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Elon, Bennett College presidents discuss higher education at Fireside Chat series

President Leo M. Lambert and Bennett College for Women President Julianne Malveaux teamed up for an engaging discussion of issues facing higher education. The event, held April 8 in the Koury Business Center, inaugurated a Fireside Chat series sponsored by the presidents’ offices along with African/African-American studies, Phi Beta Kappa faculty and staff, and women’s and gender studies.

(l-r) Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women, and Leo M. Lambert, president of Elon University, held a "Fireside Chat" conversation on April 8.

Malveaux and Lambert discussed the common challenges as well as the differences between Elon and Bennett College, a historically black all-women school that enrolls 689 students at its campus in Greensboro, N.C. Malveaux noted that Lambert was among the first professional colleagues to contact her when she was named Bennett’s 15th president, and she appreciated his advice on the importance of time management to a successful college presidency.

Malveaux is an economist, author and commentator who speaks frequently on issues of race, culture and gender. Her opinion columns have appeared in USA Today, Black Issues in Higher Education, MS magazine, Essence magazine and The Progressive. She has a doctorate in economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Both presidents said they are interested in increasing student diversity, but face economic challenges in providing scholarship assistance to students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. Lambert noted that Elon’s top fundraising goal in the Ever Elon Campaign is to increase support for need-based scholarships. Malveaux said Bennett has a huge challenge in attracting students who are offered major scholarships at both public and private universities with large endowments.

They also talked about the importance of maintaining strong global studies and study abroad programs, even as colleges look for ways to reduce expenses. “The goal must be to have students feel at home in the world,” Malveaux said, while Lambert noted that Elon graduates no longer assume that their first job will be in the United States.

The two presidents discussed the financial pressures on colleges and universities in the wake of the world economic crisis. “Public universities are being gutted,” Lambert said, while Malveaux noted that government funding is going to bail out major corporations while spending on education is falling at all levels.

The two presidents agreed to explore ways that Elon and Bennett can cooperate and build partnerships, perhaps establishing academic exchange programs for students and faculty, or linking community outreach programs.

The event concluded with the two presidents exchanging gifts as tokens of the occasion. Committee members who helped organize the event include the following:

Elon University
Evan Gatti
Rod Clare
Lisa Peloquin
Lynn Huber
Michelle Trim
Megan Isaacs
Leigh-Anne Royster
Tita Ramirez
Russell Gill
Prudence Layne
Jennifer Smith
Sandra Fields
Carolyn Ent

Bennett College for Women
James Dixon
Wanda Montgomery

Dan Anderson,
4/9/2009 2:56 PM