BOV reviews the year, considers the future in last meeting of 2021
Radford University’s Board of Visitors met on campus for its quarterly sessions Dec. 2-3, 2021, and approved measures aimed toward strategically guiding the university into the future.
In its Friday, Dec. 3, meeting, the board approved:
- The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan.
- The Radford University Span of Control Policy.
- A resolution to recognize Allen T. "Al" Wilson, who served as lead counsel for Radford University.
- A resolution for modification of the rate for university faculty early recovery program.
The Sustainability and Climate Action Plan reaffirms the university’s commitment to carbon neutrality. On Nov. 13, 2020, former Radford President Brian O. Hemphill signed the Carbon Commitment, recognizing the increasing pace and detrimental impacts of climate change and the need for colleges and universities to exercise leadership to address the problem. The core of the Carbon Commitment is the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2040 and integrate sustainability and climate action into the university curriculum and culture. The Carbon Commitment requires that signatory universities develop an implementation plan with a targeted carbon neutrality date.
A Sustainability Task Force was created in late 2020 to develop a new Sustainability and Climate Action Plan to guide the institution in fulfilling its Carbon Commitment pledge, embody the institution’s core value of sustainability and support the university’s mission.
On Friday, the board recognized members of the Task Force, which was chaired by Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer Chad A. Reed. “This plan is going to affect the university for a long time to come,” said board member Debra K. McMahon, Ph.D., as she introduced the resolution to the board. McMahon chairs the Business Affairs and Audit Committee, where the plan was first presented to board members on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2020.
The board’s approval means implementation of the plan can begin. “We will spend a significant amount of time meeting and working with a wide variety of constituencies to get the word out about this and to develop implementation plans,” said Sustainability Manager Josh Nease after the board meeting. “The plan summarizes implementation and tracking progress.”
Radford University interim President Carolyn Ringer Lepre, Ph.D., opened her report to the board by reflecting on her State of the University address in October, where she touted Radford’s response to the COVID-19 global health pandemic and set forth a vision for the university, which includes the fall semester launch of the new REAL general education curriculum.
Lepre also mentioned that Radford’s “strong academic tradition and commitment to student success” was recently recognized by U.S. News & World Report in its Best Colleges and Universities report.
Radford was ranked No. 14 among Top Public Schools – Regional Universities South. Among other notable recognitions, the university was ranked among Best Colleges for Veterans – Regional Universities South (No. 13) and overall Regional Universities – South (No. 29). For 2022, Radford University also added Best Value Schools – Regional Universities South (No. 25).
“And The Princeton Review recognized Radford as a Green School,” Lepre said, “which acknowledges our commitment to sustainability as a community.”
Lepre announced a partnership “between two high-quality programs,” the Radford University MBA and the Paris School of Business Doctorate of Business Administration. Students who complete their MBA at Radford University will be accepted to the Doctor of Business Administration Program at the Paris School of Business and will have a chance to get their doctorate within two years. Like Radford’s Davis College of Business and Economics, the Paris School of Business carries the prestigious AACSB accreditation.
In preparation for the upcoming Virginia General Assembly session, Lepre said she has been “traveling across the Commonwealth in order to share information with our state leaders regarding the university's priorities and goals during in-person meetings with members of both the House and Senate.”
For the 2022 session, Lepre said, “the university is focused on advocating for continued investments in higher education and expanded investments in Radford students, specifically in need-based financial aid and base operating support.”
Radford students soon will have a chance to personally advocate for the university by engaging in the traditional Advocacy Day, which is being planned for January.
Lepre also provided the board with an update on Radford's response to COVID-19.
“As a united community committed to the well-being and safety of our Highlander family, we continue to navigate the pandemic and modify current protocols as appropriate,” Lepre said. “I am highly encouraged by the high vaccination rates of our students and employees and the low positivity rates shown through our COVID-19 dashboards.
“As we close this fall 2021 semester, I am pleased to report we have not missed a beat,” Lepre continued. “We have made substantive and meaningful changes and have moved our university forward together. We have notably improved areas that needed attention. We have kept our community healthy and safe during the continued global pandemic, and we have made strides in caring for faculty, staff and students.”
In addition to the interim president, the board heard a report from Faculty Senate President Katie Hilden, Ph.D., who provided details of how results from an earlier faculty morale survey were achieved. Providing additional reports were Grace Hurst, the board’s student representative; Rachel Fowlkes, Ed.D., the board’s liaison to the Radford University Foundation; and Executive Director of Government Relations Lisa Ghidotti.
Associate Professor of Chemistry and REALISE Program Director Sarah Kennedy, Ph.D., gave a brief presentation on “Catalyzing Change Through Inclusive Science Excellence” with a focus on belonging and inclusion for STEM students.
Before the board’s full meeting on Friday, members actively engaged in separate committees on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, to receive in-depth reports from campus administrators.
Business Affairs and Audit Committee
Led by Chair Debra K. McMahon, Ph.D., the committee first heard a report from University Auditor Margaret McManus, who presented several audit reports to committee members, including a financial aid – enrollment reporting audit, a CARES Act reporting audit and a follow-up audit report.
Vice President for Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer Chad A. Reed presented a report on several of the university’s capital projects, including an update on the construction of the new Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity. The project has run into some cost overruns due to circumstances beyond the control of the university, including materials escalation, equipment escalation, labor escalation/availability, supply chain issues, weather impacts, profitability recovery, future risk avoidance and lack of capacity and competition. It is estimated costs have increased by up to 6% since last spring, but that rise has since leveled off, Reed said.
Additionally, Reed discussed a recommendation to approve the Span of Control Policy, which the board did the following day. This policy was the result of the Virginia General Assembly requiring public four-year institutions of higher education to conduct an organizational review; revise human resource policies to eliminate unnecessary supervisory positions and devise broader spans of control; and report on median spans of control and the number of supervisors with six or fewer direct reports.
Reed also presented a recommendation to approve the Sustainability and Climate Change Action Plan.
Advancement, University Relations and Enrollment Committee
Led by Chair Lisa Throckmorton ‘94, the committee first heard a report from Vice President for Enrollment Management Craig Cornell, who reported that overall, enrollment numbers are very good compared to this time last year. In addition, he said the strength of students has increased, citing a rise in the average GPA on both the main campus and at RUC.
Cornell said that the number of prospective students with completed applications is up, as is the number of admitted students, which is up 10.4%. In addition, transfer applications have increased by 32.3%, and transfer admits are up 25.9%. Cornell said that fast-track admit numbers are strong, and graduate program applications have risen over last year.
Cornell reported that the enrollment staff has worked hard to host new recruitment events this fall, which are the first in-person events in two years. Most admissions events occur in the spring; Radford gets a jump on the competition by having them in the fall, Cornell said. Events included Radford on the Road, a new set of sessions held in eastern Virginia to raise awareness about Radford in more populous areas. More than 400 students attended those sessions, resulting in a 61% applicant rate with a yield of 24%. Cornell said that 20% of all applications in a year normally arrive in December, with 10% of that number coming in during the first week of the month. The fall events have resulted in much stronger numbers than in previous years, he said.
Cornell also spoke about scholarship leveraging. Scholarships and the cost of attending a school become most important to students beginning in December of their senior years. This year, Enrollment Management began including financial aid numbers in acceptance letters to entice students to apply when cost was on their minds.
Additionally, Enrollment Management worked with University Relations to create a video brochure that is initially being sent to 500 prospective students with high GPAs as part of the Highlander Distinction Program. So far, the feedback has been positive, Cornell said.
Cornell also detailed changes to Quest, the Radford University new student orientation program. Those changes include in-person Quest sessions for the first time since COVID; the addition of two sessions to accommodate no more than 200 students per event; and implementation of a more significant academically aligned approach. Feedback on these changes has been overwhelmingly positive, leading to more than 97% of Quest participants ultimately enrolling, an increase of 7% from 2020.
Vice President for Advancement and University Relations Wendy Lowery began her report by introducing Becky Brackin, the associate vice president for University Relations, and Justin Ward, director of Media Services for University Relations. Lowery spoke about the variety of duties performed by the Media Relations area of University Relations, including video production, photography, news and profile writing and media relations.
Additionally, Lowery discussed several projects being undertaken by University Relations, including Siteimprove, which will help us make the university’s website more accessible for disabled users; Merit pages to help spread news about student and employee accomplishments to hometown newspapers and other media outlets; an upcoming website redesign; and initiatives to distribute targeted and email marketing.
Lowery then spoke about the accomplishments of Alumni Relations, including hosting a successful hybrid Homecoming this year that included 45 total events, some in-person events and some virtual. She said several of the virtual events held came from lessons learned during 2020’s all-virtual Homecoming celebration. Lowery continued that the department is next looking forward to the sixth annual Volunteer Summit on Feb. 5, 2022.
Lowery also presented information on annual giving, highlighting the just-concluded Highlander 10 campaign, which raised funds for the Lewis Sparks and Ken Coan Veterans Award; the Greek Leadership Training Fund; the Diversity Enhancement Fund; the McGlothlin International Education Fund; the Highlander Honors College Fund; the Research Rookies Program Fund; the Farm at Selu; student emergency funds; Radford University Libraries; and the Campus Sustainability Fund.
In addition, Highlander Community Fundraising is underway. It includes the Dr. James G. Lollar Scholarship, in honor of his retirement; the Dr. Iris Mullins Scholarship, in honor of her retirement; and many others.
Lowery concluded by saying that the Together Campaign is now at $77.1 million with a $100 million goal. She said the goal is expected to be reached by 2023.
Student Success Committee
This committee, chaired by Krisha Chachra, heard a report from Student Government Association (SGA) President Grace Hurst, who presented an update on SGA’s initiatives for the academic year. The SGA has passed a bill to make the promotion of mental health awareness a priority, Hurst said. Also, volunteer days in which students will donate time at local food kitchens and elementary schools will be identified in the spring semester.
The Student Finance Committee (SFC) has worked closely with SGA this semester to educate the executive board on SFC policies and recruit new members. SFC has also assigned a liaison to all SGA-funded organizations.
SGA collaborated with University Advancement to encourage students to write thank you notes to donors. In addition, sustainability events have been a focus of the student organization for the past several years. SGA’s largest effort has been to collect plastic bags to recycle in exchange for a park bench as part of the university’s Bags to Benches program. Enough bags have been collected to obtain a second bench to be placed on campus. The first campus bench is located in the green space adjacent to parking lot JJ between Cook Hall and the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center.
Associate Vice President for Student Life Tricia Smith and Associate Dean of Student Bruce Hayden showcased how Student Affairs staff collaborate with and support families. An overview was given on the expectations of the current generation of students and how relationships between students and families have evolved over the years. Families now are involved with their students more than ever before, the two said. Radford University takes many response and advocacy measures to assist and counsel students and families.
Student Affairs’ proactive approach to assist and educate families begins at Quest. To help, families receive a monthly newsletter and a virtual Highlander Family Course that includes topics like academics, safety, responsibility and involvement is offered each semester. Additional outreach includes mailings to first-generation families and family weekend events.
Vice President for Student Affairs Susan Trageser provided an overview of the Tartan Residential Education Kit (TREK), the residential curriculum used by Housing and Residential Life to guide programming and community building.
The residential curriculum has achievement measures to determine effectiveness and outcomes, Trageser said. Living-learning communities (LLC) are another way for students to build a sense of belonging; students participating in an LLC on average are more successful academically and are retained at higher rates than students that are not part of an LLC, Trageser explained. Interest will be gauged with campus partners to create new LLCs or themed housing.
Student Recreation and Wellness and the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) have partnered to host Feel Good Fridays – self-care awareness events such as yoga, hiking and meditation. CDI has also held Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training and cultural heritage month events throughout the fall semester.
The Center for Accessibility Services (CAS) has seen an increase in requests for transcription services due to COVID-19 health and safety measures, such as the indoor masking requirement. CAS partners with areas across campus such as the Center for Opportunity and Social Mobility, Harvey Center and RUC Academic Support to offer study skills workshops. There is now a designated staff member at RUC to provide academic accommodations.
Fraternity and Sorority Life has recommitted to focus on philanthropy and service across all chapters and councils. Several chapters held service projects at local schools by reading to children, providing tutoring services and volunteering at extracurricular functions.
SAVES has secured the renewal of the Collegiate Recovery Grant. The grant supports the role of RECOVERY SUPPORT SPECIALIST and increased support for students in recovery and allies. During recovery awareness month, keynote speaker Lauren Sisler, an ESPN reporter and Giles County native, shared her story of overcoming family tragedy from addiction.
The Center for Opportunity and Social Mobility hosted several events for first-generation college students. Those included an open house, Fall Palooza, luncheon during Family Weekend and a week of events surrounding the National First-Generation College Celebration on Nov. 8, 2021.
Academic Excellence and Research Committee
Led by chair Thomas Brewster Ed.D, M.S. ’95, this committee first heard a report from interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs J. Orion Rogers, Ph.D. He provided an update on the Office of the Provost restructuring and informed the committee that the search for a new dean of the libraries concluded with the hiring of Paul Orkiszewski, who currently is serving as interim dean of the libraries at Appalachian State University. Radford University hosts two libraries, the McConnell Library on the main campus in Radford and the Roanoke-based Radford University Carilion Library.
Rogers announced that faculty emeritus status has been granted, upon retirement, to:
- Reginald Shareef, Ph.D., Department of Political Science.
- Paul Witkowsky, Ph.D., Department of English.
- Don Secreast, Ph.D., Department of English.
- Timothy Poland, Ph.D., Department of English.
- Carolyn Mathews, Ph.D., Department of English.
- Rosemary Guruswamy, Ph.D., Department of English.
- Garth Montgomery, Ph.D., Department of History.
- Edward Udd, Ph.D., Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.
- Mark Wagstaff, Ed.D., Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism.
Criteria for awarding faculty emeritus status include a minimum of 10 years of service to Radford University, evidence of effective teaching and significant professional contributions.
Rogers introduced to the board committee Professor of Chemistry Joe Wirgau, Ph.D., and students Skylar Roberson, Sam Williams and Luc White. They gave a presentation to the committee about establishing a sense of belonging in science programs on campus through the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS). Wirgau is the OURS director. Each student gave an inspiring account of how they found their way to Radford University.
Later in the meeting, Faculty Senate President Katie Hilden, Ph.D., spoke to the committee about forming an academic program review and enhancement committee in an effort to improve the academic health of the university.
Governance, Administration and Athletics Committee
Led by Chair David Smith ’85, M.S. ’87, the committee heard reports from interim Chief of Staff Angela M. Joyner, Ph.D., and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Robert Lineburg.
Joyner spoke about various innovations in talent acquisition and partnerships, many of which began before the COVID-19 pandemic and have since accelerated. She also shared the initial results from a new career-readiness assessment that launched as a pilot this fall. Joyner also provided a brief overview of the guiding principles considered when exploring partnerships on behalf of the university. She informed the committee members about Radford students’ participating in SkillSurvey, a 360-performance review platform for Fortune 500 companies and higher education. Radford students, Joyner explained, ranked high in the categories of equity and inclusion, career and self-development, communication, leadership and critical thinking.
Lineburg provided the committee with an update on fall sports at Radford, which included the men’s and women’s cross country and soccer teams. Hannah Moran was an individual winner in the 5K and became the first Highlander to win an individual award since 1990. Sam Bradley was named the Big South women’s cross-country coach of the year for the second consecutive season.
Kayla Thomas won the Big South Defensive Player of the Year in women’s soccer, becoming the first person to win the award three years in a row.
Lineburg provided an update on the freshly opened men’s and women’s basketball seasons and gave highlights of the recent jersey retirement ceremony for Javonte Green, who played for the Highlanders’ men’s basketball squad from 2011 to 2015 and is now a member of the Chicago Bulls of the NBA.
Lineburg touched on resource development for athletics programs and announced a five-year partnership with Carilion Clinic, which allows for the naming of the basketball courts to Carilion Court at the Dedmon Center. Lineburg provided an illustration of the court displaying its new name and logos. He also announced the launch of the Shield Club, an opportunity for Radford supporters to make a lasting impact on the Highlanders men’s and women’s basketball programs.
Important dates coming up for athletics, Lineburg noted, include the Women’s Sports Leadership Luncheon on Feb. 4, 2022, and the RAD48 Athletics Giving Day in February 2022. The Red & White Scholarship Auction is scheduled for April 29, 2022, and the Highlander 5K is set for the following day on April 30. The Highlander Open Golf Tournament will tee off in the summer of 2022.
The next Radford University Board of Visitors meeting is set for Feb. 10-11, 2022.