16 Reasons we love our Highlanders

Dear Highlanders,

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of love for you on this campus. We know it is difficult to absorb sometimes because you’re focused on your goals and you are working hard to make your dreams comes true. We admire you for all you do. We admire you for your strength and determination. Plus, you’re pushing through a global health pandemic and we feel certain that wasn’t part of your plans for the 2020-2021 years. But nonetheless, here you are – working hard and making us proud!

To show you how much we care, we’ve asked members of the campus community to express why they admire you. Below is just a short list of those many reasons why we, the Radford University family, love our Highlanders.

You take advantage of opportunities, challenge yourselves and demonstrate an inspirational work ethic that makes success happen

Many Radford University students arrive on campus with “academic skills that are in progress, but they possess a determination to succeed that overcomes obstacles,” said Artis College of Science and Technology Dean Orion J. Rogers, Ph.D. “I remember a Physics alumna who stated, ‘When I enrolled at Radford, I was terrified of math and science courses. My first-ever physics and calculus courses were taken at Radford.’ Now, she is currently a predoctoral graduate fellow at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University.

“The faculty and staff of the Artis College love our Highlanders for their dedication to excellence and enthusiasm for learning that takes them places they never imagined they could go to achieve success they never dreamed was possible.”

You have a deep commitment to learning and research

That commitment is evident from students’ work on the RARE (Radford Amazonian Research Expedition) program, which provides undergraduate students with a unique opportunity to conduct original research in a primary Amazonian rainforest ecosystem. Throughout the several weeks spent in and around the Peruvian jungle, student members of the RARE team conduct multiple original scientific studies that they design and prepare during the preceding semester. Their research focuses on a wide variety of topics related to exploration of this jungle ecosystem. “Our students’ dedication to research, exploration and discovery as part of the RARE program not only helps them to forge new experiences and skills but also to build new connections between people, between disciplines and between places,” said Jason Davis, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology and RARE coordinator. “By developing their own discoveries and creations they work to make the world a bigger, better and more beautiful place.”

You are learners… and teachers

When Highlanders commit themselves to become teachers, they’re really committing themselves to the future and the communities where they live,” said School of Teacher Education and Leadership Director Amanda Bozack, Ph.D. “Every student they teach takes their learning into the world, and that’s an incredibly powerful force for good. Teaching is the most noble profession—it has the power to uplift communities and the lives of people in them. Our students know that.”

They know, Bozack said, the future of the world is shaped by education and they are proud to do their part. Also, “Highlanders know what it means to be responsive and resilient in the face of challenge,” she continued. “Teaching is demanding even on the best days; but in a pandemic, our students know that what they do matters even more—and they’re excited to meet moment and take on the challenge. I really admire them.”

You are willing to take risks

Highlanders are real because they are willing to “try new things, and that means sometimes they will fail – but they learn from their failure and pick up and move on,” said Associate Professor of Marketing Jane Machin, Ph.D. “I really admire my students’ ability to manage multiple commitments at once. Many of them work – often full time – while maintaining a full teaching load. This might mean they are not 4.0 students, but they are students you want to work alongside in the real world!” As an example, Machin cites those students – mostly freshmen – who enroll in her creativity and innovation course. There are more than 100 each semester who, as part of the class, participate in the BB&T Innovation Challenge. They receive feedback from external constituents – “real business people,” Machin said – throughout the semester and are “able to respond positively to negative and realistic comments.”

You are brave and compassionate

“How do I know?” asked Associate Professor of English Amanda Kellogg, Ph.D. “In past semesters, I’ve offered courses that have taken place within Western Virginia Regional Jail, and I’ve always been so proud of the interest in these courses. During those classes, students, faculty and staff travelled with me each week, going through security and inside the facility to talk about literature, writing, criminal justice reform, philosophy and creativity.”

You dream big

 In the performance world, it doesn’t get much bigger than Carnegie Hall. It takes big dreams to get there, dreams that are built on talent, resilience and dedication. In February 2020, 36 students performed at the New York City performance center -- one of the world’s grandest stages – as members of the Radford University Singers during the National Concerts women’s chorus. “To be onstage and to hear the women and that ethereal sound of them coming together and all the energy and all that focus, I was in tears, and I do not get that way,” said Meredith Bowen, D.M.A., director of choral activities and assistant professor of music at Radford University. “It was so moving and a beautiful experience. I think it was life-changing for a lot of people, including myself.”   

Terrance Shepard has spent years mastering the intricacies of the piano, and last year he got a chance to show them off, playing in front of music legend Alicia Keys. It began late one September night over Instagram Live. Keys was holding an event to launch her latest album, “Alicia.” Shepherd found himself in a conversation with her, and they had plenty to talk about: their mutual musical influences, like Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack, Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder — and how Shepherd, as a teenager, was determined to learn to play every song from Keys’ first two albums, “Songs in A Minor” and “The Diary of Alicia Keys.” She asked if he had a piano nearby. He did, and a dream became reality. “I’ve been waiting for this moment since I was 14 years old, when I picked up that first songbook, or the first time I ever played [Beethoven’s] “Moonlight Sonata,” which was also on her album. This was my shot!” he said.

You are lifelong learners

Many graduate students come to Radford University directly after completing their undergraduate degrees, “but a lot of our graduate students are returning after being in the workforce for a few years, or after many years,” said Ben Caldwell, Ph.D., dean of the College of Graduate Studies and Research. “Our students are extremely successful academically and professionally because they are driven to achieve their goals and dreams. Some of our students may go on to continue their education after leaving Radford, or they may return to us again for a second or even a third degree. But mostly, our graduate students are successful because they love to learn, and learning is just part of who they are. Our graduate students epitomize the definition of lifelong learners.”

Many graduate students “are leading busy lives with significant family and professional obligations, yet they still take the time to continue their education,” added MBA Director Tom Duncan, Ph.D. “They are constantly pushing themselves academically and setting new career goals. I have a great deal of respect and admiration for their drive for success.”

You travel to the top of the world to make it a better place

 Every two years, a small group of Radford University students trek to Utqiagvik, Alaska, the northernmost town in the United States, where wind chills dip to -50 degrees Fahrenheit and the aurora borealis dances across the sky. Our students make this magnificent journey to study the thermal balance of planet Earth. “My students put in nearly a year of preparatory time designing, building, testing, re-designing and re-building their own research projects so they can make their personal contribution to the study of the health of our entire planet,” said Professor of Physics Rhett Herman, Ph.D., who leads the research expedition. “They travel to the top of the world – at the edge of our planet – in order to immerse themselves in a brutally cold environment and bring their individual work to fruition.”

You care about the Earth

When it comes to protecting our planet, “our actions matter,” said Radford University Sustainability Manager Josh Nease. In the past few years, Highlanders, along President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., have taken enormous steps to push the University toward carbon neutrality. Highlanders have taken leadership responsibilities in the Radford chapter of the Food Recovery Network, the Bags to Benches program, the Sustainability Leadership Team internship program and numerous annual Earth Week events. Our students “have an impact on people and the planet now and will continue to impact people and the planet far into the future,” Nease said. “Highlanders are working to create a more sustainable University today that meets our current needs, but also will pass on a strong, healthy, and vibrant institution and environment for the future.”

You are changing the world. Literally

“Under the auspices of the United Nations Anti-Poverty Working Group, a Radford-based project team developed an anti-poverty toolkit to increase access to educational materials that can help people around the world work to reduce poverty,” said College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences Dean Matthew Smith, Ph.D. “Working under the guidance of Dr. Tay Keong Tan, Associate Professor of Political Science, Gabriel Bennett, Haley Nunez, Emily Jenkins, and Rachel Sharrett were recognized for their efforts at Global Gathering of United Nations Scholars at the University of Jonkoping in Sweden in late 2019. I can’t wait to see the impact that they will have on the world going forward!”

You pursue wellness, for yourselves and others

Highlanders know it is just as important to exercise their bodies as well as their brains. “Many of the students who are consistent users of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center (SRWC) understand and can articulate that their mood and stress level improve as a result of exercise,” said the center’s director. D. J. Preston. “This is admirable because students are making the conscious effort and sacrifice for their well-being. They have an awareness of the greater effect that health and exercise contribute to their overall well-being.”  

Highlanders also strive to help others in the community achieve and maintain health and good health practices. “Nutrition and Dietetics students are dedicated to making healthy food choices not only for themselves, but they strive to teach others regarding making healthy food choices,” said Associate Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics Laurie Bianchi, Ph.D. “The students who are in the Student Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics often provide educational activities and materials on campus, teaching their college peers how to make nutrient dense food choices. Nutrition and Dietetic students have provided food demonstrations to other Highlanders on how to cook healthy meals on a tight budget; they have obtained food frequency questionnaires from their peers so that they could tailor presentations on healthy food choices; they have participated in local health fairs with information about healthy eating patterns and health outcomes.  They truly understand the need and benefits of community education.”

You define the human experience

Students in the College of Visual and Performing Arts “use creativity to bring color and contrast into our lives,” said the college’s dean, Margaret Devaney, Ph.D. “They enlighten our campus and our community by contributing artwork to our homes, offices and public spaces. They tap our emotions through music that moves and energizes. They enthrall us as they create movement to express human emotion and experience through dance. They design our basic necessities - giving us clothing, accessories, living quarters and workspaces that provide safety and comfort. On the stage or through a lens, our students spark imaginations by telling captivating stories that entertain and inspire. These endeavors require tremendous effort and discipline, and we love our students in the visual and performing arts for their tireless energy, passionate drive and creative spirit!”

You work hard and you play hard

 Radford University student-athletes excel in the classroom and earn valuable experience competing on a high level in the sports they love. Our student-athletes exhibit many unique traits, but none more admirable than being what they are: Student-Athletes, in that order,” said Radford University Director of Athletics Robert Lineburg. “The characteristics that make them successful on the courts and fields of play are the same they live by in the classroom: Self-Discipline, Focus, Heart, Passion, Grit and Resiliency.”

You seek our guidance

“Our students are really resilient,” said Melanie Butler, director of advising for the Davis College of Business and Economics. “When faced with challenges inside or outside of the classroom, with the right determination, they can overcome the obstacles and be successful. The students that stand out the most are the ones that have required the hard conversations. These are the students that keep me going, that remind me what I do and bring tears as they walk across the stage when they graduate.”

Because you love us back!

“Here is my quick Highlander love story,” said Kim Tuttle ’96. M.S. ’98:

“I love Radford University because it truly was an extension of my family. The support and guidance that I received from my professors, undergraduate and graduate, were the perfect examples that my life's journey was being molded by educators who truly loved what they were doing; which imprinted that same passion in my own work with students. I love Radford University, because Radford University loved me for being a student who was lost and didn't know what she wanted to do with her life and helped me to become a student who is a lifelong learner.”

Because you are in the Radford Family

“We should love our students because in some metaphoric way they are our children or brothers or sisters. We should love them because they remind us that we too were once young and walked an uncertain path,” said Professor of English, Louis Gallo, Ph.D. “We should love them because, hopefully, they love us as well and seek our guidance, unaware that the guidance often comes from them, not us, that they can loosen us from rigid thought patterns and solidified opinions. We should love them because everyone needs as much love as there is to go around, especially during the horrific state of the planet now. We should love them because amor vincit omnia.” 

Mar 2, 2021
Chad Osborne