How I got the job: Devin Baker, once homeless, is now an art director at one of North America’s largest advertising agencies

Devin Baker.

Devin Baker.

Devin Baker went to New York in 2007 to advance a budding career in the entertainment industry. When he arrived, he found his housing arrangement had fallen through, leaving him without a place to live.

“Some things didn’t work out with family that I had in the area,” said Baker, 32, now an advertising student in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University. “I ended up homeless for a little while until I found a room for rent in Brooklyn.”

It was an early experience in Baker’s long and circuitous path toward a career in advertising. He spent seven years in New York, mostly working at Universal Records, before moving to Richmond and going back to school at VCU. This past spring, he landed a summer creative internship with the advertising agency BBDO, and turned it into a full-time job as an art director by the end of July.

He views it all as a series of steps.

“I worked toward a specific goal — getting into VCU, getting the internship,” Baker said. “I would accomplish that step and keep going to the next thing.”

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VCU’s journalism program joins Google News Lab University Network

The Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture has joined the Google News Lab University Network, a new initiative by Google that will provide training materials and support to journalism professors and students on topics such as Google tool fundamentals, trust and verification, immersive storytelling, data journalism, advanced search and Google Trends, data visualization, mapping and more.

The initial cohort of 49 journalism schools around the world, including the Robertson School in VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences, will gain access to journalism training and support that Google has provided to professional newsrooms for several years.

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Meet some of the remarkable students who are receiving their degrees this December

Pride will be the primary emotion on display at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Dec. 10 commencement ceremony in the E.J. Wade Arena of the Stuart C. Siegel Center. The 2,000-plus students graduating that day have accomplished something monumental in their lives — whether it’s a bachelor’s degree, a master’s or a Ph.D. — and along the way they’ve traveled the world, held down internships, met new people, contributed to their community and put countless hours into gaining new knowledge in their chosen fields. Below, we share the stories of some of VCU’s newest graduates.

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VCU reaccredited as Bicycle Friendly University by League of American Bicyclists

Photos by Jonsette Calloway, Parking and Transportation

Photos by Jonsette Calloway, Parking and Transportation

As president of the Cycling Club at VCU, Alan Hartmann has an eye for all things two-wheeled.

“Everywhere I look, I see something that encourages cycling,” he said. “I’ve been very impressed with VCU’s desire to have safe cyclists.”

The League of American Bicyclists agrees, awarding Virginia Commonwealth University silver-level recertification as a Bicycle Friendly University. VCU is the highest-ranked Virginia college or university under this program.

“We are very pleased to reach the silver-level distinction yet again, while still holding the highest rating of any university in the state of Virginia,” said Craig Willingham, fleet and interim transportation manager in the Office of Parking and Transportation. “The certification process is not easy, which is why I am proud of our team’s efforts and dedication to this process.”

VCU was first certified in 2012, and improved to silver in 2014.

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School of Education alumna earns RPS Teacher of the Year honor

Clary Carleton.

Clary Carleton.

Clary Carleton (Cert.’98/E; M.A.’98/H&S), a 1998 alumna from the School of Education’s post-baccalaureate certificate in teaching program, has been named Richmond Public Schools’ Teacher of the Year for 2016.

Carleton, who also received a master’s degree in English literature from VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences, has taught at Open High School since 1999.

“It’s great to be recognized by my colleagues and my district,” Carleton said. “I’m proud to work for the city: I love working in my little school and love working with the students.”

Though she originally came to VCU with no intention of becoming a teacher, it was a Foundation of Education course — an elective she took purely on a whim — that ended up changing Carleton’s career path.

“I really engaged with the material in that class, learning about the history of education and its role in democracy,” she said. “I found that exciting, and realized that, as a teacher, I could make a difference.”

Carleton also discovered Open High School while at VCU, teaching a short fiction class in the building’s basement. Located in Oregon Hill, the alternative high school takes a more informal approach to schooling, emphasizing student independence and service learning for its 180 students.

“It’s a wonderful place, very friendly and informal,” Carleton said. “Because of its size, we can do things that probably wouldn’t work at other schools. There are pros and cons to any environment, though, so it’s all about finding the right fit. And I’ve found the right fit for me here.”

Carleton fully embraces the idea of lifelong learning — “I’m always a student; I think the best teachers are,” she said. She credits the School of Education with setting her up for success in her future career.

“I felt very well prepared after I graduated from VCU,” she said. “The faculty there are very invested in their students. Dr. Leila Christenbury, in particular, was very influential for me. She has been a mentor to me, and I just revere her and the work she has done.”

To read the full press release on Carleton’s award, please visit the RPS website.

Researcher receives $2.5M grant to assist young people with intellectual disabilities gain completive employment

Katherine Inge, Ph.D.

Katherine Inge, Ph.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University researcher has received a five-year, $2.5 million

grant to help young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — including autism spectrum disorder — to achieve competitive employment based on the individual’s choices, interests and skills.

The research grant from the National Institute on Disability Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was awarded to Katherine Inge (B.S.’75/AHP; Ph.D’95/E), Ph.D., director of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Employment of People with Physical Disabilities in the VCU School of Education.

Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering opens Innovation Laboratory

At the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Engineering, students are designing the future — and printing it in 3-D — in the new Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering Innovation Laboratory

VCU’s Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering worked with 3-D printing industry leader MakerBot to establish the commonwealth’s first Innovation Laboratory featuring a MakerBot Innovation Center. The MNE Innovation Laboratory facilitates rapid prototyping of devices with a manufacturing suite that features 30 MakerBot Fifth Generation Replicator Desktop 3-D Printers and three MakerBot Replicator Z18s for producing extra-large objects. It will also house 3-D scanners and digitizers to allow for reverse engineering capabilities.

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Common threads

Feature photo by Julia Rendleman. Photos by Thomas Kojcsich, Julia Rendleman and Pat Kane.

Feature photo by Julia Rendleman. Photos by Thomas Kojcsich, Julia Rendleman and Pat Kane.

Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao, Ph.D., is not afraid to go out of his comfort zone for the sake of students. So when VCU fashion students wanted to outfit him for various work events as part of a special department project, it didn’t take long for him to say yes, despite feeling nervous about being in the fashion spotlight.

“It obviously makes you a little self-conscious … because it’s not your regular role,” he said. “But I do think it’s good for me to have this engagement, this involvement with the students.”

The project stemmed from a conversation that Rao had about a year ago with Patricia Brown, who had just become chair of the Department of Fashion Design and Merchandising in the School of the Arts, about selecting clothes to fit different occasions.

“My wheels started turning after that conversation and I started thinking about how much that is a part of somebody’s job when they’re working within the [fashion] industry,” Brown said. “They’re trying to solve a problem, and they’re trying to offer goods that work together in a way … that is appropriate for various occasions.”

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Peter Buckley named dean of VCU School of Medicine and VCU Health executive VP for medical affairs

Peter Buckley, M.D.

Peter Buckley, M.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University announced today that Peter F. Buckley, M.D., has been

appointed dean of the VCU School of Medicine, effective Jan. 17. He also will serve as VCU Health System executive vice president for medical affairs, overseeing the 600 physician-faculty group practice of the academic health sciences center.

Buckley comes to VCU from Augusta University in Georgia where he is dean of the Medical College of Georgia and executive vice president for medical affairs and integration. A psychiatrist and expert in schizophrenia, Buckley also is a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and radiology at MCG.

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Rice Rivers researchers locate two juvenile Atlantic sturgeon

Matthew Balazik, Ph.D., holds a juvenile Atlantic sturgeon.  Photos by Ron Lopez.

Matthew Balazik, Ph.D., holds a juvenile Atlantic sturgeon.
Photos by Ron Lopez.

When Matthew Balazik (B.S.’05/H&S; M.S.’08/H&S; Ph.D.’12/LS), Ph.D., told colleagues he planned to sample fish from the James River right before an important presentation at the Rice Rivers Center, they pressed him to be back on time.

Cutting his trip short, he set his nets to find fish closer to the center. There, Balazik found something he has spent the last decade searching for: a juvenile Atlantic sturgeon.

“I was pulling the net over the side of the boat. I went down to grab it, thinking it was a blue catfish,” he said.  “Once I saw what it was I just stood there and stared at it for probably 10 seconds.”

In a case of lightning striking twice, the next day Balazik found a second juvenile Atlantic sturgeon. These are the first juvenile of that species found in the James in more than a decade. The discovery lends hope to Rice Rivers researchers studying this endangered species with support from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

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