As alumni of Southern Virginia University, we each have many fond memories of our time in the classrooms of caring professors and the company of cherished friends. As members of the Alumni Association, we have the opportunity to reunite from time to time, give back to the university, and participate in the occasional contest or giveaway. Currently, the Alumni Relations Office is sponsoring a giveaway for alumni who update their contact information on the university’s alumni webpage. Alumni who update their information online before Feb. 28 will be entered into a drawing to win a box of Southern Virginia merchandise.
Last fall, the Alumni Association sponsored an essay contest and fundraiser for the university’s alumni. The prompt? To write about a Southern Virginia memory or how you view the university 20 years down the road. The winners? Esther Harsh (’13), Stephanie Carlson (’09), and Camden Cooper (’07). If you’re interested in reading about the memories of some other alumni, or what they think the future of Southern Virginia will be like, take the time to read over the following essays.
A Pattern to Follow
by Esther Harsh
Students come to Southern Virginia University with differing levels of desire. Some know exactly what they want, others are torn between the many paths before them, and then some have yet to believe that they merit the chance to walk on a path toward achievement. In every case a mentor is needed.
On my very first day at Southern Virginia, I was filled with desires and glimpses of the kind of person I wanted to be, yet felt weak in my abilities and experience; constantly wondering how I could use my interests and dreams to make a difference for good. Upon hearing that rehearsals for the new musical were about to begin that same night, I somehow found myself asking the very occupied Professor Stoddard if I could play a part in the production. His told me that auditions had long passed, but was interested in why I wanted to be involved. I was a bit surprised to see that he was sincere in wanting to know my deeper interests and dreams in theatre. After listening closely with a kind smile, he cordially offered me the position of being his assistant director, giving me permission to lead out in areas of the production, with open freedom to give suggestions in directing.
It was just one small moment, but it set a pattern for me to confidently use in every course. I remember thinking “If one professor is willing to entrust such opportunities in me, maybe the other professors will do the same, especially in the areas where I’ve felt so weak and inadequate.” I began asking each professor how I could get the most out of their class, not merely to get a high grade, but to learn what was needed for the experiences I wanted to pursue after university. The results were magnificent.
Over time and hard work, the dreams of my capabilities turned into beautiful possibilities. I’m not sure if Professor Stoddard understood how significant that first moment was for me, that by taking the time (out of his very busy schedule) to listen and invest in my potential, I would gain the confidence to create and produce uplifting experiences for the hearts of others. Moreover, I wonder if any of my professors knew how their personal mentoring would lead to a successful completion in a rigorous British graduate program, where unprecedented opportunities would be created and given to this same SVU girl.
My time at Southern Virginia was marked from the very beginning to cherished end with experiences of caring professors like unto Professor Stoddard: showing and expecting the very best from me, especially when I didn’t feel it was possible in myself. In each experience there is a pattern to follow, a pattern of taking time to mentor the one. Really it is the pattern of the master-servant, our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The education at Southern Virginia University is awe-inspiring because of the many small moments where the professor is helping the student to recognize their own genius, thereby empowering them to see the genius in others. (more…)