For the second year in a row, Radford University is on track to enroll a record number of incoming students, the first of whom were on campus Monday for Quest.
"Welcome to your home for the next four years," Michael Richardson, assistant director of new student programs, told students and their families in Bondurant Auditorium to kick off the university's Quest 2012 new-student orientation.
This fall's first-year enrollment is projected at 2,811 students, up about 5 percent from last year.
"The next 25 hours are going to be packed with information," Richardson said of the annual two-day event at which students will arrange their class schedules, familiarize themselves with residence halls, academic buildings and campus while learning about the university's culture and environment.
Helping to guide the new arrivals were 32 current RU student leaders: 25 Quest assistants and seven parent orientation guides.
Addressing the assembly, Provost Sam Minner, vice president of academic affairs, likened the new students' enthusiasm to a rocket ready to take off. "I think of Radford as a kind of launching pad," he said. "Your countdown begins today."
Radford's core focus is on teaching and learning, nurturing the invaluable relationship between students and instructors, and providing a rich and engaging curriculum, Minner said. "It's an absolute commitment to helping each and every one of you achieve as much as you possibly can."
Students can gain only as much from their college experience as they are willing to put in, Minner said, urging the class of 2016 to rise to the challenge, forgo the easy way out and take full advantage of the opportunities and resources available over the next four years in both the intellectual and social arenas.
"Abraham Lincoln once said that if you have six hours to fell a tree, you should spend four hours sharpening your ax," Minner said. "Your time here at Radford University is ax-sharpening time."
Mark Shanley, vice president for student affairs, told the group that the college years are an ideal time to get involved.
"There are a lot of opportunities for involvement. We have a very safe community, a very welcoming community," he said. "I love RU. It is small enough to maintain personal relationships, while we're also large enough to have high-profile academics, Division I sports, concerts, programs and events."
By centering on its students, the RU community sees them as active partners in success, Shanley said, with dedication to class engagement, campus resource allocation, tolerance, respect for tradition and knowing what is expected both in and out of the classroom.
Shanley encouraged students to take ownership of their collegiate careers by maintaining a healthy balance between academics, community, work and social development. "It's not about what you were or even who you are," Shanley said. "It's about what you want to be."
Student Government President Emily Redd told the new students that being an RU student means more than wearing a bright-red shirt that says "Radford." It means dedication and commitment to being something better while embracing integrity and leadership.
"I'm so excited for all of you to be here," she told the students. "Give Radford University your best every day. We're building experiences."