Flagship scholarship program established at VCU’s School of Engineering by C. Kenneth Wright

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering has received a $5 million founding gift from longtime benefactor C. Kenneth Wright to establish a scholarship fund for undergraduate students.

The Wright Engineering Access Scholarship Program will become the school’s flagship scholarship program to provide need- and merit-based awards to a broad base of students, including community college transfers. Wright’s gift is the largest scholarship gift in the school’s 21-year history.

When fully implemented, the Wright Engineering Access Scholarship will reach hundreds of students every year and provide resources to help promote a broad range of high-value opportunities in the engineering profession. The new program provides expanded resources to attract and retain the best-qualified students, regardless of financial need, and will complement existing programs to help recipients reduce or even eliminate loan indebtedness.

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VCU Libraries exhibition showcases incredible medical, scientific illustrations by VCUarts students, alumni

Hannah Huddle (B.F.A.’16/A), a 2016 graduate of the School of the Arts, created this study of a beetle specimen found in Virginia Beach.

A new art show at the Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University is featuring medical and scientific illustrations by students and alumni of the Department of Communication Arts in the School of the Arts.

“Intersections II” features the work of 16 students and alumni of the Department of Communication Art’s scientific and preparatory medical illustration track, which requires a rigorous set of science courses hosted by the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences and VCU Life Sciences in addition to their art courses.

The exhibition, which opens today, is free and open to the public at Tompkins-McCaw Library, located on VCU’s MCV campus at 509 N. 12th St. Images from “Intersections II” also will be displayed on the James Branch Cabell Library Big Screen beginning Monday, Feb. 27.

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VCU first Virginia university to offer interprofessional care coordination certificate

The new post-baccalaureate program will provide health care professionals with strategies to become effective care coordinators for those with complex health needs.

A new post-baccalaureate graduate certificate program at Virginia Commonwealth University will provide health care professionals with strategies to become effective care coordinators for individuals with complex health needs. The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia this week approved the workforce development initiative, which will be offered through the university’s Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences. It is the first care coordination program in Virginia to be offered with an interprofessional focus and only one of a handful of such programs nationwide.

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Beatrice Wynn’s election in 1966 as RPI’s Harvest Ball queen attracted national attention

Beatrice Wynn Bush stands in front of Shafer Street Playhouse, where she spent much of her time as a drama student.
Allen Jones, University Marketing

Beatrice Wynn Bush (B.F.A.’69/A) decided to attend Richmond Professional Institute in 1966 because she was drawn to the theater department. She liked its assortment of courses and knew the program would offer a strong foundation for her to pursue her already avid interest in acting. However, she received a major shock when she stepped foot on campus. The department had not yet been integrated. She would be its first black student.

“When I figured that out, I got a little worried,” she said. “I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.”

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For the greater good: Alumnus Tim Ford is bringing changes to palliative care

By Anthony Langley

“I didn’t even know that [chaplaincy] was an option for me,” says Tim Ford (M.S.’02/AHP), staff chaplain for the Thomas Palliative Care Unit at the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center. “One day in [graduate school], a professor said, ‘Some of your classmates are thinking about becoming chaplains,’ and I said, ‘We can do that?’ It was eye-opening.”

Ford, a Buddhist chaplain, began to study the teachings of Buddhism after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland. Realizing he wanted to study the practice academically, he enrolled in a graduate program Naropa University in Colorado, founded by a Buddhist teacher in 1974. It was during the latter half of his studies there that he first experienced chaplaincy.

“A friend and I decided to intern as hospice chaplains that semester,” he says. “If I hadn’t, I would have never discovered how much I loved the work.”

He completed a master’s degree in religious studies focused on engaged Buddhism at Naropa, but opted not to follow the traditional Buddhist studies path, which would take him next to a doctorate degree. Instead, Ford decided he wanted to train as a chaplain and enrolled at the VCU School of Allied Health Professions to earn a master’s in patient counseling with a chaplain certification concentration.

During his studies, he worked with Massey, home to one of the nation’s flagship programs for palliative care, a specialized type of medical care for people with life-limiting illnesses. Palliative care providers focus on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness to improve quality of life for patients and their families. Ford’s experiences in hospice care and the one-on-one connection he could have with his patients drew him to the field. When he graduated from VCU in 2002, he initially returned to hospice care in the Richmond, Virginia, community because there wasn’t a palliative care chaplain position at the university at the time.

“Even though I went off to do hospice, I still kept in touch with the friends I had in the palliative unit,” Ford says. “When they finally did create the chaplain position, I was first in line.”

In 2006, Ford joined Massey’s Thomas Palliative Care Unit, becoming the nation’s first full-time palliative care chaplain. In addition to counseling patients, Ford is an instructor in the School of Allied Health Professions’ patient counseling department and works, as part of Massey’s research team, to push the profession forward.

“If we found barriers that stopped us from helping a patient, we’d publish our materials to gain insight from others, and likewise, when we found something that worked, we wanted other universities to be able to try it out as well,” Ford says. “It wasn’t enough to be bedside with one patient. We had to work empirically, objectively and consistently.”

As the palliative care field has evolved and adopted a more clinical approach, Ford briefly considered focusing on performance improvement at the unit but changed his mind after realizing he’d only be helping one system. By broadening his focus, he could alter his entire field and bring advances to the palliative care units across the country.

To achieve that goal, Ford applied for and received one of eight prestigious Chaplaincy Research Fellowships in 2016 through the Transforming Chaplaincy Program supported by the John Templeton Foundation and coordinated through Rush University. The fellowship allows him to complete a two-year, research-focused Master of Public Health, which he is earning at VCU’s School of Medicine.

While his overall research focuses on clinical spirituality and how it can affect health outcomes, Ford is working alongside Brian Cassel, Ph.D., director of analytic services at Massey, to study advanced care planning and the financial impact palliative care can have on families.

“The great thing about working with Tim is that he already has the characteristics necessary to become a successful researcher: innovative thinking, attention to detail, persistence and the desire to work collaboratively on multidisciplinary projects,” Cassel says.

This semester, the pair plan to publish several articles about the issues at the intersection of public health and end-of-life care, as well as about public knowledge and attitudes toward advance care planning.

“By providing the public with resources about advanced planning, they’ll be better informed about the choices they have available and have autonomy over the care they’ll receive,” Ford says. “I’m glad to be a part of this, and I know great things will come from it.”

GRTC honors VCU alumnus Nathan Burrell

Nathan Burrell at the James River, not far from the park system’s offices.
Photos by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs

Starting as an intern from Virginia Commonwealth University, Nathan Burrell (B.S.’04/H&S) has blazed a trail to oversee the 400-acre James River Park System, which draws 1.4 million visitors each year.

The park, which includes areas on both sides of the river, and islands in between, offers mountain biking and hiking trails, rock climbing, fishing spots, river rapids, beach access and more.

In his role as JRPS park manager, Burrell has focused on strengthening community ties and opportunities to embrace the river, including for VCU students and researchers.

“I have a leadership role here in the city, but it really is the community that supports and backs up everything I’ve done in my 15-year career here since I graduated from VCU,” he said.

This week, you can find Burrell’s name in LED lights all over town. The GRTC Transit System is honoring him as a local history-maker during Black History Month. Burrell is one of two VCU graduates to be recognized by the transit system. Alumnae Karen Payne-Woods, along with her two brothers, will be honored Feb. 19-25.

“GRTC Honors Nathan Burrell” is displayed on bus destination signs.

“It’s pretty awesome, it’s definitely not something I expected,” Burrell said. “Like my wife, said, ‘They put you up there with Maggie Walker!’ I’m humbled by it.”

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VCU School of Business recognized by AACSB International for driving innovation in business education

The world’s largest global education network has recognized a Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business program as an innovation that inspires. Monday at its 2017 Deans Conference, AACSB International unveiled 35 innovations that represent critical work being done by business schools to better their communities and society at large. The VCU School of Business was recognized for its artist-in-residence program, in which celebrated artist Noah Scalin helped the school institute its new strategic plan, and its effort to drive the future of business through the power of creativity.

“It’s wonderful that the School of Business recognizes the transformative power of art,” Scalin said. “The opportunity for connection, collaboration and dialogue allows the students to have a more in-depth learning experience, which will not only enhance their classroom experiences, but their lives beyond the school’s walls as well.”

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Brandcenter alumni shine on massive Super Bowl stage

Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter alumni once again played their part in the annual spectacle that is the Super Bowl, contributing their expertise and talent to the creation of a bevy of commercials that aired around the world during Sunday’s broadcast.

As in past years, the Brandcenter, part of the School of Business, was well-represented in the parade of big-budget ads that serve as an entertaining aside to the big game itself. Ultimately, 11 Brandcenter alumni had a hand in nine of the commercials that aired during Super Bowl LI.

Here are this year’s ads with Brandcenter ties.


Making headlines: VCU journalism students are covering the General Assembly for 90 news outlets and feeding stories to the Associated Press

On a recent morning at the General Assembly, a Virginia Senate subcommittee considered legislation backed by the oil and gas industry that would keep chemical recipes used in fracking confidential as trade secrets. Among the lobbyists, activists and others observing the debate, Virginia Commonwealth University senior journalism major Tyler Hammel was listening carefully and taking notes.

Hammel, who was covering the meeting as part of the Capital News Service program of VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, quickly filed a news article about the meeting, “Panel amends and OKs bills on hiding fracking chemicals,” which was published by the The Daily Progress in Charlottesville and RVA Hub in Richmond.

“Covering the General Assembly is pretty hectic but rewarding,” Hammel said. “It’s almost like triage in a way because there’s no way you can possibly cover everything, so you have to make decisions about what is most important to you and what you think will get the most attention.”

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VCU College of Humanities and Sciences to expand faculty with focus on migration, big data, LGBTQ studies

The College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University announced this week that it will hire faculty specializing in three key areas — migration studies with a focus on Latin America, big data science and LGBTQ studies.

The three areas of focus emerged from the College of Humanities and Sciences’ request last summer for faculty to suggest “Big Ideas” that would move the college forward. More than 50 proposals arrived from across the college’s 19 departments and two schools, and the college’s Research Advisory Council helped narrow the submissions to the three with the greatest potential to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and research, to promote community engagement, to create experiential learning experiences for students and to achieve national eminence in the proposed topic.

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