With applause, laughter and moments of sincere appreciation, Radford University kicked off its new academic year Aug. 23 at fall convocation in Bondurant Auditorium.
President Penelope W. Kyle, introduced by Provost Sam Minner, welcomed the faculty and administration back to campus. "If you've been away during the summer, I'm sure that upon your return you were amazed to see all that has occurred on campus, including in this auditorium, while you were gone," she said.
The president noted improvements in the renovated auditorium, including new carpeting and oak paneling, fresh paint, and upgrades to the heating and cooling system, lighting and acoustics.
She drew sustained applause when she thanked the Facilities Management and IT teams, led by Jorge Coartney and Danny Kemp respectively, for their hard work on that and other projects: the newly opened College of Business and Economics complex, with ribbon cutting set for Sept. 12; and Moffett Hall, remodeled throughout.
Ahead this fall are the construction start for the new Center for the Sciences, groundbreaking for the new Student Fitness and Wellness Center and a face lift for Washington Hall. These projects "will ensure that Radford has facilities to rival any in the Commonwealth and worthy of the excellent programs led by you, our faculty," Kyle said.
The president next introduced new faculty members by college, top administrators and coaches, thanking them for bringing their scholarship and talents to RU.
Reviewing highlights of the previous academic year, Kyle cited the university's status as an All-Steinway School, national recognition by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, accreditation for the education curriculum and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs, recognition by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia of the GAMeS Lab, and awarding of the first doctoral degrees. The university reached a milestone in bestowing degrees, Kyle said, awarding a total of 2,324 degrees in the previous academic year, including 443 master's degrees.
The president also acknowledged the faculty's achievements in collaborative research with students, many of whom were invited to present their work at national and international conferences; the launch of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Initiative; the celebration of Women's History Month by recognizing the distinguished women of Radford University; and notable speakers on campus. She also cited the traveling exhibition from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, progress on the university's Climate Action Plan and the launch and popularity of the Radford Transit bus system.
Shifting her focus to the year ahead, Kyle announced that this year's freshman class of 2,076 students is the largest in RU's history and that more than a quarter of them are ethnic minorities. She congratulated James Pennix, interim vice provost for enrollment planning and management, and his staff, drawing enthusiastic applause when she said, "You continue to hit home runs."
As the QEP Initiative, part of the university's reaccreditation process, continues in the coming year, the president said, everyone on campus "must get involved in some fashion." She thanked QEP Director Erin Webster Garrett for her leadership and urged the faculty to contact her immediately to volunteer.
Also ahead are:
- planning for the university's new academic building to house the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.
- a 3 percent bonus in December for eligible university employees, followed by a 2 percent salary increase in July.
- an initiative led by Provost Minner to ensure Radford is competitive with other Virginia universities in securing state incentive funding for programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and health care; and for improved graduation and retention rates.
- new signage on Interstate 81 and connector roads directing traffic to campus.
- expanded service by Radford Transit.
Updating the faculty on actions by the Radford University Board of Visitors, Kyle said a consulting firm has been retained to evaluate the leadership team, study succession planning and propose measures to encourage a collaborative academic environment. As a first step, she said, offices for all university vice presidents are being moved to Martin Hall, effective as soon as space can be prepared.
Convocation concluded with awarding of the Radford University Foundation faculty awards for exceptional performance. Each recipient identified an outstanding student to receive a scholarship in her or his name. The recipients and their awards were:
- Karen Francl, associate professor of biology, the Distinguished Faculty Advising Award. Her scholarship goes to Kelsey Townsend.
- Patricia Shoemaker, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, the Administrative and Professional Excellence Award. Scholarship recipient: Paul Mallory.
- Tod Burke, associate dean in the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences and professor of criminal justice, the Distinguished Service Award. Scholarship recipient: Christian Mason.
- Stephen Owen, professor of criminal justice, the Distinguished Creative Scholar Award. Scholarship recipient: Matthew Allen.
- Jason Burton, media and telecommunications specialist in the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, the Anna Lee Stewart Award for Contributions to Faculty Development. Scholarship recipient: Leigh-Ann Ahrenberg.
- Niels Christensen, professor of psychology, the Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award. Scholarship recipient: Chelsea Myers.
The president concluded the afternoon's celebration by thanking all who attended, wishing them a successful year and inviting them to a reception on the patio outside Preston Hall.