President’s Posts

Michael Rao, Ph.D.

Students are walking, riding bikes and chatting on the first day of class at VCU. Cabell Library is in the background.

Dear VCU community,

A warm welcome to the start of a semester filled with milestones, history and progress.

This fall, we welcome more than 8,000 new students to Virginia Commonwealth University, including 4,600 first-year students, the largest class in our history. In addition, the first-year class is minority majority at 55%. In all, 31,000 students are coming to VCU this semester to continue their education.

They will be fully supported by remarkable members of our faculty and staff and classmates who will make their transition to our university successful. This includes our team in Student Affairs, who provide services ranging from access, equity, tech support, veteran and military student services and counseling.

In this new year, we note the progress we have made together. Quest for Distinction, our recently completed strategic plan, called for us to work together to improve student retention and completion rates. I am pleased that VCU’s first-year student retention rate now stands at 86%. In addition, our six-year completion rate is 67%—higher than the national average. I am proud that we have also closed the graduation gap for underrepresented students. Our mission remains to provide students from all backgrounds with a world-class educational experience.

Our new strategic plan, Quest 2025: Together We Transform, will drive us to build on our successes and will hold us accountable to our mission and core values. It will help us continue our rise as a nationally prominent urban public research university.

This journey began five decades ago, and this marks VCU’s 50th year of educating, innovating, creating, healing and serving the Richmond region. VCU officially came into being July 1, 1968, when The Wayne Commission recommended merging the Medical College of Virginia and the Richmond Professional Institute into a single university focused on serving our urban area. I hope you will join me as we celebrate VCU’s 50th birthday together on Sept. 17 on The Compass.

At different points throughout the year, we will examine how much VCU has changed since 1968. On Nov. 30, I will host a forum called VCU 50: Commemorating History, where we will examine the evolution of our university, our community and our nation, and how we choose to commemorate our history. If you would like to present at the forum, I am accepting submissions through Sept. 5.

As we progress, so do the physical spaces required to meet the needs of our university and its people. To learn more about Facilities Management’s work to build premier facilities that match our premier talent, please visit the ONE VCU Master Plan site or follow them on Twitter.

Part of having a responsible footprint means working to reduce traffic and pollution in and around the Monroe Park and VCU Health campuses. I am pleased that we are partnering with GRTC to offer unlimited transportation access on any bus line, including the Pulse Bus Rapid Transit that services both downtown campuses and our clinical space at Willow Lawn.

And finally, the renovation of a beloved city park is nearing completion. Please join me in celebrating the reopening of Monroe Park with the Richmond community at 3 p.m. on Sept. 27.

Physical and reputational progress requires resources. I am proud that our largest capital campaign ever, the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, has reached a major milestone. To date, $637.9 million has been raised to support 261 endowed scholarships for our students, 72 new endowed faculty support and research funds and 52 endowed chairs and professorships. I am extremely grateful for the nearly 100,000 donors who have supported this campaign, including 29,857 last year alone. Their investment and belief in the work we do will benefit many generations to come.

VCU is ascending as a nationally prominent urban public research university because of the work we do together. We are diverse in background and beliefs but united by the common goals of shaping society through human development.

There is so much to experience at VCU.  Make it a great year!



Michael Rao

President, VCU and VCU Health System

Categories 21st-Century University, Community, Diversity, Health, News, Periodic update, To VCU
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