Elon Connected: Through Elon Volunteers!, Sam Murphy helps bring community together

This is the next profile in "Elon Connected," a new series that highlights how students are involved with campus organizations at Elon.

How are you Elon Connected? This is the first in a new series that highlights how students are connecting at Elon outside of the classroom.

The university is home to hundreds of organizations that provide nearly limitless ways for students to engage, and Elon Connected shines the light on what these groups mean to the students involved and to the campus community.

Sam Murphy ’21 — Elon Volunteers!

Hometown: Richmond, Virginia

Major: Psychology, Neuroscience minor

How did you get involved in your organization?

I first got involved with Elon Volunteers through a student employment opportunity at the end of my first year. Pretty quickly, I meshed well with the sense of community that is fostered in Elon Volunteers, and I wanted to get more involved with the greater Burlington community that we support in EV.

After a year in the organization, I got that opportunity, and took on a role as a fundraising coordinator for the Habitat for Humanity Elon chapter. I have remained in those roles throughout my time at Elon, and more recently, I started my role as the Executive Director of Leadership and Development this fall! I think that incredible sense of acceptance and belonging that is fostered here in the Kernodle Center has just kept bringing me back and wanting to do more with EV.

Sam Murphy, third from right, participating in a joint Habitat for Humanity build with the Duke University chapter during a previous academic year.

How does your student involvement line up with your academic interests?

As a psychology student, there are many parallels to community engagement and development. Particularly for me, the critical thinking and reflection that we try to encourage during and after our events at EV has helped me think more holistically and critically about the issues that are discussed in my readings for my classes. In psychology, so much of what we do is focused on the individual, and having these experiences to draw on to think about the collective helps me out a lot.

… with your social life?

I have spent the majority of my time at Elon being closely and directly involved with Elon Volunteers, and it has provided me with so many close friendships. Elon Volunteers brings so many people together from all areas of campus together and creates these connections that I cherish and really appreciate. In terms of my social life outside of EV, nothing makes me happier than to bring my other friends together with my friends from EV at an event that we are having.

… with your career goals?

The biggest takeaway from Elon Volunteers career-wise for me is the professional development opportunities I have been given. There are opportunities regularly for development as a member of a team or a workplace, but I have also been put in positions to lead and become comfortable with leading, that no matter where my future takes me career-wise, I know that I will be better prepared for it thanks to the work that I have done in EV.

One that stands out to me is being able to chair and co-chair the hiring committee for my student employment position for two years. Having so much experience on both sides of the interview process has really made me comfortable in those situations.

Murphy, left, during Habitat for Humanity’s Affordable Housing Advocacy event in spring 2019.

Most memorable experience with your organization?

It is hard to pick just one, but I think it would be being part of the lead team for the Alamance County Special Olympics during my sophomore year. The position involved logistics and operations on the day of the event, which really gave me some more insight into just how much work goes into an event like Special Olympics.

That experience for me typified the way EV brings a community together, and the way that the experience stuck with me and made me think about community engagement differently typifies the lasting impact EV can have on your perspective and outlook.

Elevator pitch to someone considering joining?

Elon, as a campus, is so full of opportunities and chances to get involved and invested in the on-campus community. Elon Volunteers offers that unique and different opportunity to invest both in the on-campus community as well as to break through that “Elon Bubble” and gain a greater understanding and appreciation for the community that surrounds our campus.

What do you think your organization adds to campus life or the broader community?

I think, in the same vein of my elevator pitch, that EV provides that much-needed outlet at Elon to shift your focus from the campus to the greater community. There are so many opportunities to meet people who are passionate and determined to make a difference, and just seeing that drive in them has inspired me to better myself in ways I didn’t even anticipate.

I also think that one of the strong suits of EV is critical reflection. Not only do you engage with the community, but you get to critically think about the impacts that you have on that community, and in turn the impact that community has on you. I think it is important for the community to see Elon students as more than just students, but as civically engaged members of the community.

Biggest adjustment for your group in response to the pandemic?

As the campus has transitioned to level 3, we have put a hold on our in-person volunteer opportunities, so that is a big adjustment we are currently working through. However, we are actively working with community partners on ways to be involved virtually, and still have plenty of opportunities available to students.

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What’s your advice to other students about balancing student involvement and your academics?

For my roles in student involvement, I am asked to fill office hours, and I would say those are the key to balancing those areas of campus life, whether you are required to fill them or not. Especially during COVID, when many of my hours are done virtually, making sure to set yourself certain timeframes to do your work. It is really easy to take your work home with you for your role, and setting those boundaries can be hard.

What lies ahead after Elon?

I am currently working on graduate school applications, and pursuing a Masters in Social Work, in an attempt to keep my focus in community engagement and development.

Something most people don’t know about you?

I play three instruments!