Class of 2017 gathers for New Student Convocation
An annual ceremony in front of West residence hall offered top Elon University administrators, faculty members and student leaders an opportunity to impart words of wisdom to freshmen starting their collegiate studies.
The Elon University community welcomed freshmen and their families to campus Saturday morning for New Student Convocation, the only time all 1,460-plus students in the Class of 2017 will gather Under the Oaks before they graduate in four years.
Remarks shared by administrators, faculty and the Student Government Association executive president offered the class a roadmap for success during their collegiate studies. Speakers also introduced first-year and transfer students to the expectations, responsibilities and resources made available on a journey intended to mold them into global citizens.
It is now up to the Class of 2017 to make the most of its opportunities, they said.
“On your Commencement day, you will again pass through the assembled faculty line, having accomplished so much,” said Elon University President Leo M. Lambert. “You will have completed your time at Elon, and you will be changed in ways that you can now not imagine. On that day — a day that will come much more quickly than you expect — you will go out into the world as proud alumni with the assurance that your Elon education has prepared you for life’s journey.”
During the Aug. 24 program, Lambert shared seven themes as he advised students on ways to fully engage with the university.
1.) Resolve to graduate from Elon with no regrets. “When I speak with alumni about their Elon experiences, a few inevitably talk about missed opportunities—to study abroad or to become proficient in another language, or to take a chance on pursuing a subject area that had always fascinated them,” Lambert said. “No one has ever said, ‘I wish I had played more Grand Theft Auto.’ Because you have the incredible privilege of being an Elon student, give it your all every day.”
2.) Find mentors. “I’m a big believer in what I call ‘tap on the shoulder moments,’” he said, “moments when a faculty member helps you discover something important about yourself, connects you to a great internship, or introduces you to a subject that will become your lifelong fascination.”
3.) Embrace the caring community that is uniquely Elon. “Communities are strengthened or diminished each day by the individual actions of each member,” he said. “Acts of racism, sexism and homophobia harm the human spirit and diminish us all. Wherever you are and wherever you go as an Elon student, I ask you today to conduct yourselves with the highest standards of human decency and respect.”
4.) Appreciate how wise you were to have chosen a liberal arts university. “I recognize that some parents in the audience hear ‘liberal arts’ and are imagining you—at age 30—living in their basement,” Lambert told the new students. “In truth, corporate CEOs are looking for the competencies gained through a liberal arts education—critical thinking, quantitative analysis, global perspective, persuasive writing and a broadly prepared and informed person.”
5.) Get outside your comfort zone. “If you spend all of your time with people who look and think and dress exactly like you, you are going to miss a lot. You may be more comfortable initially, but your life will be boring,” he said. “So get out there. Engage difference, on campus or out in the world. Sometimes it’s hard, and awkward. But I promise you’ll be a better person if you try.”
6.) You are now in charge of developing your mind, fueling and exercising your body, and maintaining your own spiritual life. Lambert also cautioned students that Elon University does not tolerate alcohol abuse or sexual violence. “This is a place of incredible opportunity, and your education here, again, is the privilege of a lifetime,” he said. “Don’t send your life veering off course by harming another person or yourself through even one night of recklessness.”
7.) Plug into the Elon network. “Remember always that there is a big Elon family out there to support you through every stage of your life, and I encourage you to start building that network as students,” he said. “I think you’ll be impressed to learn how much this community is going to mean to you for the rest of your lives."
Smith Jackson, vice president for student life and dean of students, and Steven House, provost and vice president of academic affairs, shared information on the Class of 2017 as well as the Elon faculty, and the audience heard remarks from senior Welsford Bishopric, the Student Government Association’s executive president, and Terry Tomasek from the School of Education.
Bishopric greeted students to open the ceremony and described meeting some of the freshmen seated before him earlier in the weekend as they moved into the residence halls.
There was an aspiring editor of the Pendulum student newspaper, a Business Fellow eager to delve into finance, and a young political scientist “gunning for my gig as student body president.” What they had in common, he said, was possessing a clear idea of what they hoped to achieve at Elon University.
“This place attracts people who are not only striving to grow as individuals, but who are eager to be part of something larger that is growing around them. That is happening today. That will happen each and every day you spend here," Bishopric said. "Be part of it. Get involved. Start something new, contribute to something you love, learn about a subject that fascinates you, and don’t take other people’s assumptions as your own.”
Tomasek, an associate professor education, represented the faculty in her greetings to students and parents. She emphasized the four tenets of the Elon Honor Code - honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect - while explaining to the crowd how professors are not your “typical” faculty members.
In addition to their field of study, professors are passionate about the students themselves, Tomasek explained. Elon professors initiate direct, personal interactions while engaging students to help solve problems and tackle difficult concepts or materials together.
“Learning happens everywhere at Elon, not just in the classroom and not just on our campus,” Tomasek said. “Please consider this a personal invitation to join this amazing faculty in undergraduate research, study abroad, study away, internships, leadership and service learning.”
Following the convocation ceremy, students processed through lines of faculty and received an acorn, a traditional gift that symbolizes the promise of an Elon education.
A university tradition is to give the gift of a small oak sapling at Commencement in four years as a symbol of the students’ strength and their ability to be a force for good in the world using an Elon education.