Radford graduate student Vinicius Rios wins 2021 Diverse Rising Graduate Scholar Award

Vinicius Rios is pictured in the SMART Lab in the College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences.

There are only 10 students in the country who are named Diverse Rising Graduate Scholars —Vinicius Rios is one of them.  

For 25 years, the magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education has been a national source of critical news, information and commentary on a range of issues concerning diversity in American higher education. This year, the magazine highlighted some of the nation’s best students and their academic accomplishments across all disciplines for its inaugural class of Diverse Rising Graduate Scholars, “calling attention to the stellar work of rising stars among the ranks of hard-working graduate students.” Rios was nominated for the honor by communication professors John Brummette, Ph.D., and Shuo Yao, Ph.D.

Throughout his life and academic journey, Rios has embodied multicultural excellence.  Growing up in São José dos Campos, Brazil, in a Japanese-Brazilian household, he shared a love for different cultures and felt great importance in preserving his family’s culture.

Rios believes his cultural childhood experiences embedded a desire for seeing new things and meeting new people. This made him a perfect fit to become an international student and thrive in a multitude of environments, including Radford University.

The Journey to Radford University

The journey to Radford has been unique for Rios. He pursued his undergraduate studies at West Virginia University Institute of Technology on a swimming scholarship. His senior year, he acquired an internship with University Relations, where he got experience in video production and public messaging. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in business management with a minor in marketing, Rios knew he wanted to continue his education in the field of communication and started researching graduate programs. He came across Radford University’s Master of Science in Strategic Communications. One professor in particular made a huge impact on his decision to choose Radford.

“Dr. Brummette is a big reason why I chose this program,” Rios said. “I told him my interests, and he talked me through my options. I realized I could customize the program to fit my needs as a student while still learning all the theory and application side of things.”

In 2019, Rios arrived at Radford University with a positive attitude about the years ahead. Since then, he has worked closely with Brummette on a number of projects. One of the most notable projects was developing and running the SMART lab, a hub for social media analytics and technology research.

“The SMART lab is a state-of-the-art data analytics lab that provides, analyzes, and visualizes online research data for student and faculty researchers,” Brummette said. “Running this lab has been one of the most challenging things I have done in my professional career, and I could not have done it without Vinicius’s help and leadership.”

Rios’s leadership has been fostered through the relationships he’s made with professors. Reflecting upon his experiences thus far, Rios feels the student-centered nature of Radford University has provided him with the opportunity to make meaningful connections with faculty and staff.

“It has been really helpful for me to have close relationships with my professors,” said Rios. “I’m grateful to get to know professors like Dr. Dunn, Dr. French, Dr. Bowers, Dr. Yao and Dr. Jennings on a professional level. They have all helped shape what I want out of this program.”

Much of his experience within the Radford community has been transformative. Rios found something special in the study of strategic communication.

A Transformative Educational Experience

Rios’s graduate work and contributions extend beyond the SMART lab. In his research methods class, he conducted a research proposal for identifying international student’s values when selecting schools in the United States. The purpose of his proposal was to bridge connections for international students and help them be understood across cultural platforms within academia. Rios’s passion for amplifying voices among international students has translated into his personal growth as a student and a person.

Strategic communication opened a new perspective. Social media, content creation, media production and photography have been passions that have driven Rios to understand the power of data analytics and how to make it applicable to his future career.

“You cannot make decisions without data,” said Rios. “Even in the content side of social media, you need data to create content to communicate with the public.”

His passion doesn’t stop here. Communications became an outlet of self-expression for Rios. He feels it has instilled a change in him that he never thought of once before, helping him break through his shell and immerse himself in research, theory and application.

“I am now a better communicator,” Rios said. “The study of communication has really been what I needed. I have this opportunity to express who I am.”

This is what it means to be a Diverse Rising Graduate Scholar. Think of the embodiment of multicultural excellence, and you’ll find Vinicius Rios.

Apr 7, 2021
Michelle Acosta