Radford University President Dr. Brian O. Hemphill Addresses Town Hall Meeting at Jefferson College of Health Sciences
On Monday, May 7, 2018, Radford University President Dr. Brian O. Hemphill welcomed approximately 125 members of the Jefferson College of Health Sciences faculty, staff and administration to a town hall-style meeting on the college’s campus at Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital. The meeting was an opportunity for Jefferson employees to hear an update on the potential merger of the two institutions and to ask questions about the process going forward.
After welcoming everyone, including members of the Radford leadership team, Dr. Hemphill asked for a moment of silence in honor of Virginia Tech President Emeritus Charles William Steger, Jr., who died Sunday evening at his home in Blacksburg.
Dr. Hemphill thanked everyone who has been involved in the transition planning since the January announcement of the intent to merge for the positive work they have already done and for the dedication to the process demonstrated by each member of the five subcommittee planning teams. Those teams include: Academic Programs and Accreditation, Communications, Student Services, Human Resources, and Finance and Legal.
“The whole purpose around the subcommittees is to form recommendations that will be forwarded to the Steering Committee,” Dr. Hemphill said. “The Steering Committee will then take time to consider the best course forward and make recommendations to the Executive Committee, who will make final decisions after information has been vetted already at two levels.”
Dr. Hemphill added that the Executive Committee is composed of himself, Jefferson College President Dr. Nathaniel L. Bishop, Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee and others in leadership positions at all of the parties involved.
The Academics Programs and Accreditation Subcommittee has been meeting since March and has developed a number of recommendations for consideration, Dr. Hemphill continued, and we can expect more of these types of movements going forward. Within the next two weeks, representatives on the final subcommittees who have yet to meet—Human Resources and Finance and Legal—will be finalized and begin conducting their own meetings.
“Our timing as it relates to this, our intent and our work is working toward having everything, for the most part, completed for the merger by next summer, looking at a fall of 2019 implementation,” Dr. Hemphill said. “That is the game plan—everything we do this summer and into next year is being done with the expectation of the merged entity welcoming its first class that fall.”
Dr. Hemphill then began taking questions from the Jefferson community.
What types of topics the subcommittees are working on?
“Each subcommittee began with a charge, but there are things that each group will discover that we haven’t even considered,” Dr. Hemphill said. “We’re counting on that to help us navigate the merger.”
Why does the estimated fall of 2019 completion of the merger not match up with the communicated 18-24 month merger timeframe?
Dr. Hemphill said that starting from the time of the announcement in January 2018 to the implementation in the fall of 2019, it would span about 18 months. As a result, the merger is on track to have in place in summer 2019 what would be necessary for a fall 2019 implementation.
Are there recommendations the subcommittees have made that could be shared?
Referring back to the process for considering recommendations, Dr. Hemphill said after the Executive Committee has had time to consider the recommendations. The first meeting of the Executive Committee is scheduled to take place later in May.
From the Director of a two-year program: How should we talk with prospective students about what to expect by the time they graduate? Will their diplomas say Jefferson College or Radford University?
Dr. Hemphill said that if all timelines were met, they would most likely graduate from Radford. However, all of that timing will depend on the work and recommendations of the subcommittees. It will depend on what we encounter as we continue through the merger process.
Based on the strategic vision of Radford, was the decision to merge related to the university wanting a presence in Roanoke, or to expanding their health sciences educational offerings?
Dr. Hemphill said that Radford has had a presence in Roanoke for approximately 25 years through the Higher Education Center. He said that Radford’s interest is in developing a signature identity. Within the confines of that conversation, health and human services programs were highlighted in Radford’s most recent strategic planning process. The proposal to merge came about organically as a result of conversations among Radford, Jefferson and Carilion, as each entity was charting out its path.
“This was not something that was on my mind when I got here,” Dr. Hemphill said, “but based on conversations with Nancy Agee and Dr. Bishop, as well as based on the strengths of both Jefferson and Radford, it became clear this was the solution when you look at the competitive and changing nature of higher education.”
What is the plan for faculty and staff who are within two years of retirement?
Dr. Hemphill said that as part of this process, the HR subcommittee will address these kinds of topics, but that he and Dr. Bishop have already begun discussing how to develop and offer opportunities to employees in situations like this.
Dr. Hemphill said, “We know that you have spent your career working toward this point. We are going to be sensitive to that. It’s important to you and it’s important to us as well. This is one of the first topics we want the HR subcommittee to work on and it will take planning with Carilion to develop processes that are best for those individuals.”
What kinds of governmental approvals are still needed for this merger to take place?
Dr. Hemphill assured the audience that before the announcement was made and committees began their work, several government officials and agencies, including SCHEV and SACSCOC, among others, were consulted or notified. The response from all of them was overwhelmingly positive, particularly due to the types of efficiencies and economic advantages that could result, while keeping students in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Dr. Hemphill pointed to the relationship between Carilion and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine as a possible model for how this kind of merger can be done efficiently and effectively.
Will tuition reimbursement and other benefits that Carilion employees have used to advance their educations continue?
Dr. Hemphill indicated this was one of the topics that would be addressed by the HR subcommittee.
Will the merger be totally complete by the fall of 2019?
Dr. Hemphill said that most work leading up the merger would be complete on that timetable. However, there may be issues and obstacles that will arise during the planning process and thereafter that will require ongoing study to complete.
Will the Roanoke campus be a branch campus of Radford or an extension campus?
Dr. Hemphill said that the merged school would not be a branch campus. He said that this will be an educational site of Radford, with Jefferson’s programs merged into the existing colleges and schools of Radford University.
Will the existing student support services be housed at Radford with students traveling to use them? Or, will there be services on the Roanoke site?
Dr. Hemphill said that with the expected expansion and growth in health and human services education, student services will need to be offered in Roanoke. He went on to say that the Student Services subcommittee would examine and make recommendations as to how those services would be structured.
How will leadership and administration at this site be structured and located?
Those will be things that will be sorted out by the HR subcommittee and recommendations will be made as to how that will look post-merger.
“Now is not the time to begin to look toward a job change,” Dr. Hemphill said. “I think that would be extremely premature at this stage because you have something very special here and the last thing I’m interested in doing is coming in and trying to break all of that up. I want to make sure that we combine your expertise and our expertise to continue doing the great things we’ve been doing, but to take it to another level.”
Dr. Hemphill went on to say that there are programs that Jefferson provides that Radford doesn’t and vice-versa. This allows us to take the best of what each institution offers, embrace the strengths each brings to the table and create different pathways for our students.
What is your vision for how the conversation continues long after the ink is dry so we can continue to grow to meet the needs of health and human services in Roanoke, Radford and beyond?
“If we’re not in the business of seeing how we can innovate and reinvent ourselves to better what we’re doing; if we’re not interested in seeing how we can improve operations, we’re just maintaining. If you’re in the business of maintaining, you’re an organization waiting to die,” Dr. Hemphill said. “You must continue to look at how you’re improving on daily basis. While you’re just maintaining, there are other organizations out there constantly improving for their students. This is the way we live; this is the way we work. The status quo doesn’t work in this environment. There’s a reason why 12 universities have merged within the Georgia system. I can say 100 percent, we will continue to work and advance to become even stronger.”
When can faculty and staff expect to see a comprehensive benefit package so they can make informed decisions?
The HR subcommittee will begin addressing that soon and will analyze how Jefferson, Radford and Carilion benefits compare.
How will the process for clinical placements change after the merger? Will the merged entity have any kind of priority with Carilion?
“As we move forward with this, I can say the commitment from Carilion to provide us with top-notch placements isn’t going anywhere,” Dr. Hemphill said. “The commitments that Jefferson and Radford have with Carilion and other health systems aren’t going anywhere. We will continue placing our students in the very best opportunities available for them and for the merged entity.”
What is the most recent information available about what will happen to Jefferson’s associate programs?
Dr. Hemphill said that there is ongoing study taking place now within the Academic Programs and Accreditation Subcommittee about how those programs will evolve and transform. There is a commitment to those programs and to the graduates who come from those programs. More information will be provided when it becomes available.
What will happen if a Jefferson employee is making more that their equivalent position at Radford? What if an employee is making less?
Dr. Hemphill said that employment laws govern these types of situations. “Some of you may make a little more than our folks and some may make a little less,” Dr. Hemphill said. “We aren’t going to ask someone to do the same job for less. You have lives, you have families and we’re going to be sensitive to that. We say that it’s the 'Radford family for a reason and the last thing we want to do is take an action that will reduce people’s overall pay moving forward.” The HR subcommittee will be studying the salary questions over the next few months to make recommendations.
Dr. Hemphill also addressed the equity between positions and salary. At an institution as large as Radford, there are continual studies of pay equity. While salary increases can’t be guaranteed, Jefferson employees who become Radford employees will be considered for these types of adjustments along with their new Radford colleagues.
Will the complexity of clinical placements increase when Jefferson is no longer part of Carilion?
Dr. Julie DeLoia, Jefferson’s Dean of the College, said that we don’t get shortcuts because we’ve been part of Carilion. Both Radford and Jefferson follow stringent guidelines to place students. That won’t change post-merger. We will still work on finding the best possible placements for our students.
What kind of lead time will Jefferson employees get to make employment decisions?
Dr. Hemphill again pointed to the HR subcommittee and its work. “The sooner we can have them starting those conversations, the better,” Dr. Hemphill said. “I’m asking folks to be patient and understand that these are important topics that are being considered now.”
Why has the HR group not begun meeting if it’s an essential component of the merger?
“There are some things that Radford, Carilion and Jefferson needed to work through before certain committees could begin meeting,” Dr. Hemphill said. “We’re pretty close to working through those issues, so those committees are close to meeting. Plus, we needed to gather some data before the committees could meet.”
What is the likelihood that a Jefferson employee will continue to be based in Roanoke?
“As we continue thinking about the opportunities this merger presents, we want to continue to expand and grow here,” Dr. Hemphill said. “The likelihood of having people drive to Radford is pretty small. We want to continue what we’re doing here because of the synergy and opportunity that Roanoke presents in the health industry.”
Will Jefferson faculty be on a tenure system at Radford, considering that they aren’t currently at Jefferson?
Dr. Hemphill indicated that this will be something the Academic Programs and Accreditation and HR subcommittees will study further as the merger process continues. There are “non-tenured” faculty positions at Radford as well and there may be options for Jefferson faculty without credentials or experience needed for tenure.
Will open positions at Jefferson be filled and how do you address the upcoming merger with prospective employees?
Dr. Hemphill emphasized transparency and the positive trajectory that the merger offers, and that both Jefferson College and Radford University are approaching from positions of strength. “Share the benefits and the positives with employees and students about the merger,” he said. “We know that this merger is happening. There is a whole list of positives available on the website that we can share with those interested in us.”
Are the associate degree programs involved in the merger transition subcommittees? If the two-year programs have concerns who should we talk to?
Dr. Hemphill said that Dr. DeLoia is co-chairing the Academic Programs and Accreditation subcommittee. She is the advocate for the two-year programs and all of the programs from Jefferson as the merger progresses. Dr. Hemphill suggested that Jefferson employees forward questions to Dr. DeLoia, who will take them to her committee and to the Presidents for consideration.
When can faculty members expect a standard message and share with students applying to our programs about the merger?
Dr. DeLoia said that by mid-summer, those messages should be complete and there will be a communication plan for that. Dr. Hemphill added that the merger is going to move forward and that this initiative wasn’t undertaken to fail. He encouraged everyone to be honest with whom they talk and let them know about all the advantages that will come as this merger happens.
Will there be a new building to house the merged entity?
At some point down the road, that may happen. For now, the focus is on successfully completing the merger.
Will all of the software systems be merged by this time next summer to ensure we’re all using the same thing?
Dr. Hemphill said that will be one of the ongoing projects that will be addressed during the merger and afterward.
Will all Jefferson programs end up in the Waldron College at Radford?
Not necessarily. Dr. Hemphill said that there are Deans from several of the Radford colleges on the subcommittees to ensure programs are placed in the most logical and effective places to produce successful graduates.
Jefferson has positioned itself as a research institution, as part of Carilion Clinic. Will that continue as the merger moves forward?
While Radford has not traditionally been known as a research university, Dr. Hemphill said that all involved are dedicated to providing opportunities to faculty interested in pursuing research. More to come.
Have all Boards involved in the merger approved moving forward, or does that come later?
Dr. Hemphill said that the Radford, Carilion and Jefferson boards agreed to move forward with the announcement made in January 2018. After the subcommittees complete their work, and it has been vetted by the Steering and Executive Committees, final implementation plans will be presented to the boards.