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President Lambert delivers opening of school address

Elon President Leo M. Lambert shared details on Aug. 20 of new programs & projects supported by the Elon Commitment strategic plan.

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert


>> Watch a video of President Lambert's complete address

President Leo M. Lambert used his annual opening of school address on Aug. 20, 2012, to emphasize the ways Elon University is working to build the nation’s preeminent engaged learning environment with academic programs of national stature; to grow a vibrant, inclusive community on one of the nation’s finest residential campuses; to prepare global leaders; and to sustain the university’s reputation as a best value in higher education.

He also spoke of the growth of the campus itself and the status of several construction projects, the growth of the Student Professional Development Center, a future Center for Engaged Learning, and continuing to building a strong alumni network.

“As we begin another academic year, it is difficult to ignore all the challenges facing our world today—global economic uncertainty, intolerance and violence, and a growing unwillingness to sacrifice or compromise for the greater good,” Lambert said. “The more I look at what’s happening in our nation and around the globe, the more convinced I am that we are well-focused on preparing students to go into the world to make things better.”

Lambert’s Aug. 20 address kicked off Planning Week 2012 for faculty and staff as they prepare for the 2012-2013 academic year. Excerpts from the president's opening workshop address are below:

Premier Residential Campus

"At a time when many in higher education are predicting the end of the bricks and mortar campus, Elon is staying true to its reputation as an innovator by making an institutional commitment to being one of the best residential liberal arts universities in the country.

"The most important thing to understand is why we are doing this. Being a residential campus means that students’ intellectual and personal development are woven seamlessly into the classroom and residential environments.

"The best colleges and universities are residential, and we should, as you’ve often heard me say, aspire to have as many students as possible living close to Belk Library.

"You may have noticed one of these neighborhoods—The Station at Mill Point—on your way to campus today. This new complex is designed to enable seniors to live as a cohort and help them make the transition from college to the professional world. For example, career interns are in residence in the complex to help seniors with career advising. Following this address, you will have the opportunity to tour this new apartment complex, which is a short walk from here on Williamson Avenue.

"I hope by now you have also noticed that Harper Center, which included Harden Dining Hall and Moffitt and Staley residence halls, has been torn down. Replacing 600 of our most outdated residence hall beds with state-of-the-art facilities demonstrates a serious financial commitment to building an outstanding residential campus.

"In place of Harper Center and the former Story Center will be the Global Neighborhood, our next major residential complex, which will house more than one-third of the freshman class, beginning with the Class of 2017, and sophomore, junior, and senior mentors."

Student Professional Development Center

"For liberal arts universities in the 21st Century, it is no longer enough simply to provide students with a great education. We must help our students understand how to connect the valuable skills and practical knowledge they have gained from a liberal arts education to the world of work. During the past year, Elon has made significant progress in strengthening our career services program, one of the priorities in the Elon Commitment strategic plan.

"In this year’s Bloomberg Businessweek ranking, Elon earned the #1 spot in the employer survey, which helped to propel the Love School of Business to a top-50 ranking. If you have not visited the Student Professional Development Center on the first floor of Moseley Center, I encourage you to do so. Tom Brinkley and his staff will be happy to show you around.

"There has never been a more pressing need for graduates of liberal arts universities, for men and women who can think critically and analytically, write well, digest complex material, take a global perspective, and develop comprehensive solutions. We have a responsibility to help students comprehend how inherently practical and relevant these skills are in the professional world. The best liberal arts universities are taking this idea head on—and Elon is one of them.

"Approximately 70 percent of our students either are employed or seek employment following graduation, while 30 percent enroll in graduate, medical, law, or other professional schools. The aim of the Student Professional Development Center is primarily to help that 70 percent of students begin their career exploration as early as possible.

"College is about exploration and we want students to spend time thoughtfully examining their options before settling on a plan. Securing internships is a vital part of every student’s professional development plan. We know that internships are the gateways today to building professional networks, to demonstrating what students can do, and to securing good jobs."

National Center for Engaged Learning

"As you know, Elon is widely recognized as a national leader in engaged learning. It is our brand and what distinguishes us from our competition.

"In crafting the Elon Commitment strategic plan, we as a university community thought it was time to take this distinction to a higher level by envisioning a national Center for Engaged Learning. Elon is uniquely positioned to lead the national conversation on engaged learning and innovative pedagogy and can do so with this new center.

"The Center for Engaged Learning will be an extension of the outstanding work that Peter Felten and others are already doing in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, which focuses on developing Elon faculty and staff and helping them remain on the cutting edge of innovative pedagogies. In June, 40 educators from around the world gathered on campus to participate in an ongoing research seminar on writing hosted by the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning."

Vibrant Inclusive Campus

"Socio-economic diversity is one of the most important kinds of diversity we seek at Elon. One of the advances that I am most proud of is the fact that our first-generation college attendance has grown from 89 first-year students last year to 125 this year—that is about 9 percent of the incoming freshman class.

"Last year, the majority of our first-generation students had an average GPA of 3.09. We know these students can and do succeed at Elon, and with your help, they will soar to even greater heights.

"This year’s class of first-generation students is a diverse group. Here is a quick snapshot of these students:

- 55 percent are female; 45 percent are male

- They include white, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian students

- 34 percent are from North Carolina

- The countries represented in this group include China, Columbia, Cuba, Germany, Mexico, Malawi, South Africa, Vietnam, and the West Indies

"These students are here because our strategic plan calls on us to make an unprecedented commitment to diversity and global engagement and because we believe that building a vibrant, inclusive campus will benefit the entire Elon community. …

"This year we will open the sixth and final pavilion in the Academic Village—the Numen Lumen Pavilion, which will be home to our multi-faith center.

"'Numen' and 'Lumen' are Latin words meaning 'spiritual light' and 'intellectual light.' These words serve as the university’s motto and signify the highest purposes of an Elon education. I believe the Numen Lumen Pavilion is appropriately named and is an opportunity for Elon to show national leadership in promoting religious diversity and multi-faith dialogue. We look forward to dedicating this magnificent facility this spring. You will hear more from Chaplain Jan Fuller this morning on the dedication and plans for the center."

Strong alumni network

"When we talk about building an inclusive community, we must remember our 26,000 alumni who represent Elon’s future and should never be far from our minds. One of the top priorities of the Elon Commitment is to build a more vibrant and comprehensive alumni network. The big question we are asking is—how many of our alumni are we substantially engaging in the life of the university? We want more alumni returning to campus to speak to classes, to mentor students, provide internships and hire graduates, serve on university boards and councils, and to keep informed about their alma mater.

"We are seeing academic deans take a bigger leadership role in connecting with alumni from their schools. Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the School of Communications in collaboration with our Alumni Engagement Office have started their own alumni awards programs to recognize outstanding graduates. Dean David Cooper tells me the School of Education will give out its first alumni awards this year.

"Everyone has a role to play in building a more robust alumni network. This work begins when students enter as freshmen and begin to learn what it means to be an Elon graduate. I encourage all of you to think of students as future alumni, to encourage them to stay connected to the university, and to work with the Alumni Engagement Office on ways to involve alumni in your work with students. Our job doesn’t end once students have graduated."

Best-Value Approach

"I bring you great news about the university’s finances. At a time when many institutions are slashing budgets and in retrenchment mode, Elon continues to enjoy a strong financial position even in a recovering economy.

"Since 2006, our endowment has doubled and is now valued at approximately $145 million, which is quite an achievement considering the financial meltdown of 2008. Still, we lag far behind peer and aspirant institutions and must not take our foot off the gas toward reaching our new goal of tripling our endowment from present levels.

"Going forward, we expect moderate endowment growth through earnings and to maintain slow admissions growth as we continue to be good stewards of existing resources. Because we continue to be in a slow-growth mode and because we continue to predict only moderate tuition increases to keep college costs down, we will rely more heavily on private philanthropy and the generosity of our donors to fund new ventures at Elon. …

"The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported on a major study that showed that one-third of colleges and universities in the United States were financially unsustainable. I’m pleased to report that Elon was listed among the most financially sound schools. …

"Even with all this good news, we cannot ignore a growing wave of concern about the rising cost of college tuition. During the past several years, we have instituted some of the lowest tuition increases in our history because we recognize that many of our families are still struggling to pay for college.

"I’m proud that Kiplinger’s, Fiske, and other national guides consistently recognize Elon as a best value in higher education—a position that we must protect. To do that, we will work hard to double our need-based financial aid program—an important priority in the Elon Commitment."

Eric Townsend,
8/20/2012 9:28 PM