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Higher Education Soars to National Recognition

Lynchburg is known for many things, among them housing several quality institutions of higher learning. These Central Virginia colleges and universities have garnered numerous accolades over the past year or so, drawing much deserved recognition to their individual efforts and positive attention to our region as a whole.

From some of the best green initiatives in the nation to the Cinderella story of Sweet Briar, here’s a rundown on all you should know about these award-winning institutions.

Lynchburg College
“The new programs we have added meet the needs of students and the communities they will serve in for the rest of their lives,” said Bryan Gentry, Director of Media Relations at Lynchburg College (LC).

Some of these new programs include three new Master’s degree programs in public health, criminal justice leadership and nonprofit leadership studies added last year, with a Master’s in athletic training coming this fall, according to Gentry.

Additionally, LC will be adding two programs to their online curriculum this summer including a Master’s in Business Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies.

According to Gentry, LC President Kenneth Garren is set to receive the Charles W.L. Foreman Award from the Council of Independent Colleges in May. The award will honor “his outstanding leadership and service among higher education leaders.” No stranger to publicity, Garren was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal piece regarding his stand against federal proposals he deemed negative for students.

Randolph College
While Randolph College will be celebrating 125 years in Lynchburg this year, it has managed to stay modern and relevant in an increasingly competitive space.

According to Director of College Relations Brenda Edson, Randolph recently received recognition in several areas marking it a leading school in both Virginia and the nation.
One such ranking comes from College Factual, which named Randolph number 11 and number one nationally and statewide respectively, among the “Best Colleges for the Money.”

The Princeton Review also ranked Randolph in the Top 50 “Green” colleges of 2015. Randolph’s environmental responsibility stands against more than 300 other schools in the nation and was the only Virginia school represented.

“We are dedicated to providing our students with the very best of a liberal arts foundation that includes a breadth of experiences that will prepare them for more than a job or career,” Edson said.

Sweet Briar College
Like something out of a movie, Sweet Briar College, a school on the verge of closing its doors for good in 2015, was saved that very same year by a coalition of alumni and supporters, aptly dubbed “Save Sweet Briar.”

In addition to its storybook salvation, Sweet Briar continues into 2016 with a wealth of developments for both students and the community.

Upon its pivotal entry into 2016, Sweet Briar was ranked among the Top 20 Best Women’s Colleges of 2016 by BestColleges.com.

According to Assistant Director of Media Relations Jennifer McManamay, Sweet Briar was recently named as an affiliate school of BRAID (Building, Recruiting And Inclusion for Diversity). The initiative seeks to increase the population of females and minorities in undergraduate computer science programs.

Sweet Briar’s BRAID affiliation is good timing considering professor of mathematics Jim Kirkwood was just named a 2016 recipient of the SCHEV Outstanding Faculty Award.
According to McManamay, Sweet Briar is also strengthening international recruitment in China and India.

“This is part of a strategy to increase enrollment as well as cement our position as a global center for developing women in leadership,” McManamay said.

Most recently, the school saw a record number of submitted applications for the 2016-2017 school year according to the Office of Media, Marketing and Communications. Such an increase could indicate a sustainable future for the institution.

Liberty University
Liberty University is no stranger to the national spotlight. Aside from the near constant construction and political buzz, Liberty is home to a few landmark developments as well.

Something that should excite current and potential students is Liberty’s Reber-Thomas Dining Hall being ranked as the nation’s Best Dining Hall of 2015 by BestColleges.com. Liberty happened to snatch the top spot again this year, according to Sodexo Area Marketing Coordinator Casey Guise.

Guise states that Liberty will welcome six new campus dining locations in the fall, including a convenience store, grill and tea station.

As good news for millennials tuned into social media, Hubspot.com ranked Liberty’s Instagram account as the 3rd best overall. Scrolling through the @LibertyUniversity feed, you’ll find high quality images representing student life at the school.

Liberty’s advances, however, are in more than just food and fun.

In 2015, Liberty University School of Law’s graduates boasted the highest pass rate on the
Virginia Bar Examination, according to the Liberty University News Service.

And most recently the school was recognized by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education as having “moderate research activity,” an R3 Doctoral University designation that places Liberty among only 335 universities with that classification.



By Jeremy Angione

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