President Hemphill presents plans for university's future to local business leaders
Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill sees many opportunities for the university and local businesses to create working partnerships that can lead to greater success for area businesses and Radford’s students and faculty.
Hemphill, who became the university’s seventh president in July, presented his vision to a large group of business leaders during a breakfast gathering on Aug. 2 at Kyle Hall.
“This is a great opportunity for us to spend some time with the business community and have an opportunity to have a very open dialogue about the future of Radford University and also some of the opportunities that we may have to partner and engage,” President Hemphill said. “That is very important to us.”
President Hemphill said he met with many of the business and community leaders before he took office in July and those conversations have helped shape his plans for the university moving forward.
The president spoke about current challenges in higher education and those specific to Radford University, citing recruitment and retention among those at the top of the list.
“We need your support through access and opportunities for students,” he said. “Make sure you open the door to these young minds to be able to come here and engage with the campus.”
The guiding principles, President Hemphill said, for Radford University’s future includes a commitment to excellence, accountability, transparency and student centeredness.
Looking toward the university’s future, President Hemphill spoke about strategic focus areas for the university, including improving partnerships with local businesses.
“We have to look at how we play a role in addressing the social needs of Southwest Virginia,” Hemphill said. “We know that we are an economic driver, but we have to look at how we can improve and how we partner within this particular region, how we partner with business and industry and to help to diversify the economy and look at the number of graduates we can produce by partnering with you.”
In addition, Hemphill said he’d like the university to focus future efforts toward brand development, academic excellence and research, student success, strategic enrollment growth and philanthropic giving and alumni engagement.
“Those areas will be the cornerstone of the work we’re going to do as an institution as we think about our future,” he said.
Brand identity “is so important to this great university,” the president said. In traveling around the state and meeting with alumni and individuals connected with Radford University, President Hemphill said “It has amazed me the level of engagement and excitement and the stories people share with me about what Radford provided for them as they went out into the world and the great things they are doing in their businesses.”
Hemphill said the university must tell those stories and “let people know the great things that are going on at this university and about the successful graduates that we have produced.”
Improving first-year retention and graduation rates are other important initiatives for the university, President Hemphill said. He also emphasized improving the holistic student experience.
“We have to make sure that we are preparing students as they come to the campus to be able to be successful here, and we need to look and how they engage with the community,” he said. “Regardless of where they come from, we need to make sure that students have a good connection and can find their niche and connection and be a part of this community.”
The president said opportunities with local businesses can help students find their place within the Radford community.
John T. Overton of LewisGale Hospital in Pulaski said “Southwest Virginia businesses have a variety of employers -- industries, technology, government agencies and other professions – that are willing to serve as mentors, partners and employers to keep and develop talented Radford University graduates. Our community needs tested and proven leaders who will stay and actively contribute to the growth of the region by being entrepreneurial in their ideas, hands-on in their interactions and genuinely invested in positively enhancing the quality of education, work and life in the region.”
In terms of enrollment growth, Hemphill said the university will focus more on recruiting international and out-of-state students and will look to expand its online course offerings.
Alumni engagement is also vital to the university’s future, the president said. “We are 72,000 strong with alumni at this great university, and we need to engage each and every one of them.”
President Hemphill said he plans to “bring to life” his goals through a strategic planning process that will be developed over the next year. “I ask this group to partner with us, lock arms with us and allow us to really move forward and make a difference for Southwest Virginia, the New River Valley and this entire area.”
Linda Gardiner, vice president of business development at the Bank of Floyd, said she appreciated President Hemphill meeting with the business leaders and listening to their concerns.
“I believe he has a fantastic vision for the university, and I am truly encouraged with the enthusiasm he has for Radford University and for this area,” Gardiner said. “I am also excited about his wanting to get the joint involvement of the city and university working together. He seems to have a good plan to address the issues that are most important.”
Ben Bondurant of Bondurant Realty said the business leaders breakfast was a great opportunity to learn about President Hemphill’s plans for the university. “I was impressed with his efforts to connect with the community. A positive relationship between the community members and the university is vital to the growth of our city,” Bondurant said. “We certainly appreciate his outreach to the Radford businesses, and I look forward to see what positive impacts President Hemphill will have on our town.”
Following his presentation, President Hemphill answered questions regarding campus safety, enrollment and the expectations of the business community in regard to its role with the university.
“Continue to work with us around internships, externships and opportunities for our students,” President Hemphill said. “That is something the business community can do that would be so beneficial. Please continue to provide those types of opportunities. Look for opportunities where you can open the door for more of our Radford graduates.”
President Hemphill said the “vision for the institution is to really transform Radford to a premier, innovative university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond with a focus on teaching, research and service. With your support, we will be successful.”