Liberty Student Perseveres Through Multiple Trials to Pursue Her Dreams

A professor describes Elizabeth Koehler as one of the hardest workers he has had in 30 years of teaching. A friend, Meghan Walter, describes her as deeply conscientious, dedicated to her faith.

“She never takes anything at a surface level,” Walter said. 

Koehler is a super-senior and double major at Liberty. She is passionate about Harry Potter and the Christian romance novels written by Julie Lessman. She is a licensed dog trainer who adores all kinds of dogs, including her family’s five-month-old Great Dane and Labrador mix, Axel. 

She is also deaf.

Koehler graduated from the Word of Life Institute in Florida and attended a community college before transferring to Liberty. 

Walter, a fellow student, met Koehler in an accounting class.

“We both sat in the front like nerds,” Walter said.

Walter had set a goal to make a new friend in each of her classes that semester. The streak of white in Koehler’s hair caught Walter’s eye, as did the sign language interpreter translating for her. One of Walter’s parents is deaf, so she knows some American Sign Language.     

The two struck up a friendship, and Walter worked on her rusty ASL. Koehler teased her that it was like watching a baby learn how to walk.

Dr. George Young, a professor in the school of business, described Koehler as a continuous learner, eager to make her school projects excellent even after they have been graded. Walter saw that dedication in action – after every accounting class period, Koehler approached the professor to make sure she had not missed anything.

Koehler also found time for other pursuits. Koehler, a licensed dog trainer, spent hours at the Lynchburg Humane Society. She got involved with the Center for Entrepreneurship at Liberty and worked at Starbucks in the Jerry Falwell Library.

Koehler’s strength in the face of adversity has left a lasting impact on professors and peers alike.

Now, however, Koehler is adjusting to online learning. At 26, she has aged out of on-campus housing. That was not a problem until she could not get a slot in independent housing off-campus this fall, which meant she would need to find her own transportation to campus. Koehler does not have a car and did not want to ask friends for rides every day. Her wages from Starbucks could not cover school expenses plus a daily Uber, so she switched online and moved home.

The fast-paced eight-week schedule of online classes is an extra challenge for Koehler since English is not her first language. Although she keeps in touch with friends, she misses in-person contact.

With her extra time, Koehler stays busy reading and learning Korean. Koehler fell in love with Korean culture in 2016 and planned to intern in Seoul, South Korea last summer before COVID-19 canceled the program. She is hoping to go next summer. 

Despite the financial and academic challenges COVID-19 brought to Koehler and the frustration of switching from on-campus to online learning, Koehler continues to support fellow students and work on projects with Liberty’s Center for Entrepreneurship, reworking its website. 

She leads a team of students who meet weekly on Microsoft Teams to discuss mockups and design, and Walter said Koehler’s dedication has not diminished during her time away from campus.

Koehler said attending Liberty has been a dream of hers since she first learned about the school. She is not yet sure what she wants to do upon graduation.

“I will leave it up to God,” Koehler said.

But in the meantime, she is determined to keep overcoming roadblocks as a student, entrepreneur, and follower of Christ. 

Esther Eaton is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @EstherJay10.

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