The corporate entity that is now Southern Virginia University has existed since 1867 and has gone through several transformations. Alice Scott Chandler established the Home School for Girls in Bowling Green, Virginia, in 1867. The school was later renamed the Bowling Green Female Seminary. Near the turn of the 20th century, Dr. Edgar H. Rowe relocated the school to its current location in Buena Vista, Virginia, and renamed the school Southern Seminary. In 1924, the school expanded to add a junior college program and its name was changed to Southern Seminary and Junior College. In 1996, declining enrollments and a deteriorating financial base led the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to revoke Southern Virginia College’s accreditation. The college’s trustees announced the institution’s closure effective May 1996.
Less than one month before the college would have closed, a private group of individual members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offered to keep Southern Virginia College open. This group formed a new Board of Trustees and transformed Southern Virginia College into a four-year liberal arts college. In February 2001, the college received permission from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to change its name to Southern Virginia University.
In June 2010 SACSCOC awarded Southern Virginia initial candidacy for regional accreditation for two years. In June 2012 SACSCOC granted full accreditation to the university, retroactive to January 1, 2012.
Southern Virginia University is the only independent liberal arts college designed to meet the educational and spiritual needs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). Unlike other institutions of higher learning that serve the Latter-day Saint community (e.g., Brigham Young University), Southern Virginia not owned or governed by the LDS Church. Southern Virginia prepares its graduates for leadership and service by providing a rigorous undergraduate education in letters, arts, and sciences. It provides a rich core curriculum that focuses on great artistic, literary, philosophical, political, scientific and social achievements. Core courses emphasize careful writing, critical thinking, and analytic reasoning. All Southern Virginia students are required to participate in laboratory science, to demonstrate competence in mathematics, and to show intermediate proficiency in a second language. The Core provides a foundation for 13 major programs authorized by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.