Alumni Are a Class Act

Radford University welcomed some of its own success stories back to campus Friday to share life lessons and inspire today's students. Twenty-three graduates led classroom sessions during Alumni Teaching Day, part of 2012 Winter Homecoming festivities.

In Professor Jennifer Sobotka's economics class, Jennifer Riley Havens, M.S. '09, spoke on "Relationship Marketing and Channel Partners." Havens, who is global communications manager for Novozymes Biologicals Inc. in Salem, said it was important for her to return to her alma mater and share what she has learned.

"Radford University is a key to the growth of our area, and it's a very important school," Havens said. "I enjoyed my experience here at Radford so much that I feel like I need to give something back and contribute to the future leaders of our country and people that I may potentially work with one day or encounter in the professional world."

Jennifer Riley Havens teaching a class.

Jennifer Riley Havens, M.S. '09, global communications manager for Novozymes Biologicals Inc., encouraged students to never stop learning or listening.

Havens spoke on a range of concepts: emotional and social intelligence, proper business etiquette in the age of technology and picking up cues in body language. She emphasized respecting the job, colleagues and yourself. Above all, she said, never stop learning or listening.

"I wish somebody would have told me some of those same things," Havens said.

Victor Shiblie '89 shared the keys to being a successful entrepreneur with instructor Thomas Lachowicz's operations class in the Department of Marketing.

Shiblie, publisher and editor of the news magazine Washington Diplomat, said success requires a strong vision, passion, creativity, motivation, persistence, confidence, goal-orientation, financial management and seeking out positive mentors. Finally, he said, there must be "the sizzle factor," that one quality that sets you apart from the crowd.

"You need to make yourself a list of goals as often as you can," he told the students. "I even make a daily list for myself so I don't forget. If you don't have goals, then you might as well be eating soup with a fork."

Participating in his second Alumni Teaching Day, Shiblie said he feels as though he never really left RU. At age 45, he said, "it seems like I was just here yesterday. I look out at the classroom, and I still see myself in that seat. It's really fantastic, especially seeing the curious students who are asking the questions."

Nancy Witt Adams '84, making her third appearance at Alumni Teaching Day, looked into the future with a lecture titled "Social Trends Impacting the Next Decade." Senior human resources manager at Altria Client Services in Richmond, Adams spoke to a class of graduate students in the College of Business and Economics.

Nancy Witt Adams

Nancy Witt Adams '84, senior human resources manager at Altria Client Services, emphasized to students the importance of being flexible and adaptable, no matter what the circumstances and obstacles are.

"I'm a trainer at heart," Adams said. "When you love to do training, you need that little fix, and this is definitely my little fix. It's such a plus for me, and I just love it."

Some of the trends Adams focused on included the aging of the overall population and the work force, greater numbers of full-time employees becoming freelancers, niche marketing and growth in women's purchasing power.

Adams emphasized the importance of being flexible and adaptable, no matter what the circumstances and obstacles are. "I have this little motto that I use when it comes to organizational work," she said. "It never goes as planned, but it always goes the way it should."

Adams said she welcomes every opportunity to return to Radford. "I don't get to campus as frequently as I'd like," she said. Alumni Teaching Day "is a good way to make that happen so I can stay up on what's going on, meet new people and stay connected."

Chris Dodd '06, also back for a third year, said he wants today's students to know what they're getting into if they choose a career in advertising. While the upside can be rewarding, success means developing a thick skin and be prepared for plenty of rejection, said Dodd, who is with the Roanoke-based public relations and advertising firm The Becher Agency Inc.

Dodd advised Professor Robert Taylor's advertising class to take advantage of internship opportunities, saying nothing beats firsthand job experience. "It's certainly not an industry for the meek," Dodd said of the advertising field. "So know when to stay humble, but also know when you're right."  

When it comes to networking, Dodd said, there's far more to it than meeting people and handing out your business card. "You don't need to network, you need to make friends," he told the students. "People hire their friends."

Feb 24, 2012
Keith Hagarty