Exploring faith with literature: Department chair shares how she came to Liberty and expresses her love for teaching English

Teaching requires time, effort and dedication to the students and the subject.

Virginia Dow is an associate professor of English and chair of the Department of English. She has been teaching full time at Liberty University for 15 years. Before moving to Virginia, Dow’s husband, Mark, worked as a law enforcement officer in Maine, and she worked as a teacher. Dow and her family moved to Lynchburg after her youngest son enrolled at Liberty. 

“When I first came in, I decided to do something that wasn’t teaching,” Dow said. “I got a really good job and decided to substitute teach at the same time.”

After realizing that substitute teaching was not for her, Dow acquired her master’s in English from Liberty and her doctorate in literature and criticism from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She then started to teach at Liberty.

Dow loves teaching and believes that the Lord has used the profession to show her his grace. Through the challenge of finding common ground among students in their walks with the Lord, Dow has seen how his grace is for everyone. 

“Dow truly embodies what it means to love God and love people,” Lydia Moody, one of Dow’s students, said. “In every class, along with engaging and insightful discussion on our readings, she makes her care and dedication to students evident.”

Photo by Joel Isimeme

Dow hopes that her students can find something that they enjoy from her classes. It could be a poem, a short story, a novel, a topic or something else. While Dow has no favorite literary work that she teaches, her two personal favorite novels are “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “Les Misérables.” She loves all the works that she discusses in her classes, and the same goes for the variety of classes that she teaches.

“I put a lot of effort into rereading, studying and planning,” Dow said. “I love teaching basic, or remedial, writing and reading. I love the (undergraduate) students, but I also love teaching the grad classes.”

Every course, however, offers something to learn.

Dow advises students who plan to major in English to read.

“Read widely. Read well,” Dow said.

By reading more, students absorb a host of new perspectives and emerging concepts. As
students read more literature, they can learn more about a specific reading material and encounter new writing styles.

Whether students read scholarly articles, commentaries or nonfiction books, students can broaden their understanding of the literary world as a whole.

“It increases their awareness of who we are and of our place in the world,” Dow said.

Dow’s workload varies with each semester, depending on the needs of the Department of English. This semester, she’s teaching four residential classes: Basic Composition, Survey of British Literature, Victorian Literature and Bible as Literature. She is also teaching two online courses. 

Teaching English is important to Dow because she believes that it can reveal more about humans and human nature.

“I love literature and I think that in every single thing that we teach, we can see how human nature is so similar,” Dow said. “Learning to understand literature teaches us about ourselves.”

From remaining faithful to the Lord to instilling students with a passion for literature, Dow continues to inspire students to diligently study English as a whole. 

“Through her continual flexibility and understanding of students, she always makes sure to encourage her students to take care of themselves and their various responsibilities,” Moody said. “I have loved having Dr. Dow as a professor and mentor throughout my time here at Liberty.” 

Santos is a feature reporter for the Liberty Champion

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