President Hemphill engages Hampton Roads alumni in a conversation about the university's future

President Hemphill meets graduates from the 1950s during the Virginia Beach Hemphill Alumni Tour event.

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill continued his alumni tour in Virginia Beach on July 19 at the Princess Anne Country Club. More than 160 alumni joined the conversation about the university’s future and their role in it. President Hemphill discussed his key initiatives to make Radford University an innovative premiere university with a focus on research and teaching in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Innovation will be our new normal,” said President Hemphill. “We will emphasize the importance of excellence in the delivery of our content and programming and think outside the box.”

President Hemphill discussed how the university will examine the possibility of expanding its online offerings and graduate programs. “We will always continue to serve our face-to-face population and already offer degrees online, but we have some room for growth,” said President Hemphill. He said the university is examining the opportunities for online competency-based education, an assessment based delivery in which students demonstrate mastery of each area as they progress through the program. He said the university will examine ways to best meet the needs of the Commonwealth. “We will look at some pilot type opportunities, some niche degrees based on economic needs and growth for the Commonwealth,” said President Hemphill.

Alumna Kaitlin Haddock ’11, who earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science with a minor in political science, said she was interested in his ideas about exploring the expansion of online programs. “I love learning and I love that Radford is expanding its online offerings, because I want to come back and pick up where I left off,” said Haddock.

President Hemphill said that one of his key initiatives will be academic excellence and identifying signature areas for which Radford University is known. “I talked with students on campus and they have told me that Radford University faculty are 100 percent centered on student experience,” said Hemphill. Current geology and environmental engineering student Kent Weidlich ’17, who attended the event with an alumna, said that he was excited about President Hemphill’s ideas about expanding research opportunities for faculty and students.

President Hemphill and Dr. Marisela Rosas Hemphill greet alumni during the Virginia Beach Hemphill Alumni Tour event.

“My professor, Dr. Skip Watts, and I have been talking about new opportunities for research for the geology program’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Center,” said Weidlich about the initiative that uses drones for research. “I’m excited about the opportunities for new and innovative research with community and business partners,” said Weidlich.

When President Hemphill opened the floor to alumni questions, Haddock, a former Radford University Student Government Association member and resident assistant, asked President Hemphill about the affordability of a Radford University degree. “I promise you,” said President Hemphill, “that we are going to be very intentional about costs.” He said that Radford University is rated one of the most efficient institutions in the Commonwealth and will continue to be as it moves forward.

“I’m excited that he’s facing the issue head-on and working to find solutions to continue to make the university affordable for students. I want to be able to send my kids to Radford, and to be able to afford to do it,” said Haddock.

President Hemphill said that alumni can play a key role in helping students afford a Radford University education. “Give back whatever you can. Think about how you can provide access and scholarships for our students,” said President Hemphill. In addition to providing financial support, he said that alumni can assist in telling the Radford University story to prospective students and their parents.

“Alumni can play a vital role for us out in the community. We have to make sure alumni are out there talking about the institution,” said President Hemphill. “Many of you could have gone to other institutions and you chose Radford. We are a different type of community, there’s something special,” said President Hemphill.

Chip Simkins ’92, owner of OVM Financial in Chesapeake, Va., said that he loved his time at Radford University, and he said he continues to love the institution as an alumnus. He shared his love for Radford with his daughter Elizabeth, who will be attending in the fall. “My daughter had many options for places to go. She saw Radford and fell in love with it. She didn’t apply anywhere else,” said Simkins.

Lisa Pompa ’86, a member of the Radford University Alumni Association Board of Directors, said the university has a great faculty and a great campus. “There are a number of people that I see around this room tonight who have been tremendously successful, and we need to leverage that,” said Lisa Pompa.

She and her husband Russell ’84 volunteer during Radford University admissions events in Virginia Beach in which they talk about their Radford experience and the opportunities their daughter Danielle has as a current student. “Volunteering takes very little time out of our schedule and in the long run we know it will benefit the university,” said Russell Pompa. “My wife and I never hesitate in sharing our experiences at Radford University, what drew us to Radford and what kept us there,” he said.

At the event, Ginger Griffith ’53 took a picture of herself with the Highlander mascot to send to her grandson and alumnus William Curtis Watson ‘09, who serves in the Coast Guard in Hawaii. She remembers her time as a student at Radford University when it was an all-women college. She said she is proud of how her alma mater has grown and is excited for its future under President Hemphill’s leadership. “I think he has a great vision for the future,” said Griffith.

Denise Schmitter ’86, M.S. ’89, said that she likes President Hemphill’s emphasis on building relationships with alumni and students. “Relationships are important. I love the part where he said he would be on campus and having lunch in the cafeteria with students. I’d love to be on campus now as a student and have lunch with the president!” said Schmitter.

Virginia Beach was the third stop of the President Hemphill Alumni Tour. For more information about upcoming President Hemphill Alumni Tour events visit

Jul 20, 2016