With the COVID-19 crisis requiring residential classes to move online, Liberty University School of Law Professor Tory L. Lucas has utilized digital methods to host a number of virtual guests and, in his words, “showcase how Liberty Law is continuing to provide an exciting program of legal education even while being socially isolated.”
“I believe that we should provide as many testimonies to students as possible about what their futures could entail,” said Lucas. “So, during this challenging time, I am constantly connecting them with alumni, attorneys, judges, and even a U.S. Congressman to let them pick the brains of people who have walked their paths.”
Lucas also believes that a tremendous amount of pain and suffering has been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and, as the virus spreads, ignorance can spread as well.
“I believe our students have the same fears and questions that everyone does, so I thought a medical doctor could come into our virtual classroom and educate and inform students about the novel coronavirus — where it came from, how it spreads, how it impacts health, etc.,” Lucas said. “Then, armed with that information, I want to inspire the students that together we will get through this.”
Dr. Laura Potter, a local physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Liberty University College of Osteopathic Medicine, accepted Lucas’s invitation to speak in his classes after the two talked at a neighborhood prayer vigil.
Potter’s credibility as a member of the Liberty learning community and as a faith-based professional were important to Lucas. “Our students are really thirsting for the wise advice of Christian leaders,” he said. “And because Laura is an emergency room doctor, she is on the front lines of the COVID-19 virus’ impact on Lynchburg.”
On April 6 and 7, Potter spoke virtually in three classes with about 80 law students.
Potter told students about the importance of observing shelter-in-place recommendations by staying home, not only to protect themselves and their families but also health care providers who are working with the sick. She explained that the virus is isn’t always fatal, how it spreads, why it is important to wash hands and wear face masks, and how long it lives on surfaces. As a local doctor, she was able to help students understand the events taking place locally and the pandemic’s potential longer-term effects on the community.
Potter said that while the information on COVID-19 was not specific to law students, it was a privilege to have the opportunity to share knowledge and collaborate, especially in this time of restriction and isolation.
“It can be difficult to sort through all the information out there on what is happening with COVID-19 and much is changing on a daily basis,” she said. “The purpose of my presentations was to try to provide some clarity to that milieu as well as encouragement in our faith.”
First-year law student Lindsay Thomas was one of the 73 students in Lucas’ Property II class to participate in the session. “I was moved by Dr. Potter visiting our virtual classroom. For me, Dr. Potter gave me hope — hope that people will get better, hope that our medical staff will have the resources they need to successfully treat people, and hope that with the help of everyone in society, we can stop the spread,” Thomas said.
Alejandra Davis, also a first-year student, believes the act of learning spans farther than a classroom with consequences heavier than grades. “As I sit at home (instead of a classroom) alone at my apartment since my roommates have gone home, I am definitely aware of the changes COVID-19 has caused,” she said. “However, I am even more aware of the community I have through Liberty Law. This sense of community is cultivated, many times, through the faculty’s actions.”
But in this era of near constant change and adjustment, Lucas believes the core of Liberty’s message and vision has remained constant.
“Liberty has wholeheartedly engaged distance learning and because we care so deeply about connecting with our students, we were hyper intentional to deliver the quality of education during the pandemic that the students expected before COVID-19,” Lucas said. “There is no doubt that we have, through the ‘Spirit of Liberty’ as I call it, shown ourselves to be fully capable of delivering a high-quality education during a time like this.”