Mission of the Graduate School

The mission of the WFU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is to train and mentor future leaders in research, teaching and innovation for serving humanity. This embodies the Graduate School’s vital role as an engine of discovery that fuels the nation’s scholarly and creative enterprise. The Graduate School contributes to the academic reputation of the university by educating the next generation of teachers and scholars and by providing mentors and role models for educating undergraduates. A strong graduate program also helps support faculty research and is critical for faculty recruitment and retention.

We seek to instill in our students a sense of professionalism, which includes the ethical behavior inherent in their professional role, as well as respect for their colleagues, their field, and for society as a whole. We want our students to be critical, independent thinkers and good citizens. They should be motivated to apply their scholastic efforts to enlighten and improve the wellbeing of society. Thus the Graduate School is a key link for collaboration between departments and schools and for achieving WFU’s goal of becoming a collegiate university and major academic medical center.

Our values are steadfast and consist of critical thinking, service, diversity, discovery, mentoring, and ethics. These are integral to all our activities in the classroom, the laboratory or other research environments, the broader communities of which we are a part.

Our vision is for the Graduate School to be a diverse community of excellence. We achieve our vision and fulfill our mission through strategic activities that build pillars of excellence in:

  • Student experience: to create an optimized learning and mentoring experience that prepares students to lead in any career path.
  • Research: to provide high-quality research partnerships for promoting innovation, discovery and creation of value to the community.
  • Faculty and staff support: to enable seamless, effective, aligned services for maximizing time and resources for instruction and research.
  • Internal and external communication: to celebrate the prominence and value of the Graduate School and the University.

The Graduate School confers the Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Arts in Human Services, Master of Fine Arts, and Master of Science degrees in the arts and sciences and biomedical science, and the Doctor of Philosophy degree. The Graduate School also offers a MD/MS, MD/PhD, PhD/MMS, as well as a MD/MA in bioethics jointly with the School of Medicine, and a PhD/MBA program jointly with the School of Business. In addition, the Graduate School offers an MDiv/MA in bioethics, counseling, or sustainability as well as a MDiv/MAED jointly with the School of Divinity; and a JD/MA in bioethics, religious studies or sustainability jointly with the School of Law. Certificates are offered in Bioethics, Clinical and Population Translational Science, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, Data Science, Interpreting and Translation Studies, Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Structural and Computational Biophysics, and Sustainability.

History of the Graduate School 

In accord with the prevailing custom among American colleges during the antebellum period, Wake Forest granted honorary master’s degrees to selected alumni.

By 1862, when the College closed temporarily because of the Civil War, twenty-nine such degrees had been awarded. The first announcement of a program of study leading to an earned graduate degree at Wake Forest was made in 1866. Between 1871, when the first degrees earned under the plan were awarded to John Bruce Brewer (grandson of Samuel Wait) and Franklin Hobgood, and 1951, 383 Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees were granted. In 1949 the School of Arts and Sciences discontinued admitting applicants for the Master of Arts degree because the rapid increase in the size of the undergraduate student body following World War II had overloaded the faculty. The School of Medicine did not interrupt its graduate program. The first Master of Science degree conferred by the school after it moved to Winston-Salem was awarded in 1943, and the degree was offered regularly thereafter by the departments of Anatomy, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Pharmacology, and Physiology.

During the fifteen years the College and the School of Medicine were located in different towns, the study of graduate education continued on both campuses. The self-study report adopted by the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences immediately prior to its move to Winston-Salem recommended that graduate study leading to the Master’s degree be resumed as soon as practicable. In 1958 the administration of the School of Medicine, in view of an increasing demand for graduate instruction in basic medical and clinical sciences, appointed a Committee on Graduate Studies for the purpose of reorganizing the graduate program.

As a result of these two parallel studies and in recognition of the need for an institution-wide approach to graduate education, the trustees, on January 13, 1961, established the Division of Graduate Studies and authorized it to grant the Master of Arts degree in the School of Arts and Sciences and the Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in the School of Medicine. The first PhD degree was awarded in 1964. In 1967 the Master of Arts in Education degree was added to the graduate program in arts and sciences. A program, leading to the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, was begun in the summer of 1987. The first PhD program on the Reynolda campus was begun in 1970.


The Graduate School is administered by two Deans (one on each campus), and a Graduate Council composed of ex-officio administrative officials, twelve faculty members elected by the Graduate School faculty, and two graduate students elected by the Graduate Student Association. Six of the twelve are members of the College of Arts and Sciences (Reynolda campus) and six are members of the Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty (Bowman Gray campus).

Statement of Mission and Purpose 

Wake Forest is a university dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in the liberal arts and in graduate and professional education. Its distinctiveness in its pursuit of its mission derives from its private, coeducational, and residential character; its size and location; and its Baptist heritage. Each of these factors constitutes a significant aspect of the unique character of the institution.

The University is now comprised of seven constituent parts: Wake Forest College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Law, the School of Medicine, the School of Business, the School of Divinity, and the School of Professional Studies. It seeks to honor the ideals of liberal learning, which entail commitment to transmission of cultural heritages; teaching the modes of learning in the basic disciplines of human knowledge; developing critical appreciation of moral, aesthetic and religious values; advancing the frontiers of knowledge through in-depth study and research; and applying and utilizing knowledge in the service of humanity.

Wake Forest has been dedicated to the liberal arts for over a century and a half; this means education in the fundamental fields of human knowledge and achievement, as distinguished from education that is technical or narrowly vocational. It seeks to encourage habits of mind that ask “why,” that evaluate evidence, that are open to new ideas, that attempt to understand and appreciate the perspectives of others, that accept complexity and grapple with it, that admit error, and that pursue truth. Wake Forest College has by far the largest student body in the University, and its function is central to the University’s larger life. The College and the Graduate School are most singularly focused on learning for its own sake; they therefore serve as exemplars of specific academic values in the life of the University.

Beginning as early as 1894, Wake Forest accepted an obligation to provide professional training in a number of fields, as a complement to its primary mission of liberal arts education. This responsibility is fulfilled in the conviction that the humane values embodied in the liberal arts are also centrally relevant to the professions. Professional education at Wake Forest is characterized by a commitment to ethical and other professional ideals that transcend technical skills. Like the Graduate School, the professional schools are dedicated to the advancement of learning in their fields. In addition, they are specifically committed to the application of knowledge to solving concrete problems of human beings. They are strengthened by values and goals which they share with the College and Graduate School, and the professional schools enhance the work of these schools and the University as a whole by serving as models of service to humanity.

Wake Forest was founded by private initiative, and ultimate decision-making authority lies in a privately appointed Board of Trustees rather than in a public body. Funded to a large extent from private sources of support, it is determined to chart its own course in the pursuit of its goals. As a co-educational institution it seeks to “educate together” persons of both sexes and from a wide range of backgrounds--racial, ethnic, religious, geographical, socio-economic and cultural. Its residential features are conducive to learning and to the pursuit of a wide range of co-curricular activities. It has made a conscious choice to remain small in overall size; it takes pride in being able to function as a community rather than a conglomerate. Its location in the Piedmont area of North Carolina engenders an ethos that is distinctively Southern, and more specifically North Carolinian. As it seeks further to broaden its constituency and to receive national recognition, it is also finding ways to maintain the ethos associated with its regional roots.

Wake Forest is proud of its Baptist and Christian heritage. For more than a century and a half, it has provided the University an indispensable basis for its mission and purpose, enabling Wake Forest to educate thousands of ministers and lay people for enlightened leadership in their churches and communities. Far from being exclusive and parochial, this religious tradition gives the University roots that ensure its lasting identity and branches that provide a supportive environment for a wide variety of faiths. The Baptist insistence on both the separation of church and state and local autonomy has helped to protect the University from interference and domination by outside interests, whether these be commercial, governmental, or ecclesiastical. The Baptist stress upon an uncoerced conscience in matters of religious belief has been translated into a concern for academic freedom. The Baptist emphasis upon revealed truth enables a strong religious critique of human reason, even as the claims of revelation are put under the scrutiny of reason. The character of intellectual life at Wake Forest encourages open and frank dialogue and provides assurance that the University will be ecumenical and not provincial in scope, and that it must encompass perspectives other than the Christian. Wake Forest thus seeks to maintain and invigorate what is noblest in its religious heritage.

Nondiscrimination Statement

Wake Forest University is committed to diversity, inclusion and the spirit of its motto, Pro Humanitate. In adherence with applicable laws and as provided by University policies, the University prohibits discrimination in its employment practices and its educational programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, genetic information, disability and veteran status.

The following person has been designated to handle inquiries regarding the University’s non-discrimination policies:

Title IX Coordinator
Section 504/ADA Coordinator
Reynolda Hall 307 Winston-Salem, NC 27106

Assistant Vice President Human Resources
2958 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem, NC 27106

Deputy Title IX Coordinators have also been designated and represent various University schools/divisions. Contact information for each Deputy Coordinator can be obtained from the University’s Title IX Coordinator.

Inquiries concerning the application of anti-discrimination laws may be referred to the individuals listed above or to the Office for Civil Rights, United States Department of Education. For further information on notice of non-discrimination, visit http://wdcrobcolp01.ed.gov/CFAPPS/OCR/contactus.cfm for the address and phone number of the U. S. Department of Education office that serves your area, or call 1-800-421-3481.