Correction: The version of this story that appeared in the Sept. 7 edition of The Pendulum misidentified James Fariello's involvement. He works with the Connections Office that will open in Moseley. Elon News Network regrets the error.
The Presidential Task Force on Social Climate and Out-of-Class Engagement has written 42 recommendations to assist in strengthening Elon University’s reach outside the walls of classrooms, looking specifically at how students identify with like-minded cohorts that include clubs and organizations.
In response to the findings, Elon has created PhoenixCONNECT, an online resource that displays many of Elon’s clubs and organizations, and will also open an office in Moseley Center to act as a hub for students.
The app and office are intended to encourage more involvement among students. Two of the most recurring themes identified by the Task Force had to do with slipping through the cracks as a result of either missing the Organization Fair or not joining Fraternity & Sorority Life, which about 35 percent of students are actively part of.
“We’re looking at it because, for most of our students, they do actually have great experiences at Elon and a really strong sense of belonging,” said Jon Dooley, assistant vice president for Student Life and dean of Campus Life, who co-chaired the Task Force with Associate Professor of Communications Naeemah Clark. “What that means is that when a student doesn’t find that connection, it’s even more glaring to us as an institution.
“Elon is a place that is restless — that is really growing and wanting to improve and this is just a process of improvement.”
President Leo Lambert appointed Dooley and Clark in August 2015 to lead the 29-member Task Force, charging them to “examine the student experience and recommend ways for all students to be fully connected to the university’s academic, intellectual and social opportunities in a manner that is healthy, engaging and meaningful.”
Collecting data for the Task Force took eight months, and the methods ranged from surveys to town hall meetings.
In conjunction with the Task Force, an implementation team will look through the recommendations and advice each department on how to proceed.
In past years, Elon has launched two other Presidential Task Forces involving African-American and LGBTQIA experiences on campus to examine itself in light of national conversations and incidents on campus.
But there has not been a publicly recognized incident involving student disengagement on Elon’s campus, and the mid-sized institution has held at least an 89 percent first-year student retention rate since 1989.
Considering that context, Jana Lynn Patterson, dean of Student Health and Wellness, called some of the recommendations “bold,” but agrees with them because they “opened a lot of people’s eyes.”
PhoenixCONNECT provides contact information for student leaders and directs users to events with an interactive map. To go along with the website, Corq, an app available for Android and iPhone, was launched and will include the same information found on PhoenixCONNECT.
The Moseley office is planned to open in the coming weeks, according to senior James Fariello, who works with the Connections Office.
“I’m really excited to have those one-on-one conversations with students and figure out what they really want to do with their time here at Elon, and be able to help them accomplish those goals,” Fariello said. “I think getting involved across campus can really change the nature of your time at Elon because, if you get involved early, you can have much more deep connection and develop really strong mentors.”
Mentorship and shared common spaces were also addressed in Clark and Dooley’s recommendations. But Clark said those parts of their suggestions won’t be incorporated into campus culture overnight.
Lambert echoed those same sentiments in earnest during the first SGA meeting of the school year when he outlined the school’s plan for advancement.
Clark said the wording and content of her authored propositions were mostly broad and universal in context because she said less specificity and fewer details often evoke more discussion, which will then generate change.
Randy Williams, associate vice president for campus engagement and co-chair of the implementation team, said he and his staff will know more about the recommendation report’s progress in October or November.
“I’m excited to see [the end result], but for me, my mission was to gather really good information, present it in a way that was challenging to different departments,” Clark said. “And now, I just want to see what happens. I feel like my work is done and now I want to see other people take up this charge.”
If students want to see the recommendations, they can visit https://www.elon.edu/e/eadministration/taskforce/socialclimate.