Freshmen and parents gather for New Student Convocation
With stories of alumni who left Elon University this spring to launch ambitious careers, and advice from administrators on engaging with the world as global citizens, New Student Convocation on Aug. 28 brought together freshmen who gathered as the Class of 2014 for the first time Under the Oaks of campus.
In his address, Elon University President Leo M. Lambert reminded students that very few people in the world are afforded the opportunity to attend college. New students should get to know their professors, and each other, as they grow in mind in spirit through their studies both in and out of the classroom.
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking of college as a four-year hiatus from life,” Lambert said. “College is a four-year bridge to the rest of your life, to prepare and equip yourselves for a life of meaning and purpose, to find out who you are, to make new friends who come from different backgrounds, to explore new fields of study, and to acquire valuable skills and knowledge.
“When you do leave Elon, I want you to leave with a sense of passion and a commitment to making a difference in whatever field you choose.”
Lambert told the stories of three alumni from the Class of 2010. Christine Winans, who graduated with a degree in business administration, learned Mandarin Chinese during her studies, and when she excelled at an internship with Boeing before her senior year, the company was so impressed that they offered to pay for her senior year at Elon and to fund her graduate studies as a signing bonus.
Sara Pasquinelli double majored in history and anthropology. She conducted undergraduate research experience with David Crowe, a history professor and one of the university’s most prolific scholars, and worked with the Periclean Scholars program in Ghana. Those experiences contributed to her selection as one of about 4,500 students nationwide to be hired into Teach for America this fall.
Jonathan Mahlandt graduated with a degree in psychology this past spring and was in the charter class of Phi Beta Kappa initiates. As one of the inaugural 15 recipients of the Lumen Prize, the university’s top award for funding rich and deep intellectually engaging projects, his undergraduate research in psychology guided him to a Ph.D. program at the University of California San Diego that begins next month.
“Each of you can take a number of lessons from the experiences of Christine, Sara, and Jonathan at Elon, and if you do I can guarantee you that your education here will be a richer and wiser investment,” Lambert said. “Seek out opportunity and challenge. Metaphorically speaking, you have arrived at a great banquet. Don’t make yourself a bologna sandwich."
Lambert also encouraged students to find mentors in the faculty and staff at Elon, become global citizens by engaged with the world through studying abroad, embrace “the Elon ethic of service,” and pursue challenging internships.
Speakers at Convocation included SGA Executive President Taylor Martin; Donna Van Bodegraven, an associate professor of foreign languages; and Cecil Worsley '86, the parent of a current Elon sophomore.
"Elon isn't like other schools. It's cliche, but we really are a family," Martin said. "Our bond is not easily broken. ... There's something about this place that grabs you and doesn't want to let go."
Van Bodegraven spoke of Elon's honor code and the honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect it promotes. "Live these values in all your interactions inside and outside the classroom at Elon, in your community and overseas," she said.
Worsley told students that the value of their Elon degree would only increase through the years, and they should take advantage of everything the university has to offer. Four years may seem like a long time, he added, but looking back as an adult, "it's only a blip on the radar."
"Trust me, the older you get, the more attached you will be to this place. I'm proof of that," he said. "Be accountable to yourself. You're responsible to yourself. Stay on the right track, and do the right thing in whatever you do."
Following the ceremonies, students processed through lines of faculty and received an acorn, a traditional gift that symbolizes the promise of an Elon education. Students soon were in meetings with their academic advisors as parents met for a Special College Coffee around Fonville Fountain in front of Alamance.