Advice from the experts for Radford’s newest freshman class
No matter when students head to college or what they decide to study, the start of freshman year is almost always daunting, like setting off on the first miles of a trip that’s going to take a long while and wind through mostly unfamiliar territory.
But while everybody’s route is different, each has some basic similarities. With that in mind, we decided to seek out some navigational advice from the professionals.
We took three general questions designed to benefit Radford University’s newly arrived Class of 2026 and posed those queries to faculty and staff, professors and instructors, deans and department heads.
Here’s what they told us.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone who’s just starting college?
“Almost everyone is nervous and unsure of themselves at the start of college. Being uncomfortable doesn’t mean you don’t belong. It means you’re about to grow!”
– Amanda Bozack, Ph.D., director, School of Teacher Education & Leadership
“Find a way to get involved with something beyond your courses … find an anchor to the place in addition to your studies. It will make the college experience so much richer, and you may just learn as much from that experience as from any single course.
– Matthew J. Smith, Ph.D., dean of the College of Humanities & Behavioral Sciences
“Treat your college days like a 9-to-5 job, and you will have evenings and weekends free. Do your homework during the day. You will have so much free time.”
– Jane Machin, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing
“Be yourself, and the right people and opportunities will make their way into your life. Don’t work to become somebody that others want you to be! This is your time. Work hard but be sure to enjoy the ride, too.”
– Brian Kitts, educational leadership instructor and Schoolhouse LLC coordinator
“Take classes outside of your major or minor, join new clubs and have new experiences. You will never have this kind of freedom again to learn about the things you are interested in or might be interested in.”
– Cassady Urista, Ph.D., professor and chair of the Department of Anthropological Sciences
“College is certainly different than high school. You are responsible for your own success. Those who are the type who say, ‘Sure, I’ll take the hard classes’ are the ones who graduate and have the most successful lives after getting their bachelor’s degree.”
– Rhett Herman, Ph.D., professor of physics
“Try something that pushes you, even just a little, outside of your comfort zone – a class, an event like a lecture or activity, a club or organization meeting, something that you might not have tried before. That push will help you find your passion and could help you find your people.”
– Nicole Hendrix, Ph.D., professor of criminal justice and assistant provost for undergraduate education
“My older brother gave me a piece of advice before I went to college. He had just graduated, and I wanted to know what it took to succeed. He said that in college, ‘you have to work hard to earn the right to play hard.’ I took his words to heart and had a great college experience, socially and academically.”
– Matthew Oyos, Ph.D., professor of history
What’s something that makes for a successful student at Radford University?
“Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Say ‘yes.’”
– Jane Machin
“A successful student attends class, above all. Engagement and participation are what really help a student to get the most out of what a course has to offer.”
– Matthew J. Smith
“Talk with your professors! Visit them during office hours, stick around after class, dare to ask a question during class. You will learn more, you will understand better, and you will have a better time along the way.”
– David S. Anderson, Ph.D., assistant professor of anthropological sciences
“Become actively engaged in what’s going on around you. RU is not only a great university but also a community. Become a community member.”
– Donnie Tickle, health and human performance instructor
“The successful student is the student who knows how to organize their time, prioritizing what needs to be done first and when, and thinking about how to complete tasks on a day-by-day and week-by-week basis, along with fitting in some relaxation to recharge the mental and physical batteries.”
– Matthew Oyos
“Don’t be afraid to come talk to your professors. It’s why we are here.”
– Holly Cline, Ph.D., director of the Department of Design
Tell us something local – related to the university, the city or the New River Valley – that students new to the area might want to take advantage of.
“My family and I have loved to explore the hiking trails in and around the area. There is so much natural beauty in this region, and you may find that once the mountains are in your blood, you may not ever want to leave them.”
– Matthew J. Smith
“In a 30-minute car drive, you can get to a trailhead for the Appalachian Trail, one of the most famous hiking trails in the world. Go for a hike, burn some energy, and all of a sudden, that paper you’re working on will make much more sense!”
– David S. Anderson
“Try the walking path by the river near the Dedmon Center. It goes all the way to Bisset Park and is especially amazing in the fall. It is a great way to get outside alone or with friends, and the break from studying (or other activities) will help ease the stress of the semester.”
– Nicole Hendrix
“Go out to Claytor Lake. But don’t just go to the main spots; drive around, and there are lots of little pull-offs with lake access that you can have all to yourself.”
– Jane Machin
“Go to the Farmer’s Market in Radford … by the Glencoe Mansion Museum & Gallery. You can buy a plant for your room, fresh fruits and veggies, baked goods or even fresh-squeezed lemonade.”
– Cassady Urista
“When you’re able, take advantage of the outdoor activities available. Tube the New River. Hike the Cascades. Walk in Bisset Park. Whatever it might be, this area is great for communing with nature. It’s good for the mind and soul.”
– Matthew Oyos