Campus Connection

June 12, 2019

For thousands of graduates from Liberty’s online program, Commencement was a special time to unite with classmates and explore campus

Thousands of graduates who earned degrees from their homes across the country and around the world traveled to Liberty University — many for the first time — to experience an exciting 46th Commencement in person.

A total of 16,531 of the 20,731 members of the Class of 2019 accomplished their goal through Liberty’s online program. Liberty was a pioneer in distance learning and remains one of the nation’s top online universities.

About 63 percent of the total graduates in attendance at Commencement studied online. Many were wowed by Liberty’s vibrant campus life and spectacular state-of-the-art facilities.

“I have never been here before and it is really neat to see what a great university it is and to see the people who are volunteering and helping out and their servant’s hearts,” said accounting graduate Melissa Luper, who traveled from Viera, Fla., with her husband, Caleb, and 12-year-old daughter, Selah. “That is consistent throughout campus, even throughout the town. It has been enjoyable to be here.”

She was thrilled to walk in the ceremony with two of her classmates she met during her online studies — business administration graduates Charo Barry and Elaine Carty, who flew in from Anguilla, a small island near Saint Martin in the British West Indies. The three (pictured above) became friends while working together on a group project online.

Krystal Anderson-Jordan (left) and Lisa Cranford-Bess

Online graduates Lisa Cranford-Bess and Krystal Anderson-Jordan both received master’s degrees in human services counseling – family advocacy. They traveled from Dalton County, S.C., to celebrate.

“To see this huge, beautiful campus for the first time, it’s immaculate; a wonderful experience,” Cranford-Bess said. “I’m glad she (Anderson-Jordan) encouraged me to sign up with her to start at Liberty; it’s been awesome.”

As a wife, mother, and grandmother with a career, Anderson-Jordan shares the same story as many of Liberty’s graduates who used the flexibility and affordability of the online program to advance their careers.

“I had to fight through adversity to be here,” she said. “But, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a significant accomplishment — words are inadequate to describe how I feel.”

Kevin Hubbard from Charlotte, N.C., completed his B.S. in Business Administration — Project Management online while serving in the Air Force. He attended the ceremonies with his wife and their 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter.

“Between working and kids and coaching my son’s football team, it’s been doable, but very busy,” Hubbard said. “Everywhere I go when I travel, I just bring my laptop and hook up to the internet and just start working. When I get home, I do the same thing, late nights and early mornings.”

Hubbard was one of Liberty’s more than 6,000 graduates with military ties. Military graduates also had the opportunity to attend the Military Graduate Recognition Ceremony the night before Commencement. (This year, Liberty was ranked the No. 1 “Best for Vets” school by Military Times for 2019 and is designated a Top 10 Military Friendly School on the 2019-20 list of “Better for Veterans” institutions.)

Linda Fong, a flight attendant who traveled from Honolulu with her husband, Randy, received an M.A. in Christian Ministry 10 years after earning her B.S. in Psychology from Liberty.

Fong, who serves as a care ministry volunteer at her church in Hawaii, will use her degree to share the Gospel with Chinese immigrants through a ministry at her church.

“These two years of study have helped me to understand the Bible better, and the courses I took will help me to serve Him better,” she said.

Keila Peña (left), Luis Laureano, and Cesia Laureano

Keila Peña and her sister and brother-in-law, Cesia and Luis Laureano, traveled from Orlando, Fla. Originally from the Dominican Republic, all three are the first in their families to earn a college degree.

Peña, who teaches at a private Christian school that trains students for the mission field, graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education. Cesia and Luis Laureano are mission pastors at New Birth in Kissimmee, Fla. Cesia will use her business administration degree to help manage the mission organizations they work with while Luis uses his psychology degree to help counsel area youth.

Peña considered taking time off from pursuing her degree as she battled late-stage breast cancer over the past year.

“After having a conversation with my advisor who encouraged me and prayed with me, I decided to keep going,” she said, noting that her professors were also understanding. “They sent personal emails with Bible verses and always stayed in constant communication. I couldn’t have done it without that. Every time I got an email from them, it gave me the strength to keep going.”

Peña said Liberty has had a profound spiritual impact on her family as she is continually reminded to live in a way that honors God.

“I don’t think I could have accomplished this goal at any other university,” she said. “Liberty truly is a unique place.”

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