Featured Alumni

Priya Ramesh, M.S. ’03

By Bailey Black

Priya Ramesh M.S. ’03 was a journalist in India before making her way to Radford University to pursue a career in corporate communications.

Ramesh initially entered the working world after earning a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Madras in Chennai, India. After a few years of being a journalist, she realized she wanted to apply her communications skills in a different way.

“I realized I could have a bigger impact,” explained Ramesh. “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice to be on the side of a company I believe in and help them be more relevant to the news cycle?’ That was my introduction to corporate communications.”

However, she soon discovered that there were not corporate communications programs at the university level in India. It was then that she decided to look to the United States to further her education.

She began by scoping out the larger universities in the United States, in the hopes of finding the best-of-the-best corporate communications programs. Though not originally on her radar, she found Radford’s Corporate and Professional Communication program. After researching the university online and reading about the faculty and their research, she decided to apply.

Ramesh was accepted into all seven universities she applied to and felt lucky to be able to pick and choose between them; however, one deciding factor was whether or not she would be able to get financial assistance. Coming from a working-class family in India, Ramesh would not be able to afford to go to college in the United States without the help of scholarships.

“Radford was the one that trusted in me, saw the potential in me and gave me that opportunity,” said Ramesh. “I’m always grateful to Radford University, otherwise I could not have afforded to pursue a life and a career here [in the United States].”

Ramesh travelled from India to the United States in 2001 to pursue a Master’s of Science in Corporate and Professional Communication at Radford. She says one of her favorite parts of the program was having the flexibility to take both communications classes and classes from the MBA program, which helped her build her portfolio.

One person that stood out to Ramesh during her time at Radford was her graduate advisor, Gwen O. Brown, Ph.D. As she puts it, Brown was like a mother to her.

“Imagine you’re in a new country, having to start your life from zero, with no one to call a friend or family,” said Ramesh. “On top of that, when you come in on scholarship, you have to maintain a certain GPA. Every semester, I maintained a 4.0 GPA, but to get to that point, I had to have someone like Dr. Brown who I could consider my mentor and my guide.”

Ramesh says Brown was not only a great professor but also a considerate, understanding and nurturing human being.

“There would be silly questions like, ‘Dr. Brown, where can I go shopping?’ or, ‘Where can I go pick up a nice blazer for my presentation tomorrow?’ and she would be more than willing to help you out,” said Ramesh. “She might even give you a ride! That’s the kind of high caliber, absolutely brilliant person she was.”

During her time at Radford, Ramesh also served as a teaching fellow at the Center for Career and Talent Development. She helped students craft their resumes, identify their career paths and find internships. Because Ramesh already had work experience, she felt as though it was the perfect way for her to give back to the student body.

“I absolutely loved being able to make a small difference in the lives of our fellow students, seeing them walk out of the career center with confidence and clarity. We would celebrate them coming back in and saying, ‘Priya! I got that internship! Thank you so much for helping me out!’ It was one of those life moments for me where I could truly have a positive influence,” said Ramesh.

After graduating from Radford, Ramesh worked in corporate communications for 15 years. Her successes include being a part of global public relations agencies like Burson-Marstellar and running external communications for IBM. Through working with many CEOS and executives across multiple industries, she decided to launch her own company, CEO Communications LLC, in the San Francisco Bay Area to focus on communications coaching.

Now known as the “CEO-whisperer,” Ramesh helps business leaders become powerful communicators, coaching them on how to give speeches, inspire employees, talk to the media and more. She has worked with CEOs and executives at Ford Motor Corporation, GE, Intel, AARP, HP, IBM and 8x8.

Her favorite class at Radford, Leadership Communication, led by David H. Dobkins, Ph.D., was one that has directly applied to her work at CEO Communications LLC. Ramesh says Dobkins’s teaching style and expertise was what really enhanced her interest in the subject.

“When you look back at your life and think of the moments that have led you to where you are today, your university plays a big part – the people you met, the opportunities you had – so I’m always grateful to Radford University,” explained Ramesh. “I feel like coming to Radford was the best decision I could have made.”

To learn more about CEO Communications LLC, visit https://ceocommunications.co/.

September 11, 2019

Arielle Retting-Class of '12


By Max Esterhuizen

Arielle Retting ’12 always knew she wanted to be a copy editor. Through ample opportunities while a student at Radford University, she made her dream a reality.

Retting has had a dynamic and exciting career, with stops at organizations including The Washington Post, The Guardian and WIRED, before her current job as a copy editor at NPR. Before she landed each of these gigs, she got the experience she needed at Radford University.

As a student, Retting took full advantage of the opportunities available to her and participated heavily in student media at the Tartan and WHIM Internet Magazine.

“Halfway through my sophomore year, I became editor-in-chief of WHIM,” Retting said. “I just went for it, and I got it. It was really hard, but the cool thing at the time with being a cutting-edge magazine, it was open to interpretation. It was helpful to have something that didn’t have a lot of legacy behind it.”

Since Retting and the other student leadership at WHIM were starting out their collegiate careers, they were able to establish a production process, timely deadlines and a structure that previously wasn’t there.

Read more by following this link: Arielle Retting

Peter Mason shows that journalism takes perseverance and hard work


By Jeremy Moser

When Peter Mason left Radford, journalism degree in hand, he had already started working at the Southwest Times in Pulaski. He had been there for a month when the editor there said, “You’re not meeting our expectations.” He was fired. 

“That was a cold, low-blow,” Peter says. “I had gone to school for four years studying this, I felt like I should’ve been ready to do it professionally.” 

Again, he tried working for another newspaper, the News Messenger in Christiansburg. It ended about the same way. 

 Discouraged, he moved back in with his dad at the end of that year and took some time to work and clear his head. However, he didn’t want to give up. It wasn’t just that he had spent four years learning how to do it, he held on to his passion for sports writing.

Ever since his dad took a young Peter to a basketball game, he has loved sports. As a kid, he loved to write, but didn’t think he could do it as a career. He spent a great deal of time at sporting events while doing marching band in high school. It turned him on to the atmosphere. So, Peter thought, “why not try being a sports writer?” 

After a year of working at Bojangles, Peter wanted to “get back on track.” He had the idea to go to grad school and get a master’s degree. His reasoning was, “It would set me apart from all the people who finished undergrad that were looking for jobs like that.” 

He thought, “It’s what I want to do with my career. I cannot just give it up because a few things didn’t go right.” 

He applied to a two-year master’s program at Virginia Commonwealth University. He wasn’t confident about being accepted. 

Read more about Peter by following this link: Peter Mason

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.

Read more about Ashley by following this link: Mike Ashley

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