Averett University recently welcomed its largest freshmen class on record this August. The 371 new students come from 16 states and 15 foreign countries. “We are so excited about this incoming class,” says Stacy Gato, Vice President of Enrollment Management. “This is such a diverse group of young people, with many from new regions that we don’t typically see due to the strategic pipelines we’ve created that are attractive to students outside of our usual recruitment areas.”

These traditional students are only a part of the population Averett serves. The institution includes students of all ages, offering more than 30 undergraduate majors, minors and special programs, along with three graduate programs with a number of concentrations Majors range from biomed, to teacher preparation to theatre. And the variety doesn’t stop with the students; the alumni base is just as dynamic. Dan Hayes, Director of Alumni and Friend Development says, “Averett has an alumni network of 25,000 including all 50 states and 52 foreign countries. An Averett degree can take you anywhere.”

Averett is known for its elite equestrian program. The equestrian department offers a major in equestrian studies with a choice of five concentrations from which to specialize. Ginger Henderson, assistant professor and chair of the Averett Equestrian Studies Department says, “All students receive a strong core education in equine health, management, riding skill, and theory, as well as teaching. Students may choose to specialize in equine science, equine management, equine-assisted psychotherapy, or one of two teaching concentrations. As part of their requirements, all majors complete a 10-week internship in their field. Students have worked with many top-ranked equestrians in the country, acclaimed equine sports medicine hospitals, therapy programs, equine publications, and large equine retail companies.”

In addition to academics, the equestrian department hosts several intercollegiate riding teams. Averett is home to the 2017 Intercollege Dressage Association national championship team. In addition, Averett was the 2016 Reserve National Champion (national runner-up), and has been recognized as one of the top programs in the country since 2005. “I could not be more thrilled with our recent national championship title. This win speaks volumes about the quality, dedication, and mindset of the entire equestrian studies student body, faculty, and staff. We are so proud to bring this championship home to Averett,” Henderson says.

The equestrian department participates in several events and programs to give back to the community. “For three years, the department has partnered with a local rescue to help re-train thoroughbred horses when their usefulness on the racetrack is over, and help prepare them for new careers as show and pleasure mounts,” Henderson says. Equestrian students conduct a “spring break” camp for local children to learn more about horses. “The department has partnered with local organizations to host the VA/NC Horse Festival to help showcase the horse and provide education and entertainment to novice and experienced horsemen in the area,” Henderson adds.

Aviation is another distinguished, nationally recognized, popular program at Averett. “We had almost 30 incoming freshmen this fall, putting us close to 100 flight students,” says Chief Flight Instructor, Travis Williams. “Here we are a few years later and the program has more than doubled in size,” Williams says. In addition to a strong, national reputation for preparing exceptional pilots, he attributes the growth to partnerships with two regional airlines that give students the opportunity to interview with the airline before they graduate and receive tuition reimbursement while finishing their flight-time requirements and flight instructing for Averett. “Both airlines, PSA and Piedmont, are wholly owned by American Airlines, and they fly mainly in the Northeast and Southeast. These areas are where most of our students are from, and they typically want to stay in these areas, so it’s a good fit,” Williams adds. Averett also has a partnership with Piper Aircraft which affords the university access to some of the best trainer aircraft in the industry. Finally, Williams is proud that the program is meeting the need of a national pilot shortage, “which will most likely continue for the next 15 to 20 years.” Franks notes that one of the attributes she most loves to hear about this unique program is when first-year aviation students express how excited they are to already be flying within their first semester at Averett—something unheard of in most other aeronautics programs.

Averett Athletics continues to grow as well by bringing an array of collegiate level sports to Danville. Averett football is becoming the “thing to do” on Saturday afternoons. Director of Athletics, Meg Stevens says, “Five years ago, we were averaging an attendance of 500 at football games, last year we averaged 1,500.” Averett hosted 130 home athletic events last year. “At Averett, it’s a low-cost atmosphere with a great game-day experience,” Stevens adds. Football is the only sport at Averett where tickets aren’t free. “Everything but five home football games are free. We have great things going on,” Stevens says. Complete schedules for all sporting events can be found on www.averettcougars.com.

This year, Averett begins competing in three new NCAA sports—men’s wrestling, men’s lacrosse and women’s lacrosse. Men’s wrestling is coached by Tommy Owen, who before becoming head coach at Averett, spent two seasons as the head assistant coach at Division I Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he coached NCAA national qualifiers and two conference champions in each of the past two years. His teams also were successful in the classroom, earning a top-14 Division I National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Academic Team ranking both years. Men’s Lacrosse is coached by Tony Macken. He came to Averett from Tusculum College, a Division II school in Greeneville, Tennessee, where he was the associate head coach for three seasons and helped start the men’s lacrosse program during the 2013-14 school year. Over his final two seasons with the Pioneers, Mackin was the defensive coordinator after serving as the offensive coordinator in 2014. In June 2016, Averett named Kelly Ryan head coach of women’s lacrosse. Ryan came to Averett after serving as an assistant coach at Division II University of Tampa from 2014-16. Prior to that, she was an assistant for one season at Southwestern University, where she helped establish the university’s women’s lacrosse program from 2013-14, and also coached two seasons as a graduate assistant at Frostburg State University from 2011-2013.

In the summer of 2017, Volleyball Head Coach and Associate Director of Athletics, Danny Miller was inducted into USA South’s Hall of Fame. Miller has been a part of Averett Athletics, serving as coach in two sports, for 22 years. Miller has been head volleyball coach for his entire time at Averett. He’s spent seven years serving as the head coach for women’s tennis. Miller has a .674 winning percentage in women’s volleyball ranking him in the top-25 of active Division III coaches.

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Paul Seiple
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