Highlanders in the News: Week of Jan. 29, 2024

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.

It runs in the family

Marion, Virginia, native Billy Wagner’s National Baseball Hall of Fame prospects made headlines last month across numerous sports pages.

Olivia Wagner_story
Radford University sophomore and women's basketball guard Olivia Wagner

From 1995 to 2010, Wagner was a Major League Baseball pitcher across 16 seasons, first for the Houston Astros, then the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Mets, the Boston Red Sox and, finally, the Atlanta Braves, before his retirement.

Over the past decade, he’s gained steady ground toward getting the votes that would launch him into the hall – and make him Virginia’s first native inductee since 2006. Recent articles focused on Wagner’s patience, his perspectives and his persistence in the rollout to the Jan. 23 ballot results.

A recurring figure also popped up in many of those pieces – his daughter, Olivia Wagner, a Radford University sophomore and a guard on the women’s basketball team.

On Jan. 10, the elder Wagner and his wife, Sarah, “were at the Dedmon Center … when Olivia broke a school record by going seven of seven from 3-point range in a win over Longwood [University],” Mark Berman wrote in his Jan. 20 Roanoke Times profile of the ballplayer.  

“It’s really, really fun to watch her,” Billy Wagner told the paper, and footage of his daughter’s performance during that game is posted on YouTube.

Billy Wagner headshot
Billy Wagner (Major League Baseball)

Tim Hayes’ Jan. 23 story for The Bristol Herald Courier noted that even during a busy campaign appearance, “Billy Wagner’s stare frequently wandered to his telephone….

“There on the small screen was a livestream of a women’s college basketball game … between the Radford University Highlanders and the South Carolina-Upstate Spartans.

“The proud pop was tracking her progress,” Hayes wrote.

Alas, once the 2024 Hall of Fame ballots were tallied, Wagner fell just five votes shy of the total he needed.

But there are a few consolations. The results make clear he’s gotten closer each year, and he’ll be eligible for consideration again in 2025.

Another upside: On Jan. 15, Olivia Wagner netted her first Big South Conference Player of the Week award. The conference cited her career high of 23 points during Radford’s victory against Longwood, as well as her “11 points, three rebounds, one assist and one block to help the Highlanders remain perfect in league play this season with a 66-55 win over Winthrop” the following week.

Here is Radford Athletics’ coverage of Olivia Wagner’s significant accomplishments.

Data delay

Many prospective college students hit a speed bump this week with the news that the release of vital student aid information will be delayed. 

The U.S. Department of Education is in the process of updating its Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), making changes that account for inflation. 

Radford University Vice President of Enrollment Management and Strategic Communications Dannette Gomez Beane

While this upgrade could help more students qualify for relief, it also means it will likely be March before colleges and universities receive students’ financial information.

WDBJ-7’s Joe Dashiell reported on this on Jan. 31, and he spoke about it with Dannette Gomez Beane, Radford University’s vice president of Enrollment Management and Strategic Communications.

“Families are anxious,” Gomez Beane said in a video interview, adding that calls began coming in to admissions soon after the announcement was made.

The delay also coincides with the first year of the Radford University Tuition Promise, which will cover educational costs for qualifying Virginia students.

“Over half of our students are really hinging on the FAFSA data getting to us so we can award them that promise,” she said, but acknowledged, “We’re in a holding pattern. We have zero data … and we won’t have any until March.”

On Friday, Gomez Beane offered additional consolation to those affected.

“The FAFSA delay has brought anxiety to families, school counselors and colleges as they navigate being four months behind in critical decision-making as a result,” she said.

“My advice is to stay calm, take a deep breath and know that we are going through this together.”

Applicants with questions about FAFSA can contact the Radford University Office of Financial Aid via email at finaid@radford.edu; for the main campus, call 540-831-5408, and for the Roanoke location, dial 540-831-1000.

Local perspective

As it covers ongoing debates over immigration, a Roanoke news station recently turned to a local expert – Chapman Rackaway, a Radford professor and chair of its Department of Political Science.

Department of Political Science Chair Chapman Rackaway

A Jan. 30 spot by WSLS-TV news looked at one particular strand of the issue, a battle of wills between the federal government and the state of Texas over a 30-mile stretch of the border along the Rio Grande.

“This is really Congress’ policy area to make decisions on,” Rackaway said of the standoff and migration issues. “We don’t have definitive action on the part of Congress.

“Whenever anything goes through Congress, there is always the chance that all of the member’s particularized interests come into play,” he explained.

These types of tension, however, “are the kinds of things that, if left to continue to inflame, can only get worse,” he told the station.

Rackaway is frequently called upon to interpret or contextualize national politics. In 2022, he gave a series of interviews with local media regarding the processes behind replacing United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who had just announced he would step down from the bench.

Last year, Rackaway was selected as a faculty contributor to InEducation, The New York Times’ online curricular tool for students and faculty, and he specializes in campaigns and elections.

Before coming to Radford in 2021, he served as a political science professor and department chair at the University of West Georgia.

Feb 2, 2024
Neil Harvey