State of the University Address highlights forward progress and positive momentum

In the annual State of the University Address to Radford University students, faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders, President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. shared the Radford story, one marked with great accomplishments and significant progress. In the October 25, 2019 address to the Radford family, President Hemphill detailed a series of initiatives and goals that will fulfill the University’s vision of being an innovative, premier institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia and beyond with a keen focus on teaching, research and service.

From Preston Hall’s Bondurant Auditorium stage, President Hemphill highlighted forward progress and outlined the necessary steps to sustaining the University’s positive momentum. More than 500 members of the campus community and beyond attended the event that marked the opening of its annual Homecoming festivities.

President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. briefed the Radford University community on Oct. 25, 2019 in his annual State of University Address.

During his third State of the University Address that commemorated his fourth year as Radford University’s visionary leader, President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. briefed the Radford University community on Oct. 25, 2019 in his annual State of University Address.

President Hemphill acknowledged the University’s Board of Visitors, as well as shared governance leaders and Leadership Council members in attendance.

Following the acknowledgements, President Hemphill stated, “We are strong and positioned for the future - a future that will be defined by our talented students, our world-class faculty, our dedicated staff, our passionate alumni and our generous supporters.”

During his third State of the University Address that commemorates his fourth year as Radford University’s visionary leader, President Hemphill welcomed a contingent of more than 40 faculty, staff and students from Radford University Carilion (RUC), the latest addition to Radford’s academic portfolio. RUC was officially established on July 10, 2019 when an 18-month collaborative planning effort was completed, thereby merging Jefferson College of Health Sciences into Radford University and creating a public-private partnership with Carilion Clinic to create a Roanoke-based health education campus.

President Hemphill also revealed exciting University projects to be included in the forthcoming 2020-2030 Master Plan, specifically the construction of a full-service, multi-story hotel adjacent to the campus, as well as the creation of the River Campus, a reimagining and development of the University’s riverside location, a resource that President Hemphill called “underutilized.”

The hotel, which will be located at the intersection of Tyler Avenue and Calhoun Street, will be constructed on land owned by the Radford University Foundation. Four existing structures would be demolished to make way for the hotel, which will include 125 rooms, a conference center, a rooftop restaurant and on-site parking.

“The hotel will provide amenities not available at current area hotels and a proximity to campus that cannot be matched. I am confident that our campus will serve as a wonderful backdrop for area visitors and University guests. Imagine standing on the top floor of the hotel in the rooftop restaurant and seeing the beauty and excitement of our campus,” said President Hemphill during his address.

The riverfront project will rebrand Radford University as a River Campus, according to President Hemphill. Among its features will be a revamped bridge and traffic pattern along University Drive, a Champions Walk featuring Radford Athletics successes, a boardwalk, a restaurant and an amphitheater to showcase the arts.

The 2020-2030 Master Plan supports the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan with appropriate physical plant and infrastructure resources. The document, which is expected to be finalized this December, represents a campus-wide assessment and proposed plan to develop the inventory of infrastructure on the Radford University campus, which includes 2.8 million square feet of space devoted to academic, student and general use.

Another new partnership to broaden Radford’s footprint and outreach is the Bridge to Radford University, a pioneering program to provide automatic admission for students to study at New River Community College, while living in residence halls, eating in dining halls and attending campus events at Radford University.

“With the Bridge to Radford University, we are setting a standard for meeting students where they are and providing a customized experience for engagement and success,” said President Hemphill.

As a result of a $325,000 grant from the Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission, Radford University will further expand its service to the Southwest Virginia region. The funding will enable Radford to expand its school counselor program to the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center located in Abingdon, Virginia.

“At Radford, we are answering a call to serve as an economic engine in the region and beyond,” said President Hemphill, who also announced a new program to further cement the University’s ties to the region’s corporate community, called ACCESS Radford. ACCESS Radford will combine the Center for Career and Talent Development, the Vinod Chachra IMPACT Lab and the University’s economic development efforts to boost the campus’ direct and indirect impact on regional economic growth and employment in the health, education, arts and culture, natural resources and infrastructure sectors. ACCESS Radford will also facilitate corporate partnerships for the University.

While recounting how Radford is expanding its external impact and overall footprint, President Hemphill also acknowledged and applauded Radford University’s driving force: its faculty.

“The close relationships that our faculty develop with our students result in a lasting impact as they transition to graduates and alumni,” President Hemphill said. “That relationship is what separates Radford from other institutions of our scope and size.”

The Radford University of today proudly offers:

  • 76 bachelor’s degree programs in 47 disciplines and three associate’s degree programs;
  • 27 master’s degree programs in 22 disciplines and six doctoral programs; and
  • 13 post-baccalaureate certificates and one post-master’s certificate.

President Hemphill cited the addition of three new undergraduate degrees and one new doctoral degree as another Radford University response to the demand for skilled employees in the healthcare, technology and education industries. Concurrent with the merger and development of curriculums and programs that resulted in RUC, Radford faculty have also been working collaboratively to serve Radford students’ interests and needs of both today and tomorrow. 

During President Hemphill’s remarks, he also highlighted the ongoing development and future implementation of the REAL Education Model and applauded the innovative faculty at Radford University who are forward-thinking and student-centered. 

President Hemphill also cited significant advancements in rankings and enrollment.

“Standing strong at 11,870, a Radford education is reaching increased numbers of students. Enrolling and retaining students is our top priority,” said President Hemphill. “There is no denying that a highly-sought, world-class education is available right here at Radford University.”

In September, Radford was ranked by U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges as the No. 12-ranked “Top Public School,” a six-place improvement from 2018. Radford also advanced in the magazine’s “Best Regional Universities in the South” ratings from No. 46 to No. 28.

“This level of recognition comes at a time when Radford University is responding to the changing landscape of enrollment in Virginia by tapping into new markets, such as RUC, and online growth through the IMPACT program,” said President Hemphill. “These tremendous accomplishments serve to highlight our collective commitment to providing enriching and quality experiences for our students.” 

Reflective of Radford’s impact, President Hemphill characterized the feedback he and First Lady Marisela Rosas Hemphill, Ph.D. heard in their recent eight-stop regional Highlander Family Tour, saying, “We heard their stories. We saw their passion.” 

President Hemphill recapped a series of events and initiatives, such as the Highlander Discovery Institute, a stand-alone Family Weekend and the 2019 Highlanders Festival, as well as the re-establishment of the Small Business Development Center and the opening of the Venture Lab, as unique and valuable ways that Radford is making profound contributions.

“Enduring commitment, unmatched dedication and abundant passion are exhibited each and every day by the Radford family in remarkable ways - ways that impact the New River and Roanoke valleys, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the world,” President Hemphill said.

As examples of the hallmark Radford commitment and dedication to learning and scholarship, President Hemphill introduced the 2018 recipients of the Dalton Eminent Scholar Awards in attendance:

  • Jeremy Wojdak, Ph.D., Professor of Biology;
  • Helen Roybark, Ph.D., Professor of Accounting;
  • Ji-Eun Lee, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Dance; and
  • Skip Watts, Ph.D., Professor of Geology.

President Hemphill further shared Radford’s story and success by highlighting the 2019 faculty and staff award winners:

  • Kim Lane, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biochemistry;
  • Connie Leathers ’75, M.S. ’79, Information Technology Support Specialist and Trainer;
  • Corey Cassidy, Ph.D., Associate Dean of the Waldron College of Health and Human Services; and
  • Darryl Corey, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Mathematics Education.

"Without question, the time-honored tradition of Radford University is clearly focused. Together, we are making a difference,” President Hemphill said.

With the delivery of the annual address, President Hemphill set the tone for Homecoming, a three-day gathering of Highlanders of past and present by saying, “As the Radford family joins together, we are reminded of how being a Highlander is so very special.”

President Hemphill pointed with pride to the accomplishments of those who have walked the hallways and walkways of Radford’s campus for more than a century.

“These are the individuals who have created better lives for themselves, resulting in a powerful legacy for each and every one of us to follow. The State of the University is strong and we are positioned for the future. As we return to our classrooms, our laboratories and our offices and celebrate Homecoming, we cannot and will not falter. Through our pursuit of discovery, dedication to scholarship and spirit of service, together, we are bridging the knowledge and skills gap by providing new opportunities for our students and our citizens. The mission of Radford University is clear. “It is our mission to create and nurture students who are responsive, a future that is resilient and Highlanders who are real,” President Hemphill said.

The State of the University Address’ inspiring tone was contagious.

Mike Ashley ’83 said, “President Hemphill’s State of the University Address brought such a bold vision, one that made me bust my buttons with Highlander pride.” 

Jerome Thomas, coordinator of deaf and hard of hearing services in the Center for Accessibility Services, said, “The presentation was exciting. The connections with alumni, the investment in the University’s future and the commitment to education will grow the University and Highlander pride.”

“Radford is a lovely place, and the presentation shows a vision of progress. I look forward to seeing and being a part of,” said Alex Kirnos, a freshman sports management major from Woodbridge, Virginia. 

Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies Chair Paul Thomas, Ph.D. added, “I heard a lot of exciting things. There were a variety of ways to reach students and alternative student populations that are very important and far-reaching. We have a lot of opportunities to help develop the local economy in a new direction, especially the River Campus development.” 

The upbeat vibe was characterized by Professor of Accounting Helen Roybark, Ph.D. who said, “If you’re not inspired, you must not be breathing. It is clear we are well-positioned today and into the future. The 2020-2030 Master Plan is imaginative and honors our place and heritage.”

Looking ahead to his graduation in May, Sam Finley, a senior management major from Blue Ridge, Virginia, said, “As a soon-to-be alumnus, I am filled with hope and Highlander pride. I really liked the synergy and forward thinking.”

View the full-text remarks and full-length video from the October 25, 2019 State of the University Address online.

Nov 8, 2019
Don Bowman
(540) 831-5182