Bluefield College and Virginia Baptists: Helping students fulfil - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Bluefield College and Virginia Baptists: Helping students fulfill their calling


Bluefield, VA - Bluefield College senior Karen Sutherland has a passion for teaching. It’s a calling she didn’t realize early in life and one she later doubted would come to fruition.

But now, thanks to the Online Degree Program and the School of Education at Bluefield College and through the generosity of the Virginia Baptist Foundation, Sutherland is about to live her passion and fulfill her calling as an elementary school teacher.

Ron Hall, president of the Virginia Baptist Foundation (VBF), was on the campus of Bluefield College, October 23, to present Sutherland with the VBF’s Barbara L. Hobgood Legacy Scholarship. Established by the late Maude Hobgood in 2001 in memory of her daughter, who preceded her in death in 2003, the Barbara L. Hobgood Legacy Scholarship, Hall said, is designed to recognize students for “academic excellence” and a “commitment to Christ.”

“Maude saw the value of education and the value of southwest Virginia,” said Hall about Hobgood, who grew up in Richlands, Virginia, about 35 miles from Bluefield College and about 25 miles from Sutherland’s home in Vansant. “She wanted to make sure the bulk of her estate went to education and to scholarships for students.”

Hobgood served the Virginia Baptist Mission Board for more than 30 years, and her Legacy Scholarship will continue to serve Virginia Baptists through students forever. Sutherland said she is “so appreciative” of that fact and of the $4,100 award that will help her complete her BC studies and begin her calling.

"I’m so happy for this. It will definitely reduce my school debt,” said Sutherland, who noted that both she and her husband, Mike, had been laid off from work five times since 2009 as a result of the depressed economy in southwest Virginia. “It will definitely ease the burden. I’m so appreciative.”

 After graduating from Grundy High School in 1991, Sutherland earned a financial services and bookkeeping certificate from Southwest Virginia Community College (SWCC) that enabled her to begin working at Grundy National Bank. She spent 10 years in banking before taking time off from her career to be a stay-at-home mom for her son, Cade. After Cade’s formative years, Sutherland decided to go back to college in 2009, this time for teacher education.

 “It wasn’t until I began substitute teaching and became a paraprofessional that I decided to major in education,” said Sutherland about finding her calling. “In 2013, I earned an associate of arts and sciences degree with a major in education from SWCC.”

 Unsure of where she would go to earn the bachelor’s degree she needed to fulfill her calling, Sutherland learned that Virginia Intermont, a Virginia Baptist college in Bristol, Virginia, would be bringing its teacher education program to her hometown. She enrolled, but just one semester into her baccalaureate studies, VI announced its closure in the spring of 2014 as a result of longstanding financial woes and the loss of accreditation.

 “I really didn’t know how I was going to continue to earn my bachelor’s degree,” said Sutherland. “Then Bluefield College offered to help the Virginia Intermont students get the courses they needed to complete their teacher licensure and degree in the shortest possible time.”

 After learning about the demise of VI, Bluefield College quickly developed a teach-out plan with the sister Virginia Baptist school, offering automatic transfer admission and the necessary courses and training needed for interested VI students to finish their baccalaureate degree.

 "We were saddened by the news that Virginia Intermont was ceasing to offer classes,” said Dr. David Olive, president of Bluefield College. “As a sister Baptist institution of higher learning, VI has had a rich history since 1884, a heritage deeply steeped in the education of women. We were grateful for the opportunity to have a teach-out plan for VI students, a plan that would enable interested students to complete their programs at Bluefield College.”

Thanks to the teach-out plan, Sutherland enrolled in the BC Teacher Education Program in the fall of 2014. She chose to complete her studies through the college’s Online Degree Program, which allowed her the more convenient, flexible option of taking her courses from her home in Vansant, which she said has enabled her to earn her degree in the shortest possible time.

“The administrative staff and instructors have worked closely with me to make sure that I meet all of the requirements for my degree in a timely manner,” said Sutherland. “I have learned in my classes that one of the most important attributes of teaching is caring about students. With the instruction, feedback and guidance that I have been given, I can definitely say that my instructors have genuinely cared about my academic success.”

Sutherland is set to graduate with her bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies in May 2016 and a license to teach kindergarten through sixth grade. Fulfilling that calling she said would not have been possible without Bluefield College and the lessons she’s learned through the Teacher Education Program, such as how to write effective lesson plans with clear objectives, use a variety of teaching strategies for student success, use appropriate classroom management techniques, and create a positive learning environment.

“Bluefield College has prepared me to become a teacher by providing me with as many real life teaching experiences as possible,” said Sutherland. “The college has prepared me to be the best educator that I can be, and I look forward to using what I have learned to provide my students with new learning opportunities so they can accomplish significant things.”

Bluefield College student Alexandra Bartley of Honaker, Virginia, also received a $4,100 scholarship this year from the Virginia Baptist Foundation. In fact, since 2007 the Foundation has awarded nearly $54,000 in scholarship awards to BC students as together they continue to help students fulfill their calling.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the Virginia Baptist Foundation and the impact these scholarships have in Karen’s and Alexandria’s lives,” said Dr. Olive. “We are also profoundly grateful for Maude Hobgood for her thoughtfulness in planning her estate and for her love for Bluefield College and future generations of students in southwest Virginia.”

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