Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Robert Cunningham: A True Ferrum College Success Story

By Tom Steele, Ferrum College Director of Academic Outreach Initiatives


Robert Cunningham '17 is a true Ferrum College success story. He defied the academic odds makers by earning his degree in Sports Management, which he completed in only four years! Robert accomplished this milestone while managing more responsibilities than did most of his peers. 

When asked what the past four years at Ferrum College have taught him, Robert replied, “Work hard. There are no shortcuts; you gotta grind through it.” One might say that Robert has excelled in the grind.

Robert first learned about Ferrum College at a wrestling camp in his home town of York, SC, which was hosted by Ferrum Head Wrestling Coach Nate Yetzer. Robert explained, “Coach Yetzer and Jason Byrd (Director of Admissions), stayed in contact with me. They helped with everything and got me thinking that I could make college a reality.”

During his years at the College, Robert earned membership in the Ferrum Scholars program. He was selected captain of the wrestling team. He shared his wisdom and positive outlook by mentoring new freshmen in the Brother4Brother program. Robert also became a devoted husband and loving father. These have been busy, exciting years for the Cunningham family.

However, Robert wasn’t always confident that he would earn his college degree. Robert shared, “I am a first generation college student. I didn’t come to Ferrum for academics. I came to Ferrum to wrestle. But, I used my resources, I had success early, and I began to gain confidence. The discipline I learned from wrestling was a big help, and my coaches kept pushing me. I had to learn how to study and how to balance my time and responsibilities. I had a lot of support at Ferrum.”

Between his sophomore and junior years, Robert married his high school sweetheart, Ki’Aira. They have been blessed with a daughter, Kylie. Before they joined him in Ferrum, Robert was a frequent traveler to Rock Hill, SC to spend time with his family. The couple talked nightly on Facetime. Ki’Aira says the times she and Robert were apart while he was in school were the most difficult, especially with an infant in the home. Robert's family joined him at Ferrum for his senior year.

Robert has a plan for the Cunninghams' future. His goal is to become an athletic director. He will begin his career journey as a wrestling coach for nearby Patrick County High School. The journey will be a grind, with no shortcuts, and this is the way Robert expects it to be. His success as a student-athlete and as a family man have more than prepared him for the work that awaits. 

Note: Casey Fabris also profiled Robert in The Roanoke Times. You can read her article here.




Thursday, May 4, 2017

Diversity Served: Ferrum College Students’ Sociology Projects Transition from the Classroom to Community.

By Laurie Adams



Ferrum College will celebrate Commencement Saturday, May 6th, but just as the celebration marks an end and a beginning for graduating seniors, for some students, class projects begun here at Ferrum will also be moving into their own next phases.

Abria Witcher
Students in Dr. Susan Mead’s Sociology 391 Directed Study Course undertook a number of social justice projects in the fall of 2016 and many of those projects will be ongoing, either through the students’ own efforts, or by incorporation into larger non-profit efforts. Here’s a look back – and a look forward at where they started and where they’re going.

Abria Witcher’s project was in trouble. Not just in trouble – her goal of helping with Gretna Elementary School’s backpack program and raising money to assist an orphan in South Sudan was falling apart before her eyes – but that’s when things took a dramatic turn for the better. Witcher had been moved when she learned many students at the school were struggling to get their nutritional needs met. “Their only meal was lunch,” she said. A conflict of timing derailed her original plan, but Witcher pressed forward. Inspired by the 22-year-old Criminal Justice major’s efforts, all the teachers and administrative staff at the school where she interned contributed cash - stepping up to not only meet but surpass her goal by raising $250. This boost allowed Witcher to assist more than one orphan in South Sudan. “My [five] students will be able to attend primary school for a year,” said Witcher.

Witcher plans to continue coordinating with Gretna Elementary School after she graduates to help not only with their backpack program, but by helping students attend summer school. She attended Gretna Elementary and explained, “I was pretty much one of those kids in elementary school so it really spoke to me, wanting to help the students [at Gretna] as well as the orphans attend primary school in South Sudan.”

Witcher and eight classmates, under the guidance of Mead, took on independent projects to help them learn about and get hands-on experience in tackling real-world social issues. The students’ efforts focused primarily on a group of South Sudanese orphans, helping to pay their educational costs and feed them, particularly during times of the year when they aren’t able to get their meals at school. The children who have been helped by Witcher and her classmates range in age from kindergarten through high school graduates. So far the combined efforts of Mead’s students have raised over $1500.

The projects of the other students in Mead’s class varied along with each student’s specialty and the emotional chords that were struck by the plight of the people in South Sudan. Senior Caitlin Johnson, of Rocky Mount, is graduating with her Environmental Studies degree. She plans to continue working with a Ferrum alumnus who is now a middle school agriculture teacher to develop a lesson plan on farming and food deserts, both locally around Virginia and internationally, focusing on South Sudan. Having grown up on a farm, Johnson’s direction for her project was a logical extension of her interest in natural resources and agriculture.

Alexander Soltani
Alexander Soltani’s project was among the most ambitious in the class: he hoped to raise enough money to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser for Bishop Peter Youl of the Tonj Area Diocese of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan. Soltani explained that the vehicle is critically necessary to help the bishop reach far-flung parishioners in South Sudan’s rough terrain. Bishop Yuol coordinates efforts to help the orphans Soltani’s classmates raised funds to assist. A Land Cruiser was acquired for Bishop Yuol and a crowdfunding page generated by Soltani will assist in making future payments on the vehicle.

Soltani, who lives in Mississippi, said he probably would not have attempted this type of service work had he not taken the course. “Before I took this course, I had no intention to work on humanitarian efforts but Dr. Mead helped show me that you can focus on yourself, as well as others. I would like to take up a cause having to do with battered women/abused children in the future, since I hope to become a civil suit lawyer one day. One lesson I learned is sometimes the only way you can help yourself, is to help others, which falls in line with Ferrum's mission ‘Not Self, But Others,’” said Soltani.

Jonathan Dickey
Other projects focused on peace building and community development, including assisting South Sudanese widows. Senior Jonathan Dickey, of Leesburg, Va., says that raising funds to help South Sudanese widows was especially meaningful for him, having grown up with a single mom. He said, “At a young age I saw the struggles that came with that.” Dickey explained he’s focused on the educational component of outreach, noting, “The best outcome would be improved literacy and resources for the widowed mothers of South Sudan.” Like Soltani, Dickey said he came to the directed study course in a roundabout way, initially pursuing it in lieu of finding an internship, but found himself moved to press on with the course’s goals even after an internship was acquired.

Ryan Tesler, a 21-year-old Criminal Justice major from Atlanta, Ga., is raising funds to feed South Sudanese orphans. “I wish more people knew about the good people that reside in South Sudan. The conflicts, violence, and struggles seem to be all you see or hear about when South Sudan is brought up. Bishop Peter and his family is an example of one of the positive sides of South Sudan. He is the one who has brought in all these orphans to help feed and educate. Bishop Peter gave up a great paying job [for] a no salary lifestyle to help these orphans,” said Tesler, whose fundraising effort was among the most successful projects in the class.

After graduation, many of the student projects will be ongoing and the people who benefit will continue to receive assistance through Professor Mead’s non-profit, Diversity Serves. To learn more about Diversity Serves, visit its Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/Diversity-Serves-1853133511621208/ or to support ongoing student fundraising efforts visit www.gofundme.com and search for projects under “Diversity Serves.”





Friday, April 28, 2017

My Health and Human Performance Internship: An Internship That Led Me to the Next Step After Graduation


By Sarah Hendrix

This past semester I completed my 400-hour internship and had the privilege of working with our athletic training staff here at Ferrum. I went in to the internship unsure of what I was going to be doing after I graduated in May, but during my internship, I was able to find that out. I learned something new almost everyday; it did not matter if it was with my supervisor athletic trainer or another trainer in the athletic training room. I was able to stretch people, make them ice bags, help correct their movements during rehab, and so on, but I also learned some about the paperwork side of things. Luckily, being an athlete here, I could see how the paperwork was done because I was shown on my file. I was able to help out with two great teams and their coaches here on campus, the baseball and women’s basketball teams. I helped out with other sports too when I could, but those two teams were the main two I helped with during my internship.

Over the semester I had been thinking about applying to Bridgewater College to further my education, because at the end of the fall semester, our HHP department told me about the articulation agreement we had just made with Bridgewater College for their Master of Science in Athletic Training Program. I ended up applying right before spring break, the head professor called me and we discussed a few questions I had and he said he would get back to me with some answers. When he got back to me, he had answers, but also wanted me to come in for an interview and I went for one over spring break. The following week they called and offered me admission into the program, but I discussed it with my family before I made the decision a week later to attend Bridgewater. I am excited, but it is crazy to think that I am already at the point in my life to be attending Graduate School.

Needless to say, my internship here, in the athletic training room at Ferrum, helped lead me to what I will be doing after graduation. I did not know that I was going to be this interested in athletic training until my internship. I knew being an athlete through college that I was not ready to be away from the world of sports yet, so I had thought about coaching with whatever was next for me. I have always wanted to help people and with athletic training I can help the athletes I work with, but I also am able to stay around the sports world. This opportunity for graduate school fell into my lap at a perfect time because my internship made me realize that this was the next step for me. I am very thankful for the opportunity I had to work with some great coaches, athletes, professors, and especially the athletic training staff here at Ferrum College. I thank all of them for helping prepare me for the next step in my career path. I look forwards to expanding my knowledge in the athletic training world when I get to Bridgewater College.

Friday, March 31, 2017

My Health and Human Performance Internship: The Neglected and the Unnoticed Body Guards

By Andy Tobias


(L-R) George Coles, Jayson Shurland, Andy Tobias, Dashey Ramsey, Bryan Smith, and Cameron Clark.
As a former Ferrum College football player and soon to be Ferrum alumni, one last step before becoming a part of the real world is the completion of the Health and Human Performance internship. With me working towards a coaching minor, it only seemed fitting to complete this internship with the Ferrum College football staff.

This week consisted of me observing and learning about the jobs of the body guards, the offensive line men. Coach Summers is the one with his hands on the reins, meaning he is the one that teaches the meetings and he is also the Offensive Coordinator. Sitting in on these meetings gave me a different perspective of the sport of football. I’ve established that this group of kids do not get enough credit. This position works just as hard as other positions but they don’t get half as much the acknowledgement.

In the meetings, I learned there are two main jobs of the body guards, one being to protect the quarterback in pass protection then there is running back protection through run blocking. Inside of these two jobs, there is so much thought and skill that needs to be applied that allows an offensive lineman to achieve greatness. To be a good offensive lineman has a lot to do with good foot movement and good hand placement.

You may be wondering why I named this journal The Neglected and the Unnoticed, but you are soon to be informed. How many times a game do offensive line men score? How often do their names get yelled out over the intercom? How many times does the media blame a loss on the offensive line men not making their blocks? This happens, sometimes, if the offensive line group is really bad, but in that matter they are getting a negative side of praise.

They are neglected and unnoticed because most of the time the only time the body guards are noticed is when they are doing the wrong thing. For the amount of work, these guys put in they do not get enough credit. For an offensive lineman to get awards all of the coaches for different teams have to vote the player in to even get an honorable mention. The only real praise the body guards get is if they are the best of the best and they get recognized by all the surrounding teams. As a former body guard for Ferrum College, I feel sympathy for this group of young men.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Alternative Spring Break 2017: Hurricane Disaster Recovery Mission Trip to Virginia Beach

By Dr. Jan Nicholson Angle, Dean of the Chapel


Five students and two staff from Ferrum College gave up their Spring Break to travel to Virginia Beach where they assisted two families who are recovering from the effects of Hurricane Matthew. Hurricane Matthew struck the Virginia coast in October 2016. Ferrum College continues to be the only Virginia based United Methodist affiliated college team to volunteer with The Virginia Conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Disaster Recovery working to assist families along the Virginia coast who are recovering from both the September 2016 tornado and October 2016 hurricane.

Our Ferrum College team of seven persons arrived in Virginia Beach Friday at 11 pm. We were up Saturday morning and on our first work site by 8 am. We arrived to find a couple living in a trailer located in the driveway of their home. Previous teams had worked with them to remove and treat the water-damaged walls of their home. This family, paralyzed by the trauma of the hurricane, had moved only a portion of their belongings out of the house leaving many personal items and furniture still inside. Our job for the next two days was to support and assist this couple in moving the salvageable belongings to storage. More importantly our team truly set aside self and embraced other as we listened to this beautiful couple reminisce their favorite family memories, and shed silent tears as they came to terms in parting with family heirlooms that were too water damaged to be saved. With most of their belongings in storage, and the assurance of other work teams to follow, our team laid hands on the homeowner and the furnishings now moved to storage asking for God’s blessings and safe keeping over his family, his home, and his belongings.

The second family our work team assisted was an older couple who, as Hurricane Matthew bore down upon them, had helplessly watched the waters rise covering the entire first floor of their town home. When we arrived we quickly realized that this couple was at a different stage of recovery as they had already moved all their water damaged belongings out of the house, had the walls repaired, and were waiting on our team to install wood laminate flooring in both their living and dining rooms.

While the work we did and the skills we attained individually and as team were amazing, NOTHING could take the place of watching Ms. Eleanor at 70+ years of age do her happy dance on her new living room floor. As our final day of work closed, it was not only Ms Eleanor who was shedding tears as we stood hand in hand with her in her dining room. We praised God for bringing her safely through the storm and offering her hope for tomorrow. Ms. Eleanor said over and over again how she would have never been able to recover without us. Of course we all knew better, but are thankful that for this Spring Break we have had the opportunity to represent Ferrum College and re-present the love of God to those who now hold a very special place in our hearts.

Team Members

Students: Stephanie Gibbs, a senior majoring in Health Sciences; Alexis Hatcher, a junior majoring in Religion; Mark Kellam a sophomore majoring in Environmental Science; Lukas McWhorter, a junior majoring in Environmental Science; and Ricky Phillips a sophomore majoring in Computer Science.

Staff: Assistant Director of Student Leadership and Engagement Daniel Kyle and Dean of the Chapel Jan Nicholson Angle.


View additional photographs from the trip here.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Life of Service

By Daniel Kyle


Today the team woke up eager to see who our next hurricane survivors were. After eating the delicious breakfast Jan cooked, we stopped by our rooms, grabbed our stuff and headed to the van. It was a long yet productive day as we met a new family who were survivors of Hurricane Matthews aftermath. They were such a beautiful couple. We were welcomed into their home and treated with a warm feeling of hospitality. There seemed to be a sense of purpose residing in each of us. As we worked throughout the day interacting with the family, we couldn’t help but notice the cheerful and joyful feelings the family expressed as we placed brand new floors in their house.

Mark 10:45 says,for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Dwelling on this verse of scripture teaches us about living a life of service. Are we living a life of service? What does a life of service look like? It’s a refreshing feeling knowing that Jesus came to serve and not be served. This trip has taught our team about living a life of service in a variety of ways. Giving these families our time and assistance is a great way to live a life of service but most importantly, showing the love of Christ is the ultimate way we can serve them.


A life of service starts in our hearts that develop into actions leading to valuable relationships. Relationships lead to new conversations and new relationships but most importantly a life of peace (Philippians 4:7). When you are in the righteous will of God, you’re led to people who value your time and presence. People will value the love you show them through times of crisis and heartache. Your peace will come from helping others knowing that you’re pleasing God as well.