Another year, another largest class in school history. Another year, another round of construction plans for a new building.
As the student body increases at Elon University each year, the need for new facilities also increases. The two-story, 32,000-square-foot Inman Admissions Welcome Center officially opened in February, and a 38,000-square-foot expansion of Moseley Center, which included Lakeside Dining Hall, opened two years prior. Construction is currently taking place for the School of Communications expansion.
What’s next on the list? Elon announced on Aug. 31 its purchase of 19.5 acres of property next to the Hunt Softball Park on North Williamson Avenue Aug. 31. Elon’s Board of Trustees has designated the site as the preferred location for a proposed convocation center.
The center would also host major campus events and basketball and volleyball games, replacing Alumni Gym in its current role. There is no cost estimate for it yet, according to Gerald Whittington, Elon’s senior vice president for business, finance and technology.
“Alumni Gymnasium has served Elon remarkably well for 60 years and was well suited for a much smaller school,” Whittington said. “We believe the time has come to provide a larger multipurpose convocation center that can better serve a university of Elon’s size and stature and be a premier gathering space in our region.”
Elon’s consistent yearly growth, a big reason for the proposed convocation center, has transformed the campus. The Class of 2019 has a total of 1,497 students, while the Class of 2016 had 1,425 students enrolled. The small increases can add up over time—the Class of 1996 had just 820 students enrolled.
“At the time I started in admissions in 1990 we had approximately 3,200 students,” said vice president of admissions and financial planning Greg Zaiser. “Today, we enroll nearly twice that many.”
Increased national awareness of the university has played a part. Elon surpassed 10,000 freshmen applications in the past four years, and Zaiser said he anticipates another 10,000 applicants for the Class of 2020.
The admissions office is ready for it, Zaiser said. The influx in applicants started around 2005, leading Elon to move from a rolling admissions program to a more controlled three-deadline program of early decision, early action and regular deadline.
The gradually increasing student body isn’t going to stop growing any time soon. The admissions office is planning to have 1,525 freshmen enter the university next year, an increase of 28 from the Class of 2019, but Whittington said there is no magic number of students the university is working towards in the long term.
“Elon’s model of slow, sustained growth has been a great thing for the university,” Zaiser said. “This will continue.”
The draw of new and expanded facilities grows greater as the classes get bigger. The previous admissions office in Moseley Center had little space to help the influx of visitors, according to Zaiser.
“We needed a space large enough to accommodate prospective students for both large group meetings and one-on-one conversations that are more frequently being requested,” he said. “Also, prior to Inman, we would have to routinely close sessions meaning we could not accommodate all our visitors due to limited space. Telling people they can’t visit is not at all what we want to do, but when sessions were full, we had few options.”
In addition to the proposed convocation center, the construction of two new academic buildings are also being planned for. One is for the School of Business, which needs additional space apart from the Koury Business Center, according to an E-Net article. The other building, which will focus on the physical sciences, is planned to be constructed near the McMichael Science Center. Fundraising will occur for the buildings over the next couple of years.
According to Director of Sustainability Elaine Durr, the increase in campus size does not conflict with Elon’s goal of sustainability. She said in an email that Elon has a Green Building Policy, which requires major construction projects affecting 8,000 square feet or more to achieve LEED certification. Buildings are LEED-certified by the U.S. Green Building Council when they meet efficiency and clean energy requisites.
Durr added that Elon’s design team is looking for ways to make the proposed convocation center as sustainable as possible.
“The design team is currently evaluating different mechanical and lighting systems for the facility to determine which is the most energy efficient and cost effective,” she said. “The team is also evaluating the project using the LEED checklist, which has the following five main categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.”