First-Year Summer Experiences help 125 students transition to Elon

One hundred and twenty-five incoming students participated this summer in six different First-Year Summer Experiences, programs that help new students transition into the Elon University community by introducing them to fellow classmates, faculty and staff through a variety of social, recreational, academic or service activities both on and off campus.

The FSE programs exemplify the university’s commitment to experiential learning and use this guiding philosophy to help students develop self-awareness, enhance relationships and define community in preparation for their Elon experience. Each program is led by student facilitators and advised by Elon faculty and/or staff.

Read about each program below:

Adventures in Leadership: Adventures in Leadership is the longest-running FSE at Elon, and the tradition continued this summer when 64 participants traveled to Elon to begin a week of relationship-building and outdoor activities. Participants began their experience on-campus at the Challenge Course before traveling to West Virginia. In West Virginia, participants got the opportunity to go hiking, rock climbing, camping and white-water rafting in the New River Gorge. Participants developed a sense of their own leadership style, a better understanding of the Leave No Trace philosophy, and practices outdoor living skills. Adventures in Leadership is sponsored by Campus Recreation and the Center for Leadership, and is led by two coordinators, eight facilitators, and four advisors.

Chapter One: Ten incoming students participating in Chapter One got the experience of a lifetime as they visited such places as Stone Mountain Park, Grayson Highlands, Bass Lake, the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, and the Elsewhere Museum. Under the leadership of Hannah Silvers, English major and workshop facilitator, and Jon Burr, assistant professor of English, the group learned the core principles of creative writing and used writing to engage with their surroundings and with each other. A mountain cabin as their lodging and their creativity at its height, this year’s Chapter One participants produced memories, stories, and experiences that they will carry with them during their time at Elon and beyond.

Discovery: Discovery, offered by the Office of New Student and Transition Programs, familiarizes incoming students with Elon’s campus and helps them develop outdoor and team-building skills. This year, 18 incoming students conquered an 8.8 mile hike on Old Rag Mountain, canoed 7 miles down the Shenandoah River, and painted and revitalized community recreation facilities in their host community of Luray, Virginia. Despite only spending one week with each other, the students gained trust and formed friendships that will last throughout their time at Elon and beyond.

Innovation: Nine students participated in the first year of Innovation as a part of the Elon in Los Angeles program.  Participants traveled from Hollywood to Malibu concentrating on how to recognize the innovations that are all around us. The five day program was led by Assistant Professors Jen Guy Metcalf and J. McMerty and two  student leaders, Margaret Holland and Rachel Zain.  

Participants read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” in preparation for the program that let to discussions throughout the experience. Students were challenged to think about how to infuse creativity, effort and balance in their college career that will lead to a blueprint for an innovative experiential education over the next four years and beyond.  

Some of the activities included Yoga in Malibu, biking in Venice, touring a Tesla showroom, visiting an Elon alum’s hologram startup company, dining with the Dean of the School of Communications Paul Parsons, hiking in Hollywood, and seeing the famed Chinese Theater. The final day was a “Cell Phone Free” day with all of the students unplugging for some much needed conversations and reflections without the distractions of the world as they embark on their Elon journey.  

Pre-Serve participants helping at a Habitat for Humanity build.
Pre-Serve: Through Pre-Serve, 18 students participated in several service projects coordinated by student facilitators. The program included team-building activities on Elon’s Challenge Course to learn more about each other. Participants contributed to service projects across Alamance County, including volunteering with the North Carolina Therapeutic Riding Center in Mebane; building a house with Habitat for Humanity; staffing the food pantry at Allied Churches; working at Peacehaven Community Farm; and assisting at Paws4ever, a local animal shelter. Service sites were designed to give students an introduction to opportunities in the Alamance County area. Through service, Pre-Serve aims to give students an introduction to social justice, teach students about pressing social issues in our local community, and demonstrate how service can be used as a tool for personal growth and community building.

Thrive: Themed around the three components of sustainability, people, planet and prosperity, six Thrive participants took part in activities such as: tours of campus resources for physical, spiritual and mental well-being; service projects at Loy farm and with Habitat for Humanity; tours of local businesses with strong principles of environmental and social responsibility; and exploring where our drinking water comes from via kayaking and a water treatment plant tour.  One participant commented, “I expected to learn more about sustainability and meet lots of new friends, and that’s exactly what happened!”. Thrive participants will start their college careers with friends, unique insight about Elon, and knowledge about ways individual efforts contribute to Elon’s overall sustainability initiatives.

You can learn more about First-Year Summer Experiences here