Semester kicks off with New Student Convocation
Radford University celebrated the start of the semester on Aug. 30 with an enthusiastic New Student Convocation.
About 1,900 new freshmen and transfer students packed both Bondurant Auditorium and Pridemore Playhouse for the welcoming ceremony at which they heard from Radford administrators, faculty and student leaders. School spirit shined as dozens of Highlanders lined outside of Preston Hall to welcome the procession of excited students with signs and cheers.
Inside, Interim Director for Academic Affairs Matthew Dunleavy, who served as master of ceremonies, led attendees through an hour-long, high-energy program organized by Student Affairs and New Student Programs.
First to address students was President Penelope W. Kyle, who asked the Class of 2019 to stand in recognition.
"This evening is one of the most special evenings to me because it is you students who make this university what it is," Kyle said. "You are the reason that we are here."
Kyle encouraged students to stay focused and to seek out the mentors and advisors "who will guide you through the coursework and the steps you need to take to earn your diploma in four years, or less."
"Treat tonight's program as a catalyst to not only your college education, but also to your career after college," Kyle said. "Remember that your success is of the utmost importance to us."
The president also shared with the assembled students some statistics about the Class of 2019 and transfer students:
- There are 1,975 new freshmen and 737 transfer students.
- Ninety-two percent of students are from Virginia.
- The top five states sending the most students are Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and New Jersey and New York (tied).
- Thirty-one percent of the class is from the Northern Virginia region.
- Students have traveled from China, El Salvador, Mexico, Nigeria and Sweden to be a part of the new freshmen class.
- Thirty-two percent are ethnic minorities – that's about one-third of new freshmen.
- Thirty-eight percent are first-generation students.
Following President Kyle's remarks, students heard from Associate Professor of Biology Jason Davis. Davis spoke of the importance of a well-rounded college experience, encouraging students to explore opportunities beyond the classroom.
"There are a million opportunities for you here," Davis said. "You may experience or learn something you never thought you would; something that changes the way you see the world. But, it's beyond the classroom. It is about classes, but not just about classes. The world is open to you now in a way that it will never be again."
Davis, who recently returned with a group of Radford University students from a research expedition in the Amazon, also reminded students of study abroad programs and of the many faculty and staff who want "you to succeed beyond your wildest dreams."
"You are the next generation of discovery and creation," Davis said.
Representing the student body, junior communication major Briana Davis delivered a powerful message that received a standing ovation. A Norfolk native, she encouraged students to remind themselves each day of why they need to stay on track and succeed.
"I'm doing this for my faith, for myself, for my family…but it goes deeper than all that," Davis said. "I'm doing this for those people who have never been given the opportunity."
A student leader during Quest, Radford University's new student and family orientation program, Davis shared the importance of getting involved and making an impact on others' lives.
"Seek out greatness," Davis said. "Greatness is about perseverance. It's about the little things you can do to go from good to great."
Head baseball coach Joe Raccuia '95 ended the program with a look back at the great success of Radford University's sports teams, including the baseball team's 45-6 record-breaking season. Raccuia rallied students to "come out and follow all of the Highlander sports teams."
"We want your support," Raccuia. "Show pride in our university."
Among the many students inspired by the ceremony and excited to start classes Monday were roommates Savannah Harris, of Portlaw, and Jayla Younge, of Fairfax.
Harris said she was the first person in her family to attend college, and she was eager to pursue pre-med at Radford.
"We've already had homework, and I've already finished it this weekend," Harris said.
"I'm pumped," Younge said. "I'm looking forward to the freedom of having my own schedule."
Also in attendance was new freshman Connor Gavan of Leesburg, who plans to major in environmental biology.
"I'm ready to learn at a collegiate level," Gavan said.
Following convocation, students joined President Kyle on Heth Lawn for the Class of 2019 group photo.