Embarking on an Odyssey
One of the most important advances at Elon over the last decade has been the creation of the Leon and Lorraine Watson Fellows program, which provides substantial financial aid to North Carolina students. These are young men and women who have demonstrated extraordinary character in overcoming challenges and show potential to take advantage of all that Elon has to offer. Their only obstacle is significant financial need.
In developing the Watson program, L’Tanya Richmond ’87, formerly the director of Elon’s Office of Multicultural Student Services, knew that it takes more than scholarship aid to produce a successful college graduate, ready to assume a leadership position in society. Richmond and her colleagues created a comprehensive program of mentoring, support and enrichment so that Watson Fellows could not only experience success at Elon but also blossom into campus leaders.
Last year during a planning retreat, Professor Deborah Long, director of the Elon Academy, challenged her colleagues to think about how the university could ensure that students holding major scholarships intended for high-need, first-generation college students could experience the same success rate that Watson Fellows have achieved. The result was the birth of the Odyssey Program.
The stated mission of the Odyssey Program is “to provide recipients of designated, need-based scholarships with the financial, academic, social and mentoring support necessary to ensure that they have the opportunity to participate fully in the many rich experiences at Elon and contribute to the intellectual and social climate of the university through their active campus citizenship.”
Elon wants to ensure that Odyssey Program participants step onto a level playing field. Today, 99 percent of Elon students bring computers to campus, and 73 percent participate in international study. Through the Odyssey Program, we want to provide students with the basic tools for academic success so that they are not excluded from participation in programs such as study abroad, internships or undergraduate research due to financial limitations.
A generation ago, a substantial portion of Elon’s student body was composed of first-generation college students. Today, only 3 percent of students are first generation, and 50 percent have at least one parent with a graduate degree. Through the Odyssey Program of careful mentoring and advising, students who come from families without a tradition of university education will excel in a fast-paced, competitive environment.
As we prepare for this fall’s launch of Elon’s next campaign, we are already making impressive progress in supporting students who will benefit from the Odyssey Program. Several generous donors have endowed major new scholarships to provide access to students with modest financial means. These include the Susan Scholarships for female students established by alumnus Furman Moseley ’56 and his wife, Susan; the Mac Mahon Family Scholarships, established by the family of university trustee Tom Mac Mahon; the Margaret Ann Hall Scholarships, which support high-financial-need students from Virginia; and the Honorable Thad Eure North Carolina Achievement Scholarships, established by the board of trustees in honor of former university trustee Thad Eure, one of the nation’s longest-serving public servants.
The remarkable support of these and other benefactors, combined with the profound dedication of Elon faculty and staff, provides life-changing opportunities for each Elon student to develop to his or her fullest potential. Nurturing and enhancing these personal odysseys are worthy goals for our university.