Highlanders in the News: Week of Mar. 7

Every week, our Highlanders are using their education to do extraordinary things. Here, we’ll highlight some notable mentions from local, regional, national and international news media. Whether our students, alumni, faculty and staff are featured as subject matter experts in high-profile stories or simply helping make the world a better place, we’ll feature their stories.

A legacy of activism

Elliott Smith ’17 was still an infant in 1995 when a stroller carried him across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama.

He was pushed along by his great-aunt, Amelia Boynton Robinson, a voting strategist and civil rights leader. She was participating in a commemoration of the "Bloody Sunday" march of 1965, in which protestors bound for Montgomery, Alabama, were brutalized by police.

In 2015, just a few months before her death, it was Smith who helped Robinson, in a wheelchair, across that same span, and together they marked that Sunday’s 50th anniversary.

Now, seven years later, Smith is still marching, but also, according to the Associated Press, he’s "leading a multiracial delegation of millennial and Gen-Z activists who intend to reshape the ongoing voting rights debate around their generations’ access to political power and socioeconomic justice."

While a student at Radford University, Smith organized voter registration drives on campus. At 27, he is currently a co-director of student and youth engagement for the Poor People's Campaign, a reimagining of an effort founded by Martin Luther King Jr.

“We have to expand our framing and always tie the struggle for the right to vote to the struggle of a low-wage worker not getting a living wage,” Smith told the AP.

Earlier this week, he and other groups organized a commemorative walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, with other groups relaying along the 11-mile route.

The AP’s March 7 story, which covers Smith’s background and his ongoing efforts, was picked up by dozens upon dozens of news outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, The Philadelphia Tribune, Microsoft News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Yahoo News, The Seattle Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more than 70 others.

After his graduation from Radford University, Smith participated in a video testimonial about the Department of Political Science, in which he spoke about his work and his activism and their relationship to his academic background.

“I would not be in this position were it not for the Radford political science department, the incredible professors that have guided me along the way and the amazing resources that I used while attending the four years that I was there,” Smith said.

“From learning about theories of international relations to taking a deep dive into media and its relationship to politics, to even honing down my networking and public speaking skills while taking a course in the Model United Nations, these are all courses that have shaped me to be the person that I am today.”

Expert interpretation

As the violence sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, with resulting sanctions helping tilt gas prices upwards, local news outlets have been looking to Radford University faculty members for interpretation.

On March 4, Associate Professor of Economics Thomas Duncan, Ph.D., spoke to WSLS-TV about the rising costs of fuel across the country. 

Duncan said gas prices had already been on the rise due to inflation and that uncertainty “is really bad for economic activity,” adding, “a big conflict like a war in Europe is a lot of uncertainty.”

In a March 9 report, WDBJ-7 also consulted Duncan, and he predicted additional price hikes may occur due to increasing gas costs.

 “Oil and gas is really important to the supply chain, so we’re probably going to see prices for other items begin to rise,” he told reporter Ashley Boles. “I wouldn’t be shocked to see some of that supply chain, that wasn’t in great shape, impact your local grocery stores.”

In another story from that same day, WTVR (Richmond) spoke with Dean Joy Bhadury, Ph.D., of the Davis College of Business and Economics. Bhadury expanded on Duncan’s comments regarding supply chains and rising transportation costs being passed on to consumers.

“I liken it to a virus entering the economic bloodstream; it will end up affecting almost every organ in the body, at least in the short term,” Bhadury said.

“I do not want to sound alarmist,” he added, “but … we have to be prepared for this.”

Over the weekend, WFXR in Roanoke also reached out to Radford University to weigh in on Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.

History Professor Matthew Oyos, Ph.D., theorized that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression is fueled by a loss of national pride following the fall of the Soviet Union.

But Oyos also pointed to one factor that Russia appears to have underestimated.

“They didn’t understand the depths of Ukrainian nationalism and the kind of resistance that it is bringing with it,” he said.

Mar 11, 2022
Neil Harvey
(540) 831-5150