The Face of the “Voice of the Highlanders”

The Face of the “Voice of the Highlanders”
Written on: April 15th, 2012

For sports fanatics all over the world, there is truly nothing that gets your heart racing more than the sound of a broadcaster’s voice when a game winning three pointer goes in the net. Nothing can beat the stumbling of words in a broadcasters voice when a team that’s down eight runs in a baseball game happens to pull through in the bottom of the ninth and win the series. A man who gets to live in this excitement every day, and get paid for it, is sports enthusiast and media talent, Rick Watson.

Watson, also known as the “Voice of the Highlanders” is currently the Director of Sales and Sponsorship within the Radford University Athletics Department, as well is the head of broadcasting for the games. RU is a Division I sports organization comprised of 19 different sports teams, all of which he works to gain sponsorship for. He is also referred to as the “Big Dog” from his ten year, three hours a day radio show called “Big Dog Sports Talk Show”.

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(Photo taken from: Radford Athletics)

For the four month long basketball season, Watson is busy as the head voice and broadcaster for the games, home or away. In the eight months he’s not busy with basketball, he is broadcasting other games, such as baseball. His general duties outside of being the “voice of the highlanders” are to find companies and businesses that want to sponsor and give money to the Athletic Department.

Watson said  every time he approaches a business he tries not to make it all about sealing a deal and getting money. He stressed the fact that he tries to create a relationship with his clients. One piece of advice he had for anyone interested in sports marketing and sales is that it’s important to know your client, build a relationship and gain trust before you even mention a business proposal. “Everyone wants to be a part of an athletic department because you’re then part of a community,” he said.

Watson is also in charge of social networking for RU athletics. “In one month, the month of January I believe, we got 400,000 hits on our website. That’s parents, student athletes, coaches, business, etc. all interested in what our program has to offer,” he said. These advertisements online are a huge part of RU revenue, as well as advertisements on stadium scoreboards, signs around the fields, radio ads, half time promotions, etc. and it’s Watson’s job to set them up.

“There are so many different hats you wear in this job,” he said. Watson builds relationships with clients, travels to meet with them, works with people in the advertisements business to create signs, etc. He broadcasts the basketball games, baseball games, helps with half time shows and business promotions, and much more.

“It’s got to be something you love,” he said. It does indeed have to be something you love and are passionate about for the amount of time and energy Watson dedicates to the RU Altletic Program.

When asked if he would change positions are reloacted to another job any time in the furture, Watson said he is perfectly happy here and loves coming to work every day. Having grown up in Pulaski County, been an RU graduate and is now and RU employee, it’s clear that Watson’s life is in Southern Virginia and he loves it here.

“I’m very happy here, I appreciate the opportunity they’ve given me to work here. You always keep your ears open if a great thing comes along though. I never close any doors, never close a door until you’ve at least opened it too look inside,” he said.

 

Delta Zeta Gives Back to the Painted Turtle Camp

Delta Zeta Gives Back to Painted Turtle Camp
Written by: Kate Houser
April 15, 2012

If you spent your childhood running around the neighborhood with your friends, spending hours on end at the community pool, or building forts in your backyard, then you were one of the lucky ones. There are hundreds of children today that can’t do the innocent childhood activities they should be able to do because of a serious medical condition. Many of us would be happy staying home from school because of a cold, or a sore throat, but the illnesses that some children have to cope with are much more serious. There are children every day being diagnosed with the burden of facing illnesses such as diabetes, kidney diseases, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, and many more. Radford University’s Delta Zeta sorority is passionate about helping children like this that have chronic and life-threatening diseases that cannot live the careless childhood every person deserves.

One of Delta Zeta’s national philanthropic organizations is a camp called the Painted Turtle Camp whose mission is to provide a camp environment for children with these illnesses. The camp provides daily medical care as well as a fun atmosphere where the children are able to do fun activities to fill their time with more than just daily hospital visits. 40% of the children that attend the camp come from low-income families. Because of the kind and compassionate partners and donators, the camp is able to run free of charge for the children and their families.

To help support this great cause, the sisters of Delta Zeta gave back this past Friday when they organized a supply drive for the camp. “People could give either monetary donations or buy supplies in Wal-Mart and bring it out to us when they were done shopping, that made it easy for them to donate! We used to monetary donations to buy more supplies at Wal-Mart at the end of the day,” said freshman, Jacey Cox. The girls sat outside of the Fairlawn Wal-Mart for hours on Friday asking people to donate goods such as crayons, glue sticks, markets, etc. for the campers to do crafts with. “I sat at the supply drive from 12-2p.m. and had a lot of fun doing it spending time with my sisters as well as giving back to the camp!” said junior, Rachel Anzengruber.

At the end of the day, the sorority was able to fill four large boxes to mail to the camp, located in California. “I really loved telling people about the cause and having them help the Painted Turtle Camp! It was nice to see the boxes filled with crayons and markets for the kids to enjoy,” said freshman, Allie Annunziata. The experience was rewarding for the sisters, who were able to spend the afternoon enjoying the beautiful weather, each others company, and the feeling of giving back to a great cause.

Writers note: If you would like to learn more about the Painted Turtle Camp please visit their website at www.thepaintedturtlecamp.org

A Day in the Life of a Broadcast Journalist

A Day in the Life of a Broadcast Journalist
Written By: Kate Houser
Sunday March 18, 2012

My day began at 7:30 a.m. sharp and still being a student with all afternoon classes, I hadn’t seen this hour of the day in quite some time. I awoke however, full of energy and eager to begin my day, a day in the life of a working broadcast journalist.

I was nervous to say the least. For I was going to not only have the privilege of meeting someone with talent and experience in the field of reporting, but I was going to be working alongside someone doing the job I’ve spent the last four years of college working towards becoming myself.

The reporter I’d be shadowing was Karen Kiley from WDBJ Channel 7 News. I had seen Karen before on segments on the 5 and 6 p.m. news casts. She is someone who I look at with both jealously and admiration. As an aspiring reporter myself, I can’t help but look at the women on my television without falling into a brief day dream where I am the young, tireless reporter working to develop the latest news for the nightly broadcasts. So to have the opportunity to work alongside one of those very women I so much admire for a day was quite an exciting ordeal.  

WDBJ 7 has their main station located in Roanoke, Va. But they also have satellite offices in Lynchburg and Blacksburg as well. Karen is the chief reporter for the Blacksburg office, so it was there that I arrived around 9 a.m. on the morning of Friday, March 16th. One would not know it was a major news stations office by driving by. The office is located in a small brick building along with a few other businesses. As I entered the WDBJ 7 office, I entered what looked to be a small apartment. It was an L-shaped room consisting of Karen’s office, her photographer’s office and a small room with cameras and editing equipment.

 

Karen came to greet me in a warm, friendly way. It was still early in the day, so when I arrived she was sitting at her desk applying her make-up and checking her e-mails. Her photographer was out for the morning doing movie reviews so she let me sit at his desk. Karen told me that she usually starts her day by checking the producer rundown chart on a program called “inews”. This program is controlled by the assignment editor but allows all WDBJ reporters and anchors to edit it. It is a chart that shows the stories being covered for the day and who is covering them. This is how the station stays organized to know that all stories are being covered and what newscast they’ll be aired on later that day.

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(Photo Taken by: Kate Houser)

Karen went back to her desk as I continued to look around the inews program. We got to talking about how Karen got her start in the news industry. Karen graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in broadcast journalism. She spent months sending out her tapes and finally in the summer after her graduation, Karen was offered a job at a news station in West Virginia. It was there that Karen got her first professional experience as a news reporter shooting, editing and reporting her stories. It was close enough to her home in Maryland that she could visit her parents on weekends, but far enough that she barely knew anyone.

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(Photo from: WDBJ 7 website)

“I remember calling my dad the day I signed my lease to my apartment and I was bawling my eyes out,” she said. The opportunity to have a position at an actual working news station is a great thing, but the distance from home and being in the middle of nowhere, not knowing a soul was what upset Karen. However, she knew that’s what she had to do to get the experience she needed and stayed in West Virginia for a couple of years. A few times Karen was called in the middle of the night to cover breaking news. She would wake up at three in the morning and report to a scene sometimes even in sweats just so she could get the quotes and footage she’d need for the morning show. “It was more important to get the story,” she said.

Being woken up in the middle of the night to cover a story isn’t the only downfall to working in news. The average salary for an entry-level reporter at a news station in a smaller market can be as low as $20,000 a year. Often as a reporter if you want to move up the ladder of news markets you must be willing to move literally anywhere where you may know no one. “Everybody at my station was in the same boat, fresh out of college not making much money. That made it a lot more fun though. You’ll make some of your best friends in the business from your first station,” she said. Kiley still keeps in touch with some of her first colleges from her West Virginia station, many of whom are now spread out at stations all over the country.

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(Story Board, Photo taken by: Kate Houser)

After a couple of years in West Virginia, Karen moved up in the news market almost 100 spots, going from market 170 in WV to market 66 in Roanoke, Va. She started in the Lynchburg office where she lived for eight months. After that she was transferred to the Blacksburg office where she enjoys working more because there’s more news available than she found in Lynchburg.

Moving to a larger market like Roanoke, Karen was able to finally have her own photographer. Before, in West Virginia, she was in charge of shooting and editing all her material. Larger market news stations are able to afford more photographers. The day I was with Karen however, her photographer was out for the day shooting other stories, so it was up to her to go out and retrieve the footage. We shot three stories in one day on Friday. One story took us to the drill field at Virginia Tech, the other to a police station in Radford, Va.

After gathering footage Karen always goes back to the station and edits all the video in the small editing room. This is the same room with a high top table and a flat screen tv that Karen does her live shots in front of whenever she goes live to the main Roanoke station for the 5 or 6 p.m. shows.

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(Editing Room, Photo taken by: Kate Houser)

Karen’s day is composed of searching for stories, contacting potential interviews, doing live shots, writing up anchor scripts and recording voiceovers. She spends time throughout her day lugging around a tall tripod and a heavy camera bag with her barely five foot two frame. If you’re driving around the New River Valley and pass a white SUV with the WDBJ 7 logo on the side and see a petit blonde woman driving, that’s Karen Kiley probably on her way to shoot her latest story.

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(Mic for voice overs, Photo taken by: Kate Houser)

“This job isn’t impossible; you can make it if you want too. I see diva’s come in all the time who don’t want to work at stations in the middle of nowhere, but it doesn’t work like that. You have to put your time in to move up.” Like all reporters, Karen is still looking to move her career further. She has multiple offers from stations in both the top 40 market, and top 20. I am personally eager to see where Karen’s talent and drive takes her with her career in the future and wish her only the best of luck.

“Protect the Children!” Rings Outside Courthouse After Tech Trial

“Protect the Children!” Rings Outside Courthouse After Tech Trial

Written By: Kate Houser
March 16th, 2012

It’s been almost five years since the tragic April 2007 Virginia Tech shootings and seven days since the start of this trial. Seven days of reliving the worst experience of their lives for parents of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde who were both victims in the shooting; victims with parents who were persistent and determined in finding justice for their daughters. The lawsuit came to rest on Tuesday, March 13th and the verdict from the jury was presented the next day.

The court room was surprisingly vacant as few media, officials and spectators patiently awaited the return of the jury. The court room was warm and still on the almost 80 degree day in Christiansburg, Va. Mr. Peterson sat quietly in his chair briefly exchanging whispers with the Mr. Pryde. Both men seemed to be calm, but neither could form a smile.

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(Mr. Peterson, father of Erin Peterson outside courthouse after verdict was read)

After being dismissed at approximately 11:40 a.m. Wednesday morning, the seven person jury consisting of four males and three females returned to the courtroom at 3:01 p.m. It took them three hours to decide their opinion on the fate of a trial that’s been in the making for almost five years.

The jury’s verdict was presented and stated they believed that each parent should receive $2 million ($4 million for each family to be split). The moment the verdict was read, Mrs. Peterson let out soft sobs and covered her face. Mr. and Mrs. Pryde managed to keep composer, but the cried of Mrs. Peterson continued as a background noise for the remainder of the trial.

Judge William Alexander continued after the reading of the verdict to make an emotion, heart-felt speech as he addressed the entire courtroom. “My heart goes out to all of you for the loss you have suffered. I can’t possibly understand the hurt you are going through. I just want to tell you that I am very, very sorry for your loss. This has been the most difficult case I have ever been involved in,” he said.

It’s likely that since the state capped the award for damages at $100,000 that the families will not receive the $4 million the jury thinks they deserve. However, it has still not yet been fully determined what the award will be. The fact that the judge did rule Virginia Tech negligent in the shootings is an epic moment in itself. It is rare that the state would lose a case like this and be charged with guilt, so March 14th, 2012 stands as an extremely successful and proud day for the parents of the victims.

A day that Mrs. Peterson wishes she didn’t have to even go through, but says it was all worth it. “Children are a gift. Protect the children. Protect the children. Protect the children,” she said. The mother stressed the fact that she had to do this because it is what Erin would have wanted.

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(Mrs. Peterson outside of the courthouse after the verdict was read)

Mrs. Peterson hopes that this will mark a change in all universities throughout not just Virginia, but the entire country. That this trial and her actions will stress the importance of safety to all schools in the United States so that something like this will never happen again.

Presidential Candidate Causes a Stir in the Radford Community over Obama “Snob” Statements

Presidential Candidate Causes a Stir in the Radford Community over Obama “Snob” Statements

Written By: Kate Houser
February 29, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has received a large amount of media, public and political backlash after his statements made about President Obama’s stand on higher education. Santorum said that Obama’s push for all U.S. citizens to have a college degree was “intellectual and political snobbery”. This statement has caused many Republican political figures to come to the president’s defense as they strongly disagree with the senator’s claims.

It seems that it is not only political figures that are heated by this statement, but also members of the New River Valley community. Dr. Bruce P. Mahin, professor and music director at Radford University, was almost at a loss for words. It was clear Dr. Mahin found the stab at Obama to be ridiculous and inaccurate.

“Statistically, college graduates earn more than those without a degree,” he said. “This is a factual statistic. Also, college is a place where people learn more about themselves and where you fit into the world. Obama wasn’t being a snob when he says he wants everyone to have a degree, it doesn’t sound elitist at all. A college degree is a great thing and there’s no fault in aspiring to that.”

The presidential candidate also said that he believes that all people can find success, even without a degree and by the president making that statement; he is belittling those citizens who do not have a higher education.

“I do believe that someone without a degree can have great success, but it is certainly more difficult than someone with a degree,” Dr. Mahin said. Even students with a degree struggle in finding jobs in the current economic state our country is in. The job search for a young person without a degree is even more challenging.

Santorum making these statements shows that he is attempting to make his target voting audience those without four-year degrees. Frances Zander, a custodian at Radford University, is an example of a citizen who highly disagrees with Santorum’s stab at the president.

“He’s a wack job,” she said. Zander, who was born in Mexico, does not have a four-year degree. “Education is the most important thing a country can offer its citizens. I have no children but if I did, I would most definitely make sure they went to college or they would end up here (moves arms around her where she is cleaning the hallway).”

“I strongly agree with President Obamas push for all Americans to have a higher education and I think that Santorum is extremely wrong,” she said. Many powerful Politian’s, both Republican and Democrat would agree with the custodians statements.

Winter Comes and Goes with a Single Storm

Winter Comes and Goes with a Single Storm

Written By: Kate Houser
February 20th, 2012

Students are always looking for a reason to have a day off of the school work week, and when even a holiday such as Presidents Day would not grant them a day off, it was up to a little bit of snow to give the students some wishful thinking. Radford University students are happy to at least have a three hour delay this morning as a result of almost a foot of snow fall in Montgomery County throughout yesterday and early into this morning.

The snow came as quite a surprise to many people in the New River Valley. Local stores such as Wal-Mart and Target are already displaying swimsuits for sale. Students were outside in shorts enjoying the near 60 degree sunny weather throughout the day on Saturday. Beginning in the early hours Sunday morning however, students awoke to look outside their window and see everything covered in 2-3 inches of white snow. As the day continued the snow barely took a break but eventually the storm passed leaving behind up to 7-9 inches throughout the area.

“I was outside all day yesterday running around in a tank top, and now I’m wear a hat and gloves today,” said sophomore, Kayla Griffen. “After the warm weather we had yesterday I was shocked to see the snow on the ground this morning, but I’m definitely not complaining! I was hoping to get at least one good snow fall before spring break.” It seemed as though Virginia wasn’t even going to experience the winter she is used too, but this Presidents Day weekend proved us wrong and a snow storm was able to sneak its way into our forecasts as winter comes to a close.

Today’s school delay is the first that Radford University has seen in this 2011-2012 school year. Anyone who has lived in Radford for the past few years will tell you the weather has noticeably been significantly warmer this year than in the past. Senior, Brittany Hart looks back to a few years ago, “I remember my sophomore year we missed at least three or four days of school in a row due to snow. Since I’m a senior now and I’m graduating, I was wondering if I was ever going to experience another snow day since the weathers been ridiculously warm and dry this winter. I’m used to the Radford weather I experienced my freshman and sophomore year when it was painfully cold walking to class, and now I can get by with wearing a t-shirt to class some days.”

Those few days off of school Hart is referring too came as a result of the snow storm from 2010 when Montgomery County experienced a much larger snow and ice storm then the one this past weekend. The storm closed the Radford campus for multiple days, and gave Montgomery County public schools five days off causing the last day of school for the students to be pushed back further into the summer in order to meet the state requirement for school days attended.

Two years later however, the county is experiencing a much less dramatic snow storm. This could be due to the fact that the weather today is a 41 degrees and sunny and the snow has begun rapidly melting away causing streams of water alongside the roads. This rapid melting however could create traffic problems. The Virginia Department of Transportation issued a warning early this afternoon for drivers to be cautious on the roads this evening and tomorrow morning. The roads are expected to have spots of melted snow freeze over causing black ice.

Traffic was also affected throughout Sunday as the snow storm made its trek across Southern Virginia. Most students didn’t even leave their driveways, but for many who decided to go home for the weekend, they were welcomed back into the area a bit dangerously. Senior, Kevin Lee from Northern Virginia was not expecting the snow when he was driving down Interstate 81 South back to Radford. “The traffic on 81 was absolutely ridiculous! I was probably on the edge of my seat the whole time because of how slick the roads were from the snow. In a matter of 20-25 minutes I witnessed about three or four minor accidents.” Lee’s experience comes as no surprised as local news stations were urging drivers to stay off of the roads as the snow became more severe. The state of Tennessee was also affected by the storm and about 20 vehicles were reported in being involved in multiple accidents on Interstate 75. Interstate 95 around Richmond, Va. was also temporarily shut down due to weather related accidents.

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This photo above was taken around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 19th, 2012. 

The photo below was taken around 4 p.m. on Monday, February 20th, 2012. 
There is a significant difference in the two in just a 24 hour period.
The rapid melting of the near 7-9 inches of snow was a result of the sunny, warmer weather today.

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WRC: A Shelter for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence

WRC: A Shelter for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence
Written by Kate Houser

“Buzzz…Buzzz…”

This is the deep, startling sound that the bell to the locked door made. This door was located on the side entrance of a tucked away, faded brick building. Driving through the streets of Radford, one would not think to enter this building; however, the purpose of its existence is for unimaginable support and compassion. This brick building is home to the WRC, also known as the Women’s Resource Center.

There are many things in this life that the volunteers and employees at the WRC said they have learned to never take for granted; things like: safety, trust and knowing you’ll make it through the day unharmed. Most people never have to question these things every day they wake up, but the WRC has seen one too many people who do.

The following is an interview with Whitney Miller, the director of the children’s program at the WRC. She may only be in her early 20’s, but she has already learned lifelong lessons from the people she has watched come through the shelter.

Q: What is the mission of the Women’s Resource Center?

Miller: I wish I had a brochure for you [picks up brochure from desk] oh look here one is. Our mission is: “creating a community free of domestic and sexual violence through services, support and education.” All of our services are free and confidential. We serve the entire New River Valley, so that’s Pulaski, Radford, Floyd, Giles and Montgomery County.

Q: Who do your clients mostly consist of?

Miller: Women and children mostly, but also men who are victims of abuse whether it be sexual assault or domestic violence. We don’t serve perpetrators or abusers, so the people that are committing the acts of violence are not are clients.

Q: What is a common experience that these victims have been through?

Miller: Well, it all depends, I guess we can start by saying that violence does not discriminate against anyone. It does not matter if you are rich or if you are poor, or if you are black or if you are white. So that does not define who we’re working with at any point. The typical person that I work with is a child coming to the shelter with their mother. That’s basically who I see the most of, but here at the office the sexual assault team serves Radford University and Virginia Tech students as well as the community at large. They do a lot of work with children and their families as well so if you consider the child being the primary victim of the violence we help them, but we also serve the secondary victim of the violence. This is anyone in their family, friends or support system that has also been affected by it. So were working with the person that’s directly affected by the violence, but also the people in their lives that are as well.

Q: What would you say a normal day at the children’s shelter looks like?

Miller: Crisis is the name of the game here and you can’t ever predict that. So, a typical day could be going in and having a morning group with the kids, checking in with the mom, taking someone to a doctor’s appointment or a dentist appointment, having the after school program where we do homework, snack, etc. My basic goal with the kids is to help them too learn how to cope with what they’ve experienced. So, anyway that’s possible. It can be coloring or letting them play the Wii so they’ll sit down and talk to me afterwards; but, just fostering a sense of trust in an environment that they feel safe in, that they feel like they can share their story.

That would of course, be a typical ideal day, but then you run into your crisis days when something traumatic has happened and someone doesn’t know how to function and your day revolves around how to help get them through that crisis, whatever it may be.

Q: Would you say that in dealing with these crises’ you’ve had to develop somewhat of a thick skin to do what you do?

Miller: There’s a term we use frequently around here, “vicarious trauma”. We all talk a lot about how we can get wrapped up in people’s experiences and let it affect us. We do have weekly staff meetings where we can kind of de-brief and get things off our chests because it can become really personally frustrating at times and it is hard to keep it out of your personal life and not let it affect you. You have to have thick skin and you have to be certain about your own personal boundaries to be able to go in and do this work because it really is intimate work. We’re working where people live so there aren’t a lot of secrets and we become a very integral part of their lives. They depend on us on a daily basis. And you know, the goal is for them not to depend on us, but when someone’s coming from the situation of a typical woman who’s a victim of domestic violence where the man has excessive power and control over this woman for years, then she’s become completely dependent on him for probably everything; financial resources, the car, the gas, the food, everything has to go through him first. So to come out of that experience and to come straight to us at a shelter where it’s like, ‘okay, you take care of yourself here’. It’s hard for some women to fully take on that role as the sole provider and be an independent person [beginning] day one. So there’s definitely a period of dependency where we’re helping them get their feet under them. But ultimately our goal is to help them regain independence, get reconnected to their own lives and experience their new joyous, peaceful lives all around. But there is a fine line between helping someone and being a crutch, that’s the hardest part I think.

Q: So would you say that working here has become more of a lifestyle as opposed to a “9 – to – 5” job?

Miller: Oh, yeah, it’s definitely not a 9 – to – 5 ‘cause there’s definitely days where I go home and a family has left the shelter in less than desirable circumstances. I think that the women and children that we work with, the women in particular, are coming to us with a lot more obstacles and hurdles to overcome in order to become independent. We’re dealing with a lot of mental health issues, double and triple diagnostics, substance abuse issues, bad credit and criminal records. All those things prevent you from getting an apartment, getting a license, getting a job and the things that make you independent.

Q: You help them achieve and gain these things though?

Miller: Yes, and that’s the most horrible thing about domestic violence is that there is no aspect of your life that it does not touch. Once you’re involved in it, it can literally wreck your entire life. Like I said, the point of it is power and control, and if he thinks he can control the money, well then he also thinks he can control your feelings and everything else. If you think about it, we’re kind of in the business of heart break. We’re taking these women away from the love of their life, even if he was a complete jerk. You [the victim] were still in love and you excuse all those things. My job is to help these woman and children to find their voice and be able to stand up for themselves.

Q: Have there been any bonds you’ve created with specific victims you’ve seen come through the shelter that have kind of stuck with you?

Miller: You know, yeah, there really have been. Actually one of the beautiful things about the WRC is that we get to see families graduate from the emergency shelter and into our Cornerstone program, which is transitional housing. This is an apartment for the family for up to two years. It’s an income based apartment, but the rent is capped at $100 a month. So, it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to really become independent. It’s another two years that they can work towards that. They’re close to us as well, so I get to see these children grow for another two years. So, yeah, there have definitely been families that have been in my life more because of the Cornerstone program.

It is a small town as well; rarely does a week go by that I don’t bump into a former client. You know, I was at Wade’s the other day and I saw a mom and her son [that had been clients previously]. He was probably like 12 months when he first came in. One of the effects of domestic violence on children is that he was kind of just shell shocked and he wouldn’t talk, he wasn’t babbling, hardly anything. Here he’s 2 ½ now and she looked wonderful; she was beaming and he was just chatting away, not that he remembered me, but it was just nice to see that. It’s the little successes like that that totally make it worth it, because there are definitely some hard days. And there are days where you don’t know if the work was worth it, but it’s all about planting a seed and hoping that somewhere along the way it will grow.

Q: So would you say that even if you only help one person substantially that that is still worth all the work you’ve done?

Miller: Oh, yeah, it is. You’ve got to look at it in the way that if you’ve help one mother, or one child or one family not get beat up one more time, then yeah, of course it’s worth it. 

Q: So what would you tell women, men and children that are in violent situations that don’t really know what to do how to get help?

Miller: The bottom line, the one message I would like to get across to a victim is that there is hope, but that it’s not easy. You know, like I said, it’s the business of heartbreak. We’re not asking you to leave [a violent situation], but we’re here as a support system for someone whose ready to leave that situation. Someone who’s had enough of the controlling, manipulative behavior; who’s had enough of someone beating them down with their fist and their words. But there is hope and there is a way out of it even when it seems like everyone is against you. Because a lot of times what we’ve seen, or at least what I’ve seen with women, is that they just feel like everyone’s against them.

One of the ways to control someone is to isolate them, and you can isolate someone by turning everyone in the family against that person. You know, going and spreading lies to everyone else in the support system about that one person which makes no one believe them and that’s another key issue but we always just believe the victim and it sounds simple, but it’s something that they don’t get a lot. You know, simply just being able to go to the emergency room with a black eye and be able to say ‘my husband did this’. That’s really not easy to do and a lot of times people are afraid to say something because they think no one’s going to believe them and what’s the point of revealing a huge secret like that if no one believes you? That’s how we deal with our clients, you know, what do you need? What can we help you do? You know, ‘cause not every ones ready to make that step and take that clean break and say ‘yeah, husband of 20 years, I’m done with you’; not everybody’s at that point when they first come to us.

And you know, there’s statistics that say it takes like up to seven times for a woman to successfully leave her abuser. And we’re seeing that it’s a cycle of violence for sure. We’re seeing women in this shelter now that are coming as mothers that came to the shelter with their mother as a child and now they’re grown up and finding themselves in the same situation. It’s wonderful that they know that we’re here, but it’s sad that they’re still in that cycle of violence.

Q: So what would you say to people that are victims of domestic or sexual violence, or know someone who’s a victim that they want to help?

Miller: Starting with just believing the victim, you know, fill in the blank, this happened. Just listening to them and believing them because essentially that’s giving that person control. If they have control over their story, if you believe them then they control the truth, do you know what I mean? Other ways to help is volunteering. We have a wonderful volunteer program where volunteers are responsible a majority of the time for answering our 24/7 crisis hotline. We also have an emergency advocate program where we send staff and volunteers to the hospitals to the child advocacy center at Radford University to respond to a victim of sexual assault. So if anyone goes to the hospital and says ‘you know I’ve been assaulted, I’ve been raped’ then we’re going to send someone in the middle of the night to be with them through that process. And that’s something that a community member can come here, receive that training for, and be that advocate. So that’s a wonderful way to help someone in an extreme time of need. Donations is a big deal, because like I said, part of the control thing is financial so a lot of the times women come to us and they have no source of income. It’s simple to hook someone up with food stamps, but food stamps do not provide personal care items or toilette paper. So we rely solely on the donations from the community to provide these items. They can be dropped off at this office any time Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. And of course monetary donations is a big help.

Q: What are three words to describe your experience working with the WRC so far?

Miller: Hmm, eye-opening, or enlightening actually. You know, I helped one of our mothers who was nine months pregnant and they were inducing her and her family couldn’t get here. So, I spent the night in the hospital with her and watched her have her child. Who would have ever thought two years ago that this job would lead me down that road, not me [laughs], so, it’s been enlightening. I’ve learned as much about myself as I have about the people that are actually in our community; so enlightening in the sense that I didn’t know that this was such a huge issue in the New River Valley. I mean, 125 children walk through our doors in one year, and those are just the ones that knew we were out there, the ones that accessed the service and actually made it to the shelter. We’re not talking about the other 125 children that are out there and that are living in a violent home.

Um, another word…I’d say humbling for sure. You go home and you think there’s so much that I take advantage of. When there’s a family that’s staying at the shelter and they came in with their set of clothes and that’s all they brought. So definitely it’s been humbling, and that’s ok, you know I think that everyone needs to be brought down a notch and realize that I don’t need all this extra stuff in my life sometimes. Sometimes simpler is better.

And I’d say it’s been inspiring. You know, to see a woman that’s been making $60,000 a year and she gave that up for the man that she loved who just turned out to be a worthless alcoholic that wanted to beat her and her 19-month-old daughter. She gave up that whole entire life that she had developed for herself and she was independent and then here sneaks up domestic violence and takes you by surprise and you’re left with no independence, no way to support your daughter, but the knowledge that you just have to get out of the situation. So it’s inspiring to see someone rebuild themselves to the point that they want to be at and to just fight through such odds.

You know, like I said, when you’re essentially homeless and you don’t have a car, and you’re pregnant again, so you have two children, you know, figuring out how to work and support your children after going through all that has got to be scary. So, it takes a lot of courage to pick up the phone and call our hot line and say ‘I need a place to stay’, because she’s used to a different lifestyle. You’re coming to a homeless shelter to live with 26 other women and children. I’m talking about one mother in particular here. She said ‘it really brought me down a notch’ is the way that she explained it. She thought she was better than all this, you know, she was a different person and this would never effect her, and here she is in the midst of it.

 

*Authors note: If you or someone you know is involved in a situation regarding domestic or sexual violence please call the Women’s Resource Center hot line at (540) 639-1123. You can also go to the website for more information: www.wrcnrv.org

Rewriting the Art Culture

Mike Allen is empathic. He spends his days off participating in the culture he spends his work days writing about. He doesn’t just make a living working at The Roanoke Times as a features writer covering the arts; he lives the arts.

Mike Allen is a voice. He is someone members of the community look to to help them spread the word about their projects. Whether that project is a play they’re producing or the release of a novel, Allen is there.

Mike Allen is, above all things, a genius. A genius in the sense that he’s managed to make a career composed of the things he loves; a career in which every day he is able to experience the very things he gets joy out of. How many people can say that?

Mike Allen from The Roanoke Times’ blog, Arts & Extras. Photo from Creative Commons.

 

After graduating from Virginia Tech and eventually obtaining his masters from what was then Hollins College (now Hollins University), Allen earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts and a master’s degree in creative writing. After spending three years unloading trucks after graduation, he began his livelihood at The Roanoke Times as an editorial assistant.

“I started at the very bottom,” he said.

After establishing himself at the paper, Allen eventually began to work as a police reporter. Allen had a county beat for a while and then worked for four years as a court reporter, which required him to drive to dozens of surrounding counties covering court cases.

“That was a great beat and was kind of an exhausting beat, too … there’s also a way in which I would say it was a little soul destroying because it involved being confronted every week with the absolute worst [things] one human being could do to another.”

After four years of court reporting, he was given the opportunity to cover the arts; a position he had applied for a few times in the past. This was something long awaited, for the arts was well-known territory for Allen.

Even though Allen writes for The Roanoke Times and has his own blog “Arts & Extras,” he also has a background in the field. He has participated in the local theater scene and enjoys writing fiction as well.

“I’m a writer, and I mean I don’t just write for the paper. I’m also somebody who writes fiction and poetry,” Allen said.

In 2009, Allen was a finalist for the Nebula Award from The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He also finished the second draft of his novel.

“An oversimplified way of putting it is that it’s kind of an Appalachian ghost story,” he said. He enjoys writing about science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Mike Allen reading from a book he edited, Clockwork Phoenix 2. Photo from Facebook.

Because of his involvement with the arts, he is able to write about them in a way that appeals to the people within the community. Allen works not as a critic of the arts, but more as an advocate.

“The thing about the arts beat of course is that, though I’m technically supposed to be a neutral party, there is an aspect to the job that is promoting what is here,” he said.

Allen often has people ask him to write about a show they’re putting on, a fundraiser they’re hosting or a musical piece they’ve composed. It’s his job to decide which of these he is going to include in his articles and blog.

“I tend to experience this beat as a cascade of press releases and story pitches that are dropped on me daily. There are some people that are more skilled at that than others. One of the challenges of the beat is to try to make sure that at least once in a while the quieter people get through.”

When asked if he had ever been bribed by someone to write about them on his blog, the room was silent. It seemed as though the question was one Allen had experience with.

“I don’t know if I would call it bribing, but I do get offered things that as a reporter I’m not supposed to accept on a frequent basis. I’m constantly having to tell people no, I can’t go have an expensive lunch with you or accept those front row tickets to a play.”

People see his coverage as an excellent source of getting seats filled for their play, or copies of their novel sold. Allen’s ability to filter out personal gain and focus solely on what he sees as art worth writing about shows a true passion for his work. It’s something Allen has been able to perfect.

After working in many different fields of journalism, Allen enjoys his days of covering the arts.

“I’m very lucky that I get to write about topics that, to me, are very personally interesting. There’s almost nothing not to like about this job.”

A New Life for Radford Greek Life

A New Life for Radford Greek Life
(Article from November 2011)
Written by: Kate Houser


Sitting at the front of his desk is an old name plate reading “Robert Marias: Greek Life and…”. The words that come after the “and” are covered in a piece of tan tape. With a bit of focusing and squinting, one would be able to read enough through the tape to reveal the bold letters: “Community Service”. This is because Robert’s job description was once “Greek Life and Community Service” at his previous institution of work at Kettering University in Michigan. He now holds the title of Assistant of Student Activities and Greek Life. Although he is strictly in charge of Greek life at RU and not the responsibilities of community service as well, he makes it clear that the work load is equally the same, if not even more.

Marias is new to Radford University Greek life, but in no way is he new to the Greek community. He began his college days at Villanova University in Pennsylvania where he was involved in many extracurricular activities such as the karate club, yearbook photographer, and student government. His interest in being involved in Greek life was originally very minimal. “I only went to a recruitment event because my roommate dragged me,” he said. It wasn’t until he met the brothers of the Sigma Nu fraternity that he realized he might be interested than he thought. Marias spoke about how the values he saw in those men where the same values he represented. He decided to embark on the journey of pledging and was initiated as a brother of Sigma Nu.

Years later, Marias is still just as dedicated to his decision to go Greek and says the benefits of being in a fraternity are never ending. He’s been to at least eight weddings of brothers and is called Uncle by the children of brothers. His experience in a fraternity not only gained him friends, but family as well. Marias said being in a fraternity gave him lifelong friendships as well as excellent connections. He was able to use his title of a Sigma Nu brother to gain valuable networking. “They looked at me with a deeper sense of respect,” he said.  With the exception to his current position and one other in the past, Marias can connect back all of his jobs to a Sigma Nu alumni from all parts of the country.

Using his years of experience working with fraternities and sororities, Marias has huge goals set for the Greek community at Radford. He feels as though the morale of within Greek life is down and the reputation has been negatively portrayed in both local and university media. Set out to get students involved and provide an opportunity for them to express their opinions, Marias created the “Greek 101” seminar. “This is not a presentation, it’s a dialogue,” he said. It’s a time to break down barriers between organizations and really communicate on similar issues within chapters. These seminars are unscripted and completely open for students to relate to one another about their Greek experience. One of his main goals is just that, to unify the Greek community.

Another one of his main goals for RU is to recruit the best of the best for chapters in the future. He wants to find the students that are involved in many other groups and organizations and get them interested in Greek life. This will create diversity within chapters, as opposed to all members being generally the same.

The Interfraternity Council (IFC) President, and brother of the Theta Chi fraternity, James Cho, has been able to work side by side with Marias. “It has been quite an experience working with Robert. I feel that we made a lot of progress together even with our contrasting views on topics here and there. I think that because we contrast at times, but we always end up with the best solutions or compromises to benefit the Greek Community,” he said. Marias is a strong voice within Greek life but is still willing to work with the members of the organizations to better themselves and allow their opinions and ideas to be recognized.

Marias wants to spend his time at RU focusing on the chapters that are doing their best to better themselves. He wants to put his attention mainly on building up the strongest chapters, as opposed to spending time focusing on the chapters that are not in the best standing. “I made a choice when I came to here, and maybe it’s because it’s a fresh start, but in the past we tend to spend a lot of time trying to pull the weakest members up to a standard. I made a choice that I was going to focus my time and energy focusing on only the best.”

He has a goal to spread the positive messages about being a part of a fraternity or sorority at RU. “I want students to promote the good they’re doing. No one’s going to tell our story unless we do. Greek life makes up 11% of Radford’s student population, and yet the good we do for the community is never recognized,” he said. Marias stressed the fact that he wants students not involved in Greek life to see the community service and philanthropy events that students involved do. “So many groups on campus provide the same things we can: leadership roles, new friendships, etc. But they don’t provide values or a sense of direction; that’s what Greek life provides.”

Robert stresses the fact that he’s determined to get chapters to remember and revive the qualities that their founders set decades ago. This is something that the President of the Panhellinic Council for sororities, Brandi Steele, commented on. “I think Robert’s main goals are to strengthen and unify our Greek Community by helping us get back to the basics of our founding values and ideals, and find new ways of doing things to make our presence more powerful and respected on campus.”

When speaking about the values that Greek life provides, Marias’s words showed true devotion and care to his duties with Radford’s Greek community.  His nights in the Greek life office last sometimes until 10 p.m. but he’s more than willing to do what it takes to improve the Greek community. He even has a goal to expand the community by bringing two new fraternities: Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Nu to Radford. He also has sights on creating two new sororities within the next few years as well.

James Cho summarizes the motivation and dedication that Marias has when he says, “Robert sees the true potential of the Greek Community here at Radford. He sees that we all want to be that prestigious Greek Community where we all thrive. He’s helping us do so by inspiring members to do and strive for more, but still allowing the Greek Community to choose their own path.”

Non-Smokers Against a Smoke Free Campus

Non-Smokers Against a Smoke Free Campus  – Radford University
(Article from December, 2010)
Written by: Kate Houser

            If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s walking to class and getting caught behind someone smoking a cigarette. The best part is that it always seems like they’re walking as if they’re on the moon at about the speed of a turtle. With their cigarette fitted perfectly between their middle and index finger, it rests ever so slightly at their side, with the occasional trip to their mouth for a brief fix. This, of course, is perfect for non-smokers like me, because not only do I get to inhale their smoke after they puff, but also while it’s just hanging there at their side burning on its own. This better contributes to the amount of secondhand smoke I get to inhale while walking a few steps behind them the same rate, unable to move around.

My walk to class proceeds to become almost like a game between the smoker and I. Realizing I’ve inhaled enough smoke and it’s time for me to move around, I step to the right and speed up a little in hopes of passing in front of them. Then, of course, at that exact moment they move a little to the right, unnoticing that they are blocking me from moving around and ruining any attempts at me advancing beyond the cloud of smoke. I fall back and exert an ever so brief and lady like “cough…cough….” They must realize this and so they fall back a little to the left and I continue with my trip to class. All you non-smokers would be surprised at how often we have to deal with the battle of the sidewalks with the smokers, but it’s a custom I’ve adapted too.  

As much as I don’t enjoy these little run-ins, I put up with them because smoking cigarettes is legal for pretty much everyone on this campus (this is me assuming there aren’t too many 15-year-old college students here).  I have friends who smoke, relative who smoke, even roommates who smoke; and it only bothers me if their secondhand smoke gets in my way. Even though it bothers me having to constantly fight clouds of smoke walking to class, I still wouldn’t want to take that freedom away from my fellow students.

 Recently, there have been rumors floating around campus about a new proposal to ban the smoking of cigarettes on Radford University’s campus. This ban would include both students and faculty. My question for you is as follows: would you selfishly enjoy the ability to breath in fresh air all the time, or would you put up with the small clouds of smoke that fill the air as you pass by a fellow student smoking a cig, just because you know it’s not fair to take that right from them?

I wouldn’t want someone telling me I couldn’t do something just because they didn’t want to. Yeah, the smoke bothers me, but I would feel like a total wet rag to support something like a smoke free campus. Just because I don’t smoke, doesn’t mean that other people don’t. Radford has already taken away drinking on campus even if you’re 21. Now they’re trying to take away smoking? I can’t imagine eating dinner at Dalton Dining Hall and having to watch one of my friends run across the street to dark side just to smoke a cig. It seems a little ridiculous to me, so in the meantime I’m going to continue to participate in my sidewalk wars with the smokers, and enjoy the company of my smoker friends on campus. Hey, I might even provide the lighter.