From the Students: Liberal Arts at Gardner-Webb

Gardner-Webb provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate education that is strongly grounded in the liberal arts.
Hear what students have to say about the ability to explore ideas within a diverse community of learning.

Jacob Kirby (’16) discipleship studies 

“Gardner-Webb is just so well-rounded in terms of the variety of courses students can take, both in the core curriculum and in electives … if I hadn’t experienced what it was like to study other courses besides music, like English courses and history and religious studies, I may never have known what paths were available for me to pursue.” (More)



Kevin Clary (’15) Music Education

“Gardner-Webb students are exposed to professors with a broad range of personalities, teaching styles as well as personal beliefs … True knowledge and the power to shape one’s own ideas and opinions comes from the willingness to expose one’s self to the ideas and opinions of others, and that opportunity is prevalent at Gardner-Webb.” (More)


M. Lamont Littlejohn (’16) Doctorate in Ministry

“My experience has helped me to become a better holistic person. My educational experience allowed me to acquire skills within other subject areas of study beyond my major and minor concentrations. It has taught me that ministry is both tough and messy at times.” (More)


Madison Cates (‘13) history

“The ability to take a wide variety of courses and get to know thoughtful, compassionate people helped guide my spiritual and intellectual development. Being involved in the Honors Student Association, Alpha Chi Honor Society, and Student Government Association allowed me to discuss and debate ideas with friends and peers across disciplines.” (More)

Harvesting Hope

Long-Term Mission Effort Changes Haitian Community for the Better

A service trip to build a fish farm in Haiti deeply impacted the hearts of the Gardner-Webb University students who traveled there and brought life-altering change to the Haitian orphanage that is now reaping its harvest.
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Harvesting Hope

Long-Term Mission Effort Changes Haitian Community for the Better

A service trip to build a fish farm in Haiti deeply impacted the hearts of the Gardner-Webb University students who traveled there and brought life-altering change to the Haitian orphanage that is now reaping its harvest.

Dr. Don Olive, GWU Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, desires to instill a spirit of service in the hearts of his students. A chance conversation with the father of a first-year Gardner-Webb student introduced Olive to a unique service opportunity to do just that.

Olive had the chance to create a student team to lead a service project in Haiti through a South Carolina-based ministry. The Higher Quest Foundation (HQ) is a non-profit organization whose purpose is “to educate and equip.” HQ strives to fight world hunger in a manner that is sustainable. One of the sustainable, resource-providing options promoted by HQ is fish farming, which provides a continual and sustainable influx of resources.

Another crucial partnership for the project was the relationship built with Crosslink Methodist Church (Rutherford College, N.C.), the home church of GWU student Kailey Robinson. The church funds Haitian-based Real Love Ministries International, which oversees an orphanage in Minoterie, Haiti. In discussions between the GWU team, HQ and Crosslink Methodist Church, it was determined that this orphanage, located about an hour from Port-Au-Prince, would be an ideal location to build the fish farm.

Over Christmas break of 2014 Olive traveled to Minoterie, Haiti, to confirm the aptitude of the location site and to take soil samples. He met with the group who runs the orphanage as well as the children who live there. Olive also met with a potential fish farm manager and evaluated how to acquire the appropriate resources for their return trip, for which the team would require sufficient training.

In anticipation of preparing teams to undertake these projects, GWU students visited a HQ training facility in Orangeburg, S.C., during the spring of 2015. They learned, among many things, that building relationships during the next trip to Haiti would be incredibly important in their success.

Less than a month later in May, Olive returned to the build location with students Nikole Roland, Collin James and Brooke Rampy. During this week, their team encountered several unexpected hurdles, which prevented them from being able to finish several of the tasks they intended to complete during this trip.

Although this series of events was discouraging, it did not diminish the significance of their time spent there. “We had an amazing week,” Roland recalled. “Instead of the physical labor that one expects from a normal mission trip, we watched, listened, observed and engaged in conversation with those serving at the orphanage as well as members of the local community.”

Through those conversations, the team gained a greater understanding of fish farming and a deeper knowledge of the service area. The group also worked hard to develop new relationships every step of the way, just like they had been instructed during their training.

By the time the trip had concluded, new contacts and resources were established and the pond hole was ready to be filled by the follow-up team from Crosslink Methodist and GWU student Robinson, who traveled to Minoterie later that summer. During their time there, the pond was stocked with tilapia and the orphanage was outfitted with the fish feed and other necessary supplies.

This international missions trip was a first for Robinson, who was amazed by the passion and beauty of the Haitian people. Following the experience she overflowed with excitement. “I couldn’t believe we added the fish on our first day there!” Robinson admitted. “The group was able to get to work almost immediately, which allowed us to have the opportunity to spend time with the children and learn more about fish farming from the local community.”

The orphanage workers and fish farm managers have continued the work since the teams’ last visit with much success. In early 2016, the community in Minetorie, Haiti celebrated their first harvest, which provided hundreds of pounds of tilapia to be used not only to feed those at the orphanage, but could also be sold as a source of income. The fish farm will continue to grow with the ability to be harvested every month.

Since the conclusion of GWU’s active assistance on this project, Olive has sought out ways to continue the partnership with HQ as well as provide service opportunities for other students, departments and communities within the University. “I don’t think I can do it alone,” Olive admits. “I need GWU collaborators and students.”

As an incredibly active member in this first project, Roland formed a unique perspective throughout the process. She had never been on a mission trip prior and explained that this trip defied her definition of an ordinary missions trip. “We are creating something that is sustainable,” she reflected. “We aren’t just going to get them in a situation where they can only receive. With this project, we are giving them a way to help themselves.”

Campus Living


“Gardner-Webb is small enough that you can be involved and it actually matter. At other schools, in order to be involved, you have to know people. Gardner-Webb is on a smaller scale, so you can get a variety of experiences, and the chances of you knowing someone else participating is pretty good.”  Mary Toohey (’16)  (More)

Sporting Service

Mary Toohey Carves Path at GWU Through Service

Gardner-Webb junior Mary Toohey enrolled at the University in 2012 on a soccer scholarship, but suffered a concussion shortly after the start of her freshman year. With soccer out of the picture, she found herself at a crossroad. Transferring to another school became a real possibility.

“Then God just said ‘no.’ So I stayed here,” Toohey said. “I got involved with Relay for Life and a couple other things and really formed roots.”

Relay for Life is the signature fundraising event network of the American Cancer Society. International 24-hour events bring together communities to pay homage to lost loved ones, celebrate survivors and raise funds and awareness toward cancer research.

“A great thing about Gardner-Webb is that it’s small enough that you can be involved and it actually matter,” Toohey shared. “At other schools, in order to be involved, you have to know people. Gardner-Webb is on a smaller scale, so you can get a variety of experiences, and the chances of you knowing someone else participating is pretty good.”

For Toohey, a native of Winston-Salem, N.C., joining Relay for Life was personal. While she was a young teenager in high school, her grandmother, who lived with her at the time, passed away from colon cancer.

“I watched it completely destroy her body,” Toohey recalled. ”Everybody knows someone who’s had cancer, and for me, I saw that as a really great opportunity to help, having never been a part of a huge fundraiser like Relay for Life.”

Initially joining the organization her freshman year, Toohey amped up her involvement throughout her college career. Last year, she was the team development committee chair—the one in charge of fundraising and sign-ups.

“It was a lot of time and energy, but it was definitely worth it,” Toohey said. “It was a really good experience because I got to speak to a lot of people about Relay. I enjoy helping and doing anything that people need me to do in order to be successful.“

This year, Toohey will be head chair for Gardner-Webb’s Relay for Life chapter, which entails delegating tasks to multiple committees.

Now a biology major, Toohey says her college experience has worked out for the better as she continues to explore a variety of interests through campus life and volunteer efforts.

Not the least of those efforts is her leadership in Release, a University human trafficking awareness club, where she has flourished in similar fashion to Relay for Life. The club’s goal is to educate, inform and spread awareness to students, faculty members, and the community about the global issue involving human trafficking.

Toohey originally plugged in to Release during her freshmen year to pursue an interest in human justice that sparked in her earlier high school years. During the summer before her sophomore year, she attended a NorthStar conference in Atlanta, GA., with Release members, which she says lit the fire in her to find new ways of raising awareness and financial support against human trafficking.

With newfound passion, Toohey later became vice president as a sophomore before assuming co-presidency of Release in her junior year. Her responsibilities entail running meetings, organizing leadership for social media, communicating with outside sources, and planning events with club members and other groups on campus, among other tasks.

“Coming to Gardner-Webb gave me the tangible means to do something with the information I had,” Toohey said. “Release was the perfect outlet for my interest in human justice.”

Though her original plans to play soccer were ultimately thwarted, Toohey has made service her sport. True to form, she now also serves the Gardner-Webb soccer team as a manager, assisting in the needs of players and their equipment.

“It’s great when people get involved, and I think a lot of students are willing to,” she said. “We never have too many hands. The community wants you to be involved—they want to invite you into their homes, to be a part of their lives and to invest in Boiling Springs. It makes you feel like a better person when you help other people.”

Student Organizations


"I felt like I was part of something big, like I was a piece in a very important puzzle. So many generations have been involved in marches, like the Civil Rights movement. Now it was my generation’s turn, and I felt proud to see 11,000 other young people who cared enough to participate." Stephen Maynard ('14) (More)

Trips to Washington D.C. Inspire and Motivate Gardner-Webb Students

Opportunities Abound at GWU for “Outside the Classroom” Learning

The belief that “education is a staging ground for action” is conveyed in many ways at Gardner-Webb University. Most recently, the concept became more than just a theory discussed within the walls of a classroom as dozens of students participated in two separate trips to the nation’s capitol within a span of less than two months.

One visit was academically driven, while the other helped advance a social issue important to many GWU students. In January, six students from the political science and communication studies departments attended a 10-day Washington D.C. seminar that centered on the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama. Last fall, around 20 students participated in the Invisible Children “MOVE:DC” March, held in November. Each of the students who took time to travel to the nation’s capitol took away an important lesson about the impact of their voice in the national political scene.

The MOVE:DC March was coordinated in response to a year-long international public awareness campaign to bring to light atrocities being committed in Africa by Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Kony is believed to be abducting children and infiltrating them into his army, forcing them to attack other innocent African communities. The Invisible Children organization is working to bring a responsible and permanent end to the LRA, and the MOVE:DC event was the final chapter in the KONY 2012 campaign. Their singular aim was to convince U.S. leaders to move for justice. According to Invisible Children, participants at MOVE:DC stood with human rights activists and leaders from LRA-affected communities in central Africa and called for international leadership to arrest Joseph Kony and his top commanders. Marchers also lobbied for the passage of legislation which would help fund and prioritize efforts to restore African communities devastated by LRA violence.

“I felt like I was a part of something big, like I was a piece in a very important puzzle,” said Stephen Maynard, a junior sociology and criminal justice major who attended the MOVE:DC event. “So many generations have been involved in different marches, like our parents and the Civil Rights movement. Now it was my generation’s turn and I felt really proud to see 11,000 other young people who cared enough to participate.”

GWU Community Engagement Coordinator Stephanie Capps helped organize and sponsor the trip for interested students. The Invisible Children/KONY 2012 campaign is one that is close to the hearts of many folks at Gardner-Webb and within just a few days, around 20 students had signed up to participate in the march. They gathered at Tucker Student Center on Friday afternoon and were on their way. They slept on floors at host sites and endured less-than-comfortable conditions throughout much of their trip.

“We drove until 2 a.m. Saturday morning, slept a couple of hours on the floor of a Jewish synagogue, caught the Metro to D.C., and didn’t stop moving until 11 p.m. Saturday night,” said Abby Simmons, a freshman American Sign Language major. “In the end, I had to remind myself that the trip was not about me. I could put up with discomfort and exhaustion if it meant changing the lives of others.”

For each of the participants, being part of a huge, politically-charged event helped them experience new levels of unity. “The number of people who were there and the amount of fellowship and camaraderie was amazing,” said sophomore Christy Apisa, a psychology/sociology major. “We were there for a common goal and we were unified.”

Junior Katie Spiro spent her summer in an internship in Washington, and was excited to return to D.C. for the march. “As an individual, I know I have the power to ask questions and discover answers,” Spiro reflected. “As a citizen, I have a responsibility for my fellow countrymen; and as a human being, I should not ignore my instinct and desire to protect fellow human beings from destruction.”

While many events like this don’t yield immediate results, the GWU students were thrilled to learn that just weeks after the march, Congress passed the “Rewards for Justice” expansion bill, the exact legislation for which they had lobbied. “Never underestimate the power of the internet and social media,” Simmons shared. “The KONY 2012 movement started with a You Tube video and it mushroomed into a worldwide fight to end the reign of Joseph Kony. It is incredible to realize that when people are inspired, they truly can inspire a positive change in the world.”

Kate Bumgarner is a freshman nursing major and admitted that initially she wasn’t so sure whether the march would result in any significant changes. “I can be very negative about seeing actual changes in laws and rights, so to see such a positive result happen during this whole ordeal was amazing,” she said. “We helped get a bill passed which creates more support towards ending this war. At the end of the day, I will forget many of the things I had to memorize from a textbook, but I will never forget marching for human rights.”

An academic conference designed to allow students an opportunity to witness history in the making was hosted and organized by The Washington Center Jan. 12-21, and focused on a wide range of speeches, learning sessions, tours, and educational opportunities leading up to the re-inauguration of President Barack Obama. Six Gardner-Webb political science and communication studies majors were given a chance to apply to participate in the historic events, along with hundreds of students from over 117 other colleges and universities. Gardner-Webb Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Ben Gaskins served as a facilitator and small group leader.

According to The Washington Center, through site visits, tours, and special events, faculty and students from colleges across the country were able to witness history and democracy in action, better understand the media’s impact on presidential campaigns, build a professional network and explore potential career paths, and interact with nationally and internationally recognized leaders in politics and media.

Senior Tyler Sain, a double major in history and political science, believes the “outside the classroom” learning experiences at Gardner-Webb have greatly enriched his overall understanding of a wide range of concepts and principles. “These types of unconventional learning opportunities are so important in receiving a complete educational experience,” Sain shared. “Anyone can sit in a room and read and talk about something, but it is totally different to be able to engage and react to a subject in a personal way. For instance, we discussed Political Action Committees (PACs) frequently in class, however on this trip, we actually met leaders of PACs and were able to discuss issues in a small group setting with them. That is irreplaceable.”

Senior Jessica Hibbard also believes the non-traditional learning opportunities should be seized whenever possible. “When you get a chance to try something new, be a part of history, or travel the world, you should definitely go,” Hibbard shared. “College is a time for exploring the world we live in. When opportunities arise, take them because you just don’t know if something like that will ever pass your way again.”

Another component of the trip that participants say was of critical importance was finding their political voice. Nicholas Berryhill is a junior political science major, and felt compelled to go to D.C. because he had worked on campaigns during the 2012 election and believed it would be a great way to complete his election season involvement. “I know it is important to get engaged in politics at a young age, because you learn how to cooperate and work with diverse people with different beliefs,” Berryhill reflected. “Our increased civic engagement has the potential to uplift our communities. Although it is frustrating, we should not focus on the gridlock and partisanship. That makes the average person lose confidence in our governing institutions.”

U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC) agrees with Berryhill and encourages student involvement in matters of political significance. “I hope students realize how important it is to pay attention to current events and to get involved in the process,” McHenry said. “Their lives will be significantly affected by decisions made by folks in Raleigh and Washington, but it’s up to them to influence those decisions.”

Participation in these events does not represent an affirmation of any partisanship on the part of the University. In order to protect the academic and intellectual freedom of our students, faculty and staff alike, Gardner-Webb does not privilege or endorse any particular political perspective, candidate or party.

Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University provides exceptional educational opportunities within a Christian environment, preparing students to think critically, to succeed professionally, and to serve faithfully as members of their local and global communities.