Updated as of Aug. 20 at 7:03 p.m. to include video. 

More than 1,700 students from the class of 2026 and more than 100 transfer students passed by the old Main Bell in the Alamance Building Aug. 20, marking the beginning of New Student Convocation and their academic careers at Elon.

Students from 45 states and 24 countries sat in the rows of chairs Under the Oaks. In the crowd, 85 members of the class of 2026 are siblings of current or former Elon students. 35 students are children or grandchildren of alumni. In the class of 2026, 168 students are the first in their family to attend college. 

Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence Randy Williams delivered these numbers and profiled four students who are members of the incoming class.

Nailah Ware is from Maryland and was the first applicant for this fall’s entering class. Soriah Rodriguez-Smith was one of many who balanced multiple commitments in high school such as an honor’s society, sports team and multiple jobs. Erik Mason is a small business owner whose profits help support youth in his hometown in New York. Grace Muschett was an athlete and coach in high school and is coming into Elon as part of the newest Teaching Fellows cohort.

“The location where you are seated today, centered under the canopy and these mighty oaks in this historic row, surrounded by your faculty, your families, and with university staff all around us is intentional,” Williams said. “It is a reminder that you will be embraced by this community.”

Vice President of Student Life Jon Dooley said the 2022-23 academic year will mark 100 years since the 1923 fire that destroyed the campus. The bell from the main administration building survived the fire and is now on display in Alamance Building. The fire, according to Dooley, was one of Elon’s greatest setbacks, but the bell stands as a symbol of resilience.

“When you encounter a challenge at Elon, which you most certainly will, I hope you will come by the Alamance Building and touch that bell to recall the bright future that we celebrate here today and as a reminder of what it means to rise again, like a Phoenix,” Dooley said. 

Dooley said when students are having a tough day or even a tough semester, he hopes they remember they are not alone.

“If you are facing a challenge, that is the important time to reach out to the people around you, including all the resources at this university, and ask for help,” Dooley said. “Successful students and smart leaders use their resources.” 

Dooley said the Elon community is special — one where its members take care of each other. 

SGA Student Body President Nadine Jose was the second speaker to address the class of 2026, new transfer students and members of the Elon community. She recalled her experience sitting Under the Oaks three years ago and said she was eager to give advice to the incoming class.

“I see a group who's capable of achievements beyond my wildest imaginations, whose abilities and experiences are diverse and rich, whose potential is palpable,” Jose said.

Jose also spoke about carving a path that is fulfilling and brings both joy and challenges to students.

“Change is uncomfortable and scary,” Jose said. “It reminds me that life is so much bigger and grander than you could have ever imagined. I invite you right now to lose any preconceived notions of who you think you will be or what you will be in college. I'm not here to tell you to drop your major or rethink your career, or even relinquish the hopes you came in with. But understand that they might evolve during your time. And that's not a loss, but a hallmark of growth.”

Interim Provost and Dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business Raghu Tadepalli made his first speech today. He offered advice for success to students and talked about attending office hours and being conscious of your social media presence.

Tadepalli also encouraged students to tell their families that it was OK to say goodbye. Students all joined in with a loud ‘yes’ and were met with laughter in return.

University President Connie Book spoke about how Elon is a welcoming community and reiterated that acts of racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance are harmful and diminish the community. 

“No matter where you are in the world, our Honor Code demands we conduct ourselves with the highest standards of human decency and care,” Book said.

Book also addressed sexual violence and the importance of recognizing basic human rights.

“Each of us can confront and challenge norms and behaviors that come down or even encourage sexual violence, and we expect that every one of us will,” Book said. “A community like Elon that aspires to ensure the human dignity of all of its members requires nothing less.”

She closed her address with the annual tradition of a human bar graph to see where Elon students fit into the world.

New Student Convocation marks one of the final events for families this weekend. President Book praised them for getting their students to this point.

“You have my heartfelt congratulations for shepherding your students to this moment,” Book said. “We know the work of preparing the young person for the independence that is about to unfold here at Elon took a lifetime.”