SCIENCE ON DISPLAY
The newly renovated Reed and Curie Halls offers a transformative space for learning, teaching, researching and connecting.
By Mary Hardbarger
Radford University’s Artis College of Science and Technology has completely transformed the way its students and faculty will teach, learn, research and connect with the opening of the renovated Reed and Curie Halls in January 2020.
The nearly $34 million, three-year-long project was officially unveiled on February 12, 2020. Artis College namesakes and benefactors Nancy Artis ’73 and Pat Artis, Ph.D., joined President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D. and other members of the Radford family for the special ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The significant structural investment will not only impact those on campus, but those living in the surrounding community, the Commonwealth and beyond, as it will soon prepare well-equipped science and technology professionals, produce innovative research and provide an abundance of learning space.
Upon entering the state-of-the-art complex, which includes 94,840 square feet of high-tech teaching and learning space, visitors are immediately immersed in innovation.
Open windows reveal students and faculty working with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), most commonly known as drones, in the UAV Center and Geohazards and Unmanned Systems Research Center, or operating high-tech 3D printers and plotters in the Geology Maker Lab. In the Artis Cybersecurity Training and Education Lab, they are gathered around computer screens studying big data and Internet of Things research.
In the Geographic Information System Center and Virtual Reality Lab, although students may seem to be walking around aimlessly wearing unusual headgear, they are being transported to destinations across the universe, virtually.
Scanners, saws, sanders and high-powered microscopes are scattered across the galley-style Tree Ring Lab, a research facility for dendrochronology, the study of
On the ground floor of Curie Hall is the Physics Wind Tunnel Lab, which enables faculty and students to pursue aerodynamic research, such as air flow turbulence over models of vehicles to improve gas mileage.
Also on the ground floor, one might hesitate to enter the Insectarium and Invertebrate Research Lab, which provides facilities to research mosquitoes and Madagascar hissing cockroaches, among other invertebrates.
The Physics Faculty-Student Research Lab is a highlight of the second floor of Reed Hall. The lab displays the research of students who travel with Professor of Physics Rhett Herman, Ph.D., to Alaska every other year to conduct ice thickness research (see page 50 for more details on this amazing research opportunity).
The Department of Chemistry impressively encompasses the third floor of Reed and Curie Halls.
In the Chemistry Instrumentation Lab, students get hands-on experience analyzing and identifying chemicals in biological, organic and inorganic samples. Just down the hall, the Inorganic Chemistry Research Lab contains instruments to conduct inorganic chemistry research and techniques, such as glassblowing.
With every Artis College discipline now contained in one area of campus, Artis College Dean Orion Rogers, Ph.D., said, “The possibilities are endless.”
“Almost every element of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) can now be found in this complex,” he said. “And, there’s a showcase for everything.”
The building’s unique and vibrant layout is intentional.
“It is called ‘science on display,’” Rogers said. “What students and faculty are doing is visible. They are not trapped behind closed doors. The open classrooms and research facilities give them new, state-of-the-art spaces to showcase the work that they do and make additional work possible.”
The remodeled Reed and Curie Halls complement the connecting Center for the Sciences and create an integrated and sophisticated science complex. They also encourage cross collaboration among the Artis College disciplines, an integral, and again, “very intentional component of the structures’ design,” Rogers said.
“There is now a more natural synergy between the departments, because they are so close together, opposed to being across campus from one another,” Rogers said. “For example, the cybersecurity labs and geospatial labs are now right across from each other. There is so much interaction between these two disciplines. Students and faculty within these studies will surely collaborate and create new ideas, projects and research. This interaction will be mirrored across the Artis College complex for years to come, and that is very exciting.”
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Jeremy Wojdak came to Radford University in 2004 and found what he was looking for: a student- and teaching-focused institution.
By Mary Hardbarger
When he’s not wading through a body of water, Professor of Biology Jeremy Wojdak, Ph.D., is most likely revving up the engine of his car at the Virginia International Raceway.
His racing hobby began when he received an invitation on the way to a National Science Foundation conference to take a side trip to a race track.
“After that first day on the track, people would pat me on the shoulder and say, ‘You’re in for it.’ They knew it was addictive,” he said.
So, when he finds free time, Wojdak heads to the world-renowned raceway, located about two hours from Radford in Alton, Virginia.
“It’s exhilarating,” he said.
But, it wasn’t always that way, he explained.
“When you first hit the track going 120 to 130 miles per hour, it’s overwhelming. You get flustered,” he said.
After years of practice — and decades of studying science — he is now both a racing rookie and distinguished scholar.
New hobbies serve that purpose: to remind you what it’s like to be a beginner.”
Wojdak approaches teaching and research much like he did the time he first put his foot on the gas on the race track. “I’ve been studying biology for 25 years, but I realize when students walk into my classroom for the first time, the material may be completely new to them — like racing was totally new to me. There is a gap there that has to be appreciated in order to succeed,” he said.
“New hobbies serve that purpose: to remind you what it’s like to be a beginner.”
Wojdak, of Cleveland, Ohio, earned his doctoral degree from Michigan State University in 2004, the same year he started at Radford University. It was a perfect fit, he said.
“I found what I was looking for in terms of student- and teaching-focused,” he explained.
Sixteen years later, he reflected on what has kept him here.
“Because Radford prioritizes student outcomes, faculty here have the freedom to try risky research projects and challenge students to tackle hard problems that may or may not work out. Faculty at other institutions can be under so much pressure to rack up professional achievements, in terms of publications and grant dollars, that their choices of how to invest their time in students are compromised. We still publish and garner research grants, but those are not our top priority. Students come first at Radford, and that’s why I’ve stayed here.”
Wojdak’s personal research focuses on two areas: science education and aquatic ecology. The latter he compares, not surprisingly, to a car.
“Some pieces can fall off, and you’re totally fine. But, then maybe when the next part falls off, you’re stuck on the side of the road,” he explained. “We know that species are being lost at a rate comparable to the last great extinction. The questions are, ‘How many and which ones can we lose before something dramatic happens to the system as a whole?’”
The research takes Wojdak and his students out in the field to study the ecosystems of local lakes, streams and ponds. Historically, he has taught a weeklong class, Tropical Field Biology, in St. John where a small group of Highlanders explore and conduct research around the exotic, sub-tropic island. The course — recently halted due to hurricane damage of the research station — is a highlight of his career.
“Students literally learn something about the world that nobody knows, and several of them have shared those results with the scientific community,” he said. “As you’d imagine, that really means something to them. They are transformed in that experience.”
As part of his science education research, Wojdak works with K-12 students to get them excited about science through hands-on workshops, such as robotics.
Back at Radford, he helped launch the REALISE program (Realising Inclusive Science Excellence), which is reforming biology, chemistry and physics curricula to increase student success in the science fields.
Wojdak’s rich resume of research and outreach, his passion for teaching and compassion for his students and colleagues earned him the 2020 Virginia Outstanding Faculty Award. The prestigious award is administered by SCHEV, sponsored by Dominion Energy and recognizes faculty at Virginia’s institutions of higher learning, who exemplify the highest standards of teaching, scholarship and service.
Humbled by the honor, Wojdak said there are so many outstanding professors at Radford University deserving of the award. His colleagues, he said, “are an inspiration.”
“Everywhere you look, there are faculty going the extra mile for their students,” he continued. “We’ve had faculty leading living-learning communities for new science students, leading campus-wide student-success initiatives, teaching study abroad courses that transform students’ education, working with students on publishable scientific research in partnership with state agencies, identifying more inclusive and equitable practices to help all our students succeed, and so much more. In this environment, surrounded by passionate and inspirational teachers and scientists, it is impossible not to set high expectations for yourself and for our students.”
A SOUND INVESTMENT
Retired Professor of English Johann Norstedt, Ph.D., is a benefactor of the arts at Radford University.
By Mark Lambert
Every year, the students enrolled in Radford University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) arrive on campus, full of creative energy and ready to share their visions with the world. Those artistic expressions take the form of paintings, drawings or sculptures; instrumental, voice or dance performances; fashion and interior design shows; and theater or cinema productions. The dozens of opportunities to experience these endeavors are an important part of the artistic culture in the New River Valley and across Southwest Virginia.
That is why Johann Norstedt, Ph.D., a retired professor of English, has been a generous benefactor to CVPA for more than two decades.
“My late wife and I started coming to concerts at Radford, and we were impressed by what we heard. It was very spontaneous, and there was a lot of talent there,” Norstedt said. “When I retired after 30 years of teaching, I was at that stage when you think about your finances and where that money should go.”
In 2009, Norstedt established the Johann & Marilyn Norstedt Scholarship for Voice in recognition of the many evenings spent enjoying productions. Norstedt said he knew that the Radford students were receiving an excellent education in classical music at a great value, and he felt that, by establishing a scholarship at Radford University, he could add even more affordability for students in need.
“I saw the quality of the programs offered through the College of Visual and Performing Arts,” Norstedt said. “It was important to me to ensure students could have access to the programs and continue to develop their talent.”
Since the implementation of the scholarship, many CVPA students have benefited from the scholarship, including Josh Brown, a CVPA graduate from the music therapy program with a focus in voice. Brown received the scholarship in 2014 and explained at the time what the scholarship meant to him.
If you don't support the arts, you don't support life."
“Winning the scholarship has given me the opportunity to put my primary focus into my studies,” Brown said. “As a college student, money is always a potential issue, but with this scholarship, I can spend extra time on studies rather than having to pick up an extra job.”
Brown continued by praising the contributions Norstedt has made to CVPA and the Radford artistic community. “Dr. Norstedt is a really kind, caring, generous man, who is a very strong supporter of the arts.”
Recently, Norstedt has expanded his generosity by establishing several new scholarships, including the Marie Powers Memorial Scholarship in Theatre, the Margot Fonteyn Memorial Scholarship in Dance, the Rudolf Serkin Memorial Scholarship in Piano and the Jack Butler Yeats Memorial Scholarship in Art.
“I wanted to extend the opportunities to students in the other arts programs at Radford,” Norstedt said. “So far, I’ve created five scholarships, and I plan to create one for the sixth program in design soon. I have been naming them after famous people I have admired and who inspired me.”
In addition to scholarships, Norstedt has supported Radford students in the arts in additional ways, such as purchasing named seats in Radford University’s performance halls, contributing to international trips to Ireland and Russia, and financing aspects of performances on campus.
At the Fall 2016 Department of Music Convocation, Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., recognized the importance of longtime donors like Norstedt to the diverse and dynamic success of CVPA students.
“We are dependent upon the generosity of individuals that step forward and invest in this institution by investing not only their time and ability but also their treasure,” Hemphill said.
Hemphill said that such generosity has helped fulfill the vision of “transforming Radford into an innovative, premier university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond with a keen focus on teaching, research and service.”
Norstedt said his objective was simply to bring the same joy to others that the arts at Radford have brought to him.
“I am so satisfied with the result of my donations,” said Norstedt.
“Supporting Radford is an investment in the future of the cultural arts in the New River Valley, Southwest Virginia and beyond. It’s giving to the students, who will give back through their art for years to come.”
BUILDING THE FUTURE
With immense energy and an eye for potential, Georgia Anne Snyder-Falkinham champions Radford University.
By Justin Ward '10
Georgia Anne Snyder-Falkinham, founder and owner of Snyder & Associates, has no plans of leaving her post anytime soon.
“I love being at work. Retiring is not in my vocabulary,” said Snyder-Falkinham, who started her successful Blacksburg contracting company in 1985. She began by restoring five houses in downtown Blacksburg in 1985 and has spent 35 years growing her company and the area economy substantially since then by providing jobs and building businesses.
She started her career in construction with Appalachian Power Company and helped create the Smith Mountain Dam. She eventually married a man in the construction business. After his death, she expanded her talent and started her own business.
She has mastered the skill of cultivating a flourishing workplace by expecting one main factor from her employees.
“Workmanship is number one with me, they know it, and I appreciate that, because that’s what I want as the result,” she said. “It’s very satisfying.”
Now, her company, which includes her son and grandson, focuses mainly on commercial construction and recently started developing housing communities in and around Blacksburg.
“Creating new homes for people, creating new offices for people, restaurants, you name it, we’ve done it. It gives people another outlook on life. They’ve got a new piece of property they can work from,” Snyder-Falkinham said. “It’s very pleasing.”
Her accomplishments have earned many accolades also, including the Radford University Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and the Building Construction Honor Award from the Building Construction Department at Virginia Tech in 2001.
The work of her company has extended across the New River Valley and has impacted Radford University.
She joined forces with a partner and renovated a house formerly owned and built by former Virginia Governor James Tyler. The pair gifted their finished work to the Radford University Foundation. It is now the home of the University president.
Snyder-Falkinham’s connection to Radford University began in the late 1980s, when a friend invited her to watch Radford women’s basketball. From there, she joined the Foundation Board of Directors and stayed committed to the Radford University family. Thirty-one years later, her love and passion for the University hasn’t wavered.
“When you say the Radford family, it really is the Radford family,” she said.
That family atmosphere is what’s kept her close to Radford University leadership, faculty and students for so long. At various times since 1989, she served as a member of the Radford University Foundation Board of Directors and the Real Estate Management LLC Board of Directors. She has also had a long tenure on the Radford University Board of Visitors, where she currently serves.
When you say the Radford family, it really is the Radford family.”
Her Highlander spirit glows when she talks about University building projects she’s helped start or approve through her leadership roles. The love she has for Radford University is evident.
“Having the money to do scholarships or cosign a loan with the Athletic Department to create a baseball field, that’s what the Foundation is for, it’s for the students and being able to help the University,” she said.
Another notable project she helped approve is the conversion of a former warehouse building into additional space for the expansion of the facilities management department and printing services. Snyder-Falkinham says fundraising is what she’s most proud of since she’s joined the Radford University family, and she has had a direct hand in shaping it into what it is today.
“If we do not fundraise, we do not have scholarships for the students who really need scholarships. I see that as very critical to Radford,” she said.
But, it has always been the future — the next project and the additional work to make it successful — that keeps her connected to the institution and bringing her back to campus. The merger with Jefferson College of Health Sciences resulting in Radford University Carilion is exciting for her.
“Our nursing program at Radford has always been first class, and I’m proud that we’re expanding on that. By expanding the physician assistant and physical therapy programs, as well as everything that is involved with the healthcare industry that Radford’s been able to take part in with Carilion, I think it’s just outstanding,” she said.
With the future in mind, she’s worked closely with Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., and the Board of Visitors and commends his leadership through fundraising efforts. She says now is a remarkable time to be involved at the University.
“I think Dr. Hemphill is such an outstanding, dedicated individual, and he has a great vision. To be on the Board of Visitors and to be working with him during this time for the University, I think it is outstanding. His staff is very impressive to be with, listen to and learn from,” she said.
Snyder-Falkinham is impressive and remarkable in her own right. Through her professional career and storied history with Radford University, she has witnessed thousands of Highlanders graduate and thrive. Her advice for current and incoming students is simple — gain experience and lots of it.
“I think that anyone needs to start as young as they can working as many different jobs as they can. Start at 16, have a different job and pretty soon you will find something you love to do,” she said. Then, once in college, she recommends doing internships to continue developing a hands-on approach to an eventual profession. Right now, she says, accepting change and being adaptive is critical.
“Right now, we have a different atmosphere, and we do not know how different it is going to be next year," Snyder-Falkinham said. "We do not know how different it is going to be 10 years from now. You've got to be able to adapt, just like you may have to work from home, but you’re still important, you’re still needed.”