International Students Plant Roots at Elon
Oaks are deeply rooted in Elon University’s history. From the trees that dot the North Carolina, U.S., campus to the literal naming of the school—Elon means "oak" in Hebrew—oaks are all around students during their educational journeys.
Elon students are given an acorn at convocation to symbolize potential and promise. Then, at commencement, students receive a sapling to commemorate growth. Students are even asked to “map their saplings” so that alumni all over the country can watch them grow.
It can be a bit more difficult for international students to find a place to plant.
“For many students, getting home requires a sequence of flights and border crossings—at some of which it may even be illegal to transport live goods,” says Shannalee Van Beek, Elon’s communications manager of global education.
That’s why the staff at the Isabella Cannon Global Education Center, together with the office of the president, facilities management, and others, designated a corner of campus the “International Grove,” where international students mark their connection to campus with a sapling planting ceremony.
“It is striking to see a physical representation of growth, year after year, not only of the individual trees, but of the total size of the grove,” Van Beek says. “It makes me look forward to a time when we can walk through the International Grove, shaded by tall trees, and reflect on the legacy of international graduates that shade the path for international students to come.”
The landscaping and grounds team, which includes several arborists, is the primary caretaker of the International Grove. International alumni come back often to check on their saplings and attend each year’s planting ceremony.
Despite 2020 commencement exercises being postponed, the 2020 planting ceremony was able to proceed as an outdoor, socially distanced event. The international graduates were even able to get their degrees conferred as part of the ceremony since international students may not be able to return to campus for the full, postponed exercises.
“Initiatives such as the International Grove affirm in a very visible, tangible way that Elon’s international community is at the heart of Elon’s commitment to global education,” Van Beek says.
About the author(s)
Beth Mechum is the Manager of Strategic Communications at CASE.
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