Another of Jerry’s dreams achieved

Quality and quantity — Liberty strives to offer students an increasing number of quality programs that can lead to successful careers in a myriad of fields. Photo credit: Alyssa Bockman

Since 1971, “mountains” have seemed to move as the vision of Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. became a reality. One of Falwell’s many goals was for Liberty to offer academic quality in all professions. Now, 40 years later, that dream to offer quality academic programs leading to many different professions seems complete.

Liberty began modestly with only 154 students, a dozen faculty members and very few resources. However, a landmark was reached in 1980 when Liberty received accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). Four years later, Liberty received university status.

“Moving from college status to university status literally meant that the programs of study we could offer, and began to offer, were far more numerous than before,” Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Dr. Ronald S. Godwin said.

Today, Liberty offers more than 140 undergraduate degree programs. In 1985, the online program was established providing students around the world with a quality Christian-based education. Liberty has also been recognized for its top-ranked Law School and Debate Team, as well as the new Tower Theater, which opened last year.

“The theater takes us away from the mundane moments of college life. We can learn a lot about art, literature, history and just the world around us,” junior Cassie Sweetra said.

Change is not new here at Liberty. Last year’s introduction of a rigorous attendance policy was one of many changes. Another change has been an increase in the classroom size of general education courses. While some students, such as Amy Dalrymple, do not seem to notice, her roommate Courtney Adams does.

“It’s hard to learn in big classes,” Adams said.

Dean of College of General Studies and Associate Professor of English Emily Heady said it has been an adjustment, but she enjoys the energy of a large class.

“Liberty has been great about giving us the help we need. In our 200-level surveys, for instance, we now have a second faculty member for each class, and that person’s sole responsibility is to interact with students’ written work,” Heady said.

As for this year, exciting new academic changes are already in progress. A significant change is the addition of a College of General Studies.

“No matter what their SAT or ACT score said about their high school education — there is a wide variety of academic weaknesses that the typical high school student brings to college. So rather than just complain about it, we created a College of General Studies, and a team of teachers and curriculum, to better repair or strengthen those weaknesses that students bring to their university experience,” Godwin said.

One of the strategies of the College of General Studies is the new math emporium opening in spring 2012. Students can come for individualized instruction from professors and graduate assistants. The emporium will be located in Green Hall, in what used to be Room 1500. The room will hold about 250 computer stations with advanced technology to help students who struggle with math.

“Math was never my strongest subject. So having an entire room devoted to helping me excel will definitely be a place I will want to go,” sophomore Hillary Bernitter said.

Writing is also a weakness that freshmen students often have when entering college. For this reason, changes have also been made to give students more one-on-one assistance.

“We’ve begun teaching some classes, such as ENGL 101, on the master-teacher model — a combination of big lectures and small breakout sections,” Heady said.

Possibly the greatest academic announcement made this year is the plan to open a school of osteopathic medicine and a school of health science by fall 2013. Part of the funding for the new school was provided by a $12 million grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, making it the largest grant the university has ever received.

“There is a great deal to be grateful for and excited about at Liberty nowadays, but it is true, we are excited about the new school of health science and the prospect of having a medical college here at Liberty,” Godwin said.

Moreover, Liberty is in the process of creating an innovative new library, a school of cinematic arts and trade courses to take along with one’s undergraduate degree.

“Our goal is for Liberty University to become known as a world-class teaching university. And we want to continue the great strides already made in improving the teaching and learning here at Liberty,” Godwin said.

While change is a necessary part of any university’s aim to improve, Liberty continues to honor its mission of “training champions for Christ.” The Christian worldview is unmistakably emphasized in all academic programs.

“That doesn’t mean that we’re afraid of the world or that we want to live in a bubble,” Heady said. “We do all the same things that people do at other universities: We study the latest literary theory, we read the same books, we talk about the same topics. But here, we know what we’re about. The purpose of our teaching — and our studying — is to seek truth, because if we can find truth, we’ve had an encounter with God.”

For more information, visit To learn more about the College of General Studies, email

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