Courtesy of University of Lynchburg.

Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Lynchburg lowers tuition for adult learners, offers three new flexible B.A.s

Starting this fall, the University of Lynchburg will offer three new undergraduate degrees exclusively to adult learners, or Access students: a Bachelor of Arts in Business Studies, a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Diversity Strategies, and a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Community and Nonprofit Leadership.

Lynchburg will also lower its tuition rate for all Access students to $500 per credit hour, effective with the fall 2022 semester. 

“These degrees open up a variety of opportunities for adults in the workforce or for those looking to reexamine career options,” said Associate Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Roger Jones, who also leads the University of Lynchburg’s Doctor of Education in Leadership Studies program and co-directs the Center for Leadership, in a statement.

Courses will be offered during the early mornings, late afternoons, evenings, weekends, J-Term and during the summer. They will include a variety of delivery methods, including face-to-face, synchronous online, asynchronous online and hybrid. 

Just like traditional students at Lynchburg, Access students will need 124 credit hours to graduate, and they’re required to complete the DELL curriculum — the university’s general education curriculum.  

There’s one small difference: Access students earning one of the three new degrees are no longer required to take a foreign language. Instead, they may cover those six credits with the two-part class Access Intercultural Competence Pathway Option.

When coming up with the professional studies degrees and curricula, Jones and his task force relied not just on the university’s faculty and surveys of current and former Access students, but also on data provided through survey feedback from business, nonprofit and community  leaders. 

As a result, both degrees include a number of courses that teach skills in high demand by employers, such as working with groups and communities, psychology of diversity, and human resource management.

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LewisGale in Salem names new chief operating officer

LewisGale Medical Center in Salem has hired Willie Payton Jr. as chief operating officer for the 506-bed acute-care medical and surgical facility.

Willie Payton Jr. Courtesy of LewisGale.

Before joining LewisGale Medical Center, Payton served as vice president of operations at Johnston-Willis Hospital in Richmond, and has operated clinical and nonclinical services including emergency preparedness, security, safety, endoscopy, engineering, environmental services, food and nutrition services, imaging and patient transportation.

Prior to Johnston-Willis, Payton held numerous administrative roles within the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers for over a decade.

Originally, from Cleveland, Payton earned his Bachelor of Arts in organizational communications and Master’s in health services administration from Xavier University. Payton is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and the National Association of Health Service Executives.

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Scholarships available for certified nurse aide studies at Blue Ridge Community College

LeadingAge Virginia, a statewide association of not-for-profit aging services organizations, is currently accepting applications for 10 scholarships of $1,700 each. Scholarships will cover tuition and materials for an advanced certified nurse aide course that takes place from April 25-June 23. CNAs are encouraged to complete the application and submit it no later than April 23.

The course is being offered in partnership with Blue Ridge Community College. Clinical rotations required for the advanced certification will occur in a variety of settings including Sunnyside Retirement Community, which has nursing homes in Harrisonburg and Waynesboro. 

LeadingAge Virginia president and CEO Melissa Andrews says the program will help fill critical workforce needs throughout the aging services sector in Virginia.

The program will include classroom and clinical coursework developed through a grant received by LeadingAge Virginia. Students who complete the coursework will be eligible to receive certification through the Virginia Board of Nursing as advanced certified nurse aides.

“Care workers such as certified nurse aides are at the heart of aging services,” said Dana Parsons, vice president and legislative counsel at LeadingAge Virginia, in a statement. “This program provides a career ladder for professional caregivers as well as mentorship to current CNAs.”

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Bluefield University presents musical ‘Philemon’

The Bluefield University Theatre Department will present the musical ‘Philemon’ in Harman Chapel Auditorium March 24-26 at 7:30 pm and March 27 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance for adults and $5 for students and senior adults. Tickets are $12 and $7 at the door. Admission is free admission for BU students, faculty and staff. 

Brian Fisher as Cockian/Philemon and Noah Jennings as Roman commander Marcus Gallerius in Bluefield University Theatre’s production of Philemon, March 24-27 in Harman Chapel Auditorium. Courtesy of Bluefield University.

‘Philemon’ first appeared off-Broadway in 1975, with words by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmitt. In 1976, the play was presented as a television special. The play also had a brief revival in 1991. ‘Philemon’ is set in Antioch in the Roman Empire during the  third century. The Christian church is on the rise and the empire is desperate to stamp it out. Cockian, a Greek actor and clown, is arrested for pandering. While in custody he is approached by the Roman commander, Marcus Gallerius, with an offer: impersonate the Christian leader Philemon to flush out the true leaders of the church in Antioch, and Cockian’s record will be wiped clean. Cockian agrees and enters the prison disguised as Philemon, but as he comes to know the Christians and learns about their creed of love and grace, he realizes how empty his old life has been. In the end, he becomes a Christian  and faces a terrible choice as he decides whether he can betray his new friends and fellow believers.

The role of Cockian is performed by Bluefield University senior theater major Brian Fisher. The role of Roman commander Marcus Gallerius is performed by senior theater student Noah Jennings. Other cast members include music senior Staley Lyle as Cockian’s touring partner, Kiki; junior theater major Laura Horton as Marsyas, Cockian’s long-dead wife; theater major General Smith as the Roman centurion Servillus, theater sophomore Ian Matullo as the young convert Andos; theater alumna Katherine Shumate as the wife of the Christian leader; and theater sophomore Abigail McComas as a young believer. The production is directed by Bluefield University theater faculty members Charles Reese and Rebecca McCoy Reese. 

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Forest Service adding limestone to seven streams in Augusta County to improve water quality

The USDA Forest Service, in partnership with the National Forest Foundation, will soon commence work to protect water quality in the St. Mary’s River and its tributary streams in the Saint Mary’s Wilderness in Augusta County. 

As it has in previous years, the Forest Service plans to apply approximately 230 tons of limestone sand by helicopter to seven streams this month, improving 14 miles of stream water quality, according to a release by the Forest Service. To protect visitor safety, the area is temporarily closed to visitors through Friday evening. 

“In a wilderness area known for sparkling cascades and breathtaking waterfalls, this project is vital to maintain clean water and healthy aquatic habitat,” said Joby Timm, George Washington and Jefferson National Forest Supervisor, in a statement. “Three previous limestone treatments in these streams over the last 23 years have proven to be effective at increasing water pH, allowing native brook trout to return to these streams.”

“Headwater streams, like the St. Mary’s River, which flows through the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia, uphold the quality of life for those of us who are lucky enough to call the Shenandoah Valley home,” Mark Shelley, Eastern program director for the National Forest Foundation, said in a statement. “By investing in our natural treasures, like restoring the St. Mary’s River to healthy conditions, we can take the important steps to sustain a wild population of native brook trout and safeguard the ecological and economic benefits this very special part of Virginia provides.”

Although acid rain has been reduced in recent decades, sulfur and nitrogen emissions still exceed natural levels, and recovery of many streams in the southern Appalachians will be limited by soil damage associated with past acidic deposition, the release said. In the sensitive streams of the St. Mary’s Wilderness, many fish and other aquatic animals that were lost to these stream ecosystems in the 1990s returned following limestone treatment. In addition to native brook trout, the fantail darter, mottled sculpin and blacknose dace are examples of fish species that have been restored to their historic habitat.

This project has been possible through the support of many partners, the Forest Service said. National Forest Foundation and Trout Unlimited involvement has been critical for implementation and funding, the release said. Fish and aquatic insect populations have been monitored in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, while project specific water quality monitoring has been undertaken in cooperation with the Chemistry Department of James Madison University. For more information about this project and for updates on the timing of the temporary closure, visit or follow on Twitter ( or Facebook (