Elon University President Connie Book’s is beginning this academic year with a sense of hopefulness. 

This morning, she delivered the President’s Address, which officially marks the beginning of the academic year. Book first spoke about meeting with Elon students leaders and preparing for the upcoming year, and she said they all found that building relationships and community was the number one factor for student success.

“We have the privilege of engaging 7,200 students and ensuring that they can learn and meet their professional goals, launch careers they desire, going to grad school — no matter the goal you have in mind, you are a critical part of building success,” Book said. 

Book also shared a message from Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dave Porter. He is hosting 15 students from the Odyssey program in Boston this week. 

She discussed this year’s common reading, which Book said her sense of hopefulness comes from in part. That led into the introduction of a mentoring design team, which is part of the Boldly Elon Strategic Plan, to make mentoring networks more accessible to students and Elon graduates. Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Jeff Stein and associate professor of psychology Buffie Longmire-Avital lead the committee, and faculty and staff broke out into small groups after the address for an initial discussion. 

Book showcased additions to Elon’s list of majors and minors. Data analytics and neuroscience were added to majors in the College of Arts and Sciences. Engineering design, sustainable enterprise, museum studies and public history, Islamic studies and food studies were added as minors.

The School of Health Sciences added an RN-to-BSN track exploration. The Martha and Spencer Love School of Business added a minor in fintech. The School of Communications added a minor in health communications and made changes to department-specific courses. The Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education is studying the viability of adding teaching licenses in dance, theater education and world languages.

Book also gave an update on the newly-required core curriculum course, known as an “Advancing Equity” requirement or AER. This academic year will be spent building the university’s capacity to teach this requirement. The course is set to begin in the fall of 2023. 

“Courses, which will be taught from a variety of disciplines, will include a project that puts equitable thinking to work,” Book said. “In my mind this is the most hopeful aspect of this new requirement, a reminder to our students that in fact, yes, we do have the power to change the future by the actions we take.”

The Department of Engineering was also founded this summer, and the inaugural chair is associate professor of engineering Scott Wolter. This week marks the opening of the Innovation Quad.

The School of Health Sciences welcomes its second class of nursing students this year, and the Francis Center is also undergoing renovations and new additions.

STEM efforts also include a remodeling of the McMichael Science Center, which is currently underway. Book said the STEM investment is $90 million.

Other campus renovations include new walking paths connecting Danieley Center to the Colonnades neighborhood and Danieley Center to the Francis Center. Two outdoor classrooms were built, swings were added on campus and construction on the new baseball facility is complete. 

Book shared renderings of a new living learning community coming to Loy Farm led by environmental studies faculty and Loy Farm staff. 

“Dr. Robert Charest and his sustainable design class will construct the first one, and then that model will be replicated with a goal of building capacity for 25 students who will live and work at Loy Farm as part of their Elon experience,” Book said.

At the graduate level, Allie Duffney was welcomed as the new dean of graduate admissions. She comes from the University of Rochester, where she led nursing enrollment efforts.

Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Love School of Business, is serving as interim provost following Aswani Volety’s departure. Three other Elon faculty members are also serving as interim deans in the School of Health Sciences, School of Communications and School of Law. Book addressed the string of recent announcements.

“We have remarkable interests in our leaders by other universities,” Book said.

A list of finalists for the new provost is expected to be released in October.

“We've retained a search firm, and they've told us there's lots of interest in our provost position,” Book said. “This is a critically important position at the university. We'll keep you posted on that.”

Book introduced a campaign for HealthEU, which focuses on wellbeing and wellness in six dimensions. This year’s speaker series is also dedicated to wellbeing with the theme of living well in a changing world. 

Book shared a number of community updates including growing the Campus Alamance internship program, naming the university as an early voting site and welcoming the first class of students to the Alamance Scholars Program

The address closed with admissions updates. The class of 2026 is the largest class the university has welcomed. There is a record-breaking number of 101 transfer students. Elon also welcomed 48 students into the largest class of Odyssey scholars. The Inn at Elon also awarded its first student scholarships this year, totaling over $800,000. 

Planning Week programming continues through Aug. 22.