New Student Convocation 2020 delivers Radford experience in a virtual setting


It is an understatement to say the 2020 academic year at Radford University will be different.

Most everything this year is different.

One thing, however, remains the same, even with the backdrop of COVID-19: the Radford University family’s commitment to students’ success and well-being.

President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., pledged those words in a brief video distributed to new students — the Class of 2024 — less than 24 hours before classes commenced for the 2020 fall semester. The virtual experience replaced the in-person setting of New Student Convocation, an annual celebration of freshmen and transfer students’ arrival to campus and the beginning of their new academic journey.

This year’s in-person event transitioned to a virtual setting as the University community takes measures to respond to the coronavirus global health pandemic.

New Student Convocation ordinarily takes place the Sunday before classes start with students walking from the campus fountain to the green grass on McConnell Library lawn, greeted by faculty during the walk. 

That experience, however, was momentarily delayed in 2020 as social distancing has become the necessary norm in an attempt to slow the COVID-19 spread and keep the Highlander family healthy.

Facing those challenges, President Hemphill and others addressed new students during the virtual convocation and made it clear that students are not on this journey alone.

They also issued challenges to students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, to “work hard in the classroom," President Hemphill said, "engage in the arts and participate in community service, whether it be virtually or in person.”

Now is the time, President Hemphill said, “to find your reason” and “to find your passion.”

Embrace and honor the “diversity of our community and engage in a fearless exploration of knowledge,” added Lyn Lepre, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.     

“Please do remember,” Lepre continued, reiterating the president’s pledge, “though you are being asked to maintain an appropriate physical distance, you are not being asked to pursue your journey alone. And, know that we are here to help you as we navigate this together.”

Navigating the Highlander journey was different when Devante Mosley first arrived on campus from his hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia, a couple of years ago. However, it was still a challenge, as it is for many new students this year as they moved into residence halls, sat in unfamiliar classrooms and made new friends.

“Regardless of the area code you are from, regardless of your upbringing, know that you are important and that you can achieve great things here at Radford University,” he said, addressing new students through the convocation video.

When it comes to campus involvement and achievement, Mosley is a role model. He is active in Greek Life, has been a Quest Assistant, a University 100 peer instructor and served as vice president of the national Panhellenic council on campus.

In addition to pursuing campus involvement, Mosley stressed to new students the importance of developing faculty relationships.

“They have done everything in their power to help me succeed and grow,” Mosley said of Radford University faculty, “and they have truly had a lasting impact on my life.”

Radford faculty are indeed here to help, Lepre stated. “They want to hear your hopes, dreams, challenges and passions. They want to support you —I encourage you to give them the opportunity to do so.”

Your Radford family will “help you grow, learn and succeed,” President Hemphill said. “We will challenge you. We will encourage you. And, most importantly, we believe in you.”

It is the next generation, Mosley said, that has the power to deliver a positive impact and change the world.

“We as Highlanders are achievers, especially the Class of 2024,” he stated, beaming with Highlander pride. “We are future doctors, teachers, scientists, engineers, nurses, lawyers, entertainers, and much more. Above all else, we are responsive, resilient and real. We are Highlanders.”

Sep 2, 2020
Chad Osborne