Five Values That Define our Community
In last fall’s Magazine of Elon, I wrote about community discussions we were beginning based on a white paper titled “On Arriving, Deepening and Sustaining: Key Questions about Elon University’s Future.” In small groups and personal discussions, hundreds of alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff and friends talked about Elon’s place on the higher education landscape and strategies we should pursue to continue our momentum.
These discussions, held over the course of several months, have revealed extraordinary agreement on a set of common core values. Our commitment to a unified purpose is undoubtedly the reason that Elon is now considered one of the remarkable success stories in American higher education.
These are values worth celebrating –– a source of great pride for all of us.
Elon values students. It seems obvious at first glance. But take a close look at many colleges and universities and you will discover that teaching and mentoring of students are not at the top of the institutional lists of priorities. At Elon, continually asking ourselves “What will be best for students?” has kept us on the right track. We use this measure when we plan in all areas of the university, when we talk with architects about facilities and when we set budget priorities. Students are #1 here. Period.
Elon values a distinctive style of teaching and learning. We believe that students learn best when they are fully engaged in the classroom through discussions, debates, simulations, student presentations and other active strategies, in addition to lectures. Classrooms, laboratories and studios are dynamic places at Elon because of dedicated faculty who are committed to excellence in the craft of teaching. Further, learning takes place in environments beyond the classroom and the campus through the Elon Experiences. These co-curricular programs underscore the value we place on international study, volunteer service, leadership, internships and undergraduate research.
Elon values the student-faculty relationship. Learning is a partnership between two people. Think back on a transformational relationship you may have had with a teacher in your lifetime –– a mentor who inspired you and ignited a passion for learning or a professor who helped you discover a special gift or talent within yourself. We work to create opportunities in which teacher and student become co-learners, discovering knowledge together and sharing their gifts with one another.
Elon values innovation and creativity. This is a place that hungers for the next challenge. We avoid imitation in favor of innovation. We love to blaze new paths and discover ideas that lead the way to progress. This is an institution on the move, a critical asset in a world that is on an everaccelerating cycle of change.
Elon values community. Our common core values give us a sense of belonging in a world where the quality of human relationships is often diminished by the speed of life and increasing separation from our neighbors. People are drawn to our learning community, a place of congeniality and concern for the welfare of each individual. Elon people care for one another, providing an ideal environment for personal, emotional and spiritual growth.
I would like every member of the Elon community to understand, appreciate and employ the power of the values we share. Our colleague John Sullivan, who retires this spring after an extraordinary 36-year career teaching philosophy, put our common cause into historic and poetic language in remarks to the board of trustees at its spring meeting:
“Engaged learning in a dynamic community, innovation with a clear sense of how we best contribute to a sustainable world, honoring the ancestors and serving the children –– is this not a direction for this university? Is this not a vision large and deep enough to call us to great things?”
As we look to the future and plan for the next phase of our strategic plan, NewCentury@Elon, we will keep John’s words, and the university’s core values, in focus and at the center of all that we do.
Leo M. Lambert