Giving artists’ voices a place to grow

Ashley Hawkins (B.F.A.’07/A; M.P.A.’13/GPA; Cert.’13/GPA) fell in love with printmaking as a student in the VCU School of the Arts. She wanted Richmond, Virginia, to be a place where an education in art was more accessible and where artists would develop and want to stay. She now runs Studio Two Three, a printmaking and private studio space where over 100 artists work and hundreds more visit and take classes.

VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD Chapter receives Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award

From left, RVA GOLD Chapter members Joseph Stemmle (B.S.’13/B), Timmy Nguyen (B.S.’11/B) and Khanh Burks (B.S.’13/B); Gov. Ralph Northam; and Allison Toney, associate director of outreach and engagement, Amy Beck, executive director of alumni outreach and engagement, and Josh Hiscock, associate vice president for alumni relations, from the VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD Chapter has been honored with the 2018 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award for Outstanding Education Organization.

VCU Alumni’s Richmond alumni chapter received the award April 10 from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for making volunteering a key priority in its initiatives, from leading the charge against hunger in Virginia and delivering hot meals to area veterans to taking Richmond students back-to-school shopping and writing cards for overseas military troops. The chapter represents more than 65,000 VCU alumni who live in the Richmond metro area.

“VCU is proud of our RVA GOLD alumni chapter,” said Joshua I. Hiscock, associate vice president for alumni relations. “The value of engaging in service within the community was instilled in these leaders as students and continues to be a priority and passion for them as alumni. The RVA GOLD Chapter and its leaders are role models for fellow alumni and are a positive force for change within the greater Richmond community.”

One of the chapter’s largest efforts, the Alumni Charity Challenge, was launched in 2013 as a friendly competition among colleges and universities to see which alumni group could collect the most canned goods for FeedMore, Central Virginia’s core hunger-relief organization. Since its inception, the challenge has resulted in the donation of nearly 79,000 pounds of canned goods.

Douglas Pick, president and CEO of FeedMore, said he can’t imagine “a finer example of a volunteer group that exponentially leverages the energy of a community toward helping their fellow citizens in need.”

“Our VCU Alumni friends have been able to harness the passion and pride of alumni from now 30 different colleges toward some extraordinary results,” Pick said. “Their humble beginnings started with seven schools in 2013 collecting 2,776 pounds. This past year, they collected an amazing 48,355 pounds. The excitement and energy at the event is something to behold. It truly brings back faith that the world is still a good place.”

VCU received one of nine 2018 volunteer awards presented by Northam at the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. “These individuals, organizations and companies are wonderful examples of how we can all impact our communities,” the governor said. “Their selfless acts have made a real difference to so many lives across Virginia.”

The awards are presented by the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and the Virginia Department of Social Services’ Office on Volunteerism and Community Services on behalf of the Office of the Governor. These awards have recognized exceptional volunteer service in Virginia for more than 20 years. Visit to learn more.

From the Archives: VCU history alumna Nicole Kappatos digs up great stories from Richmond’s past for the Richmond Times-Dispatch

‘I am here to share the archives with the world and with Richmond,’ said Nicole Kappatos, newsroom researcher and archivist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Have you heard the story of how in the summer of 1935 Richmond was enthralled by reports of a monster named “Elmer” that was thumping under the floorboards and behind the walls of a Grace Street row house on what is now Virginia Commonwealth University’s campus?

How about when a lion, “Tricky Gilbert,” escaped from a circus parade in 1934 and rampaged through Richmond neighborhoods before being shot to death by two local men and city police?

Or what about the house built in 1895 on Sharp’s Island in the James River, just off the 14th Street Bridge, that served as a family’s bizarre vacation getaway in the 1950s?

These stories – and many more – have been brought back to life by the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s newsroom researcher and archivist, Nicole Kappatos (M.A.’14/H&S).

Read more.

Reunion: A reason to smile

Pediatric dentist aims to make her first class reunion one to remember

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

This year marks five years since Lindsey North, D.D.S. (D.D.S.’13/D) graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry. This is her first class reunion.

Each year, VCU’s health sciences schools — allied health professions, dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy — celebrate Reunion Weekend and invite five-year classes back to campus. When the chance arose to be involved in planning the event as a class chair, North was first to raise her hand and volunteer.

Reunion is the School of Dentistry’s most important alumni engagement activity. In a five year reunion cycle, more than 20 percent of alumni celebrating class reunions come back to their school. Having input from both a class chair and class committee is crucial to the event’s success, says Gloria Callihan, associate dean and director of development and alumni relations for the School of Dentistry.

“[Planning reunion] is a team effort, and the class chair is the glue that keeps the process running smoothly,” Callihan says. “Bringing them together for fun, fellowship and forays back into the school and labs rekindles memories and touches their hearts.”

This isn’t North’s first time organizing an event for her class. As a student, she worked with her classmates to organize the Miles for Smiles 5K that benefited the school’s Missions of Mercy project. As a Reunion class chair, she helped plan events such as the Molar Roller Student and Alumni Bike Ride, the annual golf tournament, the Class of 2013 party and other fundraising activities. She’s also had the chance to meet with current students and see how the school has changed over time.

“I wanted to find a way to get more involved since I moved back to Richmond [Virginia],” she says. “I haven’t seen some of my classmates since commencement, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.”

After graduating from VCU in 2013 with a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, North completed a residency in pediatric dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she learned to care for patients with complex medical issues, developmental disabilities and children with anxiety or fear of the dentistry setting or oral sedation. She practiced in both Chicago and Charlottesville, Virginia, before returning to Richmond in late 2016.

Since then, she’s reconnected with fellow VCU graduates and friends through Richmond Dental Society meetings and other VCU events but, for North, helping with Reunion Weekend is special. The festivities start this weekend, and she’s excited to reconnect with classmates, celebrate their accomplishments and catch up for the first time in years.

“The longer we’re in practice, the more pride we have in our education from VCU,” North says. “I hope that we’ve made it a memorable event for everyone.”

NSF awards VCU a $1.2M grant to train math and science teachers for the Richmond region

Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the School of Education and an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering, is part of the team working on the Noyce Phase III project.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to a Virginia Commonwealth University scholarship program that recruits science, technology, engineering and math students and trains them to serve as secondary school math and science teachers in the Richmond region.

The grant to the Noyce Scholarship program at the VCU School of Education is meant to help address a longstanding shortage of STEM teachers.

It will provide 25 scholarships, stipends and fellowships for students interested in pursuing teacher training in mathematics and science. The project will fund 12 STEM majors and 13 Masters of Teaching students over five years.

Read more.

Changing the next generation of pharmacists

Lauren Caldas, Pharm.D., BCACP (Pharm.D.’11/P), honed her commitment to community service as a student in the VCU School of Pharmacy, when she developed a healthy-living program for diabetics at her church. After residency, she helped patients manage their medications and save money at a Kroger Marketplace pharmacy. She now shares her expertise at VCU as an assistant pharmacy professor and at CrossOver Healthcare Ministry as a clinical pharmacist to Central Virginia’s underserved and uninsured.

VCU professors join elite biomedical engineering group

Three Virginia Commonwealth University professors have joined the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, an elite group that comprises the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers nationally.

AIMBE inducted Gregory Buck, Ph.D., of the VCU School of Medicine, and B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’00/,H&S) and Lukasz Kurgan, Ph.D., both of the VCU School of Engineering, into its prestigious College of Fellows Class of 2018 on Monday at a formal induction ceremony during AIMBE’s 27th annual meeting.

These inductions bring the university’s total number of AIMBE Fellows to 12.

Read more.

‘I can get a degree in that?’ A look at some of the unique programs you can study at VCU.

VCU offers a myriad of academic programs, many of which are unique in Virginia.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s diverse, urban environment and focus on multiple disciplines — 217 degree and certificate programs in all — lead to a wide variety of career paths. Students can learn to do anything from delivering babies to designing imaginary robot armies for the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

Read more about the innovative and out-of-the-box academic programs VCU offers.

VCU Alumni launches class giving campaign

A new initiative at Virginia Commonwealth University aims to get students thinking about giving back to their alma mater before they graduate.

The I ♥ VCU Challenge: Class Giving Campaign invites members of the Class of 2018 to commemorate their graduation year with a $20.18 gift to support a fund of their choice.

Kejdi Abazi, who will graduate this spring with a degree in health, physical education and exercise science, made a gift to the class giving campaign during its soft launch in December.

“Every student has been supported by a donation at one point or another during their years here, so I think it’s important for us to pay it forward and make sure that future students have the same opportunities that we’ve had,” she says.

The campaign is set to run throughout the spring semester but will receive a boost April 9-13, when members of Students Today Alumni Tomorrow sponsor Class Giving Week. As part of the initiative, VCU Alumni has unveiled a new website,, to explain the different ways students can support the university and make a gift online. Members of STAT will table daily at convenient locations across campus, equipped with laptops and tablets for students to view the website, decide how to designate their support and then make their donation.

“I always knew I would become a donor to VCU one day, but I thought I would have to give thousands of dollars for it to really count,” says Abazi, who is a member of STAT. “This campaign helped me understand that even a gift of just $20.18 can have an impact. Once I realized that, I knew I didn’t have to wait until I graduated – I could start right now.”

The I ♥ VCU Challenge: Class Giving Campaign is organized by VCU Alumni and the Office of Annual Giving. Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations Joshua Hiscock explains that the class giving campaign is a great opportunity for students like Abazi, who want to give back to the university but wonder how much of a difference they can make with a gift within their budget.

“One student’s gift of $20.18 may seem small, but consider how powerful that amount becomes when many individuals join together to give,” he says. “Whether it is giving to scholarships or student organizations, every gift of every amount matters and can open doors for students, providing new opportunities that could transform someone’s life.”

To learn more about the 2018 class giving campaign, contact Michael P. Andrews (M.S.’05/E), executive director of annual giving, at (804) 828-0236 or, or visit

A teaching assistantship in Ivory Coast is the latest adventure for this VCU Fulbright scholar

Tyler Tresslar, pictured here rock climbing in Cape Town, South Africa, is one of seven VCU alumni studying abroad as part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. (Courtesy photo)

For someone who didn’t do too well when he started college, Tyler Tresslar (B.S.’17/B) has come a long way.

The 27-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University graduate is a 2017-18 Fulbright scholar with an English teaching assistantship in Ivory Coast.

“I came to VCU as a transfer student, having not done too well [in] my first attempt [at the University of New Mexico],” said Tresslar, who grew up in Fredericksburg and moved around often. “I [had gone] back to community college to get my grades up, then transferred to VCU. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly how I ended up at VCU. It seemed like the obvious choice as a transfer student wanting to study business. Looking back, it was definitely the right choice. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities at another school.”

Read more.