The Blog @
Southern Virginia University

Posts with the tag: Academics

  1. Q&A: Dr. Gary Browning

    November 24, 2014

    russianbooksThis semester I’ve had the privilege of sitting in on Dr. Gary Browning’s course on the writings of Leo Tolstoy. Dr. Browning is a retired professor who is volunteering at Southern Virginia University during the 2014-2015 school year. I’ve always just loved Tolstoy’s writing, or as my sister likes to say, I fangirl over him — not sure what that’s supposed to mean — so I couldn’t turn down the chance to attend the class to learn more. It’s been a complete pleasure. Dr. Browning’s mastery and understanding of the literature is so enlightening. I can hardly wait to start his course on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels next semester.

    The other day, Stephen Taylor and I stopped by Dr. Browning’s office to sit down with him and ask him some questions about his background and his experience at Southern Virginia.

    Q: What is your background in academia?

    Dr. Browning: I received my bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, master’s from Syracuse U, and Ph.D. from Harvard U. All of my degrees were in Russian language and literature. I taught at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, Penn. for two years. Then I taught at BYU for 31 years and retired in 2006.

    Q: Can you tell us about important life experiences outside of your profession?

    Dr. Browning: I’m sure the greatest experience was serving as a mission president in Russia from 1990 to 1993. BYU made it possible for me to have a three-year leave and then return to teaching. After retirement, my wife and I spent eighteen months as a volunteer service couple at the BYU Jerusalem Center. Students at the Jerusalem Center not only spend time in the classroom, but also to travel around the country and see very important archeological, historical, and cultural sites. We were included as guests on these excursions.

    Joan and I also led several BYU student performing groups and BYU Travel Study programs on tours in eastern Europe, mainly Russia. This was an exceptionally fine way to meet and learn from people in their own environments. We’re certainly not experts in music or dance. We were tour directors and, basically, made sure the travel arrangements and accommodations were satisfactory.

    Q: How have these experiences changed your teaching?

    Dr. Browning: These programs not only enriched our lives, but gave us broader perspectives on opportunities and problems in the world. They were very enlightening. The more one can experience the world, the more depth one can bring to the classroom.

    Q: How did you decide to come teach at Southern Virginia University?

    Dr. Browning: I had occasionally read about Southern Virginia University from the time it was founded. It seemed like such a good idea to have a university on the East Coast that fostered LDS ideals and offered a high quality education. I met a few people who had come here as students or volunteer professors and heard enthusiastic reports. I’m not a millionaire, but I hope through volunteering to make as least a small contribution.

    Q: How did you decide on what courses to teach while you’re here?

    Dr. Browning: The choice mainly was made on the basis of what courses I like and teach the best. While my proposals needed to be approved, I had an opportunity to recommend courses. I enjoy teaching a range of courses, but above all I am passionate about Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Southern Virginia gave me the possibility to focus on these two great masters. Now I’m thrilled to be reading and discussing with fine students enlightened and ennobling masterpieces written by the masters Tolstoy and Dostoevsky!

    Q: What has your experience in the classroom here been like?

    Dr. Browning: I can honestly say that I’ve been very impressed with the students. They’ve been engaged. They’re very fine intelligent students, responsive to culture and literature. The discussions and exams have shown that these are capable students. I don’t have large classes; they are more like seminars. That’s exactly the environment I like to teach in. It’s been an invigorating experience!

    I also found my Southern Virginia colleagues to be very warm and welcoming. They’re outstanding both in academics and as human beings. They’re devoted to the idea of Southern Virginia University really being an exceptionally fine institution and they’re willing to work hard to realize that dream. It’s a great environment. The professors and staff here are willing to sacrifice for the institution and the students, and they do in countless ways each day. I’m inspired by their devotion.

    Q: At a glance, why should students want to study Tolstoy or Dostoevsky?

    Dr. Browning: First, whenever one studies great literature, you learn an immense amount about the culture and ideas which the authors represent. Moreover, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are among the finest thinkers with deep religious insights. I believe anyone who wants to explore the really big questions in life — the meaning of life, an understanding of innocent suffering, the battle between good and evil influences, the qualities of happiness, especially in marriage and family, the role and meaning of death — can find stimulating insights through reading Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. And that’s what I’ve found so intriguing and rewarding, to get deeply into great thinkers’ experiences, minds and spirituality.

    (Post by Alec Johnson ’14.)

  2. Homecoming Quiz Bowl & Celebration

    October 30, 2014

    On Saturday, Oct. 11, I had the opportunity to participate in the Homecoming Quiz Bowl and the Pre-Game Celebration. The Quiz Bowl was my one of my favorite Homecoming activities this year — right up there on my list with the beautiful, inspiring Homecoming Concert. I mean, what’s more fun than testing your knowledge among fellow Southern Virginia alumni and students, and learning about the things you don’t know?

    For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Quiz Bowl, it’s basically Jeopardy except with Dr. MacDonnell instead of Alex Trebek; in other words, far superior. There are a few other differences, like playing on teams instead of as individual competitors, but it’s essentially a competition with the goal being to correctly answer as many questions on a variety of topics including history, literature and science. Though both teams made a noble effort to answer the difficult questions, the alumni team beat the students by a wide margin. This was in large part due to the vast knowledge and skill of the several alumni who were veteran members of the Quiz Bowl Team during their time at Southern Virginia.

    Following the Quiz Bowl, I headed over to the Stoddard Activities Center to have a little fun at the Pre-Game Celebration, where there was a mechanical bull to ride, a bouncy house for kids, a pie-eating competition, face painting, refreshments, and of course, the chance to throw pie at your beloved Southern Virginia professors. You know, because some alumni write thank you letters to their professors and some pay to throw pie at them. Only to support their alma mater, of course.

    (Post by Hannah King ’13. Photos by Bronwyn Himes ’17 and Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)

  3. Homecoming 2014: Day One

    October 16, 2014

    Maybe Homecoming just means more to me now that I’m about to graduate and betake myself, but I thought that this Homecoming was outstanding.

    The first event of the weekend was Rodney K. Smith’s devotional. Rod Smith was the president of Southern Virginia for seven years, including the year I was a freshman, so I felt that he was a particularly meaningful choice as the Homecoming devotional speaker. His message centered on investing in learning and becoming a lifelong learner. He compared his own experience as a young college student to those of us at Southern Virginia — choosing to attend a small college where our professors know our names, when we might have attended bigger and older colleges. It was a fantastic address. You can view the full speech below.

    After the devotional, I attended a mini-class taught by Provost Sowell. The class focused on religious iconography in annunciation paintings, and it was an eye-opener. Who knew that the presence of pentagons in said paintings could symbolize the crucifixion of Christ? Not this guy. Professors Jones and Crawford also taught mini-classes, titled “Science, Skepticism and Epistemic Humility” and “The Last Picture Show: Great Lessons from Great Art,” respectively.

    The Von Cannon library hosted an open house event with snacks, an opening of the archives and a new display of pictures showing a dozen or so faculty and staff members as young(er) folk. It was surprisingly hard to identify a few of them. I figure that everyone either aged well, or took somebody else’s photo as their own.

    At 4:00 p.m., the Ballroom filled with students, alumni, friends and Dominoes pizza. While chatting and socializing, the alumni organized themselves to share networking opportunities and career advice with current students. I got some good advice from Morgen Reynolds, alumna and adjunct instructor of English at Southern Virginia.

    To cap the afternoon off, I went to the campus bookstore, where The Fading Point hosted a release party for their new EP album. They sang a number of songs, including a few featured on the CD. The bookstore was filled to capacity, both with listeners and with awesomeness.

    (Post by Stephen Taylor ’15. Photos by Hannah King ’13, Jordan Wunderlich ’16 and Eva Sorensen ’18.)

  4. Photos: Convocation 2014

    September 20, 2014

    Southern Virginia University’s faculty and administration donned their academic robes and hoods for the annual Convocation ceremony last week. Glade Knight, chair of the university’s board of trustees, President Reed Wilcox, and Provost Madison Sowell all spoke at the event. Each of them mentioned in their remarks the legacy that the late Paul K. Sybrowsky, who served as university president from 2012 to 2014, left behind at Southern Virginia. Provost Sowell finished Convocation with a speech on the Code of Honor.

    Following the event, a number of students left notes on a thoughtful mural in memory of President Sybrowsky, who passed away just two days before Convocation.

    (Post by Hannah King ’13. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16 and Bronwyn Himes ’17.)

  5. United States Constitution Day!

    September 17, 2014

    constitution-bToday is Constitution Day! That means that throughout this week, colleges and universities across the country will celebrate the signing of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787.

    Here are a few suggestions for how you can celebrate Constitution Day.
    Read
    Visit
    • The home of the primary author of the constitution — James Madison’s Montpelier. Montpelier is only a two-hour drive from campus and will be hosting various events including remarks on the Constitution, a horse parade, Constitution-themed games, hot air balloon rides, carriage rides, musical performances, and fireworks to celebrate Constitution Day on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014.
    • The original copy of the United States Constitution on permanent display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. — a three-hour drive from our campus.
    • The Von Canon Library to see a special Constitution Day display — featuring books and DVDs from the library as well as information about the Constitution and its creation.
    Go Online
    • See how much you know about the Constitution. ConstitutionFacts.com offers both a simple and an advanced quiz.
    • Educate yourself with a few Ted-Ed videos related to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
    (Post by Hannah King ’13.)