Highlanders in the News: Week of Aug. 28, 2023

Every other 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 freshman ‘force’

A freshman studying biomedical sciences has already hit a high note at the top of her first year at college.

Tori Barnard of Blacksburg, Virginia, was named one of three recipients of a $2,000 scholarship from Groundwater & Environmental Services’ CSR program, which was created to reward academic excellence and social responsibility within the company’s communities.

In a release posted Aug. 18, GES said the recipients can use the scholarship to support their ongoing studies.

“Tori is a powerhouse of drive and hard work,” the company said, adding that she has already earned her associate degree and a CTE certification in cosmetology while working two jobs.

The piece delves into her motivation for studying biomedical sciences as well as her aspirations for her post-graduate future.

“Tori, you are a force to be reckoned with,” the news release declared.  

2023 Scholarship Winner Announcement

Tori Barnard of Blacksburg, Virginia, was named one of three recipients of a $2,000 scholarship from Groundwater & Environmental Services’ CSR program.

Radford Associate Professor of Psychology Kathleen Arnold

Better-than-OK computers

One of the advances that artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT offer is that they can handle complicated chores so that actual people don’t have to – but when those individuals are students tasked with writing essays and papers, problems can arise.  

An Aug. 25 story by Scientific American put it this way: “When fed a homework or test question from a college-level course, the generative artificial intelligence program is liable to be graded just as highly, if not better, than a college student, according to a new study published … in Scientific Reports.”

Scientific American, which boasts a monthly audience of about 10 million readers through its print and digital incarnations, also cites in its coverage one of Radford’s associate professors of psychology, who echoes the magazine’s concerns.

“Cognitive research has shown that writing helps people build connections between concepts, boosts insight and understanding and improves memory and recall across a variety of topics, says Kathleen Arnold, a psychologist at Radford University, who studies how writing and learning are interrelated,” the story said. “If a student opts to outsource all their written assignments to ChatGPT, they not only won’t become a better writer—they might also be stunted in their academic and intellectual growth elsewhere. Arnold says it’s a prospect that worries her. But at the same time, it’s an opportunity to rethink teaching and even reconceptualize AI tools as educational opportunities rather than threats to learning.”

That article was also reprinted online by World News Era and in the Daily UK News

Clay Walthall ’79, M.S. ’82 (Photo: Daily News Record)

Portrait of an artist

An Aug. 27 profile in the Daily News Record introduces readers to artist and former teacher Clay Walthall ’79, M.S. ’82, a potter now residing in Timberville, Virginia.

An art teacher at the elementary, high school and community college levels, Walthall retired in June from the Shenandoah County Public Schools system.

A large piece of the story is about the process behind his annual practice of crafting 100 crocks for the Shenandoah County Fair, which kicked off Aug. 26 and wraps up Saturday, Sept. 2.

But the article also tells the story of how a random smudge led to him getting a B on a class project years ago, which in turn nudged him into his longtime calling as a potter.

Walthall also shares his credo as a creator who has now produced works for well over three decades: “If you’re an artist, you are compelled to make things. You don’t really have a choice; you have to do it.”

Sep 1, 2023
Neil Harvey