President Hemphill cites university’s progress and momentum in his first Radford University State of the University address

President Brian O. Hemphill addresses the Radford family in his inaugural State of the University Address on Oct. 6.
President Brian O. Hemphill addresses the Radford family in his inaugural State of the University Address on Oct. 6.

'Without question, the State of the University is strong'

In his inaugural State of the University address to the Radford University family, President Brian O. Hemphill reflected on a successful 2016-17 academic year and looked toward a bright academic future.

In the Oct. 6 address to Radford University students, faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders, Hemphill detailed a series of groundbreaking initiatives and goals toward fulfilling his vision to transform Radford University into an innovative, premier university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond with a keen focus on teaching, research and service.

From Preston Hall’s Bondurant Auditorium, Hemphill highlighted significant progress and outlined the university’s momentum moving forward. Nearly 1,000 members of the campus community and beyond attended the uplifting event.

Hemphill acknowledged the shared governance leaders and leadership council members in attendance, as well as the university’s Board of Visitors (BOV).

“Without question, the State of the University is strong, and our recent progress and resounding success would not be possible without the unwavering support and continued dedication of our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Hemphill said.

Hemphill reflected on the life and accomplishments of Mary Ann Jennings Hovis ’65 who, at the time of her death in August, was a member of the BOV. In her honor, Hemphill announced the naming of the Mary Ann Jennings Hovis Memorial Board Room, the dedicated meeting space for deliberations of the BOV. The dedication, Hemphill said, honors Hovis’ “selfless contributions to her alma mater and her unwavering Highlander pride.” On behalf of Hovis, her husband, Bob, attended the address and received a warm ovation.

Hemphill held a moment of silence for additional students, faculty and staff who have recently passed away.

Special guests Nancy ’73 and Pat Artis were also acknowledged. Last spring, they gifted the university the largest contribution by an individual and an alumnus in Radford’s history. The Artis College of Science and Technology was dedicated, and the Artis Endowed Scholarship Fund will award 67 high-achieving students scholarships in the amount of $3,000 based on academic eligibility.

Such generous philanthropy is integral to Radford University’s continued growth and success, and others have followed in the Artises footsteps, said the president.

Hemphill announced that total giving to the university increased from $7.9 million in fiscal year 2016 to $10.7 million in fiscal year 2017, a 30 percent increase. The total number of donors increased from 4,435 to 5,253, nearly 20 percent. This year’s fundraising target is $14 million.

As an example of the university’s expanding academic program offerings, Hemphill brought attention to the proposed Doctor of Education and Bachelor of Science in Computer and Cyber Science. These programs are awaiting review and approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

“We have truly made great strides, but much more work lies ahead,” Hemphill said.

Continued progress and campus-wide accomplishments

That work will be defined by the university’s strategic plan, “Embracing the Tradition and Envisioning the Future.” The plan, which will guide the university’s efforts through 2023, will be officially implemented in January 2018.

The president introduced several initiatives and programs contained within the plan, including:

  • The creation of the Student Venture Lab, a mechanism for students to convert ideas into reality with access to faculty mentoring and a space dedicated to around-the-clock brainstorming, as well as the availability of funds for product development and commercialization.
  • The launch of the Appalachian Outreach Institute to further expand Radford University’s service mission and outreach activities in Southwest Virginia.
  • The establishment of the Center for Highlander Engagement and a Highlander Advisory Board to train and guide students, faculty and staff regarding the Highlander identity and values of being responsive, resilient and real.

In relation to the university’s enrollment, Hemphill announced the creation of an Enrollment Data Council to utilize predictive analytics and best practices to grow the overall student body to more than 13,000 by 2023.

This fall, the university welcomed 1,848 freshmen, a 5.5 increase over the prior year, including a 22 percent growth in out-of-state students when compared with the prior year. Hemphill cited this positive increase as indicative of the potential to achieve this ambitious goal.

Student academic profiles are improving as well, he said.

The Class of 2021 has an entering high school grade average of 3.24, the highest level since 1996, when the university began tracking this information. The class also showed impressive improvements in ACT and SAT scores.

In addition to enrollment, the university will closely monitor activities and practices that focus on increasing retention and graduation rates.

By 2023, the university has plans to increase its first to second year retention rate from 75.7 percent to 85 percent and its six-year graduation rate from 58.3 percent to 62 percent, Hemphill announced.

Hemphill also pointed out Radford’s increased diversity.

Radford’s current minority student population is 28.8 percent of the university’s total student body, representing an increase of 18 percent over the past decade.

“Radford University greatly values the culture and perspectives of all individuals,” Hemphill explained. “We truly believe it enriches the environment in which we live, learn and work.”

As the student body continues to grow and diversify, Hemphill stressed identification of Radford University’s signature programs as key to remaining competitive in today’s higher education landscape and crowded marketplace.

Hemphill stressed that although the university will remain committed to serving all disciplines and majors through its historical focus on teaching excellence and its recent focus on research growth, he said the areas of health sciences, health care, and human services, as well as information and physical security, are an integral part to the university’s future identity.

Amongst the many contributions and accomplishments of students, faculty and staff that Hemphill acknowledged, a highlight was the impressive passing rate of the Waldron College of Health and Human Services’ School of Nursing graduates, who out-performed their peers for the fifth consecutive year on the National Council Licensure Examination. Recent graduates have a pass rate of 94.4 percent, thereby exceeding the 88.2 percent state average and the 84.5 percent national average. Radford graduates also have a 100 percent pass rate on the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification, an honor the university has held for the past 18 years.

School spirit and athletic camaraderie help unify the campus community, and Highlander student-athletes are proudly representing the university in the classroom and in competition, Hemphill said.

During the past year, men’s soccer, volleyball and women’s basketball claimed Big South Regular Season Championships. Men’s soccer and baseball claimed Big South Tournament Championships, earning bids to the NCAA Tournament. Women’s basketball also earned a bid to the WNIT.

'Together, we will build a brighter future'

Opportunity for student-faculty research is another vital piece of the Radford University experience, a collaboration that sets the university apart from similar institutions of its scope and size.

To enhance these research opportunities, Hemphill announced the launch of a new initiative called the Highlander Research Rookies Program.

Beginning with the 2018-19 academic year, 15 apprenticeships will be awarded each year to high-achieving and highly-motivated freshman and sophomore students who will be paired with faculty members to conduct research. Funding of up to $4,000 will be provided to each awardee.

Exposing students, faculty and staff to new viewpoints is key to enriching the lives of Highlanders, Hemphill said. Therefore, the university has hosted a multitude of world-renowned guests and speakers. In addition, the university has been a proud sponsor of the McGlothlin Awards for Teaching Excellence, a prestigious award and recognition program for outstanding teachers held on Radford’s campus for nearly two decades. Hemphill acknowledged the McGlothlin family, including Tom McGlothlin and his wife, who were in attendance.

Additionally, Hemphill announced the launch of the Highlander Discovery Institute. The university will invest $150,000 annually to welcome preeminent speakers from around the world to campus.

Set to begin in fall 2019, the Highlander Discovery Institute will expose Radford University students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and community members to new ideas and ways of thinking, specifically in the areas of teaching, research and service.

Radford University is also reaching overseas by expanding its partnerships with international education leaders, such as Monash University in Australia and Shandong Youth University of Political Science in China.

Partnerships with Commonwealth institutions are just as vibrant.

In late August, Radford signed a guaranteed transfer partnership with Northern Virginia Community College and is focused on growing its presence at the Roanoke Higher Education Center and the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon.

“It is critical that we expand our educational and service mission across our region and the Commonwealth,” Hemphill said.

Such partnerships reflect Radford University’s commitment to diversifying how students obtain their degrees and advance their education. As does Radford’s recent launch of the Innovative Mobile Personalized Accelerated Competency Training (IMPACT). Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to campus last month to launch the competency-based education workforce development program.

A first-of-its-kind initiative within the Commonwealth, IMPACT officially launched Oct. 1 with a focus on cybersecurity. In early 2018, IMPACT will expand to include geospatial intelligence. In fall 2018, IMPACT will include counseling toward combatting opiate abuse.

With a historic grant to the university, the next phase of IMPACT is coming to life, Hemphill said.

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the university a three-year, $13.8 million grant, making it the largest grant in Radford’s history that will provide training for 5,000 K-12 special education teachers serving Appalachia. 

“With this critical support, we will develop and deliver content for special education teachers in rural Appalachia, specifically throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and neighboring states with our IMPACT platform,” he said.

Hemphill thanked the grant writers and principal investigators for their work hard work, including Matt Dunleavy, Brooke Blanks, Kenna Colley and Amanda Bozack.

IMPACT, which was designed and is currently led by some of Radford University’s world-class faculty, reflects their deep passion and unwavering support for making a positive impact on all students, Hemphill said.

“While our faculty fully invest their time and talent in our students, it is time for Radford University to increase our investment in each and every one of them,” Hemphill continued.

These investments, Hemphill announced, include:

  • Individual faculty travel budgets for professional development in the current fiscal year are being increased by more than 50 percent.
  • A fund will be created and centrally managed in order to provide increased support for faculty searches.

In conclusion, Hemphill expressed excitement about the upcoming year.

“Radford University, the Commonwealth of Virginia, our nation and the world are counting on each and every one of us now and well into the future,” Hemphill said. “Together, we will succeed. Together, we will make a difference. Together, we build a brighter future.”

Following the address, Hemphill received a standing ovation, and members of the Radford family reflected on the exciting endeavors and initiatives he introduced.

“It was a dynamic message with a great vision for the university. It makes me happy to be a faculty member here,” said School of Teacher Education and Leadership Professor Jennifer Jones Powell. “We’re in exciting times where we have a leader who understands our students and our faculty and is working collaboratively with everybody involved to build great things for Radford.”

Student Government Association (SGA) Parliamentarian Conner Philson was also enthusiastic.

"The president's focus on undergraduate research through offices, such as The Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, and programs, such as IMPACT, is the sure fire way to ensure Radford University stays among the top universities in the Commonwealth and the nation,” Philson said. “His support and recognition of successful programs and students gives us all the motivation to keep the state of the university strong."

Oct 6, 2017
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150