Connect: Advancing learning in all its forms

Through Elon NEXT, Elon is fostering lifelong partnerships through professional development, networks and learning opportunities and lasting connections for alumni, the community and the university.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2018 that the average worker had been with their current employer 4.2 years. For people aged 25-34, the average job tenure was 2.8 years. The need for continuous professional development is clear, and Elon has been working to offer alumni opportunities to expand their skills and stay ahead of the curve.

In spring 2019, the Office of Alumni Engagement launched, a digital platform that allows alumni to engage in learning sessions, serve as mentors in their industries and connect with the growing alumni professional network.

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“Meaningful connections are often made through our regional alumni chapters’ programming,” says Brian Feeley, assistant vice president for annual giving and alumni engagement. “But as the national and international footprint of our alumni body continues to grow, it is more important than ever to provide on-demand digital opportunities for alumni to network and share knowledge with each other.”

Beyond alumni, there is also a desire to offer Elon parents and grandparents, as well as residents and other friends of the university, opportunities to formally engage intellectually and professionally with each other and the university. With this in mind, Martha and Spencer Love School of Business faculty member Haya Ajjan began to look at efforts that were underway across the university. She already had considerable experience with business partners as director of Elon’s Center for Organizational Analytics.

Haya Ajjan coordinated the launch of Elon NEXT in spring 2020.

Working with a variety of departments, she coordinated the launch of Elon NEXT, which started offering a rotating set of learning modules in spring 2020 that give people the chance to gain new skills, explore new fields, advance or change their career paths, and be engaged with passionate teachers. “We know that through our programs, participants will build lasting relationships with faculty and classmates that could help them uncover new opportunities in their careers,” says Ajjan, who chairs Elon’s Innovation Council.

Classes range from data visualization using Tableau to public speaking and personal branding, to certificate programs for women in business and Agile project management. A trip to Asia as part of the course offerings is also in the works.

“We are keen to offer educational programs tailored to our participants’ needs, whether their goal is to enrich their personal skills or to advance their organization capabilities,” Ajjan says.

With success in its pilot phase, Elon NEXT is set for continued growth as described in Boldly Elon. A full-time director for professional advancement and continuing education will join the university this year, providing leadership that will establish Elon NEXT as the umbrella for a wide range of continuing learning programs.

Jeff Stein, vice president for strategic initiatives and partnerships, says this will include offerings by the alumni office, the Life@Elon learning program for area residents over the age of 50, the Collegiate Start program for local high school students, and programs that serve students, faculty and staff, including the Office of Leadership and Professional Development and the Student Professional Development Center.

Stein expects the Elon NEXT programs will continue to grow. “These days there are lots of options for gaining knowledge and skills, but lifelong learning through Elon is about much more than that,” he says. “You can have confidence in the accuracy of the material, the opportunity to interact with a teacher who knows you and adapts to your needs, and the joy of learning alongside other members of the Elon community.”

Learn more about “Theme 3: Connect” of the Boldly Elon strategic plan.