Professor J.J. Cole, a sociology and psychology professor at Liberty University, is a teacher who uses the classroom as a vehicle for ministry.
Born into a Christian home and raised as a Southern Baptist, Cole spent most of her childhood traveling from place to place. Cole’s family was required to move every three years, since her father was in the Marines.
Cole calls herself a military brat and considers the time spent at different bases a wonderful experience, one that has molded her into who she is today. She often uses the patience she learned moving from place to place to help lead students through their college careers.
“I tell my husband, ‘If we could pack up and move every three years, I’d be the most organized housekeeper in the world,’” Cole said.
In the late ‘70s, Cole began studying psychology and human services at Liberty while serving as a resident assistant (RA) for three years.
Later, she went on to get her master’s degree in social work.
“Liberty defined me, which I think was a good thing,” Cole said.
According to Cole, during her senior year at Liberty, the late Dr.
Jerry Falwell Sr. talked about the Liberty Godparent Home (LGH) and his plans to develop and design it, which sparked Cole’s interest.
According to the LGH website, it is a non-profit residential home for girls under the age of 18 facing the responsibilities of unplanned pregnancy. Founded in 1982, residents come from all walks of life, different socio-economic backgrounds and various states across the country.
Following graduation, Cole said that she did not want to leave Lynchburg, but instead preferred to stay and work at Liberty. After applying and being denied for a resident director (RD) position, Cole thought it best to return home to Florida and enroll in graduate school.
According to Cole, during her second year of graduate school, her sister called her to encourage her to apply to Liberty, informing her that they were now accepting résumés. Upon submission, Cole was hired as a caseworker at the LGH.
Cole explained how God had closed the door to getting an RD spot at Liberty. As a result, she could finish her master’s degree and find where God wanted her to be all along.
“(God) will give you the desires of your heart. You just have to wait patiently on him and be OK with the closed doors,” Cole said.
While employed at the LGH, Cole met her husband, who then worked as a volunteer. After getting married, they decided to stay in the community and spent the next 18 years working with the LGH, where Cole still works today.
Cole also serves part-time as director of family life services in an adoption agency branch, in addition to teaching at Liberty.
At the adoption agency, Cole’s work consists of screening applications and working with families coming forward to make adoption plans. She works with girls seeking adoption and guides them through the process.
According to Cole, many of the women associated with the adoption agency consider Cole “the mom,” since she invests a significant amount of her time in them. Cole has the same mentality when it comes to her students.
After having worked with the LGH, Cole was offered a teaching position at Liberty when a spot opened just a few weeks before the start of the semester.
According to Cole, she is currently part of the College of General Studies, where she teaches introduction to sociology and social problems classes.
“I love being in the College of General Studies,” Cole said. “Its goal is to connect with students and keep them focused with Liberty through their whole academic career, and I think that’s very fulfilling.”
When it comes to teaching, Cole said that she loves to hear students interested in making a difference.
“Having my students come back and talk to me, having students go, ‘I’m just interested in social work. Can you tell me about it,’ I think that’s the part I love the most,” Cole said.
Cole encourages students to wait upon the Lord in everything they do, whether it is searching for a job or even a spouse. God guided the timing of the events in her life, and she uplifts students by telling her story and showing that God’s plan will develop in their lives just as it did in hers.