Nearly 1,700 members of the Class of 2027 and 88 transfer students gathered with their families and friends Under the Oaks on Saturday to participate in this university tradition.
The Class of 2027 and new transfer students, joined by their families on the campus they will call home for the next four years, were formally welcomed to the Elon community during New Student Convocation on Saturday, Aug. 19.
Situated Under the Oaks, nearly 1,800 students were greeted by President Connie Ledoux Book and other university leaders for what to expect from their Elon experiences.
“Today commences your college experience, your educational journey,” Book said during 2023 New Student Convocation. “We are intentionally seated here under this beautiful canopy of century-old oak trees. These trees have weathered change and withstood challenge, and they are symbolic of a strength that will unfold in each of you in the years ahead.”
The convocation began with students walking through the rotunda of Alamance Building, where they passed the bell that was hanging in Elon College’s Main Building when it the building was destroyed by fire in 1923. Elon was closed for just one day after the fire, and the 100 years that followed have seen Elon make unprecedented growth.
The bell is perhaps the greatest relic of Elon’s resilience. Vice President of Student Life Jon Dooley told each student in attendance for convocation that as they touched the bell from Old Main, they were connecting with Elon history.
“We expect great things from you and for you during your time at Elon, but along the way you are also likely to encounter challenging moments. When you do, I hope you will come by the Alamance Building and touch that bell to recall the bright future we celebrate here today, and as a reminder to you of what it means to rise again, like a phoenix,” Dooley said.
As Britt Mobley II ’24, executive president of the Student Government Association, welcomed the Class of 2027, he couldn’t help but be reminded of his own experience under Elon’s iconic oaks four years ago. The mixture of “excitement and trepidation,” friendships yet to be made and a hope for new beginnings were what came to mind for Mobley and surely familiar feelings for the incoming students.
Mobley encouraged students to also reminisce about the “moments of light” that guided them to that Saturday morning on Elon’s campus. That light, Mobley said, has lit up some of his dimmest days and given him hope when it was needed most. Light cast by genuine faculty, staff and classmates always goes the extra mile, he said.
As they begin their college journeys, Mobley told students that these moments of light are not reserved for a select few, that every member of the Elon community is filled with potential and passion.
“Just as we serve as lights to you, you will illuminate and inspire us as well,” Mobley said. “To the Class of 2027, I make this solemn promise — I personally commit to being a source of light to each of you if you’d allow me. I’ll be there to cheer for you on your best days, and to pick you up on your worst. I offer all of my resources, advice and experiences at your disposal.”
Sitting in the crowd for New Student Convocation, hearing the words of encouragement and visualizing the next four years was an emotional experience for Talula Martin ’27.
The nerves of being in an unfamiliar place away, soon to be separated from her family and loved ones weighed heavy on Martin as the day began. But the words of Mobley and reassurance from other speakers that she would be in good hands helped to ease those worries.
“This whole experience has been so wonderful and calming and exciting,” Martin said, a communications major looking to focus on cinema and television arts.
Randy Williams, vice president and associate provost for inclusive excellence, provided an overview for the Class of 2027 which includes 1,685 first-year students and 88 transfer students from 44 states and 16 countries. Seventy-two students are siblings of current or former Elon students, 34 are children or grandchildren of alumni and 173 are the first in their family to attend college.
To illustrate the diverse and talented Class of 2027, Williams highlighted three students who are shining examples of all that Elon represents.
Rory Crisfulla ’27 and her family moved to Amsterdam as she was entering seventh grade. The Claymont, Delaware, native immediately got involved with organizing and coordinating plastic waste collection events to clean up Amsterdam canals. The collected waste was then recycled and made into boats. Once she returned to the U.S., Crisfulla was active with her school’s mental health club where she raised funds to help other local schools to start chapters of their own. Crisfulla is a business analytics major.
Jake Rogers ’27 was nominated by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, as Student of the Year for his role in helping raise a state record of $208,000 for research and support. Rogers is an Eagle Scout and regularly volunteers with local and international mission trips through his church’s youth group and is planning to major in exercise science.
Sophie Remisio ’27 of Ramsay, New Jersey, is the recipient of the William R. Kenan Honors Scholarship, Elon’s highest academic award. Accepted into the New Jersey Scholars Program, a highly competitive five-week summer learning program designed for students of exceptional academic ability, Remisio was a journalist for her high school paper and president of multiple clubs.
“While Rory, Jake and Sophie come to us with remarkable achievements, you should know that each one of the new students seated before us today arrives with their own unique set of accomplishments, abilities, achievements, hopes and dreams,” Williams said. “New students, we welcome all of you to Elon and cannot wait to see what you and your classmates achieve.”
President Book told students of the core values which are fundamental to Elon — honesty, integrity, responsibility and honor — and how these values are impossible to capture via artificial intelligence.
“At the center of your education will be human values, human relationships and a very real sense of your own power. Your own human intelligence to shape the future of humanity,” Book said.
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Rebecca Kohn highlighted faculty excellence during her remarks to students and families. Elon was ranked No. 1 in the country for undergraduate teaching for the second consecutive year by U.S. News and World Report. Faculty recognized this spring for excellence as mentors, scholars and community leaders were also highlighted, including Professor of Art History Kirstin Ringelberg, Professor of Exercise Science Caroline Ketcham and Assistant Professor of Biology Jessica Merricks.
“These are just three examples of the many outstanding faculty at Elon. You will see the distinctiveness of Elon faculty in the classes they teach, the laboratories they guide, the plays they direct, the internships they mentor, the organizations they advise — and the many other ways they will become a central part of your Elon experience in the next four years,” Kohn said.
Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs Deandra Little told students, “Over the next four years, you will get to know many of the faculty seated around you today. High among the reasons students come to Elon are the relationships with faculty you will make here.”
Jacob Witmer ’27 will study business and gravitated toward Elon because of its smaller class size which would give him more interaction with his professors.
The convocation ceremony helped Witmer to feel more at home with Elon and is ready to begin building relationships with his peers and faculty.
“I’m excited for the next four years,” he said. “I’ve started meeting a couple of people in my classes and I’m excited to meet the professors and see what the workload is like.”
The ceremony included a special musical performance from Micah Day ’24 and the singing of Elon’s alma mater led by Senior Lecturer in Music Polly Butler Cornelius. Students then processed through lines of faculty and staff to receive an acorn — a symbol of the intellectual and personal growth they will undergo over the next four years.
The next time the Class of 2027 will gather Under the Oaks as a group will be at their Senior Baccalaureate ceremony four years from now to receive an oak sapling — a full circle moment that symbolizes that transformation.
“Students, this enormous opportunity of an Elon education requires action on your part, a commitment to taking full advantage of all we have here,” President Book said. “For the next four years … we invite you to a personal journey of questions and curiosity that will shine new light and new understanding. Welcome to the beginning of your college experience.”