Class of 2018 members celebrate at Freshman Convocation
The Radford University Class of 2018 is ready to hit the books after a busy move-in weekend that culminated with the annual Freshman Convocation.
Many of the 2,014 members of the freshman class – one of the larger classes formed at RU – made their way to Bondurant Auditorium to celebrate with one another and hear welcoming remarks from the administration and guest speaker Eric Thomas.
Radford President Penelope W. Kyle's welcome address to the students spoke to the growth and change occurring at the university, and the faculty and administration's excitement for the latest class of students.
"One of the best rewards of all is when I have the incredible privilege of welcoming each and every one of you to your new collegiate home at Radford University," Kyle said. "The opportunities for growth and academic excellence on this campus are limitless if you are willing to seek them out."
The president also shared with the assembled students some statistics about their class:
- This is the third year in the past four that RU has had a class larger than 2,000.
- Nearly 93 percent of all RU students come from Virginia, but mid-Atlantic locations such as Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Washington D.C. are well-represented.
- 37 percent of students come from the Northern Virginia region.
- Students have traveled from countries such as Canada, Mexico, Honduras, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Saudi Arabia, China and India to be part of the new freshman class.
- This is one of the most diverse classes in RU history, with 32% of students identifying as a minority.
Following the president's remarks, guest speaker Eric Thomas ventured into the crowd to share his inspirational advice with the new Highlanders. Born in Chicago and growing up in Detroit, Thomas had a challenging start in life, including a period spent in homelessness. Upon meeting a pastor, Thomas got back on track, made his own way to college and started Break the Cycle I Dare You, a nonprofit youth development and special event organization.
Today, Thomas works as a motivational speaker and educational consultant with Fortune 500 companies and professional sports organizations.
"This is college now," Thomas told the assembled crowd, as he encouraged them to be proactive about their education. "There are new rules, new languages and new codes, and you have got to learn them."
After sharing stories of his struggles in higher education, the crowd cheered when Thomas told them that a strong effort in school could make for the life of their dreams.
"You play for the next four years and you work the rest of your life," he said. "But if you work now, you'll play for the rest of it."
Amber Hairston, of Rocky Mount, Virginia, took Thomas' advice to heart.
"He was very inspirational," she said after the event. "He makes me want to work hard for my mom and my family."
Hairston said she was eager to get started with classes and see what she could learn at RU, while meeting as many new people as possible.
Another new student, Chris Palazzi of Forest, Virginia, said he understood perfectly when both President Kyle and Thomas said that college would be a different environment.
"It definitely feels different here," the pre-major said. "I know that this is a big step in life, but I'm excited for the challenge."
The Freshman Convocation is part of RU’s Welcome Week, which continues through Saturday with events including Club Fair on Friday at 3:30 p.m. on Heth Lawn, movies and free refreshments each day.