New academic year at RU begins with 2014 Fall Convocation
Radford University formally began its 2014-15 year Aug. 20 with the Fall Convocation in Preston Auditorium in Porterfield Hall.
RU President Penelope W. Kyle welcomed new faculty and administrators, recounted a year of achievements by the university community and shared updates about developments at the busy campus.
Kyle opened the assembly of approximately 600 faculty and staff by reflecting on the university's positive momentum. "We all know that it takes a village," she said. "This is our village. To get any of this done it takes all of us. We've been blessed the last several years with some success and you have all participated in making that happen."
She then put the university's future in context of its history.
"Today marks the beginning of the 101st session of classes at Radford. This 2014-15 academic year promises to be filled with excitement, productivity and progress as we continue to build for the future," she said.
President Kyle welcomed 60 new teaching faculty, representing 28 departments, who joined their resident colleagues. She then introduced several new administrators:
- George Low, Dean of the College of Business and Economics
- Paul Currant, Director of International Education
- Elaine Tan, Chair of the Political Science Department
- Irvin Clark, Dean of Students
- Barry Miller, Director of Recreation and Wellness
- Robert Bedford, Director of Student Involvement
- Melissa Wohlstein, Vice President for University Advancement
Kyle also introduced and congratulated longtime Professor Margaret Devaney who now serves as dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
Kyle highlighted several university accomplishments and recognitions that "illustrate our commitment to the university's continued growth and prosperity and the steps we are taking to prepare and build Radford University's future."
Atop the list was the university's approach to reaching its enrollment projections. Kyle was cautiously optimistic that census data for the fall semester would show another large freshman class, numbering 2014 students as of Aug. 25, with a higher proportion of Northern Virginia residents, minority students and out-of state students than ever before.
She complimented James Pennix, dean of admissions and enrollment management, and his staff for its diverse and creative effort to attract students to the opportunities at Radford University. The RU admissions team made over 1,000 high school visits, attended over 300 college fair programs, met one-on-one with prospective students and families at over 50 'Coffee Shop Meetings' locations familiar to individual prospects and hosted 11 "high-yield" receptions in Roanoke, Northern Virginia, Richmond, Tidewater, Maryland, Philadelphia, Boston and North Carolina.
Complementing RU's admissions efforts are its new-student orientation programs, Quest and Quest Express, that Kyle said play an important role in validating the choices of Radford University by students and their parents. During these summer sessions, RU welcomed almost 2000 new freshmen, 600 transfer students and over 3,000 family members and guests during its 12-session schedule.
"The feedback that we have received from the student and family experiences has been overwhelmingly positive," she said. "I congratulate all those involved. It truly takes a team to make this program so successful."
Kyle reflected on other successes of the past year that "reinforce that our mission centers on the students." Calling them points of "personal and professional pride," she highlighted several RU student achievements:
- Laken Cooper, a 2014 biology graduate, who earned RU's first Scholar-Citizen distinction
- The completion of its "march to a million" by RU's Student Managed Investment Portfolio Organization (SMIPO) as its portfolio value reached $1 million
- Dan Metz, a senior biology major, winner of one of three national fellowships from the Ecological Society of America (ESA)
- Service by nursing students Chasity Campbell and Teresa Williamson, who participated in the 2014 Veterans Affairs Learning Opportunity Residency (VALOR) program
"This is a small sample of our students working with faculty, a dynamic combination that makes RU what it is," she said.
Other important RU accolades that the president reviewed were:
- Recognition by The Princeton Review as one of the "Best in the Southeast" in its "2015 Best Colleges: Region by Region" edition, the seventh time RU has been so recognized since 2008
- RU's second consecutive recognition as one of the nation's best-value institutes of higher education in the 2014 edition of The Princeton Review's "The Best Value Colleges"
- Recognition as one of the Top Interior Design Schools in the South for 2014 in DesignIntelligence's rankings of "America's Best Architecture & Design Schools"
- Designation of RU in the 2014 Guide to Military Friendly Schools, which recognizes institutions for their contributions to the education of veterans
- For the fifth consecutive year, The Princeton Review listed RU as one of the 332 most environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada
- The home of the College of Business and Economics became the fourth building to receive LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold status and first new construction project to receive LEED Gold status
Two important accreditations of RU programs by professional organizations were key milestones of the past year. RU's Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and the Waldron College of Health and Human Services' baccalaureate nursing program both earned prestigious accreditation to mark them among the elite in their field. Kyle also announced data she had just received about the 97.5 percent passing rate by RU School of Nursing (SON) graduates on the NC-LEX, the national nursing licensure exam. The passing rate of RU's SON graduates exceeded the national average of 85 percent.
Among other RU initiatives on behalf of student success that Kyle recounted were the recently signed Guaranteed Admissions Agreement for Nursing with the Virginia Community College System and a series of high impact student experience programs by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, the Scholar-Citizen Initiative, International Education, the Honors Academy and RU Accelerate.
"Never before have we offered our students so many ways to expand their horizons or engage with the their community," she said.
Of particular note, she said, was the inaugural Virginia Leadership Conference, co-hosted by RU. The three-day academy allowed newly elected campus leaders and their advisors to share ideas and solutions, receive training and personal consultations from current student affairs vice presidents, deans of students and leadership experts.
Another collaborative effort Kyle cited as critical to RU's future is the alumni speakers bureau in which alumni and academe combine to build and strengthen the bonds between alumni and alma mater on behalf of the current students.
"I can not emphasize enough the importance of maintaining relationships with students after they graduate," she said. "Alumni bring new ideas and they serve as positive examples of what can be done with a Radford University degree.
President Kyle also recounted four unique summer programs in which RU faculty shared their passion and expertise with future students:
- For the second time, Radford University hosted Virginia Boys State with over 800 young future leaders, who spent a week on campus learning about political and governmental processes.
- For the fifth year, RU hosted nearly 400 talented high school students for the Virginia Summer Residential Governor's Schools in the Humanities and in the Visual and Performing Arts.
- The College of Science and Technology hosted its ninth annual Summer Bridge program, a weeklong residential experience for rising sophomore, junior and senior high school girls interested in science, technology, and mathematics.
- For the first time, RU hosted the Virginia Science Technology Engineering and Applied Mathematics (STEAM) Academy, a weeklong residential learning experience for middle school students across the state. As a host, Kyle said, RU is now allied with a visionary group of professionals who are creating a public, multi-dimensional education initiative aimed at improving the state's science, technology, engineering, and applied mathematics offerings on behalf of the Commonwealth.
President Kyle also announced the product of a successful collaborative initiative originated by discussions between the Faculty Senate and the Student Government Association - a new Free Expression Policy - that went into effect in June. Calling free expression an important cornerstone of higher education, Kyle detailed the work done by a committee of faculty and senior administration, with SGA input and participation.
"I am proud to say, the policy is an important step toward protecting and encouraging free speech rights for our students, faculty, staff and others who come on our campus," she said. "I appreciate the patience and hard work of all those who labored on this issue that allowed us to find a mutually agreeable solution that I am confident will serve the interests of the RU community."
The president updated the faculty on campus construction projects and improvements, including the 114,000 square-foot, $32.5 million Student Recreation and Wellness Center projected to be completed in November and the $49 million Center for the Sciences that has an estimated mid-2015 completion date. Work on the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS) building project began this summer and will result in the largest academic building on campus upon completion in mid-2016.
President Kyle acknowledged that faculty success and honors are a key part of the RU story, exemplified by the five RU faculty members who will compete for the 2015 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) Outstanding Faculty Awards later this year. During the convocation, Kyle announced RU's nominees for the prestigious awards:
- Niels Christensen, professor of psychology
- Carla Corroto, assistant professor of sociology
- Jennifer Jones, assistant professor of teacher education and leadership
- Jolanta Wawrzycka, professor of English
- Jason Davis, assistant professor of biology, the RU nominee for the Rising Star Award.
Kyle said the work of the university is far from over and she encouraged those in attendance to strive to improve Radford University. Part of that effort, she said, is telling our stories of success.
"Please continue to tell your stories. All of us are ambassadors. We are RU," she said.
The President briefed the faculty on the university's upcoming branding and marketing initiative that will amplify the RU success story. Its goals are:
- To comparatively position Radford University in the increasingly competitive higher education marketplace
- To build an affinity between the university and alumni, friends and donors
- To articulate the university's professional opportunities as it attempts to attract and retain quality faculty and staff.
Joined by Provost Sam Minner, Kyle then presented the Radford University Foundation Faculty Awards. Each recipient identified an outstanding student to receive a scholarship in the award-winner's name. The awards and the scholarship recipients were:
- Distinguished Faculty Advising Award recipient - Angela Stanton, professor of marketing. Her scholarship designee is Sarah Ponthieux.
- Administrative and Professional Excellence Award - Deborah Kitts, advising coordinator for the college of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences. Her scholarship designee is Lee Hicks.
- Distinguished Service Award - Justin Anderson, associate professor of biology. His scholarship designee is Jorge Torres.
- Distinguished Creative Scholar Award - Inessa Plekhanova, associate professor of dance. Her scholarship designee is Kristen Jameson.
- The Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award - Dr. Jennifer Jones, professor of teacher education and leadership. Her scholarship designee is Teresa Sutherland.
In closing, Kyle introduced Dennis Grady, dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies and leader of RU's sponsored programs. Grady presented the Million-Dollar Award winners, each of whom secured funding of $1 million or more for university programs and initiatives. They and their grant totals are:
- Ian Barland, associate professor of information technology: $1.2 million
- Agida Manizade, associate professor of mathematics and statistics: $1.2 million
- Jean Mistele, assistant professor of mathematics and statistics: $1.1 million.
- Orion Rogers, dean of the College of Science andTechnology: $1.2 million
- Premchand Uppuluri, associate professor of information technology: $1.3 million.
President Kyle then welcomed the faculty and staff guests at a reception in Young Hall after the Convocation to celebrate a new academic year and acknowledge their contribution to the university's successes last year.