Letter from President Leo M. Lambert
As Elon opens the 2012-13 academic year, President Lambert provides the community with a progress report on the Elon Commitment strategic plan.
August 22, 2012
Dear alumni, parents and friends of Elon,
As we begin a new academic year and the third year of the Elon Commitment strategic plan, I want to provide an update on the tremendous progress that is taking place at Elon University. Our goal is to be the nation's preeminent community for engaged learning and your partnership and well-informed advocacy are crucial. Elon is making important advances thanks to committed alumni, parents and friends who fully understand our strategic direction and support the community in multiple ways.
I hope you can feel the growing sense that Elon is moving to a place of national prominence. Beyond its recognition in the annual media rankings of "best colleges," Elon is establishing a position of leadership in higher education, re-conceiving the nature and value of a college education in our modern world.
The Elon Commitment strategic plan we developed in 2009 is rapidly moving from concept to reality with tangible progress everywhere. It is an exhilarating time to be associated with Elon, and I want all members of our community to share a sense of ownership, pride and excitement.
The gold standard for enriching educational experiences
Elon has been a trailblazer in refining an active, experiential approach to teaching and learning and is earning a national reputation for offering an innovative and powerful undergraduate education. Elon students form close, mentoring relationships with faculty members. Grounded in the great tradition of the liberal arts and sciences, students are challenged to think at deeper levels, engage in solving local and global problems, conduct original research and apply knowledge to internship settings all over the world. Employers frequently remark to me that Elon graduates are "ready to hit the ground running."
Academic programs of national stature
The Elon Commitment calls on departments and programs across the university to attain the highest levels of academic excellence and develop programs of national stature. This past year, we achieved a top-50 undergraduate business school ranking from Bloomberg Businessweek to go along with our #1 ranking for part-time MBA programs. Similarly, we are making investments and working hard to achieve top-tier ranking for the Elon University School of Law, which recently was named one of the nation's most innovative law schools by The National Jurist magazine.
With a School of Communications that is developing a reputation as one of the nation's finest, we are planning for a new facility that will accommodate a growing number of students and their expanding ambitions. In this rapidly changing field, we are challenged to provide courses, equipment and technologies that prepare students to succeed immediately and to adapt and learn throughout their careers.
The new School of Health Sciences launches its innovative Master of Physician Assistant Studies program in January in the new Gerald L. Francis Center. This former industrial building (and the ultimate recycling project!) has been renovated and reimagined as a bright, modern and spacious academic facility with the latest technology. The Francis Center also provides a home for our Doctor of Physical Therapy program, freeing up space for undergraduate science expansion in the McMichael Science Center.
The Francis Center will also be the home of Scott Studios, providing expanded rehearsal and performance spaces, including a second black box theatre, for our acclaimed performing arts programs. In another wing of the building, we will develop student activity spaces that will accommodate gatherings of up to 1,500 people; fundraising for that project is being led by Elon's Parents Council.
The university's recent purchase of the 20-acre Elon Homes and Schools for Children campus, including five buildings adjacent to our existing South Campus, will provide expanded facilities for arts and sciences programs.
All totaled, the Francis Center and Elon Homes properties have added 30 acres and 225,000 square feet of building space to campus – the equivalent of four Koury Business Centers. These new resources will have a tremendous impact on academic programs and allow for a highly cost-effective expansion of campus facilities.
A premier residential experience
Spend 10 minutes at Elon and you'll immediately notice the transformation of the residential campus that is underway. We understand that learning is a 24/7 experience that does not stop when classes end. Extensive research shows that students who live on campus are more engaged with their studies, have stronger ties with their peers and professors and enjoy the spontaneous moments of learning and discovery that often occur outside the classroom.
Following a plan created by students, faculty and student life staff members, we are developing a campus with seven residential neighborhoods tailored to meet the developmental needs of students at all stages of their college careers. Special living-learning communities and courses linked with groups of students in residence halls will integrate academics with residential life, deepening the intellectual climate on campus.
We have just opened The Station at Mill Point, a village-style community on Williamson Avenue for 320 juniors and seniors. It includes 24 two-story townhouses arranged in small courts around community spaces that include volleyball, bocce ball, basketball, gardens, an amphitheater and an outdoor pool. A commons building called The Depot includes offices, a fitness center and a kitchen area. Three career services fellows will live and work at The Station, helping students prepare for internships, job searches and graduate school. This new village fills a critical need, providing housing for juniors and seniors who want an independent living arrangement while being in university-managed housing close to campus resources.
Construction is underway next to Lake Mary Nell for the new Global Neighborhood that is replacing Harper and Story centers. Five residence halls and an expansive 30,000-square-foot centerpiece building will be the home of 600 students, including more than a third of the first-year class. The Isabella Cannon International Centre will be located there along with several language learning communities, faculty offices, a global café and an international media theatre. Next door is the international-themed Lakeside Dining Hall, which opens in January as a major expansion of Moseley Center. This two-story building will include an outdoor plaza and conference facilities similar in size to McKinnon Hall.
The other campus neighborhoods, designed to meet the needs of students at specific stages of their college experiences, include the Historic Neighborhood at the center of campus, the Oaks, Danieley Center, Loy Center and the Colonnades Neighborhood adjacent to the Koury Business Center.
Elon's goal of creating a premier residential campus might appear counter-trend in a time when much conversation nationally is focused on online learning and remote participation. Quite simply, we believe that students choose Elon because of the personal relationships they build with professors and their peers in the classroom and after hours. The world's best universities place a priority on residential learning, and that is our focus in this strategic plan.
Student Professional Development Center
Moseley Center is the new home of Elon's innovative approach to career planning. The staff of the Student Professional Development Center encourage students to get an early start on preparing for life after Elon, connecting with alumni, parents and employers in an expanding network. Emphasis is placed on preparing for and finding internships that will provide professional experiences and serve as gateways to careers.
Employers are actively seeking graduates of liberal arts universities who can think critically and analytically, write and speak well, understand complex material, employ a global perspective and develop comprehensive solutions. We want students to understand the relevance of those skills and how they will lead to success in the professional world.
Center for Engaged Learning
Along with our drive to attract and retain world-class faculty and staff, we are positioning Elon's scholars to lead dialogues and conduct research about the best practices in undergraduate education. This year, we will formally launch a Center for Engaged Learning and in 2013, the new center will host an international conference on the scholarship of teaching and learning. We look forward to making important contributions that will benefit students and professional colleagues at schools across the country, around the world and right here at Elon.
A vibrant, inclusive community
This fall we welcome 125 first-generation students in the freshman class, a sign of the progress we are making in keeping an Elon education affordable and open to students with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. The first-generation students come from 23 states and 14 countries, including China, Columbia, Cuba, Germany, Honduras, Italy, Malawi, Mexico, Norway, Peru, South Africa, United Kingdom, Vietnam and the West Indies.
Increased scholarship resources made available through the recently completed Ever Elon Campaign and our efforts to increase need-based financial aid make the campus a more inclusive environment, enriching the learning opportunities for all of us.
A multi-faith center
A great example of our vibrant community can be found in the Numen Lumen Pavilion of the Academic Village, a multi-faith center that will open in January. This will be the spiritual center of campus, a place to share our faith traditions and create the kind of dialogue that will lead us toward understanding and acceptance and away from the divisions that tear apart societies around the world. We know we can make a positive contribution by preparing students who celebrate the rich cultures and perspectives of all people.
The Numen Lumen Pavilion will be the new home of the Truitt Center for Religious and Spiritual Life. The facility that formerly housed the Truitt Center is being remodeled to become Elon's new Hillel Center, a resource for Elon's growing Jewish community.
Elon's vibrant alumni network
Elon's community extends beyond the campus to include the more than 26,000 alumni who are living out our common values and making an impact in places around the world. It is crucial to the university's future to keep alumni active and engaged with Elon, instilled with a sense of ownership and stewardship. The Elon Commitment places a priority on building a more robust alumni network, inviting graduates to return to campus, speak to classes, mentor students, provide career opportunities and serve on university boards and councils. The story of Elon's future will rely largely on the accomplishments of alumni and their continued partnership with their alma mater.
NCAA Division I athletics
Successful athletics programs demonstrate the spirit, pride and energy found in college communities, and we are investing in programs that showcase our commitment to high academic standards and the development of student-athletes who match their wins in competition with success in the classroom. Elon athletics has built a solid reputation of integrity through the decades, and that strength will serve us well in a time rife with so many negative headlines about collegiate athletics.
We are also making investments to advance gender equity in our athletics programs, adding women's lacrosse as our newest Division I sport, constructing Hunt Softball Park on Williamson Avenue in the North Athletics Complex and renovating Koury Field House to support more than 200 student-athletes in the soccer, cross country, track and field, baseball, softball and lacrosse programs.
Relentlessly focused on preparing globally ready leaders
For years, Elon has ranked as the nation's top master's-level university in study abroad. International study is a hallmark of the Elon experience because we understand the urgency of preparing graduates who are interculturally competent. To succeed in today's world, each of us must develop a deep understanding of other cultures, languages and societies.
Many students come to campus already planning for their Winter Term or semester abroad study experiences. While more than 70 percent of students realize those dreams, we are doing everything we can to move that percentage toward 100 percent. Study abroad scholarships are key to removing financial barriers that prevent some students from participating in international experiences. We also want to ensure that students can study abroad while meeting requirements of their academic majors and extracurricular programs. In addition, we believe a global perspective must be obvious and compelling on campus, so we are working hard to triple international student enrollment to more than 300 students.
At the same time, we are expanding our definition of "study away" from the Elon campus. We know that academic courses in places across the United States can provide powerful cultural experiences, so this year we are creating an Office of Domestic Programs, coordinating efforts with the Isabella Cannon International Centre. We already have established flourishing programs in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., which are involving students in internships and coursework in those metropolitan areas. Our plans are to expand those efforts and create similar opportunities elsewhere in the U.S.
A best-value approach to the challenge of college costs
Colleges today are faced with a financial model that tests the limits of family resources. In a time of rising operating costs and steep tuition discounting, many institutions are reaching a financial crisis point. A recent major study detailed in The Chronicle of Higher Education showed that one-third of U.S. colleges and universities are financially unsustainable. I'm proud to report that Elon was listed among the "financially sound" schools in that study, and we continue to enjoy "best value" rankings in annual college guides.
Elon's financial strength is the result of excellent planning, outstanding stewardship, a sustainable pricing model and generous philanthropy from alumni, parents and friends. Since 2006, our endowment has doubled and is now valued at approximately $145 million, still extremely modest in comparison to peer and aspirant institutions. The Elon Commitment includes aggressive goals to undergird our financial model. We intend to triple the university's endowment, and we will ensure that those resources are focused on supporting programs that benefit students. At the same time, we are moderating tuition increases so we are able to maintain Elon's price advantage of $10,000 or more below that of most private universities with which we compete.
Because we will continue a slow-growth approach to enrollment, we will rely more heavily on private philanthropy and the generosity of alumni, parents, faculty and staff, friends and foundations.
Engaged learning: Elon's identity
More than ever, I am convinced that we are focused on exactly the right priorities as we plan for Elon's future. The results of all the progress I've detailed here can be summarized in two central points:
- First, students are the primary beneficiaries as we work to achieve the goals of the Elon Commitment. Their experiences at Elon will be immeasurably enhanced and they will be well-prepared to make a positive impact in our world.
- Second, through our strategic plan, Elon will reach its full potential as the singular university that embodies the power of active, experiential and engaged learning.
We are working to achieve ambitious goals that are worthy of our best efforts and personal commitment. Years from now, each of us will look back at this time with pride, knowing that we have built upon Elon's strong foundation and contributed greatly to the lives of future generations.
Long Live Elon,
Leo M. Lambert