Leo M. Lambert and Peter Felten lead discussion of the power of relationships

The Elon University Speaker Series welcomes distinguished thought leaders and change-makers who are actively taking on society’s most pressing issues. This year’s Speaker Series, presented by WUNC North Carolina Public Radio, thematically explores the “Power of Relationships."

The Elon University Speaker Series will present President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert and Peter Felten, assistant provost and executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning at Elon, during a special discussion with Elon alumni on Thursday, Oct. 21, in Alumni Gym. The program begins at 7:30 p.m. The alumni panel will include James Donnell ’19 L’21, Matthew Foster ’20, Natalie Green ’21, Yasmeen Lee ’20 and Mirella Cisneros ’19,

Peter Felten, left, associate provost and executive director of the Center for Engaged Learning, and President Emeritus Leo M. Lambert

Lambert and Felten are the authors of “Relationship-Rich Education: How Human Connections Drive Success in College.”

Published by Johns Hopkins University Press, the 2020 work draws from a nationwide survey of college graduates and hundreds of in-person interviews with students and faculty to look at how human connections contribute to academic success. The book makes a new and compelling case for the importance of personal connections on college and university campuses while providing guidance on how to foster those relationships.

Central to the book are the nearly 400 interviews with students, faculty and staff at 29 higher education institutions across the country with distinctly different profiles. The interviews were supplemented with research data collected by the Elon University Poll through a survey of 1,600 college and university graduates.

The evening will be centered around a discussion with the panel of young alumni, who will be reflecting on how their relationships at Elon and how those made a big difference in their ability to succeed an the university and launch successful careers following graduation.

More about the panelists:

  • Mirella Cisneros is a 2019 graduate of Elon, attending the university as an Odyssey Scholar and Teaching Fellow. She majored in middle grades education with a concentration in mathematics and minored in poverty and social justice, and environmental education. During her time at Elon, she had the opportunity to work with Student U, Elon Academy and El Centro. Her mission is to help create educational equity for underserved families and students. After graduating, Mirella worked as a 7th-grade math teacher in Durham. Currently, she works as the community impact manager at LatinxEd, an education nonprofit.
  • James Donnell is a 2019 graduate of Elon University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Upon graduation, Donnell began pursuing his juris doctor from Elon University School of Law and this December will become the first person in his family to graduate from law school. During his undergraduate years, he was an Odyssey Scholar (NC Thad Eure Scholar), a student worker in the Phoenix Card Services Office and a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Currently, in addition to his legal studies, James is a legal intern at Arch Mortgage Insurance Company in Greensboro.
  • Matt Foster is a 2020 graduate from Elon with a bachelor’s degree in engineering. As a member of Elon’s football team, he was named team captain and the CAA scholar-athlete of the year. He pursued two engineering research projects at Elon —  helping build an optical coherence tomography system for personalized cancer treatment with Assistant Professor Rich Blackmon, and with Assistant Professor Jonathan Su and Associate Professor Scott Wolter,  working with a partner to engineer a device to deliver on demand doses of nicotine transdermally to addicts. He now lives in Raleigh where he works as a design engineer developing next-generation X-ray security systems. Also in Raleigh, he is the owner of a boat mechanic business servicing Raleigh, Durham, and Fayetteville.
  • Natalie Green is a 2021 graduate of Elon with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications and sociology and a minor in African & African-American Studies. On campus, Green was involved as a vice president of communications for Black Student Union, SMART mentor, Odyssey Scholar, communications fellow, and a member of PRSSA. Green gained experience in public relations as a digital specialist at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. As a T. Howard Scholar, Green worked as a CNN Digital Advertising Sales Intern at WarnerMedia. She also traveled abroad in Cape Town, South Africa where she studied at the University of Cape Town. She now works in advertising sales as a client coordinator at The New York Times.
  • Yasmeen Lee is a 2020 graduate of Elon University with a bachelor’s degree in public health studies. While at Elon, Lee was an Odyssey Scholar, Lumen Scholar, and Honors Fellow while maintaining various jobs on-campus. As an Honors Fellow and Lumen Scholar she conducted research with Associate Professor Stephanie Baker seeking to understand the racialized breastfeeding experiences of Black millennial mothers. After graduation, Lee worked as an Elon Year of Service Graduate Fellow at Healthy Alamance, a local nonprofit organization. Currently, she is an master of public health candidate at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Public Health with a concentration in health policy.

Admission: $15 or Elon ID. For ticket information, call (336) 278-5610 or visit elon.universitytickets.com.

Find the complete list of events included in the Speaker Series here and other events on the university’s Fall 2021 cultural calendar here.