they also wanna be the doctor that does the big things as far as like orthopedics. Shea Kidd Brown (18:24): Hm. Sonny Davis (18:25): So just important things like that. Shea Kidd Brown (18:25): Right. Sonny Davis (18:25): So- Shea Kidd Brown (18:26): And the business side of it. Sonny Davis (18:27): Yeah, so- Shea Kidd Brown (18:27): Right. Sonny Davis (18:28): I mean, you could, and still have a family. Shea Kidd Brown (18:29): Hm. Right. Sonny Davis (18:30): How do you juggle that? Shea Kidd Brown (18:31): I love that they talk to you about all those life decisions. Sonny Davis (18:34): It’s a lot. Shea Kidd Brown (18:34): So you’re a part therapist, probably- Sonny Davis (18:35): Yeah. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (18:36): … part priest, a little bit of mayor.. Sonny Davis (18:38): (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (18:38): (laughs) Sonny Davis (18:40): That would be my family. Shea Kidd Brown (18:41): Yes. (laughs) Sonny Davis (18:42): (laughs) I have to do this with my family. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (18:42): Have a little bit of it all, huh? Sonny Davis (18:42): My phone rings all day- Shea Kidd Brown (18:46): Day- Sonny Davis (18:47): … long. Shea Kidd Brown (18:48): So are you the counselor- Sonny Davis (18:49): Oh. Shea Kidd Brown (18:49): … the- Sonny Davis (18:49): My husband- Shea Kidd Brown (18:50): Yeah. Sonny Davis (18:50): … say, “I don’t know what I got- Shea Kidd Brown (18:50): (laughs) Sonny Davis (18:54): ” … myself into.” (laughs) everybody calls you for something, my brothers, my sisters, everybody. Shea Kidd Brown (18:57): When you and I greeted, you know, I wish we had that recorded, but- Sonny Davis (19:00): Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (19:00): You have this non-judgment. It makes me a little bit teary-eyed, because- Sonny Davis (19:04): Hm. Shea Kidd Brown (19:04): It’s like I’ve had this full day. You’ve had a full day. Sonny Davis (19:07): Yes. Yes. Shea Kidd Brown (19:07): And I come out, and you’re like, “Hey!” Sonny Davis (19:08): (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (19:10): You know? And it just energizes. It just changes the whole mood. So then of course people trust you. Sonny Davis (19:14): Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (19:15): Look at me. I’m tearing up. Sonny Davis (19:16): I had the, uh, sleep apnea yesterday. Shea Kidd Brown (19:18): Hm. Sonny Davis (19:18): So I didn’t sleep. Shea Kidd Brown (19:19): Hm. Sonny Davis (19:20): So I haven’t had any rest. Shea Kidd Brown (19:23): Oh, gosh. Sonny Davis (19:23): But I survived it. I didn’t sleep. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (19:24): Go- Sonny Davis (19:25): I called this morning, told ’em (laughs) I completed but I didn’t remember sleeping. Shea Kidd Brown (19:30): Oh, wow. Sonny Davis (19:31): I didn’t go to sleep. My eyes were closed but my mind- Shea Kidd Brown (19:33): Hm. Sonny Davis (19:33): … was woke. I was constantly thinking of different things, and- Shea Kidd Brown (19:35): Oh my God. Sonny Davis (19:36): And it’s always that way. Shea Kidd Brown (19:37): So your mind is always going. Sonny Davis (19:38): Always going. And I’m up at 5:15. Shea Kidd Brown (19:40): Every day? Sonny Davis (19:41): Every day. Even when we was on break, I was up. Shea Kidd Brown (19:43): You were up? Sonny Davis (19:43): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (19:44): ‘Cause that’s your routine? Sonny Davis (19:45): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (19:45): Now, do you go to bed early? Sonny Davis (19:46): Hm, sometimes I do. Shea Kidd Brown (19:46): (laughs) Sonny Davis (19:46): (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (19:46): ‘Cause your mind is always going. Sonny Davis (19:52): It depends. Shea Kidd Brown (19:52): Yes. Sonny Davis (19:52): It depends, you know? Shea Kidd Brown (19:52): Yeah. Sonny Davis (19:52): But it’s always going. Shea Kidd Brown (19:53): Yeah. Sonny Davis (19:53): It’s always going. Shea Kidd Brown (19:54): And you don’t know where you get that energy? Sonny Davis (19:56): I don’t know. Shea Kidd Brown (19:56): Just, you know, you’re one of these … I’ll date myself a little bit. Sonny Davis (19:59): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (19:59): But those battery commercials that- Sonny Davis (20:01): Yeah, (laughs) the- Shea Kidd Brown (20:02): … just … had the Energizer Bunny? Sonny Davis (20:03): (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (20:03): Just keep going- Sonny Davis (20:03): Just keep going, going- Shea Kidd Brown (20:03): … going, going- ha- Sonny Davis (20:03): … going, going. Shea Kidd Brown (20:06): It sounds like you also put yourself in places that fill you up, so- Sonny Davis (20:10): I need it. Shea Kidd Brown (20:11): … students’ energy. Sonny Davis (20:11): Sometime I need that for myself. Shea Kidd Brown (20:12): Yeah. Yeah. Sonny Davis (20:12): And they keep me going. They don’t know it, but they keep me going. Shea Kidd Brown (20:12): Yeah. Sonny Davis (20:12): They really do. Shea Kidd Brown (20:12): They keep me- Sonny Davis (20:12): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (20:12): … going, too. Sonny Davis (20:12): I look forward to it, every- Shea Kidd Brown (20:12): Yeah. Sonny Davis (20:12): … single day. Shea Kidd Brown (20:12): That’s amazing. Sonny Davis (20:12): Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (20:20): Well, I wear this bracelet that says, “Remember why you started.” Because I also- Sonny Davis (20:24): Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (20:25): … look forward. I have people in my life- Sonny Davis (20:26): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (20:26): … in my college experience who spoken to me every day- Sonny Davis (20:30): Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (20:30): … and put the Sonnys of the world, and- Sonny Davis (20:31): Oh. Shea Kidd Brown (20:32): … and, and many others. And so that’s important. Sonny Davis (20:35): One of my football players who’s online, he gave me this. I wear it every day. Shea Kidd Brown (20:39): Hm. It says- Sonny Davis (20:40): It means a lot. Shea Kidd Brown (20:40): “Protect your peace.” Sonny Davis (20:41): Yeah. It’s a, this- Shea Kidd Brown (20:41): How do you- Sonny Davis (20:41): … line. Shea Kidd Brown (20:41): Yeah. Sonny Davis (20:43): And I just love it. Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (20:45): So how do you protect your peace? Sonny Davis (20:46): Uh, by surrounding myself with all the love- Shea Kidd Brown (20:48): Yeah. Sonny Davis (20:49): … that comes through that door down there. Shea Kidd Brown (20:50): Yeah. Sonny Davis (20:51): It means a lot. Even the faculty. Shea Kidd Brown (20:52): Yeah. Sonny Davis (20:52): Amazing. Shea Kidd Brown (20:53): They are. Sonny Davis (20:53): Amazing. Shea Kidd Brown (20:54): It’s a special community. Sonny Davis (20:55): This, this is a special, special place to be. Shea Kidd Brown (20:58): Yeah. So I have to know as we start to conclude, ’cause it’s- Sonny Davis (21:00): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (21:01): … going by fast. Sonny Davis (21:02): Yes, it is. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (21:02): Told you it would. Sonny Davis (21:02): (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (21:03): What do you want our students to know? When you … Either when they come through the door, or I don’t know that many won’t encounter you, but as you think about them, as your mind’s racing- (laughs) Sonny Davis (21:12): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (21:13): What do you want them to know? Sonny Davis (21:14): Just always remember every day is not gonna be as hard, as difficult as they pers- Shea Kidd Brown (21:19): Hm. Sonny Davis (21:19): … can assume it to be. You know? Shea Kidd Brown (21:20): Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (21:21): It’s a struggle. I mean, there, they’re studying stuff I have never even experienced. Shea Kidd Brown (21:23): No. Sonny Davis (21:25): And I congratulate them in- Shea Kidd Brown (21:26): Yeah. Sonny Davis (21:26): … everything they do, in every endeavor. They … It’s hard. Shea Kidd Brown (21:29): It is. Sonny Davis (21:29): And- Shea Kidd Brown (21:30): And they’re balancing- Sonny Davis (21:31): Yes. Shea Kidd Brown (21:31): … school, and relationships. Sonny Davis (21:33): And home, and- Shea Kidd Brown (21:34): Right. Sonny Davis (21:35): … friends, and- Shea Kidd Brown (21:37): Mm-hmm. And future. Sonny Davis (21:37): Yeah. Trying to belong. Shea Kidd Brown (21:39): Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (21:39): That’s the hard part- Shea Kidd Brown (21:40): It is. Sonny Davis (21:40): … trying to fit in. Shea Kidd Brown (21:41): Yeah. Sonny Davis (21:42): And I see a lot. I s- speak to a lotta students that’s kinda like sad, and- Shea Kidd Brown (21:46): Hm. Sonny Davis (21:46): … not able to fit in, you know what I mean? Shea Kidd Brown (21:48): Yeah. Sonny Davis (21:48): But like- Shea Kidd Brown (21:48): So when you see those students … I didn’t mean to cut you off. Sonny Davis (21:50): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (21:50): When you see them, what do you say? Sonny Davis (21:52): I let them know just how special they are. And, “You don’t have to fit in.” Shea Kidd Brown (21:56): That’s right. Sonny Davis (21:56): “You already in.” (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (21:56): Yeah. They know. Sonny Davis (21:56): “You already in.” Shea Kidd Brown (21:57): Yeah. Sonny Davis (22:00): “You don’t have to be in that circle- ” Shea Kidd Brown (22:01): Right. Sonny Davis (22:01): ” … or that circle.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:01): Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (22:03): “Because people gonna flock to you. You just continue- ” Shea Kidd Brown (22:05): Hm. Sonny Davis (22:05): ” … being you.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:05): That’s right. Sonny Davis (22:06): “And people will flock to you. Don’t, don’t worry about being in anyone’s circle but your own.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:11): Hm. Sonny Davis (22:11): “Because eventually, somebody’s gonna step to you and say, ‘Hey, how you doing?'” You know? Shea Kidd Brown (22:16): Yeah. Yeah. Sonny Davis (22:16): “There’s a whole lot of friendliness on this campus.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:18): Yeah. Sonny Davis (22:18): You know? Shea Kidd Brown (22:18): You just have to find it. Sonny Davis (22:18): “You, you just gotta find your place, right there.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:21): And I love that, “You don’t have to fit in. You’re already in.” Sonny Davis (22:23): “You’re already in.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:24): That might be my quote of the day. (laughs) Sonny Davis (22:26): It’s, it’s really true. You know? Shea Kidd Brown (22:27): Yeah. Sonny Davis (22:27): It’s really true, you know? I was bullied. I was … I went through a lot- Shea Kidd Brown (22:29): Hm. Sonny Davis (22:29): … in school. So- Shea Kidd Brown (22:29): You get it. Sonny Davis (22:29): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (22:29): So i- d- do you reach back into s- maybe some of those past experiences- Sonny Davis (22:36): I do. Shea Kidd Brown (22:36): … so others don’t have to experience- Sonny Davis (22:37): I do. Shea Kidd Brown (22:37): … that? Sonny Davis (22:38): I do. Shea Kidd Brown (22:38): Yeah. Sonny Davis (22:39): I do. I do. I do. It’s a lot come through that door. Shea Kidd Brown (22:40): Yeah. Sonny Davis (22:41): And it’s, it’s sometime make you cry. Shea Kidd Brown (22:44): Mm-hmm. And you may be the only one who smiles. Sonny Davis (22:45): And I try not to cry. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (22:46): (laughs) Sonny Davis (22:47): Not while they’re standing there. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (22:47): No, yeah. Sonny Davis (22:49): I just kinda like turn my head and just let them- Shea Kidd Brown (22:49): Right. Sonny Davis (22:49): … know. You know? “Just always stand your ground.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:53): Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (22:53): “If you feel like you’re being bullied, don’t give into the bullying.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:56): Mm-hmm. Sonny Davis (22:56): “Don’t do it. So just don’t stand in it. Say something.” Shea Kidd Brown (22:59): That’s right. Sonny Davis (23:00): “Just say something.” Shea Kidd Brown (23:00): Ask for help. Sonny Davis (23:00): “Ask for help.” Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (23:02): And you being a welcome presence, I think, makes that easier- Sonny Davis (23:06): Oh. Oh. Shea Kidd Brown (23:06): … for students, too? Sonny Davis (23:06): Yeah. She’s- Shea Kidd Brown (23:06): You know? And that’s why it’s important. Sonny Davis (23:07): A few of ’em are very happy, you know? Shea Kidd Brown (23:08): Yeah. Sonny Davis (23:08): You know, even though they could be experiencing that, they find a brighter side to it. Shea Kidd Brown (23:13): Right. Sonny Davis (23:13): You know? “And if you steer clear of it long enough or don’t feed into it, it’ll go away.” Shea Kidd Brown (23:16): Hm. Yeah. Sonny Davis (23:17): “It’ll go away.” Shea Kidd Brown (23:18): You surround- Sonny Davis (23:18): “I promise.” Shea Kidd Brown (23:18): … yourself with good energy. Sonny Davis (23:19): Like I told ’em, “It’s gonna go away. You haven’t had any problems?” “No, ma’am, not this week, Ms. Sonny.” Shea Kidd Brown (23:22): (laughs) Sonny Davis (23:23): And that makes me feel good, you know? Shea Kidd Brown (23:24): Yeah. Sonny Davis (23:25): ‘Cause I, like, “Don’t feed it.” Shea Kidd Brown (23:26): That’s right. Sonny Davis (23:26): “You know? But stand your ground.” Shea Kidd Brown (23:27): Right. Sonny Davis (23:28): Just- Shea Kidd Brown (23:28): That was a complete sentence. Sonny Davis (23:28): No. It’s good. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (23:32): (laughs) That’s right. So last question- Sonny Davis (23:33): Okay. Shea Kidd Brown (23:34): … is what, as you think about the future, what are you grateful for, what are you hopeful for? Sonny Davis (23:39): I’m very grateful for my family and my family here. Shea Kidd Brown (23:43): Hm. Sonny Davis (23:44): This is family for me. Shea Kidd Brown (23:45): Yeah. Sonny Davis (23:46): I’m grateful for running into Ms. Jessica, that, on that- Shea Kidd Brown (23:47): Yes. Sonny Davis (23:48): … beautiful day. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (23:48): (laughs) Sonny Davis (23:49): She’s, she’s, she’s an inspiration. She really is. She’s amazing. Shea Kidd Brown (23:52): Hm. Sonny Davis (23:53): She’s very smart. As far as the future’s concerned, I just want to watch that everybody flourish and do my part. You know? And just, (laughs) just- Shea Kidd Brown (23:59): (laughs) Sonny Davis (24:01): … be happy in it. Shea Kidd Brown (24:02): Yes. Sonny Davis (24:03): Just be happy in it. Shea Kidd Brown (24:04): Be happy in it. Sonny Davis (24:05): Be happy in it. Yep. Shea Kidd Brown (24:05): That’s good. Sonny Davis (24:05): That’s what I want. Shea Kidd Brown (24:06): Well, I am so grateful- Sonny Davis (24:07): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (24:08): … for our opportunity to connect. Sonny Davis (24:11): Thank you. Shea Kidd Brown (24:11): And just truly, you are such a delight- Sonny Davis (24:14): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (24:14): … and so important to this community. I hope you know that. Sonny Davis (24:16): Thank you. Shea Kidd Brown (24:18): I, I get to look you in the eye and tell you that. Sonny Davis (24:20): (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (24:21): I don’t know how many students get to actually lock eyes with you and tell you. Sonny Davis (24:25): Yeah. Shea Kidd Brown (24:25): You see it- Sonny Davis (24:25): Yes. Shea Kidd Brown (24:25): … in other ways. But you are truly part of the fiber of this place- Sonny Davis (24:33): Hm. Shea Kidd Brown (24:33): … and what makes it so special. Sonny Davis (24:33): I don’t know all (laughs) about that, but I don’t know. (laughs) Shea Kidd Brown (24:34): Well, you took your own advice. Sonny Davis (24:35): Yes. Shea Kidd Brown (24:36): And you have created that sense of belonging for everybody- Sonny Davis (24:38): Mm-hmm. Shea Kidd Brown (24:38): … else. So thank you. Sonny Davis (24:40): Thank you. Shea Kidd Brown (24:40): I appreciate you. Sonny Davis (24:41): I appreciate you as well. MaryAnna Bailey (24:43): I really hope you enjoyed that conversation. To cap things off, we decided to go to the Pit and ask some students questions about the Pit itself, and some of the folks that work there. We also got a chance to speak up with speaker kid, Austin Torain. We began by asking people how often they eat at the Pit. Austin Torain (25:00): I probably eat in the Pit three, four times a week, maybe. I really like the Pit. It’s probably one of my favorite places. I have a I Heart the Pit shirt, and I Heart the Pit socks. Riley Shanigan (25:12): Um, I don’t often eat in the Pit, but I do eat in the Pit sometimes for lunch, usually on, um, Monday, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. Abby Parr (25:22): Um, usually, twice a day. Jayne Flynn (25:24): Four to five times a week. Speaker 5 (25:26): Few times a week. I don’t eat there very often, ’cause I have apartment plan, but I’ve been there a lot in my four years here, so it’s a great place. MaryAnna Bailey (25:33): Moving on, we were curious to know what students enjoyed about the Pit. Abby Parr (25:37): I like the number of options they have, even if you can’t eat or aren’t a fan of the main thing that they make, um, there’s a lot of other options you can still get a good meal. And it’s also a nice place to meet your friends. Riley Shanigan (25:51): Some of the food can be very good. Um, I loved when they make baked potatoes. And also, the pasta station has been popping off recently. Um, ’cause they, instead of baking it they decide to like kinda mix it together. So I get that a lot, tastes very good. Yeah. Jayne Flynn (26:05): Um, I like how many options they have. The fruit is really good in the morning, breakfast is for sure the best meal of the day. Speaker 5 (26:11): I like the variety and all the options that it gives because when I’m in the mood where I don’t really know what I want, I can always find something that I enjoy there. Austin Torain (26:20): I really enjoy a lotta the workers. They honestly kinda remind me a lot of my family. They all have really good energy about them, and are really sweet and kind. MaryAnna Bailey (26:28): We then had to ask the question if people knew who Ms. Sonny was, if they had a favorite Pit worker, and how some of the staff make them feel. And here’s what they had to say. Austin Torain (26:38): I do know Ms. Sonny. She is, uh, one of my favorite Pit workers. She works at the cash register. Outside of Ms. Sonny, I also really like Ms. Harriet. She works at the little fruit stand. But honestly I could probably go on and on about the Pit workers. They’re definitely some of my favorite people on campus. And they’ve always just made me feel at home. I like that they always kinda c- have a smile on their face, and like I don’t know, they always ask me how my day is going, and I try to do the same for them, so- Riley Shanigan (27:03): Yeah, I think that she really brings a positive energy to the Pit, and I appreciate her positivity every time I walk in. Abby Parr (27:10): I love Ms. Sonny. She always makes me feel better. It makes my day when I see her in the morning, she says, “Good morning,” to me. Um, they make me feel like someone cares about me, you know? Jayne Flynn (27:20): Um, the Pit workers, they make me feel excited to be there, I guess, even if I’m eating alone. It’s nice to see someone that’s like excited to see me. Speaker 5 (27:28): She is usually there in the mornings and through lunchtime. And I really like Pit breakfast. So she’s usually the first like campus worker that I see. And she always has something funny to say, and she always greets me like right when I walk in the doors. It’s nice to have that in the mornings, when I’m tired. (laughs) She gets me going in the morning, and just makes me feel like she really cares about me, and she’s excited to see me. And she learns a lotta the kids’ names, and she asks them how they’re doing. It’s a fun community feel. Riley Shanigan (28:00): The workers are very nice. And they’re very welcoming. There’s this one guy, um, at the Southern Station station who has a beard. And he’s always like, “How you doing, girl?” And I’m like, “Yeah, he’s sup- He’s super nice.” MaryAnna Bailey (28:10): Lastly, we wanted students to share anything that they wanted to say to the workers. And here are some of their thoughts. Jayne Flynn (28:17): Uh, just thanks for all the positivity and making us delicious food. Speaker 5 (28:22): Thanks for being you and I love all the greetings, and I love the jokes, and it’s really fun. Abby Parr (28:29): I love you guys. I really love seeing you every morning. Thank you for everything that you do. Austin Torain (28:34): And, yeah, I would just wanna let them know that they’re appreciated. Shea Kidd Brown (28:39): Thanks so much for listening. Uh, my cup is full after talking with Sonny. I have to admit, I was having a pretty tough day in that it was just full of a lot of priorities, and need, and and meetings, and my energy was a little bit low when I started the recording. And I have to tell you, I could go do just about anything after talking with Sonny. So I so appreciate her time with us and sharing her wisdom, and a little bit of her story. And also was great to be able to look her in the eye and thank her for all that she means to our community. (29:15): So do me a favor as you’re listening. If you happen to be in the Pit when this episode drops, or if you’re listening to this months after, or perhaps even years after this has been recorded, I encourage you to drop by, and return that sunshine to Ms. Sonny, and let her know how much she means to the Wake Forest community. Thank you again for listening. We all have so much to give to the world and so much to share. So keep leaning into the hard work, and hard work of life. And until next time, I look forward to all that each day brings to each one of us. MaryAnna Bailey (29:53): This episode was produced by Vir Gupta in association with the university’s campus life team. For any thoughts and suggestions on what or who you want to hear next time, reach out to us on our socials using the information in the show notes. I’m MaryAnna Bailey, and this was Kidd You Not.

In this episode, Dr. Shea sits down with the producer of this podcast, Vir Gupta. You’ll hear about how our guest’s upbringing in Bengaluru, India, brought him to Wake, how he’s helped shape the experience for his first-year residents in Collins, what it means to him to live a ‘double-life’, how he keeps himself busy on campus, and so much more!

Shea Kidd Brown (00:06):

Hey, it’s Dr. Shea, and I am so pleased to introduce you to a student who needs no introduction. Today, I get to talk to Vir Gupta. Vir is a junior from Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. He’s a critical and creative media and theatre major, with a minor in economics. On campus, you might find Vir in Scales or Collins Hall because he’s equally active in the theatre department as the president of Anthony Aston Players and our residence halls as an RA. Vir is an official and supervisor for Wake Forest Intramural Sports, among many other things. Vir also produces a couple of podcasts, including this one, and What’s U.P. at Wake, which is a podcast for University Police. This summer, Vir also interned at Busch Gardens as an entertainment technician. I am so excited for you to get to know Vir as much as so many of us have today on the podcast.

(01:09):

Well, okay. Hey, Vir.

Vir Gupta (01:09):

How are you?

Shea Kidd Brown (01:09):

I’m good. How are you doing?

Vir Gupta (01:15):

I’m okay. I’m a, I’m a bit tired. It’s been a long semester already.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:17):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (01:17):

Doesn’t feel like Tuesday.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:18):

I know. And we’re recording right before spring break.

Vir Gupta (01:21):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:21):

So hopefully you get a little bit of a pause.

Vir Gupta (01:24):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:24):

So I’m really excited that I get to have you behind the microphone.

Vir Gupta (01:27):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:28):

‘Cause people don’t know. You’re often the sound engineer-

Vir Gupta (01:32):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:32):

… the technician, the producer.

Vir Gupta (01:33):

Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:34):

Or whether it’s podcast, this one and other podcasts and also your role in theatre, all those things.

Vir Gupta (01:40):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:40):

How are you feeling about this?

Vir Gupta (01:41):

It’s weird. I mean, I’ve never really been on the other side before.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:46):

Okay, well, good.

Vir Gupta (01:46):

So it’s a bit like I’ve always been the one making sure things are recording.

Shea Kidd Brown (01:50):

Right.

Vir Gupta (01:51):

I’m not being the one recorded. (laughs) So …

Shea Kidd Brown (01:53):

Yeah, well, I thought it was important to also make sure you get to be elevated and amplified, ’cause you’re an amazing human.

Vir Gupta (02:02):

That’s very kind of you. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (02:02):

Well, it’s true. Very true. So I’m really excited. I told you before we pressed record that I’m excited to get to talk to you. You’re such a great student leader on campus. You’re everywhere. Getting to dig in a little bit more about you and your background and all the things you’re involved in and-

Vir Gupta (02:18):

Sure.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:19):

… what your plans are in the future. So-

Vir Gupta (02:20):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:21):

So it may be helpful.

Vir Gupta (02:23):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:24):

We will start from a very familiar place.

Vir Gupta (02:26):

Sure.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:26):

So I bet you can guess my first question.

Vir Gupta (02:29):

What’s home to you? (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (02:30):

Where’s home for you, exactly.

Vir Gupta (02:32):

So I’m from Bengaluru, India. Born and brought up there, lived there for 19 years before I came here for college.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:39):

Wow. Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (02:39):

That’s home for me.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:39):

That sounds-

Vir Gupta (02:39):

That’s always going to be home for me.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:44):

Yeah. And will you pronounce it again?

Vir Gupta (02:44):

Bengaluru.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:44):

Bengaluru. Okay.

Vir Gupta (02:46):

Right, and the new name is Bangalore, so-

Shea Kidd Brown (02:48):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (02:48):

People call it either. It’s the city in south India, it’s like, I think, 10 million is our population.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:54):

Really? Wow.

Vir Gupta (02:56):

A lot of people.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:57):

And what was it like? Or what is it like?

Vir Gupta (02:58):

It’s awesome. I mean, I miss it a lot.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:00):

I’m sure.

Vir Gupta (03:00):

The people, I just miss everything about it. I miss the weather.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:03):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (03:03):

It’s known for its weather. People say that morning, winter; afternoon, summer; evening, rain.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:09):

Okay. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (03:09):

(laughs) So it’s like, it’s also just a nice mix of people that come from different places-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:16):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (03:16):

… all across the country to just come and work, to just be there.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:19):

Mm-hmm. Now where is it, like, on the geographically?

Vir Gupta (03:22):

It’s inland, so it’s not on the coast.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:24):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (03:24):

It’s kind of in the middle-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:25):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (03:26):

But, like, not the bottom of the, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:28):

And that’s why the weather is kind of not polarizing, maybe.

Vir Gupta (03:33):

It’s good. Yeah, I would just describe it as, like, October is like over here.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:36):

Oh, that’s really nice.

Vir Gupta (03:37):

So it’s like nice.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:38):

Like fall all the time.

Vir Gupta (03:40):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:40):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (03:40):

It’s just nice.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:41):

So it’s like you’re San Diego of India, maybe. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (03:44):

Yeah, and like sometimes-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:45):

People talk about how perfect San Diego weather is.

Vir Gupta (03:47):

It can get hot sometimes, but then it can get, not cold, but pleasant to us too.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:52):

Nice, nice. So do you get home very much since you’ve been here?

Vir Gupta (03:55):

So this winter was the first time in a year that I had gone home.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:01):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (04:02):

But I worked here in the summer, but previously, I went home in the winter and the summer.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:05):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (04:05):

And then I’ll be going home this summer.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:06):

Nice.

Vir Gupta (04:08):

Perhaps based on where I end up working this summer.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:10):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (04:10):

So that’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:12):

And then I saw your mom here.

Vir Gupta (04:14):

So my dad does come over for work sometimes, you know?

Shea Kidd Brown (04:16):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (04:17):

My mom tagged along to stay.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:18):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (04:21):

She came and visited, and about a month ago, my dad was here too for his early trip for work.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:26):

Oh, good.

Vir Gupta (04:26):

So he was here. So it was just nice.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:27):

That is nice.

Vir Gupta (04:28):

Like, especially on, like, Parents’ Weekend and all that.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:30):

Yes.

Vir Gupta (04:31):

My first two years here, it was just like you feel odd.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:36):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (04:36):

Like, you feel like, oh, everyone’s here. Your friends’ parents and all that.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:39):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (04:39):

But your parents aren’t here.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:40):

Right.

Vir Gupta (04:40):

It was really nice to just, like, have them, even though it was like a normal school day.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:44):

Right.

Vir Gupta (04:45):

My mom’s like, “I’ll just go sit in the library and read a book.”

Shea Kidd Brown (04:47):

Well, that’s when I think I saw her. It was the Monday after Family Weekend, and I was doing Milkshake Monday.

Vir Gupta (04:53):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:53):

And I was like, “Wait a minute, that’s gotta be Vir’s mom.”

Vir Gupta (04:55):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:56):

And I was so glad. We didn’t really get to talk about it in the moment.

Vir Gupta (04:59):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:59):

But knowing as an international student, that you don’t have that same luxury of seeing your family when you want to-

Vir Gupta (05:06):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:06):

… and experiencing home when you want to.

Vir Gupta (05:08):

Unfortunately or fortunately, it was just the way it is because, like you learn to, I think, live with them not being here.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:14):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (05:15):

And it’s the small things. It’s like knowing that you only have five hours in a day to call them.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:19):

Hm. Because of the time difference.

Vir Gupta (05:20):

Because of the time difference. Like for me, it’s either, I can call them past 10:00 PM.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:25):

Wow.

Vir Gupta (05:25):

Or before 9:00 AM.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:25):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (05:25):

Or, or before 9:00 AM, I’m here getting ready for class or asleep.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:32):

Right. Right. (laughs) You are a college student.

Vir Gupta (05:34):

And after 10:00 PM, I’m doing work or something.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:37):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (05:38):

Something’s going on. I’m asleep.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:39):

Right.

Vir Gupta (05:39):

So it’s a short window, but you learn to live with it.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:42):

Right. So do you have a routine with them?

Vir Gupta (05:44):

I tend to call them at least once in two or three days.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:45):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (05:45):

And-

Shea Kidd Brown (05:45):

And then you do, like, WhatsApp with texting and like that?

Vir Gupta (05:48):

Yeah, we text some on WhatsApp and then WhatsApp phonecall or whatnot.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:57):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (05:57):

But even if it’s for, like, couple minutes or’ sometimes it’s longer conversations-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:01):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (06:01):

… perhaps on the weekends because otherwise, literally don’t have time.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:03):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (06:04):

It’s like you wanna tell me what’s happening, but I think part of it is also the context.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:08):

Mm-hmm. Oh, sure.

Vir Gupta (06:10):

But it’s so hard. Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:10):

To explain.

Vir Gupta (06:12):

It was my mother’s second time coming here, so if I tell her, “Oh, I’m going to the library,” like, “Where is that library?”

Shea Kidd Brown (06:15):

Right. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (06:18):

“Where is Benson?”

Shea Kidd Brown (06:19):

Right.

Vir Gupta (06:19):

What is the Pit?

Shea Kidd Brown (06:19):

What is the ZSR?

Vir Gupta (06:20):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:21):

What is this place that you speak?

Vir Gupta (06:23):

Exactly. Part of it is context-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:24):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (06:24):

… of I want to explain to them, “Oh, this is going on in my hall-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:25):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (06:28):

… with these friends. I’m going to DP to see something.” Like, well-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:33):

What is DP? (laughs)

Vir Gupta (06:33):

That takes, like, five more minutes. So-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:33):

It’s these apartments that are kind of close to campus.

Vir Gupta (06:37):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:38):

They’re technically on campus, but technically off.

Vir Gupta (06:40):

Exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:41):

Yeah, you know, I hadn’t really thought of the notion of in the context that you just put it, there’s context, the words that you talked about, but literally time.

Vir Gupta (06:51):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:51):

Like difference in time and how narrow the window is or connection. Now, do you have siblings too? Okay.

Vir Gupta (06:58):

I do have a sister. She’s a student at Indiana University.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:01):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (07:01):

So she’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:01):

Is she older or younger?

Vir Gupta (07:02):

She’s younger.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:02):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (07:03):

She’s a sophomore. She’s visited a couple of times.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:05):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (07:06):

But she’s starting business there. We’re close, but, man, it’s still, like, hard.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:10):

Yeah. But you two can likely share way more.

Vir Gupta (07:13):

Yes. Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:14):

Because you’re both in American higher education.

Vir Gupta (07:16):

And I think it was interesting for her when she was there because it’s such contrast-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:26):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (07:26):

… for population density…

Shea Kidd Brown (07:26):

Sure, and it’s in more of a city.

Vir Gupta (07:27):

It’s more of a town area, but they go out on the weekends, it’s large strip with all the restaurants the and bars and everything is-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:29):

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (07:31):

And she’s like, “Oh, wow, this campus is so self-sustained.”

Shea Kidd Brown (07:34):

Right.

Vir Gupta (07:34):

Because, like…

Shea Kidd Brown (07:34):

It’s like a big hug.

Vir Gupta (07:35):

Yeah. Like, I don’t tend to leave campus. For me, it’s like there’s no need.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:39):

Right, you don’t have to. Yeah.

Vir Gupta (07:40):

That’s, like, but also I don’t have a car.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:40):

Right.

Vir Gupta (07:40):

So that changes it.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:45):

Yes. Yeah, well I’m glad that y’all can share at least some of the nuance-

Vir Gupta (07:49):

Right.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:49):

… around American higher education. You know, what is a student organization? What is service? All those kinds of things. So, yeah, you got my wheels spinning.

Vir Gupta (08:00):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (08:00):

Um, I do wanna come back to this notion of home in terms of how you define it.

Vir Gupta (08:06):

Okay.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:06):

And that’s something I often ask is, you know, where’s home for you and then what does home mean to you? Because I’m envisioning that you’ve got two definitions of home, just as you’ve talked about.

Vir Gupta (08:17):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:17):

You know, these two worlds that you’re living in. So is that accurate?

Vir Gupta (08:20):

No, it is true.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:21):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (08:22):

So my … One of my cousins who studied abroad, too, she told me this and I was like, “This is false.”

Shea Kidd Brown (08:27):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (08:27):

Uh, she was like, “When you go there, you realize you’re gonna be living a double life.” I’m like, “What does that … “

Shea Kidd Brown (08:33):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (08:33):

And then when I came back home for the first time, I’m like …

Shea Kidd Brown (08:35):

Whoa.

Vir Gupta (08:36):

Like, should it? But it makes sense.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:36):

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (08:37):

It’s like friends I have here, if I wanna tell them something about home, again, context matters. I can’t.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:45):

Right.

Vir Gupta (08:46):

But, like, when I went home and I want to tell them stories about, oh, this thing happened in my residence hall, can’t.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:51):

You also can’t, yeah.

Vir Gupta (08:53):

The same applies with, like, simple things like the way society is structured there. Like, so independent.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:59):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (09:00):

Traveling, everyone has their own car, everyone just does everything themselves.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:04):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (09:05):

Lives alone, cooks food. It’s a different life, right?

Shea Kidd Brown (09:06):

Right. And in India, everything is around the family. Yeah.

Vir Gupta (09:09):

Everything is, like, you live with your family.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:11):

Mm-hmm. Forever.

Vir Gupta (09:12):

Like your entire life is based around that.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:14):

Right.

Vir Gupta (09:14):

And it’s just double life.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:15):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (09:16):

That’s what it is. I wouldn’t wanna say I’m a different person, but it’s, I’m a different version of myself of-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:20):

Sure, when you’re here versus there. So how have you come to describe this feeling of home?

Vir Gupta (09:26):

I think you define what home is to you, but I think over here, home has been my residential community.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:31):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (09:32):

A group of people or a support system that I enjoy being with.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:35):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (09:35):

And I think that’s what it is, wherever you are.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:37):

Right.

Vir Gupta (09:38):

Like, home is what you make of it-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:39):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (09:39):

… because the people you are with and the environment you’re in.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:42):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (09:42):

You can choose to spend more time with your family-

Shea Kidd Brown (09:44):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (09:45):

… or spend more time playing basketball.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:47):

That notion of community, it brings you joy. I love that. Well, you bring a lot of people joy, too.

Vir Gupta (09:53):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:54):

So sort of brought me to this notion of you’re an RA and you’re very involved. Everybody knows Vir. People want you to be their RA the next year (laughs) after they’ve moved out. So talk to me a little bit about your residential experience, what that’s been like for you as a resident before.

Vir Gupta (10:11):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:11):

And I skipped kind of how you came to Wake. We can maybe come back to that.

Vir Gupta (10:15):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:15):

It just seemed like the track we were on.

Vir Gupta (10:17):

Oh, yeah, that’s fine.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:18):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (10:18):

I lived my freshman year here in South, I somehow … I tell people this, especially residents who are struggling, “You have to try at this school.”

Shea Kidd Brown (10:23):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (10:26):

It’s sad sometimes because when you see people that don’t go out of their way-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:30):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (10:31):

… to make an effort tend to struggle. And somehow that hit me in the first month that I was like, “Oh, god, if I don’t speak to these people who I am very different from-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:42):

That you’re going to be living with, right.

Vir Gupta (10:42):

… very different from me-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:42):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (10:42):

… that I’m going to be alone.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:44):

So you picked up on that very quickly.

Vir Gupta (10:46):

I think the way that I sort of made it is that having several groups of people.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:51):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (10:52):

Like I had friends in my residence hall, I had the theatre, I have the people that I work with in intramurals.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:56):

Right. Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (10:57):

Things like that. And lucky enough, what I really like about South Campus, that random assignments that brings together so many different people.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:07):

Right.

Vir Gupta (11:07):

So many. Like, the guy next door to me was Chinese.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:12):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (11:12):

The people down the hall were on the lacrosse team. The other people were track team members.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:16):

Right.

Vir Gupta (11:17):

So I, I was able to form such good connections by just being around these people.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:20):

Mm-hmm. Right.

Vir Gupta (11:20):

From so many different, like-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:21):

Interests and-

Vir Gupta (11:22):

I would never talk to this person otherwise.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:24):

No.

Vir Gupta (11:26):

And then my RA my freshman year was the person who was, like, “Well, you should apply.”

Shea Kidd Brown (11:33):

Oh.

Vir Gupta (11:33):

I said, “I don’t know if I should,” but I was like, “I’m gonna do it.” So I applied, I got the job. I ended up in Collins.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:36):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (11:37):

And I went there with sort of open mind, not knowing what it could be.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:40):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (11:42):

And I was very close to not taking the job.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:43):

Really?

Vir Gupta (11:44):

Very, like-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:44):

Was it because of where? Or-

Vir Gupta (11:46):

I think that was a big part of the reason. The other part was, like, the temptation of living the college experience-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:55):

Oh, I get it.

Vir Gupta (11:55):

… with your friends in a suite.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:55):

I see.

Vir Gupta (11:55):

Versus running back in a freshman dorm with people you don’t know.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:58):

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Right. Contemplating, comfortable, what you know versus-

Vir Gupta (12:01):

Yeah, yeah, but that’s part of the reason I’m doing it again next year.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:04):

Mm-hmm. Okay, that’s great.

Vir Gupta (12:04):

So I’m going back as an RA in Collins for the third time.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:08):

That’s amazing.

Vir Gupta (12:10):

Uh, which is wild to me, but ultimately it was my residence-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:12):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (12:13):

Like, you should do it.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:13):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (12:15):

I did it last year. It was so much fun. I’m so happy about this. We created the only community of residents that got a team house.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:23):

Wow.

Vir Gupta (12:24):

So my residents from my house, got a house, one of the road houses.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:27):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (12:27):

The 2B house. We got the house again this year. Going to be at 11 residence from this year’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:33):

Really?

Vir Gupta (12:34):

… hall again living in it.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:35):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (12:36):

I don’t know, it’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:36):

That’s special.

Vir Gupta (12:37):

It’s, it’s those things that make me, like, okay, it’s worth doing the job.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:41):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (12:41):

And they sort of were like, “Well, you’ve done this.”

Shea Kidd Brown (12:44):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (12:44):

“Why not just do it again?”

Shea Kidd Brown (12:45):

Well, you make a huge difference in their experiences and there’s something really core I think about a first-year experience, especially.

Vir Gupta (12:52):

Oh my god, yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:53):

Sounds like that person was really influential for you.

Vir Gupta (12:55):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:56):

So do you remember first-year year and the things that-

Vir Gupta (13:00):

Oh.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:00):

… maybe you learned from your RA?

Vir Gupta (13:04):

I, yeah, so my first month, I was miserable. I had a few friends, but I was kind of struggling to find my place.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:08):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (13:09):

And then you just have to talk to people. And he was just-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:12):

Right, and it’s so brand-new, especially for you.

Vir Gupta (13:13):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:14):

You know, you’re learning cultural context, Wake Forest context, college, living.

Vir Gupta (13:21):

Yeah. Everyone’s struggling.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:22):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (13:22):

Like everyone.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:23):

That’s true.

Vir Gupta (13:24):

And some people are like, “Oh, I don’t know if I should do this, do that.” I’m like, “Or just try it.” Like I went to the involvement fair, I signed up for, like, 25 things.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:28):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (13:33):

I’m probably only doing two of those things now.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:34):

Right. ‘Cause you needed to see kind of the, what’s out there.

Vir Gupta (13:36):

Like, just go. Like, no one’s going to be, like, “No, we’re not gonna take your email down.”

Shea Kidd Brown (13:40):

Right. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (13:40):

Like, and so they’ll take it.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:44):

That’s a good point.

Vir Gupta (13:44):

There’s those things like, “Oh, help, help me with housing.

Shea Kidd Brown (13:47):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (13:48):

Help me with registration,” but I think more than anything, it’s creating a community where-

Shea Kidd Brown (13:52):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (13:53):

Where not only I enjoy living in it. Like for me, it’s like when I go back home at the end of the day, then the common room, I can talk to them.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:00):

Right.

Vir Gupta (14:00):

Or what happened me, but they tell me, “Oh, this happened in the hall today.”

Shea Kidd Brown (14:03):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (14:04):

And since we all know each other very well-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:06):

Right.

Vir Gupta (14:08):

… it’s easy. But also, like, we have done, like, some strange things. Like we did Secret Santa.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:10):

(laughs) Yeah.

Vir Gupta (14:10):

Well, oh, everyone in the hall participated in it.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:10):

Right.

Vir Gupta (14:10):

And they gave each other like a turkey.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:20):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (14:20):

Like-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:20):

Just because.

Vir Gupta (14:20):

Just because. And it’s like-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:20):

Yeah, well, and I love … I don’t know if you heard yourself say it, but you said, “When I go back home.” Like that has become-

Vir Gupta (14:24):

It’s home now.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:25):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (14:25):

Collins will be my home.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:26):

I love that.

Vir Gupta (14:27):

Like, it has been my home-

Shea Kidd Brown (14:28):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (14:28):

… and it will be for the third year on the same wing, same floor.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:31):

Yeah. I love that. So we didn’t talk about this, but how did you decide on Wake Forest?

Vir Gupta (14:37):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:38):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (14:38):

So I struggled. I’m still fairly undecided on what I really want to end up knowing professionally.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:43):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (14:43):

I have some idea, but I was very unaware of what I wanted to do. The way you do it back home in India is that you choose a stream. You choose science, commerce, or arts.

Shea Kidd Brown (14:56):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (14:56):

For… 

Shea Kidd Brown (14:57):

Is that if you stay in country?

Vir Gupta (14:57):

In country or for eleventh or twelfth …

Shea Kidd Brown (14:57):

Okay, okay.

Vir Gupta (14:58):

For grade eleven and grade twelve. So I chose science because arts sort of restricts you, commerce restricts you less, but not as much-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:05):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (15:05):

… and science, you just keep your options open.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:07):

Right.

Vir Gupta (15:10):

I was good at it, I didn’t like it.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:10):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (15:10):

So applied to a bunch of schools because my family and I were behind the idea that coming to this country sort of gives you more options-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:18):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (15:18):

… to study different things, because back home is that if you select a subject, you have to-

Shea Kidd Brown (15:24):

It’s your track.

Vir Gupta (15:24):

If you apply to an engineering university, you’re doing engineering.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:28):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (15:29):

You’re not studying English at any point.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:30):

There’s no changing major?

Vir Gupta (15:32):

You cannot change. That was the thinking behind coming here.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:34):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (15:35):

And honest to god, I was shocked. My family was shocked that I was accepted into Wake.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:40):

Mm-hmm. So did you hear about through your school in India, or-

Vir Gupta (15:44):

We just … No, we had a friend who had a college counselor.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:46):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (15:46):

I applied to about 15 schools.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:48):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (15:48):

Wake was one of them and got in, which was a surprise. Still a surprise.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:52):

Why was it a surprise?

Vir Gupta (15:54):

Well, I was above average at school, but not top of my class.

Shea Kidd Brown (15:59):

Your above average, though, is like clearly … (laughs)

Vir Gupta (16:02):

Well, I think unfortunately, that’s not the mindset at home.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:05):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (16:05):

The mindset is your value is decided by how good you score in class.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:09):

Wow. Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (16:13):

Not by the things you do outside class.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:14):

And your potential even.

Vir Gupta (16:16):

Yeah. And that’s the way that I was taught and lived.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:19):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (16:20):

And I think that’s the reason I was shocked with that-

Shea Kidd Brown (16:21):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (16:22):

… academically, I wasn’t among the top people in my class.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:26):

In your class.

Vir Gupta (16:27):

No, I was above average.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:28):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (16:28):

But I try to, like, oh, this is a shock.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:31):

And I would imagine your training, though, throughout was very rigorous.

Vir Gupta (16:37):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:37):

So then you were prepared.

Vir Gupta (16:39):

So, like, then coming here, it was, like, okay, I understand the way that-

Shea Kidd Brown (16:42):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (16:43):

If you stand up for things, you’re fine.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:45):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (16:45):

And again, like, going out of your room to just talk to someone.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:48):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (16:49):

And then you’ll be okay.

Shea Kidd Brown (16:51):

Wow. I always wonder, because I’m thinking you’re from however many miles away.

Vir Gupta (16:55):

Yeah

Shea Kidd Brown (16:56):

Many, many miles and time zones and it’s amazing that, that Wake found you and you found Wake.

Vir Gupta (17:02):

Oh my god. It’s worked out.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:02):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (17:02):

Luckily.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:04):

More than. (laughs) You know?

Vir Gupta (17:06):

I didn’t get a chance to visit.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:07):

And you were still in a pandemic, too.

Vir Gupta (17:09):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:09):

Tail end of the emergency.

Vir Gupta (17:11):

Mm-hmm. I’m actually meant to graduate this year, ’24.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:13):

Oh, really?

Vir Gupta (17:14):

So I was admitted to graduate in the class of ’24.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:17):

Oh, I didn’t know that.

Vir Gupta (17:19):

And the mindset was that, well, it’s kind of pointless to do a semester online, or a year online.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:23):

Right.

Vir Gupta (17:24):

So I deferred my admission by a year.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:24):

Oh, okay.

Vir Gupta (17:26):

Ended up working for the entire-

Shea Kidd Brown (17:28):

Okay. Get home. Right.

Vir Gupta (17:31):

… and then came over the fall of ’21. That’s how I ended up here.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:36):

Wow. Wow.

Vir Gupta (17:36):

So I am a year older than everyone in my class.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:37):

Yeah. That explains your wisdom.

Vir Gupta (17:38):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:38):

(laughs) No, I didn’t know that, and I wonder if that space too in between, like, your education really gave you maybe a different level of curiosity when you came?

Vir Gupta (17:49):

It does, because I think working changes you. Like, I think just being in any sort of work environment, you’re like, “Oh, this is how the world works.”

Shea Kidd Brown (17:57):

Oh, it is.

Vir Gupta (17:57):

It’s different.

Shea Kidd Brown (17:58):

It is very different.

Vir Gupta (17:59):

Huge shock.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:00):

In the U.S., school is, I remember still 8:00 to 3:00. And, you know, you do that for kindergarten through 12th grade and then you go to American higher education where you choose your classes, but gap years I guess are more common.

Vir Gupta (18:14):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:14):

But I went right in, and so my break actually came after undergrad, because I wanted to go to grad school. I was very involved, like you, and I thought, I need to work, and you’re right, to go into grad school full-time, but having had two years to work.

Vir Gupta (18:29):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:30):

It changes your mindset.

Vir Gupta (18:32):

Yeah, and I think it just changes the way you approach things.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:35):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (18:35):

Like, for me, I was like, my god, yeah, and I’m like, “I really like your job on campus.”

Shea Kidd Brown (18:38):

Right. That’s true. Yeah.

Vir Gupta (18:39):

It is…

Shea Kidd Brown (18:40):

‘Cause you were accustomed to working.

Vir Gupta (18:41):

You were accustomed to it, and it’s like this is a silly thing, but it’s nice to just see that paycheck every two weeks.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:47):

Hey, that’s real.

Vir Gupta (18:48):

That’s part of the reason why some people take the job, but-

Shea Kidd Brown (18:50):

Mm-hmm. You say the job, but you have multiple jobs (laughs).

Vir Gupta (18:52):

A couple of jobs, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:54):

(laughs) So, so you are an official-

Vir Gupta (18:57):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (18:57):

… um, and a supervisor for intramurals.

Vir Gupta (18:58):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:00):

You are an RA.

Vir Gupta (19:01):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:02):

You produce a couple of podcasts.

Vir Gupta (19:04):

Podcasts (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (19:05):

(laughs) Anything else that you …

Vir Gupta (19:07):

And I work in the scene shop in the theatre. I help build the sets and do technical work there.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:11):

Yeah. That’s right. So many, so many things. So let’s break some of that down.

Vir Gupta (19:16):

Oh, gosh. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (19:16):

So you’re involved in the theatre department.

Vir Gupta (19:18):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:19):

So did that interest start here or-

Vir Gupta (19:22):

Been a thing ever since grade one-

Shea Kidd Brown (19:24):

Really?

Vir Gupta (19:24):

… I’ve been on stage, and I came here, and not saying this because I, I need to, but our theatre department is unbelievable.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:32):

Just amazing.

Vir Gupta (19:33):

Student, solely because it is the most tight-knit community-

Shea Kidd Brown (19:38):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (19:38):

… in the sense that the professors care so much for you.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:41):

So deeply, right.

Vir Gupta (19:42):

And it is strange that we are on a first-name basis with them.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:46):

You’ve said that to me before.

Vir Gupta (19:46):

It is-

Shea Kidd Brown (19:47):

Or maybe another theatre major has said it.

Vir Gupta (19:49):

It’s not right.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:50):

‘Cause everywhere else on campus, it’s doctor and professor and-

Vir Gupta (19:52):

Right.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:52):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (19:53):

And the door’s open, we can walk in at any time.

Shea Kidd Brown (19:55):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (19:56):

And I was able to act in a show my freshman year, and then design a show. And that’s what led me to do more of the technical work for them.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:03):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (20:04):

I’ve just been there ever since.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:05):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (20:07):

Like, people walk around with a T-shirt that say, “I live in Scales,” because it’s true.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:10):

(laughs) I’ve seen those. I’ve seen those. So you say you’ve been on a stage since grade one.

Vir Gupta (20:15):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:15):

So what have you learned from theatre?

Vir Gupta (20:18):

Oh, my.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:18):

And I think you and I shared that. I was involved in musical theatre in college.

Vir Gupta (20:22):

My biggest thing is just listening to people.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:25):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (20:25):

Because especially if you’re onstage, if you don’t listen to what the other person is saying, then you don’t know how to react.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:30):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (20:31):

The same person.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:31):

True. Yeah.

Vir Gupta (20:33):

And that is something I learned back home was that listen to what they say and then you can react.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:36):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (20:39):

And I think that’s it. And more than anything over here, what I find interesting is the way people collaborate with each other.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:44):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (20:45):

I have no concept of what a stage manager does or what a designer does.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:49):

There’s so many roles.

Vir Gupta (20:50):

Yeah. And back home, it’s like one person is everything.

Shea Kidd Brown (20:53):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (20:54):

Because you don’t make money in theatre back home. And here, you come here and you learn oh, everybody has to collaborate with each other. Everyone has to work with each other-

Shea Kidd Brown (21:02):

Hm, that’s true.

Vir Gupta (21:02):

… to make sure the show goes up.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:03):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (21:04):

But the same principle that there’s a show going on.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:06):

Right.

Vir Gupta (21:07):

And everyone has to do something.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:08):

So how does that translate into life for you?

Vir Gupta (21:11):

I think just listening to what other people want-

Shea Kidd Brown (21:14):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (21:16):

… and being like, okay, that can be done.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:17):

And as you were describing it, I was thinking about your RA position in that everybody has a role to play.

Vir Gupta (21:23):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:23):

And even, let’s say, you’re navigating a roommate conflict, most of us as humans come to a conversation, or are speaking to be heard. We’re not listening to understand-

Vir Gupta (21:31):

Yeah. Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:32):

… which is what you just described. Even on the stage, I have to listen to you before I react.

Vir Gupta (21:36):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:38):

And so imagine you in, in a much more organic way than most are able to help people get set because you’re listening.

Vir Gupta (21:44):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:45):

You’re watching. But then also modeling that so well for residents on, a lot of times, this conflict is within us to solve.

Vir Gupta (21:53):

Yeah. But I think the other thing with the residents is that it’s a spectrum of people.

Shea Kidd Brown (21:57):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (21:57):

And you need the spectrum.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:00):

Absolutely.

Vir Gupta (22:03):

Like me and my residents, we have discussed this a lot. We’re like, if, if we didn’t have that person, who kind of just does what they want-

Shea Kidd Brown (22:07):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (22:07):

… is in their own world, then that wouldn’t make the hall.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:10):

That’s true.

Vir Gupta (22:11):

‘Cause not only are they a talking point-

Shea Kidd Brown (22:11):

Yeah. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (22:11):

It’s not ethnic diversity in a sense, but they are like, diversity in the hall.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:18):

It’s a dynamic, right. There’s that person. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (22:20):

Oh, there they are.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:22):

Right? And it’s also like a family, you know?

Vir Gupta (22:23):

It is.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:24):

We all have that person. We’re like, “Okay.” But the family wouldn’t be the family without that person.

Vir Gupta (22:29):

Exactly. Like you have to have the personality somehow.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:31):

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (22:31):

Otherwise, like-

Shea Kidd Brown (22:32):

It’s boring.

Vir Gupta (22:34):

… it wouldn’t work.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:34):

Yeah. Comic relief sometimes.

Vir Gupta (22:36):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:36):

It’s … That’s funny the way you describe that. So really involved in theatre and you mentioned the sound design aspect.

Vir Gupta (22:44):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:45):

So was that a new skill that you learned?

Vir Gupta (22:46):

Back home in my year off, I worked in a radio station. I worked as the producer of a morning show. So that’s where I started working on sound stuff.

Shea Kidd Brown (22:55):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (22:55):

And that’s how it translated to the theatre. And obviously, designing for the shows is very different that just editing stuff for radio.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:03):

Right.

Vir Gupta (23:04):

But that’s how it started.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:05):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (23:05):

And then I’ve been doing that ever since, and I’ve also picked up lighting design. So just as much as I can take forward.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:12):

You do it all. So you’re performing, and you’re doing the behind-the-scenes.

Vir Gupta (23:16):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:16):

Making people sound good, making people look good.

Vir Gupta (23:19):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:19):

Even were at Busch Gardens this past summer.

Vir Gupta (23:23):

That’s, yeah, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:23):

Doing sound, right?

Vir Gupta (23:24):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:24):

Did you learn anything new at a place that’s that large and established?

Vir Gupta (23:29):

I did, yeah. Again, it’s like working in an established system where you have a defined role-

Shea Kidd Brown (23:35):

Sure.

Vir Gupta (23:35):

… I can just learning about how things work.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:37):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (23:38):

There’s a reason they’re that way.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:39):

Right.

Vir Gupta (23:40):

There’s a reason they’re not-

Shea Kidd Brown (23:40):

Especially as an intern when your job is, like, to listen and look and watch.

Vir Gupta (23:44):

Exactly. It’s like very interesting to just sort of pick up what has been given you and go with it.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:50):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (23:50):

But also you learn technical skills.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:50):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (23:52):

Like, I can apply this to the theatre in this way.

Shea Kidd Brown (23:54):

Totally. I just am imagining what I … I don’t think I’ve even been to Busch Gardens, but when I go to other amusement parks, there is so much that you’re not noticing to create your experience.

Vir Gupta (24:05):

Right. Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:05):

Around lighting and how that changes from day to night.

Vir Gupta (24:08):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:09):

And all those sorts of things.

Vir Gupta (24:09):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:10):

So I imagine you’ve been able to bring a lot back to the theatre department.

Vir Gupta (24:14):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:14):

And then you, you’re also a podcast producer. So you and I, I’ve talked about you on other podcasts.

Vir Gupta (24:22):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:22):

So we were sitting at a table and you and I were talking and it was actually at a university police event, and I was like, “Vir, I’m thinking about a podcast.” And you’re like, “You’ve gotta do this, Dr. Shea.”

Vir Gupta (24:31):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (24:31):

Like, I’ve said this publicly, but you’re the reason that I-

Vir Gupta (24:34):

Oh, oh.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:35):

… had the courage to do it because I was very nervous.

Vir Gupta (24:38):

Very kind of you.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:39):

Well, it’s true. And even though I’m a public figure, what some people would describe that way, this is a bit of a vulnerable thing to do.

Vir Gupta (24:46):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (24:47):

You, I think, have really encouraged not only me, but university police to tell their story. And when you think about these two podcasts, what are some of the things that you’ve helped people to learn and that you’ve learned about yourself?

Vir Gupta (25:01):

Hm, I think first of all, it’s like the simple things are how do we put this together?

Shea Kidd Brown (25:05):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (25:05):

But I think more than anything, it’s like how do we make this something that people enjoy, right?

Shea Kidd Brown (25:10):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (25:11):

More than anything, the reason that people listen is that it’s honest and it’s simple.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:15):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (25:15):

People listen for stories, people love stories.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:18):

So true.

Vir Gupta (25:18):

And I think just getting people to tell stories. Like, even when interviewing officers or something-

Shea Kidd Brown (25:23):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (25:23):

… trying to get them to tell us about themselves-

Shea Kidd Brown (25:25):

Right.

Vir Gupta (25:26):

… but not just facts, but a story.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:29):

Mm-hmm. Really humanizing the role.

Vir Gupta (25:30):

Exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:31):

Right.

Vir Gupta (25:32):

And I think that’s it.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:33):

Especially in law enforcement.

Vir Gupta (25:34):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:34):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (25:35):

Yeah, because you wanna get to know these people.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:36):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (25:38):

Like, there’s a reason people are scared of them.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:42):

Right. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (25:42):

Because they’re a target.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:43):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (25:43):

People don’t like them.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:45):

Right. That’s true.

Vir Gupta (25:46):

Anything that applies to, like, my residents too, I think the first three weeks are most important weeks.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:48):

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Vir Gupta (25:48):

If you’re not around, like, wow, who’s that guy?

Shea Kidd Brown (25:51):

Right. That guy is just making sure I-

Vir Gupta (25:53):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (25:54):

Catching me when I’m not following the rules.

Vir Gupta (25:56):

Exactly. But then there’s the other side too. If you don’t enforce the rules in the first two weeks, it would be a lawless land.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:02):

Sure. That’s a good point. You haven’t earned respect.

Vir Gupta (26:03):

So it’s that we are a line that you have to walk-

Shea Kidd Brown (26:07):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (26:07):

… and luckily I’ve done it for two years now.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:09):

Mm-hmm. Well, we really appreciate that work that we do on our podcast, and like I said, I’m just appreciative that I was sitting next to you and I can remember thinking about all the things that have to be done on a podcast and that made me nervous.

Vir Gupta (26:22):

Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:23):

And that fact that you’ve been here to support it and Gretchen and Debbie and the work space and definitely a learning process for me, and I’m grateful I had somebody who was experienced in doing it.

Vir Gupta (26:34):

Well, thank you.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:35):

It’s really fun.

(26:36):

So we’ve talked a lot about all the things you’re involved in.

Vir Gupta (26:39):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:41):

Also, we haven’t talked about your bike. So we need to talk about that too. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (26:43):

This is a bad story.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:46):

Okay, tell me about the bike. How did that come about?

Vir Gupta (26:50):

Oh my god. Oh, no. Uh, for people that don’t know, I ride around on a blue bike on campus. It’s been with me ever since freshman fall.

Shea Kidd Brown (26:56):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (26:58):

So I got here. I was using Google Maps to get around.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:00):

Ah.

Vir Gupta (27:00):

I was like I had no idea. Every building looks the same. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (27:04):

It’s beautiful, but it is really hard.

Vir Gupta (27:06):

That was wild to me.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:06):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (27:06):

I was like, “What is this place? Why does everything look the same?”

Shea Kidd Brown (27:10):

And you had never been here.

Vir Gupta (27:11):

I was like, “Where am I?” And I’m not used to walking around because my school campus was very small.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:17):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (27:19):

And I was like, “Well, I need a bike.”

Shea Kidd Brown (27:19):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (27:19):

So my good friend who lived down the hall, he had a bike and he was like, “I’ll let you borrow it sometimes.” And I was like, “Ray, this is enough. I need to go buy one.”

Shea Kidd Brown (27:27):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (27:27):

So one afternoon, this was in early September. The early part. I walked all the way to Ken’s bike store.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:34):

Are you serious?

Vir Gupta (27:34):

Because I was like, “Man, I don’t wanna pay for an Uber.”

Shea Kidd Brown (27:34):

Right.

Vir Gupta (27:34):

I was like, “It’s like $10? No.” Because-

Shea Kidd Brown (27:39):

And that’s Ken’s, for those who don’t know, it is two miles from campus.

Vir Gupta (27:44):

Yeah. It’s like a good half-an-hour walk.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:46):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (27:47):

And in my head, at that time, all I was doing was converting. I think you become conscious of that.

Shea Kidd Brown (27:52):

Oh, true.

Vir Gupta (27:52):

You’re like, “Oh, I need to just convert everything from dollars to rupees.” And I’m like, “No, I’m not paying 600 rupees for a cab.” I was like, “No.”

Shea Kidd Brown (28:00):

“I need a bike.”

Vir Gupta (28:01):

“I need to go buy a bike.” So I walked down to this place.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:02):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (28:04):

Then, they’re like, “The cheapest bike is $500.” And I’m like-

Shea Kidd Brown (28:05):

Yeah, I was like Ken’s is not cheap.

Vir Gupta (28:07):

I’m like, walk back.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:09):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (28:10):

Bad idea.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:10):

You got your steps in that day. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (28:12):

Yeah. And it’s like 4:00 PM, I’m drenched in sweat by the time I get back.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:17):

And it’s end of summer, so it’s hot.

Vir Gupta (28:18):

And so it’s like, okay, what are we doing now? So I go onto target.com-

Shea Kidd Brown (28:21):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (28:23):

… and I find this bike for about $200-something and I’m like, “Okay, good.”

Shea Kidd Brown (28:27):

Deal.

Vir Gupta (28:29):

I didn’t think it through, though, because all the deliveries, they go to the basement of Benson.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:33):

Oh no. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (28:33):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (28:34):

Oh, god.

Vir Gupta (28:38):

Yeah, so this is like a week later, I get a notification that you have a packaging.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:43):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (28:43):

Go down there.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:44):

Oh, I’ve been in that line.

Vir Gupta (28:45):

And the box.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:46):

Right. Not put together.

Vir Gupta (28:47):

Not put together, unassembled bike in a box.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:50):

Oh my gosh. Vir.

Vir Gupta (28:50):

And the man who puts it on the trundle is like, “Here you go.”

Shea Kidd Brown (28:51):

Good luck.

Vir Gupta (28:55):

I’m like, “What do I do with this?” Luckily, someone I knew was in the line with me.

Shea Kidd Brown (28:58):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (28:58):

And I’m like, “Dylan, can you please help me get this.”

Shea Kidd Brown (28:59):

Oh. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (29:01):

He’s like, “Sure.”

Shea Kidd Brown (29:02):

Oh, man.

Vir Gupta (29:02):

Walked all the way back to South.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:05):

With this box.

Vir Gupta (29:06):

With this bike. With this box.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:08):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (29:09):

No tools, nothing. My roommates walks in and, like, “What’s is that?”

Shea Kidd Brown (29:16):

“What is happening?”

Vir Gupta (29:16):

“What has Vir got?” Because that’s just a box. And I soon realized I don’t have the tools either. So I scramble for tools, screw on the pedals the wrong way.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:22):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (29:22):

Pedals break off.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:24):

Oh, no.

Vir Gupta (29:25):

Have to go and get the bike fixed. Come back.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:27):

Fixed before it’s put together.

Vir Gupta (29:27):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:28):

Okay.

Vir Gupta (29:29):

For, like, two days, I was riding without pedals.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:32):

How? (laughs)

Vir Gupta (29:32):

So this bike has been through a lot.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:35):

I see why you ride it every day.

Vir Gupta (29:37):

And now, yeah-

Shea Kidd Brown (29:38):

I’m sure framed forever.

Vir Gupta (29:41):

Yeah. So-

Shea Kidd Brown (29:42):

Oh my gosh. You know, I have seen you on the bike. We were even on a promotional tour.

Vir Gupta (29:46):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (29:46):

Hit the brakes on the bike, but I did not know the origin story of the bike.

Vir Gupta (29:51):

Yeah, not many people know the origin story.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:52):

Now they will.

Vir Gupta (29:53):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:54):

Does the bike have a name?

Vir Gupta (29:54):

Josephine.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:55):

I figured you had a name. (laughs) Josephine. That’s good.

Vir Gupta (29:58):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (29:59):

Good, strong name.

Vir Gupta (30:00):

So we were working on a show, so if you’ve noticed, bike has a horn.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:04):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (30:05):

One of those, like-

Shea Kidd Brown (30:06):

The horn, yeah.

Vir Gupta (30:06):

The really funky horn.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:06):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (30:08):

But I made a bet with an actor who said that rehearsal would end at a certain time and I said, “No.”

Shea Kidd Brown (30:12):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (30:15):

Bet was for $10. So he lost the bet and said, “I’m not gonna give you $10.” Next day comes with this bike horn. That’s how the bike horn ended up.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:23):

Got it. I love it. Well, thank you for telling me that story of the bike. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (30:26):

That’s the story of the bike. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (30:26):

I’m so glad I asked because it feels like it’s synonymous with your whole brand, you know?

Vir Gupta (30:33):

Lot’s of people say … (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (30:34):

(laughs) Bike and Vir, now I can say Vir and Josephine, you know?

Vir Gupta (30:37):

Oh my god.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:37):

It’s adventures with the two of you. And what I was gonna also ask is we were talking about all the things you’re involved in. You always have this bright smile. You’re so positive. You’re here to help everybody, so how do you find balance, if that’s a thing? Integration, grounding? Does that make sense?

Vir Gupta (30:57):

It does.

Shea Kidd Brown (30:57):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (30:58):

This may sound stupid, but my 10:00 PM Friday, I’m asleep.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:01):

Are you? Hey, that’s important.

Vir Gupta (31:03):

Mm-hmm. Because through the week I kind of burn myself out.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:06):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (31:07):

And then come Friday, I sleep in on Sunday.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:10):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (31:10):

‘Cause that’s sort of the only way I can-

Shea Kidd Brown (31:12):

That’s your only time. This will be an unpopular thing for me to say, but sleep is so important.

Vir Gupta (31:17):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:18):

And, you know, college students make it on, you know, however many hours of sleep.

Vir Gupta (31:21):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:21):

But it makes a big difference.

Vir Gupta (31:23):

What my RA from freshman year said this, and it will always stick with me. He’s like, “at Wake, you only get two out of three things. Sleep, a social life, or good grades. You choose.”

Shea Kidd Brown (31:31):

Ooh, wow.

Vir Gupta (31:33):

Well, he said that to me first week at Collins. I’m like, that not…

Shea Kidd Brown (31:39):

“I’m not hearing that.” Right. (laughs) Yeah.

Vir Gupta (31:40):

Like, don’t lie to me.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:41):

Right.

Vir Gupta (31:42):

And then come junior year, I’m like, “Yes, that’s true. I don’t sleep.”

Shea Kidd Brown (31:44):

Hm, how are you doing with all three, though?

Vir Gupta (31:46):

I don’t sleep during the week. Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:48):

That was true based on what he said, yeah, I think.

Vir Gupta (31:51):

And I think there’s no student that has all three.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:52):

That does, right. But you on Fridays make sure you kind of catch up, yeah.

Vir Gupta (31:56):

Because that’s my only day that I don’t…

Shea Kidd Brown (31:56):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (31:56):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (31:58):

Do you do anything else from a mindfulness or a self-care standpoint?

Vir Gupta (32:03):

I mean, not really. I mean, I enjoy spending time in the theatre working on my lights and sound stuff-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:09):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (32:09):

… but I play basketball every now and then. But-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:12):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (32:12):

… that’s, that’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:12):

You like staying busy.

Vir Gupta (32:14):

That’s it. Not yet might leave for break.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:17):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (32:17):

Like, and that’s just the way that I have been rigged.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:19):

You’re wired, yeah. And you’re also really energized, I think, by being a part of something.

Vir Gupta (32:26):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:27):

You know? So whether that’s on an intramural field or in the halls or-

Vir Gupta (32:30):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:30):

… or at the soundstage.

Vir Gupta (32:31):

And another thing that’s really valuable to me is my meals. Like, I see that as a relief-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:38):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (32:38):

… rather than something that’s work.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:40):

Right.

Vir Gupta (32:40):

Because I tend to try and have meals with different people very often.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:44):

Oh, nice. Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (32:45):

And it not only gives me a chance to catch up with people, but it’s like oh, for the first time of the day, I’m sitting down-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:50):

Right.

Vir Gupta (32:51):

… and just thinking.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:51):

And you’re literally fueling your body too.

Vir Gupta (32:54):

It’s that one hour for lunch.

Shea Kidd Brown (32:57):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (32:57):

One hour for dinner with someone-

Shea Kidd Brown (32:58):

Different friends.

Vir Gupta (33:00):

And whether it’s catching up or just talking.

Shea Kidd Brown (33:02):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (33:02):

I really need those. If I were to just eat with the same people every day, I would-

Shea Kidd Brown (33:07):

That wouldn’t work for you?

Vir Gupta (33:08):

I don’t do that.

Shea Kidd Brown (33:09):

Well, you, you definitely fuel everyone around you, so I’m glad you’re also fueling yourself. And I think just, I feel like we could talk all day.

Vir Gupta (33:18):

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (33:19):

But just a couple more questions. I wanna go back to kind of how we started when you said you were really miserable and you found community-

Vir Gupta (33:25):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (33:26):

… and you really put yourself out there. So if you could revisit first-year Vir, what advice would you share with yourself?

Vir Gupta (33:33):

Hm.

Shea Kidd Brown (33:34):

And maybe how does that translate to residents that you work with now?

Vir Gupta (33:36):

I would just say, “Talk to everyone.”

Shea Kidd Brown (33:38):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (33:41):

Don’t be scared to, like, not try things you wouldn’t otherwise.

Shea Kidd Brown (33:45):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (33:45):

The thing that I try and think of now is what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Shea Kidd Brown (33:48):

That’s true.

Vir Gupta (33:48):

What is the worst thing that could’ve happened if I went and spoke to someone?

Shea Kidd Brown (33:51):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (33:52):

I don’t know. I just wish I spoke to more people in my first two weeks here, but then-

Shea Kidd Brown (33:55):

That’s such good advice.

Vir Gupta (33:56):

… that got me through the rest of college is just talking to people.

Shea Kidd Brown (33:59):

Right.

Vir Gupta (33:59):

Reaching out and speaking to people. 

Shea Kidd Brown (34:01):

I love that advice, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Because, I mean, the worst thing is it’s a little awkward. (laughs) Like, that’s the worst thing, you know?

Vir Gupta (34:08):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (34:09):

The best thing is maybe you meet a new friend.

Vir Gupta (34:11):

Exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:11):

Or someone who has part of your life.

Vir Gupta (34:13):

It doesn’t hit you until later that-

Shea Kidd Brown (34:17):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (34:17):

… everyone’s clueless.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:17):

In the same spot, right.

Vir Gupta (34:19):

Clueless.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:20):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (34:20):

And you see it, like, on move-in day sometimes. You see these people are like, “Oh, what have I done?”

Shea Kidd Brown (34:23):

“What have we done?”

Vir Gupta (34:28):

“What are we doing? We don’t know what we’re doing?” I’m like, “Let’s go talk.”

Shea Kidd Brown (34:29):

No one knows what they’re doing.

Vir Gupta (34:30):

No one has any idea.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:31):

That’s so true. Yeah, we gotta get that message out more.

Vir Gupta (34:33):

And I, I don’t know how, but it’s just, I think it’s a mindset thing.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:37):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (34:38):

And someone said it the other day. It’s like, COVID, people became so used to just being with themselves-

Shea Kidd Brown (34:42):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (34:43):

… that especially last year then they came here, that’s why there’s such less involvement with things on campus.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:49):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (34:50):

With, like, campus events.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:51):

Right.

Vir Gupta (34:52):

It’s like no one wants to go to these events-

Shea Kidd Brown (34:54):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (34:54):

… because they’re comfortable sitting in their room-

Shea Kidd Brown (34:57):

Right, with their-

Vir Gupta (34:58):

… watching their TV show.

Shea Kidd Brown (34:59):

… or a screen or, yeah.

Vir Gupta (35:00):

It sucks.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:01):

But what we all know is that we’re fulfilled when we actually do, you know?

Vir Gupta (35:04):

Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:05):

So it’s taking that step of, that extra step. Any other advice?

Vir Gupta (35:08):

No, I think just that.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:10):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (35:12):

Just trying to talk to more people and have fun.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:12):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (35:13):

Like don’t worry too much. I’m not saying don’t worry about consequences, but it’s your freshman year of college.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:18):

Right.

Vir Gupta (35:18):

Have a good time.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:19):

Enjoy it.

Vir Gupta (35:20):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:21):

Yeah. As you know, it goes by really fast.

Vir Gupta (35:22):

It goes by really, really fast.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:24):

Really fast.

Vir Gupta (35:24):

Especially with the people that have come back from abroad.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:27):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (35:27):

Like, when we’re sitting on the Pit we’re like, “I feel so old.”

Shea Kidd Brown (35:27):

Yeah. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (35:27):

I just-

Shea Kidd Brown (35:27):

You feel old?

Vir Gupta (35:34):

You feel old because one, you can’t tell the difference between sophomores and freshman.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:38):

Hm.

Vir Gupta (35:38):

Maybe know a couple of sophomores.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:38):

(laughs)

Vir Gupta (35:39):

You don’t know any freshman, and then all the seniors are not eating at the Pit because they live off-campus.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:43):

Right, true. So you’re the most senior.

Vir Gupta (35:44):

And the juniors, especially last semester, the entirety of my class was abroad.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:49):

That’s true.

Vir Gupta (35:50):

All the seniors are not there, freshman are sort of like clueless.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:54):

They’re all looking to you.

Vir Gupta (35:55):

That’s right.

Shea Kidd Brown (35:56):

And Josephine. (laughs)

Vir Gupta (35:59):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (35:59):

Yeah, yeah, that is an interesting dynamic. Well, it’s really good advice. I think the last thing I would wanna end with is just what are you hopeful for as you think about the future? Your senior year is ahead of you. A third year in Collins.

Vir Gupta (36:12):

Oh my god. I’m looking forward to the community that I have to build again. I’m also looking forward to, like, deepening and strengthening the friendships that I already have-

Shea Kidd Brown (36:22):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (36:23):

… to sort of make that into life-long relationships.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:26):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (36:26):

But also just looking forward to my final year of college. My senior year of college, last year of … I don’t wanna say freedom, but last year of-

Shea Kidd Brown (36:33):

Anything like this.

Vir Gupta (36:34):

Yes. No responsibilities or such.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:34):

Mm-hmm.

Vir Gupta (36:34):

Like, you don’t have to-

Shea Kidd Brown (36:39):

It’s a unique experiment.

Vir Gupta (36:42):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:42):

You know, it’s … I describe it as a period of time where your only goal really is to be curious and to learn about yourself.

Vir Gupta (36:49):

Exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:50):

Very different from when you’re in the world of work. Not that you can’t be curious-

Vir Gupta (36:54):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:54):

… but it’s not your employer’s job to make sure you’re curious.

Vir Gupta (36:58):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (36:58):

You know, whereas higher ed, it’s just very different in that way.

Vir Gupta (37:01):

I think part of it is also to just slow down a little bit-

Shea Kidd Brown (37:04):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (37:05):

… and just enjoy the last year.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:07):

Absolutely.

Vir Gupta (37:09):

Even though I’ll be on campus in South Campus, I never left South Campus.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:13):

That’s right.

Vir Gupta (37:13):

It’s crazy to me. Enjoy it.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:15):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (37:15):

I’d be like, oh, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:16):

Yeah.

Vir Gupta (37:17):

Like, take it slow.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:19):

That’s right.

Vir Gupta (37:19):

Enjoy time with friends and then just graduate. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (37:23):

Right. You know, it will go by, but there’s so much of life to experience over the next year.

Vir Gupta (37:27):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:27):

And then beyond and then that your future is so bright and you certainly make our campus so much better.

Vir Gupta (37:34):

Thank you.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:35):

So I appreciate you being here today.

Vir Gupta (37:37):

Thank you.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:38):

And all that you do and just I really value the relationship that we’ve been able to build, you know, the last couple years and I’m looking forward to it’s not anywhere near over, so we’ve got lots-

Vir Gupta (37:47):

Yeah. A lot left.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:49):

… a lot left, so thank you for being here today.

Vir Gupta (37:51):

Thank you so much.

Shea Kidd Brown (37:52):

Absolutely. Vir is such a shining star. I just loved our conversation and hearing about his unique lived experiences, definitions of home and how those were nuanced and how he’s created home at Wake Forest and he’s created home for other Wake Foresters. I think we could’ve spent a whole lot of time just unpacking that notion of home. I’m so appreciative of what he’s done in our community. And as always, I am in awe of our students, they’re individual and collective talents and how we all have an opportunity to change the world. For sure, our worlds.

(38:36):

Truly, each of us has a story to share, I kid you not. So let’s keep leaning into the hard work and heart work that life brings our way. Thank you again for listening.

MaryAnna Bailey (38:47):

This episode was produced by Vir Gupta in association with the university’s campus life team. For any thoughts and suggestions of what or who you want to hear next time, reach out to us on our socials using the information in the show notes. I’m MaryAnna Bailey, and this was Kidd You Not.


In this special episode, Dr. Shea sits down with her 15-year-old son, Jack Wilson Houze. Instead of Dr. Shea asking the questions, she’s in the hot seat with questions being fired her way. You’ll hear about how Dr. Shea’s upbringing and collegiate journey shaped some of her values and morals, how she uses her free time to unwind and find a balance in her life, some of the most important things she’s learned from her role in leadership, what keeps her going, and so much more!

Shea Kidd Brown (00:06)

Hey, it’s Dr. Shea, and I am super excited about a special guest that I have on the podcast today. But here’s the thing: he’s actually not a guest. That’s right. We are turning the tables, and my 15-year-old is interviewing me. And I have to admit I’m a little nervous. So, let me tell you a little bit about Jack Wilson “JW” Houze, or J-Dub, as we often call him. Jack Wilson “JW” Houze is a ninth-grader at a local high school, and he is so funny. He loves LEGOs and has an appreciation for a wide variety of music. It makes me really proud. He’s a member of the track team, loves soccer, and enjoys cheering on the Deacs anytime he gets to. Right now, he’s an aspiring engineer, and science is his favorite subject. He did not get that from me. I’m not sure exactly what’s in store, but I hope you enjoy it. Here’s my conversation with me and Jack Wilson “JW” Houze.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (01:01):

Hi everybody. I’m JW, Jack Howes, Jack Brown, whatever you want to call me. I’m here with a person y’all know very well. I’m here with Shea Kidd Brown, also known as the Vice President for Campus Life at Wake Forest. Hey, how are you?

Shea Kidd Brown (01:15):

I’m good. How are you doing? (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (01:18):

I’m doing pretty good. (laughs) I’m just really excited that I’m getting to do this because usually I’m just listening to you interviewing-

Shea Kidd Brown (01:22):

Mm-hmm.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (01:22):

… but now I get to interview the interviewer. So-

Shea Kidd Brown (01:24):

That’s true, but I’m a little nervous, I have to admit. (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (01:25):

(laughs) I’m-

Shea Kidd Brown (01:27):

I’m not usually in this seat-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (01:28):

‘Cause-

Shea Kidd Brown (01:28):

… and you haven’t told me anything.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (01:30):

This was a, um, long-time-coming thing, and we talked about this about a couple of months ago, but-

Shea Kidd Brown (01:35):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (01:36):

I know a lot of your podcasts start by asking the guests this, so I want to ask you. Where’s home for you?

Shea Kidd Brown (01:41):

Oh, my favorite question. So, home is Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I’m originally from 60 miles from the Gulf Coast, so it is the deep, deep South. And, you know, home’s changed over the years in terms of living in a lot of different places. But whenever people ask me, I always start with home, it’s crawfish. It’s the deep South. It’s the beach. It’s football, all those things that are important to me.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:05):

Mm, okay. So, I feel like it’s occurring to me now that these people probably have no idea about you. They’re always listening-

Shea Kidd Brown (02:14):

No idea?

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:14):

No idea.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:14):

(laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:15):

I mean, hey, they’re, they’re always listening to you talk about other people-

Shea Kidd Brown (02:17):

Oh, true.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:17):

… and be really happy about other people’s accomplishments and other people’s childhoods and all that stuff. But I want to learn about your childhood.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:23):

Oh.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:23):

So, what were you like as a child?

Shea Kidd Brown (02:24):

Oh, this is going to be interesting. (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:26):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (02:27):

My child asking me what I was like. I was a model child. I was, you know-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:31):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (02:31):

Ask Nana and Pops. They’ll say, “She was perfect. She wasn’t…” You don’t see my halo that, that still exists?

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:36):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (02:37):

As a child, I was very talkative. Shocker.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:41):

Mm, I wonder where I get that from.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:41):

Yeah, exactly. (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:41):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (02:43):

I was a talker. I was really curious. I wanted to be a veterinarian when I grew up, and-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:51):

I shared that dream too.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:52):

Yes. I think we all-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:53):

At once upon a time.

Shea Kidd Brown (02:54):

… at some point want to be a veterinarian.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:54):

Surely. It’s like the astronaut-

Shea Kidd Brown (02:54):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (02:54):

… of, of dreams. You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (02:58):

Yeah, I agree. And it was interesting growing up because my mom was a kindergarten teacher. So, when I went to first grade, I vividly remember going in first grade and my classroom was next door to hers.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:09):

Mm, yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:09):

And in second grade, it was across the hall. So, this whole talking thing, like, my teachers felt compelled to tell my mom. She was right down the hall, so …

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:16):

Well, it kind of makes sense why you started the podcast because-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:17):

Yeah. (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:18):

… I mean, so you can keep up the conversation.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:19):

Yeah, yep. So, but I would say I was a rule follower. I was a good kid. I joke that I was an angel.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:26):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:26):

I was not an angel. Um, also just as a child, went to a school that was primarily white. And so, my mom was the only Black employee, not only Black teacher, but only Black employee. So …

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:38):

Mm, wow!

Shea Kidd Brown (03:38):

And-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:39):

That was a huge accomplishment for her, huh?

Shea Kidd Brown (03:39):

Well-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:39):

Just to be able to-

Shea Kidd Brown (03:40):

Well, accomplishment or just made it. It was a-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:43):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:44):

… interesting environment. And so, also, I was, generally speaking, the only Black student in each of my classes-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (03:51):

Mm.

Shea Kidd Brown (03:51):

… until sixth grade, and then there were two of us. So, it was … of course when you’re in something, you don’t really know that that’s not the norm, but-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:00):

Right, because, because your, you’ve just been around that all the time, and you kind of feel like … it’s like that’s your safe place. It’s like-

Shea Kidd Brown (04:06):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:06):

… you’re kind of in this bubble, whereas thinking, like, outside of that bubble seems not scary, but you just don’t know.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:12):

Yeah, exactly.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:12):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:13):

So, I think as a result of always kind of being different, I was the one who wanted to be friendly. I was the one who wanted to find my people and connect because, out of necessity, I had to find that. It did not necessarily always come naturally socially to me to dance. I was a cheerleader in middle school and high school.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:31):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (04:32):

You know, I’m still peoples’ cheerleader, so …

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:33):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (04:34):

Love sports. You know, our childhoods are framed by how … our upbringing. You’re our only child, at least right now. And I had two siblings, but my older brother was almost seven years older-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:44):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:44):

… than me, and then my-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:45):

Wow!

Shea Kidd Brown (04:45):

… little brother, your Uncle Aubrey-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:47):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:47):

… was eleven-and-a-half years younger than me.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:51):

Mm, so you had just that complete, like, we were surrounded, but it felt, like, natural. And it, i- it kind of flowed with the family aspect.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:58):

Yeah. And we were really spread out-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (04:59):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (04:59):

… age-wise. We almost grew up like three only children, to some degree, but we were connected. And, of course, as adults now, we’re really tight.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:06):

Speaking on the, uh, cheerleader and-

Shea Kidd Brown (05:07):

Mm-hmm.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:08):

… uh, all the social things that you did in high school, it kind of makes sense ’cause I feel like those started to lead you down the path of, like, college work and, like, undergrad-

Shea Kidd Brown (05:15):

Mm-hmm.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:16):

… and … But speaking of Nana, I just want to ask, what were your parents like?

Shea Kidd Brown (05:19):

You don’t know what they’re like?

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:19):

Well, I know what they’re like.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:19):

(laughs) This is so funny.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:19):

They don’t know what they’re like.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:19):

(laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:19):

They don’t know what they’re like.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:23):

They are definitely different as grandparents than parents, I’ll say.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:26):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:27):

Nana received a master’s degree. She worked really hard. So, she was in … I don’t know if you know this, but she started college when she was 16.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:35):

16?

Shea Kidd Brown (05:36):

Yes.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:37):

You never told me that.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:38):

A year –

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:38):

I didn’t know that.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:38):

… younger than you.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:38):

That is crazy!

Shea Kidd Brown (05:40):

Yes. And then-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:41):

That’s wild.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:42):

Um, so she was done with her-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:43):

I should have followed in her footsteps. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (05:45):

Right. She was done with her undergraduate degree when she was 20.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (05:47):

That’s crazy.

Shea Kidd Brown (05:48):

And then she went on to teach and then finished her master’s a little bit later. My mom was always really someone I felt like I could lean on. She was really trustworthy, so … and we just may have a soundtrack. We’re recording at our home, and our dog is … it’s the time that he’s deciding to make himself known, so …

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:08):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (06:09):

If you hear some barking here and there on the recording, that is Hardy saying hello.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:12):

And y’all are just lucky that the big one isn’t barking because-

Shea Kidd Brown (06:14):

That’s right.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:15):

… when the bog one is barking, he does not stop.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:16):

Everybody knows it. But she, to this day, is someone who I feel like never judged me. I could be myself fully. She reminded me one time. I was young, and I said, “You’re such a great friend.” And she was like, “I am not your friend.”

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:29):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (06:31):

“I am your mother.” (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:32):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (06:33):

And so-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:33):

(laughs) I was about to touch on that.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:34):

Yeah, so I was like, “Okay. I thought we were cool.” I was in my 20s, so I was a full-fledged adult. But that told me something like there was a certain level of respect. I was never afraid of my mom, but I always respected her. And when I maybe lost sight of her role in my laugh (laughs), she was quick-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:50):

Mm-hmm, she was correcting you.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:51):

… to remind me.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (06:52):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (06:52):

And then, my dad, I would say, was the, more of the disciplinarian. And not to say my mom didn’t create boundaries and that sort of thing. There was just a dichotomy there in sort of their ways of parenting. And so, he was much more of the, the heavy, I guess I would say. My dad, to this day, sells men’s suits, so he’s very much all about the clothing and the fashion. Sometimes people will ask me, you know, my inspiration and … because I do love fashion. And I would say they’re both pretty stylish, but my dad, as you know, Pops is always-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (07:25):

Always-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:26):

… put together.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (07:26):

… always putting it on.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:27):

He’s got the hat, and the suits, and more clothes than all of us-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (07:30):

And the shoes and-

Shea Kidd Brown (07:30):

… combined.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (07:32):

… all that stuff.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:32):

So-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (07:32):

We’ll call that. That shoe closet is … whew, it’s something.

Shea Kidd Brown (07:34):

Yeah, it’s impressive.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (07:35):

It’s unbelievable. It is very impressive..

Shea Kidd Brown (07:38):

Yeah, so they were together, I feel like, a really good pair. The other thing is interesting. My mom was more of the traditional worker, kind of the 8:00 to 5:00. My dad had a much more flexible schedule. So, as a result, gender roles have always been really blurred for me in a good way. So, I might come home to my dad with a meal prepared or having the house cleaned. And he also did my hair growing up. Did you know that?

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:01):

(laughs). That’s unbelievable. No, I had no idea.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:01):

Yeah, so-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:01):

That is unbelievable. He can cook some really good meals.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:06):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:06):

Uh, obviously, like, gender roles exist.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:09):

Mm-hmm.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:09):

But I feel like good structure is just kind of 50/50, and I-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:12):

Mm-hmm.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:12):

… I feel like that’s what you’ve had. Um-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:15):

Yeah, it was a partnership.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:15):

Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:15):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:16):

And like, it shouldn’t be, uh, one person specifically doing this, one person-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:20):

Mm-hmm.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:20):

… specifically doing this because sometimes that one person can’t do that.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:23):

Yeah. And not-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:23):

But sometimes-

Shea Kidd Brown (08:24):

… limited by gender.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:24):

Yeah, exactly.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:24):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:25):

I just feel it is important thing to, to have, like a, an important dynamic to have, is family, especially when you have a child. But obviously, they made something good. (laughs) You know?

Shea Kidd Brown (08:34):

(laughs) Is that me?

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:34):

Yes. (laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (08:35):

(laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:35):

Obviously, they made something good.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:37):

(laughs) Okay. Does that give you more insight into what-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:39):

Yeah, of course.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:39):

We had a lot of rules. I would say pretty strict, very grounded in our faith.,

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:43):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:44):

Pops was a ordained minister, so I’m not sure if you knew that either.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:47):

I didn’t.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:47):

You’re learning things about-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:47):

Yeah, I’m learning.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:48):

… grandparents.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:50):

I’m learning more things than, I’m learning more things than I thought.

Shea Kidd Brown (08:51):

Yeah, so the church was a big part of upbringing and being really involved there.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (08:56):

So, going back probably about a couple of years, what were you interested in most as a child besides veterinarian and, uh, all of that stuff?

Shea Kidd Brown (09:03):

Yeah. When I learned that you couldn’t just take care of cute puppies, I-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (09:06):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (09:06):

… (laughs) changed my mind on what I wanted to be. So, I think I was a really good writer.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (09:12):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:12):

I loved reading, but I was a slow reader. So, I think over time I liked reading less because the things like standardized tests and those kinds of things really are-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (09:21):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:21):

… geared toward the reading.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (09:22):

Yes.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:22):

And so, I feel like I didn’t keep it up because I felt almost defeated as it related to … if it was a comprehension test, and I couldn’t read fast enough … You’re in that stage of your life right now where you’re starting to do those kinds of tests, and that’s why I always say, “Read!” Just because I feel like I didn’t develop a love for reading again until like undergrad and grad school.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (09:40):

Right.

Shea Kidd Brown (09:41):

I was curious in a lot about history, and your great-granny was involved in the Civil Rights Movement, so I was always interested in that as a kid and any way that I could be creative. I remember Vacation Bible School, or camps in the summer, or just hanging out. I was that kid that had the paint pen, and I was-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:00):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:01):

… creative, or learning different kinds of ways to be for cursive. But I will say I didn’t have like a strong sense of what I wanted to do career-wise. That started to form in high school. I was just really curious.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:12):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:13):

Like, I decided early on that I was not good at math.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:14):

Mm-hmm.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:15):

So then I sort of defaulted to more of the creative side, the writing, reading-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:21):

I feel that. Yeah.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:21):

… those aspects. Whereas you love science, and STEM, and all those kinds of things. I jokingly tell you I don’t know where you got that.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:26):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (10:28):

(laughs) Because I’m not sure you got it from me. Of course, STEM, though, does have the creative aspects of it.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:32):

Right. I just like … I feel like above all ’cause I have a pretty strong LEGO addiction at the moment, and it’s been present for a while-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:39):

Healthy addiction. (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:39):

Yeah. And, um, I don’t know. I just feel like that definitely helped with my STEM interest because LEGO is all about experimentation.

Shea Kidd Brown (10:47):

Mm-hmm.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:47):

And that’s pretty much the same thing as, like, chemistry and STEM. Mixing stuff together-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:51):

Mm-hmm-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:52):

… and doing different experiments, seeing different organisms, just-

Shea Kidd Brown (10:55):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (10:55):

… got into cells probably sixth grade. That kind of just stuck with me, and I feel like I definitely got that creativity aspect from you because-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:02):

Yeah.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:03):

… I just like seeing things, like, happen.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:04):

Right.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:05):

And that’s one of the reasons I like science a lot. And so, as a child, who did you look up to?

Shea Kidd Brown (11:10):

Ooh.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:11):

Not just your parents because I know that’s going to be one of the answers.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:14):

Well, no-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:14):

But-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:15):

… actually not.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:15):

Oh, really?

Shea Kidd Brown (11:16):

Um, yeah, I didn’t idolize them, I think, because they were up close. So, it was … this is going to really date me, but I used to love watching Miss America.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:24):

Really?

Shea Kidd Brown (11:25):

Yes! And-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:26):

You still do sometimes.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:26):

Well-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:26):

Sometimes, but not as often, of course. But-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:29):

Yeah. But Debbie Turner, who was a Black winner of Miss America … representation matters, so being able to see yourself reflected back … I didn’t necessarily know that as a young child, but that’s what I was seeing is someone who had some connection to me from an identity perspective. And she was a veterinarian. (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:49):

Oh, really?

Shea Kidd Brown (11:49):

So, that’s-

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:50):

So that’s-

Shea Kidd Brown (11:50):

… where that came from.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:50):

Yep.

Shea Kidd Brown (11:51):

And she played the xylophone. So, for a very, very short amount of time, I thought that would be a cool instrument to play. (laughs)

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:57):

(laughs)

Shea Kidd Brown (11:58):

It takes up a lot of space, so …

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (11:59):

It does. It does.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:00):

… I did not have access to that. She was a person of conviction. She was someone who was really confident. She was beautiful. She was intelligent. And so, that was someone on a very national stage that I connected with as a child. Now, again, I was very young. I would say I have lots of questions about pageants at this point in my life. But at that point, it was like it was someone I wanted to be like when I grew up. Like I said, I didn’t necessarily connect my interest in veterinary medicine to her, but that was certainly where it came from.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (12:30):

And so, hopping a little bit ahead, I want to talk about your decision in Southern Mississippi, so-

Shea Kidd Brown (12:34):

Oh.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (12:34):

… why did you, why did you decide to go with that?

Shea Kidd Brown (12:34):

Yeah. So, I … definitely someone who the thought of going far away from college scared me. My parents lived in the same hometown. Like, we always lived in Hattiesburg. We never moved. Like, you’ve moved multiple times.

Jack Wilson “JW” Houze (12:49):

Right.

Shea Kidd Brown (12:50):

So, I think as a result, I was curious and certainly looked at, at a lot of different places, but I was really involved in high school. I was a cheerleader. I ended up being captain, compe