Winter 2020: Embracing the energy of discovery, opportunity and hope

President Connie Ledoux Book on how Elon’s investment in faculty, curriculum and facilities to advance student learning and engagement in the STEM fields 20 years ago has set the stage for the Innovation Quad.

During a recent poster session of research projects by students and their faculty mentors at Elon, you could feel energy in the conversations and the observations. “How will that work?” — I asked biomedical engineering students who were developing a wearable device to assist during nicotine withdrawal. “What happens next?” — I asked a student who is using bioinformatics, the blending of biology, computer science and mathematics, to discover new viruses.

The energy in that learning is discovery, opportunity and hope. In my experience, it is most palpable when it lives at the intersections of disciplines, the intersections of our lives.

Elon is staging its next campus transformation through unprecedented investment in creating spaces to support student and faculty engagement in science, technology, engineering and math and where those disciplines intersect with the search for solutions to the world’s pressing challenges. We know those challenges mainly focus on health, sustainability, security and what the National Academy of Engineering calls the “joy of living.”

In the pages of this edition of The Magazine of Elon, you will find the story of how the construction of the McMichael Science Center in 1998 began a new era of science and discovery at Elon. Twenty years later, we have seen a 400 percent growth in student enrollment, particularly in the fields of chemistry/biochemistry, math and computer science. Curricular innovation in the sciences over the past two decades has been unprecedented and led to sought-after majors and minors, such as environmental studies, exercise science, biophysics, game design and neuroscience. The intersection of STEM is also found in other programs, including public health and media analytics.

Faculty mentoring the discovery process through undergraduate research has led to students earning prestigious fellowships, admission to the nation’s finest graduate programs and to employment and entrepreneurial efforts that are advancing global efforts to connect science with a better quality of life. Elon’s investment in faculty, curriculum and facilities to advance student learning and engagement in the STEM fields 20 years ago has powerfully staged our next strategic transformation — the Innovation Quad. The IQ, as it is affectionately called by our community, will be a new and transformative quad dedicated to learning that drives discovery, opportunity and hope.

Our bold investment in the first two buildings of the IQ signals our commitment to the students who will arrive at Elon in the next decade, ready to work with faculty and staff in an inspired setting. Those students will immerse themselves in foundational learning that will produce new understandings, new solutions to the challenges the world faces. Elon’s mission to nurture a rich intellectual environment that is characterized by student and faculty engagement is at the center of the design of these new facilities, which will include multiple spaces for team design and prototype development.

After the new buildings are completed, we will renovate McMichael Science Center and additional spaces on campus to provide continued advancement and support for students engaging in STEM through multiple approaches. Whether policy, art or education, these curricular intersections are powerful learning zones that will inspire Elon graduates to leverage their education as they work on behalf of the common good on complex and global issues.

Join me as we begin this exciting investment in our collective future by embracing the energy of discovery, opportunity and hope in the construction of Elon’s Innovation Quad.

Connie Ledoux Book