2022 Award Recipients
Jennifer McDonel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Music
Donald N. Dedmon Distinguished Teaching Professor Award
During her 30-year career, Dr. Jennifer McDonel has taught music to infants through graduate students and beyond, “delighting in the challenges and joys of teaching and making music with persons of all ages.” She has a strong commitment to RU’s mission of “empowering students”, giving opportunity to broaden perspectives, stretching minds and abilities.”
As a music educator and researcher Dr. McDonel is “deeply committed to the process of learning and helping students reach their full potential as individuals, citizens, and professionals.” She believes that, “building strong relationships with students is foundational, because it engenders trust and respect and creates learning environments where it is safe to take risks.”
Margaret T. Devaney, retired Dean for the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Radford University described Dr. McDonel as, “having a well-earned reputation as a teacher who frequently goes beyond the “expected" to make sure her students' needs are met, and both the university community and surrounding populace benefit greatly from her efforts.”
Michael grew up in Gretna, VA, a rural south-central town, in a family of humble means. His parents enjoy music, and they and his brother encouraged and influenced him to start his musical journey in band. He graduated from Gretna High School in 2021, already having taught himself several instruments.
Because of his natural aptitude for music, his band directors suggested being a band director early in his high school career. He enthusiastically dives into any and all things musical with a passion and dedication rarely seen in an undergraduate student. Michael is a consummate student, always striving for his personal best and enabling and encouraging his peers as well. Michael plans on teaching high school music and eventually pursuing his masters and doctorate in music so he can share his musical skills and knowledge both at secondary and higher education levels.
James Newman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Recreation, Parks and Tourism
Distinguished Faculty Advising Award
Dr. James Newman believes that, “the trust placed in us by parents, and by the students themselves is a significant leap of faith. It is imperative that we are good stewards of that trust. To that end, I approach advising for each student as if they were my own family.”
A respected colleague wrote, “Dr. Newman is readily available to all of his students. His door is always open and students are greeted in an inviting and welcoming manner. He is exceptional in the amount and quality of time he dedicates to support his students’ development and success despite his many responsibilities as department chair, program leader, and a faculty member.” Dr. Newman is considered by his peers as a generous colleague and role model, deeply invested in the success of students.
As a relatively new Junior in the Recreation Parks and Tourism Recreation Therapy concentration, Gifty Kwofie has thrown herself wholeheartedly into her new major. Not just academically, but professionally and socially as well.
As a child, Gifty was born in West Africa and her family moved to the US in 2004 through refugee camps to escape the civil war in Liberia, eventually being placed in Richmond, VA. From such humble beginnings, Gifty has made the most of her life.
Gifty enjoys spending time with friends in the outdoors, photography, and exploring new restaurants. She couples her leisure with her professional interests, most recently working with SOAR in North Carolina providing an outdoor-based therapeutic services for adolescents with a variety of intellectual and behavioral needs. She is very active in the campus community with the Lady RU’s and most recently was interviewed on local TV as a participant in the 2022 Renew the New river cleanup. I cannot be prouder of this incredibly energetic and compassionate young professional. She will truly be a leader in our field.
Holly Cline, Ph.D., Professor of Interior Design and Fashion
Distinguished Service Award
Remarks from her colleagues illustrate Dr. Holly Cline as an “unwavering advocacy for the faculty and students in the department”; “she embodies Radford University’s spirit of innovation and excellence”; and “as a connector, Dr. Cline brings people’s voices together in ways that make Radford University a better place to work and learn.”
Dr. Cline has a willingness to step outside her department having served on the University 2020 Presidential Task Force on Sustainability and Climate Action. The resulting Climate Action Plan for the University was approved by the Board of Visitors in 2021. She is considered energetic and enthusiastic. The Distinguished Service Award is fashioned to recognize faculty who have contributed substantial service to the University over a sustained period of time. “She’s a leader in the classroom and in the community where she sets an example for serving Highlanders every day.”
Kayla Sadd has the best smile on campus. It is infectious and while this might not seem like the academic trait you are looking for in a student, it permeates who she is. This smile stems from her quest for knowledge and a true willingness to learn from all she encounters.
I had the pleasure of teaching Kayla in the Fall of 2020 when we came back to campus behind masks. Even though you could not see her smile at the time, you knew she was smiling. Kayla is one of those students when you ask her to volunteer -she does it! Or give her an opportunity - she takes it! Kayla goes the extra mile and produces superior work. This past year, I asked Kayla to apply for an exclusive internship experience that would require her to work quite a bit over Winter Break in order to apply. We knew it was a long shot but, Kayla worked on the special project without complaint and even though she didn’t get the award, she thanked me for the opportunity and noted the learning that occurred outside the classroom. Kayla is an impressive young designer that has quite a future ahead of her, plus a great smile.
Ms. Mary Catherine Santoro, Assistant Professor, RUC Clinical Instruction and Outreach Librarian
Administrative and Professional Excellence Award
Ms. Mary Catherine Santoro takes pride and gratification in the opportunities that working for Radford University has provided. She believes that informal forms of outreach and collaboration are critical to the building of a successful community.
”Mary Catherine makes anyone who enters the RUC library feel welcome, engaging and funny, and an excellent ambassador.” She assists faculty and students from the Radford main campus and is considered by her colleagues as a team player and exemplar as an Administrative and Professional faculty member. Considered a tremendous resource to staff, faculty, and students, Ms. Santoro has served the university community since beginning her tenure at Jefferson College of Health Sciences, now Radford University Carilion.
Senior Biomedical Science major Aminata Yarmah, originally from Liberia, has been a standout since her arrival at Radford University Carilion. She has been a student worker in the RUC Library over the past several years, and throughout her time with us, she has demonstrated an energy that is unmatched. She is always willing to help out wherever she is needed, is engaged in her work and with her colleagues, and approaches things with positively and with enthusiasm.
When asked to describe Aminata, her professor Dr. Robin Davies wrote, “Aminata is deeply committed to a career of service to her fellow human beings and speaks eloquently of the need for providing compassionate healthcare for individuals with mental health issues. She is an innovative thinker with the ability to evaluate a problem and come up with novel ideas for solutions.”
Aminata is intelligent, capable, and dedicated, and the staff at the RUC Library has been delighted and proud to have her as a part of our team during her time at RUC. Aminata will shine in whatever she chooses to pursue after her graduation, and will be an exemplary representative of both RUC and the extended Radford Family.