Orientation session for parents and families offers insight into the year ahead

During multiple sessions on Friday and Saturday, parents and family members have an opportunity to hear from President Connie Ledoux Book and other senior leaders.

President Book and members of the university’s senior staff on Friday led the first in a series of orientation sessions for parents and family members to provide a look into some of the key elements of the new academic year at Elon.

During her opening remarks, Book noted that the work of the university is to challenge students, but also to support them as they respond to those challenges. That’s especially true for the Class of 2024, which starts at Elon during a historic and disrupted time, Book said during the first session.

“We think of our work with students as challenge and support, challenge and support, and that cycle continues for the four years they are here,” Book said. “Absolutely, they will be transformed — they will learn, and they will grow and at the end of this journey that we have the privilege of witnessing here at Elon, they will graduate and take their next steps.”

Participating in the panel were Jeff Stein, vice president for strategic initiatives, Dean of Students Jana Lynn Patterson, Gabie Smith, the dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, Vice President for Student Life Jon Dooley and Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams. The five sessions will be streamed live at www.elon.edu/live.

A limited number of physically distanced seats were available in Alumni Gym for those who could not view the program remotely. Those seats were made available until the reduced capacity of the gym was met, with seating arranged and masks required in line with guidance from campus, state and national health officials. Recordings of the sessions will be available next week at www.elon.edu/parents.

Stein, who has chaired the university’s Ready & Resilient Committee, said Elon is focused on helping all members of the university community understand that reducing risk on campus depends upon understanding that all members are interdependent. “We are trying to share with everyone on campus that our lives are in each other’s hands,” Stein said. “We just have to be extra vigilant in everything we do. Our thinking and the most important thing we have to keep in mind is we have to protect each other, and by doing that, we will have a great term together.”

Turning to the classroom, Smith offered insight as a professor and dean into how learning will occur while also taking into account physical distancing guidelines and space restrictions. She underscored that faculty at Elon came to the university specifically to participate in engaged learning with undergraduate students, and Elon is staying true to the focus on teaching and learning that are at its core.

Throughout the summer, faculty members have been working to rethink and adapt their courses for new conditions and prepare for contingencies. “In many ways, the classroom experience will look different, but it’s going to be the same classroom experience we have always had,” Smith said.

Responding to a question about accountability from Book, Dooley noted that the university has tied the Healthy Elon Commitment that all students are required to sign to ensure that students know how seriously the university is taking health and safety. “Masks and physical distancing are quickly becoming part of our culture,” Dooley said. “I am really confident that our students will rise to the occasion this fall and they will exceed our expectations, but I’m not naive enough to think that everyone will.”

The discussion also focused on the university’s plans to respond to cases that are confirmed on campus. Elon has created guidelines for quarantine and isolation when a case is confirmed, and has teams in place to support students during those periods, Patterson explained. All of these plans and components have been developed and will be implemented in close contact with local and state public health officials, she said. The campus also has multiple resources through Campus Recreation and Wellness, Student Health and Counseling Services to assist students who are experiencing anxiety during this time, Patterson explained.

This summer, Elon outlined multiple action steps it will be taking to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Williams, who this summer was promoted to his role as vice president and associate provost for inclusive excellence, explained that parents have a role to play in helping their students address many of these same issues that society at-large is grappling with. He encouraged parents to take the time to read “Biased,” the university’s 2020 Common Reading selection.

“I fully believe that parents are the first teachers a student has, and most likely, the most influential teachers a student can have,” Williams said.

Saturday’s sessions will be held at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and can be viewed at www.elon.edu/live.