Elon LEADS Campaign Impact: Spotlight on Scholarships

Ava Rosen ’23 reshaped her future thanks to the Inman Family Odyssey Scholarship, which led her to Elon. Creating new scholarships to produce Graduates the World Needs is the top priority of the $250 million Elon LEADS campaign.

Ava Rosen ’23 was in the eighth grade when her father died after a battle with bladder cancer, changing the course of her life and casting a dark cloud over her future. A college education appeared unlikely.

Ava Rosen ’23

“My life was pretty much turned upside down,” says Rosen, of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. “We had financial struggles. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to go to college or if I did, it would be under mounds of debt.”

Rosen, then 13 years old, planned on going to the University of Maryland, where a cousin had attended, majored in business and had great success. After taking a tour of the large state university, she realized she couldn’t see herself enrolling there. She wanted a smaller campus with a community atmosphere and a dynamic school of business.

A family member recommended Elon. Rosen soon learned that Elon had everything she was looking for, including the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, ranked one of the top 50 undergraduate business degree programs in the nation.

Yet making the financial part work was a major roadblock. Then she read about Elon’s Odyssey Program, which includes some of the university’s largest endowed scholarships that meet a student’s full need. The program was established to assist students like Rosen, high achievers with significant financial need who are often the first in their families to attend a college or university. Currently, 62 percent of Odyssey Scholars are first-generation college students.

Rosen was thrilled to learn she had received the Inman Family Odyssey Scholarship, which was endowed by Bill and Pat Inman P’00, who are among the university’s most loyal and generous donors. Bill Inman has served on the university’s Board of Trustees since 2005.

Receiving the Inman Family Scholarship, along with a Business Fellows scholarship, made attending Elon possible for Rosen.

“I have been very happy with my Elon experience,” Rosen said. “I am grateful for the opportunity provided for me by the Inman Family Odyssey Scholarship.”

Today Rosen is majoring in finance and human resources management in the Love School of Business and is thriving. She is a campus leader in several organizations, including Business Fellows and her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha.

The leadership gift from Bill and Pat Inman as part of the Elon LEADS Campaign supports 10 Inman Family Scholars each year. When the couple made their gift in 2017, they said they wanted to broaden access to Elon’s renowned engaged learning programs, which were transformative for their daughter, Jackie Inman Burns, a 2000 Elon graduate.

“There is so much financial need out there with students, including students at Elon,” Bill Inman said. “We want to make it possible for these students to get a great education at Elon and graduate without taking on unbearable debt. I have been an advocate for years as a trustee to try to increase our endowment so we can help students financially, and now some of that is coming to fruition.”

The importance of dedicated families like the Inmans to growing the number of endowed scholarships at Elon can’t be overstated, said President Connie Ledoux Book.

“When we see the profound difference the Inman Family Odyssey Scholarship makes on the life of a student, it truly brings home how transformative these gifts can be,” Book said. “We are grateful to the Inmans for their dedication and for demonstrating the power of philanthropy to change lives.”

A Life-Changing Program

The Odyssey Program, housed in Elon’s Center for Access and Success, includes highly selective and prestigious scholarships and is recognized as a national model for serving students who are underrepresented on college campuses. These scholarships, which have been endowed by some of Elon’s most generous donors, are awarded based on academic success and high financial need.

The program serves students who are frequently the first members of their family to attend college and have achieved academic success while overcoming adversity. They are consistently among Elon’s top-performing students. Odyssey is an extensive, cohort-based program that creates a family atmosphere among students and fosters mentoring, friendships and personal growth. Each Odyssey scholarship includes financial assistance that meets a student’s full need. In addition to annual tuition assistance, each scholarship includes a stipend for books and supplies, and a one-time $4,000 global study grant to be used for an approved study abroad or Study USA program.

Increasing funding for Odyssey and other scholarship programs is the top priority of the $250 million Elon LEADS Campaign.

Finding a Family on Campus

Rosen was accepted into the Business Fellows program and was anxiously awaiting word from staff in the Odyssey Program. The two schools still on her list were Elon as well as Lehigh, which was closer to her home.

“I was driving to visit a friend at Lehigh when I got a call from Elon,” Rosen recalls. “It was (Odyssey Program Director) Marcus Elliott. He said, ‘We would like to invite you to enter the Odyssey Program.’ I broke down crying. They were tears of joy. That’s when I knew I wanted to go to Elon University.”

Obtaining the Inman Family Odyssey Scholarship was critical to Rosen’s decision to enroll. She was also drawn to the academic rigor promised within the Business Fellows program. She has been pleased with both the Odyssey and Fellows programs and Elon in her first two years—the most recent three semesters during a trying global pandemic.

“I have taken many leadership roles as a sophomore. It gave me the push I needed along with Fellows,” Rosen said. “There is a family tie at Elon. I don’t think I would be able to have the success in my classes I’ve had if my professors didn’t know my name or I couldn’t go up and talk to them.”

The family atmosphere begins for students in the Odyssey Program during a one-week orientation on campus before other students arrive. The first-year cohort bonds through presentations about life and programs on campus, personal and group discussions and games or exercises. Rosen met students from diverse backgrounds who had to overcome adversity. One of those students also had no father figure in her life. They became friends right away.

“The fact that I know I can text her anytime and we can talk and get coffee and that there are people on campus who get me is so special,” Rosen said. “Odyssey has opened me up to diversity and made it feel that there are other students like me on this campus. I learned that I don’t have to feel alone in my struggles.”

Rosen said she had feelings of loneliness since her father died, but that has diminished during her time at Elon.

“Odyssey has given me the power and ability to see that my story is worthy. It makes me, me, and not something I should be ashamed of,” she said. “Everything happens for a reason, I realized. My father’s death led me to Elon. There is always good out of bad.”

Motivated by Hard Work

As Rosen moves into the core classes in her two majors, Finance and Human Resources Management, she is excited about tackling the new challenges. Her courses this spring include Principles of Finance, Human Resources for Competitive Advantage, and Business Legal and Ethical Environment.

“I’m really looking forward to it. This semester will be a bit harder, but I’m excited,” Rosen said.

She credits the academic challenges in Business Fellows with building her confidence in the classroom and in her leadership abilities. She has a close relationship with Lincoln Financial Professor Tina Das, who directs the Business Fellows program in the Love School of Business and acts as an adviser and mentor. Now, when she’s in a class with juniors and seniors, Rosen is not intimidated.

“I know what I’m capable of,” she said. “Professors know if you’re a Business Fellow and while they don’t say it, they expect more of you. They want to see that push and that initiative. I accept the challenge and love the challenge.”

With her majors along with a minor in data science, Rosen’s career could take several paths. Lately, she favors working with people and in human resources, possibly as a recruiter or consultant.

“I want to work with people. I want to change people’s lives,” Rosen said.

The Inman Family: Dedicated to Elon

Bill and Pat Inman are among the university’s most steadfast donors. Their name is synonymous with generously supporting multiple strategic initiatives and projects at Elon over the past two decades. That includes the magnificent Inman Admissions Welcome Center, where thousands of prospective students and their families begin their Elon journeys each year. It provides an attractive and welcoming facility for visitors. The Center houses Elon’s admissions, financial planning and welcome center staffs, along with conference rooms, two presentation theaters and office suites.

The Inmans have also made major gifts to support construction of Rhodes Stadium, Alumni Field House, the Ernest A. Koury Sr. Business Center, Numen Lumen Pavilion and Lindner Hall. The Inman Reading Room in Lindner Hall in the Academic Village is named in their honor.

The Inmans are strong believers in the university’s nationally recognized model for engaged learning and the leaders it produces.

“Our hope for the students who receive these scholarships is for them to be great individuals in our society and help this country by solving some of our greatest challenges,” Bill Inman said.

About the Elon LEADS Campaign

With a $250 million goal, Elon LEADS is the largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history and will support four main funding priorities: scholarships for graduates the world needs, increase access to engaged learning opportunities such as study abroad, research and service learning, support for faculty and staff mentors who matter and Elon’s iconic campus. As of mid-March, donors have contributed $206 million toward the goal.

Every gift to the university—including annual, endowment, capital, estate and other planned gifts—for any designation counts as a gift to the campaign, which will support students and strengthen Elon for generations to come. To learn more about how you can make an impact, visit www.elonleads.com.