‘Our Students are Fantastic and Hardworking’
English department chair Ann Frank Wake strives to constantly improve the student experience.
As a special way to mark our sesquicentennial celebration, we asked some of our students, faculty, staff and alumni to share their fondest Elmhurst memories, favorite campus stories and hopes for the future of the University.
In her 32 years as a faculty member, Ann Frank Wake, Ph.D., has seen a lot of change at Elmhurst University, but one thing has remained constant: The close-knit connections between students and faculty.
“What I remember most about that first year was how much I had to learn and how quickly I felt supported by the community,” said Frank Wake, professor and chair of the English department, who has twice earned the University’s President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. “The faculty and staff embraced me. I also saw myself in my students. Growing up in rural northwest Illinois I always felt I had to earn my belonging in Academia, and now, here I was! I think that many of our students have felt that way over the years, and still do. I understand that in my core.”
What has been your proudest moment as a professor?
I hope since it’s been 32 years I can have three! When my students achieve, live happy, impactful lives, and keep in touch; serving and supporting the talented English department faculty as chair for over 15 years; and co-founding and teaching in the Intercultural Studies Program—these things make me humble and proud.
How do you feel being at Elmhurst at this moment as we mark 150 years?
Elmhurst University has valued liberal arts and sciences integrated with professional preparation for decades, and I believe that to be the vital combination for this generation of students. Our students are fantastic and hardworking. Whenever somebody says, “What about this generation?” I say, “Don’t worry. They are amazing. They care about more than just getting ahead themselves. They care about community. They care about family. They just want a balanced life.”
What’s the most rewarding thing about teaching here?
I have really had academic freedom. I have never had somebody tell me, “You can’t teach that. You can’t teach Marxist theory or feminist theory or whatever.” I’ve never had anybody challenge or question my integrity in terms of what I think the students need and should be learning in my classrooms.
What do you wish everyone knew about Elmhurst?
Whether it’s faculty, staff, administrators—indeed, every office on campus—everybody is always thinking first, “How can we make this a better experience for our students?”