Inaugural Women of Elon Weekend: Celebrating Impact and Transforming Student Lives

Women in the Elon community participated in two days of networking, personal and professional development in an event highlighted by a fireside chat with Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

More than 100 Elon alumnae, parents and friends returned to campus March 14-15 for the inaugural Women of Elon Weekend. Over the course of two days at The Inn at Elon, attendees participated in engaging breakout sessions, empowering panel discussions, and a keynote discussion featuring President Connie Ledoux Book and Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who many consider one of the greatest U.S. track and field athletes of all time.

Attendees participated in two rounds of breakout sessions. Morning breakout sessions on Friday, March 15, focused on personal and professional development while afternoon breakout sessions focused on community engagement and philanthropy. Attendees enjoyed learning and growing together through these sessions led by Elon alumnae, parents, friends, faculty and staff.

Grace Ackermann ’24 enjoyed the comradery she experienced when attending the breakout sessions as well as the opportunity to learn from Elon graduates. “I enjoyed hearing about the career journeys of Elon alumni,” she shared. “I’m at the point in my life that I’m constantly thinking about my future and it’s always refreshing to hear about the success of women that have come before me and the variety of fields they excel in. I also love to be in a space where women are uplifting and discussing their shared experiences. The journey of womanhood looks different for everyone, but there are moments when we share similar challenges, discriminations, and rewards and to be in a room surrounded by people who understand those experiences is powerful. I felt seen.”

Robin Porter, Director of Internships for the Love School of Business (left), Chloe Higgins ’24 (left center), Kaitlyn Michaud ’24, (right center) and Victory Moore ’25 (right)

Weekend attendees also heard from three Elon students about how their internship experiences set them up for professional success. In a panel moderated by Robin Porter, director of Internships for the Love School of Business, Chloe Higgins ’24, Kaitlyn Michaud ’24 and Victory Moore ’25, discussed their recent internships and how they will use what they learned in their future careers.

Michaud, a student-athlete on the women’s lacrosse team, shared that she would not have been able to complete her internship without the stipend support she received. Senior Vice President for University Advancement and External Affairs Jim Piatt concluded the panel discussion by sharing why financial support for internships is critical for Elon students. He shared that approximately 88 percent of Elon students complete at least one internship prior to graduation, and about 40 percent of those experiences are unpaid. Piatt said it is Elon’s goal to raise the funds needed to eliminate the dinner table conversations about whether a student can accept their dream internship due to financial burdens.

President Book (left) and Olympic athlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee (right)

Highlighting the series of events was a keynote chat between Book and Joyner-Kersee. Book facilitated the conversation with questions asked by event attendees, centering on Joyner-Kersee’s historic Olympic career and her philanthropy. Joyner-Kersee shared how her passion for providing children with accessible after-school programs, safe recreational spaces and adults to champion their dreams led to the 1988 founding of the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in her hometown of East St. Louis, Illinois. In 2022, the foundation partnered with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and University of Illinois Extension to create the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Food, Agriculture and Nutrition Innovation Center (JJK FAN), with the goal of providing quality youth and community programs in STEM, agriculture, food production, nutrition, and physical activity in East St. Louis and beyond.

The Women of Elon Weekend formally launched the Women of Elon initiative, an effort to engage more women in the life of the university through philanthropy, volunteer leadership and events. The initiative seeks to raise $2.5 million by 2026 to support internship experiences for Elon students with the most need. At the weekend, co-chairs Priscilla Awkard ’95, Laurie Johnson P’17 and Michelle Wideman ’00 announced that more than $515,000 has already been raised toward this goal. Trustees Kerrii Anderson ’79 and Vicky Hunt serve as honorary co-chairs of this initiative with an additional 24 alumnae, parents and friends sitting on the Women of Elon Advisory Council.

The next Women of Elon event is a free webinar titled “Philanthropy Redefined,” featuring Awkard, Johnson and Wideman discussing how this group is redefining philanthropy to be more inclusive and more impactful at Elon and beyond. Registration is required. The Women of Elon Weekend will be a biennial event moving forward, with the next summit taking place in spring 2026. Visit the Women of Elon website for more information.