Radford University’s commitment to academic excellence continues amidst pandemic

I think the fact that so many people plan to present their research online this semester speaks volumes to the durability and passion of Highlanders, along with their desire to not only exceed, but to excel.” 

Sierra Felty, Radford University freshman biology major

Radford University’s first-ever Virtual Student Engagement Forum will occur the week of April 20, 2020. During this weeklong event, close to 200 students, mentored by 70 faculty members, will be presenting their projects on “Portfolium,” an ePortfolio website.

For nearly three decades, the University has facilitated the Student Engagement Forum as a platform to showcase the original research, scholarship and creative activities of its outstanding students and faculty. Every spring semester, the Radford family convenes on campus to observe and celebrate the impressive work of students and their faculty partners. However, the Spring 2020 semester has presented unprecedented challenges that have made these presentations impossible, in-person, at least.

Creative minds have convened during this global pandemic, determined to make sure this scholarly ritual continues.

“Most universities have some kind of research event in April, but Radford University’s year-end tradition of celebrating the creation of new knowledge by our undergraduates has been going on uninterrupted for roughly twice as long as most universities. We wanted to preserve that proud tradition,” explained Joe Wirgau, Ph.D., director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS).

Wirgau gives credit to many across campus for their commitment to continuing this monumental project, including Associate Provost for Academic Programs Jeanne Mekolichick, Ph.D., and Associate Director of OURS Maggie Pate, Ph.D..

“We thought it was an important message to send to the greater campus community that not only are classes continuing, but research and individual work with faculty - hallmarks of the Radford experience - are still occurring,” he said.

In an email to his Highlander colleagues, Wirgau shared details on the upcoming forum:

“Many of the presentations are open to the public and can be found on April 21. All those with Radford University email accounts have access to ‘Portfolium,’ and directions on how to activate your account can be found here. We encourage audience members to view and interact with presentations from April 21-24. At the bottom of each presentation is an ‘add a comment box,’ and we are asking that people leave questions there. All authors will receive an email notifying them that they have received a comment. We hope this will create a rich virtual conversation between presenters and members of the audience.”

Despite the transition of the forum to a virtual format, which has proved a challenge for all involved, students and faculty have been eager and excited to participate.

“They are so passionate and invested in their work that they are finding a way, no matter what, to share that passion and information with others,” Wirgau said. “It is palpable evidence of the innovative culture across campus.”

Freshman biology major and executive student assistant in OURS, Sierra Felty, affirms this #HighlandersRise attitude.

“A shift online does not mean a shift in responsibility and less required effort. In my opinion, I think it actually requires a little more of everything - patience, endurance and teamwork,” said Felty, a Pulaski, Virginia, native who will be presenting her research during the forum. “I think the fact that so many people plan to present their research online this semester speaks volumes to the durability and passion of Highlanders, along with their desire to not only exceed, but to excel.” 

Participate in Radford University's Virtual Student Engagement Forum here.

#HighlandersRise is an initiative to spotlight how Radford University students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members push through fear and frustration to pursue their hopes and dreams, even in trying times. Our resiliency sustains us, and our responsiveness empowers us. The entire Radford family, both near and far, is demonstrating a tremendous amount of strength during the unprecedented times we are facing locally, regionally and globally.

Apr 20, 2020
Mary Hardbarger
(540) 831-5150