Students advocate for Radford at Virginia State Capitol


Art is a passion for Kim Bythewood. It’s what she does.

“But I’m also very involved in what’s happening around me, in my community,” the Radford University senior dance major said. “And I’m very interested in political affairs, even though that is not my career path.”

The senior from Springfield, Virginia, got a taste of how the political process works and how she can help recently as part of the contingent of Radford University students selected to travel along with faculty and administrators to the Virginia State Capitol in Richmond on Jan. 24-25 to advocate on behalf of the university.

Over the course of two days, the group met with House of Delegates and Senate members “to speak to them about Radford, to thank them for their support, share our experiences and tell them why we love Radford and how it has shaped us into who we are,” Bythewood explained.

As the Radford students gathered in and around the State Capitol building, they spoke in person with Virginia legislators, many of whom represent their home districts, as well as others who play important roles in the Virginia political system.

“I told my friends about it, that we were going to the Capitol to advocate on behalf of our university. It’s actually us doing it,” explained an excited Michaela Baker, a junior sociology and political science major from Charlotte, North Carolina. “We are the people who are doing that. It’s not like we are with other people from the university who are doing all the talking, and we’re just standing around listening. No, we do the talking, and the delegates listen to us and listen to our feedback. It’s really cool to be able to get that experience, to talk to them and to make our case for Radford University as to why it deserves their support.”

Baker also was thrilled her group had a chance to meet with Sarah Spota, the newly appointed deputy secretary of education in Virginia.

“That was a great sit-down conversation, and she let us ask any questions we wanted,” said Baker, who also participated in Advocacy Day two years ago as a freshman. “She was so kind and offered so much good advice to us.”


Baker, Bythewood and other students also spoke highly of their experience meeting and talking with Virginia Del. Jason Ballard, who represents Radford and introduced the group during a House of Delegates session. “He is such a great guy,” Baker said, “and it’s nice to see he is making such a positive impact.”

In addition to sitting in on a House session, students toured the Capitol building.

Nineteen students were selected for the year’s Advocacy Day, a tradition that began more than 20 years ago. Before they ventured off to Richmond, a group of Radford faculty and administrators provided three training sessions, giving the students tips on greeting and talking with the lawmakers.

“The information was super helpful, and they laid out a simple presentation with a lot of data,” senior sociology major Reed Yearwood said, “about how the university works in terms of numbers, in terms of dollars, operational costs and financial aid.”

Yearwood is a non-traditional student working toward a bachelor’s degree at Radford. The Christiansburg, Virginia, native is majoring in sociology and is scheduled to graduate in May 2022. He also serves as a recovery support specialist for the Substance Abuse and Violence Education Support (SAVES) office on campus.

“It is my job,” he said of being an everyday advocate for his university and community. “And, on paper, I’m a pretty dang good example of somebody who could advocate for the university in Richmond. I’m glad they picked me for Advocacy Day.”

Bythewood was happy, too, for the opportunity to speak with elected representatives and tell them her Radford story.

“I spoke to them about how wonderful our faculty are,” she said. “I would not have been able to continue my education at Radford last year if it had not been my faculty and how much they cared about me.”

The strong connections between students and faculty and opportunities such as Advocacy Day are among the many reasons “why Radford is special,” Bythewood said.

“We are special because we’re so personal with our relationships, and just the fact that we went to Richmond to thank these representatives in person speaks a lot about Radford and who we are and how personal we are with our relationships.”

Feb 9, 2022
Chad Osborne