At age 6, Ron Sones dismantled his family’s wind-up alarm clock.
Ever since, he’s been fascinated by what makes things tick. Sones, now Dr. Sones, is the first dean of the Liberty University School of Engineering and Computational Sciences, which began operation in August.
Sones said his experience with the alarm clock and engineering school
have like components.“The challenges are very similar in that there are many pieces,” he said. “This is not a one-man job.The support that I have received (from the administration, faculty and staff) is what has sustained me. I probably could have put that alarm clock back together if I had somebody working with me who had the knowledge I was lacking.”
Sones said knowing your limitations is the key to success. “There are a lot of things I don’t know about engineering,” he said. “There are a lot of things I don’t know about being a dean.There are a lot of things I don’t know about what is required to get this engineering school launched.The people that the Lord has brought to me are the evidences that bring me great peace at night.”
LU’s school of engineering began as a vision of the university founder and former chancellor, the late Rev. Jerry Falwell. Sones, who came to LU three years ago, took “that little seed” and got it included into the university’s five-year strategic plan.
Last year, the engineering curriculum was formally adopted by the university’s faculty senate as a full-fledged academic program.
Sones said he relishes the idea of teaching engineering from a Christian world view. “Building to me is a reflection of how God spent his first six recorded days,” Sones said.“I think it is part of the Creator in us to want to create as He created. Engineering is part of the nature of God in that He designed things.”
Sones said he is excited that LU’s School of Engineering is starting out as a research institution. “It is the only way to accomplish engineering properly,” he said. “We are one of the few private research engineering schools around. We’re one of two private, four-year research engineering programs in the state of Virginia.”
This year’s initial engineering class includes about 100 students. Sones said the school realistically could grow to about 1,000 students in three years. Residential recruiters tell Sones that one out of every eight potential students expresses an interest in engineering.
The startup curriculum includes degree programs in electrical, computer, software and industrial and systems engineering, computer science, information systems and Web technology. As the school gets more facilities, it might add civil and mechanical engineering in several years.
“There are a lot of kids interested in coming to Liberty to study engineering,”
Sones said. “It’s fun to be on top of this wave and see where it will go.”