Radford championed by students at the State Capitol
Nearly 50 Radford University and Jefferson College of Health Sciences students met with their state legislators to discuss issues vital to the campus community during Radford’s annual Advocacy Day on Jan. 28-29.
At the end of the busy 24 hours, students met with Gov. Ralph Northam, who spoke with the students and answered questions before taking a group photo with the attendees.
For some, this was their second or third time experiencing the excitement of Advocacy Day.
“The best thing I’ve gotten out of both of these opportunities is connections with people I never would have met otherwise,” said Radford University student Isaiah Hamilton of Carbondale, Illinois. “Last year I had the pleasure of getting to know Radford’s vice president for Student Affairs. This year I got to have a wonderful and informative conversation with Delegate Chris Hurst.”
Hamilton also said that Advocacy Day allowed him to realize leadership skills that “I didn’t know were within me, including joining Radford University Student Government Association as senior class senator.”
With their legislators – and Gov. Northam – students discussed Jefferson College of Health Sciences (JCHS) merge into Radford University, an innovative partnership that will increase the healthcare pipeline in Virginia, expand affordability of a quality healthcare education and save time and money for students.
Stephanie Alston, a JCHS student from Poquoson, Virginia, said that her favorite part of the trip was bonding with the Radford students and discussing why they love Radford University and sharing the JCHS story.
“Representing Jefferson on Radford’s advocacy day allowed me the opportunity to showcase what a high-quality education and well-rounded student body Jefferson has and what a fabulous addition that will be for Radford going forward,” Alston said. “Jefferson has a remarkable legacy in the health care community, and I want that to continue with this merger.”
Student Government Association President Julianna Stanley from Williamsburg, Virginia, said that meeting with the legislators is critical to the continued success of Radford University.
“It is important to promote Radford so that we can receive support for our essential priorities,” Stanley said. “The legislators are a key component to our university’s success, without their support we would not be able to have the merger with Jefferson College.”
Members of the SGA originally encouraged Colleen McNickle, of Sterling, Virginia, a media studies major, to attend Advocacy Day. Now her third time at the event, McNickle served as a guide for students participating for the first time while also continuing to grow connections with both students, staff and state government officials.
“Looking back on how much guidance I required my first year, I was happy to see my transition from a student to a teacher,” McNickle said. “It was also exciting to have so many new people coming this year. They all did phenomenal jobs and were poised and professional.”
It is the best. Absolutely the best. One of the best assets that Radford University students have is being able to do this program. It changed my life.
During Advocacy Day, McNickle also served as another role – student journalist.
“All the amazing professors and mentors I have had in my program have prepared me for these interview type situations,” she said. “I know that writing about or reporting about politics is one of my main interests and Advocacy Day has given me a lot of experience talking to representatives in a professional way. I can't thank Radford University enough for giving me this hands-on experience that nurtures my interests and coaches my ability.”
As part of the journalist experience, McNickle will be producing an article from the student perspective about the Advocacy Day experience in the upcoming Radford University Magazine.
Radford University alumnus Jack Foley ’18, a former member of SGA, attended Advocacy Day twice as a student – and now – once as an alumnus working in the office of Delegate Chris Hurst. Foley said on his first trip to the State Capitol that he didn’t know anything about state government.
“It was my first introduction to state government – the legislative session. Advocacy Day started my career. I credit the Advocacy Day program, Karen [Casteele] and the folks from the administration who provide these opportunities for growth,” Foley said. “I hope everyone gets the same experience I had, whether it is their first time or their third time on Advocacy Day and that they continue to meet more people, they continue to put themselves out there where they continue to push themselves and go further to build professional relationships.”
Also championing Radford University at Advocacy Day were members of the Board of Visitors, which included Rector Mark Lawrence, Jay Brown, Randy Marcus, Karyn Moran ’88, Krisha Chachra, Rachel Fowlkes and Lisa Throckmorton '94.
“It is such a great opportunity to showcase the university and all that our students have to offer,” Moran said about Advocacy Day. “We have such terrific students with so much to offer that it is a great opportunity for them to talk and share the Radford story. [The legislators] care very much about their constituents and they want to make sure that after graduation they are able to find the right job for them and that they stay in Virginia.”
Also, a topic of discussion during Advocacy Day was the expansion of need-based financial aid to help maintain Radford’s accessibility and affordability for lower income families.
Affordable higher education is something that Stanley is keenly aware of since she is one of four girls in her family to attend Radford – and one of two currently enrolled.
“Financial aid has made it more affordable for our parents to put us both through school at the same time,” Stanley said. “Four sisters have successfully navigated college due to financial aid.”
“Advocacy Day is a great opportunity for anyone with even the slightest interest in politics because it gives you a glimpse of what the legislative process is like,” said Radford University student Chase Arrington from Bassett, Virginia. “I definitely recommend Advocacy Day.”
Cerra Ebbecke, of Long Island, New York, said that the trip was an amazing experience.
“It was awesome to see everyone come together to keep improving the Commonwealth of Virginia. “It was also great to see how all the delegates and senators care so much about their constituents. It’s important because Radford is always trying to do what is best for its students. After going throughout the day advocating for Radford, it made me very aware that even though I am not from Virginia, I can still call it my home."