Highlander Highlights: Week of March 4, 2024

Every two weeks, Highlander Highlights shares with readers some of the extraordinary research and accomplishments happening on and off campus through the tireless work and curiosity of our students and faculty. 

Re-thinking research poster designs and presentations

Student researchers, take note. If you’ve struggled in the past to attract eyes to your research project’s poster and ears to your presentation, sophomore art education major Cora Burt and director of the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship (OURS), Joe Wirgau, have developed methods and designs to draw more attention to your topic at conferences and forums.

Creating a dynamic poster involves color, size, font specifics, bullet points and QR codes, along with a few other helpful tips the two reveal in an engaging and informative video. “Less is more,” Burt says while introducing viewers to the ORB, the Objective, Relevancy and Big takeaway of your project.

These helpful and popular tips are spreading quickly, far behind the friendly confines of the Radford University campus. Recently, Burt and Wirgau were invited to kick off the national Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Conversations webinar series with a discussion on the best practices for research poster presentations.

“Cora did a wonderful job leading a national discussion on communicating research,” Wirgau said. “It is not every day we have a student have an experience like this, and, of course, Cora represented Radford University exceptionally well.”

CUR Conversations are intended to bring together members for an exchange of knowledge and ideas for best practices on a selected theme or topic. Burt and Wirgau shared their ideas with the group on Feb. 20.

“Working with Cora was a dream come true,” said CUR Communication and Content Manager Todd Waggoner. “From creating a flyer and video, which distilled down gained knowledge on the subject in an engaging way, to responding quickly and with expertise to questions from faculty, she brought an energy and authority that was truly impressive.”

Burt “deftly responded to faculty and administrators’ questions from across the country,” Wirgau said. “It was a reminder of why we go into education in the first place and how transformative research experiences are. It was clear the impact it had as she shared her experiences coming to Radford University as an artist who would never be a researcher like her sister, and now, as a sophomore art student, was not only a researcher, but she also had valuable information to share with the CUR community.”

A ‘master class’ for criminal justice student researchers

Speaking of posters, nine Radford criminal justice students recently presented their individual research at the 2024 Carolinas Crime Analysis Association’s (CCAA) annual training conference in Charleston, South Carolina.

Radford undergraduate students minoring in crime analysis and criminal intelligence and graduate students earning certificates in crime analysis displayed and spoke about their work at the annual conference, held Feb. 27 - March 1.

The conference offered attendees an assortment of workshops and trainings designed to improve private and public sector crime and intelligence analytics skills. In addition, students had an opportunity to participate in master-class technical training courses taught by scholars and experts in the crime analysis field. During sessions and networking events, the students were able to connect with crime analyst professionals in the mid-Atlantic region, software vendors and academics. 


Professor of Criminal Justice Rachel Santos delivered an inspiring keynote address focusing on the analysts’ vital role in the implementation of proactive crime reduction in police organizations and stratified policing.

“I was delighted to serve as the keynote speaker and was ecstatic about the conference providing a student poster session,” Santos said. 

Amanda Bruner, president of CCAA and a Radford adjunct who teaches in the minor and graduate certificate programs, worked with Santos to develop a dedicated session for the students to present their work. 

“CCAA's mission,” Bruner explained, “is to promote interagency cooperation, communication and collaboration for the furtherance of crime analysis and law enforcement goals, provide training and professional learning opportunities for crime analysts and others with an interest in crime analysis, and raise awareness of the field of crime analysis and the value therein.”

The organization has more than 160 active members, Bruner said, and 149 attended the conference. 

“Our students learn crime analysis techniques and produce practical products, but it was so powerful for them to meet other analysts and see how their work is on par with what is being done in the field,” said Santos, who also serves as co-director of the Center for Police Practice, Policy and Research at Radford University. 

The crime analysis and criminal intelligence fields are “still very new, and Dr. Rachel Santos has done a really great job of setting up a program at Radford that prepares us to enter it right after graduation,” said senior criminal justice major Morgan Gibson of Louisa, Virginia. “I think Radford truly demonstrated its commitment to student empowerment and success by supporting the group of undergraduate and graduate students that attended this conference.”

Giving students an opportunity to attend the conference “reflects Radford’s commitment to student development and readiness for the professional world,” said Laura Thompson of Prince George, Virginia, who is earning a post-baccalaureate certificate in crime analysis. “This proactive approach not only enhances students' academic experiences but also fosters confidence in navigating their chosen fields post-graduation. It is truly an experience that I'll hold on to forever.”

M.O.T. grads hit 100% on testing pass rates and employment

Members of the Radford University Master of Occupational Therapy (M.O.T.) Class of 2022 achieved a 100% pass rate on their National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT) exams.

The 42 graduates had all of 2023 to take the exam, and the report that they had all passed came in early 2024. In addition to their outstanding testing skills, 100% of the M.O.T. grads were employed within two months of graduation. Close to 50% of them are working in outpatient pediatrics, school systems, and early intervention; about 20% work in skilled nursing facilities; about 25% work in acute care; and some work as travel therapists.

Costello said of the grads, “They started occupational therapy school at the height of the pandemic in August 2020 and demonstrated remarkable resilience as they navigated through unknown territories with us,” said Vesna Cotić, interim chair of the Department of Occupational Therapy. “We are especially proud of this group of students because of the trust they extended to us as faculty and the support they poured into each other.”

Mar 8, 2024
Chad Osborne
(540) 831-7761