Incoming students and their families gathered Under the Oaks of campus on Aug. 23, 2014, as administrators, faculty and fellow students shared reflections and advice for making the most of an Elon University education.
Elon leaders welcomed the Class of 2018 to the university community Saturday morning during New Student Convocation, the only time all 1,500 students in the incoming class will gather Under the Oaks in the heart of campus before they graduate in four years.
Remarks shared by President Leo M. Lambert, administrators, faculty and the Student Government Association executive president gave advice to new students for making the most of their collegiate studies. Speakers also introduced the class to the expectations, responsibilities and resources available to them on their journey.
President Lambert’s remarks were the pinnacle of a ceremony attended not only by students but by thousands of parents and other family members. The president emphasized themes that reflect Elon University’s values and priorities, encouraging students to find mentors, embrace Elon’s community, take advantage of a wide range of opportunities and connect with the Elon network of alumni and parents.
In addition to the president’s address, students and families heard from other representatives of the faculty and student body.
Elon University senior Joseph Incorvia, a biochemistry major and Student Government Association president, reminisced about his own New Student Convocation three years earlier and the nervousness he felt about embarking on his college journey.
Incorvia discovered that Elon “was an incredible place.” He has since studied abroad in Australia and New Zealand, visited Africa on a medical brigade, and developed leadership responsibilities through student government. At the same time, and in many ways because of his experience, Incorvia said he has learned more about open dialogue and understanding cultural differences while teaching himself perseverance in the face of adversity.
In a few years time, he said, today’s new students will see just how much they’ve grown.
“You may not know the path you will take at Elon, you may not know where you want to end up – you may not even know where to start,” Incorvia said. “But you are an Elon student now. You have the opportunity to do so much and try all you can. I highly suggest you do just that.
“Use the experiences you have had to enrich our community and provide unique ideas and perspectives. Learn all you can and find something that you are passionate about. Join clubs and organizations that let you express who you are. Challenge yourselves to be inclusive, honest and respectable. Form relationships that will last a lifetime. Reflect frequently and give yourself room to grow.”
G. Smith Jackson, vice president for Student Life and dean of students, and Provost Steven House also addressed the incoming class. Jackson shared details of five freshmen whose accomplishments to date represent a class thats “fits well with the values of the Elon community and the accomplishments and abilities of each member of this class are impressive.”
House described the teaching, mentoring and scholarly endeavors that characterize the university’s faculty, call particular attention to Professors Tina Das and Stephen DeLoach in the Department of Economics, the most recent recipients of Elon’s top faculty teaching and research awards, respectively.
“Elon faculty members enjoy teaching students both in and out of the classroom, and they are noted for their accessibility and responsiveness to students,” House said. “The faculty’s hope for you in your four years at Elon is that you will become independent, self-directed learners, that you will put serious and consistent effort into your studies, that your passion and curiosity about learning be contagious, and that you will continuously reflect upon and evaluate your own progress in this great learning adventure.”
New students also heard from Terry Tomasek, an associate professor of education and director of the Elon Academy, who spoke on the four tenets of the Elon University Honor Code: honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect.
“Bigotry, hateful slander, or any other types of disrespect shown toward others are not tolerated in this community,” Tomasek said. “These negative actions are simply the antithesis of what it means to be a member of this community. We don’t all have to agree on every matter, but in this community we do agree to show civility and to value the dignity of each person and his or her opinions.
“As you join this community of engaged learning, live these values in all of your interactions inside and outside the classroom. If you do so, you will earn the respect of your professors and your classmates and the intellectual community at large.”
Following the convocation ceremony, students processed through lines of faculty and received an acorn, a 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.