Elon University named hosting partner of Bringing Theory to Practice

On July 1, Elon University will become the host site for the national initiative that is focused on transforming undergraduate education.

Elon University and the national higher education initiative Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP) have announced that Elon will become BTtoP’s new home through a multi-year partnership that begins July 1.

BTtoP works to advance holistic and transformative undergraduate education, grounded in active learning, public engagement, preparation for meaningful work, and personal well-being for students from all backgrounds and interests. In promoting these purposes, this national initiative works for fundamental change in academic institutions, the student experience, and the relationship between the academy and the larger society.

“Bringing Theory to Practice shares Elon University’s belief that student success is grounded in engaged learning,” said Elon President Connie Ledoux Book. “Its move to Elon’s campus will create new opportunities for the university’s students, faculty and staff to play an increased role in the national effort to shape new concepts transforming higher education. I’m proud of Elon’s achievements in student success and undergraduate learning. Our Center for Engaged Learning brings together national and international scholars to advance those commitments. I look forward to Elon supporting BTtoP’s essential work for the future of higher education.”

Since its inception in 2003, BTtoP has supported innovative teaching and institutional initiatives at more than 350 institutions. It has published books on transforming undergraduate education, civic engagement, and student well-being as a core purpose of college learning. After many years of being hosted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) in Washington, DC, it sought a campus partner whose values were aligned with its mission. According to BTtoP Director David Scobey, Elon’s student-centered environment and its national leadership in engaged, experiential learning made it a natural fit. He looks forward to working closely with Elon students and involving Elon faculty and staff in BTtoP’s projects.

“Bringing Theory to Practice has long enjoyed a warm, effective relationship with the Association of American Colleges and Universities,” Scobey said. “We are deeply grateful for the support and comradeship that AAC&U has provided, and we look forward to future collaborations. Yet we also missed everyday campus connections with faculty, staff, and especially student colleagues. We are excited to be partnering with an institution that is a national leader in integrative, civic, and global learning—an institution whose values and achievements are deeply resonant with our work.”

Lynn Pasquerella, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, also lauded BTtoP’s long partnership with AAC&U, while expressing appreciation for its new campus home. “AAC&U and Bringing Theory to Practice share similar missions, visions and values. It has been an honor to host BTtoP, and we have benefitted greatly from their presence. We will miss them, but I know that being on a campus—especially at an institution like Elon—will provide exciting opportunities for their future.”

BTtoP’s programs stress the importance of collaborative innovation in reshaping undergraduate education. Its grant program funds multi-institutional teams that pursue innovation projects advancing the guiding purposes of college learning. In 2019, it launched a multi-campus initiative on civic engagement, the PLACE Collaboratory (Partnerships for Listening and Action by Communities and Educators), supported by an $800,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Elon was one of 11 academic institutions from central North Carolina, Los Angeles, Baltimore and Newark to be selected for the project, which uses the public humanities to address issues such as immigrants’ rights, racial justice and climate change.

“We believe that positive change happens in higher ed by building communities of change-makers grounded in the core values of undergraduate learning,” Scobey commented. “As we move to Elon, we aim to undertake new ‘collaboratories’ on such issues as inclusive student well-being and new models of liberal education. Especially in a time of crisis and disruption, we are committed to bringing the purposes of education—and our capacity for creative innovation—to bear on the need for change. We are excited to take on this work with a campus whose values and dynamism we admire.”

Based in Elon, North Carolina, Elon University has built a national reputation as a leading, student-centered environment for experiential learning, with an emphasis on strong personal relationships between students and their faculty and staff mentors. Elon is ranked among the top 100 National Universities by U.S. News & World Report, with a #2 ranking for excellence in undergraduate teaching and #11 for innovation. In addition, Elon is the only university in the nation recognized by U.S. News for excellence in all eight academic programs “Focused on Student Success.” Included are #1 rankings for study abroad and learning communities and #2 rankings for first-year experiences and service learning.

BTtoP was co-founded by Donald W. Harward, president emeritus of Bates College, and Sally Engelhard Pingree. It is supported by The Endeavor Foundation, which has generously renewed a multiyear grant for BTtoP’s core operations and new programmatic initiatives.