Displaying more than 1,000 piñatas, VCU and community groups break Guinness World Record

More than 1,000 piñatas were hung along Richmond’s Canal Walk on Saturday at the annual ¿Qué Pasa? Festival.

More than 1,000 piñatas were hung along Richmond’s Canal Walk on Saturday at the annual ¿Qué Pasa? Festival, breaking the Guinness World Record for “Largest Display of Piñatas.”

The new record is the result of five months of work by the da Vinci Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Virginia Hispanic Foundation to create and collect as many piñatas as possible to surpass the previous record of 504 piñatas displayed, set in 2008 at an event in Mexico.

“This is building on an effort that the Virginia Hispanic Chamber already had. They have grade schools and high schools make piñatas for the festival, so we just went big. We got all the piñatas,” said Allison Schumacher, director of academic alchemy at the da Vinci Center, a collaboration of VCU’s Schools of the Arts, Business, Engineering and College of Humanities and Sciences to advance innovation and entrepreneurship.

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VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD Chapter receives Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award

From left, RVA GOLD Chapter members Joseph Stemmle (B.S.’13/B), Timmy Nguyen (B.S.’11/B) and Khanh Burks (B.S.’13/B); Gov. Ralph Northam; and Allison Toney, associate director of outreach and engagement, Amy Beck, executive director of alumni outreach and engagement, and Josh Hiscock, associate vice president for alumni relations, from the VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)

VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD Chapter has been honored with the 2018 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award for Outstanding Education Organization.

VCU Alumni’s Richmond alumni chapter received the award April 10 from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam for making volunteering a key priority in its initiatives, from leading the charge against hunger in Virginia and delivering hot meals to area veterans to taking Richmond students back-to-school shopping and writing cards for overseas military troops. The chapter represents more than 65,000 VCU alumni who live in the Richmond metro area.

“VCU is proud of our RVA GOLD alumni chapter,” said Joshua I. Hiscock, associate vice president for alumni relations. “The value of engaging in service within the community was instilled in these leaders as students and continues to be a priority and passion for them as alumni. The RVA GOLD Chapter and its leaders are role models for fellow alumni and are a positive force for change within the greater Richmond community.”

One of the chapter’s largest efforts, the Alumni Charity Challenge, was launched in 2013 as a friendly competition among colleges and universities to see which alumni group could collect the most canned goods for FeedMore, Central Virginia’s core hunger-relief organization. Since its inception, the challenge has resulted in the donation of nearly 79,000 pounds of canned goods.

Douglas Pick, president and CEO of FeedMore, said he can’t imagine “a finer example of a volunteer group that exponentially leverages the energy of a community toward helping their fellow citizens in need.”

“Our VCU Alumni friends have been able to harness the passion and pride of alumni from now 30 different colleges toward some extraordinary results,” Pick said. “Their humble beginnings started with seven schools in 2013 collecting 2,776 pounds. This past year, they collected an amazing 48,355 pounds. The excitement and energy at the event is something to behold. It truly brings back faith that the world is still a good place.”

VCU received one of nine 2018 volunteer awards presented by Northam at the Virginia Governor’s Mansion. “These individuals, organizations and companies are wonderful examples of how we can all impact our communities,” the governor said. “Their selfless acts have made a real difference to so many lives across Virginia.”

The awards are presented by the Governor’s Advisory Board on Service and Volunteerism and the Virginia Department of Social Services’ Office on Volunteerism and Community Services on behalf of the Office of the Governor. These awards have recognized exceptional volunteer service in Virginia for more than 20 years. Visit http://virginiaservice.virginia.gov/volunteering/governors-volunteerism-awards/ to learn more.

VCU da Vinci Center to host new summit for aspiring social entrepreneurs

The IMAGINE Social Good summit will take place March 23-25 at VCU.

The Virginia Commonwealth University da Vinci Center is launching a social good summit focused on students and their work in social justice and social entrepreneurship.

IMAGINE Social Good” takes place March 23-25 at the Academic Learning Commons, 1000 Floyd Ave. Students from more than 20 campuses worldwide who are pursuing diverse social good projects are attending.

The weekend consists of main-stage events with keynote speakers, inspiring workshops and multiple moments to meet, listen to and learn from experts and one another. Student teams will present their work on creating change in social good, social justice or social entrepreneurship to panels of experts during breakout sessions. The projects range from products to ideas. For instance, one student will present her interactive financial-literacy game, while another will initiate a discussion on challenging the portrayal of Native Americans in young adult literature.

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VCU student Tatenda Ndambakuwa selected as a potential leader in the future of food security

Tatenda Ndambakuwa, a senior in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics in the College of Humanities and Sciences, has a long list of projects at the intersection of food security and technology.

A Virginia Commonwealth University student is one of only 27 students from around the world selected as part of the Next Generation Delegation that will attend the Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, D.C.

Tatenda Ndambakuwa, a senior in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics in the College of Humanities and Sciences, is part of a select group of students studying agricultural development, social entrepreneurship, entrepreneurship, and other food security related disciplines. She was selected to attend the symposium from an applicant pool of more than 800 students attending 364 universities in nearly 90 countries. As a member of the delegation, she will attend the conference, participate in symposium discussions and interact with business and policy leaders, civil society, and social entrepreneurs working on agriculture, food and nutrition issues.

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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.”

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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.

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VCU to celebrate Black History Month with events recognizing the past and looking toward the future

Ibram X. Kendi will discuss his book “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America,” at the 16th annual Black History Month Lecture.

Virginia Commonwealth University will celebrate Black History Month with a series of thought-provoking, educational and entertaining events throughout February centered on the theme of “continuing the legacy.”

“The goal for Black History Month at VCU this year is to talk about the legacy of black history,” said Reginald Stroble, assistant director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs. “We’ll start with events that give us an understanding of Carter G. Woodson [who founded the precursor to Black History Month] and then we’ll hear from African Americans today who are continuing that legacy of excellence.”

All events are free and open to the public.

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Rao: VCU is a public university committed to the public good

 

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., highlighted university accomplishments from the past year and outlined details of VCU’s next strategic plan Thursday at his fifth annual State of the University Address.

Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao, Ph.D., outlined key steps to shape the university’s future and provided details of VCU’s next strategic plan Thursday at his fifth annual State of the University Address. First, he took a moment to acknowledge VCU’s history.

“This is an institution that began 180 years ago with a commitment to the social good,” Rao said at James Branch Cabell Library. “And when we came together under the VCU name 50 years ago, our charter asked us ‘to confront on an intellectual and practical level the social environment which surrounds [us]. To relate [ourselves] to the community … and participate in the solution of existing problems.’”

That mission remains unchanged, Rao said in a speech in which he highlighted university accomplishments from the past year and emphasized VCU’s role as a public university committed to the public good.

“We have grown exponentially,” Rao said. “[But] we will never outgrow our mission. It is still, as it has ever been, simple in phrase but enormous in prospect: to improve lives, to save lives, and to give life meaning.”

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VCU prepares for weeklong celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Virginia Commonwealth University’s fifth annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week takes place Monday, Jan. 15, to Sunday, Jan. 21. The week’s events, which serve as a kickoff to the spring semester, offer an opportunity to honor and raise awareness of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. VCU and community-wide educational programs commemorate his distinguished contributions, leadership, spirit of service and dedication to nonviolence and justice.

This year’s events are sponsored by the Division for Inclusive Excellence and supported by a number of campus units. The week includes opportunities for arts, education, service and reflection on King’s life and legacy, and even a keynote address on Wednesday, Jan. 17, by Martin Luther King III, a human rights advocate, community activist, political leader and the oldest son of King.

Beverly Walker, program manager for career development in the HR Redesign Project Office, is the co-founder and fundraising chair of MLK Celebration Week. “What better way for our campus and community to learn more about Dr. King then from his own son, Martin Luther King III,” Walker said. “I’m excited that our students will have a chance to really engage with Mr. King and connect to our past, and be inspired for the future.”

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Martin Luther King III will headline MLK Celebration Week at VCU

Martin Luther King III

Martin Luther King III will provide keynote remarks Jan. 17 as part of VCU’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week.

Human rights advocate, community activist and political leader Martin Luther King III will provide keynote remarks Jan. 17 as part of Virginia Commonwealth University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Week.

King’s keynote, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the University Student Commons, Commonwealth Ballroom, will be moderated by Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. The event is free and open to the public. Guests can RSVP at go.vcu.edu/mlk3keynote.

King serves as an ambassador of his parents’ legacy of nonviolent social change. A graduate of his father’s alma mater, Morehouse College, King has devoted his life to working in the nonprofit sector to promote civil rights and global human rights and to eradicate the “triple evils” of racism, militarism and poverty his father identified as the scourges of humankind.

As the elected president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization co-founded by his father, King reinvigorated SCLC by stabilizing its governance, program and development components. As founder and president of Realizing the Dream, Inc., he has taken his father’s message to a global audience, spearheading nonviolence training in Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Israel and Palestine, Kenya, Sri Lanka and the United States.

VCU’s MLK Celebration Week was established in 2014 to honor and raise awareness of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. through VCU and Richmond community-wide educational programs that commemorate his distinguished contributions, leadership, spirit of service and dedication to nonviolence and justice. MLK Celebration Week is scheduled for Jan. 15 to Jan. 21 and is sponsored by VCU’s Division for Inclusive Excellence.

The week’s theme, “50 years later: Don’t sleep on the dream,” commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968. Program and event attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about King’s lasting legacy and engage in making their community a better place for all. Learn more at mlkday.vcu.edu.