Category Archives: Letter to the Class of 2017

Letter to Elon’s Class of 2017

To the class of 2017:

As you embark on this journey we call college, you are most likely filled with all sorts of emotions. You might feel happiness, excitement, eagerness, and maybe even a little fear. You may already think you know what the “college experience” is all about, both inside and outside the classroom. Whether you plan on majoring in business, joining a particular sorority, or playing club lacrosse, Elon University offers plenty of classes and activities to keep you occupied during your time here. But between cramming for exams and managing your social life, I want to challenge you to make the most of your time here at Elon. And I don’t mean by joining the most clubs or having the best GPA. College is a time of learning and growing, taking risks and discovering who you are. During this time you will learn to be independent, form your own opinions, and truly develop into your own person. As a student that has already spent a fair amount of time here, I ask that you enter Elon with an open mind and with one expectation: to grow, transform, and challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible. Use this knowledge so that you can leave Elon as an engaged, informed, and humble citizen of the world.

Elon’s mission statement is as follows: “We integrate learning across the disciplines and put knowledge into practice, thus preparing students to be global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good.” To truly embrace this mission, we must learn to overcome our own personal biases and opinions. Do not let your own personal beliefs overshadow the brilliant ideas shared at this university. College is not just a time to listen and absorb information, it is a time to experiment and challenge preconceived ideas. Please do not take this unique experience for granted, because this kind of opportunity will teach you how to be an engaged learner for the rest of your life.

To truly fulfill Elon’s mission statement, I also ask that you use your time here to develop critical thinking and analytical skills that will make you both a better leader and global citizen. Not all the information you are presented is true, and hardly any of that information comes without some sort of bias. Looking past these biases to reveal the truth is a difficult but necessary task for a global citizen. Therefore, critically examine everything you learn about, not only at Elon, but in all facets of your life. In this way, you will become a more informed member of society.

And lastly, I challenge you to recognize the importance of humility during your time at Elon. This university is home to some of the most privileged people in the entire world. And as future leaders in this country, we have the power to continue an attitude of arrogance, or show others how to have an open mind to different cultures and ways of thinking.  Do not assume your way is the “best” way. Approach all new ideas with a sense of humility.

I believe that if you enter Elon with this kind of attitude, your experience here will be life changing.  You will leave this school with not only a degree, but as a global citizen ready to take on any challenge the future may hold.


Final blog post

Last chapter of the book?

The prompt below was the one that was used for the final exam when I taught this course in 2012.  The essays from this class will be part of a (final?) chapter in our book.  Your letters, written to the Class of 2017, can and should be part of this chapter as well.  

Before you publish categorize this under “Letter to the Class of 2017” 

Just as with your midterm, your final exam blog post will be an act of public scholarship.  In this case your intended audience are members of the Elon University Class of 2016, the students that will be sitting under the oaks outside West in late August listening to Dr. Lambert, just as you did when you started your career at Elon.

A thought:  Over the years as I have watched these incoming first year students I am often reminded of the Zen koan about the cup of tea:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

For your final exam you are to write an open letter to the members of the Class of 2016 giving them advice or counsel regarding how they should proceed with the gift that they are being given.  More specifically, you can refer to the Elon mission statement which says, in part, that, “We integrate learning across the disciplines and put knowledge into practice, thus preparing students to be global citizens and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good.”

I will offer these letters [with your permission; let me know if you do not want yours offered.  If I do not hear from you I will assume that it is OK with you.] to Dr. Jeffery Coker, Director of General Studies and the person who oversees all of the GST 110 sections, and suggest that he have them emailed to the faculty teaching GST 110 and then passed on to the students.

In your letter make an effort -though not in such a way that it disrupts the flow and message of your essay- to include insights from our texts, our conversations, and what you have learned in this course.  I do ask you to use the term ‘ethnocentrism’ in your essay.  Be creative, compelling and write the kind of letter that will both inform and move them.

Both email your final essay to me and post your essay on the blog by 9:00PM Friday evening.



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