Wicked Festival

What is the Wicked Festival?


The Wicked Festival is an exposition of student problem solving hosted by the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences and supported by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), Citizen Leader, and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship.

The Wicked Festival was motivated by a CITL book group on Dr. Hanstedt's book Creating Wicked Students: Designing Courses for a Complex World. The book inspired several important tenets of the festival: Students tackle wicked, complex, multi-dimensional public problems. Students find solutions. At the festival, students talk about their work with others, becoming the "authorities." At the Wicked Festival, students have used presentations, posters, and videos to start conversations about their problems and solutions.

Upon visiting the Radford Wicked Festival in Fall 2022, Dr. Hanstedt observed: “It is so impressive . . . I’ve never seen anything like it . . .. The way these students have engaged their ideas is truly an educational experience. The light in their eyes changes. They’re not just learning about themselves; they’re learning about what they are capable of accomplishing.”

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When Is The Next Wicked Festival?

The Spring 2024 Wicked Festival is April 11, 2024 from 5-7:30 p.m. in Kyle Hall. Faculty, students, families, and prospective Radford students may contact Dr. Paige Tan for more information.

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How Do Students Benefit?


We have found “wicked” teaching empowers students with the ability to define, research, and solve problems; oral presentation skills; confidence; toleration of ambiguity; collaboration, and understanding failure as part of the process to success.

We hope our wicked problem solvers will be in demand by employers. One of the key career readiness competencies identified by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) is critical thinking. Behaviors associated with critical thinking are, according to NACE: “solving problems using sound, inclusive reasoning and judgment.”

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Student Comments

  • “The projects I [saw] covered a variety of topics from climate change to obesity, to war, to energy conservation. Some problems could happen in the future and some problems were occurring right now and need solutions. Some problems had better solutions than others, but I loved the creativity of each solution. Additionally, I enjoyed the diversity of the projects because there was always a new idea to look at.” 
  • “I had to dig deep to find out there isn’t a perfect solution, but there probably is a best solution that is effective, feasible and acceptable.” 
  • “When I began to present my poster, not a lot of people stopped to listen. When people did . . . , I found my understanding of my project began to develop. I was able to understand . . . what important parts of my issue needed to be explained for people to understand and care about the issue I was talking about.” 
  • “[Wicked] has helped me practice public speaking, a skill that can be used in a variety of professional settings. I used to hate talking in public but after some time now I’ve mastered it and I’m doing much better than before. I love getting feedback from people. I want to know others’ opinions/ideas about my work and sometimes presentations do open doors for such conversations.” 
  • “I hope that you and other faculty feel overwhelmed with joy and pride from the fantastic event. Thank you so much again, and I can't wait to do it again next year!” 
  • From a student helping to host the festival: “Usually when working in a group if a team member doesn’t pull their weight or work is not turned in on time it only results in a bad grade. In this case we were involved in the planning of a conference and if my group did not meet expectations it could result in the festival not going as planned. This added an element of pressure and represents what it would be like to complete a project in the job force. Within an actual career, if work is not submitted or done properly it could result in unsuccessful plans or the loss of your job, not just a bad grade.” 
  • “At first I was anxious and not confident that I would be able to successfully present the issue. So I really didn’t want anyone to come up to me. However, after my first presentation, I was hoping more people would be interested so I’d be able to share my knowledge. I was a lot more confident and assertive with the delivery I performed as well.”
  • “I left with new skills.”
  • This “built confidence.” 
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Learn More

How Can Students Take Part in a Future Wicked Festival?

Look for courses in Appalachian Studies, Biology, Citizen Leader, Criminal Justice, Design, Economics, Education, English, Geography, International Studies, Marketing, Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS), Peace Studies, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Social Work, and Spanish that take part in Wicked. 

Courses which have participated in Wicked (Fall 2021-Spring 2024)

Individual classes that have participated in the festival in the past include: 

  • APST 495 Research in Appalachia, Professor Tim Thornton
  • BIOL 112 Integrative Biology II. Dr. Christine Small and Dr. Amanda Raimer 
  • Citizen Leader 200 Becoming a Better Leader, Dr. Jean Mistele
  • CRJU 495 Critical Perspectives in Criminal Justice, Dr. Steve Owen
  • DSN 402 Global Design Studio, Dr. Meg Konkel 
  • ECON 101 Economics in Everyday Life, Dr. Jennifer Elias 
  • EDUC 459/559 Methods for Social Studies Instruction Grades 6-12, Dr. Darren Minarik
  • ENGL 112 Critical Reading and Writing in the Digital Age, Dr. Laurie Cubbison 
  • GEOG 140 Intro to Environmental Studies, Dr. Stockton Maxwell 
  • INST 101 Understanding the World, Dr. Tay Keong Tan 
  • INST 490 Pursuing Global Sustainability, Dr. Tay Keong Tan 
  • MKTG 101 Creativity and Innovation, Dr. Jane Machin, Dr. Luke Liska 
  • OURS 100 Introduction to Research and Creative Inquiry, Dr. Joe Wirgau 
  • PEAC 200 Intro to Peace Studies, Professor Johannes Grow 
  • PHIL 112 Introduction Ethics and Society, Dr. Katy Shepard 
  • PHIL 115 Wicked Problems (and Honors), Dr. Steven Fesmire, Dr. Heather Keith, Dr. Mike Zarella, Dr. Katy Shepard, Dr. Meg Konkel 
  • POSC 130 Changing the World, Dr. Paige Tan, Professor Charity Boyette 
  • POSC 180 Leadership, Dr. Tay Keong Tan, Dr. Chapman Rackaway, Professor Charity Boyette 
  • POSC 330 State and Local Government, Dr. Chapman Rackaway 
  • POSC 335 American Public Policy, Professor Johannes Grow 
  • POSC 342 Chinese Politics, Dr. Paige Tan 
  • POSC 350 US Foreign Policy, Dr. Paige Tan 
  • POSC 354 Ethics in International Affairs, Dr. Paige Tan  
  • POSC 355 Global Terrorism, Dr. Paige Tan 
  • POSC 360 International Law and Organizations, Dr. Tay Keong Tan 
  • POSC 392 Political Science Careers, Dr. Paige Tan 
  • POSC 410 Demystifying Leadership, Dr. Tay Keong Tan 
  • POSC 490 Capstone, Dr. Tay Keong Tan, Dr. Paige Tan 
  • SOCY 370 Environmental Sociology, Dr. Aysha Bodenhamer 
  • SOWK 220 Intro to Social Justice, Dr. Christine Rogerson 
  • SPAN 336 Topics in Latin American Film, Dr. Rita Martin  
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Wicked Thanks

The Wicked Festival could not happen without our partners and supporters on campus.

  • Dean Matthew Smith, College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, for on-going, multi-layered support.
  • Dr. Joe Wirgau, Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS), for printing, logistical, and moral support.
  • Dr. Jean Mistele, Director of the Citizen Leader program (CL), for providing a faculty partner for staff support.
  • Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) for helping to give birth to the Wicked Festival through faculty development initiatives.
  • RU alumni for generous financial and technical support for the festival.
  • Wicked Festival faculty who do these labor-intensive projects to give their students outstanding learning experiences.
  • Faculty, student, and alumni judges.
  • Wicked staff and volunteers.
  • And, lastly, thanks to our Radford students who dove in head first to try to solve some of the world’s thorniest problems.