News & Events

Together Again, Training Champions

September 24, 2020

The start of a new academic year at Liberty University is always steeped in tradition, from fun Welcome Week events, to the first Convocation, to Block Party. With much creativity and cooperation among all campus departments, the 2020-21 school year kicked off as planned, inviting the Liberty family to once again join for another year of Training Champions for Christ.

At a time of change not only in Liberty’s leadership but also in the day-to-day operations during a pandemic, the university has taken every precaution to ensure that the campus environment fosters health and wellness while still cultivating an exciting and spiritually strong atmosphere consistent with its overall mission. And although things may have looked a little different when in-person classes resumed on Aug. 24 for the first time since March, faculty, staff, and students rose to the occasion, supporting one another and building a strong community as they navigated campus with the new health regulations.

After enduring over five months apart from friends and classmates, many returning students said they feel grateful that Liberty has afforded them the opportunity to enjoy the campus that they call their home away from home.

“It is so good to see people that I haven’t seen in a while because of the coronavirus,” said senior William Reynolds. “I worked at Liberty as a student worker last year, so when we lost our jobs because of the coronavirus and many of us left campus, we didn’t really have much social contact, and I was pretty much at home for six months.”

Some students said that even though aspects of life at Liberty have been altered due to the regulations, there is still much to look forward to in the new school year.

“I think this year should pretty much be the same as it always has been, in many ways,” sophomore nursing student Emma Benson said on the first day of classes. “Everyone just needs to wear a mask, and that’s really the biggest change. It was exciting to see everyone today.”

Students have been spaced apart in classes, and professors have been teaching behind clear partitions. Benson and her nursing classmates were given clear face shields to wear while in class. She said professors are giving them generous breaks so they can leave the classroom to grab a snack or drink.

Students also recognized changes at dining locations on campus, as Liberty Dining and the Sodexo team have worked hard to provide safe preparation and delivery of meals with new protocols, including more to-go options and a pre-order app to reduce lines.

The dining regulations align with those incorporated last spring when Liberty moved its classes online, but indoor seating is now available at a 50 percent capacity. Indoor and outdoor tables have been spaced out and social distancing signs continue to mark the floors. Due to the success of the take-out option this past spring, The Food Court at Reber-Thomas, Liberty’s main dining hall, is now offering a take-out-only area as well.

Before classes began, freshmen and new students were the first to hear a formal introduction and welcome from President Jerry Prevo during a virtual New Student Convocation on Aug. 21. Prevo shared about his family and how he first became connected with the university through visits with Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell. He also shared his favorite Scripture verses, Romans 12:1-2, and used them to encourage the new students to pursue their relationship with the Lord before seeking clarity regarding their futures.

Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, speaks in a pre-recorded Convocation address on Aug. 25.

“We are going to encourage you to renew your mind first of all by reading the Scriptures and memorizing the Scriptures,” Prevo said. “And we are going to have our faculty talk about how they can help you renew your mind. Why? That you can prove what is good, acceptable, and the perfect will of God.” He prayed for Liberty, its faculty, and students to be the best witnesses for Christ that they can be.

Students also heard from new Student Body President Constance Schneider and Vice President Joel Thomas.

On Aug. 26, the Office of Spiritual Development officially kicked off the Convocation season with the Rev. Jonathan Falwell, senior pastor at Thomas Road Baptist Church, who encouraged students during the virtual event to start the school year off with the right spiritual focus.

“This place has always been about training young Champions for Christ,” Falwell said. “And as you sit there today, whatever you might be studying, don’t ever forget that you are one of those Champions for Christ, and the only thing that will keep you from changing the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ is you. Don’t allow your journey to get sidetracked. Don’t allow your journey and your life to fall victim to the noise and the distraction that is everywhere.”

He set the tone for the first Campus Community of the school year later that night when students gathered, socially distanced and masked, and spread all throughout Williams Stadium for a moving time of worship and Bible study. (Students had to register early for the weekly event, due to the limited capacity.) The Liberty Worship Collective took the stage, exciting the crowd who had not worshiped together in person since March. President Prevo also spoke under the stadium lights in his first in-person address to students.

Other Convocation guests this semester have included pastors Franklin Graham, David Platt, Andy Stanley, and Johnny Hunt. Convocation and Campus Community are streamed on Liberty’s Facebook Page. (Past events can also be viewed on Liberty’s YouTube channel.)

The Spiritual Development team also wasted no time in making sure students got involved in service opportunities, another longstanding Liberty tradition. During the second week of classes, LU Serve hosted the Serve Expo, where students could participate in activities structured to educate and raise social awareness for causes in the local community. The week was highlighted by a Send Relief: Serve Experience on the steps of the Montview Student Union, where more than 450 students and faculty packed 500 kits for victims of sexual assault and their children in the Lynchburg area.

Liberty’s Student Activities team also played an important role in extending a warm welcome to students at the beginning of the new school year. The staff kicked into high gear even before classes began, offering a blitz of activities as students moved into their residence halls. Welcome Week events included a Back to School Bash, outdoor movie night, bingo night, open mic, and jazz evening. On Aug. 29, students attended Block Party, a campus favorite that celebrates the end of the first week of classes, and enjoyed carnival rides and games.

Whether it’s for a freshman looking to make new friends or an upperclassman looking to expand their relational circle, Student Activities creates unique events that give all Liberty students the opportunity to participate and become more connected to their campus community and culture. The team plans more than 80 events each year, including concerts with some of the country’s best musical talent, and movie, bingo, and trivia nights. Students can showcase their own talent at open mic nights and Coffeehouse. New this year are pottery, coffee brewing, and cake decorating classes. (View the full schedule at Liberty.edu/SA.)

“We work tirelessly all summer long to make sure that these events are able to happen,” said Student Activities supervisor Avery Watts. “We talk with outside vendors to bring them to some of the events. It takes a few months, but we are really excited.”

Exciting updates also greeted students in their residential and online degree programs. Among the new degree offerings launched this fall are: the Master of Science in Aeronautics and Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management (both offered online); Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology, which combines flight training and maintenance; Bachelor of Science in Respiratory Therapy; Master of Science in Engineering; Doctor of Engineering (Ph.D.); Bachelor of Science in Commercial Music; Doctor of Music Education; Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management; and new concentrations for degrees in the Department of Digital Media & Journalism, including sports journalism, church media production, and music recording.


HEALTH & SAFETY

Liberty opened the semester with physical distancing and face mask requirements in all academic buildings and at any official gathering of students, regardless of whether the recommended 6-10 feet of physical distancing can be maintained. The full Campus Operating Plan and additional information on protocols are available at Liberty.edu/COVID19. (The plan was reviewed by the State Council of Higher Education and found to be compliant in containing the required components of the Higher Education Reopening Guidance, which was developed in consultation with the Virginia Department of Health.)

Some of the additional changes at Liberty this semester include:

• New instruction protocols, such as the reduction of student occupant capacities in classrooms and additional barriers in instructional labs
• Increased hand sanitation with additional stations and NanoSeptic self-cleaning strips on door handles around campus
• Social distancing guidelines in all locations, including floor signage and limited occupancy restrictions
• Constant communication with local community health partnerships, such as CVFP Medical Group and Centra Health, to provide quality medical services, health promotion, and preventive care
• Limited capacity and new procedures for large events, such as face covering requirements and planning for flow adjustments to prevent bottlenecks

Quarantine Housing

Liberty’s advanced planning efforts and vast resources have allowed students who have recently come into direct contact with someone with COVID-19 to be quarantined at safe and secure off-campus housing facilities. In addition to the Annex 1 facility, Liberty has pledged up to $1 million to expand this service by opening up another nearby facility if the situation warrants.

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