Catch all the A-10 action in D.C.

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Mark your calendars for March 7-11 as the VCU Rams travel north to Washington, D.C., for the 2018 A-10 Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Join VCU Alumni and the VCU community for a host of exciting tournament activities! Need help getting around D.C.? Plan your Metro trip online.


Total Internship Management Workshop

VCU Career Services presents the Total Internship Management Workshop with Mason Gates, founder and chief careers officer with ThincCareers.com/ThincInterns.com. This workshop will prepare organizations of all sizes to build successful internship programs from scratch. Participants will leave the event with a new-found approach to internship development, implementation and management. Learn more.

When: 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6
Where: Renaissance Hotel, 999 Ninth St. NW, Washington, DC 2000

Learn more and register online. Questions? Email Danielle Pearles, associate director of employer and experiential development, VCU Career Services.


Alumni reception

VCU Alumni hosts a cocktail reception for all alumni and Ram fans.

When: 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, March 7
Where: Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, Amphitheater Foyer, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20004. The trade center is a 5-minute walk from the Federal Triangle Metro stop on the Blue, Orange and Silver Metro lines. It can also be accessed via the Metro Center Station stop on the Red line.
Cost: No charge to attend. Registration includes two complimentary drinks and hors d’oeuvres. RSVP online by March 2.

Questions? Email Lauren Leavy, VCU Alumni’s senior coordinator of alumni engagement events.


A-10 kickoff social

Join VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD, DMV GOLD and NYC chapters for a tournament pregame kickoff. All VCU alumni, family and friends are invited. There will be special giveaways for Rowdy Ram fans.

When: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, March 8 (time subject to change)
Where: Lucky Strike, 701 Seventh St. NW, Washington, DC 20001. If you’re coming by Metro, get off at the Gallery Place-Chinatown stop or park in the Gallery Place Parking Garage. Lucky Strike is located on the second floor of Gallery Place. Walk down the alleyway next to Clyde’s to access the lobby.  
Cost: Free. Food and beverages available for purchase.
RSVP: On Facebook

Questions? Email RVA GOLD Chapter leader Timmy Nguyen (B.S.’11/B).


Pregame socials

Meet at Penn Social before every VCU game to rally with Ram fans.

When: Before every VCU game
Where: Penn Social, 801 E St. NW, Washington, DC 20004. Penn Social is a three-minute walk from the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro Station (Green or Red line) and an 8-minute walk from Metro Center Station (Blue, Orange or Green line).


Folger Shakespeare Library tour

Join VCU Libraries for a special tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library. Check out collections from comic books to Shakespeare holdings. Space is limited so register early.

When: 10 a.m. Friday, March 9
Where: Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St., SE Washington, DC 20003. The library is an 8-minute walk from the Capitol South Metro Station (Blue, Orange or Silver line).

To register or for questions, email Kelly Gotschalk (B.F.A.’90/A; M.A.’97/A), director of development and major gifts, VCU Libraries.


ICA museum tours

Join the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU for guided tours of two D.C. museums.

The Phillips Collection
When: 10 a.m. Friday, March 9

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
When: 10 a.m. Saturday, March 10

To register, email Rachel Southard (M.B.A.’17/B), donor relations associate for the ICA, or call (804) 827-0563.


Greek Alumni Network lecture

Join VCU Alumni’s Greek Alumni Network for “Better Connections: Insights on Connecting With Today’s Recent Greek Alumni.” Guest speaker Amy Riccardi is a human capital and business strategist, an author, a CEO adviser, an employee engagement specialist and an entrepreneur. She is a frequent guest lecturer at both Georgetown and George Washington universities on change management issues and a frequent speaker on the workplace of the future and girl’s/women’s leadership issues. If you have a specific question or topic you would like Riccardi to address, email it to network President Kevin Taylor (B.F.A.’88/A).

When: 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday, March 10 (doors open at 9:30 a.m.)
Where: George Washington University, Marvin Center
Cost: $10, includes a light breakfast
Register: RSVP by noon Friday, March 9

For questions, email Larry Powell (B.S.’85/H&S), assistant director of alumni outreach and engagement.


VCU Alumni pep rally

Join the VCU Peppas and VCU Alumni on the National Mall for a rousing pep rally.

When: Saturday March 10 (time determined by game time)
Where: National Mall in front of the National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art. The event is a 10-minute walk from the National Archives-Penn Quarter Station or L’Enfant Plaza (Green or Yellow line) and from the L’Enfant Plaza or Smithsonian station (Blue, Orange or Silver lines).

Questions? Email Lauren Leavy, VCU Alumni’s senior coordinator of alumni engagement events.

 

VCU Libraries receives Excellence in Academic Libraries Award

Staff from VCU Libraries pose for a photo in the lobby at James Branch Cabell Library.

VCU Libraries is one of three recipients of the 2018 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award, an annual honor recognizing staff at college, university and community college libraries for providing exemplary programs, resources and services.

The award is sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries and GOBI Library Solutions from EBSCO. VCU Libraries was recognized alongside the Max R. Traurig Library at Naugatuck Valley Community College and the Milne Library at the State University of New York at Geneseo.

Each library will receive $3,000 and a plaque, to be presented at an award ceremony held on each institution’s campus.

VCU Libraries was the winning library in the university category and was selected for its services, initiatives and role within the campus community, said Ann Campion Riley, chair of the 2018 Excellence in Academic Libraries Committee and vice provost and university librarian at the University of Missouri.

Among VCU’s initiatives is the Scholarly Communications and Publishing Division, which supports VCU faculty, staff and students in disseminating open scholarship. Its programs include the Open Access Author Publishing Fund to encourage publishing in open access journals; the “Mapping the KKK” digital humanities visualization project, in collaboration with VCU’s history department; and the “Social Welfare History Project,” a national online portal documenting the social welfare movement’s impact on the United States.

“We are deeply honored by this distinguished recognition from ACRL,” said John E. Ulmschneider, university librarian. “The faculty and staff of the VCU Libraries have worked with creativity, passion and immense dedication to create an exemplary research library for the 21st century and to fulfill our mission of transforming our communities through our teaching, collections and scholarship.”

Making sure the beat goes on: Alumna and Fulbright scholar Hannah Standiford preserves traditional Indonesian music

Standiford speaking to a classroom of students while in Indonesia.

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Hannah Standiford (B.M.’11/A) picked up her first guitar at 13. Music has played an integral role in her life ever since.

She studied classical guitar at Virginia Commonwealth University, graduating with a bachelor’s in music in 2011. Since then, she has performed as the frontwoman for a number of bands and has taught guitar and voice lessons with several music schools in the Richmond, Virginia, area.

“Through [teaching], I’m able to help other people access something that’s enriched my life so much,” Standiford says. “It gives me an incredibly fulfilling feeling.”

Shortly after graduating from VCU, she attended a performance by the University of Richmond’s Gamelan Raga Kusuma Balinese ensemble, which performs traditional Indonesian music using percussion instruments. This was her first exposure to the concept of community music, a form of music making that emphasizes collaboration among individuals who play, create, improvise and perform music together.

Standiford was hooked and wanted to explore community music further, so in 2014 she applied for and received a Darmasiswa scholarship, which supports foreign students wanting to study the language, arts and culture of Indonesia. She traveled to Solo, Java, where she began studying gamelan and the traditional string music style called keroncong.

When she returned to the States the following year, she started her own keroncong group, Rumput, which combines both Indonesian and American folk styles.

Wanting to continue to study keroncong at its source, she applied for a Fulbright scholarship through VCU’s National Scholarship Office. The Fulbright program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government that fosters international goodwill through the exchange of students and scholars in countries around the globe.

“It took me all summer to write the two-page proposal, but it was worth it,” she says. “I’m really grateful for the [National Scholarship Office] at VCU. Having somebody to help me through the steps and take me through a mock Fulbright panel was a huge help.”

Meredith Sisson, NSO assistant director, alongside NSO Director Jeff Wing, assisted Standiford through the application process.

“[We] work to help applicants make connections with alumni, faculty or other field experts that we think can help them think through their ideas,” Sisson says. “Hannah’s project builds on her previous experiences in Indonesia and on her studies of Appalachian folk music. If anyone can do this, it’s certainly her.”

Standiford was named a Fulbright Scholar and returned to Indonesia in early 2017. With her scholarship, she’s researching keroncong’s two unique styles, langgam jawa keroncong and stambul fajar, in different locations across the country.

“[Keroncong] is known as a music of nostalgia, past its halcyon days but still popular among music veterans,” she says. “Though it’s not widely practiced anymore, there are still communities where [keroncong] is evolving alongside the younger generation who want to keep the style alive.”

She’s currently living on the island of Medanau in Belitong, Indonesia, documenting the stambul fajar through recordings, writing and interviews with the island’s only veteran of the music, Achmadi, and another local, Jabing, who recently received funding from the local government to preserve the music as well.

“[Stambul fajar] music is extremely endangered,” Standiford says. “What we’re hoping to do is preserve a facet of human expression that is specific to the people on this island and nowhere else in the world.”

Once she completes her studies in Indonesia, Standiford plans to publish a paper on keroncong and its recent revival, with the hopes of making the music accessible to a wider audience by combining aspects of it with American folk music. She’s already planned a tour, starting in July, with Rumput to perform in both Indonesia and the U.S.

“[Rumput] relies on the idea of community music making just like keroncong,” Standiford says. “We’re all indispensable, and there’s no lead player. We just want to create the best musical experience possible.”


Scholarship assistance for alumni

More than 50 VCU students and alumni have earned Fulbright awards since the VCU National Scholarship Office was created in 2005. The office offers a range of services to VCU alumni interested in applying for competitive national and international scholarships and fellowships, including the Fulbright scholarship. Learn more.

Want to learn about the Fulbright application process? Register for one of the NSO’s informational webinars on March 6 or March 7.

 

 

Virus detective: VCU alumnus stands at the forefront of flu research

Emergency hospital during 1918 influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas
Courtesy of the National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, D.C., Image NCP 1603

By Julie Young

A pioneering virologist with medical and doctoral degrees from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine has unlocked secrets to a deadly flu virus through plots and twists befitting an Indiana Jones movie.

Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D.

As a med student in the mid-1980s, Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D. (M.D.’86/M; Ph.D.’87/M) couldn’t have imagined that his chief interest, basic immunology, would catapult him into scientific stardom.

The 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed more than 40 million people worldwide was barely a blip in his medical education but turned into a hobby and eventually his life work. Today, Taubenberger serves as deputy chief of the laboratory of infectious diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He’ll be at VCU Monday, Feb. 19, for a special VCU Libraries lecture, “On the Centenary of the 1918 Flu: Remembering the Past and Planning for the Future.”

The flu pandemic that fascinated Taubenberger led him to crack the 1918 strain’s genetic code and discover why it was so deadly. Mapping the genome unlocked the secret to pathogens responsible for the Spanish virus and revealed key behaviors of strains such as this year’s widespread flu.

After graduation in 1987, Taubenberger completed a pathology residency and worked as a staff pathologist at the National Cancer Institute. In 1993, he joined the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, Maryland.

“I set up a new group to use what, at that time in the early ’90s, was really kind of very cutting-edge, ‘Star Trek’-type medicine,” Taubenberger says. The strategy was to use molecular biology tools and new information about DNA mutations to diagnose diseases. “Traditionally, you make a diagnosis by looking at tissues under the microscope,” he says.

Taubenberger and his team worked in a Washington, D.C., building that housed the largest archive of pathology material in the world, which sparked his memory of that passing reference at VCU to the 1918 flu. “I was thinking that if we could find material from people who died of the 1918 flu, perhaps we could apply molecular biology tools to learn something about this huge, really virulent influenza virus,” he says.

After years of painstaking research, the team identified one positive flu case from a soldier who died in South Carolina in 1918. “We had a little tiny bit of lung tissue from that soldier’s autopsy, about the size of a fingernail,” Taubenberger says. It was enough to generate a partial sequence of the virus. The breakthrough was reported in 1997 in the journal Science.

Across the country in San Francisco, a freewheeling adventurer and retired pathologist named Johan Hultin read the Science article and wrote to Taubenberger. Hultin had traveled to Alaska’s Seaward Peninsula twice in the 1950s to extract DNA from flu victims under the permafrost in the village of Brevig Mission. He had tried unsuccessfully to culture the virus.

Hultin told Taubenberger that he could unearth larger samples of the virus. Using $3,200 of his savings, Hultin returned to the Seward Peninsula, where he exhumed and autopsied a flu victim nicknamed “Lucy.” He shipped her lung tissue to Taubenberger’s lab. The material tested positive for the virus.

Taubenberger used Lucy’s tissue and fragments from autopsies of other victims worldwide to sequence the entire genome of the virus. Using molecular biology techniques, a multi-institutional project was able to produce infectious copies of the deadly virus by 2005. Virologists hailed it as a lifesaving discovery, the largest-ever breakthrough in flu research.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Taubenberger says. “The concern that I have is that something like this could happen again. We would hope, obviously, that it never would, but we are concerned; therefore, what could we do to try to prevent that?”

Vaccination is the answer, he adds. But flu shots have proven to be only partially effective because “influenza is never standing still,” Taubenberger says. That’s what makes flu such a frustrating public health challenge.

“The reason the vaccine has to be remade every year is to try to keep up with this really rapid mutation of the virus,” he says. “It would be bad enough if it were just a human virus, but influenza viruses are present in hundreds of species of animals, including wild birds, domestic birds, pigs … and they have the ability to jump from one species to another.”

In recent years, his lab has pushed to develop a universal flu vaccine that would protect against all strains.

“This is a pretty tall order, but our hope is to develop a vaccine that would prevent the serious complications of influenza so that if you were exposed to a virus like 1918, perhaps you would feel ill for a couple of days but you would not develop pneumonia or need to be hospitalized. That’s the goal we would like to pursue,” Taubenberger says. “And having worked on the 1918 virus has really given us insights into how we could perhaps do that. We hope to have some of our initial candidate vaccines in clinical trials by next year, so we’re excited about that.”


Sanger Series: Going Viral with Jeffery Taubenberger, M.D., Ph.D.
“On the Centenary of the 1918 Flu: Remembering the Past and Planning for the Future”

Monday, Feb. 19
5-7 p.m.
Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building Auditorium, 1217 E. Marshall St.
Reception to follow

The lecture is free and open to the public, but registration is required.

Grace Harris, a transformative figure in VCU’s history, dies at 84

Grace E. Harris, Ph.D.

Grace E. Harris, Ph.D. (M.S.W.’60/SW), whose leadership helped shape Virginia Commonwealth University during a pioneering 48-year career at the university, died on Monday at the age of 84.

Harris joined the social work faculty at Richmond Professional Institute in 1967, a year before the school merged with the Medical College of Virginia to form VCU, and she would prove to be an integral part of the university’s foundation and growth in the ensuing decades. Over the course of her career, Harris would rise to the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at VCU, becoming the first African-American woman to serve as the chief academic officer at a four-year public university in Virginia.

“Throughout our 180-year history, a handful of people have been so vital to the story of Virginia Commonwealth University that their names are forever linked with ours,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “One of those people was Grace Harris. She was a giant in legacy and in character, a woman whose contributions to VCU and to the countless lives we touch are truly immeasurable. She helped us become one of the nation’s premier urban public research universities and, maybe more than anyone, personified our commitment to serve the public good.

“Dr. Harris lived as her name implied, with the utmost grace, even in the face of personal and professional indignities. May we all dedicate ourselves to living, working, and caring in the same profoundly meaningful ways that Grace did: with compassion, character, and — always — with grace.”

When Harris was first hired at RPI, she was one of the three African-American faculty members hired that year – the first black faculty members in the school’s history. Harris was named dean of the School of Social Work in 1982 and was later promoted to vice provost for continuing studies and public service. She served as provost and vice president for academic affairs from 1993 to 1999, while also assuming the role of acting president in 1995 and 1998.

Read more.

Forbes ranks VCU as Virginia’s best employer for diversity

Virginia Commonwealth University has landed the No. 1 spot in Virginia on Forbes’ list of best employers for diversity. VCU ranks 40 out of 250 nationally. The ranking is the result of a survey of 30,000 U.S. employees that asked questions about ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age. Factors including the gender makeup of management teams and proactive communications about diversity also were considered in the rankings.

Read more.

Full of ideas: An ax-throwing league? An air pump that’s twice as fast? For students in VCU’s Pre-X program, no idea is too big or too small

Shane McNamara’s startup business idea? An ax-throwing league for Richmond.

Shane McNamara, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University, was at the Central Virginia Celtic Festival & Highland Games at the Richmond Raceway a few years back when he found himself drawn to an ax-throwing booth.

“I was standing there and watching these guys throwing axes and I was like, ‘Hell yeah,’” he said. “So I went home, bought some axes from [The] Home Depot, learned how to throw them and thought, ‘Hmm. This could work.’”

Fast forward, and now McNamara is one of more than 100 VCU students working this semester to get their roughly 70 startup ideas off the ground with the help of the university’s pre-accelerator program, VCU Pre-X.

McNamara’s idea? An ax-throwing league for Richmond.

“My idea is we could have a league for people who are really dedicated to it and love throwing axes. We could host competitions, events, corporate team building and that kind of thing,” he said. “The term I’m using for marketing purposes is experiential entertainment. Like bowling … [but] I want to replace it with something cool, like ax throwing.”

Joining McNamara’s ax-throwing league in the VCU Pre-X program are ideas such as an online marketplace for used guitars, a ride-sharing app aimed at college students traveling home for the weekend, a new and affordable device that kills mosquitos, a software framework that would allow escape room companies to provide a more “magical” experience, and a dating platform for people with chronic or terminal illnesses.

“I think the mosaic of ideas is exciting,” said Aaron Forrester, a faculty member with VCU’s da Vinci Center who is co-leading the Pre-X program. “To be in a room with over 100 students, each passionate about the idea they are working on, creates a contagious vibe. The room is full of people who want to be there, and you can tell.”

Read more.

Brittany Jones combines two loves: history and teaching

Brittany Jones teaches World History I and Government at John Marshall High School.

When she was a student in Richmond Public Schools, Brittany Jones (M.A.’14/H&S; M.T.’16/E) assumed that all of her classmates had parents who made them do their homework. Her parents sure did. Both were teachers who placed a high value on education.

Jones herself was a history buff. As a child, she dreamed of being a history professor, so it’s no surprise that she majored in history as an undergraduate student at Longwood University. She loved it so much that she decided to pursue her master’s degree in American and African-American history at Virginia Commonwealth University.

To make ends meet, she got a job at a local school, tutoring students in history.

“That’s when I realized how much I enjoy working with kids,” she recalled. “I got more and more interested in becoming a teacher, in having my own classroom and having my own set of kids.”

Read more.

Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU will open in April with exhibition that celebrates diverse perspectives

On April 21, Virginia Commonwealth University will unveil the Institute for Contemporary Art, a new, noncollecting contemporary art institution designed by Steven Holl Architects. The ICA will open with the inaugural exhibition, “Declaration,” an exploration of contemporary art’s power to respond to pressing social issues through the voices of 33 emerging and established artists from Richmond and around the globe. More than a third of the works presented will premiere at the ICA, including site-specific installations by Paul Rucker, Stephen Vitiello and Peter Burr with Porpentine Charity Heartscape; new works in all media by Autumn Knight, Deb Sokolow, Lily Lamberta and All the Saints Theater Co., Sonya Clark, Andrea Donnelly, Edie Fake, Cannupa Hanska Luger and Geof Oppenheimer; and performances and participatory works at the ICA extending into the city by Rucker, Hope Ginsburg, Marinella Senatore, Winter Count, Tania Bruguera and Amos Paul Kennedy Jr., among others.

The exhibition will remain on view through Sept. 9.

Read more.

Alumnus says VCU’s diversity gave him the tools to succeed

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Those in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area may recognize Brian Hill (B.S.’12/MC) from his work as a multimedia journalist on local CBS affiliate, WTKR News 3. The VCU Richard T. Robertson School for Media and Culture alumnus takes over the VCU Alumni Instagram account this Monday, bringing us along with him as he reports on the stories that matter to the community around him.

Why did you choose to attend VCU?

I grew up in a small town in Sussex County, Virginia, and wanted to experience a bigger area. Richmond was scary to navigate at first, but I grew to love it! VCU has a great journalism program and resources that helped me advance after college. It’s also a melting pot with a lot of diversity, which opened my eyes to new people and experiences.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time as a student?

I really enjoyed my broadcasting classes. Taking part in VCU InSight was stressful, but very informative and helped me get ready for the real world. Getting to be around such a diverse group of people was definitely a highlight as well. I met so many people from different backgrounds, which I believe helped me in my field as I meet a wide array of people from all walks of life every day.

What got you interested in journalism?

I’ve always had an interest in various aspects of radio, film and television. I found journalism was a great way to tell stories, meet eclectic people daily and help to keep people informed about what’s going on in their community and why it’s important for them to know what’s happening around them.

How has VCU tied into your career path?

I think the university played a key role in my career path. VCU InSight was my first time ever in front of a camera or reading a teleprompter, and I was horrible! The diversity at VCU helped me be able to fit into any group; that’s a vital skill to have working in television because you deal with everyone from politicians to families in mourning to everyday people.

What’s been your favorite or the most memorable story you’ve worked on?

You know, I’m asked this question often. I think one of my favorites to write and shoot was about Norfolk’s very own superhero, Black Widow. We usually cover stories that are very serious like fires and homicides, so I enjoyed working on this because it was a lighthearted, fun story that allowed me to be more creative. It also made it on WorldStarHipHop!