State of the University

On October 6, 2017, President Brian O. Hemphill addressed a large crowd of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in Bondurant Auditorium to deliver his inaugural State of the University Address.  

Read President Hemphill's State of the University Address

President Brian O. Hemphill
State of the University Address
Radford University
Preston Hall, Bondurant Auditorium
October 6, 2017
11:00 a.m.

Good morning, and welcome to the State of the University!

It is a tremendous honor to stand before you and have an opportunity to highlight the events of this past year and our plans for the future!

As we join together today, we will reflect upon the significant progress we have made over the course of this past academic year.

We will also look to the exciting initiatives and innovative programs that will continue to take shape in the months to come.

Without question, the State of the University is strong, and our recent progress and resounding success would not be possible without the unwavering support and continued dedication of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Furthermore, much of our success has been achieved with the help of friends and supporters in the New River Valley and Roanoke Valley and across the Commonwealth of Virginia!

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President Hemphill greets the university community during his inaugural State of the University Address.

I would like to begin by acknowledging a few groups that are critical to Radford University!

To members of the Board of Visitors, thank you for your leadership and support of the Radford family.

You give freely of your time in support of Radford University in order to provide opportunities for current and future Highlanders.

To members of the Board that are here today, please stand as I call your name:

  • Rector Mark Lawrence;
  • Member Bob Archer;
  • Member Georgia Anne Snyder Falkinham; and
  • Faculty Representative Jake Fox.

Let’s give my bosses a hearty round of applause.

To our shared governance leaders, please stand and remain standing when I call your name:

  • Dr. Jake Fox, Faculty Senate President;
  • Sandra Bond, Administrative and Professional Faculty Senate President;
  • Karen Montgomery, Staff Senate President; and
  • Ms. Stanley, Student Government Association President, who could not be here today.

Folks, these individuals have made great strides on behalf of this University and the Radford family.

Thank you for your dedication and service!

Let’s show them how much we appreciate them!

To members of the Leadership Council, please stand and remain standing.

The individuals standing before you work hard each and every day to advance our University!

I am immensely proud of our collaboration and engagement and the momentum and success created for Radford University and those we proudly serve each and every day.

Please join me in recognizing each of them for their hard work!

I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to acknowledge an individual who is absolutely critical to me personally and professionally, someone who unwaveringly offers continuous support and steadfast guidance, my loving and beautiful wife, Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill.

Some of you may not know that my wife is an accomplished higher education administrator in her own right having served as Associate Dean of Students at Harwick College and Director of Student Activities at Colgate University.

I often go to her for advice and guidance on the many issues that we face.

Please join me in giving your First Lady a round of applause.

I would also like to acknowledge my mother-in-law, Maria Rosas, who is here today.

She is truly the glue that keeps it all together!

Please join me in acknowledging my mother-in-law!

As each of you are aware, we have experienced much excitement and success this past year; however, we have also experienced much loss and sorrow within the Radford family.

The loss of beloved members of our community is significant, and it weighs deeply on our minds and in our hearts.

I ask that each of you join me in a moment of silence to honor the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of Radford University who we have lost over the past year such as Andi Clemons, Paul Hershey, Bridgett Oliver, and Marie Testerman, just to name a few.

Thank you for joining me in honoring these beloved individuals!

I would like to take a special moment to highlight the life and accomplishments of Mary Ann Jennings Hovis, a proud member of the Class of 1965, a devoted member of the Radford family, and a sitting member of the Board of Visitors upon her passing in late August.

In memory of her, I am announcing the naming of the Mary Ann Jennings Hovis Memorial Board Room, the dedicated meeting space for deliberations of the Board of Visitors.

This room, which is located on the 3rd floor of Martin Hall, is being named in honor of Mary Ann for her selfless contributions to her alma mater and her unwavering Highlander pride!

Today, we are joined by Mary Ann’s husband, Bob Hovis, who has been a devoted member of the Radford family –proudly supporting Mary Ann and her love of all things Radford University.

Please join me in a warm round of applause for Mary Ann and her many years of service!

And, let’s thank Bob for joining us today!

As you have heard me say since my arrival on this campus, I truly believe that Radford University will transform into an innovative, premier university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond with a keen focus on teaching, research and service.

And, as I stand before you today, I am proud of the progress we have made.

Last Spring, we joined together to announce and celebrate the naming of the Artis College of Science and Technology.

With a generous contribution from Nancy Artis, a proud member of the Class of 1973, and her husband, Pat Artis, students studying in the Artis College of Science and Technology now have new opportunities for academic success.

Artis Scholars will receive academic scholarship awards of $3,000 based on academic eligibility, which will be utilized to attract and reward high-achieving students.

The Artis gift was transformative for our University, representing the largest gift by an individual and an alumnus in our history.

It was truly a historic day!

The Artises are to be commended for their support of Radford University!

Please join me in recognizing Nancy and Pat, who have joined us here today!

Others have followed Nancy and Pat’s lead by responding in significant ways!

In terms of total giving, we increased from $7.9 million in Fiscal Year 2016 to $10.7 million in Fiscal Year 2017!

This represents more than a 30 percent increase in a single year!

And, our total number of donors increased from 4,435 to 5,253, an increase of nearly 20 percent!

Our goal for this year is even higher with a target of $14 million!

Let’s take a moment to applaud the selfless individuals who supported, and continue to support, our University and the Advancement team that works diligently to build a culture of philanthropy!

In terms of expanding academic program offerings, we are awaiting review and approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia to offer a Doctor of Education and a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Cyber Science.

We have truly made great strides, but much work lies ahead!

That work will be defined by our strategic plan, Embracing the Tradition and Envisioning the Future, which will officially come to life early next year, thereby guiding our efforts through 2023.

The draft plan was reviewed as part of last month’s Board of Visitors meetings.

In the coming weeks, the Strategic Planning Task Force and the Writing Team will prepare the plan for a campus-wide review and comment period with consideration by the Board of Visitors at the December meeting.

Before highlighting the initiatives and programs contained within the plan, I want to take this opportunity to recognize Task Force Co-Chairs Jack Call and Kenna Colley for their leadership.

I would also like to acknowledge my Chief of Staff, Ashley Schumaker, for her leadership of and participation in the strategic planning process.

And, I must also acknowledge the work of Task Force members, as well as Subgroup Co-Chairs and members.

Would all of the strategic planning participants please stand and remain standing?

I want to thank you for providing your time and talent to our year-long strategic planning process.

I have been amazed by your level of dedication and the results of your detailed discussions, in-depth planning, careful analysis, and the occasional disagreement!

On behalf of the entire Radford family, please accept our deepest appreciation and lasting gratitude for a job well done!

The plan, which will be rolled out later this year and implemented beginning in January of 2018, will define Radford University and its future.

This bold plan will result in the creation of the Student Venture Lab, a mechanism for students to take their ideas and make them a reality with access to faculty mentoring and a space dedicated to around the clock brainstorming, as well as the availability of funds for product development and commercialization.

With the launch of the Appalachian Outreach Institute, Radford University will further expand its service mission and outreach activities in Southwest Virginia.

This is a very worthwhile project that is critically important to this University and our region!

Although the strategic plan includes an external focus in some areas, we will also focus on the Highlander brand and identity both on and off campus.

Through the establishment of the Center for Highlander Engagement and a Highlander Advisory Board, we will provide training and guidance to students, faculty, and staff regarding the Highlander identity and values of being Responsive, Resilient, and Real.

Also, through the creation of an Enrollment Data Council and the utilization of predictive analytics and best practices, we have chartered a course for growing our overall student body to more than 13,000 students by 2023.

The Fall 2017 entering freshman class includes 1,848 students, which represents an increase of 5.5 percent over the prior year.

With a high school grade point average of 3.24, this class has the highest GPA since 1996 when the University began tracking this information.

This class also showed improvement in standardized test scores on both the SAT and the ACT, and includes a 22 percent growth in out-of-state students when compared with the prior year.

The growth in our student body will not be achieved through recruitment alone.

We will also focus on activities and programs to improve our retention rate, as well as our graduation rate.

By 2023, we will increase our first to second year retention rate from 75.7 percent to 85 percent and our six-year graduation rate from 58.3 percent to 62 percent.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Vice President for Enrollment Management Kitty McCarthy, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Susan Trageser, and their teams for their work to recruit new students and retain existing students!

We are also growing in terms of diversity.

Radford’s minority student population is 28.8 percent of the University’s total student body, representing an increase of 18 percent over the past decade!

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President Hemphill made several important announcements about new investments in faculty and new opportunities for our students.

At Radford University, we greatly value the culture and perspectives of all individuals.

Furthermore, we truly believe that it enriches the environment in which we live, learn, and work!

I say to each of you that we have reached a tipping point in higher education.

We can no longer afford to be just another regional university.

We must separate ourselves in a crowded market!

As a result, I am so pleased to report that, once and for all, we have identified Radford University’s signature programs.

Although we will remain committed to serving all disciplines and majors through our historical focus on teaching excellence and our recent focus on research growth, we have made the areas of health sciences, healthcare, and human services, as well as information safety and security, an integral part of the University’s identity.

The identification of signature programs is so critical in today’s competitive higher education landscape and crowded marketplace;

I am certain that this important work will provide wonderful opportunities to showcase our University and ultimately benefit all of our academic departments and programs, thereby highlighting our world-class faculty!

Indeed, the expertise and dedication of the faculty were major determining factors in my decision to take this opportunity to serve as your leader.

And, in meeting with each and every college and individual departments over the course of the past academic year, my initial assessment was not only confirmed, but surpassed.
Through these interactions, I have heard the stories of our faculty.

I have witnessed first-hand their commitment to student learning and their dedication to Radford University.

Outstanding faculty like…

  • Assistant Professor of Chemistry Amy Balija from the Artis College of Science and Technology who recently received the Centennial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by Iota Sigma Pi, a national honor society for women in chemistry.
  • Assistant Professor of Music Jennifer McDonel from the College of Visual and Performing Arts who spearheaded a comprehensive effort, which led to Radford University’s National Association for Music Education Chapter receiving Chapter of Excellence Recognition and one of only five collegiate institutions across the nation to be recognized.
  • Associate Professor of Marketing Gary Schirr from the College of Business and Economics who was named to Brand Quarterly’s list of 50 Marketing Thought Leaders over 50.

Also, his most recent book, “Service Innovation,” was selected to accompany Harvard Business Publishers’ most popular case studies.

Associate Professor of Communication Twange Kasoma from the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences who was named a Kopenhaver Center Fellow for the Advancement of Women in Communication and is one of only 47 women to be named to this prestigious fellowship.

Associate Professor of Nursing Victoria Bierman from the Waldron College of Health and Human Services who is serving as the principal investigator for a $1 million Advanced Nursing Education Workforce Grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.

Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Patricia Talbot from the College of Education and Human Development who recently completed her sixth trip to Malawi and provided a group of aspiring teachers with valuable practical experience.

And, let’s also recognize Professor Jennifer Jones-Powell who began this program over a decade ago!

These are just a few examples of how Radford University faculty are developing the next generation of citizen leaders, while also serving as leaders and scholars in their own fields and exceptional ambassadors for Radford University!

I am so very proud of them!

Our faculty are not alone in their success.

There are many offices and departments working on behalf of our students, such as our Police Department; Housekeeping staff; Grounds and Maintenance crew; Financial Aid; and Information Technology.

These are just a few of the many groups who are dedicated to the Radford family!

Please know that our faculty and staff are not alone in their great work on behalf of this University!

Our students are excelling both in and out of the classroom.

Consider this…

The Cyber Defense Club, housed within the Artis College of Science and Technology, earned second place at the inaugural Virginia Fusion Cyber Cup Competition where they competed against eight schools from the Commonwealth!

Let’s applaud these talented students and wish them well as they prepare to take first place in the next competition!

What about education students Joseph, Lauren, Teri, Marquita, and Rachel, who participated in the Teachers of Promise Institute, which was held in Richmond, Virginia?

The Institute, which was established in 2004, brings together exemplary students from Virginia’s colleges and universities and educators for a two-day celebration and professional development event.

Although these students cannot be with us today due to their recent graduation and active employment in the teaching field, let’s acknowledge these talented individuals as they embrace their love of teaching and shape the minds of future generations!

And, let’s applaud Associate Professor Gaston Dembele, who is the advisor for this program.

And, design students Bria, Jacqueline, and Bryan, who won the top group prize for the Retail Design Institute’s student competition.

The Institute holds an annual competition for students, challenging them to design a retail environment following a pre-defined set of requirements, thereby promoting the advancement and collaborative practice of creating a selling environment.

Although these students cannot be with us today due to their recent graduation and active employment in the field of design, let’s acknowledge these talented individuals as they embrace their love of the arts and share their creative spirit with the world!

And, let’s applaud Professor of Design and Department Chair Holly Cline and all of her faculty and staff for their dedicated efforts to guide and inspire these students and many others!

What about economics major Michael Harris who placed in the top 10 among competitors at a Phi Beta Lambda National Leadership Conference?

Michael, a student in the College of Business and Economics, finished eighth place in the economic analysis and decision-making contest among more than 1,800 college and university students from across the nation.

Let’s also take a moment to applaud Professor of Economics and Department Chair Prahlad Kasturi for his work in advising Michael!

And, we cannot forget about the Army ROTC Program, which is housed within the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.

Last spring, the program produced nine commissioned officers earning the rank of second lieutenant.

With this rank, they were granted authority by the United States Army to carry out their duties as newly commissioned officers.

Six of which are on active duty, and three are serving in the National Guard.

At this time, I would like to ask our ROTC program leaders and student participants to please stand.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in applauding these outstanding scholars for their accomplishments and their willingness to protect and serve our country!

And, let’s take a moment to recognize graduates of the Waldron College of Health and Human Services’ School of Nursing who out-performed their peers for the fifth consecutive year on the National Council Licensure Examination.

Recent graduates have a pass rate of 94.4 percent, thereby exceeding the 88.2 percent state average and the 84.5 percent national average.

And, Radford graduates have a 100 percent pass rate on the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification – an honor we have held for the past 18 years.

I would like to ask our Nursing faculty and students to please stand.

Let’s applaud this exemplary program and our recent nursing graduates for providing much prestige to our University and being well prepared for careers that will save lives!

Our students are excelling both in the classroom and in competition.

During the past year, men’s soccer, volleyball, and women’s basketball claimed Big South Regular Season Championships.

Men’s soccer and baseball claimed Big South Tournament Championships, earning bids to the NCAA Tournament.

Women’s basketball also earned a bid to the WNIT.

To our championship student-athletes and coaches, please stand!

Let’s give these teams and a hearty round of applause!

Students, I can assure you that this University – YOUR University – will highlight and celebrate you every chance we get.

And, over the past year, I have heard from many students that opportunities for collaborative research with talented faculty make our University special and set us apart from similar institutions of our scope and size.

As we look to the future, I am proud to announce the launch of a new initiative called the Highlander Research Rookies Program.

Beginning with the 2018-2019 academic year, 15 apprenticeships will be awarded each year to high-achieving and highly-motivated freshman and sophomore students.

Students, who are selected as Highlander Research Rookies, through a competitive process to include an application with a personal statement, will be paired with a faculty mentor, working alongside him or her for 15 hours per week, thereby maximizing opportunities for research-based engagement and learning.

Funding of up to $4,000 will be provided to each Highlander Research Rookie for the full year based on the number of hours devoted to research-based work in order to assist with educational expenses and other related costs.

Additionally, faculty mentors participating in the Highlander Research Rookies Program will receive $2,000 for supplies and other materials needed for student research performed as part of the program.

With the launch of the Highlander Research Rookies Program, continued leadership of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship will be critical!

And, I am confident that much progress will continue to be made in the area of research as we build upon our rich history of teaching and learning!

Indeed, teaching and learning are proud traditions at Radford University dating back to our humble beginnings as a teachers college.

And, time and time again, we have remained committed to our roots.

We have also made a commitment to ensuring that the world is our classroom!

With programming and outreach, such as the RU World Ready? Global Education Conference, Radford University is dedicated to strengthening existing partnerships and establishing new partnerships with local educational providers and regional school systems, thereby expanding the mindset of educators and opportunities in the classroom.

Additionally, the McGlothlin Awards for Teaching Excellence has been a hallmark program for our University by highlighting the many outstanding contributions to the profession and practice of teaching for nearly two decades.

Through this effort, two of the region's best elementary and secondary teachers have been annually recognized and received $25,000 awards to utilize within a year for international travel or study abroad in order to broaden their thinking and experience and further enhance their excellence as professional educators.

The annual awards ceremony has been sponsored by the McGlothlin Foundation, Blue Ridge Public Broadcasting System, and Radford University's College of Education and Human Development.

Although 2017 was the last year for this prestigious award and recognition program, the many contributions of the McGlothlin Awards for Teaching Excellence have forever changed the possibilities for outstanding teachers and the opportunities for local students.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the McGlothlin family, including Tom McGlothlin who is here today, for their support of Radford University and their contributions to our region through teaching and learning.

As we end one chapter, we begin another.

Our campus has hosted a multitude of preeminent guests and world-renowned speakers, thereby vastly expanding our viewpoints and greatly enriching the lives of Highlanders.

Radford University’s Distinguished Visiting Professor Program and Scholarly Lecture Series brought former Egyptian First Lady Jehan Sedat, legendary poet Maya Angelou, Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and other prestigious visitors to our campus.

And, in building upon this proud tradition, I am pleased to announce today’s launch of the Highlander Discovery Institute.

We will invest $150,000 annually to expose this campus to preeminent speakers from around the world!

Set to begin in Fall 2019, the Highlander Discovery Institute will expose Radford University students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and community members to new ideas and ways of thinking, specifically in the areas of teaching, research, and service.

Dedicated funding will be utilized to secure selected speakers, who will be recommended by a cross-functional committee that includes students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.
I truly believe the establishment of the Highlander Discovery Institute will further enhance our historical focus on teaching and our steadfast commitment to research and service!

Without question, Radford University is a mid-size campus with opportunities and possibilities.
Possibilities that extended well beyond our region and the Commonwealth.

Possibilities that can only be accomplished through seizing opportunity and embracing innovation.

Radford University is working diligently to create a global network through meaningful partnerships with international education leaders, such as:

Monash University, a top tier Australian institution located in Melbourne with four campuses and 70,000 students, including 25,000 international students; and

Shandong Youth University of Political Science, a 12,000-student institution located in China that grants bachelor’s degrees in a variety of disciplines, such as economics, design arts, information technology and political science.

And, we are also increasing the availability and delivery of programs and services right here at home!

In late August, we signed a guaranteed transfer partnership agreement with Northern Virginia Community College.

We are focused on growing our presence at the Roanoke Higher Education Center and the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center located in Abingdon.

It is critical that we expand our educational and service mission across our region and the Commonwealth.

Just last month, we were joined by Governor Terry McAuliffe, members of the Governor’s team, and representatives from across the region to launch the IMPACT Program, an accelerated academic program and new delivery platform.

IMPACT, a first-of-its-kind initiative within the Commonwealth, is a competency-based education workforce development program initially focused on cybersecurity.

For the historic launch, we were joined by our strategic partners, who will generate enrollment of more than 100 students during the first year of operation.

To the entire IMPACT team, please stand.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in applauding them for this strong start and their continued work in making this program a resounding success for our campus and the Commonwealth!

And, today, I am pleased to make yet another historic announcement about our IMPACT Program!

With a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the next phase of our IMPACT Program is coming to life!

With this critical support, we will develop and deliver content for general education teachers in Appalachia to support inclusive practices, specifically throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and neighboring states, with our competency-based education platform.

This grant represents the largest grant in the history of Radford University at $13.8 million over the next three years!

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the grant writers and principal investigators for their work.

Dr. Matt Dunleavy, Dr. Kenna Colley, Dr. Brooke Blanks, and Dr. Amanda Bozack, please stand and be recognized!

The IMPACT Program is one initiative that generated much discussion and support from our faculty due to their deep passion and unwavering support for making a positive impact on all students.

And, while our faculty fully invest their time and talent in our students, it is time for Radford University to increase our investment in each and every one of them.

That is why I am making several important announcements as it relates to our faculty and their value to Radford University!

Today, I am announcing that individual faculty travel budgets for professional development in the current fiscal year are being increased from $900 to $1,400, representing more than a 50 percent increase!

It is my hope that this funding will maximize the participation of faculty in regional and national conferences and events, thereby increasing the visibility of Radford University!

Additionally, a fund totaling $50,000 will be created and centrally managed in order to provide increased support for faculty searches beyond the current $1,100 per search.

This increased funding will supplement current funding in order to provide greater flexibility to cover travel expenses for multiple candidates and hospitality expenses to showcase what our community has to offer and prevent faculty from having to utilize their own personal funds to pay for dinners with candidates.

I am confident that these increased investments will positively impact the engagement and the productivity of our faculty!

Indeed, Radford University faculty and staff continue to serve students, our campus, and the community in new and profound ways.

Each and every day, we are providing experiences and opportunities that are second to none.
And, without question, Radford University has a rich history and a powerful legacy spanning 107 years.

Through the implementation of our strategic plan, we will take proactive steps to ensure the viability and the visibility of our University for future generations of Highlanders.

Indeed, the State of the University is strong and poised for another banner year.

Excellence, accountability, transparency, and student-centeredness guided the Radford family over the past year.

And, these same principles will continue to guide us as we move forward together!

As Highlander alumni return for Homecoming and loved ones visit for Family Weekend, I ask that you join me in making a pledge…

A pledge to ensure that we remain sharply focused on the journey ahead.

Focused on the students who need us in order to realize their own strength and reach their full potential…

Focused on the great success that lies ahead…

Focused on our future!

If we pledge to do all that we can, there is no limit to what we can achieve together as one Radford family.

Together, we will succeed!

Together, we will make a difference!

Together, we will build a brighter future…

A future made possible due to our recent progress!

Radford University, the Commonwealth of Virginia, our nation, and the world are counting on each and every one of us now and well into the future!

God Bless each of you, and GO HIGHLANDERS!