Opening Doors for a Generation
By Max Esterhuizen, M.S. ’15
ALUMNUS LEADS BY EXAMPLE WITH NEW FRESHMAN SCHOLARSHIP
Alumnus Jeff MacKinnon '85 is addressing a problem common to many — the cost of attendance.
MacKinnon used his experience as a founding member of Farragut Partners, a government relations firm, to lead by example through the creation of a $150,000 scholarship for the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS) that aids first-generation students with financial hardships continue their education at Radford University.
“The more I learned about the make-up of the freshman class, there was as significant portion going to school for the first time,” MacKinnon said. “For a lot of them it wasn’t their grades, it was their finances that forced them to leave. The students find that by the end of the year they don’t have any more money. They’ve exhausted all other options, scholarships and elsewhere.”
MacKinnon has seen firsthand the challenges of leaving college with significant debt and wanted to help reduce that financial burden for first- generation students.
“I also see this with students who are working for not a lot of money and a lot are forced to go into the private sector earlier … because of student loan debt,” he said. “It’s worse at other schools, but to the extent that I and others can help alleviate some of the student’s financial burden once they get out and graduate from Radford University, we will. It’s a national issue, but this also makes Radford more attractive. Relatively speaking, Radford University is a lot for your money.”
Education is changing to become more involved and hands-on, and the new CHBS building helps the college meet those changing needs, MacKinnon said. The new building “opens up so many doors for majors and disciplines in the future that weren’t even thought about 25 years ago,” he added.
“Having that state-of-the-art, hands-on experience is fantastic. You could go to Radford for a liberal arts education, and these facilities … allow students a lot of top choices,” MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon said that the new facilities and the recent opening of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center “make for a great tour and first impression.”
“There aren’t many comparable universities — there aren’t many with these facilities and smaller class sizes,” he said. “You can literally walk or ride your bike anywhere.”
MacKinnon’s leadership has included service as the inaugural chair of the CHBS Alumni Advisory Board, which was organized by CHBS Dean Katherine Hawkins to provide leadership and advice for the future endeavors of the college.
“As I became re-engaged with the college through the CHBS Alumni Board, I learned more about Radford today, its students and what challenges they were facing,” MacKinnon said. “I wanted to set an example for the members of the Alumni Board and others by establishing a scholarship for first-generation students.”
The CHBS Alumni Board looks for ways to aid students by sharing their professional experiences, such as hosting mock interviews.
“We walked them through an interview and critiqued them and gave them some career advice. It’s just helpful because it makes you feel invested in the University.”
Involving alumni in the day-to-day success of the University gives students valuable networking opportunities.
“These things can take time to gel, but getting folks re-engaged with Radford is huge, and we are starting to see the fruits of that labor,” MacKinnon said.
MacKinnon added that the increased involvement with the University is increasing the attendance at alumni regional events.
But the purpose of both CHBS Alumni Board and MacKinnon’s scholarship is to help members of the Highlander Family navigate through the University and set them up for success beyond Radford University’s campus.