Dr. Richard Ferguson,
Professor of Physical Education

Phone: 434-791-5736
Office: Grant Ctr 111

“That dude is OLD,” says a 19-year-old Averett University student-athlete, “but he’s still running and still a champ. He’s awesome.”

Some might disagree with the “old” assessment, but everyone knows that Dr. Richard Ferguson is definitely an international running star. He writes articles for running journals, he studies the sport scientifically, and — most of all — he runs. And runs.  In his case, it’s not running the way most people think of it. Ferguson twice qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and is currently an international competitive Masters runner, recently winning titles in Finland, France, the United States. What’s more, the titles are not only in his age group. He’s still winning among all ages.

“You have to love what you do,” he says. And can he actually love the grinding, the relentless pounding on his legs, feet, hips? “There’s a good hurt and a bad hurt,” he admits. “There is a real sense of power and control on the good days.”  And what about the bad days? “On the bad days, it’s very difficult mentally and physically. You have to eat well, get a lot of rest. And hope for more good days than bad.

“So far … [he knocks wood for good luck].”  He’s taught at Averett since 1993, and he stays because, as he puts it, “The students stay the same age! They move on, but then their replacements are young. So I get to work with young people year after year, and I like that. I really enjoy them. To help young people prepare themselves for life after college — that’s a great job.”  He also emphasizes that Averett is not a research institution. “That’s one of the reasons I’m here. Research places sometimes do not value the teaching. At a large state university, you can have graduate students doing most of the teaching. At Averett, the professors teach, and there is a LOT of attention given to the students.”

He urges high school students to learn firsthand how Averett works: “Come visit us during the week; sit in our classes. Actually spend the day with us, then decide if this is the kind of environment you want.” He says: “I honestly believe they’ll see the interactions we have, the kinds of classes, the kind of campus … they’ll see that this is a place where THEY matter.”  Then he’s off. Running.


Doctor of Philosophy, Sport Psychology, The University of Virginia

Master of Education, Sport Psychology, The University of Virginia

Bachelor of Science, Physical Education, James Madison University


Melanie Lewis
Assistant Professor, Physical Education Wellness & Sport Science and Clinical Coordinator of the Athletic Training Education Program

Phone: 434-791-5091
Office: Grant Center 129

Professor Melanie Lewis was driving quite well when the police pulled her over. It was years back, when she still lived on the farm, and the officer was nice … but insistent.

Today she readily admits that she was in the wrong. Her dad had asked her to drive a truckload of hog feed someplace for him, and she was doing that — driving alone in the cab of the truck — when she was stopped. The problem? She was 10 years old.

“That’s just life on the farm,” she says with a laugh, “you do whatever needs doin’.”

Describing herself as “just a country girl,” she does so with an unmistakable twinkle in her eye. This is no ordinary woman; this is an unstoppable, high-achieving, high-energy, highly competitive and charismatic woman.

In high school she played basketball and softball. Until the injuries came. “As a sophomore I tore all the ligaments and tendons in my right ankle,” she says, “and it went from there. I rehabbed, played more of both sports, but then tore an ACL [anterior cruciate ligament]. In softball I was no longer able to catch for the team, so I was named DH. Then I decided that my brain was going to outlast my legs.

Fortunately, at that time she met an athletic trainer, and Lewis thought, “That’s what I want to do! That and teaching. Both, if possible.”

It is possible. She came to Averett as an athletic trainer, and she now has the best of both worlds — teaching physical education classes and acting as clinical coordinator of the athletic training program.

“I love the relationships at this university,” she says, adding: “I went to a Division I school and believe me, it is not that way there. Athletes exist in a separate world in DI, apart from the other students; here, they’re part of the Averett family.

And family has always been important to this “country girl.” She says that some of the very best times for her personally happen each spring: “When we get the phone call that our students passed their athletic training board certification exam — and on their first try! — they send me an email saying, ‘I PASSED ON THE FIRST TIME!!’ … and, well, that means the world to me.”

It should mean a lot — she has been invested in that success all along: “I know that we demand a lot from our students, but those who graduate really appreciate it. They say, ‘I’m so glad you prepped me the way you did; now I understand!’”


In process, Doctor of Philosophy, Sports Management, North Central University, Prescott, AZ

Master of Science, Sport Science, High Point University

Bachelor of Science, Athletic Training, Radford University


Kushubarv-2848Barbara Kushubar,
Associate Professor of Physical Education, Wellness, and Sport Science

Phone: 434-791-5687
Office: Grant Ctr 112

Some people are born athletes. Meet Professor Barbara Kushubar.

She realized that she was an athlete when she was in elementary school: “Oh, yes. Kickball. I wanted to play it the rest of my life. Everything about it was right for me — it fit my personality, my competitiveness, everything … I loved it all. LOVED it.”

Of course, nothing lasts forever, not even kickball. But growing up in Stamford, Connecticut, Kushubar spent her few non-kickball times doing other athletic things, such as swimming in the ocean and ice-skating in the winter. By the time she reached high school, she was killer at all sorts of sports — tennis, field hockey, basketball, track and field …

“Actually, I was warming up for my high school discus practice one day when a graduate who was then enrolled at Averett handed me the discus — while wearing an Averett T-shirt. A couple weeks later, recruiters from Averett showed up at my high school. Hmm.”

As she thought about it, she fell in love with the idea of going to college in the South. “I asked if this Averett place had tennis, field hockey, etc. Yes? Sign me up! Put me in, Coach!”

She had looked at big schools and realized that being just a number was not the way for her to attend college. “Also, I was going to major in sports, for sure, so I applied to Averett and was accepted before I had been there for a visit. I enrolled right away.”

Her success as an Averett student led her to a master’s degree from the United States Sports Academy … and eventually back to Averett as a coach and teacher — quite obviously her life’s calling.

“The biggest gratification for me is when I see a student graduate who four years earlier walked in the door with an ‘I can’t possibly do this’ look on her face. But then one day you see the change. She gets it. She can do it.”

Kushubar gives Averett credit for helping young people make the tough transition from high school to college. “This is a place where you have people help you take that big step,” she says. “You’ll learn time management; we’ll give you the tools to communicate, both orally and in writing. You will grow spiritually, as well, learning to give back to the community.”

There is, of course a catch: “You’re the one who has to do the work, both on the field and off. We will hold you accountable, and we’ll know you. You can’t hide.”

The payoff, she promises, is worth it. “We give you the tools to succeed here, and in your first job and then for all that comes after. We prepare you for life.”

Including kickball, if she has her way.


Master of Sports Science, Sports Medicine, the United States Sports Academy

Bachelor of Science, Health/Physical Education/Wellness, Averett University


liu-5Dr. Michelle Hsui-Chen Liu,
Assistant Professor of Physical Education
Phone: 434-791-5759
Office: Grant Ctr 104

The warm and charming scholar-professor Dr. Michelle Liu is also … scary. If you see her fast-pitch a softball, you probably will not have the courage to stand in front of her if a softball is within her reach.

Liu held the national fast-pitch softball championship title for all of Taiwan (the Republic of China), for seven consecutive years.  She was always athletic on a very competitive scale, even as a child.

She was a gymnast from the 3rd to the 6th grade, traveling to another city for competitions. Then she moved on to track and field – she was particularly good in the long jump – and softball.

She began her professional softball career when she was in junior high (Chinese rules are different from here in the States), and when she was 19 she was chosen to go to the Olympics. She selected a university path instead.  “I played all four years of my [undergraduate] college life,” she says, “both collegiate and professional ball. Playing softball is what enabled me to go to college. I not only played then, I also coached, both fast- and slow-pitch.”

One of the reasons she joined the faculty at Averett was the large number of student-athletes at the university. She knows what it’s like to be a student while playing competitively, and she is happy to share her hard-earned wisdom: “I tell the students that if you come here to play, you must get the education. If you fail in the classroom, you can’t play anymore. If you want a better life, you must do the work. And, even more important, if you want to teach, you must care.”

Her primary role is preparing students to be physical education teachers, and she takes the responsibility very seriously: “My job is to help them get a job, immediately after graduation. And they do! Public school superintendents know my students, and that helps them get jobs.

Within their four years here, I give students the experiences they need … and when they graduate, they are ready to teach.”  Liu says that she starts preparing them to teach the very first year they’re at Averett, with that year providing a chance to see if teaching is what they really want to do. The second year, they begin teaching … again, to help them see if it is their career of choice.  With Liu’s academic and athletic achievements, it’s hard to imagine a better role model.


Doctor of Philosophy, Sport Pedagogy, The University of Idaho

Master of Education, Human Performance/Health Promotion, The University of New Orleans

Bachelor of Arts, Physical Education, Fu-Jen Catholic University [Taiwan]