The Blog @
Southern Virginia University
  1. Orientation: Rise Up for Honor

    August 30, 2014

    Whether you call it “that Honor Council thing” or by its official name, Rise Up for Honor seems to have a profound impact on those who are able to attend. Sure, gathering outside at 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning when all your boxes still need unpacking may not generally be everyone’s cup of tea, but taking the time to commit or recommit to Southern Virginia University’s standards is a crucial part of launching the new academic year.

    After all, it’s Southern Virginia’s unwillingness to sacrifice its ideals that draws many of its students and faculty members here in the first place. I don’t know about everyone else, but I didn’t move to Buena Vista for the party atmosphere and roaring night life. I think most of us are here because this university sets standards that lift us up, empower us, and prepare us to succeed.

    Dr. Karen Walker, director of the academic success program, focused her speech on three things: “First, everyone has a story. Second, everyone has a struggle. Third, everyone needs help.” This idea struck me (as did Bubba Eisenhauer’s “I would love to fight dragons,” but not necessarily in the same way). I feel that we students sometimes need to be reminded that the Code of Honor isn’t merely about dressing in a particular way or remembering to shave. Its true, fundamental aim is to enable us to lend a bit more honesty and virtue to society and to supply us with the principles we need in order to better the lives of those around us, both now and later in life – you know, once we’ve delved into that vast unknown we call “the real world.”

    When I asked this year’s student vice president of honor, Kaitlyn Fife, why she cares so deeply about the Code of Honor, she said, “I want my fellow students to see the Code of Honor the way I do. It is not something meant to confine or to hold people back – it is a tool for moving onward and upward, for preparing to succeed in a world where our personal standards will set us apart from our peers. The 2014-2015 Orientation theme, ‘Believe,’ is a great basis for that idea.”

    And this, I think, is a sentiment that was shared by all who were involved in Rise Up for Honor as they stood and pledged that they, too, would stand for the principles in the Code of Honor. These “rules” are instruments that, if used correctly, can allow us to create the sort of lives to which we aspire.

    Following Rise Up for Honor that morning, students split into groups and executed service projects on campus and in the community – essentially wasting no time before applying the concepts in the Honor Pledge. Weeding in the sweet, sweet humidity of Virginia’s summers is a lot less miserable when you remember why you’re doing it and are surrounded by others who understand what service, honor, and life at Southern Virginia University are really about.

    (Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ‘16. Photos by Bronwyn Himes ‘17.)

  2. Liberal Arts in England

    August 22, 2014

    The last hurrah of my summer was a three-week Travel Study trip to England. After a month of studying English political writings and literature, twelve other students and myself set up camp in London. We couldn’t use our normal phones. None of us knew exactly how to navigate the public transportation. Nonetheless, we had a blast. To paraphrase a local advertisement, it was an “absolutely no nasties” experience.

    The trip included visits to Dover Castle, Stonehenge, Canterbury Cathedral, the Globe Theatre, the homes of Wordsworth and Milton, Christ Church College at Oxford, and dozens of other sites along the way. Smaller groups of us visited several of London’s West End theaters, and a few of us braved persecution and stood in line to see Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. I especially enjoyed the British Museum and the Lake District.

    The educational  anchor of the trip was a series of group discussions. Professors Jan-Erik Jones and Scott Dransfield instructed us on key bits of history and politics before several of our major excursions. Both professors came prepared with not only expertise and insight, but contagious levels of enthusiasm. In quieter moments, they shared their views on subjects such as fish and chips and bird lore, from which one member of the group learned to do a spanking-good impersonation of an English Moor Hen.

    It was fun to study the etymology of pub names such as Merlin’s Beard, Captain Hook’s Cookery and the Rubber Squirrel. I learned more about art, language, religion and even architecture than I bargained for, and I left England with an itch to keep learning. I thoroughly recommend trying Travel Study during your time at Southern Virginia. As one student in the group put it, it’s a true liberal arts experience.

    (Post by Stephen Taylor ’15. Photos by Delaney Taylor ’15 and Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)

  3. Corps of Discovery

    August 20, 2014

    This week marks the 240th birthday of Meriwether Lewis, who along with William Clark, went on an expedition to explore the area west of the Mississippi River.

    President Thomas Jefferson charged Lewis and Clark to find out what lay in the West. “The expedition was meant to prepare the way for the extension of the American fur trade and to advance geographical knowledge.”

    That was 210 years ago.

    Lewis and Clark were both from Virginia — Lewis was born in Albemarle County and Clark in Caroline County. In 1793, Lewis graduated from Liberty Hall (now Washington and Lee University) in Lexington, Va. Clark was like most young people of the age — he was tutored at home.

    William Clark

    William Clark (

    meriwether Lewis

    Meriwether Lewis (student

    While fighting in the Northwest Indian War, Clark began the lifelong habit of keeping a diary. (Read his diary of the Corps of Discovery, along with other records of the journey.) He also served as Lewis’ commanding officer in the Army. When Lewis was tapped by Thomas Jefferson to lead the Corps of Discovery, Lewis appointed Clark as his co-commander. (more…)

  4. Highlights from Last Year’s Speeches

    August 14, 2014

    One of the great opportunities at Southern Virginia is to attend the awesome weekly forums and devotionals. Some of these speeches are super inspirational and I’m excited to attend them during the upcoming semester. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some highlights from last year. Here are short snippets from just four speeches. You can, of course, always listen to all the speeches at

    Orson Scott Card

    Professor of Writing and Literature, Southern Virginia University

    “Literature, Logic, and the Scientific Method”

    Devotional | October 18, 2013

    “God says over and over again: Prove me! Test me! Perform this experiment! … But Korihor always wants to get the results without performing the experiment. Korihor always says, ‘Show me a sign.’ And you go, ‘You’ll have your sign if you live the law.’ That’s all. That’s all you have to do. Perform the experiment in your own life. Obey these commandments, live your life according to this pattern, and you will find that everything is proven and borne out to you. You cannot falsify this hypothesis as long as you follow this methodology, because it’s true. We embrace the scientific method.”

    Tito Momen & Jeff Benedict

    Authors of “My Name Used to Be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian”

    “Tito’s Story”

    Devotional | February 21, 2014

    “When he gave me the place to read, I read and I was just silent for some time because I was really hit hard. What I wanted to see was [some] kind of Islamic commandments or Ten Commandments: ‘Thou shalt not drink!’ … But this was something completely different. To me … this is a loving and kind Father counseling His own children that alcohol and hot drinks are not for the body. So, I really feel touched, and instead of me challenging him, now I just ask him. I wanted to know more from him about the Church.”

    Bill Bolling

    Lieutenant Governor of Virginia

    “Painting the Picture of Your Life”

    Forum | October 25, 2013

    “I would challenge each of you today, as you begin painting this picture of your life, to set lofty goals and dream big dreams for your life, and then work hard every day to achieve those goals and live those dreams. Don’t limit yourself because the only one that can put limitations upon you is you. The truth is, if your mind can conceive it and you can believe it, you can achieve it if you simply work hard every day to achieve those goals and live those dreams. … I want you to be masters of your destiny not victims of your circumstances.”

    Terryl Givens

    James A. Bostwick Chair in English, University of Richmond

    “Why We Know More than We Think (but Less than We Want)”

    Devotional | November 1, 2013

    “You may ask, ‘But what am I objectively?’ My point is that the qualifier is meaningless. Does a camera, a DNA sequencer, and a full spectrum lab report provide the truest, the richest account of who I am? Or do my spouse and children? Love does not blur the reality behind the appearances, it reveals it. … The human impulse towards the sublime and the artist’s revelation of the beautiful, love’s power to unlock the full splendor of the other, its blinding revelation of the infinite worth of the individual, and conscience with its unwavering response to moral imperatives, its blaring protest against evil and gentle enticement to recognize the good—all of these are living proofs that different ways of knowing exist. We employ them. We rely upon them. And we should.”

    (Post by Alec Johnson ’14.)

  5. Zion’s Camp 2014: Week Two

    August 5, 2014

    This past week, about forty young men and women attended another session of Zion’s Camp, a high adventure mission preparation camp held every summer by Southern Virginia University. These youth taught progressing investigators, attended district and zone meetings, participated in activities like hiking into the Blue Ridge Mountains, read a lot of scriptures, and got to develop useful skills like cooking their own meals and sewing on their own buttons. Everything they did, of course, they did in companionships just like full-time missionaries. All of these activities helped them to prepare for missionary service by helping them feel the Spirit and teaching them that they could do hard things.

    These were great young men and women and they learned a lot. The future of missionary work is in superb hands.

    (Post by Alec Johnson ’14. Photos by Bryce Rothlisberger ’15 and Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)