President Hemphill talks economic development and community partnerships
Partnerships are an essential component to the economic success of the New River Valley.
To “sustain and brighten” the region’s future, Radford University is dedicated to working together as one community to “do something very special on this campus, in the community and in the region,” said Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill.
The presidents’ remarks about university partnership opportunities came as he spoke at the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance’s (NRVEDA) quarterly investor’s luncheon, held Dec. 14 in Kyle Hall, home of the university’s College of Business and Economics.
“As Radford University’s seventh president, I’m dedicated to the common future that we can build together,” the president said. “My ability to lead Radford University will be partially defined by having success in the areas of inclusion, community engagement, as well as economic development.”
The NRVEDA works to recruit economic development prospects on a regional, national and international basis for Floyd, Giles, Montgomery and Pulaski counties and the City of Radford.
President Hemphill said the university aims to transform into an innovative, premier university in Virginia and beyond with a focus on teaching, research and service, areas that will benefit the region’s economic viability.
“A key strategic initiative for the university toward fulfilling that vision will be to serve as an enthusiastic partner in the economic growth of the New River Valley. As the City of Radford’s largest economic engine and one of the largest in the New River Valley, Radford University will continue to partner with local businesses, nonprofits, as well as government agencies.”
The president spoke about the number of ways students, faculty and staff have worked with schools and organizations inthe region, including participation in Radford Gives Back, which “provided 14,000 food items for locally needy students and their families, surpassing our goal of over 10,000 items,” he said.
President Hemphill emphasized the university’s support to the economic development of the region, citing an example of its work with New River Valley Rail 2020, which aims to bring passenger rail service to the area.
Work is currently being conducted on the university’s new five-year strategic plan 2018-2023. That plan, the president noted, “will be a great opportunity to redefine the university’s future and its important role in the New River Valley as an educational leader and a service partner. The plan will guide the university toward a deeper and more meaningful level of engagement with our community partners.”
During his talk, President Hemphill recognized Radford University alumni and those who have family members and friends who have attended the university.
“As Highlanders, or Highlander supporters, each of you understands the powerful combination of the university and the community working together,” he said. “Prospective students and their families care about the quality of life that they will enjoy in and around the New River Valley during their time as a Highlander. The New River Valley will be their home, both Radford University and the City of Radford.”
President Hemphill reiterated his commitment to the university’s and the New River Valley’s shared visions of the future and the ability of both to move forward together.
“My confidence comes from our common agenda and the ability of our teams to execute a bold vision,” he said. “Our vision will grow student enrollment and private giving at this university, while simultaneously creating cutting-edge degree programs that I know that your businesses need.”
Those programs, the president noted, will meet the needs of the region and the Commonwealth.
The president said the university and the New River Valley have a “common desire to encourage more young people to establish roots, develop careers and raise their families in this region.”
Following his talk, President Hemphill answered questions from the audience. Among those was a query about new majors and areas of study the university may develop in the future to meet the needs of the region’s workforce.
“We’re looking at ways to create new degrees that will meet some of the needs that we know that are growing,” the president replied. “We are looking at some of the growth areas that we see of highest demand within the Commonwealth and we are focusing some energy in there.”
President Hemphill was asked about ways in which employers can aid in the university’s mission.
Communicating their business needs and considering Radford students and graduates for possible internships and employment opportunities were some of the possibilities the president highlighted.
Cynthia Rancourt, CEO of Polymer Solutions in Christiansburg, gave a testimonial to the preparation students receive at Radford University.
“Polymer Solutions does use interns, and we also have fantastic chemists hires from Radford University,” she said. “They are very practically prepared to be in the job force. That is very important to us.”
After the meeting, Rancourt talked further about the student preparation at the university.
“We hire a lot of chemists, entry level, locally and we see that Radford University students get more practical hands-on experience than other universities from which we hire,” she said. “We find their professors prepare them practically for working in the workforce more. We find the Radford University chemistry students are prepared very well.”
Before the president spoke, Ed Lawhorn, NRVEDA chairman, touted the university’s work with New River Valley Rail 2020 and thanked Radford University for hosting the meeting. NRVEDA Executive Director Charlie Jewell ’02, later welcomed new investors and talked about strategic initiatives. “It’s never been a better time to be an investor,” he said.
Afterward, Jewell praised the university for playing a critical role in the region’s economic development. “We appreciate the support and expertise of Radford University,” he said.