Earth Day was on Monday, but Longwood celebrated a little early with its annual BioBlitz, a full-on day of nature exploration held this year on Saturday, April 20.
That morning, about 60 Longwood students joined biology and environmental sciences faculty at Lancer Park, where Longwood’s Environmental Education Center—BioBlitz headquarters—is located. Suited up in BioBlitz T-shirts and hip waders, with binoculars, nets and clipboards at the ready, the students had no complaints about getting up early.
As it got closer to the 9 a.m. starting time, community members began to gather, excited to get going on a guided, down-and-dirty tour of local flora and fauna.
“If you aren’t afraid to get your hands dirty—and even if you are—BioBlitz is always fun for the whole family,” says Dr. Sujan Henkanaththegedara, a Longwood biology professor and one of the leaders of the event.
Before the day was over, the Longwood students and faculty had helped BioBlitz participants to identify and catalog about 240 plant and animal species. Turtles, crayfish, salamanders, insects, flowers and fungi are among “usual suspects” cataloged each year.
Back at the Environmental Education Center, “touch tables” gave the 100 adults and children in attendance the opportunity to get an up-close look at both live and preserved specimens of local wildlife. A scavenger hunt rounded out the day’s agenda.
BioBlitz is one of the many ways that Longwood students give of their time to enrich the Farmville community—and that’s what citizen leadership is all about.
College students officially became adults when they turned 18. But is there still a lot of kid in there?
Today’s campus egg hunt, masterminded by Longwood’s police department, left no doubt about the answer to that question.
Students crowded onto Brock Commons just before noon, soaking up the sun and waiting impatiently for the starting signal. More than 500 eggs were “hidden” in the grass, shrubs and flower beds, most of them filled with candy and a few with slips of paper noting a prize.
When it was “go” time, squeals and cheers rose up from the crowd as students scooped up eggs and cracked them open. One lucky student found the golden egg, which entitled her to a crisp $100 bill.
Another 500 or so eggs were given out to students by officers.
“I haven’t gone to an egg hunt since I was a kid,” said one student, her face lit up with anticipation and a smile.
“Yeah, it’s pretty cool,” agreed another.
LUPD Chief Bob Beach said the goal for the event was to build community between students and the police department.
“We heard the voice of the students that they want a closer relationship with LUPD. We have worked hard on that in the past, but we need to do more,” he said.
Previous similar events have included officers “feeding the meters” on High Street—where students often park—during exam week; and a take-a-selfie-with-a-cop contest with prizes.
When weather and staffing permit, officers head to Brock Commons in the afternoon to meet and talk to students, Beach added. Beach also regularly gathers with students for coffee and conversation.
For the egg hunt, candy-filled eggs were donated by Wal-Mart. Athletics, the Barnes & Noble Longwood Bookstore and others donated prizes. Seniors at the event could also register to win a full set of regalia for commencement and a diploma frame.
If you’ve ever visited the Longwood campus, you’ve likely strolled down Brock Commons, a central mall that replaced a busy city street that once bisected campus.
Hopefully your student has had or will have the opportunity to participate in one of Longwood’s Brock Experiences courses, which take students throughout the U.S. to grapple with issues of the day, such as water rights and immigration.
These transformative changes—and many others—are the work of philanthropists Joan Brock, a 1964 graduate of Longwood, and her late husband, Macon Brock.
But Joan Brock isn’t finished with transforming Longwood yet.
Yesterday the university announced she had made another gift—at $15 million, the largest in the university’s history—to help fund the construction of a campus events center. The facility, which will seat 2,500 to 3,000 people, will provide not only a place for Convocation, the Honor and Integrity Ceremony, concerts, speakers and other large events but also a new home for Longwood’s Division I men’s and women’s basketball teams.
In making the gift, Mrs. Brock said she wanted to continue repaying a debt to Longwood for its formative impact on her own life, and for introducing her to those who remain her closest friends.
The Joan Perry Brock Center could be complete as early as spring 2022, in time to cap off senior year for our current freshmen.
One of the best things about working at Longwood is having the opportunity to see the transformational power of the university at work.
My position in University Marketing and Communications doesn’t involve day-to-day—or even weekly—contact with students. So my view of that impact is usually from afar. This year, however, I was lucky enough to be able to see it up close through my work with a group of freshmen who agreed to blog about their first year at Longwood in a project we called My Life As A Freshman, or MLAF.
Not all of the students have stuck with the project, but a few have. It has been so much fun getting to know them, watching them grapple with the challenges of college and seeing them emerge—now almost at the end of their first year—on the other side. It’s been easier for some than others; and it’s been more transformational for some than others. But they all have learned and grown through the process.
One of the freshmen who has truly amazed and surprised me is Brooklynn Weissenfluh.
When the nine freshmen who’d signed up for MLAF got together at the beginning of fall 2018, Brooklynn seemed a little overpowered by some of the others in the group. They were laughing and talking, giving the appearance of being full of confidence. Brooklynn, a petite young woman with a shy smile, hung back a little, perhaps not quite ready to claim her space in the group.
As the fall semester went on, she seemed to hit her stride a bit. Her posts became more lively and assured as she talked about working with tutors in the Writing Center, making friends and going to activities on campus.
But this spring is when she really seemed to blossom.
She got the job as a resident assistant (RA) that she’d applied for in the fall, saying she wanted to “be a part of something bigger than myself and make a positive impact on the lives of Longwood students” and that she was looking forward to being a role model for the residents in her hall.
Then I heard that she’d been selected to serve on the Honor and Conduct Board next year and that she’d been elected an officer in an organization related to her major. She also had started going to activities hosted by the Catholic Campus Ministry, a joint group with nearby Hampden-Sydney College.
And she’s been volunteering all over, from Relay for Life to a Lions Club casino night at a local retirement community to a food pantry to a fundraiser hosted by a sorority that’s she’s not even a member of.
Was this really the same shy girl I’d met just a few months earlier?
Brooklynn is a perfect example of how students who embrace the Longwood community can find their place socially, academically and as leaders. And she’s not unique—there are so many other students on campus just like her. Longwood truly is a place where young people can find out what they’re capable of and who they are.
I sincerely hope your student is involved at Longwood. A little effort can have great rewards.