Message from the Provost

I begin this month’s academic report with a salute to some of VCU’s finest professors – the people whose work resides at the leading edge of the impressive and growing results I highlighted in last month’s academic report.

  • Congratulations to the inaugural class of National/International Recognition Award (NIRA) honorees! The class was announced earlier this month in a message to the university from President Rao, and will be celebrated at a reception in early November.
  • The NIRA is an important new way for VCU to show appreciation to professors who demonstrate excellence in their academic discipline, elevating not only their own profile but that of the entire university. Winners performed at the top of their academic unit and were selected from a list of faculty recommended by each dean. The NIRA includes a financial incentive.
  • I am inspired by the work these individuals are doing and am honored to call them colleagues.

VCU is making a strong bid to attract and even more top students from across Virginia and across the nation. 

  • The recently announced Guaranteed University Admissions opportunity extends to students who graduate high school with 3.5 or better grade point average or are among the top 10 percent of their graduating class. 
  • Announced in early October, this bold initiative has garnered significant media attention across Virginia and the nation.
  • This is the first university-wide program among Virginia’s R1 universities and is open to any qualifying student nationwide.

The initial phase of the One VCU Academic Repositioning Task Force is wrapping up and the conversations are only beginning. We will soon share with you the recommendations created by the faculty- and staff-led working groups on the task force web page, and the ways you can engage in what’s intended to be a large community conversation about these ideas for moving forward VCU’s academic enterprise.

Celebrating VCU Faculty

  • Nibir K. Dhar, Ph.D., Erdem Topsakal, Ph.D., and Ümit Özgür, Ph.D., electrical and computer engineering professors and heads of The Convergence Lab Initiative, have been awarded $9 million by the Department of Defense to bring together scientists, engineers and technicians with electro-optics, infrared, radio frequency and edge security specializations to solve pressing defense challenges for the United States.
  • Braden Goddard, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering, has been awarded a $5 million federal grant from the US Department of Energy to build a diverse STEM workforce. The award will fund the Minority Serving Institutions for Manufacturing Sustainable Isotopes and Mainstreaming Scientific Inclusion project, which will focus on evaluating multiple methods of isotope production with a goal of developing a new, more efficient method.
  • RaJade M. Berry-James, Ph.D., the senior associate dean of faculty and academic affairs at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, and a 2023 NIRA honoree, has been inaugurated as the president of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA) for the 2023-24 term. NASPAA is the world’s leading accrediting institution for public affairs education.
  • Courtney Holmes, Ph.D., an associate professor and associate chair in the Department of Rehabilitation Counseling in the VCU College of Health Professions and a certified clinical trauma professional; Gary Cuddeback, Ph.D., interim dean, associate dean for research and professor in the VCU School of Social Work; Molly Hyer, Ph.D., director of research development and innovation at the Institute for Women’s Health; and Sarah Jane Brubaker, Ph.D., professor and assistant chair of criminal justice programs in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs are jointly launching a project to provide supported employment, trauma counseling, peer support and case management for youth and young adults with behavioral health disorders who are transitioning out of a Richmond-area juvenile correctional facility.
  • Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D., director of Community Media at the Institute for Contemporary Art, is hosting the second annual RESONATE Podcast Festival the first weekend of November. The event’s 350 spots have already been snatched up by locals and podcast enthusiasts from audio production hubs up and down the East Coast. The festival  includes presentations from skilled producers, live performances, art exhibitions and pitch feedback meetings – appealing to local students, producers and hobbyists.

Leadership Update

D’Arcy Mays, Ph.D., has agreed to serve as the interim dean for University College, effective November 15, 2023. Dr. Mays, who began working at VCU 30 years ago, currently serves as professor and founding chair of the Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research in the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences. He also recently concluded his service as interim associate vice provost for Institutional Research and Decision Support in the Office of the Provost, where he demonstrated a keen understanding of what makes academic programs efficient and successful for the student learners they serve.

Current Initiatives

  • We have updated the guidance on course modalities offered last month by our Academic Affairs office. The changes made to this guidance are a direct result of conversations and engagement with stakeholders across VCU’s campuses. The revised guidance provides information for handling faculty absences in a manner that is consistent, flexible and equitable.
  • The University Undergraduate Curriculum Committee is making encouraging progress in their work to implement VCU’s racial literacy requirement. I am grateful to all the faculty members who are working on this important implementation– especially those who are proposing concepts for additional courses – so that the university can proceed while supporting student success.
  • The VCU Division of Student Affairs (DSA) is seeking faculty perspectives on how they can continuously improve their services and support student success, including more and deeper collaborations with university faculty members. Please share your thoughts with DSA through a brief survey by noon, November 10, 2023.
  • Academic Affairs plans to update the Faculty Senate at its December 5, 2023 meeting regarding the SACSCOC decennial review, which is underway, to include feedback from the SACSCOC offsite review team and the university’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).

Quest 2028 Data Point

Did you know… VCU’s strategic plan, Quest 2028, contains a student success goal of increasing the retention rate of first-year students to 90%. Accordingly, the university has increased that first-year student retention rate in each of the past five years, now exceeding 85%.

Source: VCU IRDS

Categories Monthly Academic Update