Under the shade of the iconic oak trees on the Elon campus, the class of 2026 and their loved ones were officially welcomed into the Elon community during the graduation ceremony for new students on Saturday morning.
“Class of 2026, today begins your educational journey,” said Book President Connie Ledoux at the 2022 New Student Convocation.
“We are very protective of our community at Elon and it is not something we take for granted. We are deliberate and outspoken about community values that allow everyone here to feel our welcome, a sense of belonging and We know that creating an environment where you can learn and find purpose is fundamental.”
The convocation began with a procession of incoming students through the Alamance building. Students passed the bell that hung in Old Main when the building along with others on the Elon campus was destroyed by fire in 1923. In the nearly 100 years since the fire, the university has risen from its ashes to experience phenomenal growth and become one of the best institutions of higher education in the country. The bell, which sits in the rotunda of Alamance, is an example of resilience.
“So when you come across a challenge to Elon, which you most certainly will, I hope you come to the Alamance building and touch that bell to remind yourself of the bright future we are celebrating here today, and to remind you what it means to rise up, like a phoenix,” said Vice President of Student Life Jon Dooley.
Nadine Jose ’23, executive chair of the Student Government Association, welcomed the class of 2026 by saying Elon would be a “liminal space” in their lives. “Liminal” derives from the Latin word “threshold”. Jose said Elon will be a liminal space in every student’s life, a time between “what was” and “what will be.”
But Jose had no reservations about the bright future of each student in the audience.
“Standing here today, I see a group capable of accomplishments beyond my wildest imagination. Whose collective abilities and experiences are diverse and rich, whose potential is palpable,” Jose said. “In this space, you are about to discover something new. You found something here that lit a fire inside you, that felt good, that felt like home. That feeling inside of you is true, Elon is special.
The overwhelming nature of move-in day, coupled with the plethora of events and activities, made Ryan Campbell 26 feel slightly uneasy about the college experience. But the welcoming words and faces he met at the new student’s convocation and the advice that it’s okay not to be involved in everything helped ease his worries.
“When I did the tour and they showed it all, it was kind of overwhelming and I felt like I had to do everything here,” Campbell said. “But now I feel more like I can do something I’m passionate about and will excel at. It’s a bit more relaxing.”
Randy Williams, Vice President and Associate Provost for Inclusive Excellence, provided an overview of the Class of 2026 which includes 1,712 freshmen and Elon’s 100 new transfer students who as a group come from 45 States and 24 countries. Eighty-five students in the incoming cohort are siblings of current or former Elon students, 35 are the children or grandchildren of former students, and 168 are first-generation students.
While it’s impossible to fully describe the diverse and talented pool of students in the Class of 2026, Williams highlighted four students who are shining examples.
Nailah Ware 26 of Crofton, Maryland, was the top candidate for the fall entrance class. As a member of the Equity Leadership Council in high school and the founder of her own production company, Ware plans to combine these experiences as a music production and recording arts major to advance equity in the world. music industry.
Soriah Rodriguez Smith ’26 of Winter Park, Fla., balanced multiple high school commitments. She was enrolled in an International Baccalaureate program, was part of a highly competitive varsity water polo team, and had two jobs. Smith is pursuing a major in psychology with the future goal of becoming a physician assistant.
Erik Mason ’26 from Ardsley, New York, is pursuing entrepreneurship studies at Elon and started his own business as a high school student. Through his company, Divine Sneakers, Mason invests in and sells rare collectible sneakers, using his company’s proceeds to support White Plains youth organizations. Mason was also a tri-sport varsity athlete and coach for youth basketball.
Grace Muschet ’26 of Fairfield, Connecticut, played college lacrosse in high school and coached youth basketball. She developed a passion for teaching and learning as a volunteer with Scholars & Athletes Serving Others and will turn it into a career by pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education as a Lecturer at Elon.
“Nailah, Soriah, Erik and Grace, we welcome you to Elon and we can’t wait to see what you and your classmates accomplish,” Williams said. “While these four students are remarkable, each of the new students seated before us today comes with significant accomplishments and abilities.”
Drawing inspiration from the university’s common reading, “Factfulness,” President Book spoke of the hope she has in the Class of 2026. By making a human bar chart, Book illustrated the overwhelming positivity in the world that is often overlooked. Hans Rosling, the author of “Factfulness,” argues that our instincts tend to be negative when things are more positive than they appear. Rosling doesn’t encourage us to ignore the negative things in life, but to also focus on the improvements that have been made, Book said.
“This mindset…recognizes that each of us has the ability to move forward and change the world. Things can get better, things get better,” Book said. “I love this view. It gives me hope and reminds me of our mission and the power of an Elon education.
Faculty excellence was highlighted at the graduation ceremony, noting Elon’s ranking as the #1 in the nation for undergraduate teaching. Faculty recognized this spring for their excellence as mentors, scholars and community leaders were also highlighted, including lecturer in religious studies LD Russell, who served as Associate Director of the Department of Strategic Communications Vanessa Bravo, Associate Professor of Public Health Studies Stephanie Baker and Associate Professor of Anthropology Mussa Idris.
“I am proud of our Elon faculty and know you will find them to be outstanding teachers and mentors during your time at Elon,” said Raghu Tadepalli, Acting Provost and Dean of the Love School of Business.
Deandra Little, Associate Vice Principal of Faculty Development, told the students, “Over the next four years, you will get to know many of the faculty sitting around you today. When you join the university, it is important to have an idea of how you will work with them.
This focus stuck with Kate Becksvoort ’26, who was initially worried about the relationship she would have with her teachers. But after hearing how helpful each faculty member is with all of Elon’s students, regardless of discipline, Becksvoort was reassured that the faculty will be a huge resource she can rely on during her four years at school. Elon.
“Everyone has pointed out that there will be a huge support system here and everyone cares about your well-being, where you are going and how you will be successful,” she said.
The ceremony included a special musical performance by Travis Foust ’23 and Cecily Weinstein ’23 as well as the singing of Elon’s alma mater conducted by music lecturer Polly Cornelius. The students then walked through lines of faculty and staff and received a tassel.
A treasured tradition of Elon for more than two decades, receiving an acorn at New Student Convocation symbolizes intellectual and personal growth over the next four years. The next time the class of 2026 reunite as a group Under the Oaks will be at their senior bachelor’s ceremony in four years to receive an oak sapling, which will bring home the transformation they underwent at Elon.
“I feel so passionately that the world needs Elon graduates,” Book said. “We say that a lot here, Class of 2026. Because the world and our country need the values that an Elon education nurtures – respect for the richness that our differences bring, the value of living a life of contribution and work hard work, and making a difference in the lives of others – the values that will grow for you over the next few years of engaged learning. You are our hope, our hope for a smarter, stronger and kinder world.