The 2019-2020 school year officially began on August 19 in Schar Center as President Connie Book welcomed faculty and staff back to campus with her annual opening address. The address focused heavily on the strategic plan for the next decade, which will be finalized and named in the fall.

During the address Book emphasized the university’s planned focus on science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) and nursing programs. 

“To achieve these visionary goals, we will prioritize the hiring of STEM faculty attracting outstanding teacher-scholar-mentors who are passionately driven by teaching, mentoring and student success,” Book said.

With the university’s new STEM focus, Book hopes to encourage and support the hiring of more women and other minorities. Part of the plan is to have Elon’s engineering accredited by the end of the next strategic plan. This will be accompanied by a new quad being built on campus that will serve as a physical center for the STEM field.

Accessibility is another key part of the strategic plan. Elon is planning to more than double its endowment of $260 million, 80% of which Book says will be committed to scholarships in the future. This comes after Elon was ranked 13th worst for financial aid in the country by the Princeton Review published in August. 

A part of making Elon more accessible is the planned increase of Odyssey Scholars from 180 students to 400 students by 2029. The Odyssey Scholarship is a “highly selective merit-based program consisting of talented individuals who are academically strong, civically engaged, action-oriented leaders in their communities, who will benefit from an Elon education and demonstrate financial need.”

Book also hopes to focus on student wellbeing at Elon. In the next strategic plan Book hopes to prioritize on-campus support for mental and physical health. Namely, the Koury Center will be transformed into a community wellness center. 

Before outlining the strategic plan, which will be finalized and named in the fall, Book addressed the union that was voted on in March by the adjunct, limited-term and visiting professors at Elon. In response, the university filed an objection to the votes counted. The National Labor Relations Board has not certified the results of the vote yet. 

“We will also continue to treat all faculty and staff with staff and collegiality. We will continue to use our established system of shared governance to advance ways to best support the work of all faculty and staff,” Book said.  

An update was also given on the two newest facilities opening on campus this year, the LaRose Student Commons in the Historic Neighborhood, and the Inn at Elon, located across the street from the Koury Business Center. The LaRose Student Commons is being finished and will not be open when students first arrive to campus for move in on August 23, but is scheduled to be completed in the fall. The space is proposed to serve as a “much needed” community space for the Historic Neighborhood. 

The Inn at Elon is scheduled to ring in the new year, opening Jan. 1, 2020. All of the money generated by the 80-room boutique hotel will be poured back into student scholarships. Book also says the hotel will serve as a new tax stream for the town, generating more spending in the Town of Elon.

Following the traditional ringing of the bell to signal the start of the new year from Student Government Association (SGA) President Jack Johnson, Book introduced three new Elon Medallion recipients; Pam Brumbaugh, Tom Henricks and Lisa Pennington. 

Brumbaugh retired in 2017 and was recognized for her service in making Elon an immersive learning environment. Henricks retired in 2018 was called, “The epitome of quiet, respected leadership” and was recognized for his work in the sociology field and advancing the standing of the institution nationally. Pennington helped champion many advancements in the school of health sciences. “With a passion for public services and quality healthcare for all, Lisa worked tirelessly to address the need for qualified health professionals in Alamance County and the surrounding community,” Steven House said while introducing Pennington.

Three professors were also honored by receiving named professorships, professor of economics Steven DeLoach received the Martha and Spencer Love Term Professorship, assistant professor of history Andrea Sinn received the Stella S. and John C. O'Briant Developing Professorship in History, and associate professor of environmental studies Amanda Chunco received the Japheth E. Rawls Professor for undergraduate research in science.

The end of the annual ceremony marked the beginning of Planning Week, where faculty will attend meetings and sessions in preparation for the academic school year.