Gen Z's delayed first experiences mean the college has to adapt programs, offerings for students

ELON — Elon University is adjusting for a new generation.

The movers and shakers of Alamance County gathered at the university’s shiny new Schar Center on Thursday, Aug. 9, to hear just how they’re adjusting from President Connie Book.

It was the first time many of the leaders had seen the 160,000-square-foot facility, which Deputy Director of Athletics Mike Ward describes as “99.4 percent done.”

“We’re really excited to be able to open the doors this morning and commence a tour for you in just a little bit so that you can see it,” Book said.

The 5,100-seat athletics facility and event space dwarfs the 1,600-seat Alumni Gym, which is no longer big enough to accommodate the growing number of students.

Book told the crowd that the Class of 2022 is Elon’s largest to date, coming in at 1,695 students — the cream of the crop out of more than 10,700 applicants.

And those students have a different set of needs than their predecessors.

“We’re in the middle of generation Z coming to college, and generation Z is different than the millennial generation,” Book said. “Here’s the good news: They’re less likely to have sex, use drugs and drink while in high school. That’s great news. I’m proud of that. But they’re also less likely to have a driver’s license, to have a part-time job and to date.

“Because those firsts are delayed, that means that when kids come to college now, all of those firsts are happening here on campus, and it’s creating more stress during the college years and more anxiety,” she continued.

As a result, the university is adapting both the campus and its programs.

Crews are finishing the 11,000-square-foot Koenigsberger Learning Center, which will house academic advising, learning assistance and disabilities resources offices under one roof, and provide a central space for any student who needs support.

And this fall marks the first year the university will offer a four-year engineering program.

“The [emphasis has been on] STEM education in our K–12 systems, and now all of those kids are coming to college, and the [pressure] is on in college to respond,” Book said.

The program will include a biomedical engineering concentration, with LabCorp in mind, to ensure that Elon graduates are prepared for the jobs available right here in Alamance County.

Book emphasized that the relationship between Elon and the county continues to be symbiotic.

The university has ground on a new hotel, The Inn at Elon, which Book hopes will serve the county as well as the university by keeping more Elon families, business partners and guests in Alamance County when they visit.

“In fact, we had an economic impact study done, and Elon provides about $270 million in economic impact to this area — the equivalent of 4,000 jobs,” she said. “I love the vibrancy of that and this community and what the partnership with Alamance County and this area, and our law school in Greensboro, brings to the community.

“We’re glad you’re here,” she concluded. “Thank you for supporting Elon and all the work you do to make this a great community.”


Reporter Jessica Williams can be reached at or at 336-506-3046. Follow her on Twitter at @jessicawtn.