Many of Liberty’s most gifted students enrich their academic experience by joining competitive teams to test their knowledge and skills against some of the top institutions in the country. Liberty’s academic teams have enjoyed great success in recent years, many making their mark at national competitions. Here is a sampling of the spring semester’s successes.
At this year’s Intercollegiate Championship Tournament in Rosemont, Ill., Liberty tied for 20th in the Division II rankings. The team entered the tournament ranked 25th in the nation (the top 32 teams are invited to nationals) after taking second place in the Big South Conference. Liberty climbed the standings after earning six crucial wins, including a 315-195 decision over the University of Alabama (No. 22) and a 165-145 victory against Northeastern University (No. 24) that came down to the last question.
Liberty Honors Program Director and Quiz Bowl Coach Dr. Jim Nutter said the tournament was the first the team had ever flown to, and it pitted the Flames against universities they have never competed against before, including two Ivy League schools — Harvard (the overall team champion with a 13-1 record) and Columbia (ninth at 11-2).
Liberty’s Quiz Bowl team has won the Big South Conference championship seven times in the last nine years.
Liberty’s Debate team celebrated its 11th consecutive victory at the American Debate Association (ADA) as well as a win at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) at Indiana University. The team claimed the National Sweepstakes Championship in both competitions.
The debate team has finished its season at the top of the CEDA rankings for six consecutive years and is the only school to ever claim all three sweepstakes championships — the ADA, the CEDA, and the National Debate Tournament — in a season, which it has done seven times in the last eight years.
Liberty’s Cyber Defense Club had another great semester after claiming the top three spots in the National Cyber League’s Gold Bracket in 2013. The team placed second during its first trip to the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.
The Flames placed in the top eight of 32 teams during the qualifying round, and met again at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Md., for the two-day regional final, where they finished second behind Towson University. Liberty’s team was comprised of undergraduate students only, though the competition allows for two graduate students per team, making its success even more impressive.
Liberty University’s Human Resource Competition Team took first place in the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2014 Southeast (SE) Regional HR Competition in Washington, D.C., March 14-15. Liberty’s teams have placed in the top four in both the Virginia State and SE Regional HR competitions for five out of the last six years the team has competed. The team has won both the Southeast Regional HR Competition and the Virginia State HR Competition twice.
Zach Floto, a recent graduate of Liberty University School of Aeronautics (SOA), earned the National Top Pilot Award at the National Intercollegiate Flight Association (NIFA) competition held at Ohio State University Airport May 12-17. He competed in a field of more than 300 participants from 28 schools.
James Curry, a 2013 graduate and Certified Flight Instructor at Liberty, placed third individually in the Top Pilot field.
“Top pilot is the highest personal honor a collegiate pilot could achieve,” second-year coach Kyle Dillon said. “We’ve never really even come close to putting a pilot in that category before, so to have two do it in the same year, with one of them winning, it’s a testament to their hard work and a very large feather in each of their caps.”
Floto, who has already completed an internship with Delta Air Lines, did two weeks of training this summer at the Cessna Discover Flying Challenge in Wichita, Kan., where he was one of six selected to travel throughout different regions of the United States in brand new Cessna 172 Skyhawks, the primary training aircraft for incoming Liberty students.
The School of Aeronautics’ flight team was also awarded the Collegiate Aviation Progress Award after it soared to a fifth-place showing, its best-ever finish. The team placed ahead of the United States Air Force Academy (sixth) and Ohio State (seventh).
Liberty’s team qualified for nationals by winning its ninth consecutive Region X title, Oct. 16-19 in Franklin, Va., where it debuted the Cessna-150, which can land at slower speeds than other models, giving pilots an advantage in the landing competitions.
“The success at the NIFA definitely shows we’re reaching a new level of maturity as a program and as a flight team, getting toward that next echelon of aviation professionalism,” Dillon said.
Liberty University School of Aeronautics (SOA) has reached an agreement with Cessna, part of Textron Aviation and owned by Textron Inc., to provide an affiliate flight training program for its qualifying Cessna Pilot Centers (CPCs) at airports across the country.
Cessna, which operates a network of approximately 150 CPCs, will now make it possible for more of their students to not only earn pilot’s licenses, but also degrees in aviation. Under the agreement, students who enroll in flight training at a CPC can also enroll in Liberty’s online program, leading to a Bachelor of Science degree.
Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Dave Young, dean of Liberty University School of Aeronautics, said Liberty is proud to establish this unique partnership with a leader in the general aviation industry.
“Through this program, potential students, whether they are coming out of high school or are already career professionals, will not only receive flight training, but can also earn college degrees in an industry where jobs are growing to meet a large market demand,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of taking online courses, but having a lab for those courses in your own hometown.”
According to Cessna, more people visit their CPCs to earn their wings than any other flight school in the country.
“Cessna is excited about what this partnership means for pilot training and the valuable education students will receive in conjunction with their real-world experience,” said Joe Hepburn, Cessna’s senior vice president of piston aircraft. “Liberty has an extensive catalog of online courses, which will enhance the experience gained through pilot training at Cessna Pilot Centers.”
Liberty has also entered into an agreement with world-renowned aviation video instructors John and Martha King, who will provide training kits for Cessna’s CPCs.
The new affiliate programs are designed to aid military veterans and their qualified dependents who are eligible to use Post-9/11 GI Bill education benefits. The SOA offers a specialization in military aviation as well as commercial/corporate and mission aviation. The SOA launched its first affiliate program in December 2013 at Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport.
The SOA is also expanding its reach to high schools where nearby CPCs can allow students to accomplish some of their training before graduation, helping them to enter the workforce even sooner.
Taking online aviation courses through Liberty is a solution for those who have considered a CPC but could not afford it. As a nonprofit institution, Liberty offers some of the lowest tuition rates among top online universities.
Dr. J. Thomas McClintock, a professor of biology in Liberty University’s Department of Biology & Chemistry, was named among the country’s top 15 DNA analysis professors in December by ForensicsColleges.com, a leading website on forensics programs across the nation.
McClintock was recognized alongside professors from other prominent institutions across the U.S., including the University of California at Berkeley, Boston University, Penn State University, the University of Arizona, the University of North Texas, West Virginia University, and the University of Virginia.
“Dr. McClintock has been a fantastic addition to the department,” said Dr. David DeWitt, chair of Liberty’s Department of Biology & Chemistry. “The wealth of expertise that he has in the area of DNA analysis is a tremendous benefit to our students. He has already worked with the criminal justice department regarding sample collection from crime scenes. I am looking forward to possible new courses in the area of forensics and DNA analysis that Dr. McClintock would be involved in.”
Criteria for the selection of these professors included practical experience outside the academic setting, involvement in cutting-edge research, and publication in academic journals.
Among his many notable accomplishments, McClintock founded DNA Diagnostics, Inc. in 1993, which provides expert DNA advice in criminal and paternity cases. The company also gives seminars and workshops to investigators and law enforcement officials on topics such as presenting DNA evidence in the courtroom, and handling and analyzing evidence.
Dr. Michael S. Jones, an associate professor in Liberty’s Department of Philosophy, has been awarded a nine-month senior scholarship from the Fulbright Scholar Program to study in Romania. He will continue his research — which already earned him a one-year Junior Fulbright scholarship to the country in 2000 — on the work of renowned Romanian philosopher Lucian Blaga.
The Fulbright Scholar Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. About 8,000 awards are issued annually, enabling scholars to research abroad. Cheryl Walton, a first-year Liberty student pursuing a Master of Arts in Management and Leadership, is currently overseas teaching English in Malaysia on a Fulbright Fellowship.
Jones was awarded the Senior Fulbright Scholarship to teach courses in philosophy of religion and ethics at the University of Bucharest. The scholarship will also allow him to finalize his translation of Blaga’s last book, “The Historical Being.”
Jones and his wife, Laura, a student in Liberty’s Doctor of Education program, will travel to Bucharest, Romania, in September. While both plan to focus the majority of their attention on their academic projects — Laura will be working on a dissertation about the integration of Roma (Gypsy) children into the Romanian school system — they also plan on spending time in ministry.
Jones has taught philosophy and theology at Liberty since 2005. As a graduate student, he first began teaching during a short-term mission trip to FateÅ?ti, Romania, in 1998. It was during that trip that he developed an interest in Blaga’s works. Two years later he was awarded the junior scholarship.
During his first Fulbright-sponsored time in Romania, Jones researched his doctoral dissertation, which has been published by Fairleigh-Dickenson University Press as “The Metaphysics of Religion: Lucian Blaga and Contemporary Philosophy.” He is eager to further his study at the post-doctoral level.
About 80 Liberty University School of Law alumni from 16 states visited campus March 21-23 to celebrate the school’s 10 years of success.
Liberty Law welcomed its first class in 2004 and received full American Bar Association (ABA) accreditation in 2010. There are currently 470 Liberty Law graduates working all across the country.
Alumni were invited to a reception on Friday and a breakfast on Saturday. Alumni who were winners of internal Moot Court competitions during their time at Liberty also participated in the judge’s panel at the 1L Moot Court competition held on Saturday afternoon in the Supreme Courtroom.
“I could not think of a better way to celebrate the law school’s 10th anniversary than to honor our alumni,” said Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law. “In a short 10 years with seven graduating classes, we have alumni working in a wide variety of legal careers. Liberty Law graduates will reform the legal profession and the practice of law. The future is certainly bright for the law school.”
Liberty Law was recently ranked among the top 10 percent of law schools for experiential training. Its rigorous skills program prepares students to conduct negotiations and prepare depositions and arguments for trial. While in the program, students draft more than 15 different types of legal documents, including legal memos, complaints, motions, summary of judgments, sales contracts, statutes, articles of organizations, and operating agreements. Students are also offered internships and externships to ready them for law practice.
Liberty Law offers 11 certificates of concentration, including business law, criminal justice, family and juvenile law, international law, constitutional law, and advocacy.
Will Roach II, a member of Liberty University School of Law’s inaugural graduating class in 2007, was elected General Sessions Judge for Jefferson County, Tenn., in the May 6 Republican Primary.
“He becomes the first of what will be many judges to graduate from Liberty University School of Law as they seek to restore the rule of law in every aspect of the profession,” said Rena Lindevaldsen, School of Law professor, associate dean for academic affairs, and associate director of the Liberty Center for Law & Policy.
Roach will handle cases in the juvenile court, criminal court, and probate court, ruling on civil disputes under $25,000 for the county of 56,000 residents located 30 miles northeast of Knoxville.
“It will be a much larger responsibility and a much larger field of ministry,” Roach said. “I have mountains of learning to accomplish between now and Sept. 2,” when he takes the judge’s seat.
He will step down from his managing partner role with Roach, Robinson & Miller, relinquishing his legal duties to fellow Liberty Law graduate David Robinson.
Roach’s victory was recognized by Liberty President Jerry Falwell during his Commencement address.
Roach, who originally arrived at Liberty on a full basketball scholarship in 1990, decided to run for the judge’s seat late last summer after receiving encouragement from family members, friends, clients, and co-workers. His father, Dennis Roach, has served as a Tennessee representative for the past 20 years.
Will Roach II compared his calling to run for the seat to that of Gideon in the Bible, challenging others to respond to the voice of God, even if they feel unqualified.
“Don’t be afraid to be ambitious for the glory of God,” Roach said. “As His children, we must go when called. We don’t choose our direction. Christ does. We choose whether to obey or disobey.”
Students from Liberty University’s Department of Studio & Digital Arts (SADA) topped all the schools in the region at the Western Virginia Student ADDY Award competition, Feb. 22 in Roanoke, Va., bringing home 20 gold and 20 silver awards. Liberty’s students then went on to compete at the district level, which includes institutions across Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, and again brought home more awards than any other school with four silver awards.
Senior Meredith Long, who reaped two silver awards, was the only individual in the competition to earn multiple recognitions. She won silver in both the illustrated campaign and poster categories. Fellow senior Brianna O’Neal received silver in the campaign category and Danielle Echeverria (’13), who graduated after the fall semester, won silver for her mobile app.
The ADDY Award competition, hosted by the American Advertising Federation (AAF), is the industry’s largest competition worldwide, drawing more than 60,000 entries annually. Competitions are held at the local, district, and national levels.
In March, Liberty University agreed to partner with William Byron and his No. 9 Late Model Stock Car. The school is the primary sponsor of the car owned by JR Motorsports that Byron is driving regionally this season in the NASCAR Whelen Series.
“We welcome this opportunity to partner with William Byron, a young man who possesses the skills and values of a champion, not only on the racetrack, but personally and professionally as well,” Liberty President Jerry Falwell said. “William, like so many of Liberty’s students, applied the skills he developed and refined through virtual educational technologies to achieve practical success.”
Byron is in his first season with JR Motorsports. He joined the Late Model program in January after a 2013 U.S. Legends Cars debut that featured 33 wins and a Young Lions Division national championship. So far this year, the 16-year-old sophomore at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Day School has finished second in two Late Model races at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway.
“I am proud to represent such a fine university,” said Byron. “Liberty University provides a number of opportunities both on campus and online to accommodate those seeking a higher education. I understand the importance of balancing my education and passion for racing, and that’s why this is a perfect partnership. In addition to representing Liberty on the track in my JR Motorsports car, I look forward to enrolling in an online class this summer.”
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell announced several new aid programs and an additional investment in an existing program that will provide more financial aid to high-achieving students beginning in Fall 2014.
In addition to the $9 million increase in institutional aid implemented last year, Liberty is offering the new Virginia High Achievers Scholarship, Legacy Scholarship, and the Liberty Scholars Grant Program. It is also increasing some of the amounts given for the Academic Achievement Scholarship, which is based on cumulative GPA, as well as SAT and ACT scores.
The Virginia High Achievers scholarship is for Virginia resident high school graduates with a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or higher. This award, along with the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant and the Liberty Academic Achievement Award, makes the cost of enrolling at Liberty lower than almost every public four-year university in Virginia.
The Legacy Scholarship is an annual award of $1,000 that is available to students with a parent or guardian who graduated from Liberty. The parent only needs to complete a short application with the Resident Office of Admissions. The award can be combined with other Liberty aid.
The Liberty Scholars Grant Program is for resident undergraduate and graduate students. The grant is based on the student’s respective cumulative GPA and expected family contribution (EFC) from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Awards range from $300 to $1,000 per semester for resident graduate students and $1,000 to $2,000 per semester for resident undergraduate students.
The Liberty Scholars Grant Program, when combined with the Liberty Supplemental Grant for undergraduate students, brings the total Liberty grant aid up to $3,500 per year for eligible students.
The Academic Achievement Scholarship will help more than 7,000 qualifying students receive over $15 million in aid at Liberty this year alone. Some of the amounts are increasing by as much as $500.
A $2 million donation to the Liberty University School of Music has opened the door for students who have demonstrated their gifts in worship and the performing arts.
Harold and Patricia Mathena, members of Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Okla., made the generous donation last fall. The couple presented the first 11 scholarships during a special Convocation for the School of Music in April.
“We had very little scholarship money for the music program before this,” said Dr. Vernon Whaley, dean of the School of Music. “This donation has allowed us to establish an entire scholarship program with different kinds of scholarships. It is a tremendous blessing.”
The School of Music officially launched in 2012 (when the Center for Worship and the Music & Humanities department merged), becoming the seventh largest in the country. Its future home, the Center for Music and the Worship Arts, is under construction and is scheduled to open in Fall 2015.
Harold Mathena is a longtime Southern Baptist pastor who followed the ministry of (Liberty founder) Dr. Jerry Falwell. The Mathenas’ son, Dr. Gary Mathena, also attended the Convocation and said he learned more about the plans for Liberty’s program when he traveled with staff members to Moscow, Russia, for a worship conference last fall. Upon his return, he invited his parents to pay a visit to Liberty.
“Seeing what God is doing with the music school and the ways He is blessing it … it just captured my mom and dad’s hearts,” said Gary Mathena, who is now serving as the School of Music’s director of practica.
Half of the donation will establish an endowment fund to help finance future scholarships. The 60 one-year scholarships — 15 to rising seniors, 20 to incoming freshmen, and 25 to rising sophomores and juniors — range from $2,000 to $5,000. Applicants will audition in the area of music they plan to pursue. Auditions will be held during College for a Weekend (CFAW) events or by appointment on Friendly Fridays. Descriptions of the scholarships can be found at www.Liberty.edu/SchoolofMusic.
Liberty has partnered with education benefit provider Beneplace to expand the school’s growing list of corporate education affiliates. Employees of companies such as outdoor retail giant Cabela’s, Time Warner, and EchoStar can now take part in Liberty’s Advantage Program.
The Advantage Program allows employees of its partner corporations to enroll in Liberty’s online programs and receive benefits such as a 15 percent tuition discount and a waived application fee. The tuition discount extends to spouses of partner employees as well.
“Our goal is to provide our business partners with affordable degree options that give their employees the knowledge and skills they can use right away in their positions to further their standing in the marketplace,” said Steve Peterson, Liberty University’s executive director of online admissions.
Since expanding partnerships to make the Advantage Program more accessible two years ago, Liberty has made it possible for many people to meet their educational goals. In this academic year alone, more than 1,000 students have enrolled at Liberty through the program.
Currently, there are thousands of companies — from small businesses to corporate giants — that have access to the Advantage Program, either through a direct partnership with Liberty or through educational consulting services like Beneplace, EdAssist, and EdCor. (Check your company’s benefits provider to see if they offer the Advantage Program.)
These educational consulting services connect employees of companies like UPS, Verizon, Genworth Financial, and Teva Pharmaceuticals with the Advantage Program. Liberty’s direct corporate partnerships include AT&T, Wells Fargo, Chick-fil-A, Anthem, and Centra Health.
According to Peterson, the expansion of Liberty’s corporate partnerships speaks to the value of the educational programs the university offers. “We take our highly sought-after degree programs and make them available through our online format so that working professionals can continue in their careers and meet their family obligations while advancing in their knowledge within a given academic discipline.”
With 187 online programs of study, companies recognize that Liberty offers what their employees need to further their education and serve better in their positions.
Liberty University is the nation’s largest private, nonprofit online educator.
As part of its commitment to furthering the Great Commission, Liberty University recently launched a new missionary scholarship, which grants full tuition to children of missionaries with the organizations Liberty works most closely with. Liberty also began offering a loan forgiveness program that will pay up to 20 percent per year of the balance of federal student loans (up to $30,000 per individual) to qualifying alumni.
Johnnie Moore, senior vice president for communications, said the greatest barrier in raising support for future missionaries is college debt. “Make no mistake about it, Liberty intends on getting more students to the mission field more quickly by building this bridge of generosity over the chasm of debt,” he said. “This is the first time in Christian history when we can so clearly see the finish line of the Great Commission, and this is a strategic move to make that dream a reality.”
To qualify for the loan forgiveness program, a graduate must, at minimum, be accepted into an evangelical sending agency and moving toward long-term field placement. Payments under this program begin once the alumnus is serving in the field. Applicants should demonstrate proactive engagement with a sending agency prior to graduation. Priority will be given to graduates with a global studies major or minor.
Applicants are considered twice a year before recommendations are made to the university’s enrollment management division for a compliance review and final approval. The review requires that students not be delinquent or in default on any federal student loans.
The missionary scholarship is available to new resident, undergraduate students who are dependent children of missionaries actively serving in the field and affiliated with any of Liberty’s strategic mission partners (view the full list of partners at www.Liberty.edu/MissionsScholarships). Students must also be U.S. citizens. In order to remain eligible for the scholarship, students must maintain full-time consecutive enrollment and Financial Aid Satisfactory Academic Progress.
With a goal to fulfill the Great Commission, the International Mission Board (IMB) sends missionaries all over the world. Nearly 100 of them are Liberty University alumni, making Liberty one of the Christian institutions with the most IMB-sponsored graduates in the field.
“We have Liberty folks serving literally all over the globe,” said Ken Winter, IMB’s vice president of church and partner services.
Winter shared his appreciation for the Liberty graduates whom he has encountered in his 10 years of service with IMB.
“We greatly value that partnership, how we can collaborate together in helping students catch that vision and respond to God’s call and go (forward),” Winter said.
IMB is the mission sending agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest evangelical denomination, and is affiliated with more than 46,000 churches. IMB missionaries are currently engaging 778 people groups, most of which have been unreached with the Gospel. Over 6,000 new churches were planted last year through the efforts of IMB missionaries, bringing the total number of churches planted among these 778 people groups to over 28,000.
Brent and Amanda Turner, both 2001 Liberty graduates, have been serving together with IMB in Gaborone, Botswana, for nearly five years as church planters, ministering to the unreached Tswana people group, of which less than 2 percent are Christians. Prior to serving with his wife, Brent Turner was a Journeyman in Mombasa, Kenya, with IMB for two years after graduating from Liberty.
“We loved our experience at Liberty University — the friendships we made and the education that we received,” Brent Turner said. “We feel like Liberty prepared us to go into all the world and preach the Gospel and also strengthened our desire to do so through our education.”
Winter said Liberty’s mission to train Champions for Christ in all professions is translating into willing servants like the Turners on the mission field.
“Students at Liberty are realizing, ‘No matter what my major is, no matter what my vocation ends up being, I have been called to be a disciple,’” Winter said. “It’s a very small step from there to God calling folks to go serve among the nations.”