When it comes to writing this blog, I have made absolutely no secret of my love for the Counsel of Independent Colleges in Virginia and their annual fall guidance counselor tour. When the leaves begin to change and the weather begins to cool, I excitedly pack my suitcase with my warm weather clothes for one more week of pleasant temperatures, southern hospitality, and a chance to look inside some of the most exciting private educational opportunities the commonwealth of Virginia has to offer.
Our landing point this year was the city of Lynchburg, home to not one, but four higher educational institutions, including tour stop number one, Liberty University. Founded in 1971, this fast-growing (and I do mean fast!) private liberal arts university is made up of a total of 16 colleges and schools and a wealth of infrastructure that supports both the academic programs and the students who come to Virginia for them from every U.S. state and 80 foreign countries worldwide. Currently, the on-campus student body sits around 14,000 in total (graduate and undergraduate) with another 100,000 plus online students around the world. To accommodate its on-campus student body (which may well double in the next five to ten years), the campus has dramatically altered its footprint since 2010, razing old buildings to make way for new ones and instituting a handy campus-wide bussing system that gets students quickly from Point A to Point B.
(Author’s Note: Liberty also has one of the most impressive libraries I’ve seen in recent years. Aside from it’s sheer size (it’s huge!), it also features a unique storage system for books and periodicals that utilizes a robot to retrieve the items from deep within the library itself. If you catch me out and about, ask to see the video of this robot in action – I saved it to my phone!)
The programs of study offered by the University are broad – everything from the traditional liberal arts standards to the more career-oriented fields of criminal justice and aeronautics. (Liberty boasts one of the top ten largest aeronautic programs in the nation and they have their own airport!) Popular graduate programs include medicine, the school of divinity, and an MBA. Students can also fill their time outside of classes with 20 NCAA Division I athletic opportunities and 35 club sports teams. (Oh, yes, equestrians – that includes their IHSA hunt seat and western equestrian teams, which received a new coach and program director earlier this fall and is on tap to receive an expanded facility with an indoor arena next year. Students without competitive aspirations can also choose to board their own horse on campus and take trail rides through the mountains if they prefer.)
Now, no conversation about Liberty is complete without pointing out the strong role that the Christian faith plays on campus. University founder Jerry Falwell Sr. implemented tenets of evangelical faith into every facet of the university’s life, both in the classroom and out of it. Students, faculty, and staff are asked to live a devoted Christian lifestyle and prayer meetings are held regularly in campus residence halls in addition to the three convocations held for the greater campus each week. Students interested in the academic and extracurricular programming offered by Liberty University must therefore take into account their personal religious leanings when deciding whether or not to include the university on their search list.