Many students look forward to one of the hallmarks of the Elon experience: meeting President Connie Book. Now six more students can say they have done just that.
In early October, students joined Book for the first Lunch with President Book of the academic year. Attendees sat down in Clohan Hall to speak with Book and Vice President of Student Life Jon Dooley.
“The president is very interested in being actively engaged with students, and that includes both formal and informal settings,” Dooley said. “My office sets up a number of opportunities for President Book to interact with students throughout the course of the academic year, and these lunches are just one of many opportunities.”
A link to apply for the October luncheon was sent out to students early in the semester. The application included questions about the students’ interest in the lunch as well as why they wanted to attend.
“We send out every semester a survey link to students, letting them know about the open days that [Book] has to play table tennis with students on Fridays but also soliciting student interest in sitting down with the president and having lunch,” Dooley said.
These lunches are an initiative to connect with students, which started two academic years ago upon Book’s arrival in 2018. Book said she tries to hold an event with students once a month, and Dooley said these events are opportunities for himself and Book to engage with Elon’s student body.
“The president and I both have a goal of maintaining a lot of student interaction, and so each of us, since we took our respective offices, have found ways to make sure that that’s a priority,” Dooley said. “We put that in our schedules at the beginning of every semester.”
Six students attended lunch with Book on Oct. 1. According to Dooley, the small number was intentional. Freshman Ben Puchyr said he enjoyed the small group setting because he was able to converse with Book.
“For someone who’s in a position that she’s in, to be able to form a bond, to form a connection with students … I don’t hear UNC Chapel Hill or other schools saying ‘Hey, come have lunch with the President’,” Puchyr said. “I don’t hear that at other places. That’s another thing that makes Elon special.”
Senior Jizelle Campbell said meeting Book was on her “mental bucket list” of things to do before graduating.
“Just listening to things she enjoys about the campus and how oftentimes she’s stressed made me able to relate to her more easily,” Campbell said. “We don’t think of the president as also human. Just hearing her perspective and just her position … I really enjoyed that.”
Senior Kelly Valerio said she enjoyed hearing about the freshman experience during the lunch.
“It was interesting to hear, from the first-year perspective, what they think of the university,” Valerio said. “Being a senior, it was kind of interesting to hear what they had to say was going well in their experience and what wasn’t going well.”
Book said one of her favorite parts of having lunch with students is hearing about their Elon experiences, something she does not always have the opportunity to do.
“I’m a faculty member by background, and I’m missing having those moments in class with students where you can hear more about their overall Elon experience,” Book said.
The date of the next lunch has not been announced as of Oct 25. But the annual president’s holiday reception will take place on Thursday, Dec. 5 from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.