Radford University’s 2018-23 strategic plan, “Embracing the Tradition and Envisioning the Future,” was launched by the university’s seventh president, Brian O. Hemphill (July 2016- June 2021). The strategic plan was executed by Hemphill and interim president Carolyn Ringer Lepre (July 2021-June 2022) and brought to closure in 2023 by Radford’s eighth president, Bret Danilowicz (July 2022-present).

Three points regarding the context of American higher education guided the development of the strategic plan. First, modern students are not the same as previous generations, so adaptations must be made to a more diverse student population that learns using different techniques and personal preferences, especially via technology. Second, considering the rapid changes in all aspects of culture, higher education must adapt to the speed at which society moves. Third, because of the greater financial burden on public agencies at the national, state and local levels, the university must adapt to the changing funding model for higher education.

“Embracing the Tradition and Envisioning the Future” segmented Radford’s challenges and opportunities into three overarching themes: technology innovation, funding and campus environment. Six focal areas were then identified as strategic priorities for Radford University: academic research and excellence, brand identity, economic development and community partnerships, philanthropic giving and alumni engagement, strategic enrollment growth and student success.

Following its approval by the Radford University Board of Visitors, the strategic plan began in January 2018. Major accomplishments include the merger with Roanoke’s Jefferson College of Health Sciences to form Radford University Carilion; the establishment of the Vinod Chachra IMPACT Lab as the first competency-based education program within a Virginia public four-year institution; and the integration of the Highlander Success Center to serve as a one-stop academic and career support service for students.

The physical footprint of the university changed significantly during the strategic plan. Reed and Curie Halls, home of the Artis College of Science and Technology, went through a state-of-the-art remodeling that was completed in early 2020. The Highlander Hotel Radford, a six-story destination hotel with two restaurants and 6,000 square feet of event space, opened in April 2023. Construction began in 2021 on the largest building in university history, the 178,000-square-foot Artis Center for Adaptive Innovation and Creativity. The Artis Center, which will contain unique, collaborative learning spaces for the arts and health sciences, is scheduled to open in fall 2024.

With the completion of “Embracing the Tradition and Envisioning the Future,” Radford University is positioned to address new challenges while offering high-quality educational experiences and driving economic development for Southwest Virginia and the entire commonwealth.