Cabell Library’s new 400-square-foot outdoor screen to display art, animation, video, scholarly work

Photo by Julia Rendleman.

Photo by Julia Rendleman.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s James Branch Cabell Library is poised to debut its newly installed 400-square-foot outdoor screen that will showcase art, animation, video and information about scholarly work from throughout the VCU community.

The screen, which overlooks the Compass, is 21 feet wide by 24 feet tall, and is located above the main entrance of Cabell Library, which recently wrapped up a major expansion and renovation that added 93,000 square feet of new construction and 63,000 square feet of improvements to the existing Monroe Park Campus library.

The screen has been installed with the hope to intrigue, inspire and inform the tens of thousands of VCU community members who pass by daily.

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VCU professor is helping America’s oldest tambourine ‘sing again’

Bernard Means, Ph.D., a VCU anthropology professor, prepares to 3-D scan a small copper alloy cymbal that was once part of a tambourine dating to prior to 1610 at Jamestown.

Bernard Means, Ph.D., a VCU anthropology professor, prepares to 3-D scan a small copper alloy cymbal that was once part of a tambourine dating to prior to 1610 at Jamestown.

In 1994, Preservation Virginia’s Jamestown Rediscovery archaeologists were excavating the original site of James Fort when they found a small copper alloy cymbal, also known as a “jingle,” that was once part of a tambourine that arrived in the colony prior to 1610 — making it the oldest known English tambourine in the United States.

Now, as part of an upcoming exhibit refresh at the Jamestown Settlement museum, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation is seeking to recreate that tambourine, and has enlisted the help of a Virginia Commonwealth University professor to ensure the replica is as accurate as possible.

“This is bringing an object back to life,” said Bly Straube, Ph.D., former Jamestown Rediscovery senior curator who was instrumental in the effort to find the 1607 remains of James Fort, and who is consulting on the exhibit. “It was buried for 400 years. We did resurrect it, and put it in the museum — it’s in Jamestown Rediscovery’s archaeological museum, the Archaearium, on Jamestown Island.

“Now, we’re going to make it sing again.”

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VCU honors seven at faculty convocation

VCU recognized seven faculty Tuesday at the university's annual Opening Faculty Address and Convocation. (Thomas Kojcsich)

VCU recognized seven faculty Tuesday at the university’s annual Opening Faculty Address and Convocation. (Thomas Kojcsich)

Sonya Clark recently hurt her back. So when she gingerly made her way to the podium Tuesday at Virginia Commonwealth University’s annual Opening Faculty Address and Convocation, she decided to use the moment as metaphor.

First, she told a joke.

“Those of you who know me know I don’t usually do anything slowly, and, though I’m Jamaican, clearly I’m not channeling Usain Bolt,” Clark said. “There’s this great aphorism that if you want to go fast you go by yourself and if you want to go far you go with a community. I’m going slow today because of the community that I’ve had the privilege of being involved with here at VCU.”

Clark, chair of the Department of Craft and Material Studies in the School of the Arts and director of the department’s graduate programs, was one of seven faculty honored Tuesday at the 34th annual faculty convocation. VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs, presided over the ceremony, which featured remarks from the honorees and Marsha D. Rappley, M.D., chief executive officer for VCU Health System and VCU vice president of health sciences.

“What really distinguishes VCU’s faculty is the innovation and transformation and collaboration,” Rao said. “Part of the evidence is the transformational impact we have on the communities we serve. The most important thing we do: We continue to take what we do at this institution and connect it to the greatest and most important needs of the people in our community.”

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VCU School of Business announces its first artist-in-residence

Noah Scalin.

Noah Scalin.

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business will host its first ever artist-in-residence during the upcoming 2016­–2017 academic year.

Celebrated artist Noah Scalin will help the school institute its new strategic plan, which aims to drive the future of business through the power of creativity. Scalin will conduct several creative-thinking seminars, guest lecture in courses, create large-scale artwork installations with the students and spearhead a 30-day Creative Sprint challenge in October and during the spring semester. These will connect VCU School of Business students, faculty and staff with elements of the strategic plan through experiential learning, creative problem-solving curricula, innovative research and creative culture.

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VCU chemistry major scales Mount Kilimanjaro, collects donated toys for pediatric patients

Shinal Patel, a junior chemistry major, recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a project to collect donated toys and gifts for patients of Children's Hospital of RichmondChildren’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Shinal Patel, a junior chemistry major, recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro as part of a project to collect donated toys and gifts for patients of Children’s Hospital of RichmondChildren’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Virginia Commonwealth University student Shinal Patel recently returned from climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, to not only challenge herself but also to collect donated toys and gifts for patients of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

Patel, a junior in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Humanities and Sciences, volunteers during the school year with Child Life, which seeks to help young patients at CHoR adjust to unfamiliar hospital surroundings through playful activities and celebrations.

“As a volunteer, Child Life helps me to help the young patients engage in age-appropriate activities and games,” she said. “During the short time [I’ve spent] with the patients, I have seen some struggle with the idea of being in hospital and they tell me how much their stay has been made easier because of the aims of Child Life and the volunteers and activities that the department provides.”

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VCU School of Medicine student co-founds national medical student blog

Robin Kuriakose.

Robin Kuriakose.

Third-year Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine student Robin Kuriakose (B.S.’14/H&S) often writes in his journal to deal with the stress of medical school.

“I am by no means a great writer, but I have observed the therapeutic effect that writing has on me,” he said.

Last October, Kuriakose co-founded the blog WhiteCoated as a place to house his and other medical students’ inspirations, stories and thoughts. Today the site has more than 25 posts by medical students around the country with journal entry-style writings about everything from orientation week to emergency department rotations.

“The purpose of the site is to encourage self-reflection in the midst of ever-increasing medical school demands,” Kuriakose said.

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Scholarship provides financial and moral support to students researching cures for neurological diseases

John Saathoff should never have received the Lowenthal Award in 2014.

The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy had already chosen Kavita Iyer, who was then, like Saathoff, a second-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, to receive the award, which was established in 2000 by Hilda Meth, Ed.D.

Saathoff applied late, but he was permitted an interview. He so impressed Meth, who met with the finalist, that she created a second award that year, though not before putting Saathoff through his paces.

“John had a lot of fire, but he is not a bookworm,” Meth said, an assertion Saathoff, whose research is in Alzheimer’s disease, readily agrees with. The committee set a requirement that he increase his GPA from 3.0 to 3.25.

“I have never been one of those people who sell themselves, I guess,” Saathoff said. “I was a little hesitant to apply for the award; I figured I wouldn’t get it.”

But, buoyed by Meth’s interest in him, Saathoff worked hard and exceeded the GPA goal.

“She wants you to succeed, and she looks out for you,” he said. “It’s a nurturing relationship.”

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VCU will honor distinguished faculty

Virginia Commonwealth University will recognize distinguished faculty during the 34th annual Opening Faculty Address and Convocation.

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs, will preside over the ceremony, which takes place at 11 a.m.on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, 922 Park Ave. A reception will follow the ceremony. VCU will live stream the event online at

Awards will be presented to faculty members who have distinguished themselves and the university through their commitment to excellence, service, teaching and scholarship.

For the first time, two additional faculty members will be recognized in the categories of outstanding early career faculty and outstanding term faculty.

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Engineering students design thermoregulated gloves that help people with Raynaud’s disease, including one of their own

Every time Jessica L. Bishop (B.S.’16/En) suffered an attack of Raynaud’s disease during her senior year at Virginia Commonwealth University, it motivated her to work even harder on her School of Engineering Capstone Design project, a pair of “magic gloves.”

The gloves help regulate the fingers’ temperature, which is relevant because Raynaud’s disease affects extremities in such a way that people with the condition are unable to tell when their hands get cold, among other symptoms.

“It’s something I’m very passionate about. It’s something that definitely affects me,” Bishop said. “There’s a slew of medications that they can put you on, like blood pressure medication, [but] there’s nothing specific to the Raynaud’s. It’s really just remedying the symptoms [by] wearing gloves, avoiding cold, avoiding stressors. Not drinking a lot of coffee.”

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Sharing a common wealth: The AAAC Mentoring Circle connects students to mentors

Students and alumni mingle during the Mentoring Circle's Mocktail event.

Students and alumni mingle during the Mentoring Circle’s Mocktail event.

By Anthony Langley

A few years ago, Jeffrey Roberts (B.S.’87/E) and Gail Coles-Johnson (B.S.’86/B), members of VCU Alumni’s African-American Alumni Council, were looking for ways to create an intergenerational conversation between alumni and current students. But they weren’t sure of the best way they could go about it.

“When we were in undergrad, we didn’t have the opportunity to seek out mentors,” Roberts says. “So we wanted to create a way we could give back and students could pay it forward as well.”

During the AAAC’s inaugural Conversations and Cocktails events, Michelle Jones (B.S.’87/H&S) brought in a group of students to get their perspective on what the alumni group could do to help them as they neared graduation.

“I think that in order to create a pipeline of future AAAC members, relationship building and finding out what is valuable to students is the best way to go about it,” Jones says. “I mentor college students at my church; I know how valuable it is for them to have these experiences.”

The dialogue created during that meeting inspired Roberts and Coles-Johnson to found the AAAC’s Mentoring Circle. The program aims to connect students and alumni in a professional environment, which helps them gain the skills needed to enter today’s workplace environment and provide them an opportunity to learn from an alumnus as a mentee.

“This is the ultimate give-back,” Rodney Harry (B.S.’90/H&S), president of the AAAC, says. “It strengthens the bonds between alumni and students showing how prosperous we can be.”

The Mentoring Circle’s premier event is the alumni-student Mocktail party, a simulated networking event where students learn everything from how to approach a potential employer to whether they should eat or drink at catered events.

Kevin M. Smith (B.S.’86/B) generously donated the funds needed to sponsor the event,” Roberts says. “He realized the worth of mentoring during his 25 years in the corporate world and wanted to help.”

The event begins with a presentation on the art and importance of networking, followed by an abbreviated version of the Myers-Briggs personality test, which helps to determine the best ways for introverts and extroverts to handle a networking situation.

“After the presentation, we put the students to the test,” Coles-Johnson says. “As soon as they enter the next room, they are in a networking event.”

After 15 minutes, time is called and the observers, who are trained prior to the event, are asked to give general observations about how the students conducted themselves. The floor is then opened for students to ask questions of alumni about areas in which they can improve. After that, they go back and start the event over.

At the end of the Mocktail event, the student mentees are matched with an alumnus who had a similar major or is in the career field the student would like to be in. He or she becomes their mentor for an entire year.

“I went in thinking that they’d just be conducting mock interviews; I had no idea I would leave with a mentor,” says Riqia Taylor, a rising junior majoring in African-American studies and the first recipient of the Coles-Johnson Mentoring Circle Scholarship. “I was able to connect with a phenomenal African-American woman who was an excellent role model.”

Taylor was matched with Nina Sims (B.S.’93/MC), who provided her with both educational and personal insights, from giving her the resources and advice she needed to decide on her major to supplying Taylor with volunteer and internship opportunities in the Richmond community and even inviting her to several family functions.

“She’s squeezing every drop of experience she can out of VCU, and it’s transforming her into an incredible communicator,” Sims says of Taylor. “She’s taught me so much, and I’m thrilled to learn that I have nurtured a new mentor who will continue the cycle.”

In their time together, Taylor mentored an after-school group at John Marshall High School that hoped to lead teen girls to identify issues in their community and tackle them through social change. Sims provided Taylor with community resources that could help expand and grow the program.

“During our year together she supported me through many life changes and made me feel loved,” Taylor says. “It would be an honor to be a mentor just like Mrs. Sims.”

Although the program is only in its second year, the Mentoring Circle has expanded immensely. The initial 10 students in the first cohort nearly quadrupled to 37 students in the second. Clif (B.S.’89/AHP) and Deborah (B.S.’87/H&S) Porter agreed to serve as the program’s co-managers moving forward and will provide leadership as the Mentoring Circle progresses to its third cohort.

“It grew much quicker than we anticipated, but we do this to help the students, not for ourselves,” Deborah says.

The husband-and-wife team coordinate the Mocktail party event and engage other alumni, match students to their mentors and plan all of the other Mentoring Circle events. They’re looking to create an event during the fall semester, which would give the mentors and mentees an opportunity to come together in between the Mocktail party and their end-of-the-program send-off event. The Roberts also plan to create an internship program with AAAC members that aligns with students’ career goals to give them professional training before they enter the world of work.

“The biggest thing we do is help students come to an accelerated realization that who they are and what they become isn’t defined by the things they studied in school,” Roberts says. “When the rubber meets the road, mentoring is what helps guide young men and women to where they want to be in life.”

Learn more about the Mentoring Circle and how you can volunteer to become a mentor online.