Featured Alumni

Mike Ashley, Class of '83


By Breann Pendleton

Alumnus Mike Ashley physically left Radford University in the year 1983 but his heart has remained here all along. You can actually hear his passion for journalism when just listening to him talk.  

Ashley’s career in journalism began in high school with his school basketball team.

“My high school basketball team in Salem didn’t do too well, but the coach Joe Davis liked the way I handled the reporting for the games,” Ashley says.

This same coach would be the one to make Ashley the first ever “recruited” sports writer for Radford University. Ashley spent a year in community college then was contacted by his old high school basketball coach. Davis went on to coach for Radford’s basketball team for two years before Ashley decided to attend Radford University.

It was Davis who knew the skills and talent Ashley possessed, which led him to pursuing Ashley as a sports writer for Radford. Ashley was then introduced to Rick Rogers, the sports information director from 1967-1995. Ashley says Rogers was a huge inspiration to him and someone he looked up to that kept him on the straight and narrow.

“I can’t mention Rick without thanking Debbie Brown as well,” Ashley says. “Her and Rick saw my talent and gave me a lot of latitude, I have those two to thank.”

Rogers made no mistake recruiting Ashley for the journalism team here at Radford. The Tartan won seven national awards the first year he was there, and Ashley won some personally as well over the years. Even though he had a lot of help from the great staff we have here at Radford, Ashley hustled his way into publications nearby other than The Tartan.

“I knew the times that the local television news stations would show up to sports events and would tell them about star athletes and offer to get interviews from them for their segments,” Ashley says.

He also wrote features on local athletes and would submit them to the Roanoke Times.

“I made sure I got my work out there, because this business is all about experience and what you’ve done over the years while studying journalism,” he says.  

For a journalist so serious about his craft and the importance of gaining experience, you wouldn’t guess that he had a five-year stint in stand-up comedy.

“I kind of wanted to always be the funny guy in the room,” Ashley says. “If it weren’t for working in the public relations office, I probably wouldn’t know how to be so professional.”

Even after years of parting ways with Radford University, Ashley still finds a home here. Ashley serves on the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences Advisory board. He has a leadership role in presenting annual awards. He says he very much enjoys being involved with the media studies program and reveals that the board is working on starting a law program at Radford.

“I bleed plaid,” he says with a laugh. “I’m very involved in Radford still, it’s where I got my start and I know we have a great program there.”

Ashley currently lives in Fairfax, Virginia and has been working as a freelance writer for the past 20 years. He mainly focuses on reporting college football and basketball. He enjoys traveling to games and reporting on his first love, college sports.

Dave Parker

Parker (2)

By Courtney Young

One of the first events of Radford University’s COMS Week 2017 was Dave Parker’s ‘Like What You Do, Do What You Like: Career Advice from a TV and Radio Expert,’ Monday, April 10 at 10 a.m.

He spoke to the crowded Bonnie Auditorium with enthusiasm and nostalgia as he explained his experiences at Radford, and what it was like for him in the work force. Graduating in 1989, Parker got his start in the media industry with an internship in California, providing him with time working on several television game shows. After graduating Radford, Parker pursued a meteorology degree, and got a job doing the weather at a station in West Virginia.

Read more about Parker by following this link: Dave Parker

Ann Brown, Class of '03


By Alexis Goodwin

Finding opportunities and exceeding expectations has been the focus of Radford alumna, Ann Brown since high school. Time after time she landed the right internships and worked with all that she had to open her own next door. Brown earned her Master of Science degree in Corporate and Professional Communication from Radford University in 2003 and her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Communication with a concentration in broadcasting from Millersville University in 1996.

During high school, Brown interned at WHP 580, a news talk station, and Traffax Traffic Network in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In college, she interned at WFLA in Tampa, Florida where she field-produced and learned her way around a television station newsroom.  During her final semester of college Brown worked as a full time intern at WPMT-FOX 43.

“I took every opportunity that I could to write stories for the producer and field produce with a videographer,” Brown said.

Her hard work paid off and after graduating, Brown was offered a permanent position with the same station. Through the internships and roles she held, Brown was able to network her way into a position at WSLS News Channel 10 in Roanoke.

“The connections I made during my internship at WFLA in Tampa helped me to obtain my job at WSLS. The two stations are owned by the same company, Media General,” Brown said.

Brown left broadcast journalism and started her career in public relations at Radford University in 1999 as a public relations specialist writing press releases and feature stories. Shortly after, Brown decided to pursue a graduate degree at Radford.

“I wanted to find out why we do what we do, what was the strategy behind the communications tools I was creating,” Brown said.

Brown took one class per semester for most of her degree, then doubled up on classes for two semesters because she was expecting her first child, and in 2003 successfully completed her graduate degree in Corporate and Professional Communication.

“My Radford University graduate degree helped me learn the strategy behind communication and how it can help organizations reach their goals,” Brown said.

Brown has been at Radford University for a total of 18 years as a student and employee, and has held numerous roles including News Bureau Writer, Multimedia Coordinator, Associate Director of University Relations, Assistant to the Dean for the College of Science and Technology, and Associate Director of Alumni and Advancement Initiatives. She currently holds the position of Director of Advancement Communications and oversees all communications that support fundraising and alumni relations.

When asked if anyone stood out from her time at Radford as being influential in her career, Brown named Ms. Debbie Brown who was the head of Radford University’s Office of University Relations. Coincidentally, they have the same last name.

“She was very instrumental in my development as a public relations practitioner. She challenged me with special projects and responsibilities and helped me grow professionally. I’m very thankful for her mentoring and guidance,” Brown said.

Since 1999 Brown has seen immense changes occur at Radford University.

“The University has grown in reputation and academic offerings. It has been an exciting time to be a member of the Highlander Family,” Brown said.

By simply looking at the experiences Brown has had over her academic and professional career, it is easy to see how her main advice to students would be to take advantage of any and all opportunities they come across.

“Build your resume with as many internships as you can while a student. While in those internships, take the initiative to take on projects that will enhance your portfolio,” Brown concluded.

Olivia Rhiannon Abbott, Class of 2015

Olivia Rhiannon Abbott, Class of 2015

By Amy Caudill

The typical day for Olivia Rhiannon Abbott consists of waking up at 6 a.m. and getting ready for work. She gets to Don Jacobs BMW Dealership at 7:30 a.m. and starts her shift as the front desk receptionist. At 4:30 p.m., she battles the city traffic of Lexington, Kentucky, on her way home. She cooks, cleans, feeds her and her husband’s three dogs and calls it a day. But while this is Abbott’s current job, she has a lot more going on behind the scenes.

Abbott graduated in 2015 with a degree in media studies and a concentration in production technology. Ever since she was a young girl, she enjoyed watching Disney movies and reciting the lines to her parents. Because of this, her mother began entering her into school and church plays.

Click on this link to read more about Olivia: News & Events

Glenn Hall, Class of 2016

Glenn Hall, Class of 2016

By Colton Rhea McConnell

Glenn Hall, 22, of Falls Church, Virginia, who graduated in May 2016 with a degree in media studies with a concentration in production technology, has found a career opener at C-SPAN.

Hall works as a temporary video field technician for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network in Washington D.C. Hall first began working for C-SPAN in July 2016 and is scheduled to work until Nov. 11.

“I like working there,” said Hall. “It’s all unedited. It’s straight forward. There’s no cuts or commentary and the only time they have a news broadcaster or anchor is for their morning show, and most of that is getting opinion around the country.”

Click on this link to read more about Glenn: News & Events

Jeremy Jennings, Class of 2013

Jeremy Jennings, Class of 2013

By Kevon DuPree

Anytime professors have trouble with the technology in the new College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS) building, he’s usually the first person on the scene. He walks hastily into the classroom where his assistance is needed with a huge grin on his face, solves whatever technological issues may be present, and returns to his office, located on the first floor of the CHBS building.

This tech-savvy individual is Jeremy Jennings. Jennings was hired on Aug. 17 as a technology specialist, specifically for Radford University’s newest academic building.

To learn more about Jeremy follow this link: News & Events

Steven Kaminski, Class of 1995

Steve Kaminski

“My best years were as editor-in-chief of The Tartan … we had such a great time changing it and making it something we would become quite proud of,” Kaminski said.

By Emily Lewis

It was one of those long nights in the office. Steven Kaminski was just waking up from a nap on one of the old, beaten down sofas in The Tartan office. While rubbing his eyes, he was thinking about the talk he had earlier that day with his staff. Was it his own irritation or was his staff not committed to the paper they were producing?

“My best years were as editor-in-chief of The Tartan … we had such a great time changing it and making it something we would become quite proud of,” Kaminski said.

To read more about Steven follow this link: News & Events

Christiana Marjakangas, Class of 2014

Photo of Christiana Marjakangas

Recent PR grad begins career with local job that benefits community

By Alex Pistole  (photo by Stephen Blake Jackson)

For some people, those first steps off the graduation stage are hesitantly taken. Of course it’s an exciting moment to wrap up your college career, but if your only prospects are to go back home or stay in Radford hunting for jobs, you may not feel ready for college to be over. This wasn’t the case for Christiana Marjakangas. When she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in public relations in May of 2014, she not only had a job lined up, she was already working in her field part time.

Thanks to her work with career services and PRSSA, and a lucky turn of events at one of the job fairs on campus, she had landed a part-time position with the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce a few weeks before the end of the school year. Only a week or two after graduation, Marjakangas was made the communication director of the Chamber, and had her first full-time job in the PR field.

To read more about Christiana follow this link: News & Events

Colony Brown, Class of 1991

photo of Colony Brown

“I never had a big plan for my career, nor did I have everything mapped out.  Each job has been a leap of faith.  Yet, there has been a common theme of building and growing organizations and taking some risks,” says Colony Brown ’91.

Brown is currently the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at ZERO—The End of Prostate Cancer.  “Our mission is in our name, we want to end prostate cancer.  We plan to achieve our mission through advancing research, encouraging action, providing education and supporting men and their families.

As a student at Radford University, Brown majored in communication.  “At that time, no one really knew what jobs were available with a communication degree.  I just knew I wanted it to be my major.  I’m a firm believer that strong communication skills are the key to achieving success both professionally and personally,” she says.

Read the rest of this article at the following site: Office of Alumni Relations