Photojournalism Student Almost let Distance Keep her from Attending GWU

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Elizabeth Banfield (’16) Changed her Mind with One Visit to Campus

Gardner-Webb University is more than 1,100 miles from Elizabeth Banfield’s home in Mankato, Minn. Before visiting here, she didn’t think any place could entice her to pack up and leave family and friends.

“I have an aunt and uncle who live in Forest City, N.C., and they mentioned to me there was a Christian university close to them,” she recalled. “I didn’t take this seriously at first, since I didn’t have any intention of moving that far away from home. However, I began looking at the Gardner-Webb website and discovered the University had a photojournalism degree, which is hard to find in a small private school, and I really saw a lot of things that I was looking for as far as size, community, and opportunities.”

She applied for the University Fellows Scholarship and was given an interview. In one visit to campus, she was ready to face her fears about leaving home.

“While here, I met a lot of great people and really loved everything I saw,” she shared. “While I did not end up being a University Fellows winner, I really felt as though God was leading me toward Gardner-Webb and this was the place I needed to be.”

Set to graduate in 2016 with a degree in photojournalism and minor in graphic design, Banfield has learned firsthand about her career as a member of the photo team for the online student newspaper, GWU-Today. Her classes in the Department of Communication and New Media also provide hands-on experience through real-life circumstances.

Participating in the University’s Honors Program gives her additional chances for academic and personal growth. The program gave her a chance to travel nationally and internationally, and she also appreciates the insight of Dr. Tom Jones, Honors Program Associate Dean.

“Dr. Jones is a natural teacher, who thoughtfully answers any question to the best of his ability and is always sharing his knowledge freely,” Banfield assessed. “I absolutely love the honors program and would wholeheartedly try to convince anyone to join, because it has really helped me become a more well-rounded individual. I have made some of my best friendships through the program and have gotten to do more with them than any other group on campus.”

She was also elected to serve as publicist for the group’s executive committee. “I am the first publicist they have had, and I developed a monthly newsletter,” she shared. “This was a proud moment for me, because I got to see an idea from start to finish and really create this position, and specifically the newsletter, from scratch.”

Her academic adviser, Dr. Bob Carey, chair of the Department of Communication and New Media and photojournalism coordinator, has helped her to improve her photography skills. He has taught several of her classes and also served as the advisor for her honors thesis.

“He has spent the time to get to know me. He has taken note of my strengths and helped me work on my weaknesses,” she reflected. “He is always willing to field my questions, and if I need more equipment, he is more than generous in checking it out to me or helping me be as prepared as possible.”

Choosing to travel over 17 hours from home to attend GWU turned out to be the right move for her.

“This decision came with a lot of nervousness about leaving home, but I have loved my experience here,” Banfield declared. “And I am so glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone and move across the country.”