Choose Radford – Carli Wadas
Carli Wadas ’23 says being an English major at Radford University is “pretty awesome.”
If you listen to her speak about it – about the helpful and caring faculty, about the close-knit community of students, about the opportunities to learn through sharing of ideas – it’s likely you, too, will come away with the same impression.
“Yeah, it is pretty awesome,” she says again, doubling down with her effervescent smile that has been a familiar presence around campus for the past four years.
But let’s not simply take her word for it.
Tell us, Carli, why is it awesome to be an English major at Radford University?
“Oh my gosh, first of all, the faculty here are terrific,” she said, nearly springing from her seat with excitement. “I feel like they are willing to help me with anything, and I can talk to them about anything. They are such great, understanding faculty.”
As she speaks, Wadas seems to mention every single faculty member in the Department of English, and she explains how each has been an important influence from the time she met them to the moment she walked across the stage to graduate at Spring Commencement 2023.
Wadas’ Radford journey began when she was a junior in high school. The Fredericksburg, Virginia, native booked a campus visit for an open house even though her parents wondered why she wanted to go to a school four hours from home. “I just have a good feeling,” she told them.
As soon as Wadas walked onto campus, she was hooked.
“I literally thought this only happens in movies … when you step foot somewhere, and you’re like, ‘this is where I’m supposed to be,” she said, as if she were describing transportation to an enchanted land.
“I was a bundle of excitement,” Wadas continued. “I was like a little kid throughout the whole day.”
Part of that excitement was a reaction to the reception she and her family received. “Everyone’s energy on campus just drew me in,” she recalled. “I knew it was a community I wanted to be a part of.”
A summer later, a couple of months before enrolling in her first courses at Radford, Wadas decided to major in English.
“I always liked English in high school, and I’ve loved writing since I was a kid,” said the author of several “very thriller-based” short stories and flash fiction that often are inspired by Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.
“I learned I could major in English and concentrate in creative writing at Radford, and I thought, ‘this sounds like a good opportunity.’”
Wadas found some of those opportunities right away. As a freshman, she met Sarah Shuler and Beth Carter, two students she would room with and become best friends with for her entire undergraduate career. “They made my experience here so amazing,” she said.
During her first year, Wadas was part of the campus Creative Writers Guild “for a hot minute,” she said smiling. That was before the campus shut down in March 2020 because of COVID-19. She also joined the English Club along the way.
The more Wadas became involved with her major and her cohort of students, the more she learned about herself and her possibilities.
Such as …
“I always loved poetry, but I didn’t think I had what it takes to write poetry well,” she confessed. But, in a course taught by Professor of English Louis Gallo, Wadas grew as a poet and felt “so uplifted” by her professor’s encouragement.
“Dr. Gallo was so supportive, and he is just wonderful with making you feel like you actually can write poetry and that you are good at it.”
Wadas found research opportunities in poetry as well, exploring the similarities and differences between confessional poetry of the 1960s and modern-day Instapoetry that is often published on popular social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter.
“I was really proud of that piece of research,” she said weeks before presenting it at the annual Student Engagement Forum 2023 in April. Wadas developed her forum presentation from a senior thesis she wrote on the same topic with support from English faculty Sean Keck, Ph.D., and Jackson Stone.
“All my professors here are wonderful and so encouraging,” Wadas said.
That support is one reason she may someday join their profession. “I’ve watched my professors at Radford, and I’ve seen how they teach a class and how effective their assignments and discussions can be,” Wadas explained. “It is a really effective way to teach people about writing and literature, and it is inspiring to think I could do the same.
“I can definitely see myself doing this,” she said about the possibility of being a university professor.
That adventure will begin in the fall when Wadas returns to the Radford campus to begin work on a master’s degree in English. She also has been accepted for a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) position in the same department that selected her for the 2022-23 Dean’s Scholar award. “We will be really lucky to have her,” said Professor of English Jolanta Wawrzycka, Ph.D., one of Wadas’ former professors.
“I love the GTA program because it will give me the opportunity to practice my teaching skills by teaching the basics,” Wadas said with excitement building in her voice about the prospects of, for example, “teaching composition of writing to freshmen.
“They may not know what their major is yet,” Wadas continued, speculating about her future students, “but I hope I can convey to many of them that, ‘Hey, being an English major is actually pretty awesome.’”