After four decades, Everett Worthington, leading expert on forgiveness, set to retire from VCU’s Department of Psychology

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Everett Worthington. Photos by Julia Rendleman, University Marketing.

Taped to the office wall of Everett Worthington, Ph.D., a Virginia Commonwealth University counseling psychology professor and a leading scholar in the field of forgiveness research, is the staggeringly ambitious to-do list for his upcoming retirement.

Among the goals? Influence the way couples, countries, political systems, Christian denominations and cultures practice forgiveness.

“My mission,” the list reads, “is: ‘To do all I can to promote forgiveness in every willing heart, home and homeland.’ That mission MUST govern the content of my decisions.”

To achieve these goals, the list calls for Worthington to conduct at least 10 studies on forgiveness and humility, speak in at least 15 countries and author 10 papers with international scholars, write enough additional articles and book so his lifetime total is at least 500 articles and book chapters, and author enough additional books to reach a lifetime total of 50 books.

He wants to accomplish all this by the time he reaches 80 in 2026.

“I make lists,” Worthington said. “I don’t think retirement will really be that much more [work]. It’s pretty much the same pace I’ve always done.”

Early in the fall semester, Worthington, a beloved faculty member who has greatly influenced the understanding of forgiveness, couples counseling and much more, will retire from the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences after nearly four decades.

Over those years, Worthington developed a couples counseling intervention that has been implemented by marriage counselors around the world, saving numerous relationships; wrote 37 books (a rough estimate, he says); and mentored a generation of graduate students, quite a few of whom have gone on to become famous psychologists.

Yet, in that time, Worthington also suffered unthinkable tragedy.

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VCU poet David Wojahn shares insights into his latest collection, ‘For the Scribe’

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David Wojahn, an award-winning poet who teaches poetry and writing as a professor in the Department of English in the College of Humanities and Sciences, is the author of nine poetry collections, including his most recent work, “For the Scribe” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017), which continues Wojahn’s explorations of the interstices between the public and the private, the historical and the personal.

“In his formidable ninth collection, Wojahn (‘World Tree’) catalogues extinctions personal, cultural, and ecological,” Publishers Weekly wrote in its review of “For the Scribe.” “‘Assume, dear vagabond, you are permitted/ One last survey,’ he writes in the opening poem, an elegy for his father. As longtime readers might expect, Wojahn’s own ‘last survey’ impresses with both its diversity and detail. Bristling with quotations and historical artifacts, his rhythmic lines capture bluesmen as well as they do woodpeckers. In the title poem, he writes ‘inscription/Is a form of weaving,’ and indeed, his brocaded compositions often have the richness of tapestry. Whether examining Glenn Beck or laundry robots, his ‘burnished effusions’ relentlessly hone in on the specific.”

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An interview with Patricia Smith, author of ‘The Year of Needy Girls’

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Patricia Smith’s (M.F.A.’01/H&S) debut novel, “The Year of Needy Girls,” takes place in a small town in Massachusetts upended by the murder of a young boy. In this charged atmosphere, Deirdre, a high school French teacher, loses her job after one of her students surprises her with a kiss. Meanwhile, Deirdre’s relationship with her partner, SJ, is teetering, and SJ herself finds that she has ties to the boy’s killer.

The author Stewart O’Nan called Smith’s novel “a study in hypocrisy and small-town secrets,” and Publishers Weekly said “Smith’s crisp prose and dedication to realistic moral ambiguity make for a provoking read.” Smith received an M.F.A. in creative writing from the Department of English in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Humanities and Sciences. She teaches American literature and creative writing at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School.

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Behind the scenes: TV executive Korin Huggins talks about following her dreams

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By Anthony Langley

“When I graduated [from VCU], I was scared,” Korin Huggins (B.S.’98/H&S) says. “I spent a good portion of my life aiming toward one goal, but in the back of my mind I knew I wanted to do something different. This was my chance.”

Huggins enrolled at Virginia Commonwealth University as a transfer student from Virginia Union University in her sophomore year. She was a psychology major eyeing a career as a therapist. Though her transition to VCU was tough initially, she immersed herself in campus life, attending basketball games, joining Delta Sigma Theta and taking advantage of the variety of classes offered including acting classes at the School of the Arts and “Personality and Behavior of the African American.”

“My program challenged me, and I truly loved the experience,” she says. “Coming to VCU where diversity is at the forefront of everything we do, I felt proud to be a part of that. It’s about everyone getting an amazing quality education.”

During the first semester of her senior year, Huggins took a capstone course that required her to use the skills and theories she had learned throughout her studies and apply them in a mock therapy session. The goal: get a patient to come to a solution on their own.

“I thought to myself, ‘I will not be good at this.’ I wanted to tell people exactly what they need to say and do,” Huggins admits.

Unsure of what her future would bring, she completed her degree and returned home to New Jersey after graduation. Deciding that she couldn’t just sit around, she started working at a temp agency. One day, she met a friend’s sister who worked as an advertising buyer.

It was this connection that became her first introduction to the TV industry. She interviewed with a company looking for recent college graduates to sell advertising spots. Huggins landed the job and moved to New York City where she crashed on the couches of friends as the company trained her to sell airtime to national TV stations.

Though she enjoyed the work, she soon realized that being on the creative side the industry would be much more exciting to her.

“Television was where I wanted to be, but all the jobs were in Los Angeles,” she says. “I was hesitant at first, but I knew that if I didn’t take the first step in pursuing my dreams I would always regret it.”

In spite of her previous experience, it took some time for her to secure a new job in Los Angeles eventually getting a job at Creative Artists Agency evaluating new and upcoming writers. She used that opportunity to launch herself into a production assistant position at UPN and later coordinator of comedy development at the CW network.

Huggins was next selected for the highly competitive NBC Associates program which trains applicants to be junior executives. She later became NBC Universal’s coordinator of drama development.

“Thousands of people apply and they only pick five, so I was extremely lucky,” she says. “It was an incredible opportunity that allowed me to climb through the ranks and learn.”

While working in NBC’s Universal Cable Productions division as manager for both USA and Syfy, Huggins oversaw the development of scripted shows such as “Monk,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” and “Fairly Legal” before taking her experience to Warner Bros. Television Studios to develop and sell projects, including “The Following” and “The 100,” to the major broadcast networks.

Now as head of television for Will Packer Productions, Huggins develops comedy and drama projects through a first-look deal with Universal Television, which provides Universal with early access to the company’s developing projects. She has also co-executive produced ABC’s “Uncle Buck,” NBC’s “Truth Be Told” and the Emmy-nominated “Roots” miniseries.

Huggins credits the lessons she learned at VCU for helping her get to where she is today.

“Being at VCU taught me that it’s OK to change your mind and want to do something else,” she says. “The incredible support I had there helped me to know that if you follow your passion, you’ll be great no matter what. All you have to do is make the jump.”

Study co-authored by VCU undergraduate reveals new insights into the dining habits of toucans

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The keel-billed toucan was one of two species of toucans that were documented by the team to prey upon eggs of ground-nesting birds in Costa Rica.

While Toucans’ diets consist primarily of fruit, new research co-authored by a Virginia Commonwealth University biology major suggests the bird species’ dining habits are actually more opportunistic than previously believed and include the eggs of ground-nesting birds.

Maria Vera, a student in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, was part of a small team of undergraduate students and researchers who traveled to Costa Rica last summer for a nine-week National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates program to conduct a nest predator study.

As part of the study, the team built artificial bird nests on the forest ground and monitored the fake nests with camera traps. The cameras picked up two species of toucan descending to the ground to consume the eggs, marking what the team believes may be the first report of the bird preying upon nests on the forest floor.

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In ‘Podcasting While Black’ course, VCU students create podcasts drawing on African-American rhetoric throughout history

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Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of African American Studies, (left), and his students in the new “Podcasting While Black” class at VCU.

Reyna Smith, a senior at Virginia Commonwealth University, says she is feeling “lost in the sauce” and in need of feedback as she works to fine tune the concept of her first podcast, “Tea Time in the Shade,” which she’s thinking will likely open up with a rant comparing and contrasting Melania Trump and Michelle Obama.

Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences and one of NPR’s two voices of underwriting heard on public radio stations across the country, advises Smith that it would be most engaging for listeners if she opens her show with an “organized rant.”

“Start off with, ‘Yo, here’s my rant!’ And then you’re like, ‘Welcome to ‘Tea Time in the Shade,’ and that sets up the whole thing,” I’Anson says. “The thing about ranting is that you miss out on the structure that makes a thing really effective and what you get instead is, like, the crunkness. So, I’m saying, you can have an effective structure, like some Frederick Douglass-type stuff, but your content is Melania Trump vs. Mrs. Obama.”

Smith, who is majoring in African American studies and international social studies, is developing “Tea Time in the Shade” as part of a new African American Studies course called “Podcasting While Black,” in which the students learn critical concepts and rhetorical strategies of great African-American communicators and then incorporate those methods into podcasts exploring the experiences, history and lives of African Americans.

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

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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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GRTC honors VCU alumnus Nathan Burrell

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

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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

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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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