Imagine what Southwest Virginia would be today without Emory & Henry College.
Would there be a nationally ranked institution in the region with a faculty listed among the top 25 in the country? Would there be a School of Health Sciences contributing approximately $12 million annually to the local economy and improving healthcare in this region? Would there be a liberal arts institution dedicated to the values of vital faith and civic engagement?
Would there be students working to serve the needs of individuals while helping to revitalize communities? Would there be the many community partnerships formed with help from E&H faculty, staff and students that address healthcare, nutrition, literacy and early education?
Would there be a Congressman Morgan Griffith? Would there be a mayor David Helms of Marion, a mayor Ed Morgan of Abingdon and a former mayor Katherine Brillhart of Bristol? Would there be current and former state legislative delegates such as Israel O’Quinn, Jeff Campbell, and Joe P. Johnson? Would there be a large collection of other community and municipal leaders who dedicate themselves relentlessly to the work of creating opportunities for the people in this region?
Emory & Henry means far more to Southwest Virginia (SWVA) than just a high quality higher education; it is respected as a wellspring of initiative, leadership, energy, prosperity and hope. From its historic campus flows compassion and knowledge that touches the hungry hearts of those who serve and those who are in need as well as those who inspire and those who require inspiration.
In recent months, Emory & Henry has embarked on a bold initiative that will take the liberal arts to a new level of student engagement. This new approach, known as Project Ampersand, embraces what we already do so well to support experiential learning in our curriculum and advances it to connect students to everything that is important as they build their futures and change the world.
In this hands-on learning environment, students are invited to turn their passions into results. Be it in business, healthcare, the environment, the arts or any other area of interest and need, students apply their education to identifying problems and finding solutions.
In this way, students who join this college community do so with the opportunity of beginning their careers the moment they first enter our classrooms. They connect to professors, alumni, professionals and other students as they add to their portfolios and mark themselves early on, not as students seeking experience, but as experienced colleagues who happen to be students.
Already Emory & Henry teems with examples of this approach. Laken Brooks, an E&H junior, has developed an app to help spouses in domestic violence find needed resources. Jason Jones, a 2012 E&H graduate, organized an orchestra program for at-risk students in San Anotonio, Texas, providing a musical opportunity and some hope where none had previously existed. And Ali Hillman, an E&H junior who, inspired by her experiences in the E&H Outdoor Program, is planning a trek through northern Mongolia to research alternative teaching methods that she hopes to apply to her own school for non-conventional learners.
By the time this new concept in experiential learning has been fully implemented, Emory & Henry will have dramatically enlarged its impact, not just on student lives, but on people throughout Southwest Virginia. In time, students will be contributing in even more significant ways to economic growth, the environment, health care and education. They will be engaged in projects of social justice that will enhance the lives of the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised in the region, and they will work in communities to help advocate for responsible, fair and skilled leadership.
At Emory & Henry, we are retooling the liberal arts in ways that will underscore their indispensability and will uphold the College’s central position in the work of advancing this region.
As we endeavor in this way, we may sometimes ask ourselves to imagine a future without Emory & Henry.
Will there be students educated to care about Southwest Virginia and its people? Will there be leaders with the experience in bringing resources together to meet our greatest challenges? Will there be an institution that combines faith and learning in a way that leads to compassionate and informed action?
Will there be a Southwest Virginia strong enough to rise above whatever may hold it back?
Fortunately, we need not answer these questions. The prospects for our magnificent corner of creation are many and bright, and, through a liberal arts mission focused increasingly on connecting students to that future, Emory & Henry College will always be there.