The Blog @
Southern Virginia University

Posts with the tag: Service

  1. 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.)

  2. 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.)

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.)

  5. Valentines for Veterans

    February 20, 2014

    Prior to Valentine’s Day this month, I visited a watercolor class on campus to help create Valentine’s Day cards for veterans in Virginia.

    Trampas Rogers, a student who is also a veteran, attended and spoke to us briefly about what we might write on our notes to the veterans. I’m glad that Professor Barbara Crawford incorporated service into her art class in such a unique and creative way. I was grateful to be a part of that act of service, painting Valentines and writing small messages of appreciation.

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