Above and Beyond

By Ron Brown, January 11, 2013

One of the hallmarks of a Liberty University education is the constructive relationship between faculty members and students.

“At Liberty what we’ve found again and again, with any research we do, is that at the heart of the student experience is the relationship they sustain with faculty,” said Vice Provost Dr. Ron Hawkins during the annual faculty meeting webcast in October. “When we look them (students) in the eye and see the desire to learn, and we interact with them, that’s where the reward is.”

Student mentoring by faculty is a high priority of the university’s administration, which emphasizes preparing students not only for success in the classroom, but also in the workplace.

In keeping with those goals, students are challenged to find a practical application for classroom instruction.

“Our professors take great pride in working with our students,” said Dr. Ron Godwin, Liberty’s provost and senior vice president of academic affairs. “We want to make sure that our students receive experiential education, like internships, as well as classroom instruction. We want our students to be doing more than just hearing lectures.”

Students are also challenged spiritually by their professors. Every faculty member at Liberty is a professing Christian who believes that teaching is a calling, not just a job. Taking a special interest in their students also means that they pray for them and provide guidance based on Scripture.

A Pen and a Purpose

Dr. Kendrick Brunson (left) with senior Anders Bengston

Dr. Kendrick Brunson (left) with senior Anders Bengston

When Donald Trump visited Liberty University last fall, Anders Bengston had a unique gift awaiting him.

Bengston, a Liberty senior, has been handcrafting high-end, custom-made writing pens from specialty woods since he was in the sixth grade in his native Ohio.

Trump’s pen came in a cherry wooden box, perched on a cushioned liner. Bengston put his business card inside pitching his business, Anders Ink (www.AndersInk.com), and a note thanking Trump for his Liberty visit.

Trump’s response was simple: “Impressive,” he said.

Bengston gave a similar pen to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he visited Liberty’s campus last spring.

He is hoping that Trump’s response will be indicative of other potential customers as he cranks his business brainchild into high gear.

Bengston, 21, credits marketing professor Dr. Kendrick Brunson with recognizing the power of his idea and helping him develop a comprehensive business plan.

“Part of my job is to encourage students like Anders,” Brunson said. “He is an information-hungry young student. He would often schedule appointments with me to get information outside the classroom.”

Brunson is working with Liberty’s new Center for Entrepreneurship to help Bengston refine his idea.

“Before I started talking to Dr. Brunson, I saw Anders Ink as a way to get income every now and then,” Bengston said. Brunson encouraged him to think of the endeavor on a much larger scale and eventually hire others to do the manufacturing.

“This time last year my plan was to sell a couple hundred pens to pay off my college tuition,” Bengston said. “Now, with many hours of Dr. Brunson’s investment, I plan to sell tens of thousands of pens. I want to financially provide for my family and help to develop ministries out of the profit.”

Bengston said Brunson taught him to think of private entrepreneurship as an alternative to publicly funded jobs.

Bengston’s father was a manager of eight public parks until he was laid off several years ago. His mother is a public school teacher.

“My parents are the greatest parents in the world,” Bengston said. “They have encouraged me with Anders Ink and everything else I do.”

Because of the business’s potential, Bengston sees brighter times ahead for him and his family.

“The past couple of years have been kind of rough,” he said. “We still have a great attitude and God has blessed us. We have had peace during the storm, but there are times that we haven’t known where things would come from.”

Bengston said Brunson’s encouragement is critically important.

“When I first came to Liberty, I thought business was bad,” he said. “Now because of Liberty and Dr. Brunson, I see a way to develop this business, to support my family, and to give.”

Learning a Trade

Assistant professor Lane McClure (left) with junior Colby Bishop

Assistant professor Lane McClure (left) with junior Colby Bishop

Junior Colby Bishop said Lance McClure helped reshape his approach to becoming an industrial engineer.

McClure, director of Liberty’s Technical Studies program, convinced Bishop, a 20-year-old engineering student from Virginia’s Northern Neck, that having welding in his arsenal of tools would make him even more valuable to employers in the future.

Bishop said that although he didn’t have any experience in welding, he had always been interested in it.

“I love working with my hands. … From an engineering standpoint there is nothing better than knowing how to put things together,” he said.

All it took was for McClure to see the potential and offer encouragement.

“He convinced me to take the step,” Bishop said. “He was persistent and gave me the confidence to squeeze it into my engineering program. We have had a lot of good talks about the benefits.”

Bishop now sees how learning the skill can give him a better understanding of the challenges faced by construction personnel working on projects that engineers design.

“It is a very handsome benefit,” he said.

McClure said that while he advised and mentored Bishop, his welding instructor, Tom Hudson, “did a phenomenal job teaching him the skill so he could perform at a professional level.”

Because of his varied skills, Bishop was hired as an intern last summer and now works part time at Fleetwood Goldco Wyard in Lynchburg, Va., one of the leading manufacturers of conveyor systems in the country.

The breadth of his education has given him invaluable experience in helping design new conveyor systems, producing 3-D schematic drawings, and producing how-to manuals on some of the company’s most commonly built conveyor equipment.

“The company told us that his moral fiber and character are very important to the way they do business,” McClure said. “They said he fits their ethos and environment very well.”

The Next Chapter

Dr. Karen Swallow Prior (right) with alumna Kyra Marken

Dr. Karen Swallow Prior (right) with alumna Kyra Marken

Kyra Marken said her English professor, Dr. Karen Swallow Prior, helped bring literature alive for her.

Marken, 27, first met Prior in 2006 when she took one of Prior’s English novel classes as an undergraduate student. She was so impressed with Prior’s enthusiasm for literature that she signed on for the master’s English program. Prior convinced Marken to take on a teaching role as a graduate assistant during that time.

“I always loved reading and writing. I knew I loved literature,” Marken said. “I knew I wanted to sharpen those skills.”

Marken completed her master’s in 2011, with Prior serving as the chair of her thesis committee. From there, Marken parlayed her enthusiasm for literature into a job at New Covenant Schools in Lynchburg, Va., where she teaches high school students English, rhetoric, and Western and British literature.

Prior proved to be the perfect mentor for a small-town girl who was unsure if she could hold her own with other literature heavyweights.

“She definitely speaks truth in love in academics and other areas of life,” Marken said. “She doesn’t mince words. She pulls her students up by the boot straps. She sees potential in them that they might not even realize.”

Marken said Prior’s message was twofold: Get over yourself and I’ll be here for you.

“That semester I really learned a lot from her as far as literature goes, but I really appreciated her feedback on my writing,” Marken said. “She seemed so brilliant; I was just quaking in my boots, but she was always very accessible.”

Prior still keeps in touch with Marken since she graduated, proof of her sincere interest in seeing all of her students succeed after they leave her classroom.

“I just love showing students how literature has application to their own lives,” Prior said. “That’s what a biblical worldview is; anything we study can reveal the truth of God.” Prior recently visited Marken at her workplace and the two shared a special time together — teacher to teacher.

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