VCU office of the provost

Message from the Provost

We seek your thoughts, reactions, and ideas on what’s needed for VCU’s academic future.

Six months ago, we created the One VCU Academic Repositioning Task Force to examine the university’s academic enterprise and recommend ways that it can be more exciting academically, more efficient financially, and increasingly relevant in preparing our graduates for success  in a rapidly-changing world.

Dozens of faculty and staff members served on that task force, working hard to examine our structure, that of other institutions, and the evolving demands of the world of work.

Together, they have been outstanding, submitting to me 100 recommendations.

Throughout the more than two years that I have served as VCU’s provost I have been both impressed and delighted by what happens when we tap into the collective intellect of the VCU community. The task force recommendations are a powerful reminder of why that is.

As we thank the task force for what they accomplished during this initial phase, we carry the conversations forward to our campus communities. I am planning to host unit-level conversations early in the spring semester. Meanwhile, I invite you to examine the recommendations created by our faculty and staff colleagues, and offer your thoughts on the ideas that really stand out to you. You can also offer additional ideas on the web page too.

Through our campus community conversations, university leadership will identify the priority ideas that they will advance through the university’s shared governance process. As I lead these conversations, and personally consider the recommendations, these are the questions I will asking:

  • How does the recommendation enhance VCU’s structure as a pipeline of program offerings more exciting for learners, more relevant for the fields in which they seek to work, and better preparation for career success?
  • Does the proposed recommendation effectively amplify opportunities for transdisciplinary research and scholarship and/or fostering community engagement, thereby strengthening VCU’s research impact in areas that save lives and lift the lives of all people?
  • How does the recommendation increase the financial efficiency of VCU’s academic enterprise? That means both saving money where possible and investing strategically where needed.
  • Does the recommendation protect VCU’s existing named schools? 

I have shared with you previously the perfect storm facing the higher education sector today. The combination of population changes, technological innovation, and increased competition, means we face unprecedented challenges as both a sector, and as a university. 

I’m confident, however, that the faculty- and staff-created ideas leading this process, and the conversations that will occur throughout our campuses, will position VCU to not simply survive that future but to thrive in it and to lead in it.

Thank you for reviewing the task force recommendations and for your contributions that make VCU the uncommon and unstoppable university that it is today.

Celebrating VCU Faculty

  • Mignonne C. Guy, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has been selected by the Society for Research on Nicotine & Tobacco as the recipient of the 2024 Pebbles Fagan Award, which honors those who have made outstanding contributions to public health and minoritized communities through health equity research. Guy’s research examines how systemic racism is reproduced in academia and in biomedical settings, perpetuating health inequities.
  • Curtis Sessler, M.D., a professor in the VCU School of Medicine, has been named VCU Innovator of the Year for creating the ‘world standard’ for determining ICU patient comfort.
  • The MAVEN project, led by Dewey Taylor, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences, and team of faculty from several departments: Sunny Jung Kim, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Health Behavior and Policy at VCU’s School of Population Health; Gabriela León-Pérez, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Sociology; Oyita Udiani, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Mathematics; Jan Rychtar, Ph.D., a professor of Mathematics; Oleg Korenok, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Economics at VCU’s School of Business, and Daniel Stephenson, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Economics, has received a National Science Foundation grant of more than $660,000 to investigate vaccine inequity and acceptance.
  • Christopher Whyte, Ph.D., assistant professor of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness in the L. Douglas Wilder School School of Government and Public Affairs, published a recent opinion piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch regarding the intersection of generative artificial intelligence and institutions of higher education.
  • Anthony Faber, Ph.D., associate professor in the Philips Institute for Oral Health Research at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry and Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, is being awarded four grants totaling more than $6.3 million to aid in the development of new targeted therapies for neuroblastoma and synovial sarcoma, two rare cancers primarily affecting children and young adults.

Leadership Update

Jill Gordon, Ph.D., assistant vice provost for Faculty Affairs, will soon leave VCU to become the dean of the Levin College of Public Affairs and Education at Cleveland State University.  Jill recently served as the interim senior vice provost for faculty affairs. In the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, she served as the senior associate dean of faculty and academic affairs, interim associate dean for research, interim director of graduate student service and advising, and chair of the criminal justice program. Her research interests center on correctional employees’ attitudes toward work environment and culture, correctional program effectiveness and correctional staff workforce perceptions.

Dominic Asmall Willsdon, Ph.D., associate professor of Art Education and executive director of the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, will be stepping down in January, after five years at the ICA. He has accepted a position as executive director of an international film organization based in Los Angeles. Since joining the ICA in late 2018, he has helped them present a wide-ranging program of exhibitions, performances, talks, screenings, and online projects. They have also shown artists from all over the world—notably, from Africa and Latin America—as well as VCU faculty artists, designers, and performers. 

Current Initiatives

  • It’s not too late to be part of the VCU’s December University Wide Commencement Exercise! Event organizers are hoping to engage more faculty members for the Saturday, December 9 event. Register today. We look forward to seeing you there.
  • Virginia’s inaugural lab school, the VCU x CodeRVA Lab School has officially begun. Gov. Glenn Youngkin recently announced it along with other similar partnerships. The VCU x CodeRVA Lab School will help provide an innovative computer science-focused comprehensive high school education to a diverse student body at the CodeRVA Regional High School, serve as a training site for teacher residents, and afford professional learning opportunities for educators across the state
  • VCU’s innovative flipping of “office hours” into “student hours” among some STEM faculty members is earning national media attention. Inside Higher Education reports on the promise this new model holds, especially for first-generation students. “Rather than hosting office hours one-on-one in a faculty member’s office, Virginia Commonwealth University organizes gatherings for multiple faculty members in a common space, making the experience more welcoming to students.”
  • Faculty referrals have accounted for more than half of the 744 students served by the Office of Student Advocacy since it opened last summer. The office has helped students address needs ranging from food and housing insecurity to complex medical and mental health conditions affecting wellbeing and academic performance. Thank you for being such strong partners in encouraging self-advocacy and help-seeking behaviors in the VCU community. 
  • Students can now schedule appointments for University Counseling Services online.
  • VCU Academic Affairs is seeking proposals to create innovative, credit-inclusive digital badges that integrate into credit courses. This effort builds on VCU’s success with non-credit digital badges. The link explains how to offer your proposal which will be processed by VCU Continuing and Professional Education and reviewed by members of a new Instructional Innovation Council.
  • Beginning March 1, 2024, VCU will restore the university’s standard tenure clock extensions policy which does not include extension provisions created to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see the post on the Office of the Provost blog for further details.
  • We appreciate all the faculty and staff members who made the time to join the information sessions on our Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which is a critical part of our upcoming SACSCOC decennial review. The QEP team remains open to questions and comments on the plan even if you couldn’t make one of the information sessions. Visit the QEP website to learn more about it.
  • The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities is lauding VCU innovation. The university won the APLU’s 11th annual Innovation & Economic Prosperity Talent Award for its “particularly innovative and exemplary” framework for regional economic development and engagement.
  • In its inaugural awards program, the employment platform Handshake has selected Virginia Commonwealth University as a winner of its Career Spark Award, which recognizes the leading career centers on college campuses nationwide. Of more than 1,400 higher education institutions that use Handshake, VCU is among only 31 to be honored in the program.
  • VCU’s new ethics and compliance management system, Convercent, is now available for reporting Outside Professional Activities and other potential conflicts of interest. Please encourage faculty members to use Convercent, rather than the previous OPA tool, anytime a conflict or reportable outside professional activity occurs. The first annual questionnaire prompting disclosures will be sent out to all faculty via email on December 13th. For further information please see VCU’s updated Conflict of Interest and Commitment policy, the updated OPA reporting guidelines maintained by the Office of the Provost, and a user guide to the new Convercent tool.

Quest 2028 Data Point

Did you know… The class of first-time students who entered VCU this past fall not only set a new university record with a 1.2% year-over-year increase, it bucked a national trend of first-time freshman cohorts around the country dropping this fall by more than 6% among four-year public institutions.

Categories Monthly Academic Update