Together We Rise!
Radford University's Spring Semester 2020 was filled
a lot of adveristy, but the Class of 2020 persevered.
Congratulations to all the graduates who rose
above the circumstances and succeeded!
These Class of 2020 graduates were among the first to complete a full
academic year as Radford University Carilion students.
They are now proud alumni and forever a part of the Radford family!
Taylor Marrs B.S.W. '20
Social work alumnus finds Radford the perfect place to learn
For Taylor Marrs ’20, the spark that ignited his interest in social work arrived via the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia. Marrs worked at the club near his Orange, Virginia, home before becoming a Highlander and joining the Radford University School of Social Work.
“At the Boys & Girls Clubs, I learned about the value of human connections and interpersonal relationships,” Marrs said. “Working alongside club members and clients was very appealing, providing me with incomparable experiences. Plus, it helped me discover that I wanted to use that experience in my education and career.”
Marrs researched three other social work programs in the state before applying to Radford’s Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.) program, but there were several factors that ultimately drew him to the New River Valley.
“I wanted to stay in one place for the entirety of my education, and Radford offered a graduate degree in social work in addition to the undergraduate program,” Marrs recalled. “That was important to me, because I wanted my education to have continuity.”
Marrs said the Radford community also played a role. He felt that Radford would provide him with exposure to a student body with unique backgrounds and experiences, different from his own, helping him expand his skills as a social work student.
While a B.S.W. student, Marrs discovered many opportunities to get involved beyond the classroom on campus. These experiences also helped him meet more Highlanders and expand his skills and experiences. He minored in sociology, and one of his favorite experiences was working with the Sociology Club.
“It was really great to be part of a group that took time to advocate for human rights and diversity, while educating one another on important issues,” Marrs said.
As he completes his B.S.W. fieldwork this summer at a equine therapy facility, Healing Strides of Virginia, Marrs says Radford University continues to provide him with one-of-a-kind experiences.
“The undergraduate social work curriculum has been instrumental in helping me develop into the professional I am today. I plan to continue expanding and implementing that knowledge, while working with clients through the Master of Social Work (M.S.W.) program at Radford,” Marrs said.
Marrs expects to finish his M.S.W. and graduate in August 2021. After that, he plans to return to Northern Virginia, where there is a great need for social workers. Marrs says he feels his work will have an important impact as he works with clients in need there.
“In social work, the importance of relationships is an ethical principle that guides decision making during practice,” Marrs said. “Radford University has been an important part of my life when it comes to developing those relationships, and I know it will continue to be for some time to come.”
Marissa Momchilov '18, M.S. '20
A steady path through twists and turns
Her plans were set: finish her master’s program in clinical counseling-psychology, walk across the stage and get hooded to celebrate her accomplishments then find a job as a mental health counselor.
COVID-19 had other ideas.
“I’ve gotten really used to Zoom,” said Marissa Momchilov ’18, M.S. ’20, who reflected on her time at Radford University as she wrapped up her final classes online this summer.
“I’m really trying to make the best of it and encourage the people around me, especially the people coming back for the fall semester,” Momchilov said.
Amid the uncertainty of the world around her during a pandemic in her last semester of college, she remained positive, found the silver lining and encouraged fellow students around her to do the same. Instead of dwelling on the challenges, Momchilov spent her last weeks on campus reflecting on her progress and growth as a student.
“I’m so proud to be a Highlander. This school has given me so many opportunities. I’ve made so many great relationships with professors on campus,” she said. “The small class sizes make that possible, because at larger universities it’s harder to make those connections.”
Her journey to becoming a successful Highlander started more than six years before, when she was looking at universities. When she visited Radford University for a Highlander Day experience, she felt comfortable and loved the atmosphere.
“Right when I walked on campus, I was like, this is where I’m supposed to be,” Momchilov said.
Through challenges and rewards, she found a connection and community unlike anything before.
She joined Sigma Sigma Sigma, where she met friends and mentors and made a network of connections to help her professionally and academically. She credits professors for checking on her during hardships and celebrating her accomplishments. And, she acknowledges Student Counseling Services for helping her find positive resources and a foundation for her future career after graduation.
“This school has given me more than I could ever say,” Momchilov said. “I cannot thank Radford enough for everything this school has done for me. I’m so proud to be a Highlander just with the diversity on this campus and the different opportunities that I’ve received. It’s so amazing to see how far I’ve come since freshman year.”
Even through a pandemic, Momchilov remains hopeful for a successful career in mental health counseling. She has wrapped up her time as a graduate assistantship, her final internship and her on-campus job with the Office of New Student and Family Programs. Now, she’s confident with a solid foundation for a bright future.
“Radford has made me feel comfortable,” she said. “The environment is so welcoming and open. I think that I was able to reach out to people when I needed help, and I think that is what got me to where I am today.”
Veronica Hyman '20
An experience characterized by community and support
From her newly furnished apartment in Williamsburg, Virginia, Veronica Hyman ’20 made a lasting impact on the lives of future Radford University students this summer.
Hyman participated in the University’s first-ever virtual Quest orientation. Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the program, historically held on campus, was moved to an all-online format.
It was challenging, said Hyman, an experienced Quest Assistant (QA), but she could not imagine missing out on the opportunity to inspire the newest class of Highlanders.
After all, Quest is one of her favorite undergraduate experiences. The holistic and high-energy orientation was also the final push she needed when she was a freshman to fully embrace Radford University as her own.
It took a little convincing and a lot of faith for Hyman to commit to Radford University.
Torn between community college and Radford, Hyman struggled to decide which path to take.
Coming home from a high school field trip, she prayed for direction.
“I said, ‘God, tell me what to do, and I’ll do it,’” she said.
On the drive back to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia, she spotted several cars displaying Radford University bumper stickers.
“That was definitely a sign,” Hyman said.
Hyman enrolled in 2016, and that summer, she attended Quest along with the rest of the Class of 2020.
“As soon as I stepped on campus, there was a QA there to help,” Hyman said. “Seeing people so passionate about Radford University was really exciting for me to see. From then on, I never looked back.”
Quest ignited Hyman’s desire to step out of her comfort zone and get involved. She worked with Quest in a variety of positions, including a QA, a Parent Orientation Guide and a student director. Aside from Quest, she taught University 100 classes and was a member and past president of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Early on, she found a strong support system in the Office of New Student and Family Programs, the staff that organizes Quest.
“I have received so much help and so much advice from each and every one of them throughout the past four years,” she said. “Any time I needed something, I knew who to call; I knew who to go to. They focus on you as a student leader, but they also focus on you 10 times harder as a student and as a person.”
Inside the classroom, she found that same support from her professors, especially when she decided to change her major from nursing to education.
“Professors and faculty at Radford University truly care about their students. They are always there to help,” Hyman said.
Hyman’s senior year came to an end like many others’ across the world — at home.
Although sad she could not say goodbye to her friends and mentors in person, Hyman said she chose to find “the positives” in the situation.
“I think for the 2020 graduates, this graduation has been the most special,” Hyman said. “We’ve received support from presidents, celebrities and musicians. The response has been amazing.”
Hyman graduated from the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences with an interdisciplinary studies degree and concentrations in elementary education and English. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in elementary education at The College of William & Mary. She aspires to be a third grade teacher.
On May 9, 2020, the day originally scheduled for Spring Commencement, Hyman put on her cap and gown and celebrated all that the day represented: four years of dedication to growth, leadership, education and a bright future.
“I’ll never forget that day, and I’ll never forget all of the incredible opportunities I had at Radford University,” she said.
Eli Collins '20
Healthcare hero finds the perfect preparation at RUC
Eli Collins, a May 2020 graduate from the Radford University Carilion (RUC) Bachelor of Science in Emergency Services program, was introduced to healthcare as a Boy Scout in his native Williamsburg, Virginia. Although his interests were piqued early, it was not until his senior year of high school that he discovered the path that would lead to his career.
“I started scouting in first grade and finished the year after I received my Eagle Scout rank in 2012,” Collins said. “Around that time, a friend of mine introduced me to Fire Explorers, a program affiliated with Boy Scouts that educates participants about firefighting. Through the program, I was able to go on ride-alongs with the local fire department that sponsored us and instantly fell in love with the profession.”
Collins said the more he accompanied the firefighters, the more he realized that the part he enjoyed most was the emergency medical services (EMS) experience. He said it was then that he decided he wanted to be a firefighter-paramedic.
When Collins began exploring how to achieve his career goal by earning a bachelor’s degree in emergency services, he found only about seven schools nationwide that both offered a firefighter-paramedic degree and were accredited.
“There were several factors that brought me to RUC and Roanoke,” Collins remembered. “I have some family here, and that was important to me, but I was also very impressed with the school and the program.”
Collins said the emergency services program at RUC encourages students to develop a deeper, more theoretical understanding of the pathophysiology behind how a patient is presenting and why. He said the program also pushes students to think outside of the box in terms of what medications and treatments would work best for each patient.
“Whether it’s something simple like running a 12-lead ECG and interpreting that to look for abnormalities or something complex like recognizing, deciding and carrying out a plan to electively take over the patient’s airway so their condition doesn’t worsen, the emergency services students learn that every action they take has consequences,” Collins said. “It’s a big picture approach that doesn’t just educate paramedics, but prepares the industry’s next leaders.”
Collins said that every student is also encouraged to seek out the most current literature in evidence-based practice, some of which are authored by RUC Emergency Services program graduates. He said this ensures the students are learning the most advanced and innovative techniques in treatments.
For a little over two years, Collins has been working part time with Roanoke City Fire-EMS Department as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and he says he loves his job.
“Being an EMT can certainly be challenging at times,” Collins said, “but it really is the best job ever. I enjoy the people I work with and going into situations with little to no previous knowledge of what’s going on to help my patients as best as I can.”
Collins hopes to reach another milestone professionally by becoming a full-time employee with Roanoke City Fire-EMS soon. This fall, however, he’ll reach a personal milestone.
“I am marrying the love of my life in October,” Collins said.
Collins says he and his fiancée are planning on staying in the area for several years, while they both get experience in their careers. Then, he said, “we’ll see what life throws our way.”
No matter where Collins and his family end up, he says he will always trace his love for paramedicine and emergency services back to the experience he earned as a Boy Scout — and his experience at RUC.