The Blog @
Southern Virginia University

Posts with the tag: Academics

  1. Photos: Faculty Appreciation Dinner

    March 21, 2014

    If you asked any Southern Virginia University student or alum what the best thing about Southern Virginia University is, I believe that the majority of them would put the faculty at the top of their list. The professors here develop close connections with their students. They change us, inspire us and refine us. Though students do many small things to thank their professors, once a year they hold a Faculty Appreciation Dinner where students serve dinner, provide entertainment, and publicly express their gratitude in a formal setting.

    (Post by Hannah Benson Rodriguez ’13. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)

  2. Tito Momen & Professor Speak, Host Book Signing

    February 28, 2014

    On Friday, Feb. 21, I had the chance to attend the devotional at Southern Virginia featuring Tito Momen.

    It was perfect.

    Professor Jeff Benedict and Tito Momen sat in front of the student body and conducted a personal one-on-one interview, an insight to the process of how Jeff and Tito wrote their book, “My Name Used to Be Muhammad: The True Story of a Muslim Who Became a Christian.” It was really interesting to see how Jeff Benedict works and very moving to hear Tito tell his story in his own voice.

    Tito Momen was imprisoned for 15 years in Egypt because he left Islam and joined the LDS Church. He endured torture and pain, yet he still has found forgiveness in his heart, even love for those who hurt him. That kind of forgiveness amazes me. It’s demonstrates such a true understanding and living application of the Atonement; and that is just so beautiful.

    I was moved to tears when Tito bore his testimony about the Savior, forgiveness and love. He ended his testimony using the words “in my humble testimony,” and that is what really got me. “Humble.” He has endured so much — he’s such a spiritual giant — but he remains humble in his testimony of the Savior and full of undying gratitude. It was something else. I also liked that Tito’s focus in his conversion didn’t center on Mormonism — though he did bear his testimony of Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon — but on Christ.

    After the forum, I had the opportunity to join Tito and Jeff for lunch with several Southern Virginia students. A friend of mine who was born in Libya, has lived in Pakistan and Malaysia, converted to Mormonism from Catholicism, lost a brother to Islamic terrorists, and had another brother who was jailed for seven years, was at the lunch with us. To hear her story, and knowing how forgiving she is in her heart, I was amazed at how lucky I was to be in that room.

    I simply thanked Tito for his book because unlike my friend, I didn’t have any tragic stories. Though I’m from the United States and I have lived such a privileged life, I still felt such a strong connection to him because we are humans, we are children of Heavenly Parents and we have the same Savior and the same use of the Atonement. To read of his struggles and trials, though they are not mine, the feelings and emotions and faith process are the same, and that’s what I loved about the book. Knowing how closely connected I am to others in the way we feel things, that’s what moves me. That’s why I think most people could read Tito’s story and appreciate it. Humanity is a beautiful thing we have. As always, I found yet another reason to have a stronger desire to serve others.

    Additionally, I was inspired to serve because I was lucky enough to meet the woman who regularly went to the jail in Egypt to give Tito his medicine. She sat in the filthiest of rooms and still, while there, was able to develop not only a love for Tito, but for the others in the jail. She saw them as children of our Heavenly Parents and that kept her from being afraid. That’s amazing.

    Later that same day, both Tito and Jeff hosted a book signing in the bookstore on campus, spreading the message of their book and giving many more students, faculty, and community members the chance to meet them personally.

    (Post by Sara Beth Helsel ’11. Photos by Hannah Benson Rodriguez ’13 and Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)

  3. Reflections on President’s Day

    February 17, 2014

    More U.S. Presidents have called Virginia home than any other state in the union. I don’t know what makes me think of that every President’s Day, but there it is.

    Within just a few short hours’ drive, we can visit the homes of several of these influential men and one presidential library.

    Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, is just outside Charlottesville, a mere hour and fifteen minutes away. I visited Monticello as part of a required day trip with my American and the Enlightenment class. It was required, but I would have gone anyway if it had been optional.

    James Madison’s home, Montpelier, is also less than two hours away, and though I haven’t visited yet, I plan to while I still live so close. Woodrow Wilson’s Presidential Library is also nearby, in Staunton.

    On a D.C. Travel Study trip, I visited Mt. Vernon, the estate that George Washington built. Wandering the grounds was a spiritual experience in some sense. It was an earnest, patriotic respect for the man who first occupied the executive branch and proved the great American experiment could actually work.

    And yet, a cloud hangs over these beautiful places. Because, down the trail from George Washington’s elaborate mansion, is a marker for a mass grave site for his slaves. The marker is new. The burial site remained unmarked for years. A little further down the trail is Washington’s tomb, a giant brick monument to our founding father. Walking along that path, it’s hard not to recognize that Mt. Vernon was built on the backs of nameless souls who never experienced the freedom Washington fought for.

    Monticello bears a similar dichotomy. Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, a document that boldly declared that “all men are created equal.” And yet, Jefferson too owned slaves. I’ve heard apologists defend Jefferson’s plantation lifestyle by pointing out how well he — and Washington for that matter — treated slaves, and imply that he wouldn’t have owned slaves if he didn’t have to because of the economics of the time. This argument ignores the example of John Adams, a rival of Jefferson and the first man to live in The White House, and his staunch abolitionism. Jefferson owned slaves at a time when it was morally questionable to do so, and he did it of his own volition.

    Does this mean he doesn’t deserve our respect? I don’t think so. Jefferson’s positive influence as a figure of the enlightenment is immeasurable. Humans are flawed, complicated, and prone to failure. When we study history, or the liberal arts, we don’t skip over the ugly parts to perpetuate a false account that fits our imaginations. Washington and Jefferson the slave owners are just as much a part of history as Washington and Jefferson the American revolutionaries. And that perspective gives us more depth, more understanding of the world we’ve built our society on.

    I think that’s why President’s Day is important. We need to look at our history, to examine what we value. What is it about Jefferson that we admire? Not his involvement in slavery, but his revolution with the idea of equality as a necessary virtue of democracy. We need to embrace our past, warts and all, so we can prepare for the future.

    (Post by Cody Ray Shafer ’14.)

  4. My Favorite Class

    Mark_Twain_by_Abdullah_Frères,_1867Southern Virginia University has a fine selection of programs and courses to undertake in order to achieve your goals. When I enrolled at Southern Virginia, I began with thirty transfer credits, but still had not declared a major. Frankly, I was worried about falling behind or taking electives that ultimately might not have been as helpful as others. With the help of my academic advisor I made a couple of upgrades to my career path — I declared my major in English and my minor in politics. Mark Twain said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Since deciding on a major, the proverbial academic sailing has been smooth. I know what classes I need in order to graduate and, more importantly, I am excited to attend and learn!

    Classes I’ve had in the past were mostly core requirements and pre-requisites for other courses. Because they were introductory, they didn’t delve as deeply into the subject matter as the higher-level courses I am taking now. This semester I am registered for 17 credit hours, three of which come from my favorite class: “Topics in English: Mark Twain.” We have the opportunity to devote an entire semester to one author and his works such as: “Life on the Mississippi,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Pudd’nhead Wilson” and more. Currently, the class is studying “Roughing It,” which was published in 1872. Mark Twain lived more than a century ago but his novels, short stories, essays, letters and aphorisms, remain relevant to our day. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12:30 to 1:20 in the afternoon a total of 14 students, including myself, meet with Professor Connie Durrance to explore how Twain’s patriotism, religious beliefs, social opinions, and personal growth affected his many writings. Southern Virginia’s “genius of small” atmosphere is truly genius! The size of the class allows us all adequate time for meaningful discussion and in-depth analysis.

    Towards the first few days of classes, Professor Durrance encouraged my classmates and me to forget what we already knew, or thought we already knew, about the man Mark Twain and “begin anew on [our] rediscovery” of the acclaimed author. If a student’s grade reflects his or her dedication to the class, then the instructor’s syllabus reveals his or her enthusiasm for presenting the subject. With only a few short months to cover the extensive works of Mark Twain, I am 100 percent satisfied with the layout of the semester. Making it past the introductory classes, to me, is like navigating and conquering the labyrinth that guards a treasure; courses leveled three-hundred and above are the most challenging and most profitable.

    (Post by Brian Caycho ’16.)

  5. Remembering Dr. King

    January 20, 2014

    494px-Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS-1I can imagine no greater tribute that can be paid to a human than to suspend school once a year in their honor. All jest aside, as I read through the text of “I Have a Dream,” the speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered from the Lincoln Memorial over fifty years ago, I am struck with the character of that man. His desire for a more just, free world was so powerful that it has transformed and continues to transform society.

    As I read his speech and consider his legacy, I wonder what lessons it contains for us today, especially those of us who are students here at Southern Virginia. We are on the road of attaining a liberal arts education. Our professors train us in the best works and thoughts that the history of civilization has to offer. It is clear that King was no stranger to these ideas; his speech is full of quotations from the Bible and the Declaration of Independence. These documents formed the intellectual basis of American society, and although King was determined to change and improve that society, he did so not by rejecting it whole cloth, but by latching on to the deepest wisdom of America’s past and using that to move it forward. This paradoxical yet synthetic blend of conservatism and liberalism, tradition and innovation, profound respect for the past and near iconoclastic willingness to change for the better is what made King’s vision so powerful.

    Martin Luther King Jr. has joined the very cultural canon from which he drew, which is why we revere and remember him. Through our liberal arts education we can come to understand his ideas along with the work of countless other great thinkers, artists, writers, actors, scientists, entrepreneurs, statesmen, and innovators who have shaped our world. If our vision of the future is to triumph over the injustices we confront, we must learn to build upon this wisdom and get to work. Then we will have a dream, see it fulfilled, and be able to “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

    (Post by Alec Johnson ’14.)