President Hemphill engages faculty and students at open forum series
To continue his dialogue with the Radford University family, President Brian O. Hemphill hosted four open forums Sept. 6-7 with students and faculty.
During his presentations, the president briefed both groups on the four fundamental principles – excellence, transparency, accountability and student-centeredness - by which the president envisions Radford University growing. Six strategic areas of focus for the university, according to Hemphill, will be brand identity, academic excellence and research, student success, strategic enrollment growth, economic development and community outreach, and philanthropic giving and alumni engagement.
Hemphill attributed the Radford family of students, faculty, staff and alumni with helping him formulate the strategic areas upon which he will focus the campus.
“I heard these from you, the students and the staff,” he told a faculty forum on Tuesday in the Bondurant Auditorium.
On Wednesday in the Bonnie Auditorium, Hemphill reflected with Radford students on another vital source of the fundamental principles that will guide his efforts – Radford’s 72,000-member alumni base. Hemphill has met with more than 1,200 Radford graduates from across the state and will soon be meeting in North Carolina and Atlanta with graduates as well.
“One of the things I learned from so many of those with whom I have spoken is the power of the experience they have had here and how the faculty and campus really helped transform their lives,” Hemphill told the students in the Bonnie on Wednesday.
Hemphill outlined a “path forward,” or the steps and organization for a year-long strategic planning process that will culminate in a plan for the university through 2023. A precursor to the strategic planning process will be a day-long budget summit on Sept. 9 that will find faculty, staff, students and administrators organized into nine committees with the goal of brainstorming on topics that will inform the University's budget planning processes on topics, including programmatic strategies, efficiencies, revenue generation, innovation and economic development.
“This has to be a meaningful document toward which everybody is working every day,” Hemphill said, referring to the next strategic plan.
Hemphill recapped several challenges that will influence Radford’s efforts for the future as well as its immediate activities. Among those thorny issues are statewide disinvestment in higher education, increasing tuition costs and student debt, competition for students and a shift in the public’s perception of the value of higher education and its evolving means of delivery.
“We have to be responsive to where students are today and what their parents are expecting,” Hemphill said. “As I think about the challenges for our university right now, there are three areas I want to address: recruitment, retention and graduation.”
Among other topics addressed were branding initiatives and "short-term fixes" President Hemphill plans to implement.
Hemphill said the process to designate Radford University's signature programs will be a collaborative effort.
"Our students, faculty, staff and alumni – our entire campus community - will be involved in this process," Hemphill said. "We have to separate ourselves from the crowd and find out what our true focus will become."
Hemphill also drew attention to several short-term projects to which students and faculty alike can contribute, including efforts to engage with students and ensure their success.
This semester, Hemphill said, members of the Student Affairs team will visit approximately 800 students in the residence halls to check in and provide informational material to help in their transition to university life. Hemphill also recapped a solution by an ad hoc team led by Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Irvin Clark to open the registration process for students to register over the summer.
"Your success matters to us," Hemphill said to students at an evening forum Tuesday. "My passion is all about you students."
Jessica Mundy, a sophomore English major, asked President Hemphill how he might expand opportunities for undergraduate research.
In response, Hemphill explained that research was a strategic area of focus. Creating more opportunities will require more faculty incentives and additional resources, such as funding and a way to increase faculty release time, he said.
"I wanted the president to touch on research because that is what I am extremely involved in," said Mundy, a member of the Accelerated Research Opportunities program. "I was looking for undergraduate research to expand because most people don’t even know it exists and its value.”
Mundy said she found the student forum "very informative and welcoming."
“I am extremely excited about our new president," she said. "I think he will bring a lot more student engagement."
Redding Trent, a freshman from Chesterfield, echoed Mundy’s response to Hemphill’s engaging forum conversation.
“I am new to the campus and want to be a part of it,” Trent said after Wednesday’s forum. “It was easy to talk with him and I am eager to contribute.”
Professor of Psychology and Honors Academy Director Niels Christensen appreciated the presidential forum as well.
“He spoke frankly and honestly,” said Christensen. “I am very optimistic.”