Seniors reflect on college experience at annual picnic
A Commencement week tradition returned to campus Wednesday when the Senior Picnic brought students, faculty and staff together on the lawn of the Martin Alumni Center three days before the Class of 2014 graduates from Elon University.
It's hard to overstate how much change takes place in four years on a college campus like Elon University.
Some is visual. Look no further at Elon than the addition of Lakeside Dining Hall, the Global Neighborhood and Station at Mill Point residential areas, and the Numen Lumen Pavilion. Some is thematic. The Student Professional Development Center, the Office of Alumni Engagement and the Gender and LGBTQIA Center are just three of many university programs significantly enhanced or created since 2010.
And, of course, some change is deeply personal. Preconceptions of different cultures are shattered by studying abroad. Self-doubts are trampled by undergraduate research discoveries. Faculty mentors guide students toward academic or career pursuits they never before imagined.
Four years is a long time. Or maybe not. If you ask almost any Elon University senior preparing to graduate Saturday morning, that time disappeared faster than donuts at College Coffee. And on Wednesday afternoon, surrounded by their friends and professors, seniors had a chance to reflect on their collegiate memories during the annual Senior Picnic hosted by the Office of Alumni Engagement.
"It's definitely flown by. It seems like it was just the other day that I was at Lake Mary Nell at the picnic for first-year students and their parents," said Elon senior Andrew Fischer, a biochemistry and applied mathematics double major headed to the University of Maryland for medical school. "This brings it all back full circle."
With additional support from the Office of the Provost, the May 21 picnic afforded the Office of Alumni Engagement a moment to share its mission with graduating seniors. Students received tickets in the new Martin Alumni Center, which opened last fall to serve as a "home" for alumni visiting their alma mater.
Printed materials stacked on tables and distributed by staff members informed seniors of regional alumni chapters and clubs that will soon host "Welcome to the City" events and other programs to keep Elon graduates connected no matter where they live.
The annual Commencement week meal moved for the first time this spring to the lawn outside the Martin Alumni Center. In past years seniors dined under tents between Moseley Center and the Greek housing in Loy Center, but with "The MAC" now open and construction in progress on the new Inman Admissions Welcome Center, the new locations proved ideal for organizers.
"This is a time for seniors to have a last meal with their 'Elon family,'" said Durice White '09, associate director of the Office of Alumni Engagment. "And for our staff, we love the opportunity to hear where they're going."
Chopped pork barbecue, grilled chicken, cole slaw and cookies greeted hundreds of seniors and university employees attending the picnic. Cut-out mortarboards dangled from the open entrances to tents that shaded long rows of tables and chairs, each holding the name of a contributor to the senior class gift, which broke Elon University records for the percentage of students involved in the campaign.
Seniors at the picnic listed several Elon traits for which they were thankful. A beautiful campus. Overseas study offerings. Good friends. Most notable were the professors themselves. "My favorite part of Elon has been the teachers," said Caitlin Byrne, an environmental and ecological sciences major from Atlanta about to start a graduate program for optometry. "Elon gives you the time to build relationships, to get to know who is educating you."
Others expressed relief that their study commitments were finished and that they now had the time to relax before relatives arrive for the weekend.
"This is a good way to cap everything off before you get sad at graduation with final goodbyes," said Molly Spessert, an English major with teacher licensure. "For me, I'm just glad to be on campus today. With student teaching this semester, I've hardly been around."