The Blog @
Southern Virginia University

Posts with the tag: Service

  1. Q&A: FCD Seniors Serve Community through Capstone Project

    April 23, 2015


    Every year, graduating seniors in the family and child development major execute senior capstone projects intended to both benefit the community and provide students with real-world experience and practical application of their education.

    Daria Watts and Yvette Yanes, both seniors and family and child development majors, completed their capstone projects by presenting on the philosophy of the growth mindset to parents at a non-profit organization in Buena Vista, Va. I sat down with them to discuss their experiences with the project, their time at Southern Virginia, and their hopes for the future after walking at Commencement next month.

    Q: What did you two do for your capstone project? Why did you choose to speak about the growth mindset?

    Daria: The senior capstone project is picking a place and going and presenting something to them. There are papers along with it and a research paper you have to do to develop your understanding. First, you go to meet with the person in charge. And then you go, and you ask them what they think their parents or their participants would want to hear.

    Yvette: We each took a subject that we particularly liked within the growth mindset and we did research and filled each other in. We wanted to be able to make the presentation very understandable for parents who have no idea what the growth mindset is, or the fixed mindset. And the person who was in charge of the organization [was] very willing and very excited to learn about what we had to say about it as family and child development majors.

    IMG_7252Q: What do you hope the parents learned from your presentation on the growth mindset?

    Daria: Well, [Buena Vista] doesn’t have a lot of resources, so the one point we wanted to get across to the parents was that their children could do [anything] they wanted to do.

    We wanted them to understand that the way you think about yourself and the way you think about your actions can influence what you do with your life. So, if you think that you can practice and that you can get better at things, you’re going to.

    Yvette: I personally hope that the parents are able to understand that even at their age right now they’re still able to develop a growth mindset and that just because you’re older than your 20s doesn’t mean you have to stop learning or stop developing these skills and talents and abilities. And from that, we hope that they were able to take away [the idea], “If I can still learn, then my children can continue to learn even more and improve even more.”

    Q: Why did you choose to study family and child development? What do you hope to do with your degree once you’ve graduated?

    Daria: I’ve always wanted to be a therapist for kids and families [and] parents who are having marital issues, like a family court appointed therapist. When I was younger, my parents [were] divorced. I did have to [go through] that, so I want to be a person who kids can trust. But now I’m leaning toward being a marriage therapist.

    It relates to my family, and I want to just help people. My mom will just call me sometimes — I have an eight year old sister — and [my mom will] talk to me about a problem she might have with parenting. I can look at what I’ve been reading and share it, and she’ll be like “Whoa.” If it’s benefiting her, it can benefit everyone, because I think she did a good job with me.

    IMG_7235Yvette: Initially I [wanted] to be a family lawyer, but within my major I started to have a fondness for wanting to help people in more of a social science area than from a legal perspective. I particularly want to go into counseling with at-risk teens because as a child — I’m from the D.C. area — I saw a lot of children struggling, a lot of teenagers struggling when they grew up.

    And so that’s what influenced changing my mind from being a lawyer to wanting to be a counselor for teenagers and for women who have struggled with this before. And also I hope to just help within the world. That’s what our school is all about, you know, becoming leader-servants, and it has really influenced me [to want] to just make the world better in small ways.

    Q: Is there a particular class or professor at Southern Virginia that has influenced you the most?

    Daria: I would say Professor Rodriguez because he’s the head of the major, but also whenever he teaches, he gives examples and stories, and that’s what I relate to when I’m learning. And so, I’ll think of something, and I’ll think “[Dr.] Rodriguez solved it with this.” He’s really helped me understand the things that I’m learning. We go over it and explain it, and we learn how to apply it. That’s what we do in the major — [we] learn how to apply what [we’ve] read to help other people.

    Yvette: The class that has influenced me the most was taught by Dr. Rodriguez [and] was “Adult Development and Aging.” The class taught me not only how adults continue to develop in every aspect but it taught me that it’s never too late to learn something. In other words, the more people learn or improve as they age, the more fun life becomes.

    IMG_7229Q: What has been the most valuable part of your education at Southern Virginia? How do you think it will continue to affect you?

    Daria: I definitely think — well, meeting my husband was pretty important — but I think having the small class sizes is one of my favorite things about [Southern Virginia].

    I’m more outgoing now than I ever was in high school. I’m more involved than I ever thought I’d be. I’ve been involved in so much, and I think that’s helped me see that I can be involved and I can be a leader, but I can also be a follower. I can be beneficial to whatever situation I’m put in.

    I also love that it’s LDS. I love the standards, and I love that [before a] class, we can say a prayer. In some classes, we say prayers before tests, and that really helps me out.

    I definitely wouldn’t pick another school, doing it again. That’s for sure.

    Yvette: Because we have such a small environment professors actually take time and want to take care of you and make sure that you as an individual are doing okay, that you are able to reach your potential. [Dr. Rodriguez] helps a lot in understanding “Okay, what do you really want to do and what do you really like and why are you studying this?”

    I think that the small environment that we have is so perfect for us to find out who we are and what we want to do with our life. [And] we get the plus side of being in an LDS environment where you feel close to Heavenly Father, who also [plays] a huge part [in] finding out who you are, you know? Even if you’re not LDS, it really helps you understand, “Okay I’m this person, and I can grow within this particular area because I have professors who care about me, and I have this sense of why I’m here at Southern Virginia.”


    (Post by Madeleine Gail Rex ’16. Photos by Jordan Wunderlich ’16.)

  2. Video: “I’m a Knight” – Kirsten Laurence

    December 3, 2014

    In this video, Kirsten Laurence, 2014-15 Student Association President, speaks about the growth she has experienced as a student at Southern Virginia University through forming close relationships with professors and embracing the university’s unique opportunities. A business major, she describes her experiences attending the largest CES Institute of Religion on the East Coast, serving in local organizations, and playing on the tennis team.

    (Video by John Worthington ’13.)

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.)

  5. 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.)