The Inn at Elon, new strategic plan among highlights during President’s Community Update

Community leaders and university supporters gathered in the ballroom of The Inn at Elon on Tuesday to hear from President Connie Ledoux Book about new projects and initiatives at Elon.

The Inn at Elon, which welcomed its first guests earlier this month, served as the perfect backdrop on Tuesday as President Connie Ledoux Book provided a community update to university supporters and community leaders as 2020 gets underway.

Gathered in the ballroom of the new 80-room, four-star boutique hotel, the crowd learned more about how The Inn at Elon is a new community resource for those visiting campus as well as the surrounding areas. With 70 rooms and 10 suites, the upscale restaurant The Mark at Elon and conference facilities, The Inn at Elon has a lot to offer not just visitors to Elon, but Alamance County. The ballroom where the crowd gathered will soon host weddings, conferences and other large gatherings as the university and the community tap into it as a resource.

“We’ve been dreaming about this boutique hotel for more than 20 years,” Book told the crowd. “The Inn at Elon is an example of a dream turned into a reality for Elon University. It absolutely represents the hard work, collaboration, generosity and the will of dozens of people and organizations, many of whom are represented in this room tonight.”

The inn begins its operations with a staff of more than 50 employees, which accounts for just a portion of the overall economic impact it will have on the broader community. Additionally, the profits generated by the inn will support student scholarships, making a visit to the inn “a stay with purpose, creating opportunities for the next generation of Elon students,” Book said.

Francine Boissonneault, general manager of The Inn at Elon, said initial feedback on the inn has been very encouraging, with the inn receiving “wonderful comments from our guests.”

The inn is part of the Elon Commitment, the university’s 10-year strategic plan that concluded at the end of 2019, and it opens as Elon prepares to unveil its next 10-year strategic plan in mid-February. The plan will detail the university’s priorities and lay out a vision for where Elon wants to be at the close of the next decade. “The progress of Elon during the last decade is breathtaking,” Book said, noting that Elon invested more than $800 million in new programs and facilities during the 2010s, with more than a quarter of that coming from philanthropy.

The region is growing and thriving, and Elon is increasingly focused on partnerships and transformative change as it begins a new decade, Book said. The new strategic plan includes support for an expansion of service-year partnerships that put new Elon graduates to work for community-changing organizations in Alamance County, as well as a new incubator for small businesses with support from entrepreneurship faculty members on campus, she said. Those are just a few elements of the overarching strategic plan.

“You help our students make Elon home, and we’re proud of that,” Book said.

Provost Aswani Volety offered an overview of how the new strategic plan will boost resources for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields while expanding academic offerings in high-demand fields for students.

Additionally, Elon is offering new resources for lifelong learning, including the Elon NEXT program that launched this year. The continuing education and professional development program seeks to serve learners at different stages in their career, and to meet them where they are, explained Haya Ajjan, Gordon Professor in Entrepreneurship and director of the Center for Organizational Analytics, who organized the establishment of the Elon NEXT program.

Elon is also continuing to build upon past athletic successes as its student-athletes strive to succeed on and off the court, said Charlotte Smith, head women’s basketball coach. Smith told the crowd she’s been at Elon for almost a decade, and joined the Elon team after reading about how Elon was a university to watch. She said she didn’t want to just watch Elon, but rather be part of the university as it led the way.