VCU recognizes veterans

Timothy P. Williams

Timothy P. Williams, adjunct general of Virginia, provides remarks at Friday’s event.

Virginia Commonwealth University celebrated military veterans Friday at a Veterans Appreciation Reception held at the Commons Theater.

The event, which doubled as the launch of the VCU Military Veterans Alumni Council, featured remarks from Saif Khan (B.A.’07/H&S), an Iraq War veteran and a graduate of the College of Humanities and Sciences; Timothy P. Williams, adjunct general of Virginia, who commands the Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard and Virginia Defense Force; Stephen Ross, director of VCU Military Student Services; and Dan-Viggo Bergtun, president of the World Veterans Federation.

Khan is the first president of the VCU Military Veterans Alumni Council, which offers an opportunity for VCU alumni to connect with one another and the current student body through their shared bond of military service.

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Snap and share: Take Rodney with you

Rodney in ParisHere’s your chance to take Rodney the Ram with you! Snap a picture with Rodney wherever you go … on vacation, at work or at the grocery store. Then share it on Instagram or Twitter with #flatrodney. Don’t forget to wear your black-and-gold gear to show your school spirit.

Download Rodney, print and cut him out and take him with you today. We can’t wait to see all the places Rodney goes!

School of Business graduate’s foundation helps communities realize their full potential

Sean Powell

Sean Powell, a 2011 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Business, founded Engage, the Foundation the same year.

Sean Powell (B.S.’11/B) sees family beyond family.

Powell’s mother began fostering children when he was 10 years old. Interacting with his foster siblings — who battled disabilities and misfortune — awakened in Powell a sense of social responsibility. He didn’t know it then, but this led him to find his passion in life: helping others discover their passions.

Powell champions the concepts of community, fellowship, brotherhood and mentorship — the idea of sticking together and experiencing life’s hardships and celebrations, and passing down new information and values along the way.

“If people around me need something to develop or grow, I always make it my effort to provide them access to the resources they need,” he said. “If I can’t provide that personally, then I’ll look into my network to see who I can connect them with so they can reach their goals.”

Powell, a graduate of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business, founded Engage, the Foundation in 2011. The community-based organization connects college students to their communities, and encourages them to work with families and kids on campus and in the neighborhood. Two of its main goals are developing successive generations who understand their purpose and identity, and reducing the costs of government assistance needed by unstable families. Engage has spurred growth in communities by holding fundraisers, development programs, workforce programs and other special events.

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Medical school alumna is a voice for all children

Colleen Kraft, M.D.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then Colleen Kraft, M.D. (M.D.’86/M; H.S.’89/M), might say it takes a pediatrician who knows that village to heal one.

Kraft, who earned her medical degree from the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine in 1986, believes spending time in the community is what opened her eyes to the daily issues and concerns facing the children and families she cared for in the office. Nothing, Kraft says, can replace the education you receive when you observe a child’s everyday environment. Some of her greatest insights came during conversations at the park, visits to the local library, school nurse’s office, daycare centers and church nurseries.

“Kids spend 15 minutes in the [doctor’s] office but they live in the community,” she said. “Your investment in the community is what really makes a difference.”

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VCU’s ‘changemaker in residence’ launches campaign urging people working to alleviate poverty to promise to be ‘sidekicks’

Master of Product Innovation students in VCU’s da Vinci Center take part in the Sidekick Manifesto social media campaign.

While visiting Honduras a few years ago as part of his work running a global development nonprofit, Shawn Humphrey, Ph.D., (M.A.’96/B) snapped a photo of a woman carrying water on her head, thinking the image would be perfect for his organization’s website.

The woman got angry. And, Humphrey realized, she had every right to be.

“It’s kind of a development trope. You see images like this on almost every nonprofit’s website. But I had taken her picture without permission, and she was understandably upset,” he said. “It made me ashamed that I did that. I didn’t use the photo, but essentially I stole her image. And, if she hadn’t said anything, I would have used it as part of [our organization’s] narrative or posted it on our website to try to raise awareness and funds for our work in Honduras.”

The humbling process of realizing he acted unethically prompted Humphrey to write what he calls the Sidekick Manifesto, a promise to support — and not attempt to lead — the efforts to alleviate poverty in communities around the world.

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‘Richmond Potluck’ benefits Puerto Rico hurricane victims

Steven Casanova’s exhibit, “The Richmond Cookbook,” at the Anderson.

A Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts alumnus has quickly turned his existing exhibition at the Anderson into a benefit for Puerto Rico, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria last month.

VCUarts will host Steven Casanova’s (B.F.A.’15/A) “Richmond Potluck” on Friday, Oct. 6, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Anderson, 907 1/2 W. Franklin St. Casanova is one of six recent alumni featured in the “Reach Out and Touch” exhibition, on view at the Anderson through Oct. 8.

Casanova’s work, “The Richmond Cookbook,” is a submission-based citywide cookbook showing the diversity in culture and background through Richmond, while contrasting living situations and food access throughout the city.

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Alumni chapters collect food for FeedMore at annual charity challenge

Alumni chapters from all universities in Virginia, as well as several out-of-state institutions, will collect canned goods Wednesday to support FeedMore, the Central Virginia Food Bank.

Virginia Commonwealth University alumni will bring their canned goods and school spirit to the fifth annual Alumni Charity Challenge Wednesday, Sept. 20, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.

Established in 2013 by VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD Chapter, the Alumni Charity Challenge engages alumni chapters from all universities in Virginia, as well as several out-of-state institutions, to support FeedMore, the Central Virginia Food Bank, by collecting canned goods. The challenge, part of the annual Day to Serve, brings awareness to Hunger Action Month.

Thirty participating schools aim to collect 20,000 pounds of food, as alumni compete to donate the most canned goods and get their school’s name on a challenge trophy. VCU earned the trophy for the second consecutive year in 2016. The family-friendly event, sponsored by Nationwide and Virginia Credit Union, includes food trucks, giveaways and music from 103.7 Play.

“It is a great opportunity for alumni groups to come together to fight food insecurity in central Virginia,” said Joseph R. Stemmle, a School of Business alumnus, co-chair of the challenge and a member of the RVA GOLD Chapter’s executive board. “Each alumni chapter tries to collect as many cans as possible in three hours, which are then delivered to FeedMore the following day.”

During the past four years, the Alumni Charity Challenge has collected more than 16 tons of food that has benefited 200,000 children, families and seniors in 34 cities and counties across central Virginia.

“One in seven of our neighbors is struggling to put food on the table, and one in six children in our region aren’t receiving necessary nutrition,” said VCU alumnus Tim McDermott, chief development officer at FeedMore. “Events like this help raise awareness and allow us to reach folks who may not be familiar with FeedMore, our mission, our programs and our impact.”

In addition to donating canned foods, alumni can make make a monetary donation online to FeedMore. For every $1 donated, FeedMore can distribute five pounds of food. Online donations are accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST Sept. 20.

Learn more about the Alumni Charity Challenge at www.alumnicharity.org.

VCU volunteers help critically ill children from developing countries feel welcome in Richmond

Betty Balanos (left) and VCU Spanish professor Anita Nadal read a picture book to Ana Sophia Balanos, 2, who has been undergoing craniofacial surgeries at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and who was brought to Richmond by the World Pediatric Project. (Brian McNeill)

Ana Sophia Balanos, a 2-year-old from Belize, has undergone three major craniofacial surgeries at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU since she was brought to Richmond earlier this summer by the World Pediatric Project. She has one more surgery to go, but she is giggling and excited as she receives a visit from Spanish professor Anita Nadal (B.A.’05/H&S; Cert.’07/H&S) and her Virginia Commonwealth University students.

“¡Hola, princesa!” Nadal says, as she gives Ana Sophia a picture book as a present. “We’re here to spoil la princesa. Es muy importante.”

Nadal, a professor in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, and students taking her class on understanding language and Latin American cultures this summer have been volunteering with the World Pediatric Project, which brings critically ill children from developing countries to the United States for medical care.

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Center for Sport Leadership to lead delegation of Richmond youth soccer players and coaches to promote sports and social change in Kazakhstan

The Richmond youth soccer players will take part in the sports diplomacy delegation to Kazakhstan.

The Center for Sport Leadership at Virginia Commonwealth University will lead a delegation of local soccer coaches and youth soccer players to Kazakhstan this summer for a program aimed at ways sports can create social change.

The program, called ENVEST (Empowering New Voices through Education and Sport Training) is funded by a $700,000 grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs through its Sports Diplomacy Division.

The Richmond-based delegation will travel to Astana, Kazakhstan from Aug. 7-13 where they will meet with coaches and players from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The visit will coincide with the World Expo taking place in Astana this summer.

ENVEST will operate under the leadership of Center for Sport Leadership Executive Director Carrie LeCrom, Ph.D., who has been awarded three previous grants from the U.S. Department of State and has partnered with them to lead sport-for-development missions in Ethiopia, China and South Africa.

“We are grateful to be working with U.S. Department of State again to provide impactful sport for development programming,” LeCrom said. “The trip to Kazakhstan is unique because it is the first time youth will be part of our delegation.”

The youth players and coaches will participate in programming designed to promote cultural understanding. Groups from all countries will create action plans using soccer as a vehicle to address social issues effecting their communities.

The Center for Sport Leadership, which is part of the VCU School of Education, is partnering with the Richmond Strikers Soccer Club and the Football Federation of Kazakhstan. Following the U.S. delegation’s visit this summer, a delegation from Kazakhstan and other participating countries will visit the United States in early 2018.

“By incorporating strategic partners in a productive way, ENVEST has the potential to not only be impactful to those involved, but to have a ripple effect, reaching so many others as well,” LeCrom said.

Organization co-founded by VCU student teaching chess, patience to Richmond youth

Legacy Chess Academy serves youth in Richmond and is aiming to serve more schools and organizations in the surrounding region.

In a Henderson Middle School classroom, dozens of Richmond children between the ages of 12 and 14 are paired off, each huddled over chess boards and playing intensely.

“Chess helps me think,” says Avery White, 12, a student at Falling Creek Middle School. “It’s a very patient game. It helps you think a few steps forward because if you make a wrong move, your opponent can get an advantage on you.”

The students were participating in a chess program run by Legacy Chess Academy — an organization co-founded by Virginia Commonwealth University senior Corey Hancock — and offered as part of the Richmond Police Athletic League’s summer program for Richmond youth.

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