Mar 3, 2009

Professor Profile: JJ Cole

by Camille Smith

 Professors come in and out of students’ lives like seasons. Just when acclimation begins to set in, the winds blow through to bring in the next academic teacher. The unfortunate reality is that some students will graduate and not remember a single professor’s name. Some may even forget by the next semester. Whether this has more to do with the student than the professor still remains to be determined, yet there are some cases when a determination to be a life-changing influence can overcome even the most reluctant participant in this professor-student relationship. Social worker and sociology Professor J.J. Cole has this determination.

“I love watching students pay attention and get it, ask the questions, make the applications and say, ‘how do I get a job doing that?’” she said.

Cole graduated from Liberty in with a psychology major and sociology minor. She went on to continue her education in Florida receiving her graduate degree in social work, and is currently working towards her doctorate here at the university.

Cole has been affecting students’ lives through teaching for more than eight years. She remains in the hearts of many students, and not just because she will occasionally bring cupcakes and cookies to class. However, students may want to keep her culinary skills in mind when registering for classes for the upcoming fall semester.

Cole works with almost 400 students each semester, and loves doing fun things for them. She will never ask for anything in return, however, she will accept Cheese-It crackers and the occasional Diet Coke.

“I thoroughly enjoyed having her for Sociology 200,” sophomore Mary Beth Wood said.

Cole often shared stories from her own life to help get across an idea while teaching. This was very helpful, according to Wood.

“She is a great teacher, but I admire Mrs. Cole for what she does for our community, she has such a passion to help troubled kids. She is a fantastic woman of God,” Wood said.

Friend and colleague Dr. Elizabeth Sites, a professor in the psychology department, agrees with students’ admiration of Cole.

“She is a great person. The students love her,” Sites said.

Liberty’s campus is not the only place in Lynchburg that is graced with Cole’s hard work and determination. Two to three days a week, she can be found at the Liberty Godparent Home, an extension of Family Life Services, serving as the Director of Social Services. Half the girls who come through the Godparent Home program make a plan of adoption, and Family Life Services is there to educate the girls in this process, according to Cole.

“If I was to be helping develop some social work aspects at Liberty, I really should be still doing (social work),” she explained.

Along with her teaching responsibilities at the adoption agency, Cole also coordinates a birth mom support group that meets once a month and participates in post-placement visitations to make sure that the adopted children are acclimated in their new home. Outside domestic adoptions as well as international adoptions are supported by the agency.

“I think by nature I am a social worker,” she said. “My spiritual gift (is) service, and I really think that is where the social work piece comes in. My other spiritual gift is being an exhorter, and I think that is where the teaching part comes in.”

Cole leaves her mark mostly through teaching the practical side of social work.

“At my age, I probably don’t need to be the one out in the field working. I need to teach the 20-somethings to get out there and really get passionate about it,” she said. “My dream would be to have a social work major at Liberty in the future.”

Contact Camille Smith at

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