What’s the most efficient way to introduce 1,800 soon-to-be freshmen and transfers to Radford University’s staff and campus and give those new students the information they need for their first semester of college?
Since 1979, the answer to both questions has been Quest, a two-day event that’s part orientation, part celebration, part cram session and part social.
From June through July, across five different gatherings, those hundreds of incoming Highlanders and their family members have taken part in Quest. Three Quests for transfer students were also held this summer.
All were greeted by staff and administrators, including the president and, among other activities, they registered for classes, got their IDs and got to know fellow members of the Class of 2026.
Each freshman session opened with a presentation in Preston Hall and, this month, a message from President Bret Danilowicz, who is beginning his first year as the university’s president..
“Radford University is a special place where your success is our mission. You’re an important part of why Radford is such a great place to be,” Danilowicz told freshmen and their families. “The campus community, including me, cannot wait until you return in August for the official start of our fall semester.”
Assistant Provost for Undergraduate Education Nicole Hendrix gave the audience a brief introduction to the concept that will shape their academic careers: the REAL Curriculum.
Through REAL, students select majors as well as minors that cover four key areas – reasoning, expression, analysis and learning – to develop their knowledge and skills in fields that complement their interests.
“Our approach to general education is like no other,” said Hendrix, whose daughter is a second-year student at Radford.
“You will get more for your 120 bachelor’s degree credits at Radford than anywhere else in the nation,” she said.
Quest’s introductory meetings concluded with a burst of music and a flash mob, made up of 22 student assistants and eight mentors, who took the Preston Hall stage, then grouped new students into their fields of study. The guides led them to their individual colleges, then divided them further into their specific majors to meet with faculty members for an hour-long chat.
“You’re getting a lot of info today; it’s information overload,” instructor Donnie Tickle acknowledged to a classroom of health students. “But continue to gather it and ask questions. Don’t be the student sitting back in the corner, never raising your hand or asking a question because you thought your question wasn’t good. Six or seven other people in the room probably have the same question,” Tickle said.
For the rest of their first day, the new students toured campus, learned about university fixtures and features like the One Card and health services, and had about three hours in which they received academic advising.
Later, they attended a play starring Quest assistants. The production, titled “Episodes from a Freshman Year,” was a comedy structured around video-streaming platforms and featured parodies of popular shows like “Stranger Things” and “Survivor,” but with local references that addressed campus rules and locations.
The evening ended with a social at the Hurlburt Student Center. Freshmen later got their first taste of residence hall life – they stayed in Stewart, Floyd, and Draper halls – and family members were put up in Jefferson and Madison halls.
On the second day, which concluded at noon, new students registered for classes for the upcoming semester.
Radford University Carilion also typically conducts orientation exercises, but this summer, for the first time, it held its own Quest sessions at the school’s Roanoke campus. Those were attended by about 200 new students and roughly 100 of their family members. RUC offers different Quest tracks for freshman and transfer students.
“Our goal is that, through Quest, students will learn about the campus and the services available to them and create connections with their peers and faculty and staff,” said Student Affairs Manager Elizabeth Costa.
Additionally, Costa said, the RUC Quest also included guided tours of the community and a weekend hike to the Mill Mountain Star.