Food, fun and friends: Class of 2017 gathers with faculty and staff to celebrate
The Senior Class Picnic is sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement and the Office of the Provost to bring seniors, faculty and staff together to celebrate the graduating class.
Members of the Class of 2017 gathered for the Senior Class Picnic on Wednesday in a familiar spot — Under the Oaks, where four years ago they first came together as new Elon students.
Now just days away from commencement, members of a class that will see more than 1,400 new graduates collect diplomas on Saturday mingled with the faculty and staff who were with them each step of the way. These soon-to-graduate seniors swapped memories and shared laughs at an annual tradition that's part of the buildup to commencement.
"This event provides the opportunity to gather as a community and celebrate the Class of 2017 and their accomplishments, while offering an opportunity for students and faculty to intersect as these students close out their time at Elon," said Brian Feeley, director of alumni engagement.
The crowds dined on pork barbecue, grilled chicken, cole slaw, cookies and sweet tea as they gathered at tables set up under the towering canopy of oak trees in an area of campus that's special to students and alumni alike. The event is sponsored each year by the Office of Alumni Engagement and the Office of the Provost.
"Holding this Under the Oaks is a strong reminder of the commitment that was made four years ago during new student convocation to make the most of the opportunities that Elon offers," said Provost Steven House. "I am extremely proud and appreciative for all the amazing stories that the students have designed. It is now our hope and challenge that each and every graduate continue to make the most of their opportunities and blessings that lie ahead."
On the tables were messages of encouragement and advice from those who had celebrated their own college accomplishments under the oaks in years past. "When times get hard, that is when we find out what we are made of," wrote Johnathan hatch '08 of Charlotte, N.C. "Elon has helped shape and mold you. Time to show the world who and what you are."
From Martha Browning '10, now living in Raleigh, N.C., came the advice "to maintain relationships with peers, teachers, administration and your alma mater. This network of friends will come back to you two-fold when you need career advice, networking opportunities and more."
The picnic provided the chance for classmates to reconnect with each other, with friends huddled around each other sharing plans for the future — who got what job, and who was moving to what city. The Office of Alumni Engagement offered the opportunity for members of what will be Elon's youngest group of alumni to register to participate in regional programs for alumni. Elon has 36 alumni chapters that are run by alumni volunteers who work to help keep fellow alums connected with each other and the university.
A balloon arch with "2017" at the top placed in front of West Hall offered the perfect backdrop for seniors to snap pictures with friends, family, faculty and staff. Seniors were encouraged to write a note to a faculty or staff member who had made a difference in their lives during their four years here,
A group of friends had finished placing pins in a map of the United States indicating where they are heading after graduation, and were asked what they had planned for the final 72 hours before graduation. What's on the to-do list — either for the first time, or for just one last time?
"I just want to sit in the middle of Young Commons and soak it all in," said Daniela Vega from Morristown, New Jersey.
For Katie Klochany of Charlotte, N.C., these final days as an Elon student will be spent "absorbing all of the friendships I have."
The picnic celebrates the milestone of commencement while giving students, faculty and staff to come together as a community, Feeley said. "That's hopefully what they will continue to experience as alumni — at homecoming and other events, as well as virtually," he said. "We want them to have the opportunity keep up those relationships."