Faith & Service

Training the next generation of chaplains

September 28, 2015

As the largest educator of chaplains for the United States military, Liberty University remains committed to providing its students with the resources and support they need to prepare for a career of service to others.

Liberty opened its Center for Chaplaincy last fall under the School of Divinity, launching a new 93-hour Master of Divinity (M.Div.) in Military Chaplaincy with concentrations in military, healthcare, and community chaplaincy. This program introduced 13 new chaplain courses. The center also updated chaplaincy specializations in the Master of Arts in Religion (M.A.R.), Master of Arts in Christian Ministry (M.A.C.M.), and Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling (M.A.P.C.). These programs are designed to train students to become chaplains in the marketplace.

“As the largest provider of chaplain training, we will make every effort to graduate students who are not only prepared to serve in uniform, but also as chaplains in prisons, in workplaces, on sports teams, at rescue missions, and in hospitals,” said Dr. Steven Keith (Chap. Col. USAF Ret.), the center’s director. “As a chaplain, you have the unique opportunity to share Christ and to care for the souls of individuals who may never enter a church. At Liberty, we prepare our students to go out with a biblical worldview and to maintain their convictions while ministering in a secular society.”

Before coming to Liberty last year, Keith served as commandant of the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps College and director of the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Center at Fort Jackson, S.C. At Liberty, he consults with senior chaplain officials at the Pentagon, Corporate Chaplains of America, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and various healthcare organizations to ensure the university’s educational programs meet the highest standards.

The center currently has 20 residential and 819 online students enrolled in one of the nine chaplaincy degrees offered. During their first year studying at Liberty, residential and online students are required to shadow a chaplain in their local community. They are also required to participate in a chaplain internship their final year. These opportunities allow students to both interact with a personal mentor and gain crucial first-hand experience. Locally, students serve in jails, rescue missions, hospitals, sports teams, and various other workplaces.

“Our program is unique because our chaplain students are out serving in their local community from the very beginning,” Keith said. “Liberty is a military-friendly school that represents all five branches of the U.S. armed forces, active duty, reserves, and National Guard. It is crucial that we train individuals to go and serve as military chaplains and community servants who are ready to care for the souls of all.”

Student named among Outstanding Airmen of the Year

Senior Airman Mason Meherg

The United States Air Force named Senior Airman Mason Meherg of the Air Force Global Strike Command as one of its 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2015. Meherg is studying business through Liberty University’s online education program.

The award honors the service’s top enlisted members, and nominees are selected based on superior leadership, job performance, and personal achievements. The winners are authorized to wear the Outstanding Airman of the Year ribbon. They are also authorized to wear the Outstanding Airman of the Year badge for one year from the date of formal presentation.

Meherg has been serving in the Air Force since 2012 and is currently stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.

He enrolled at Liberty after hearing about its offerings from one of his former flight commanders, who was a Liberty ROTC graduate. Being able to take courses while on active duty has been especially meaningful to Meherg because he previously passed on an opportunity to go to college, he said. For him, Liberty was a second chance.

“My experience has been phenomenal, from the instructor support all the way to the people working in the front office,” he said. “I would tell all veterans to take advantage of the educational opportunities afforded to them — they will definitely be glad to have that in their back pocket when the civilian world comes calling again.”

Mentorship program allows cadets to learn from experienced veterans

Senior Elisa Lyon, a nursing student/reserve officer receives instruction from retired military personnel during a military mentorship meeting.

Senior Elisa Lyon, a nursing student/reserve officer receives instruction from retired military personnel during a military mentorship meeting.

Liberty University senior Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets now have the added benefit of learning from retired military personnel employed in various departments around Liberty.

The new Military Mentorship Program was launched this fall, giving cadets the chance to build relationships with experienced leaders and receive practical advice on what to expect once they are commissioned as officers.

“I learned that we have a high density of retired military personnel on campus, a much larger percentage than most colleges,” said Maj. Bret M. Hamilton, who oversees Liberty’s Army ROTC program. “I realized that this simple program could have a big effect on the cadets and help them understand what it means to be a professional military officer.”

Senior cadets are paired with veterans who have held jobs in the cadets’ same area of interest. There are currently about 11 mentors and 17 students enrolled in the program.

Liberty’s ROTC program partners with the ROTC program at the University of Virginia. The two schools’ Army ROTC programs are united under the name Task Force Blue Ridge, and Liberty’s Air Force ROTC cadets train on UVa.’s campus.

To learn more about Army ROTC at Liberty, go to www.Liberty.edu/ROTC; for Air Force ROTC, visit www.Liberty.edu/AFROTC.

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