In 1989, a young man arrived at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wisconsin. He had been your typical overactive leader in high school, but as someone who avoided alcohol, he felt socially out-of-place and awkward in the college environment.

Still, at orientation he knew that if he didn’t step out of his comfort zone, he’d be missing out on the opportunity to create a meaningful college experience.

He nervously decided to cross the room and talk to people he didn’t know.

In 1991, a 17-year-old young woman was a new student at Florida State University. She never quite had the right clothes and kept her Jheri Curl longer than she should have. Then the boy that she had the biggest crush on asked her roommate out. She knew that she could either sit in her room crying or she could find something to fill the void.

She walked to the student union and tried out to be an orientation leader.

Although by their senior years he had become the president of his local fraternity and she was a member of the orientation head staff, without those first steps, their college experiences and lives would not have been the same. 

Those experiences helped them become people who help students get the most out of their Elon University experiences.

It is fitting that those co-eds (Jon Dooley, assistant vice president and dean of campus life and Naeemah Clark, associate professor in the School of Communications) are co-chairing the Presidential Task Force on Campus Social Climate and Out of Class Engagement.

President Lambert created the task force recognizing that large numbers of students have fantastic Elon experiences right from the start, but others do not. The task force is examining the student experience and recommending ways to help students connect with intellectual and social experiences in healthy, meaningful and engaging ways.

How meaningful are the relationships you’re creating? How purposeful are you in picking activities that will add depth to your learning? What is the contribution of Greek life to Elon’s social climate? If going to a house party isn’t your scene, what do you want to do on a weekend night?

The task force is spending this academic year digging into these and other topics because we want to make sure every student’s Elon experience is as rewarding as it can be.

This month, the task force will be gathering information from students about their social and out of class experiences. We hope you will participate in one or more of these sessions. There will be two community-wide town halls: at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10 in the McBride Gathering Space and at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11 in McKinnon Hall.

There will also be “idea walls” across campus Nov. 3-6. Pick up a marker and write your thoughts on the wall. We will be conducting small group interviews with students in the next several weeks — if you get an invitation, come and let us know what you think.

Finally, be on the lookout for a survey on social climate and out-of-class engagement that will be sent to the entire campus in November.

You also can send us an email ( if you’d like to be interviewed or if you have some thoughts about changes you’d like to see or things we should keep just as they are.

Take the first step in helping us help you create your life story.

Naeemah Clark is an associate professor of communications, and Jon Dooley is assistant vice president for student life.