The Blog @
Southern Virginia University
  1. Photos: Commencement 2016

    May 26, 2016

    Commencement is a bittersweet word to me. On the one hand it reminds me of goodbyes, daunting new challenges and the end of an era. But it literally means ‘a beginning.’ What could be more encouraging or beautiful?

    Congratulations, class of 2016, on your new beginning this month. May every graduate, past and future, remember fondly the day of their own Commencement. Hopefully a few photos will bolster the memories. Check Facebook and Google+ for a few more!

    (Post by Stephen Taylor ’15. Photos by Brinn Willis ’07.)

  2. The Constitution, Madison & Montpelier

    May 25, 2016
    Portrait of James Madison by Gilbert Stuart

    Portrait of James Madison by Gilbert Stuart

    This past semester I took a course called “The Legal and Intellectual History of the Constitution.” This course was engaging and powerful, and I learned not only about the Constitution as a document of history, but also about its absolute relevance in today’s political climate. Conversations in this course about constitutional interpretations and how those interpretations should be implemented in modern America were often fierce, and more than once — as should happen in a great course — my confidence in my own ideas slipped away long enough for me to appreciate, learn from, and even adopt some of the clever points of view of my classmates.

    I also gained a greater respect and admiration for the sacrifice and scholarship of America’s Founding Fathers (especially James Madison), who, in my mind, serve as history’s high points in political thought. Learning about these men and their lives inspired my own opinions and beliefs, and I often found myself, when deciding my position on an in-class conversation about the constitutionality of modern laws surrounding religious freedom, gay marriage, healthcare, or economic regulation, asking the question, “What would James Madison think about this?”

    As fantastic as the course was, however, the class meetings and conversations themselves were only one part — and perhaps even a lesser part — of the influence this course had in my life and education. What really moved the course to the forefront of my academic experience here at Southern Virginia were the extracurricular opportunities I had the privilege of participating in.

    One of those opportunities was to join an optional field trip to James Madison’s home at Montpelier (thanks to Professor Rachel Wilcox for organizing such an amazing event), only a short drive from Southern Virginia. While there, our class toured the very room in which Madison wrote the Virginia Plan, the document that served as the basis for the heated debates around congressional representation, among other things. In the classroom we often discussed the Virginia Plan at length, and even put on an imitative Constitutional Convention. We debated the same issues the Founding Fathers had, and argued over the achievements and shortcomings of Madison’s Virginia Plan. But I feel comfortable in saying that no one in the class truly understood the Virginia Plan’s importance or brilliance until we were able to put ourselves in the atmosphere of Madison’s home.


    Another opportunity, after the semester was over, and this time just with my family, was to see the Constitution in the National Archives in Washington D.C. Because of my course with Professor Wilcox, I had analyzed the Constitution, debated over its place in modern society, written papers about my interpretations of certain sections of it — but I hardly realized its gravity and import until I took advantage of the opportunity to see it, a deceptively simple piece of parchment by looks, but by content one of the world’s most profound documents.

    Charters of Freedom Hall, National Archives, Washington

    Both of these trips, only short distances away from Southern Virginia, allowed me to to turn abstract education into tangible life experience. The classroom knowledge I received from Professor Wilcox, as is usual at our university, was incredible — coupled with the ability to enrich my studies through access to some of the amazing opportunities located near our university, it was life-changing.

    (Post by Braxton Boyer ’16. Photos courtesy of Philippa Hawker ’16 and Library of Congress.)


  3. Dance History, Humanities Professor Exemplifies Scholarship at Symposium

    May 23, 2016

    Debra-Sowell-Symposium-2One of the great things about Southern Virginia University is the opportunity to take interesting topics courses in a close-knit environment with professors who are experts in their fields. This past semester, Dr. Debra Sowell taught her special topics class in dance history again and also served as visiting scholar at the San Francisco Ballet.

    Last fall, representatives of the San Francisco Ballet contacted Dr. Sowell and invited her to come be a guest resident scholar at their two-day symposium.

    “It was fabulous,” Dr. Sowell said of the experience. “It was very exciting because as a visiting scholar, I was taken inside the company; I got to tour their … state-of-the-art facility for ballet — one of the best in America. And the day of the opening night I got to watch a company class. The company takes their daily class on the stage of the San Francisco Opera House. [Being] backstage that [close to] the dancers was so cool.”

    She also said that watching the company rehearse and perform was “nostalgic” for her because “it brought back memories of growing up and taking ballet for many years.” While she was there, she spoke to staff at the San Francisco Ballet and to students of the San Francisco Ballet School, as well as to parents, donors and members of the Christensen society. She discussed the history of the first full-length “Swan Lake” in America and the role of the Christensen brothers, about whom Dr. Sowell wrote the book “Christensen Brothers: An American Dance Epic.”

    “[The Christensen brothers] were interesting because they were descendants of Mormon pioneers who became impressive pioneers themselves in the history of American ballet,” she said. “One of the pioneering projections on which they collaborated was the first full-length ‘Swan Lake’ in America. Before that, only excerpts from the ballet had been performed. When the Christensens took this production on tour from San Francisco to the Northwest, a critic in Seattle referred to it as Tchaikovsky’s ‘practically never-seen four-act toe tragedy.’”

    Lew and Janet Reed in 1940, B, Lude

    After one of her speeches at the San Francisco Ballet School, she had a very meaningful experience with a member of the audience.

    “A couple approached me, and the husband said that his grandmother had been in the San Francisco Ballet under Willam Christensen,” she said. “This man had been in a bookstore years earlier and had found my book on the Christensens. Opening to the index, he found his grandmother’s name and turned to her picture. Reading about that era in the company and the significant role his grandmother had played had brought her memory closer to him. It was a touching moment for both of us.”

    In addition to speaking at the symposium, Dr. Sowell also stays active in her field in many other ways. Recently, she served as an adjudicator of the Founding Editors’ Award of Dance Chronicle, the leading journal in dance history. Dr. Sowell is also a member of the journal’s editorial board and regularly reviews manuscript submissions. Through her work with Dance Chronicle, she stays current on the latest research in her field, which in turn benefits her students by exposing them to a wealth of knowledge.

    She also provides her dance history students with direct learning experiences outside of the classroom. When I took the class several years ago, she led us on a course excursion to see a professional production of “Swan Lake” in Richmond. This past semester, she not only took her students to a dance performance in Lexington, but also had a special guest dance instructor, Marin Leggat Roper, visit campus to conduct a three-day workshop on dance, movement, and theatre choreography.

    Dr. Sowell truly exemplifies the university’s core value of scholarship. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from such a knowledgeable, passionate scholar during my time at Southern Virginia. I encourage all current and incoming students to find elective courses that interest you and expose you to new disciplines and new professors.

    (Post by Hannah King ’13. Photos courtesy of Dr. Debra Sowell.)

  4. A Letter to the Class of 2016

    May 11, 2016


    I’ve tried many times to encapsulate into one word the intense feelings that have oftentimes overwhelmed me while being here at Southern Virginia, but much like trying to describe how the Spirit feels, I just can’t get it right. So I asked you, my fellow classmates. The responses were mixed as everyone’s experience here is unique to them, and like any man-made thing, Southern Virginia isn’t perfect … yet. However, prevailing amongst the comments were warm words reflecting a very special relationship between students and university, words and phrases such as: amazing, superb, love, scrumptious, beautiful, opportunistic, astounding, growth-promoting, friendly, accepting, reinvigorating, a safe learning environment, wonderful people, amazing professors, greater than you can ever imagine, rich with service, the bee’s knees, family and, finally, home.

    Southern Virginia University has been our home for the last few years. Buena Vista is the first place many of us have chosen to call home, and just like the first time we left the nest, leaving the safety of this hallowed place will be hard. Home is a place where we learn and grow, where we discover who we truly are. The places we call home have an intricate impact in our lives. Though we have all felt — at some point or another — the struggle of weighty classes and the pressure to do our best, we have been nourished by the fountains of knowledge, leadership, accountability, scholarship, discipleship and enthusiasm under the hands of some of the kindest and wisest mentors we will ever have the privilege of working with. All of these things have worked together for our good, have helped us discover who we are, and have transformed us into better versions of ourselves. Southern Virginia University and all of the people and experiences accompanying our years here is forever a part of a fire that has refined us and will forever be a part of us.

    From the windows of Enderly Heights Elementary school, on the other side of town, where I have spent half of my Southern Virginia University career mentoring young minds, I can see the bold red face of our beloved Main Hall. When I have faced challenges with my students, I have looked out of those windows to what has now become a symbol of hope, courage, and preparedness, a part of my identity. The towering spirals remind me how my unique education here has prepared me to stand firm and tall in the face of adversity. The boldness of the iconic red inspires me to go forth with firm conviction and boldness in purpose and passion, while the beauty of the building as a whole gently confirms that I am and always will be a Knight, and I am going to be successful in whatever life throws at me, because I will always have Southern Virginia University. We will always have Southern Virginia University.

    With faces now focused on the future, we leave this place of growth to be transformed elsewhere. We leave Main Hall, we leave our dedicated professors, beloved friends, the Shenandoah Valley, and so much more. But the memories, the education and the experiences will be an anchor, and Southern Virginia University an emblem seared into our hearts forever. How will you let that emblem shine in the workplace, the world, the community, the church and finally, in your new home? Seniors, never forget Southern Virginia University; never forget home.

    (Post by Deseret Brown ’16.)

  5. Concert vs Cancer Charity

    May 10, 2016

    Branndon and Leanne Mohr are the parents of two beautiful daughters. Originally from California, Branndon and Leanne recently made the move to New York to seek medical attention for Leanne, who is currently suffering from a rare form of sarcoma cancer called Desmo-Plastic Small Round Cell Tumor (DSRCT). DSRCT is an aggressive cancer that typically attacks the abdominal region of male children and young adults so it is exceptionally rare that Leanne has been diagnosed with it. In order to be there in her time of need, Branndon left his job in California, leaving their girls in the care of an aunt. The Mohrs have reached out to family and friends for support through this difficult time and have been received with open arms by many members of their community as well as ours.

    Wil Guymon, a junior here at Southern Virginia University and a friend of the Mohrs, heard about their predicament and wanted to help.

    “I have been a Knight since 2011 and have heard countless times the importance of being a ‘leader-servant,’ but until now I’ve never really done anything besides a few service projects here and there,” he said. “Instead of just donating a couple dollars, I had the feeling that I could, and should, do more.”

    So Wil put on “Concert vs. Cancer,” a charity concert featuring musicians such as Patrick Summers, Nate and Caleb Dransfield, Joel Bergman and Sarah Boyer. Over 100 students attended and donated a total of $400 to the Mohr family. Leanne expressed her emotions for the efforts made on her behalf over social media. Under the pictures of the event posted on Concert vs. Cancer’s Facebook page, she wrote, “Tears to my eyes, you are all amazing!” Leanne is putting up a good fight, and despite the effects of the chemo, she is in good spirits and hoping for full recovery.

    (Post and photos by Deseret Brown ’16.)