Monday, August 30, 2021

How Ferrum College Accelerated Online Course Demand and Drove New Faculty Hires

Dr. Sandra Via
As dean of online education at Ferrum College, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to attract students to an online program at a small institution. I also know how impactful course sharing can be to help online programs grow and thrive. In this blog post, I’ll explain how we partnered with faculty on campus to get up-and-running with course sharing as a Teaching Institution, making courses available to other institutions on the Acadeum network.

Expanding Online

Two years after joining Acadeum’s course sharing network, enrollment numbers in our online courses continue to go up. In Summer 2021, we had over 120 students from partner schools enrolled in Ferrum College courses. No one expected that outcome—we were blown away and pleased to be helping so many students continue their educational journey as visiting students.

Back in Spring 2019, my department had prioritized expanding Ferrum’s online course catalog for students in our education programs as well as graduate students. Our goal was to achieve Level III and IV accreditation from SACSCOC. As part of that strategy, I identified a number of undergraduate courses that were popular with students to make them available online, thinking they might also be appealing for students at partner schools . Ferrum received SACS approval in December 2019 to offer distance learning at more than 50% and made the shift to fully online education in January 2020—right before the pandemic hit. At that point, there was no alternative: all learning had to be online.

Quality Matters

To ensure our faculty were ready to teach online, we started with a certificate course for faculty, based on Quality Matters standards and structured around best practices for teaching online courses. We ran a pilot group with six or seven faculty members who had some relevant online experience but hadn’t yet taught for large groups. The pilot worked: all faculty completed the certification, and these courses were the first we tested on the Acadeum platform. Faculty were excited; not only would they teach new students across the country, but they also had the opportunity to earn extra income for teaching online courses during the winter and summer terms.

Setting the Standard: Online Teaching

To dive a little deeper into the question of online course quality, I connected with Stan Jones, an Instructor at Ferrum, who has taught online for 11 years (in an estimated 70+ courses!) to discuss what makes or breaks an online course. 

“Just like being face-to-face in the classroom, you have to find your online teaching voice,” Jones said. “I’m constantly working on evolving and updating.” To better engage students, Jones now runs 20-minute online classes at Ferrum, instead of 80-minute lectures that cover an entire chapter all at once. He also breaks up his online classes into multiple assessments to drive student interaction. 

With more opportunities to boost their class grade, students can progress in the course confidently, even if they don’t perform well on one assessment. Jones noted that, previously, students would “backoff and disappear” if they performed badly on an early midterm, worried that they wouldn’t have the option to improve before the end of the semester.

Jones tries to keep his online class and in-person class “parallel”—using the same time frames, resources, and exams. Consistent with recent studies that find student performance comparable in online and in-person courses, Jones said, “I’m seeing the exact same grade distribution across face-to-face classes and online classes.”

Getting the Word Out

Once we built a number of quality online courses, we prioritized making them available via course sharing.

Every term, we increased our course offering on the Acadeum platform. By Winter 2020, we’d increased our courses from 12 to 28. By Summer 2021, we’d reached 120 students enrolled in 40 courses and were seeing repeat students interested in taking new Ferrum courses. So far, during our two years sharing courses via Acadeum, we’ve generated $130,000 in new revenue as a Teaching Institution.

There were a lot of factors that went into this result, but here are some things to keep in mind if you’re looking to grow your impact as a teaching institution within a course sharing consortium:

Þ   Get courses up on Acadeum's platform early: By making sure your courses are front and center as students and advisors begin to think about plans for next term, you can ensure the highest visibility among partner schools.

Þ   When selecting the right online courses to offer, look at the data: I analyzed reports to see which courses were most popular—typically, science classes, literature, math, and psychology. I also looked at midterm grades, to see where our students struggled. What it comes down to is knowing your students and preparing solutions to get ahead of their needs.

Þ  Consider offering specialized classes: Think about what courses make your institution unique. Every college and university offers American History—is there a niche specialization that only you can offer that would stand out to students and campus advisors?

Þ  Build relationships in your network: Sharing best practices with like-minded schools builds trust and name recognition. It’s been rewarding working alongside my colleagues at Tiffin University, Benedict College, and Coker University within the Acadeum community.

Recently, our demand for online courses on the Acadeum network has been so great that we’re hiring new fully-online faculty to lead them. It’s an exciting time at Ferrum--our work with Acadeum has truly changed the climate here and how we look at online education as a whole.

Watch a short video with Sandra Via on using course sharing to fill open seats, increase retention rates, and address academic recovery.

How Ferrum College Accelerated Online Course Demand and Drove New Faculty Hires

Monday, February 3, 2020

Ferrum College Sweethearts “Have Literally Been Together Half of Our Lives”

Joey and Margaret Cornwell, with their daughters Martha Ellen and Gracie.

“We have literally been together half of our lives,” said Ferrum College alumna Margaret Johnson Cornwell ’02. “This year marks our twenty year anniversary of being together!” This spring, the couple will celebrate their fifteenth wedding anniversary. And it all started with a pre-Valentine's Day phone call on February 13, 2000.

Margaret, a marketing major at Ferrum College, met Joey Cornwell, an agriculture major who also graduated in 2002, through a mutual friend while both were students at the College. About a year and a half passed and though the pair didn’t interact much, they found their paths began consistently crossing. But then Instant Messenger played the role of Cupid. "It was that long ago!" laughed Margaret. 

After talking several times on IM, Joey called Margaret for the first time the day before Valentine’s Day in 2000. He left a voicemail which ended up being deleted, so Margaret had to reach out to several people to get Joey’s number to call him back. They talked for hours during their first conversation, settled on dinner (at Outback) and a movie (“Scream 3”) for a first date, and have been together since. 

Ferrum College Graduation, May 2002

After their graduation from Ferrum College in May 2002, Margaret moved back to her hometown of Tuscaloosa, AL where she began teaching horseback riding lessons and running the local tack shop. Joey, who is originally from Nokesville, VA, remained in Franklin County and eventually landed a job working for Farm Credit as a loan officer. The couple lived in separate states for three years. 

“Honestly, with me being from Alabama, we had already done the long-distance thing a few times in our relationship during summer breaks,” said Margaret. “Although it wasn’t the ideal situation, we knew how to handle it pretty well.”

The couple learned the art of communication during those long-distance years. At first, neither had cell phones so they blocked out certain times of the day to catch up on their landlines. The eventual purchase of cell phones helped but the couple found talking wasn’t quite enough, so they made a pact to see each other every six weeks or so.

Joey knew he wanted to ask Margaret to marry him during one of those visits, so he specially ordered a photo of them made into a puzzle. His marriage proposal was inscribed on one piece, which he held for last while Margaret fitted the puzzle together. Finally, he gave her the last piece. “She kept spinning it and spinning it and meanwhile I’m trying not to throw up on myself,” Joey remembered.
On their wedding day, May 2005
On May 14, 2005, Margaret and Joey married in Tuscaloosa. They ventured off to a Jamaican honeymoon but after returning to the United States, Joey headed back to Virginia and Margaret to Alabama for a few more months. “Once we were married I did wait several months before moving to Virginia so I could tie up loose ends with my businesses,” explained Margaret.

“She didn’t arrive here until late January 2006. I was a married bachelor,” laughed Joey.

The couple eventually bought a house in Boones Mill in February 2007, where they live now with their two daughters, Gracie and Martha Ellen. Joey is a regional sales manager at Farm Credit and manages Rocky Mount’s Rotary Club. He enjoys gardening and supplying his family with summer vegetables all year long. Margaret is the head coach of Ferrum College’s Equestrian Program and has taken on the additional responsibility of head coach for Healing Strides’ new Athletic Equestrian League. She is currently training for the April 2020 Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Half Marathon.

“We have certainly had our ups and downs but it’s great knowing that we are each other’s best friend,” said Margaret. “This season of life we are in now with young children and pursuing our careers is probably the most challenging season yet but we are two totally different people and that seems to work for us. Somehow we are able to balance each other out without driving each other crazy!”

Joey agrees. “It doesn’t feel like it’s even been a day, let alone 20 years,” he said. “I’m doing something I enjoy with someone I love. I wouldn’t pick anyone else to do this life with.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Ferrum College Sweethearts. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

“All I Want for Christmas is Deeeeee”

By Jamie Campbell
Ferrum College Marketing & Communications 

Third graders enjoyed time with Ferrum College junior D Robinson during gym class on November 22, 2019.

It was 8:30 at night and my kids were supposed to be snuggled in bed. I heard footsteps creeping down the stairs. My six-year-old son shoved a piece of paper into my hands as I gave him the “get back in bed right now” look, and hastily said: “Here’s my Christmas list, Mom.” And back upstairs he ran.

I looked down at the list written in orange Sharpie. The regular stuff was there: electronics, games, a new Nerf gun. But the request at the very bottom caught my eye. “More time with Deeeeee,” it read.

Who was Deeeeee? The next morning I received answers. “Deeeeee comes to play with us at school,” my son explained. “He’s really fun,” my daughter chimed in. Based on the description my kids offered, I realized Deeeeee is Davon Robinson, a junior at Ferrum College who is known around campus for posting positive and uplifting videos on YouTube. At the College, he’s simply called “D”.

I caught up with Audrey Flora, Ferrum Elementary School’s family liaison, who helped D come aboard as a volunteer. “Each year Ferrum Elementary School invites community partners, local churches, and parents to volunteer their time. When the invitation was sent to Ferrum College, Davon Robinson was the first to respond,” Flora explained in an email. “Davon volunteers twice per week and facilitates a variety of team building activities with students during their recess. He also visits students during their lunch period and promotes his message to be kind. When Davon walks into a classroom, the children cheer as if a super hero has just entered the building!”

I had to see D in action. On Friday, November 22, I visited Ferrum Elementary for lunch and gym class. I watched as D sat with the kids and truly listened with interest while they talked, laughed, and excitedly jumped around him. During gym classes, he engaged students with games, silly songs, and lots of laughs. When I asked the students, “Why is D so fun?” I received a variety of answers, including “because he’s nice and plays fun games,” “because he’s awesome,” and “because he plays with me.” But the answer that summed it up the best came from a third-grader: “because he loves us.” That day, students left gym class feeling happy, exhausted, and most importantly, loved.

“He’s got a knack for working with kids,” said Joshua Cox, Ferrum Elementary’s physical education teacher. “He’s got high energy and a great attitude. From the moment he walks in to the moment he leaves, kids are screaming and cheering for him.”

D surveys a dodgeball game with students.
So why does D spend two days every week singing silly songs and chasing students during a game called Welcome to the Kingdom of Snot? “At a young age I lost my mother and my father was absent for a period of my life,” explained D. “Often, as a child, I felt alone. Because of that, I don’t want any children or young adults to feel that way.”

Originally from Richmond, VA, D experienced some very difficult events during his childhood. He described struggling to have food daily and being held at gunpoint while witnessing a robbery. “I refuse to take anything for granted, preferring to appreciate everything in life, big or small, because of how I grew up,” he said. “I’ve always managed to keep a positive mindset because I feel like my life is bigger than me. My purpose is to inspire others. So I spend every day dedicated to accomplishing that.”

At Ferrum College, D is the student coordinator of the Disaster Recovery Team and has facilitated trips in Virginia and North Carolina to assist disaster victims in the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence in September 2018 and Michael in October 2018. He is president of the Ferrum College chapter of Help Save the Next Girl, an organization that seeks to educate young women about predatory danger, founded to honor 20-year-old Virginia Tech student and victim of predatory violence Morgan Harrington. Additionally, D is a Ferrum College admissions ambassador and social media technician. He is majoring in social work, minoring in recreation studies, and will graduate in May 2021. He plans to eventually start his own non-profit after-school program for kids. “It will be a place for kids to come and do homework while also being taught life skills and consistent motivation,” said D. 
My son received his Christmas wish when D came to play again.

According to Flora, there is a real need for school volunteers like D. “In today's society, families are more often non-traditional. Many students live with single parents, grandparents, extended family, blended families, and foster families. Teachers are required to take on so many roles: educator, nurturer, counselor, encourager, provider of basic needs, the list goes on. It does take the whole community working together to raise our children to be good citizens. Davon is a positive force moving in our community and we are so thankful for him,” she wrote.

“I enjoy spending time with the students,” said D. “I strive to be a positive role model for them. I want them to know they can make it in life no matter what they go through. They can make a positive impact on the world.”

In this season of thanksgiving and gratitude, I couldn’t be more grateful for D Robinson’s drive to make children feel valued. After all, they are our future. But D insists he is the grateful one: “I wouldn’t be doing any of this if my life didn’t happen the way it did. I’m thankful for everything.”

Check out D’s Instagram at dhr._ 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Coach Michael Baggetta: 2019 USA College Men's Lacrosse Team Goes Undefeated in Australia

Coach Michael Baggetta (far right) with his 2019 Beyond Sports USA College Tour team in Australia.
Ferrum College’s own head lacrosse coach Michael Baggetta was one of four U.S. coaches chosen to mentor the 2019 Beyond Sports USA College Men’s Lacrosse Tour Team, which represented the USA in Australia on a 12-day tour from June 10 - 21.

“This was truly an unbelievable experience,” said Baggetta. “Lacrosse is such an amazing sport. Through the game the guys were able to compete against good clubs, develop great friendships, and experience a world unfamiliar to them. They represented themselves, their schools, and the United States with such class, making the entire trip unforgettable.”

Melbourne, Australia – The USA College Men’s Lacrosse team completed their tour in Australia 3-0. The USA team included student-athletes from 12 different DII/DIII universities and colleges across the country.

The tour began in Sydney, Australia, where the team spent three days and was able to take in all that Sydney had to offer. After arriving to Sydney International Airport, the team was greeted by their Australian Host and Tour Guide Adam “Squizzy” Taylor and headed to Darlington Harbour to get acquainted with each other during a good meal at Stacks Bar Restaurant. The team then had some down time to adjust to the international time change. Later that evening they had their first team meeting to install their offense, defense and clearing game as well as uniform hand out.

The second day in Sydney started with a hike along the coastline of Sydney from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach. With over three and a half miles of stunning views, beaches, parks, and cliffs, this is one of the most famous coastal hikes in Australia. The team followed their hike with their first practice of the trip at the University of New South Wales, David Phillips Sports Complex.

Though the time in Sydney was short, the team took in many sights. During the third and final day, the group toured the Sydney Harbour Bridge, saw the Sydney Opera house, took a ferry ride to Manley Beach, and ended the day at the top of The Sydney Tower Eye, overlooking the sunset of the beautiful city.

The second leg of their tour was to the tourist destination of Cairns. Cairns is famously known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Located in Queensland, Australia, Cairns is surrounded by the mountains, is full of beautiful beaches, crocodile infested rivers, and the rainforest. After getting acquainted with the native lingo, the lads adventure of Cairns started at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures where they were taught how to properly care for snake bites. They also observed a snake demonstration filled with three of the world’s deadliest snakes including the Taipan, which tops most lists of deadliest serpents.The group was able to witness feeding time for the crocodiles, took a voyage around the lagoon, interacted with kangaroos and held koalas.

The USA College Tour Team spent their second day in Cairns at Green Island scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef and taking a glass bottom boat ride, getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

On day three, Lacrosse wasn’t the only sport the USA College Tour team played. The lads expanded their comfort zone, hitting the Oval with AFL trainer Kieran Daley, participating in a skills session of what the Australians call Footy or Aussie Rules Football. The team spent their afternoon training as a team at Cazaly’s Stadium, home to Cairns Australian Football League headquarters.

On the third and final leg of the trip, the Americans spent time in Melbourne. With a rich sporting history, Melbourne has been crowned the Sporting Capital of the world. Melbourne Sports and Entertainment Precinct is the epicenter of world sports, comprised of three areas Olympic Park, Melbourne Park and Yarra Park. With a great atmosphere this multipurpose sporting precinct hosts a countless number of sporting events each year, causing fans from all over the world to flock and witness the festivities. The precinct holds nine major sporting venues that include the Melbourne Cricket Grounds (the MCG), AAMI Park, Rod Laver Arena, The Holden Center, Margaret Court Arena and Melbourne Park Tennis Complex (home to the Australian Open).

Let the games begin! Upon the team’s arrival in Melbourne, they had their first competition versus the Camberwell Lacrosse Club. The US team opened up with a goal by midfielder Michael Scarfano from Elizabethtown College. The US started off strong at the hands of Salisbury University face-off man Tyler Thompson, jumping out to an 8-4 lead over the Chiefs heading into the third. The Camberwell Chiefs had no answer for Thompson who controlled the X winning 24 out of 25 draws. Once the Chiefs got adjusted to the pace of play by the USA, they played sound defense in the third allowing their offense to go on a six-goal run, leading the US at end of three quarters 10-8. After some third quarter adjustments and a great team effort sparked by ODAC foe Randolph-Macon’s Collin DiSesa and Chris Cerrina. The fourth quarter started with a goal from DiSesa. The Chiefs offense was kept at bay by goalie Chris Cerrina. Cerrina’s performance between the pipes in the fourth gave the American’s the chance to dictate the tempo for the remainder of the game. Cerrina recorded 9 saves for the game. Owning the time of possession in the fourth, led by Stevens Tech’s Max Bailey, Bryan Keegan from SUNY Maritime, and Curry College’s Devin Newell. Piggy backing off of their lead, DiSesa’s relentless effort to get to the cage, saw his second goal of the day, making the game even at 10. With less than two minutes left in regulation Curry College’s Andrew Deleary demanded the ball, attacking the goal downhill from the right ally on the run, Deleary with a laser of a shot notched the game-winning goal. The US started their Australian campaign 1-0 with an 11-10 victory over the Camberwell Lacrosse Club.

Scoring: Andrew Deleary (Curry College) 2g, Collin DiSesa (Randolph-Macon College) 2g, Eric Rabourne (Stevens Institute of Technology) 2g, Michael Scarfano (Elizabethtown College) 1g, Devin Newell (Curry College) 1g, Max Bailey (Stevens Institute of Technology) 1g, Jacob McFarland (Norte Dame de Namur Univ) 1g, Ryan Tiffey (Randolph-Macon College) 1g, Tyler Thompson (Salisbury University) 1g

It’s always difficult to play with guys you meet only six days earlier and only after a few practices. Adjustments were made, the guys got more comfortable with each other as the game went on and they played hard all 60 minutes. In the end, the team walked away with a good team win.

On their Second day in Melbourne, the team toured the MCG, the tenth largest stadium in the world. The MCG is the home to the Australian National Sports Museum, the Melbourne Cricket Club (a member only club comprised of over 120,000 members with a waitlist of approximately 27 years), four AFL teams, four professional cricket teams, hosted the 1956 Summer Olympics, the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and The AFL Grand Final, as well as many other events. To end their tour, the team got the chance to study Australian sporting history at the National Sports Museum.

After getting a history lesson of Australian sports, what’s more fitting than the Aussie National U19 Team hosting the USA Team? The game began as a defensive battle, the US lead 2-1 over the Aussies at the end of the first quarter with goals from Collin DiSesa and Devin Newell. The Americans found their mojo during the second quarter with a 5-2 run. During that run, Scranton University’s Tim Dolan found the net for the first time of the tour. Ryan Tiffey from Randolph-Macon notched the fifth goal of the game for the American’s, with DiSesa adding three more to the count. Closing out the Half, the US lead the Aussies 7-3. Dolan opened up the second half scoring for the US, and DiSesa once again found the back of the net for the US, giving them a 9-5 advantage. But SUNY Maritime’s Bryan Keegan wanted in on the fun, scoring his first of the tour giving the US a commanding 10-5 lead heading into the fourth. The Aussies weren’t going away that easy, firing on all cylinders and displaying what that rich Australian sporting tradition was all about. They went on a five-goal run to bring the win within their grasps. Being tied up was a scenario the Americans were accustomed to. Once again with short time, unfazed, the US took possession, with the hot hand the ball ended up in DiSesa’s stick. Not going to be denied, DiSesa made his way to the goal scoring the lone goal in the fourth for the Americans, giving them the 11-10 lead with only a few ticks left on the clock. DiSesa’s game-winning goal gave him six on the day bringing the USA Men’s College Tour team to 2-0.

Scoring: Collin DiSesa(Randolph-Macon) 6g, 1a; Tim Dolan (Scranton Univ) 2g, Devin Newell (Curry College) 1g, Ryan Tiffey(Randolph-Macon) 1g, 2a; Bryan Keegan(SUNY Maritime) 1g; Jake Stebbins (Curry College) 1a

As the USA College Men’s Lacrosse team’s tour of Australia drew to an end, they spent their final morning in Melbourn at the Queen Victoria Market. Where the team was able to do a little souvenir shopping to find a few keepsakes of their trip to Australia to bring home to their loved ones. The team had one more task to complete before heading home, a win in their third and final game that evening versus the Altona Lacrosse Club.

As game time neared so did the rain, making for a muddy competition under the lights. Collin DiSesa struck first, scoring the opening two goals. Altona was able to cut the lead by one. Elizabethtown’s Michael Scarfano wasn’t going to allow it to be that easy and put the ball in the back of the net for the US, giving them a 3-1 lead. Altona responded with a goal making it a 3-2 game, but Jake Stebbins joined the fun scoring the fourth goal for the Americans. The US ended the first quarter with a 4-2 lead. With the USA squad Controlling the pace of the game, Altona was unable to match the skill. Keeping the serge going in the second quarter, Jeffery Karnoff from Theil College got himself into the scoring column for the first time of the tour, putting the Americans ahead 5-2. As the rain continued to fall, the men were splashing around and having fun. Max Bailey made it look easy scoring number six for the US. Unable to find an answer to the dominate play of the US, Altona was forced to call a time out to regroup. Coming after the timeout, Altona was able to string together a solid possession and netted their third goal of the game cutting the lead in half at 6-3. The US wasn’t going to allow Altona to get in any sort of rhythm offensively. Bringing the lead to four goals, Stebbins found the back of the net again. Altona’s unrelenting effort put them in position to score two back-to-back goals, making it a 7-5 game late in the second quarter. Jacob McFarland helped the US bookend their first half scoring. The Americans went into halftime up 8-5. As the third quarter began, Tyler Thompson cleanly won the draw, and with a fast break, Thompson got to the cage uncontested scoring the ninth goal for the US. Altona committing the first penalty of the game, giving the US a man advantage, capitalizing on an outside shot, Ryan Tiffey recorded goal number 10 for the US. Down 10-5, Altona began to chip away at the five-goal lead scoring two unanswered goals. As the rain subsided, Altona began to gain some traction with a good offensive possession, ending in a loose ball scooped up by defenseman Austin Evans who took the ball coast-to-coast, finding Randolph-Macon College teammate Collin DiSesa who scored the 11th goal of the game for the US. With the scoreboard reading 11-7, the US found themselves in a broken situation that allowed Altona to create transition, resulting in their eight goal of the game. Before the end of the third quarter Devin Newell and Ryan Tiffey added two more for the US to make the lead 13-8. As the fourth got underway, once again the US found the net first with a goal from Tim Dolan, increasing the lead to 14-8. Late in the fourth Altona was able to score, making it 14-9. Eric Radbourne ended the game in style, showing off his Canadian stick skills to give the US a 15-9 victory over the Altona Lacrosse Club.

Scoring: Jake Stebbin(Curry College) 2g; Collin DiSesa(Randolph-Macon) 3g; Ryan Tiffey(Randolph-Macon) 2g,1a; Michael Scarfano(Elizabethtown) 1g; Jeffery Karnoff(Theil College) 1g; Max Bailey(Stevens Tech) 1g; Jacob McFarland(Norte Dame de Namur Univ) 1g; Tyler Thompson(Salisbury University) 1g; Devin Newell (Curry College) 1g; Tim Dolan(Scranton University) 1g; Eric Radbourne (Stevens Tech) 1g, Austin Evans(Randolph-Macon) 1a
The USA College Men’s Tour Team returned to the states June 21 with an unblemished 3-0 record. The team was able to take in all the experiences Australia had to offer and have memories that will last a lifetime.

Australian host and tour guide Adam "Squizzy" Taylor stands with Coach Baggetta.

In addition to the USA College Lacrosse Tours in Australia, Beyond Sports provides tours for other sports like field hockey, softball, basketball, volleyball and soccer throughout the world. Beyond Sports has offered international programs for over 2,700 college athletes over the last nine years, they've created mutually beneficial opportunities for US student-athletes, international athletes, and international youth to enjoy a life-changing cross-cultural experience through sport. The staff is made up of former college athletes, educators, coaches, and international adventurers. They are passionate about Connecting the World Through Sports. For more information on Beyond Sports and programs they offer check out

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Miranda Dougherty: Dreams+Work=Success

By Tom Steele
Director, Academic Outreach and Athletic Initiatives

Miranda Dougherty
Miranda Dougherty’s dog, Oliver, is a mutt who does not have a pedigree. However, Dougherty, a junior defender on the Ferrum College women’s soccer team, has a strong soccer pedigree. Dougherty’s father, Scott, played soccer for Villanova, and with her dad as coach, Dougherty began her soccer career at the age of five.

Dougherty, who grew up in Waretown, NJ credits her parents with influencing her success on the field and in the classroom. Her dad was her “field coach” and her mom, Kristy, was the “academic coach.” Her parents’ support drives Dougherty to be the best at everything she attemps. As a double-major in Criminal Justice and Psychology, with a 3.97 grade point average, Dougherty’s “dream career” is with the FBI. Recently, she has taken steps to make her dream a reality by contacting FBI staff members and aligning herself to be considered for an internship following graduation.

Dougherty discovered Ferrum College after being contacted by then-head coach James Lofton. The atmosphere surrounding the College appealed to Dougherty, as well as the sense of “family” within the soccer team. All was off to great start until a torn ACL shortened Dougherty’s freshman season.

When asked to name her most memorable experience at Ferrum, Dougherty says it is her comeback to soccer after two surgeries to correct the torn ACL. “Overcoming the injury setback required me to remain positive, and move beyond the feeling that my soccer career was over. That experience helped me develop a deeper level of mental toughness,” said Dougherty, who, with the support of her teammates and parents, returned to the field in a win over Emory & Henry.

Dougherty’s sports idol is Mia Hamm, an iconic figure in women’s soccer. In the 1990s, Hamm was known as the best in the sport. Like Hamm, Dougherty wants to be the best at everything she does. Her determination to overcome setbacks to succeed on the field and in the classroom is taking this Ferrum College athlete towards realizing her goals in soccer and in her career.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Ferrum College Sweethearts Celebrate 27th Valentine’s Day Together

Aaron Conover ’93 and Hillary Hardison ’94 celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this past September. These sweethearts met at Ferrum College in 1991 when Hardison visited Conover’s dorm room to watch Fantasia with mutual friends. Hardison was hooked when Conover answered the door wearing an apron and carrying a bottle of 409 cleaner; “I knew she was coming over, so I was cleaning,” he explains. “Four guys living together are pretty gross.”
The couple spent their days at Ferrum College hiking, caving, and creating art together. Conover graduated a year prior to Hardison and followed his outdoor recreation career to Oregon. She finished her degree in philosophy with a minor in art in May 1994 and the couple was married in September 1994. They spent their honeymoon traveling by moving van from Virginia to Oregon so Hardison could join her new husband out west. 
The couple continued to follow their dreams which eventually lead them back to Virginia. Conover is now employed by Ferrum College as the director of Ferrum Outdoors and adjunct instructor in health and human performance. He also co-owns Down River Outfitters, which offers scenic river tours on the Jackson River, James River, New River, and Staunton River. Hardison teaches gifted art classes through Roanoke County Schools and Aurora Artisans & Frameshop, and operates her own art business, Hardison Art, LLC.
Their story hasn’t always been unabashed wedded bliss. In February 2016, Hardison was diagnosed with ovarian and uterine cancer and underwent extensive surgery with a long recovery. Shortly after, her mother passed away and she was laid off from the job she held at the time. Through those difficult times, Conover remained her rock and once healing began, they decided together that it was time to start living life to the fullest. It was then that the pair really honed in on their entrepreneurial adventures with Down River Outfitters and Hardison Art LLC. “We let each other pursue our passions and we support the other,” Conover explains. 
What word would the couple use to describe their 25 years together? “Adventure,” quips Hardison. “That word dominates our life. I wanted adventure in my life. I knew with Aaron, it would never be boring.”
“Or lucrative,” Conover says, with a grin.
Happy Valentine’s Day to these Ferrum College sweethearts.
Learn more about Down River Outfitters here: and Hardison Art, LLC here: