New Highlanders come together at main campus and RUC convocations


When Brantt Roosa first visited Radford University, “it felt like home,” he said. “I felt I had more of a connection here than any other school I visited.”

“I second that,” said Cooper Edwards, Roosa’s friend for all of the past 18 hours.

“Coming to Radford, you get to be more engaged,” Roosa explained between sips of lemonade. “It’s engaging, and for someone like me who was a total introvert my entire school life, meeting new people who are almost the same as you makes you feel welcome.

“It has a homelike feeling.”

Roosa, a freshman from Stafford, Virginia, and Edwards, a freshman, too, from Blacksburg, Virginia, met playing blackjack the night before at the Bonnie Bash, a social event for new Radford students. The next day, the two were sitting on the grass in front of Hemphill Hall, picnicking on a picture-perfect sunny day along with hundreds of other students just like them who were about to begin their Radford journey.

“I’m looking forward to this,” Cooper said as he squirted mustard on a hot dog and looked around at fellow new students enjoying the food, fun and games that followed the university’s main campus fall convocation for freshmen and transfer students on Aug. 22, 2021. “I’m looking forward to just being here and taking all of this in.”

At the main campus convocation, Radford University interim President Carolyn Ringer Lepre, Ph.D., encouraged students to do just that, to take advantage of all the opportunities their new home for the next four years has to offer.

“Jump into your Radford experience with both feet and make the most of this incredible opportunity. Make Radford University your Radford University,” she said at one of two convocations for new students on main campus and at Radford University Carilion (RUC) in Roanoke.

“Take a class that pushes you outside your comfort zone. Push yourself to learn something you didn’t know before,” Lepre instructed. “Join one of our clubs and organizations. Participate in an internship or clinical experience. Play an intramural sport. Get out to an athletic event and cheer on our talented student-athletes. Work in a lab and do research with a member of our world-class faculty.”

The Class of 2025 is an impressive group.



“One of you,” Lepre told the gathering, “owns their own business; another had an internship with NASA this summer; and yet another was a three-sport athlete and was captain of all three teams.”

One-hundred and fifteen members of the Class of 2025 are legacy students, meaning at least one of their family members is a Radford University alumnus. Being a legacy student is one reason Taylor May, a freshman from Lynchburg, Virginia, came to Radford.

“My mom went to school here,” May said, “and that really helped me with learning about the school and being comfortable here.”

More facts the Class of 2025 learned about themselves at convocation include: Almost 40% of them enter Radford with a 3.5 high school GPA or higher, and more than 15% of them are first-generation college students.

“I’m also a first-generation college graduate in my family, so I give a shout-out to all of our first-gen students with us today,” Katie Hilden, Ph.D., a professor of literacy education and Faculty Senate president, said during convocation.

Many of the new Radford students came to Radford from 109 different localities in Virginia. Others arrived on campus from 27 states and nine foreign countries. “The student who came the farthest in the United States is from Saratoga, California, about 2,207 miles away,” Lepre said. “Ten of you are from right here in Radford.”

Like so many Radford University students, the incoming class has a variety of interests and abilities. “You are dancers, underwater robot builders, film directors, leaders and healthcare volunteers,” Lepre noted.

“Each one of you has earned your place here, and each of you has a remarkable story to tell,” she continued. “You belong here with us at Radford University; your presence and your unique stories enrich and inspire our community.”

Catherine Schleife, a freshman from Saltville, Virginia, wants to inspire and contribute to her community by being a teacher, just like her mother. She chose Radford, partly, for its excellent teacher-preparation program, and maybe, too, for the food,” she said, laughing while standing by the Fountain with roommate Freya Jorgenson of Raleigh, North Carolina, after the two had participated in a class photo on Heth Lawn.

“We just ate at Dalton, and the food was so good,” Schleife said. “They have so many options here.”


Options and “endless possibilities” set Radford apart, said senior marketing major Emily Martinez during the convocation, as she urged students to create their own paths to success and step out of their comfort zones.

Martinez encouraged the new students to go to Club Fair as a way of meeting new friends and to “take advantage of professors’ office hours, utilize the Writing Center and the academic center” and reach out to community resources as ways to thrive academically and socially.

“When I think of Radford University, I think of family,” said Martinez, referencing the kindness and support she has received as a student. “You can think about it as your home away from home.”

In the RUC ceremony, new students gathered in the Performing Arts Theatre at the Berglund Center. The event followed a morning of orientation activities to help the students prepare for the start of classes on Aug. 23.

After an introduction from Vice President for Student Affairs Susan Trageser, Ed.D., Lepre welcomed the approximately 265 students and 118 guests, encouraging them to have a great year as they pursued their academic goals.

Students also heard from interim Provost Orion Rogers, Ph.D., and Dean of the School of Nursing Johnnie Sue Wijewardane, Ph.D.

Among those attending the ceremony was Ethan Hobart, a new student in the emergency services program.

“I’m proud to be a Highlander because this is something I’ve worked for,” Hobart said. “RUC was recommended to me by family and friends, and I have a very good feeling about having come this far. I can’t wait to learn to be a firefighter and a paramedic. It’s a dream of mine, and RUC will allow me to fulfill that dream.”

Lyndsey Newman, a new student in the respiratory therapy program, also attended the ceremony followed by an afternoon of moving into the residence hall at the Patrick Henry. She said she is passionate about making a difference in people’s lives—especially in light of the COVID pandemic.

“A lot of people close to me have been affected by respiratory illnesses this past year, including COVID, so I want to make sure what I do improves the health of people in need,” Newman said. “You hear about all of these amazing people who graduate from Radford and I’m proud to be able to carry on that tradition. Hopefully, I can make other people proud to be a Highlander.”

Aug 31, 2021
Chad Osborne