Sherri Deeder of Bluffs, Ill., with her grandchildren who are enrolled in the LIberty program. Courtesy of Liberty University.
Sherri Deeder of Bluffs, Ill., with her grandchildren who are enrolled in the LIberty program. Courtesy of Liberty University.

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Liberty’s K-12 online program hits record enrollment

Liberty University’s online K-12 program — Liberty University Online Academy — recently hit a record for enrollment with 18,400 students.

Dr. Chris Rusk, LUOA Dean and Superintendent, said in a statement that students tend to come from either a Christian family looking for a faith-based education or a non-Christian household that simply recognizes Liberty’s high-caliber education. In both cases, Rusk said a goal for LUOA is not only to influence the student with the Gospel, but also his or her family.

“We want students to know Christ; we want their parents or guardians to know Christ,” he said. “When we interact, we’re interacting with a family. We’re not changing just one life; we want to change the life of the entire family.”

LUOA serves families across the country and even around the world. Over the last four years, students have enrolled from 99 countries — including Malaysia, Vietnam, Qatar, and Iraq.

Rusk said many families are attracted to the flexibility of the program, which operates on a rolling enrollment schedule, with start dates every Monday. The 10-month curriculum allows families to decide if they want to study year-round or add in their own breaks. The curriculum is self-paced, so students can spend extra time on subjects they struggle with and not get left behind like in a traditional classroom. Students are also able to work ahead responsibly in order to accommodate their schedules and learning tempo.

Liberty University, a pioneer in distance learning and a longtime leader in online education, launched LUOA in 2007. In the last few years, the academy has seen a 41 percent increase, which Rusk explains is partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and more families seeking online alternatives to traditional schools.

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Interior Department recognizes Tech professor

Jeff Marion. Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Jeff Marion, a recreation ecologist internationally recognized for his efforts to protect and preserve public lands through the “Leave No Trace” movement, has earned the U.S. Department of Interior’s highest honor for distinguished service. 

Marion is an adjunct professor in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment. He is widely recognized as a founding contributor to the field of recreational ecology, which examines the effects of recreation on protected area ecosystems and wildlife.

Marion is also a recreation ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Eastern Ecological Science Center and is the first and only recreation ecologist to work for the U.S. Department of Interior. He was recognized for his life’s work on Sept. 8 in Washington, D.C., where Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland presented him with the agency’s Distinguished Service Award.

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Edward Via College of Osteophatic Medicine wins diversity award

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education, has recognized the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine’s efforts with its 2022 Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award. This is a national honor recognizing the top 4% of U.S. medical colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is the third time VCOM has been honored with this award.

This isn’t the first acknowledgment the College has received. VCOM is the only medical school recipient of the Minority Access Award for its contributions to diversity; it has won that award for nine years. The College’s associate dean for multicultural affairs is co-chair of the Diversity Council for the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.

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Graduating theatre senior Brian Fisher as Ebenezer Scrooge and General Smith as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Courtesy of Bluefield University.

Bluefield presents Christmas musical

Bluefield University Theatre Department and Bluefield Youth Theatre will present A Christmas Carol: The Broadway Musical on December 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. and December 11 at 3 p.m. n Harman Auditorium on the Bluefield University campus.  Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors, youth, and children in advance and may be booked at https://our.show/bu theatre/christmascarol. Tickets are $12 and $7 at the door on the day of the performance. 

Based on the beloved Victorian Christmas classic written by Charles Dickens in 1843, this musical adaptation is written by Lynn Ahrens and Mike Ockrent with music by Broadway and Disney composer Alan Menken (composer for Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, Little Mermaid, and many others.) This musical was written in 1994 and was presented every Christmas for the next ten years at Madison Square Garden. In 2004 it was made into a Christmas television special by Hallmark Entertainment for NBC featuring Kelsey Grammar, Jason Alexander, Jane Krakowski, and Jesse L. Martin.  

In the BU performance, the curmudgeonly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, is played by graduating theatre senior Brian Fisher. Bob Cratchit, his overworked and underpaid clerk, is played by another graduating theatre senior, Noah Jennings. The ghost of Jacob Marley is played by Miles Munique. The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Be are played by Isabella Deal, General Smith, and Claire Fisher. Mrs. Cratchit is played by Laura Horton; Tiny Tim is played by Levi Mullins, and the role of Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, Young Ebenezer, is played by Finn Smith. The many other supporting characters in the story are played by a large ensemble that includes Blaire Anderson, Lilly Auton, Jason Barnham, Gavin Bolton, Arianna Bowling, Caleb Cumbow, Silas Fayn, Lakin Fox, Bethany Goins, Teddi Groseclose, Skylar Harold, Ian Matullo, Abigail McComas, Alan Rieger, Margaret Rieger, Faith Shrader, Cannon Smith, Claire Thyng, Elijah Thyng, Kate Thyng, Andrew Vaughan, Bear Woodard, Ellie Whittaker, Callie Wilkerson, and Anna Wright. The production is directed by BU theatre faculty Charles M. Reese and Rebecca McCoy-Reese. Costumes are designed by Brian Fisher and choreography by Abigail McComas. 

A Christmas Carol: The Broadway Musical runs December 8-10 with performances at  7:30 p.m. and December 11 at 3 p.m. in Harman Auditorium on the Bluefield University  campus. To reserve your seats today, visit our.show/bu-theatre/christmascarol. 

For more information, contact Charles Reese, BU professor of theatre, at creese@bluefield.edu or 276.326.4244. For media inquiries, please contact Rebecca Kasey at  

rebecca.kasey@bluefield.edu.