Opportunities that bridge the gap between classroom study and real-world application make the learning experience come to life for students in the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS). Taking advantage of these opportunities outside of the traditional classroom setting allows students to apply what they have learned in new and engaging contexts.

However, these experiences are often costly and self-funded, making them inaccessible for many deserving students.

Recognizing this need, Dean Matthew J. Smith presented the idea for the Student Travel and Research Support (STARS) Fund to the CHBS Advisory Board in 2020. The fund would relieve students of financial burden by providing support for travel to short-term, domestic experiential learning opportunities. Appreciating the value in these experiences, the Advisory Board responded with enthusiasm, banded together and made the lead gifts to launch the fund.

Support of the STARS Fund enables students to benefit from opportunities like presenting their research at conferences, experiencing eye-opening performances and engaging debates, and participating in experiential learning activities such as Model United Nations (UN) and competitive Mock Trial.

In Mock Trial, teams of students compete against other colleges, playing the roles of attorneys and witnesses. Competitors learn about the law, courtroom procedures, the rules of evidence, as well as public speaking and team building. Radford's Mock Trial team practices in its very own courtroom in Hemphill Hall.

Since its inception, nearly 230 donors have contributed over $29,000 to alleviate associated costs like registration fees, transportation, lodging and meals for students. This collective effort has also opened the door of opportunity for more students to participate in these high-impact experiences.

“So far, we have sent students everywhere from Atlanta, Georgia to Honolulu, Hawaii. These are experiences that are going to shape students as they think about their options as professionals and as they think about their alma mater,” said Smith. “I think we’re doing something transformative.”

Many highly motivated CHBS students engage in research projects with their faculty collaborators. Getting these students to academic conferences to present their research can cost more than $1,000 ­– well beyond the reach of many deserving students who may be financially constrained meeting the traditional college expenses of tuition, room and board.

With the help of the STARS Fund, graduate experimental psychology student Kaylyn Wertz ’23 was able to present her research at the Annual Psychonomic Society Conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

“There were numerous presentations and seminars that were being held throughout the conference, and attending them helped spur my interest in psychology even more. They provided me with the chance to gain new perspectives on research topics that can help inform my own research and future projects,” said Wertz. “I also had the opportunity to network with other professionals in the field of cognitive psychology and learn a great deal from others’ work, which was an insightful experience as I [apply] to Ph.D. programs in this area. Having conversations and making important connections with other researchers in the field has undoubtedly helped boost my confidence and enhance my skill sets that are necessary for success in graduate school."

I’m thankful that STARS and Radford University were able to help support my academic endeavors and give me the opportunity to grow both as a student and as a professional.

Kaylyn Wertz ’23
Emmie Maurer ’24 and her teammates attending the 2021 Southern Regional Model UN conference.

Model UN is one of many programs the STARS Fund supports. This organization enables students to develop their political and diplomatic skills, exercise leadership, engage in negotiation, practice public speaking and build their networks with students from other universities. Thanks to the STARS Fund, Model UN President Emmie Maurer ’24 was able to participate in the Southern Regional Model UN conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Going to conferences with my team has helped me learn how to communicate with people from other schools, as well as my team. This semester I was a part of a double delegation representing Canada in the General Assembly First Committee on Disarmament and Security. One challenge I was able to overcome was learning how to communicate the same ideas with other nations that coincide with our ideas,” said Maurer. “Model UN has complemented what I’m getting in the Radford classroom because it allows me to take my preparation and implement it with people from other schools.”

The STARS Fund has been widely supported by donors who have chosen to give through the Telephone Outreach Program and crowdfunding efforts. Alumni, faculty, staff and friends of Radford University have continued to come together to support students as they immerse themselves in their fields of study and prepare to excel in their careers after graduation.

If you would like more information on how you can support this important initiative, please contact Dr. Carter Turner, Director of University Advancement, at cturner5@radford.edu.


You can make a difference for CHBS students! The STARS Fund will be featured during the Highlanders Give Back crowdfunding initiative from Tuesday, April 4 to Thursday, April 6. Visit https://give.radford.edu/ to learn more.