A new name is just one part of a new vision for University of Lynchburg
It happens every August; the swarm of cars loaded down with mini fridges and laundry bags, the excitement of meeting roommates and all those ice breaker questions at freshmen orientation, and, for the moms and dads, the sting of driving back toward Lakeside Drive as their waving children get smaller and smaller in the rear-view mirror. That’s the start of the Lynchburg College experience—but this fall it’s getting a new name. The brand-new Hornets, the Class of 2022, will be the first to officially enter the University of Lynchburg.
Somewhat lost in the headline-making
buzz surrounding the name change
is a bigger story, and the much bigger
picture of what the University of
Lynchburg will become.
“We’re doing much more than changing our name,” said Bryan Gentry, Director of Communications at Lynchburg College. “New academic programs, teaching methods, classroom resources, and buildings will revolutionize the student experience over the next several years.”
The Board of Trustees’ adopted strategic plan, known as “Vision 2020,” has three goals: to position the university as a leader in student engagement, to modernize campus facilities and infrastructure, and to increase stewardship.
Student engagement starts before incoming freshmen ever set foot on the Dell. The college anticipates reaching more students in areas where recruitment is already strong and says a marketing campaign around the University of Lynchburg name intends to increase name recognition and reputation in more markets.
Within hours of trustees voting to adopt the University of Lynchburg name, the college emailed all students in the recruiting pool and their parents to share the news.
“We received positive feedback then and many of those students are enrolled today,” said Gentry. “The incoming students and their parents have shown a lot of excitement and pride in the name. They recognize it as part of our commitment to progress and forward thinking.”
Beyond freshman year, engagement continues with what’s being called “The Second-Year Experience”—an acknowledgement that college sophomores may experience a whole new set of stressors when they return for their second year.
“They may experience what is commonly referred to as the ʻsophomore slump’,” said Sally Selden, Lynchburg College Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs. “The newness and excitement of college has worn away and what lies ahead are at least three more years of hard work.”
The college now involves returning students in select events being held at the same time as first-year orientation. A new career exploration course was added with the introduction of “Second-Year SuRGE” (Succeed, Reflect, Grow, Engage)—a workshop series designed to keep returning students working toward their goals.
Though not currently a graduation requirement, another engagement initiative calls for all students to complete three “High Impact Practices”—defined as enriching educational experiences including service learning, research, internships and study abroad.
“These types of experiences demand considerable time and effort on behalf of both the students and faculty, facilitate learning outside the classroom, require meaningful interactions with faculty and other students, and encourage collaboration,” said Selden.
“As the curriculum evolves and programs develop, we should reach the point where any student will have had three high impact experiences and many will have had more,” said Gentry.
The college convened a task force to examine trends in the labor market, specifically occupational gaps, to consider new programs of study. That research is leading to a revision of the education program curriculum and new undergraduate and graduate level programs in health care and computer sciences and mathematics.
“Given that change had accelerated exponentially in part due to new technologies, we will continue to evaluate the programs we offer to ensure that they meet the needs of an ever-changing workforce and that we adopt new programs in areas that support our region and state,” said Selden. “Evaluating our academic program offerings will be a continuous process for the college.”
FACILITIES AND INFRASTRUCTURE
As advancing technologies require change to academic offerings, campus facilities must also keep up with the times in support of evolving curriculum. According to a space study, improvements to the college’s science facilities are a top capital improvement priority.
Students can enroll in an Information Technology major with emphasis in cybersecurity starting this fall. The college recently started a data science and statistics major. Faculty are also working on bioinformatics and neuroscience programs.
“Enhancing our science facilities will allow us to expand on what are already high-impact, student-centered science programs,” said Selden. “Furthermore, additional space will provide more opportunities for collaborations with local industry partners.”
The college also hopes to partner with the City of Lynchburg on an enterprise zone near campus.
“We’re interested in working with our neighbors along Lakeside Drive to encourage development that is attractive to students and the community as a whole,” said Steve Bright, Lynchburg College Vice President for Business and Finance. “Our hope is that developers can be encouraged to invest in an area that serves our campus community and the Lynchburg community as a whole.”
Making the location more attractive to students starts on campus. The space study revealed a deficit in semi-suite residential spaces, which are sought by older students who desire more privacy and amenities than in the traditional double rooms of freshman year.
To increase semi-suite space, McWane Hall will close this summer and will be replaced over 14 months with a new, larger building that can house 270 students.
Lynchburg College is a residential campus. All full-time freshmen, sophomore and junior students, other than commuter students living at home with parents or students age 25 and over, are required to live in college-owned housing. Only students classified as seniors prior to a fall semester are eligible to live off campus.
“National statistics show that residential students attend and participate in more co-curricular activities,” said Hayward Guenard, Lynchburg College Vice President and Dean for Student Development. “Living on campus provides additional support to students through their Resident Assistants who sponsor and facilitate programs to help students establish connections.”
Improved athletic facilities are also a need identified by the study. The college does not anticipate acquiring more land to accomplish any of the facility improvements called for in the strategic plan.
The college has set a goal of increasing alumni engagement by 20 percent—to be measured in volunteerism, attendance and donations.
“We know that through solid engagement activities, we are more successful in sharing the message of the institution and bringing in fundraising dollars,” said Mike Bonnette, Lynchburg College Vice President for Institutional Advancement. “Alumni support is critically important to the success of this place.”
Part of the effort will be to re-engage those alumni who have been vocal in their opposition to the name change and say they now feel disenfranchised.
“We are concerned by the small number of alumni who have indicated that they will no longer support the university financially,” said Mike Jones, Lynchburg College Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing. “Our advancement team is reaching out to these individuals to understand their opposition and explain our future as the University of Lynchburg. Not surprisingly, a conversation often leads to better understanding and softening of opposition.”
Lynchburg College will begin its 116th academic year with a new name, but with an unchanging resolve.
“One of the constants throughout [our] history is the resolve to change to meet the needs of students and the society around us,” said Gentry.
Editor’s Note: The writer is an alumna of Lynchburg College and was neither in favor or opposed to the name change. It’s still a great day to be a Hornet!