A New Year: First day of classes at Elon University

Students describe their excitement to kick off the 2021-22 academic year and the newly established Department of Nursing looks to hit the ground running.

More than 6,000 undergraduate students have made their way back to Elon University, coming from 46 states and 49 countries, and excitement seems to be the common theme amongst those returning.

Move-In Day on Friday, Aug. 20, saw the Class of 2025 and new transfer students arrive on campus, with returning students following over the weekend. Tuesday marked the first day of classes for this students and the fall semester is now officially underway.

“I’m actually really excited,” said Tripp Hill ’22, majoring in journalism. “I’m happy to get back and happy to get into my classes, meet my professors and classmates and get to talk to them and converse with everyone.”

For the upcoming semester, Hill said he’s looking forward to growing the relationships he has already made during his time at Elon. “Continue to meet people, strengthen the friendships and connections that I’ve already made … and just enjoy myself,” Hill said.

Melody Harter, Program Assistant for the Center for Leadership, speaking with two students during College Coffee.

McLean Bell ’23 shared that sense of excitement. Double majoring in sociology and art history, serving as the SUB Cinema Chair of the Student Union Board and working as a tour guide over the summer, she said it was nice to see Elon’s 656-acre campus come back to life. Bell said she’s most excited for the return of some of the larger events the Student Union Board hosts, such as the hypnotist who performed Monday night as New Student Orientation concluded.

“A bunch of our new students in the Class of 2025 getting to experience the things that I experienced as a first-year in a relatively normal way is going to really be exciting. The energy is coming back into campus with everyone being back here,” Bell said. “It’s also nice to see that everyone is, for the most part, following the rules so that we can have a safe semester right off the bat.”

Elon started the year with an updated mask policy that requires all students, faculty and staff to wear a mask while in indoor spaces on campus, and the university is continuing to monitor guidance from federal, state and local health officials. Elon is requiring students to submit vaccination documentation this academic year or receive and exemption for medial or religious reasons. Those granted an exemption from the vaccination requirement will be tested for COVID weekly.

“I really trust the university and the way that they treated our safety,” Bell said. “So, I trust that they’re going to do the right thing no matter what, whether that means that we will be wearing masks or we won’t be wearing masks.”

Among the undergraduates starting fall semester are the inaugural cohort of nearly 50 students in Elon’s new nursing program. The nursing program includes a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) meant for traditional students coming out of high school and the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) which is an intensive 16-month post-baccalaureate program that includes 65 credit hours and 540 clinical hours. Assistant Professor of Nursing Tiffany Morris was announced as the inaugural chair of the Department of Nursing in March.

“Since the actual approval of the nursing program in January, we have four full-time members of the nursing team, we’ve added six clinical instructors and two partners from the School of Health Sciences to help us implement the curriculum,” Morris said.

Elon’s Department of Nursing plans to build of its quick start projecting to have at least 12 faculty members by the program’s fourth year. The program also estimates admitting 50 students each year, which will mean more than 300 nursing students at Elon by fall 2024, practically doubling the School of Health Sciences.

“It’s day one and it’s game on. I think people think it’s a warm-up to the nursing class, but the accelerated students start day one in class and lab learning those skills,” Morris said.

Immersion for the nursing program began on Monday, Aug. 23, when students are given nursing skills kits, introduced to some of their courses and clinical sites as well as meeting the faculty they will be working with while in the program.

The accelerated students started their first class in pathophysiology on Tuesday, Aug. 24, the first step in a 16-month track for the 15 students that will be a part of the ABSN.

“We will start full steam ahead,” Morris said. “Our skills lab is completely outfitted with all of the simulated medical equipment and high fidelity, low fidelity mannequins. We have a STEM coordinator along with our director of interprofessional simulation ready to engage students in labs.”

The Interprofessional Simulation Lab, located on the second floor of the Gerald L. Francis Center, is a state-of-the-art experiential health care learning hub that will support not only the nursing students but over 250 students in the School of Health Sciences.

Tiffany Morris, associate professor of nursing and Inaugural department chair (left), oversees programs and facilities like the new skills lab, which allows nursing students to hone their skills in treating patients at bedside and provides both experiential learning during laboratory sessions and simulation experiences with high- and low-tech manikins.

The Department of Nursing will collaborate with the physical therapy and physician assistant programs for a variety of simulations, Morris said.

“We get to build a transformative nursing program that includes the advancement of health equity. We have opportunities for global learning experiences,” Morris said. “It’s a rare opportunity that we can embed our curricular experiences with other disciplines.”

The nursing program will also have a focus on health equity, Morris said, with students working with the faculty and potentially health providers on identifying ways to improve health care in local marginalized communities.

“The first day was really great, said Lauren Myers, a member of the inaugural ABSN cohort. “It was a tidal wave of information, but it helped us feel a lot more excited and prepared for the next year and a half.”

Myers graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2009 and was working as a high school math teacher before deciding to make a career change. She said recently having a baby was the push to go forward with her plans and start a career in which she could still help people but have more time with her family. She had initially wanted to become a physician assistant but once a coworker mentioned Elon’s newly established nursing program, she felt that it would be a better fit.

“I live in Greensboro, so it’s pretty close by and I didn’t know if I ended up at a Physician Assistant school far away how would we make that work,” Myers said. “It was close by and reasonably priced compared to a Physician Assistant school and the fact that it was only 16 months was really attractive.”

Myers said she hopes to get into women’s health after completion of the program. After just recently having a baby, she would enjoy helping women through the prenatal, labor and delivery process.

Brian Williamson was a pharmacist for over 20 years before he joined the ABSN program at Elon. “I actually found out about Elon’s ABSN program by accident,” he said.

Williamson had been searching for information about another program and Elon appeared in the search results. After reading about the offerings at Elon, he thought the university had exactly what he was looking for.

After having more direct interactions with patients in the last five years and going through his own health issues, Williamson said he realized that he could do more as a nurse than he could in his role as a pharmacist. “I thought that there’s so much more that I can offer than just filling prescriptions and making recommendations. I want to be by the bedside, and I want to be there for people more than I can be as a pharmacist,” Williamson said.

Williamson said he hopes to begin his own practice with a focus on nursing while also providing drug therapy after he completes the program. With nursing being such a hands-on profession, he is looking forward to the face-to-face interactions he’ll have with those in his cohort and the professors over the next 16 months.

“The enthusiasm and the energy is very high here,” Williamson said.