Riding into a new role

Headshot of Susan Ross

Susan Ross (M.Ed.’74/E) takes the lead as president of the VCU Alumni Riding Rams

Although Susan Ross (M.Ed.’74/E) has lived many places in the U.S. and overseas, the Richmond, Virgina, native moved back home six years ago and says this time, it’s for good. She grew up with wheels beneath her feet so it’s no surprise that she found another home with the VCU Alumni Riding Rams. Recently, she spoke about her love for cycling and her plans for the group as its second-only president. 

What did you study at VCU, and what fond memories do you have from your days as a student?

I earned a master’s in counseling from VCU in 1974, and I also have a master’s in social work from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. I practiced medical social work in Richmond at VCU Medical Center and at Bon Secours before retiring in 2018.

Perhaps my fondest memories as a student at VCU are the people I met — other students as well as staff and faculty members. These innovative, creative people are lifelong friends and have enriched my life immensely. Of course, VCU was considerably smaller when I attended than it is now. I was energized by studying in a thriving, urban community. It was the perfect environment for me.

How did you get into cycling, and what do you enjoy most about it?

I can barely remember a time when I was not passionate about cycling, beginning with my first tricycle left by Santa under the Christmas tree. I followed a developmental trajectory known to most: tricycle, two-wheeler with training wheels, two-wheeler with pedal brakes and increasingly larger frames as I grew. As a free-range child in the early ’60s, bicycles represented freedom, independence and adventure. Those feelings remain true for me even today. By the way, I am still riding the same 10-speed, steel-frame bike I used as a student at VCU!

Tell us about your experience participating in the annual VCU Alumni and Friends Bike Ride. 

When I moved back to Richmond six years ago, cycling became a social lifeline. I had known Dr. Henry Rhone, former VCU vice provost, from my time as a graduate student. An avid cyclist himself, Dr. Rhone connected me with the Riding Rams. Through him, I met and became friends with Rhonda Hall in VCU’s Office of Career Services. Henry and Rhonda spearheaded the Riding Rams, so I owe them both a debt of gratitude. Each year I look forward to the VCU Alumni and Friends Bike Ride as the “official kickoff” of my riding season. The ride is also an excellent way to meet people and promote VCU to the community.

As the new president of the Riding Rams, please share some of what you hope to accomplish leading this group. 

I would like for the Riding Rams to reach out to more students through organized cycling events throughout the year, promote the Riding Rams at various campus events and support activities along the Richmond-to-Williamsburg Capital Trail. I also see a benefit to strengthening our alliance with other community cycling groups such as the Richmond Area Bicycling Association. 

Any words of wisdom for cyclists who are missing group rides because of the pandemic? 

Virtually all public health guidelines acknowledge the value of outdoor activity for both physical and mental well-being. That said, the CDC and the Office of the Governor of Virginia have issued clear guidelines for social distancing and responsible practices to limit the risk of contracting COVID-19. Individuals unfamiliar with these recommendations should refer to cdc.org and virginia.gov for detailed guidance and recommendations.