Gardner–Webb University (Gardner–Webb, GWU, or GW) is a private, four-year Christian university in Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Founded as Boiling Springs High School in 1905 as a Baptist institution, it is currently the youngest North Carolina Baptist university.
Over 4,500 students attend Gardner–Webb, including both undergraduates and graduates. A total of five professional schools, two academic schools, and 11 academic departments offer nearly 60 fields of study, and GWU's online programs have won multiple awards and recognitions. GWU's Runnin' Bulldogs compete in NCAA Division I as a member of the Big South Conference.
On December 2, 1905, the Boiling Springs High School was chartered as a result of an initiative sponsored by the Kings Mountain Baptist Association (Cleveland County) and the Sandy Run Baptist Association (Rutherford County). The institution served as a place "where the young...could have the best possible educational advantages under distinctive Christian influence." In May 1905 Boiling Springs Baptist Church voted to offer its old church house, five acres of land, and $2,700 to the institution, and on July 10, 1905 Boiling Springs was officially chosen for the site of the school. The location of the High School was essential, as it was located near the border of the school's sponsors, Kings Mountain and Sandy Run, and had easy access to brick building materials. The institution's name, Boiling Springs High School, was decided on October 27, 1905, and its charter was accepted less than two months later by the school's trustees. The town of Boiling Springs is named after the natural springs that can be found on campus. They provided clean water for the school when it began operation in 1907.
J.D. Huggins was made the High School's first principal on July 25, 1907. The complete faculty, which consisted of only five teachers, including Huggins, was hired by the fall of 1907. Classes started in October of the same year, although the main building, the Huggins-Curtis Building, was not complete. Students lived in various homes in the community and used classrooms from the nearby elementary school until the building's completion in 1908. The building included classrooms, auditoriums, a chapel, library, principal's office, cafeteria, living quarters, literary societies, a music room, and parlors. Although it burned down in 1957, it signified the promise and progress of the school so far.
Boiling Springs High School focused on Christian education, as evident in the school's motto, Pro Deo et Humanitate (for God and Humanity). These words were inscribed upon "the ageless granite arch" on campus, which still exists today. Original tuition was $76.05 for a term of nine months, and although the school attracted a wide variety of students with varied interests, its focus centered around ministerial education.
The high school became Boiling Springs Junior College in 1928 due to the changing educational needs of the area. The Great Depression created many obstacles for the College, but its survival was secured by the sacrifices of loyal supporters. The college began with seven departments: English, mathematics, natural science, foreign language, social science, Bible, and education. The first graduating class consisted of roughly 200 students, with one of the earliest graduates being W. J. Cash, author of The Mind of the South.
In 1942, Governor O. Max Gardner began devoting his energy, time, and wealth to strengthening the College. On June 15, the trustees voted to change the name to Gardner–Webb Junior College in honor of Gardner and his wife, Fay Webb-Gardner. During the following year, the institution embarked on a $300,000 financial campaign. At the conclusion of this initiative the trustees announced the school to be debt-free.
The decades following World War II were years of physical growth and academic development. New buildings went up as enrollments increased. A major step in the institutions' development was its full accreditation as a senior college in December, 1971. In 1980 the college began a graduate program, which became the Graduate School in the 1990s. The School of Divinity was also founded during this time. The institution officially became known as Gardner–Webb University in January 1993, culminating years of preparation, and by the early 2000s the school had more than 3,200 students and 135 faculty members.
Today, Gardner–Webb offers eight distinct degree programs and a campus of over 200 acres. The campus has recently grown with the addition of the Tucker Student Center, a building made possible by a $5 million donation by Robert and Carolyn Tucker, owners of Shoe Show, Inc. in Kannapolis, N.C. In May 2012, the Department of Health and Science announced a plan to launch a physician assistant program beginning January 2014.
The main campus is situated on 225 acres at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are additional satellite campuses located throughout North Carolina, including in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Statesville, and Hickory.
There are over 4,300 students enrolled at Gardner–Webb, including the day program, graduate studies, and the DCP(Degree Completion Program) designed for adult learners seeking to finish their degree. Out of these students, 63% are female and 37% are male, and in all come from a total of 21 foreign countries. There are five professional schools, two academic schools, and 11 academic departments that offer nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate major fields of study. Approximately 33% of students major in business, 30% in social sciences, and 17% in nursing.
Degrees offered include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Master of Arts in Education, Master of Divinity, Master of Business Administration, Master of Accountancy, International Master of Business Administration, Master of Arts in Counseling, Master of Science in Nursing, Education Specialist, Doctor of Ministry, and Doctor of Education. The University as a part of the expanded College of Health Sciences launched Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner programs.
There are 147 full-time faculty members, 79% of them with a Ph.D. or equivalent. The average class size is about 25 and the faculty to student ration is 1:15, although classes may contain anywhere between 4 and 30 students.
The Greater Opportunities for Adult Learners program offers students opportunities to continue their studies in order to obtain a baccalaureate degree. To be a part of the program, students must have completed 60-64 semester hours from a regionally accredited institution. Courses take place on weekday evenings and occasionally on weekends in sixteen centers reaching across North Carolina, from Supply to Spruce Pine, with the most prominent being on Gardner–Webb's main campus, Charlotte, Hickory, Statesville, and Winston-Salem.
The Noel Program for Students with Disabilities is designed to assist disabled students with obtaining their degrees. The program offers services for those who are blind, deaf, or learning disabled, and "seeks to provide reasonable accommodations in order for students to receive equal access to a higher education while striving to assist students to obtain the knowledge, skills and confidence to become effective self advocates." Services offered include note-takers, interpreters, lab assistants, mobility training, and adaptive technology.
In the 2015 college rankings of U.S. News & World Report, Gardner–Webb was ranked 34th (out of more than 130 schools) among regional universities in the South. The University also placed in the top tier of graduate schools in the country in the fields of Education and Nursinglocation=390th. In the Top Online Programs Rankings, Gardner–Webb's Business Programs ranked first in Student Services and Technology out of 161 colleges and universities across the nation. Also under the Top Online Programs Rankings, the University placed 15th in Faculty Credentials and Training and 27th in Student Engagement and Accreditation. In 2011, "The Chronicle of Higher Education" placed Gardner–Webb as one of America's best colleges to work for, one of only four colleges in North Carolina and 111 nationwide to earn the recognition. On a global scale, the University's Online MBA Program was ninth for the year of 2012, according to Business MBA's list of the "Top 50 MBA Programs for 2012."  For exhibiting what it calls "institutionalized community engagement," the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected Gardner–Webb for the Community Engagement Classification, one of only 311 schools to have earned the distinction since the Classification's inception in 2006. GWU's core curriculum also ranks in the nation's top two percent for quality and breadth, according to the 2011–2012 What Will They Learn? study by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The study rated schools on an "A" through "F" scale, where Gardner–Webb was among only 19 schools, and the only school in the Carolinas, to earn an "A."
Gardner–Webb offers its students a variety of competitive, performance based, and other scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition and fees. The Presidential Fellows scholarship is the most prestigious, given only to five recipients, and covers full tuition, room, and board, amounting to $32,190 for the 2012–2012 academic year. Recipients must maintain a 3.5 GPA and show outstanding character and leadership. Academic Fellows and University Fellows scholarships also require a minimum 3.5 GPA, and cover $24,250 and $19,400 of tuition, respectively. Five students receive the Academic Fellows Scholarship each year, while two receive the University Fellows Scholarship.
The University offers other scholarships as well, such as the Provost Scholarship, Dean's Scholarship, Achievement Scholarship, Gardner–Webb Scholarship, and Great Choice Scholarships. These students must keep a minimum GPA of 2.8.
Gardner–Webb students are expected to follow a strict honor code, signing a pledge upon enrollment to "uphold honesty, integrity, and truthfulness in all realms of University life." These forms are kept in the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Student Development and clearly state that academic lying and cheating will not be tolerated.
Student and faculty responsibilities are clearly outlined in the code, showing that students are fully responsible for their own works and that plagiarism, improper citations, and other forms of unoriginal work are subject to disciplinary actions. Faculty are held responsible for explaining all assignments as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and must be willing to investigate and, if circumstances warrant, press charges against students suspected of academic dishonesty.
If a student is suspected to have committed academic dishonesty, he or she must undergo a process of warnings, reports, conferences, and Judicial Board hearings based on the severity of the action. While the Board decides the institutional punishment (academic probation, suspension, etc.), the instructor of the student's course will determine the student's grade in the course.
Any student found responsible for a third offense of academic dishonesty will be expelled from the University with the action so noted on the student's transcript.
Gardner–Webb is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award Associate, Baccalaureate, Master's degrees and Doctorates.
In addition several departmental programs are accredited by the appropriate state or national agencies. The Education program is accredited by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The Music and Nursing programs are accredited respectively by the National Association of Schools of Music and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission. The School of Divinity is accredited by the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada. The Athletic Training Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The School of Business is accredited by the Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). The University is authorized by the immigration authorities of the United States for the training of foreign students.
Gardner–Webb gives its students a variety of residential opportunities on campus, with nine residence halls, three suite style buildings, and seven apartment buildings. All undergraduate students are required to live on campus unless they live with family, are at least 21 years of age prior to an academic year, have lived in a residence hall for at least six semesters, are part-time students (taking less than 12 hours), are married, or have served in 120 days of active military service.
The residence halls are separated by sex, with girls living in Decker, Spangler, Myers, H.A.P.Y., Nanney, and Stroup. Boys live in Lutz-Yelton, Mauney, and Royster. Currently, the student body is 63% female and 37% male. The dormitories are equipped with free washing machines and dryers, community bathrooms, and residence lobbies equipped for lounging and studying.
Apartments A, B, C, D, E, F, and H, also known as University Commons, are located near the Lake Hollifield Complex. One building contains 12 apartments, each one with a furnished living area, four furnished single bedrooms, a (free) laundry room, two bathrooms, and a fully equipped kitchen area with an oven, stove, microwave, refrigerator, sink, and dishwasher. Although the building is co-ed, each apartment is not.
Suites G, I, and J are located in the same area as the apartments, and are similar to them except that they house eight students per unit instead of four. Each suite contains four bedrooms big enough for two students, two bathrooms, a furnished living room, and a half kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, and sink.
Gardner–Webb offers its students opportunities to become involved in a number of activities and organizations around campus. Students work with the Student Leadership and Activities Office to start new organizations.
A wide variety of organizations are available, including honors societies, clubs, political groups, performance groups, sports groups, religious organizations and services, and arts and culture groups. Each department has its own honors society, ranging from Beta Beta Beta to Sigma Tau Delta. Alpha Chi is the most prestigious honors society that the school offers, requiring its members to be in the top ten percent of their junior or senior classes. Religious organizations like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes are open to all students and focus on Christian fellowship. The school also has an official College Republican chapter.
Gardner–Webb also boast a successful Student Government Association (SGA), which is made up of an 18-member senate and 5 member executive council. The SGA represents the needs and issues of the students to the University administration and acts as a voice for the students. Members of the SGA also serve on faculty committees and often work hand in hand with University staff. The SGA is also responsible for orchestrating many University events including Homecoming.
Gardner–Webb offers multiple recreational activities designed to "enrich the quality of physical, mental, spiritual, and social life of University community members."  Fitness classes, like zumba, aerobics, yoga, and dance, are available, as well as individual training sessions offered through the Suttle Wellness Center. The Broyhill Adventure Course, located next to University Commons and Spangler Stadium, offers students a unique outdoor adventure challenge and opportunities to experience climbing and problem solving. The Tucker Student Center also has a three-story tall climbing wall.
The intramural program offers a variety of individual and team sports during both semesters to accommodate student interests and abilities. Any current student, faculty, or staff member may participate. Sports include beach volleyball, kickball, indoor soccer, disc golf, softball, and basketball, among others. Teams can play under male, female, or coed leagues.
The Life of the Scholar Multidisciplinary Conference (LOTS-MC) is an academic conference founded in 1997 that is held on campus every year for undergraduate and graduate students to present their work. This conference is divided up into academic fields such as Religion & Philosophy, Natural Sciences, and English Language & Literature to name a few. The field of students is often large and the event last all day. At the end of the program, students are awarded prizes for the best presentation in each specialty and the overall best presentation award is handed out at the end-of-year academic awards ceremony. The 20th Anniversary LOTS-MC was held in 2017 and honored the founders of the conference Dr. Les and Joyce Brown.
Gardner–Webb offers 17 varsity sports at the NCAA Division I level, including football, basketball, soccer, wrestling, swimming, track and field, cross country, softball, tennis, volleyball, and golf. Nine of these are men's and eight are women's.
The athletic teams are known as the Runnin' Bulldogs and support the school colors of scarlet, black and white. The bulldogs are part of the Big South Conference, although the men's and women's swim teams belong to the Coastal Collegiate Swim Association, and the wrestling team belongs to the Southern Conference.
As a Baptist founded university, Gardner–Webb offers and exhibits many Christian aspects. The Office of Christian Life and Service encourages and challenges the University community in its Christian growth, offering pastoral care to students, faculty, administration and staff. It provides vocational counseling and referral service to students interested in church related vocations as well, and coordinates the planning of worship services held for the University and community, like the Dimensions program. The Office hopes that "through ministry organizations, students are encouraged and challenged in personal discipleship, corporate worship, and life-changing ministry and mission experiences." 
Dimensions is a graduation requirement for all Gardner–Webb students. The purpose is to nurture attendants spiritually, intellectually and culturally from the perspective of a Christian world view and to promote a sense of community. The program is offered every Tuesday during both the Fall and Spring semesters and counts as 1/2 credit hour. A new speaker addresses the University every week, ranging from staff and faculty to artists and political speakers, all of whom address subjects that relate to the school's core Christian beliefs. Students must attend 10 sessions each semester for four semesters to obtain all of the Dimensions credits needed to graduate, having a total of 2 credit hours in the course by the end of their academic careers. Credit is given on a pass/fail basis. This means that a total of four semesters, or 40 dimensions, must be attended before graduation.
Campus Ministries United is an umbrella association that has worked with Gardner–Webb to create student run ministry groups. Each CMU Council is composed of student leaders who well represent the ideas of Christian Life and Service. Along with the University's ministerial staff, the Council seeks to "promote a passionate and enduring devotion to Christ among students of Gardner–Webb."  Student Ministries supports student-led worship services like The Verge, which welcomes all students to worship with others through music, speakers, drama, and fellowship. F.O.C.U.S. Ministries (Fellowship of Christians United in Service), is another program that consists of teams of students who are involved with leading youth retreats locally and regionally.
In February 2014, openly gay minister and Gardner–Webb alumnus Cody Sanders was invited to speak about his recent book "Queer Lessons for Churches on the Straight and Narrow: What All Christians can Learn from LGBTQ Lives" as a part of the Life of the Scholar speaker series. Sanders's invitation to Gardner–Webb received greater attention after a letter to the editor titled "Where are the wise at Gardner–Webb?" was published in The Biblical Recorder, the bi-weekly newspaper of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina (BSCNC). This prompted Gardner–Webb University President Frank Bonner to publish a response in the same paper.
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