Wicked awesome! Students win prestigious awards at Lisbon conference

Five Radford University students had the unique opportunity last week to travel to Lisbon, Portugal, to present their research on some of the world’s most perplexing, wicked problems to a distinguished group of researchers and academics at the 10th annual Responsible Management and Education conference.

“It’s deeply humbling, and it makes me very proud to represent Radford at the conference,” Rachel Sharrett ’19, a graduate teaching fellow in the Department of English and president of the university’s Wicked Society, said a month before the conference, which is organized to engage multiple stakeholders in discussions aimed toward advancing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals.

Presenting at the conference was an honor in itself, but the time spent there became even more rewarding near the end of the event when each Radford student was presented an award for their work toward wicked problem solutions.


From left are Maja Anderson, Jackson Hunter, Rachel Sharrett, Sanya Sanie and Luke Quesenberry.

Sharrett and fellow graduate student Maja Anderson were presented with outstanding achievement awards and undergraduates Luke Quesenberry, Sanya Sanie and Jackson Hunter received the Meritorious Achievement Award.

“This award means the world to me. When I first came to Radford, I could never have dreamed that I would be an international award-winning scholar, but here we are," said Quesenberry, a senior political science major from Richlands, Virginia. “This award has been one of the most amazing awards I have ever received in my life and it has given me a great sense of accomplishment. I was incredibly surprised to receive this award, and going into the conference, never dreamed of walking away with such a prestigious award.”

PRME co-chairs Alfred Rosenbloom and Milenko Gudic of the Anti-Poverty Working Group presented the awards to the students while also giving the PRME Innovator’s Award, a first of its kind to an educator in the network, to Tay Keong Tan, a professor of political science and director of International Studies, and the ignitor of wicked studies initiatives at Radford.

“The awards recognize the research outputs and excellent presentations culminated from the past 10 months of work, showcased at the 10th Responsible Management Education Research Conference this past Tuesday,” Tan said in an email from Lisbon, just hours after the awards were given. “The audience, consisting of scholars who research and teach on the areas of global problems and sustainability, were enthusiastic and engaged throughout our student-led 180-minute workshop.”

The Radford students “have become minor celebrities at the Lisbon conference,” Tan said.

Students in the Wicked Society have been working for months on individual projects to present at the Lisbon conference. While there, they gave a workshop version of the university’s Wicked Festival, which is held each semester on campus. Paul Hanstedt, vice chancellor at the University of Minnesota Rochester, joined the students for the presentation.

“We were so happy that the workshop was well received and that the participants had a great time with the scenario we presented,” said Anderson, a second year MFA student and Cornell University employee from Ithaca, New York. “It was the perfect illustration of how active learning and creative problem solving of a design thinking approach can be both engaging and effective.”

The team made revisions to their presentation only 24 hours before they were scheduled to speak, said Jackson Hunter, a senior marketing major from Roanoke, Virginia.

“I was surprised to receive the award as we had done heavy revisions to our presentation only 24 hours before we were scheduled to present,” Hunter said. “The pressure of presenting a project, that we had completely changed the day before, to international academics as undergraduate students was definitely in the back of our minds. However, we stayed confident throughout the presentation, knowing how much work we had put into getting here, and I believe that is what led us to receiving such a prestigious award. The ability to revise our presentation on the fly and receive admiration for doing it is something that I think only our team could do, and I'm forever grateful that we pulled it off.

Conference keynote speaker Heinz Herrmann attended the Radford students’ workshop and “was surprised that the outstanding presenters were undergraduates,” Tan said, “and cited our workshop as a demonstration of the great things students can do on a world stage.”

In addition to the wicked problems presentations, conference attendees also learned about the Wicked Society of Radford University, as well as the team's Wicked Problems Toolkit, a Wicked Student Podcast, and the Journal of Wicked Problems and Solutions.

“Our presentation drove home the message for educators to creatively embrace the struggle of ‘creating wicked students,’” Tan wrote. “All in all, it was a really transformative and memorable experience for our students, Paul and me.”

Oct 13, 2023
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761