RU President Penelope W. Kyle (left) welcomes State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Chairman Gil Bland, of Virginia Beach, to Radford University on Sept. 17, 2013 during SCHEV’s September meeting.
Celebrating 100 years to the date since the first class met on campus, Radford University formally welcomed members of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Tuesday as part of the Council’s September meetings. The two-day session, which began Monday with a joint meeting with the Council of Presidents, was held in the College of Business and Economics building on the RU campus.
SCHEV, founded in 1956, is the Commonwealth's coordinating body for higher education and makes policy recommendations to the governor and the General Assembly.
Radford University President Penelope W. Kyle opened Tuesday's business meeting by updating SCHEV members on RU's recent accomplishments, including this year’s record enrollment, and developments and goals for moving forward with current and new programs and campus infrastructure projects.
The president provided a brief history of RU and informed the gathering of the significance of the date in school history. "You are joining us for what is a centennial event for Radford University," Kyle proudly noted. "The school's very first session began 100 years ago to the day on September 17, 1913. You all are here to celebrate 100 years of education at Radford University," she proclaimed.
Much has changed for the university in the past century, particularly the comparatively large number of students who attend RU. Kyle informed SCHEV members that the university is closing in on its goal of enrolling 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
"Last week we announced that our fall 2013 census confirmed that we had set an enrollment record with 9,928 undergraduate, graduate, full-time and part-time students," Kyle noted.
She said this fall's undergraduate enrollment of 8,913 students is also a record for the university. Kyle informed the Council that 94 percent of the student body is from Virginia, and more than 38 percent are first-generation college students. "That is something we pride ourselves on and is something that has been part of our history," Kyle said.
Kyle said retention at RU is "on the rise," increasing by four percentage points for the class of 2016, and the student body is "more diverse than ever," with nearly 30 percent of the new incoming freshmen identifying themselves as ethnic minorities.
Turning her attention to graduation rates, the president said the four-year graduation rate for the fall 2008 cohort of freshmen was the highest in Radford’s history.
The university owes much of its enrollment and graduation success to support from SCHEV and the Virginia legislature, Kyle noted, which has given RU the ability to expand program offerings in high-demand fields, especially science, technology, mathematics and health (STEM-H). "To capitalize on Radford University's strengths and our ability to address niche opportunities in STEM-H, our six-year plan includes several high-value graduate programs that would build upon our in-demand programs," Kyle stated.
Kyle cited as examples RU's Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), the Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs. The president expressed gratitude to SCHEV board member Heywood Fralin for his "encouragement and support" of the DPT program, which will graduate its first class in May 2014.
Speaking more about the MOT program, Kyle noted that in December, RU will have graduated 50 students, many of whom who work and reside in Virginia. "A lot of our graduates stay right here in the Commonwealth," she said. Kyle said that a doctorate of occupational therapy has been proposed in RU's six-year plan.
Another highly-competitive RU program is the master's in speech language pathology, which has been in existence for 42 years and is "one of the premier programs," Kyle proudly said. She also noted that a proposal has been made in the six-year plan to double the size of this highly competitive program, which had 236 applicants for 25 slots in 2013.
RU is seeking opportunities, Kyle noted, to partner and collaborate in areas that align with the university's mission and support Virginia's Top Jobs legislation (TJ-21). The president cited as examples RU's collaborations enhancing math education in primary and secondary schools, partnerships with higher education centers, nursing simulation lab partnerships with community colleges and local health care providers, and K-12 collaborations with RU's Games, Animation, Modeling and Simulation (GAMeS) Lab, which designs and implements Standards of Learning-aligned games for participating schools in Southwest Virginia.
The president provided additional insight into some of the other proposals within the six-year plan, including the establishment of a Master in Science in data and information management and a Master of Science in prosthetics and orthotics program. She also mentioned proposals for expanding the Master of Social Work program and the GAMeS Lab initiative.
"Looking to leverage technology and expand upon the accessibility of higher education programs, we are responding to the TJ-21 opportunities with more online offerings and year-around use of our resources," Kyle said. She noted distance learning and online course credits have increased 429 percent at RU since 2008-09. Those results are a reflection of the university's increased online summer school and the implementation of the Wintermester term offered during winter break last December and January.
RU is supporting its programs with the proper infrastructure, said Kyle, who noted the university has secured nearly $300 million in capital projects that include new construction and renovation. Those projects include the renovation of the technologically-advanced Young Hall and the construction of the COBE building, which opened in September 2012, and the in-progress construction of the Center of the Sciences and a new Student Fitness and Wellness Center.
"All of this is investing in facilities to promote our students in serving as scholar-citizens who are prepared to work in our communities and serve the Commonwealth into the future," Kyle said.
The president said Radford University, while undertaking these projects, is committed to making education at the institution affordable. "We have undertaken a number of efficiencies in how we do things, how we are organized and how we use technology to improve the process,” Kyle said.
As a result of RU's "efforts to be fiscally prudent," Kyle informed the Council of the university's listing as one of the top 75 public institutions in the nation on The Princeton Review's "Best Value Colleges: 2013 Edition."
"While much has changed in the last 100 years here at Radford, I am proud to say that we continue a legacy of being student-focused, of educating Virginians and preparing them to work and reside and serve in the communities here in the Commonwealth in the future," Kyle said. "All of this, our enrollment growth, our programs and our capital projects would not be possible without this Council. We are most appreciative of your support."
Following Kyle’s remarks Tuesday, the Council heard from its members a report on enrollment targets and estimates for the next seven years. The Council also discussed system-wide operating and capital outlay budget recommendations prepared by the SCHEV staff and their potential impact on postsecondary education in the Commonwealth.
Learn more about SCHEV at www.schev.edu.
Radford University is a comprehensive public university of more than 9,900 students. RU serves the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation through a wide range of academic, cultural, human service, and research programs. Well known for its strong faculty/student bonds, innovative use of technology in the learning environment and vibrant student life on a beautiful 191-acre American classical campus, Radford University offers students many opportunities to get involved and succeed in and out of the classroom. The university offers 69 degree programs at the undergraduate level, and 21 master's programs and three doctoral programs at the graduate level. A Division I member of the NCAA and Big South Athletic Conference, Radford participates in 19 varsity sports—11 for women and eight for men. Since 2005, the university has secured approval and funding for nearly $300 million in capital projects, including both new construction and renovation.
Learn more about Radford University at www.radford.edu.