Throngs of Liberty University students who will be graduating on Saturday and their families and guests enjoyed a carnival atmosphere at Williams Stadium during Friday afternoon’s combined residential and online graduate reception.
Tents were set up outside the concourse with representatives from each of the university’s academic departments. It was a chance for many graduates who have earned their degrees online to interact with faculty members.
Plentiful portions of kettle corn, cotton candy, doughnuts, roasted peanuts, cake, ice cream, and fellowship were standard fare on the menu.
Chris Johnson, Liberty’s senior vice president for enrollment management, formally welcomed the crowd. Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty’s provost, offered some facts about the Class of 2014, which will have more than 6,000 students march during Saturday’s main ceremony, which begins at 10 a.m.
“We have over 18,000 students graduating at the end of this semester, which includes 15,144 graduates from Liberty’s online program,” Godwin said, noting the average online student is somewhere between 34-37 years of age. “Most of you are not kids anymore. You’ve got jobs, you’ve got families, you’ve got mortgages, you’ve got life to deal with and yet, you’ve taken on the challenge of acquiring another degree and increasing your education. I tell you, that’s impressive, that’s admirable, that’s a good and godly thing you’re doing.”
Nearly 2,700 resident students will receive their diplomas. The top 10 states represented at graduation are: Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, California, and Tennessee; and the top countries, besides the United States, are Korea, Canada, China, Nigeria, Germany, Haiti, Ethiopia, and The Bahamas.
Maxine Collins, from Richmond, Va., will receive her master’s degree in Human Services, with a specialization in Marriage and Family. She completed her studies online and said she found the program very challenging.
“It was intensive because I’m working, I have a home to take care of, and I’m running a ministry out of my home, but it was worth it,” Collins said, adding that this is the first time she has been on campus.
“It is wonderful, beautiful,” she said. “Everyone’s so nice and everything’s so well put together and organized. I’m enjoying it.”
This is the first year Liberty has combined its welcome reception for those earning their degrees from residential and online programs. The celebration will continue Friday night with the Baccalaureate service at 6 p.m., followed by a Military Recognition Ceremony at 7:30 p.m.