Radford University embraces community partnerships

As another productive spring semester concluded at Radford University, faculty and staff invited community partners to campus to look toward the future.

The Our Turn Campus-Community Networking Event was held on May 11 in the COBE multipurpose room. Sponsored by Radford University and the Community Foundation of the New River Valley, the networking event offered some of the region's most engaged civic minds the opportunity to meet and discuss needs, skills and opportunities.

"It is part of this university's responsibility to the community to provide to you partners those of us at Radford University who want to be involved," said President Penelope W. Kyle.

Kyle spoke of her own habit of seeking out volunteer opportunities in her career, from serving on non-profit boards of directors to lending a hand to programs like Dress for Success, which helps women entering the work force with a basic, but crucial need: acquiring a professional wardrobe.

Participants at the event were no strangers to volunteering. They included faculty members from throughout the Radford University campus as well as representatives from local health, religious, economic, government and nonprofit organizations. All were eager to discover how to help the next generation of volunteers and match volunteer skills with needs.

"We're here to find ways that community service can enhance the education students get," said Jessica Wirgau, executive director of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley.

The mission of the Community Foundation is to enrich the region by providing professional management services to donors for their charitable causes, awarding grants and scholarships, and nurturing collaborations in the New River Valley.

Radford University Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Sam Minner gave the assembly a historical look at community engagement. Traditionally, universities endeavored to keep students separate from their communities, but attitudes have shifted over time. Now, he said, there is a continuum of engagement and each institution lies at a different point upon it.

"Where should the 'engagement needle' rest at RU?" Minner asked. "What kind of institution do we aspire to be in regard to deep community engagement? That is the question."

Some faculty members already knew their answers to that question. COBE Dean George Low said that community engagement is a vital experience for students in his college.

"Community engagement has always been a part of what we do," Low said. "The lab for business is the real world."


May 13, 2015