VCU’s commitment to LGBTQ+ students recognized

Ted Lewis, executive director, Side by Side; Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves, associate vice president, Division for Inclusive Excellence; and Michael Thorne-Begland, board chair, Side by Side. (Photo by Jeffrey Ocampo)

Virginia Commonwealth University was honored recently with the 2017 Catalyst Award by Side by Side, an organization dedicated to creating supportive communities where Virginia’s LGBTQ+ youth can define themselves, belong and flourish.

Side by Side specifically cited efforts such as VCU’s Lavender House, an inclusive living-learning community for first-year LGBTQ+ students, and the Lavender Empowerment Summit, a weekend forum aimed at empowering LGBTQ+ students to pursue individual and community leadership roles. Side by Side also noted efforts spanning student affairs, athletics, courses offered in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and Safe Zone workshops.

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Tim Kaine tells VCU graduates to become better listeners

“We live in a society where there is a lot of talking and not much listening. It seems like everyone is doing a monologue and there is not much real dialogue going on,” Kaine said. “A key for your success will be to be as good a listener as you can be. Focus on what people are really saying, undistracted by your electronics or own impatience to jump in to say what you have to say. And even change your mind. People will really notice this.”

Kaine was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012 and is a member of the Armed Services; Budget; Foreign Relations; and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees. First elected to office in 1994, Kaine served on the Richmond City Council and later was mayor of Richmond. He became lieutenant governor of Virginia in 2002 and was inaugurated as Virginia’s 70th governor in 2006. He also was the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president in the 2016 presidential election.

Students received professional, graduate and undergraduate degrees at the ceremony. In all, VCU awarded nearly 5,000 degrees.

Kaine said he relishes the opportunity to speak at as many commencement ceremonies as he can.

“Not every day do you get the honor of being with someone on a day that is going to be one of the best days of their lives,” Kaine said. “And graduation is going to be one of the best days of your life.”

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., told the graduates that it will be critical for them to remain open to new ideas as their lives progress. He said the ability to change one’s mind through time and experience was critical to evolving and improving as a person.

“When we ignore a new truth, when we refuse even to consider the legitimacy of something with which we might disagree, it limits our ability to experience new things,” Rao said. “And that holds back humanity, because it blocks our beliefs about what may be possible for any of us to achieve.”

The Edward A. Wayne Award, which honors individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary service to VCU, was presented to Pam and Bill Royall. Sogand Karimian received the Board of Visitors Award, which recognizes the achievements of an outstanding undergraduate student who represents the distinctive attributes of a VCU student: outstanding academic achievement, leadership, and service to the university and the community at large. Karimian, a nursing major, will receive a one-year scholarship equal to in-state tuition and fees.

Asthma program helps Richmond families, earns EPA recognition

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU with the 2017 National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management. During Asthma Awareness Month each May, the EPA honors local asthma management programs for their exemplary role in improving the lives of people with asthma, particularly those in underserved communities.

Since 2005, the EPA has recognized 41 health plans, health care providers and communities in action. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU was one of three winners this year, and the only one in the health care provider category.

Asthma affects more than six million children throughout the country. CHoR earned this award for its novel You Can Control Asthma Now (UCAN) program, which provides coordinated care to the disproportionately high number of children suffering from asthma in the Richmond community.

“When kids come to us with poorly managed asthma, they’re often missing school and unable to play with friends,” said Michael Schechter, M.D., chief of pulmonary medicine and director of the UCAN community asthma program at CHoR. “To treat asthma properly takes a team effort. The physician makes the diagnosis and prescribes treatment, the nurse makes sure the family understands the disease and the social worker helps to overcome barriers to getting children the care they need. Home visitors help point out environmental triggers and how to avoid them. We all depend on the child and the family to learn how to best manage their asthma, use the skills they learn and call for more help when they need it.”

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VCU Executive MBA program ranked ninth by CEO Magazine

For the first time, the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business Executive M.B.A. has made the top 10 in CEO Magazine’s ranking of Tier One Global Executive M.B.A. Programs. The VCU program came in at No. 9.

Additionally, for the second year in a row, the VCU Evening M.B.A. has been named a Tier One North American M.B.A. program.

Using a ranking system geared and weighted to fact-based criteria, CEO Magazine provides potential students with a performance benchmark. The rankings are based on many factors, including quality of faculty, international diversity, class size, accreditation and faculty-to-student ratio, among others.

VCU’s School of Business provides programs from bachelor’s and master’s degrees to certificate and doctoral degrees. The School of Business has also been ranked in the Princeton Review for “The Best 295 Business Schools” and in U.S. News & World Report for “Best Grad School Rankings” and “Best Undergraduate Business Programs.” The VCU School of Business is accredited by AACSB International, which represents the highest standard of achievement for business schools worldwide and requires the school to continuously pass a strict set of standards that ensure quality.

VCU’s evening M.B.A. program combines business theory, practical application and networking opportunities to advance a student’s future career. The Executive M.B.A. program includes curriculum that continually evolves to meet genuine business needs and provides students with hands-on, collaborative opportunities to creatively solve real challenges for real companies.

Two VCU schools ranked in top 50 in updated U.S. News & World Report national rankings

The School of Nursing is tied at No. 48 in the updated U.S. News & World Report “Best Graduate Schools” national rankings.

Two graduate schools at Virginia Commonwealth University join the ranks of the nation’s top 50 in the 2018 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Graduate Schools,” released March 14.

Among the graduate schools with updated rankings for the 2018 edition, the School of Education is tied at No. 41 and the School of Nursing is tied at No. 48.

Two other graduate programs ranked among the nation’s top 100: the part-time MBA program within the School of Business is No. 80, and the psychology program in the College of Humanities and Sciences is No. 65.

To learn more about the 2018 rankings, including a complete list, visit Not all program areas receive updated rankings each year.

For more about VCU’s rankings, including graduate programs ranked in the top 50 during previous updates by U.S. News & World Report, visit

VCU honored for rich workplace experience

In recognition of innovative programs that create a positive work environment, Virginia Commonwealth University has received a Seal of Distinction from WorldatWork, a global nonprofit human resources association and compensation authority.

VCU is the only Richmond-area employer to receive the 2017 Seal of Distinction. The honor is awarded to companies that meet defined standards for workplace programs, policies and practices weighted on several factors, such as the complexity of implementation, required organizational resources, perceived breadth of access and overall level of commitment from leadership.

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Cabell Library wins “2016 New Landmark Library” award

James Branch Cabell Library has been named a 2016 New Landmark Library by Library Journal, widely viewed as the most trusted and respected publication for the library community.

A highly competitive national competition, the New Landmark Library Award considered academic libraries where building projects were completed between 2012 and 2015. Five winners, including Cabell Library, were chosen by a panel of judges with knowledge of both libraries and architecture. The redesigned Cabell Library opened in December 2015.

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Wilder School’s M.P.A. Program Receives Award

The Wilder School’s Master of Public Administration Program will receive the Social Equity Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration at its annual conference in October.

The award recognizes a public policy, affairs or administration program that exemplifies the highest standards in diversity through outstanding contributions in research, teaching and service.

“This gives us one more reason to be proud of our outstanding Master of Public Administration Program,” said John Accordino, Ph.D., interim dean of the Wilder School. “I commend all of the faculty who contribute to this program through their teaching, scholarship and service, and we are honored to receive this recognition.”

Richard Huff, Ph.D., chair of the Wilder School’s M.P.A. program, said, “I am really proud of what these talented faculty bring to our program at VCU. Social equity is a cornerstone of public administration and of the Wilder School. The faculty has worked long and hard to integrate social equity values into the curriculum, research and service. It is an honor to know and work with them.”

NASPAA’s Diversity and Social Equity Committee members specifically commended M.P.A. faculty members on their research focus on social justice, inequality and equity, saying the Wilder School’s program “provides an exemplary model to emulate” for others:

“Social equity permeates every aspect of the VCU MPA program. The faculty publishes scholarly research in the area of social equity and conducts applied funded social equity research. M.P.A. faculty members are also leaders of national organizations and initiatives that focus on social equity.

“There is hardly a single national social equity initiative where a VCU MPA faculty member is not central to. The VCU MPA curriculum provides a compelling example of how social equity principles can be taught across the curriculum.”

NASPAA is the membership organization of graduate education programs in public policy, public affairs, public administration, and public and nonprofit management. The national conference will take place in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 19–21.

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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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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