Deep roots: Elon faculty share their experiences as Elon students

Erin Hone, Tony Rizzuto, Khirey Walker and Scott Wolter talk about their Elon experiences as students and now as faculty members.

The connections alumni have with their alma mater are deep-rooted, and those roots can be hard to sever. Many find themselves drawn back to their alma maters for many reasons, and some never leave in the first place.

Four Elon alumni who are now Elon professors describe their journeys to Elon, their experiences as Elon students and what it means to them to now teach at the institution that molded them.

Erin Hone ’04, senior lecturer in education 

Erin Hone, senior lecturer in education

Involvement as a student:

  • North Carolina Teaching Fellow
  • Registrar’s Office, student worker

What was your undergraduate Elon experience?

Academically, I knew I had found my place, but socially, it took a little while. As my first year progressed, I met more students on campus and worked on finding my place. I studied abroad in the spring semester of my sophomore year in London, England. I think this was a turning point for me, where I found more confidence and came to embrace the life-changing components that Elon had to offer. It also solidified friendships that I had started to build prior to this experience. My junior and senior years were filled with internships, rigorous coursework and the building of strong friendships. I left Elon feeling as prepared as I could be for teaching and certain that I had chosen the right professional path for me.

Why did you ultimately decide to become a professor?

A product of Elon’s School of Education, Hone is teaching the next generation of elementary teachers at Elon, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

I didn’t necessarily plan to move into higher education. I came to Elon at a point where I was thinking about my next steps in the profession. Just before having my first child, I was looking for a part-time position in education. Two of the Elon faculty who I worked with when I hosted Elon student teachers in my classroom approached me about a co-teaching position, working alongside methods professors to bring the clinical teacher perspective. It was a perfect transition for me and I found that I loved the teacher-educator role. That turned into an adjunct instructor position, which turned into a lecturer track position. I am so grateful to them for seeing that potential in me.

How has the Elon community changed?

I sometimes wish I could experience the Elon that is today as an undergraduate student. Elon has done a nice job of expanding the on-campus living community and working to make it a living and learning space. I can’t say it wasn’t like that 20 years ago, but I can say that I am fortunate to witness that from the faculty perspective.

Tony Rizzuto ’11, assistant professor of chemistry and A.L. Hook Professor of Science and Mathematics 

Involvement as a student:

  • Lumen Scholar
  • Elon College Fellow
  • member of the American Chemical Society
  • Chemistry Honors Society

Why Elon and what was your undergraduate experience like?

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Tony Rizzuto in the McMichael Laser Lab with mentee Anna Sheinberg ’22.

You take one tour of the campus and you’re kind of sold already. I liked that smaller feel to Elon. It wasn’t so small that I felt like I was going to always run into somebody but it was small enough that I could experience the whole campus. I felt like I was able to experience everything at Elon.

I would say my undergraduate experience was split into two halves. The first half was hanging out with people that I was paired with. But once I started hanging out with a group of people that were far better students than I was and got into the tight-knit community that we formed within the Chemistry Department, that transformed me into becoming a pretty good student.

Favorite places on campus as a student?

I spent a lot of time in McMichael Science Center. But one of my favorite places that I still go to even now and then is Acorn Coffee Shop. I get the Acorn sandwich and coffee and just hang out there. Although, I usually get it to go now because I don’t want to take up a table for students.

Rizzuto receiving the Elon University A.L. Hook Emerging Scholar in Science and Mathematics with presenter Kathy Matera, left, and Elon University President Connie Ledoux Book on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, at the Schar Center.

Advice for current students?

Students are always trying to figure out what they’re going to do next and what’s the next stop. They are always looking at where their siblings or cousins or friends are in life. That’s OK, but remember that your timeline is your timeline — that’s what I tell my students. Don’t compare yourself to somebody else, you have to follow your path.

Don’t wish time away, even if it seems hard at the time. The older you get, the more incredible the passing of time seems.

Khirey Walker ’11, assistant professor of sport management 

Khirey Walker ’11 during a Elon football game.

Involvement as a student:

  • Varsity football
  • Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, president
  • Student Giving Campaign, president
  • Phoenix Field Day, lead representative

What was your undergraduate experience like?

The best way to describe it is eventful. I graduated high school on June 16, 2007, and my first college class was Intro to Health Promotion with Dr. Joyce Davis on June 17, which every student-athlete had to take. Having that summer to get acclimated was helpful and it was good having that head start.

The relationships and experiences from that summer carried on for the next four years.

What changes have you noticed in Elon from your time as a student to now?

At its core, it’s still the Elon I remember. Stepping out of Moseley Center and seeing the historic neighborhoods and all the buildings that were here when I was a student. But also seeing all the additions has been surprising.

Being able to come back and just see a lot of familiar places and people definitely brings back memories.

Walker, an assistant professor of sport management, teaching his class.

Favorite place on campus?

When I was a student, my favorite spot was The Varsity, which used to be where McEwen Dining Hall is now. It was a great spot. We’d spend a lot of Sundays after practice there. Also, good old Belk Library. Even now as a professor, I try to get out of my office. If I’m ever feeling stuck, I’ll go over to Belk and bring some headphones and get on the computers like I used to.

I’m a big tennis guy, so the Jimmy Powell Tennis Courts were always a good time.

Advice to current students?

The advantage of teaching a first-year course is that I’ve given them so much advice. I know they’re tired of me. The number one thing I would tell every student is to enjoy the process. You’re not going to be perfect, or get a 100 on every assignment, or get every question in class. You’re going to make mistakes but one of the best parts of this college process is that you had the opportunity to learn from your imperfections and make yourself better.

Scott Wolter ’85, associate professor of engineering and chair of the Department of Engineering

Scott Wolter, associate professor of engineering, works with Michael Dryzer '19 and Caitlin Niven '18.
Scott Wolter, associate professor of engineering, working with Michael Dryzer ’19 and Caitlin Niven ’18.

What was your undergraduate experience like? 

I graduated from a small North Carolina high school and was generally academically immature. Elon opened my eyes to so many facets of academia. The business faculty were engaging and the pursuit of my computer science minor solidified my interest in science and engineering. The campus was small and truly felt like a big family.

What was your favorite place on campus? 

My favorite place was anywhere that my friends were. This could be in class, in our dorm, at Dewers or the Lighthouse (former bars in town), in the gym or at outdoor spaces. The entire campus provided a memorable educational experience.

Who was your favorite professor? 

Scott Wolter assists the Grand Challenges in Engineering I class in testing their underwater vehicle designs inside Koury Gym in December 2019.
Wolter assisting the Grand Challenges in Engineering I class in testing their underwater vehicle designs inside Koury Gym in December 2019.

Computer Science Professor Al Carpenter. I took a computer science class for fun around my sophomore and enjoyed the subject matter. Because of this experience, I decided to minor in computer science and Professor Carpenter taught me several courses. Having grown up watching Mister Rogers and Carl Sagan, he reminded me of someone who had elements of both these influencers.

How has the Elon community changed? Stayed the same? 

I came back to Elon to teach 10 years ago. Sometime during the first semester in late fall, when the oak trees were turning color and the air was beginning to cool, it dawned on me that while the campus looked a lot different, the personality of the school still felt the same as when I was a student. This small campus community is what initially drew me to Elon and why I am glad to be back among the faculty rank.