Blacksburg High School students have transformative experience at Radford University
Students from Blacksburg High School (BHS) joined together with the Davis College of Business and Economics (Davis) for a day of learning, insight and inspiration. Dressed in attire fit for young professionals, the class of ten was right at home with the students, faculty and staff during their November 12, 2019, visit.
Kim Radford, marketing teacher, DECA Advisor and work-based learning coordinator for BHS worked directly with Danylle Kunkel, Ph.D., to arrange this experiential learning opportunity.
“What I wanted these students to see is that college is not just about coming to class,” Kunkel said. “When you come to college you are engaging in different thought processes.”
Radford added, “I think that is really important that they can see how what we do in high school connects to how they can be successful in college.”
Throughout the duration of their visit they were accompanied by Caleb Kipps a current Radford University student pursuing a double major of management and entrepreneurship in addition to anthropology, with a minor in history.
Radford had nothing but glowing feedback to provide about Kipps and how he represented Radford University. “He was dressed professionally, he presented himself well, he knew everything about the college and he connected us with leaders.” She described him as, “phenomenal.”
A Classroom Experience
The campus visit began with a tour of Davis and students quickly settled into an engaging classroom experience in Kunkel’s leadership course. They were divided into groups and presented with real life challenges facing business and organizations and were tasked with coming up with root causes for the issue and subsequent solutions to alleviate the issue. They were problem-solving and learning alongside Radford University students.
The students were then afforded the opportunity to connect with students and faculty about items to consider as they look toward advancing their education after high school.
“It was great for them to be in a college atmosphere in which they didn’t feel there were 1 of 500 people,” said Ms. Radford. “I tell them, they really need to seek out the programs that are going to be meet their needs. At Radford there is a wonderful faculty and staff.”
A Guest Speaker Experience
The BHS students then had a unique and powerful experience as they joined alongside students, faculty, staff, community members, and business leaders for the first Leadership Impact Symposium, sponsored by BB&T.
“This is part of our new partnership with BB&T to address social and ethical leadership,” said Kunkel. “What we are doing with this initiative is to challenge students to think in innovative ways.”
Barret Ward, CEO and founder of Able, and speaker at the inaugural symposium, captured the interest and hearts of a packed room in Kyle Hall. His remarks, titled “Empowering Women is more than a Tag Line,” detailed how he became a social entrepreneur and discussed the future of socially-conscious practices within manufacturing.
Kunkel shared, “He really is a quintessential social entrepreneur. He gets it from a systematic perspective. He is talking about it from all different aspects of the company and is holding himself accountable, and that is huge!”
Through Ward’s vision and leadership, Able is focused on the accountability of manufacturers in paying a living wage to all employees both domestic and abroad. Ward emphasized the pressing need for this accountability as only 2% of those working within fashion manufacturing are earning a living wage and 75% of those workers are women. Able is making measured steps towards visibility surrounding the lowest wage paid and as such openly publishes their data on their website and have issued a challenge across manufacturing for other brands to do the same.
When considering Ward’s remarks and presentation Kunkel said, “We can rethink how we address social ills through the business lens. There is a beautiful body of minds that think differently than our current system.”
Reflecting on the thoughts and ideas presented by Ward, Radford shared, “I think that for my students it allowed them to see that you can have a big dream and you can see a big problem and you can solve it. You might come across obstacles but there will be people who will believe in you and help you grow.”
The conversation and learning will continue beyond this luncheon and day-long visit. Ms. Radford leads DECA at BHS and this year’s annual conference will be in Nashville – conveniently the headquarters of Able. “We’re going to connect and we will go on a corporate office tour,” Ms. Radford said.
A Transformative Experience
It is speakers like Ward who bring critical perspective and ideas to the students of Radford University as well as the guests and supporters who were in attendance, like the students from BHS. Kunkel shared, "The conversations had will lead to greater thinking.”
Reflecting on the day, Radford said, “We had such gracious hosting all day long. It takes time out of your day to do that but the University made such a good impression on them.”
Through this experience the University’s mission to provide transformative educational experiences within and beyond the classroom was brought to life.