Updated as of 5:06 p.m. on Sept. 19 to include photos from Elon University's press conference Sept. 19.
Elon University has officially announced its expansion through the new Charlotte Regional Center, a hub for academics and university-wide events and programs. The university held an opening ceremony Sept. 19, where university representatives made announcements for the future of Elon in Charlotte, including a flexible law program, summer finance program, the sport management experience and other events
Regional centers across the country were first conceptualized in the Boldly Elon strategic plan in 2018, according to Elon President Connie Book.
“We had had great success in other national centers,” Book said during the ceremony. “For more than 15 years, we've been out in Los Angeles, where that regional center has become a great learning opportunity for our students.”
The Charlotte Regional Center is located at 330 W. Tremont Ave. in South End, an up-and-coming Charlotte neighborhood.
“We saw lots of natural synergies between Elon and the programs that we offer and the work being done by the local community here in Charlotte,” Book said. “There was so much dynamic activity that it was infectious.”
Book also announced the new Elon Law FLEX program. Developed by Elon's School of Law faculty, FLEX puts students on a four-year graduation track while allowing students to pursue full-time employment. Elon Law in Greensboro has students on a 2.5 year track while the average law school track takes 3 years.
“Why we're calling it a FLEX program is that it is designed to be completed in four years, but actually the students can engage with the faculty and plan that schedule that works best for their work environment,” Book said. “It's really a dynamic, creative way to approach legal education.”
Book also said the school plans to implement law clinics at the Charlotte Regional Center, where students can get real-world experience providing legal aid. She said these will be similar to the small business and immigration clinics, at the current law school in Greensboro. Book said these legal services can be provided at no charge to clients as part of the clinical education.
“We have exceptional clinics in our Greensboro campus and we're envisioning those clinics here in Charlotte,” Book said.
At the ceremony, Elon University School of Law Dean Zak Kramer said the program will offer evening classes that will be staffed by current Elon Law faculty. The initial cohort will begin with 35 students, according to Kramer.
Elon Law has also submitted applications for accreditation with the American Bar Association and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, and is waiting for approval on both applications.
According to Kramer, the Elon Law FLEX program will begin taking applications Oct. 1. The program will also be holding open houses at the regional center from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15, Feb. 20, 2024 and April 25, 2024.
Kramer said students, faculty and staff will be working with local citizens who want to remove low level crimes from their records, as well as writing wills.
“We are going to do our best to do right by the city, the community and the bar here,” Kramer said.
While the University is new to Charlotte, Kramer says Elon has been present for years because of the high population of Elon alumni in the area.
“The building is new to Elon, but Elon Law is not new to Charlotte. Over 10% of our alums are here living and working in Charlotte,” Kramer said. “They're working in the sport sector, the banking sector; they're working in government positions, in public service positions. We have students every year who go during their program from Greensboro here to Charlotte.”
He said he hopes the new center will help the Elon law community connect over a larger area.
“This program has the ability to not only grow our community but connect our community,” Kramer said. “Even though there is physical distance between the two campuses, we want to make sure that we are one school and a community that can connect,”
Kramer also said the first two years of the program, Charlotte classes will be staffed by existing Greensboro.
“Gradually as the students transition into the later years of the program, we would be looking to staff it locally to make sure that we can grow the experience not just for students, but also for staff and faculty,” he said.
Book also announced a new intensive summer finance internship program for undergraduate students.
“We also want to partner with business leaders. We want to provide those networking opportunities and cultural intellectual opportunities with speakers and opportunities to engage with the kind of learning that we do on our other campuses,” Book said. “This facility, in our vision, will be bustling with activity of that kind of learning year-round.”
Book said it is important to the university to bring its values of honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect to Charlotte.
“We want to be very intentional about our presence here in the city and bringing those values to Charlotte as part of our presence here as a participant in the higher education environment,” Book said.
Book said Elon is collaborating with the United Way of Greater Charlotte, which will offer 10 paid internships to undergraduate students beginning in the summer of 2024.
“We'll be part of the community,” Book said. “That is going to bring that very valuable work with nonprofits, and those students further into the Charlotte community.”
Kramer said he is excited for law students to engage with the Charlotte community through internships.
“My hope is that the students are not only getting a wonderful experience, but are finding opportunities to connect them in Charlotte with internships, with experiences, with opportunities to meet with judges, with lawyers, with civic leaders, with business leaders – a fully networked experiential experience,” Kramer said. “I'm confident – given our experience doing that in Greensboro and the experience that we already have in Charlotte, and the deep connections that we'll be able to leverage – it's definitely feasible.
The regional center will also house university events, according to Book.
A new program called "Leading Authentically in a Fractured World" – a leadership development workshop – will be open to the public and will be led by former White House adviser and founding chair of Elon University School of Law's National Advisory Board David Gergen and his son Christopher Gergen. The first event is set to take place at the regional center and is scheduled for March 18, 2024.
The Charlotte Regional Center is also home to “Elon in Charlotte: The Sport Experience” program, being offered for the first time this fall. Students in the program live and intern in Charlotte while enrolled in three to four Elon courses.
Vic Costello, cinema and television arts professor and director of communications core curriculum and minor, is teaching COM 3350: Sport & Media and said he is excited to be teaching in Charlotte.
“I think it's a fertile ground for all sorts of curricular connections – both within the school communications as well as other programs on campus and graduate programs,” Costello said.
He said Charlotte is a perfect hub for sport management majors.
“Charlotte is a top 25 professional sports market. It is the largest city in North Carolina. It's the finance capital of the East Coast – other than New York,” Costello said.
Costello also said he is getting to know the city of Charlotte through teaching.
“It's all very consolidated. It's got a pretty tight, urban footprint. So getting from one place to another is pretty easy within the city,” he said. “There's a lot of potential for other programs besides for management to find a way to connect and tie in to the opportunities down there.”
Elon junior Sarah Dawkins, an economic and sport management major, is participating in The Sport Experience.
“I feel like we are getting access to so many great opportunities by being here,” Dawkins said. “Through being a part of this small group, we have gotten the chance to build close relationships with our professors and are also making connections with many Elon alumni in the Charlotte area.”