Education, ministry meld at university’s Greenville location
It’s part education, part ministry for Terry Blackwell, regional director of the Greenville, S.C., location of Southern Wesleyan University.
“Our job is a ministry where we can help students achieve educational goals and model Christianity to our students,” Blackwell said. “We are service-oriented. We look mainly at how we can serve and minister to each student who applies to the university. We try to keep God-focused and look for what’s best for each applicant.”
Blackwell has held the regional director position for the past year, and is pleased to combine his passion for education with Southern Wesleyan University’s Christian perspective.
“I love education. I love the opportunity for any age group to be able to learn. And the Christian perspective really attracted me,” he said.
The Greenville location of Southern Wesleyan University serves adult students, offering the following degrees: Bachelor of Science in Business Management, Bachelor of Science in Human Services, Master of Business Administration, Master of Education and Master of Science in Management.
Students attend accelerated classes that are designed to fit into the lives of busy working adults.
“Our adult students are special because they’re juggling work, family and all their outside responsibilities along with their education,” Blackwell said. “Our classes meet one night a week and we set a schedule for them way in advance so they can plan their schedules. We help them with the paperwork to apply. We take our students by the hand and walk them through the process.”
Blackwell earned his bachelor’s degree in history at Limestone College and his master’s degree in education from Converse College. He has held a variety of teaching and administrative roles during his 38-year career. Blackwell tried retirement for six months and, after redesigning his yard, installing a swimming pool and revamping his landscaping, he was ready to head back to work.
“As long as I’m able to contribute, I want to work,” Blackwell said. “I love working with people and seeing the lightbulb go off for students as they achieve.”
As adult students, many have been away from the classroom setting for a number of years and are nervous about their ability to succeed, Blackwell said.
“I love seeing students who have been out of school for years come back and make that leap of faith – it’s a traumatic experience for some who have been out of school for years. I love the look on their face as they find success,” Blackwell said. “We are proud to see their accomplishments and to celebrate that they can do it. God helps those who help themselves and we want them to do well.”
Southern Wesleyan’s classes are taught by professors who have workplace experience in their fields. Although the coursework isn’t easy, professors are eager to help students achieve, Blackwell said.
“The coursework is very rigorous. It’s not easy. It does require a lot of work. When students go through our program, they’ve not only passed all the courses, they have learned a lot. I think that’s why we see those smiles and satisfaction from those who achieve,” Blackwell said. “But our format is designed for the working adult. They can get a quality education in a Christian atmosphere. It’s very doable.”
Southern Wesleyan University is more than 100 years old and headquartered in Central, S.C. The university has offered classes at the Greenville location for the past 24 years. Southern Wesleyan is different from other colleges and universities that offer education for adults, often with an online format.
“There are a lot of storefront institutions, where you can pay your money and get a degree,” Blackwell said. “I think we offer a quality education that allows students to implement what they learn here in their workplaces. Our face-to-face instructors have experience in the workplace. That makes us different from our competitors.”
With current economic difficulties, now is a great time for people to add to their education and give themselves an edge in the job market.
“With the economy the way it is, people need a degree or a higher degree to advance in the workplace,” Blackwell said. “What we’re seeing is applicants who see the need for that bachelor’s or master’s degree. It makes them more employable. Teachers who obtain a master’s in education will get a pay raise and it makes them more employable as well.”
Southern Wesleyan’s Greenville location is close to interstates 85 and 385. The university is at 84 Villa Road, off Pelham Road, near Haywood Road. It is easy to spot from Interstate 385.
“We’re centrally located in Greenville County. We’re easy to get to, logistically, and we’ve been in the same location for a number of years,” Blackwell said.
In addition to education and his faith, Blackwell also has a passion for water skiing and horseback riding. A few years back, Blackwell was a competitive water skier, who could ski barefoot and even ski on a boat paddle. Also, Blackwell’s family raised Tennessee Walking Horses, which led him to a job breaking horses during his high school and college years.
Today, Blackwell and his wife, Pattie, have four grandsons and a new granddaughter. The Blackwells attend Lyman United Methodist Church.
“I enjoy being with family,” Blackwell said. “My wife is my best friend.”
And Blackwell also enjoys a family atmosphere at Southern Wesleyan University.
“Southern Wesleyan University is a rewarding place to work,” Blackwell said. “I don’t feel like I’m coming to work. We do a devotion here most mornings – it starts our day on the right track. We’re like a family here at the Greenville location.”
Southern Wesleyan University offers classes across South Carolina at the main location in Central, S.C., as well as in Greenville, Columbia, Charleston, North Augusta, Spartanburg and Greenwood. For details, go to swu.edu.