For the past month, Radford University student Colby Bender has been a man on the move.
Every week since June 16, Bender, a rising junior, has been sharing his story and interacting with some of the newest members of the university's student body during Quest orientation sessions.
Making connections with students is vital to Bender's role as the university's 100th Student Body President of the Student Government Association.
Bender said involvement has been the key to his success at RU, and he encourages his fellow Highlanders to take advantage of all the university has to offer – inside and outside of the classroom.
"I strongly believe that involvement directly correlates with academic achievement," Bender said. "In my case, the more that I became involved, the more success I had in the classroom."
Bender recently sat down to discuss his background, his plans for the SGA and to offer advice and insight to RU students.
Hometown: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Major: Political Science; minor in Criminal Justice
Q: How did you hear about RU, and why did you choose to attend the university?
A: While I applied and was admitted to several schools in Pennsylvania, as decision day neared, I did not feel that any of the schools that I was choosing from was the right choice for me. About a month before I needed to seriously commit to a school, I found a packet of information from Radford in addition to receiving a plethora of emails from the university's Office of Admissions. I applied, was accepted and immediately knew upon arrival that Radford was the right choice for me. The atmosphere, the people and the passion that the students had for their university was just so enamoring and contagious.
Q: You said it took you for a while to get acclimated on campus. What pushed you to get involved in SGA?
A: The president before me, Zach McCoy, actually did. At the end of my freshman year, I was a Resident Assistant and also a Peer Instructor for the office of New Student Programs, so I was experiencing peaks in my leadership capabilities. It was not until I met Zach - when he was campaigning that spring to become the 99th Student Body President - that I began to entertain the idea of getting involved in the SGA. I enjoyed all the leadership opportunities that I was participating in, but I desired something more. When I was appointed to Zach's cabinet, I began to acquire a thirst, an impulse and an aspiration for serving the student body as a positive role model.
Q: What do you believe the role of the SGA president is, and how do you feel your skills will help you in this role?
A: I believe the position of the SGA president to be a liaison between the administration and student body. Ultimately, my primary role is to serve the student body; the collective of constituents who have democratically elected me and which I also happen to be a part of. My first priority is to facilitate the development of the university through an implementation of positive pride for RU, in collaboration with strong, thorough initiatives intended to positively aid students.
Q: It’s a big year for the SGA – the 100th anniversary. How do you feel you can further advance and improve the organization for future Highlanders?
A: My motto that I have embodied since being elected has been that I want to leave the organization, the student body and Radford University in a better state than what it was handed to me. I am in a unique position where I quite possibly have two years to find my replacement, and that is exactly what I should be doing: working my way out of a job. The first thing that I intend to change for the student body is the SGA's perception. Our organization was plagued with apathy and a tag of unapproachability. Once students know that we are a new SGA, that they can come to us in order to voice concerns, network, collaborate or just have a fun conversation with, we will have fulfilled the first step of advancing our organization and student body.
Q: Aside from your involvement on campus, what else have you enjoyed about your time here RU?
A: Radford University is the most beautiful campus that I have ever set foot on. I enjoy walking out of class throughout the day and taking in all the amazing scenery at the beginning of fall or the peak of spring. The campus environment itself is an incredible entity that is so welcoming. Radford is just an all-around phenomenal place to be.
Q: Tell me about your craziest/most fun/random memory at RU thus far?
A: In February 2014, there was a two-day period where we got a huge amount of snow at Radford, and classes were cancelled the Thursday and Friday of that week. On Friday, there was a huge, impromptu snow ball fight that was organized on Heth Lawn, and there had to have been at least 300 students there. After the snow ball fight, we all went to the Radford-UNC Asheville game down at the Dedmon Center (at our own risk, I might add). We were truly united as a campus that day, and we had so much fun.
Q: Tell me about a favorite class/professor thus far?
A: My favorite class was a seminar I took in the fall 2013 titled "The Investigation of the Assassination of John F. Kennedy" with Dr. Tod Burke and Dr. Stephen Owen. The class was so amazing and so efficiently administered that I cannot imagine a better teaching style than those of Drs. Burke and Owen. We were literally treated as 1960s detectives investigating the crime through various simulations, documentation and presentations. It was all that I had hoped for, and more.
Q: One piece of advice you’d offer to your fellow Highlanders?
A: Please get involved! You will meet so many different people and you will get the opportunity to network, which is incredibly vital. Take advantage of everything that RU has to offer.
Q: A must-do for all Highlanders?
A: I would strongly recommend floating down the New River at least once while you attend Radford. It's an awesome and relaxing experience!