The journey begins: fall semester kicks off with New Student Convocation

My colleagues and I are dedicated to providing the best college experience possible for each of you. You are the reason we chose to work in higher education; now it’s time for you to find your reason for attending Radford."

Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill

Another wave of impending fall semester excitement crested on Radford University’s campus on Aug. 27 as more than 1,750 freshmen and transfer students gathered on McConnell Lawn for New Student Convocation.

“I’m so excited to finally start my college experience,” said freshman Victoria Vanasse-Graham of Gainsville, Virginia, surrounded by a group of friends. “I think we all are.”

The lilting sound of the university’s Highlanders Pipes and Drums and cheers from proud alumni, faculty and staff ushered students to the annual ceremony, which was held the evening prior to the first day of classes. This was the first time in years the event has been held outdoors, and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.

Master of Ceremonies and Interim Director for New Student Programs Joel Hanlon welcomed students and thanked the entire Radford University family, including the Division of Student Affairs, facilities management and the Radford University Police Department, for making campus move-in a great success.

“These are just a few examples of the community you have joined here at Radford University. It is truly a great time to be a Highlander,” Hanlon said.

President Brian O. Hemphill took the podium and introduced his wife, First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, his two youngest children, Cruz and Catalina, and mother-in-law, Maria Rosas.

In his remarks, President Hemphill encouraged students to engage in the arts, attend sporting events, participate in community service projects and embrace the many opportunities available to them.

“My colleagues and I are dedicated to providing the best college experience possible for each of you,” he said. “You are the reason we chose to work in higher education; now it’s time for you to find your reason for attending Radford. Please remember that you are not alone on this journey and under no circumstance, do you ever give up pursuing your degree here without allowing us to help you fight for it.”

President Hemphill also carried a special message for the incoming first-generation students, who represent 40 percent of the nearly 1,900 freshmen class. Hemphill, too, was a first-generation student, he explained.

“I want each of you to know that I was very nervous, I was excited and somewhat scared,” he said. “At the same time, I was determined to grow, to learn and to succeed. With the help of my university family and my immediate family, I did just that. I have confidence that you will attain the same sense of accomplishment here at Radford.”

New Student Convocation photo gallery

Photo Gallery: New Student Convocation

On behalf of Radford University faculty, Faculty Senate President and Associate Professor of Anthropology Jake Fox lauded the university’s faculty, who “include some of the most talented, intelligent and creative people I have ever met in my life,” Fox said.

“We are dedicated to your success and well-being here at Radford University,” he continued. “We’re in this together. Your success is our success. Let’s make the absolute most of this.”

On behalf of the student body, Reagan Elkins shared several tips and real-life experiences, including a memory from her freshman year when she was late to class.

“Little mistakes are going to happen, but the sun will still rise the next day,” Elkins said. “Find joy in the journey.”

Radford City Mayor and Radford University adjunct professor Bruce Brown, M.S. ’78, spoke of the mentors who inspired him while attending Radford and also touted the many local businesses and outdoor activities in which he hopes students participate.

Following convocation, students headed to Heth Lawn for the Class of 2021 photo while Student Government Association President Julianna Stanley looked on and offered a few words of advice to new students:

“Take advantage of all the resources Radford University has to offer. Remember to make your academics a priority and take every opportunity to get involved. Make memories that will last a lifetime, and, of course, have fun.”

Students then made a mad dash to a campuswide picnic outside of Muse Hall. As freshmen friends Makenzie Sims and Julie Morris of Charlottesville made their way to the buffet, they reflected on why Radford University was the “perfect choice.”

“I just loved the size of campus. It’s not too big, and that’s a good thing because I get lost easily,” Sims joked, as she eagerly anticipated the start of classes. “I see a new face every day.”

Taylor Reed of Stuarts Draft said he’s most looking forward to the “flexibility and freedom” of college.

“It’s just great to be able to walk through campus like we are right now,” said Reed, joined by a group of friends tossing a few footballs in the air. “It’s a really nice campus. We made the right decision.”

Fall semester classes began Aug. 28. Club Fair, at which the university will showcase its more than 270 clubs and students organizations, is scheduled for Sept. 1 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. on Moffett Lawn.

Aug 28, 2017
Mary Hardbarger