VCU awarded $1.2 million grant to study transition to employment for military dependents with autism spectrum disorder

Paul H. Wehman, Ph.D.

Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University have received a $1.2 million grant to investigate the impact of an evidence-based program that supports military dependents with autism spectrum disorder who are seeking employment after graduating high school.

The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program grant is funding a study measuring the impact of “Project SEARCH plus ASD Supports” on employment outcomes for military dependents with autism between the ages of 18 and 22.

This is the first known intervention study that specifically targets transition aged military dependents with autism, a group frequently described as doubly disadvantaged by their disability and their family member’s service.

The principal investigator is Paul Wehman, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in the VCU School of Medicine and in the Department of Counseling and Special Education in the VCU School of Education.

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New book co-written by VCU English professors tells the story of Japanese scientist’s unexpected path to the Nobel Prize

Osamu Shimomura received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008 for his discovery and development of Green Fluorescent Protein, which has become an important tool for studying the biological process in cells.

A new book co-written by Virginia Commonwealth University professors Sachi Shimomura, Ph.D., and John Brinegar, Ph.D., along with Shimomura’s father, Osamu Shimomura, Ph.D., tells the life story of the elder Shimomura, from his time growing up in wartime Japan and his eyewitness account of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki to his postwar research into jellyfish bioluminescence that ultimately earned him the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008.

The book, “Luminous Pursuit: Jellyfish, GFP, and the Unforeseen Path to the Nobel Prize” (World Scientific 2017), narrates the life and scientific career of Osamu Shimomura, detailing his travels around the world to collect and research more than 15 bioluminescent species. He received the Nobel Prize for the discovery and development of Green Fluorescent Protein — which has become an important tool for studying the biological process in cells — as he was the first person to isolate GFP and the protein aequorin from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria in the early 1960s.

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School of Medicine alumnus treats the neediest patients in some of the world’s most dangerous countries

Adrian J. Holloway, M.D. (M.D.’06/M) has traveled the world — to some of the most dangerous countries, by State Department reckoning — as an educator and cardiac intensivist. He is treated children fleeing ISIS in Northern Iraq, malaria victims in Malawi and earthquake survivors in Haiti.

What has he learned?

“No matter where you go, mothers are the same,” said Holloway, a 2006 graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine. “They know when their child is sick, and they know when their child is healthy.”

Holloway, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, plans to make sure more of them stay healthy. It’s part of his work as program director of the Global Health Pediatric Critical Care Fellowship, the first of its kind, and it’s given him the chance to assist in coordinating efforts to develop the first pediatric intensive care unit in Malawi.

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English professor discovers, digitizes historic slave manuscript in Library of Congress

Katherine Bassard, a professor of African American literature in the Department of English, found the manuscript in a box tucked away in a forgotten corner of the Library of Congress labeled “African American miscellaneous.”

Fields Cook was born into slavery on a Virginia plantation in 1817, and though he died more than 100 years ago, his life and most intimate thoughts survive and were recently revived.

“A Scetch of My Own Life by Fields Cook” is one of the few, if only, surviving manuscripts written before the Civil War by a slave still in bondage. The historic document recently was discovered by Katherine Bassard, Ph.D., (M.A.’86/H&S). senior vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of African American literature in the Department of English in the College of Humanities and Sciences. She found the manuscript in a box tucked away in a forgotten corner of the Library of Congress labeled “African American miscellaneous.”

With the help of Joshua Eckhardt, Ph.D., associate professor of English, and two dedicated graduate student workers, Bassard is turning the manuscript into a digitized, searchable, and freely downloadable file.

“It’s the first enslaved writer of an autobiography, the first slave narrative with manuscript provenance, and the first African American writer writing primarily for an audience other than white northerners,” Bassard said.

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Theater professor honored with Tony nomination

“Jitney.”
Photo by Joan Marcus.

Toni-Leslie James didn’t cry 25 years ago when she received her first Tony Awards nomination. She did today, however, when she received her second.

James, associate professor and director of costume design in the Department of Theatre in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, walked into the theater department this afternoon as a newly minted Tony nominee for Best Costume Design in a Play for her work on “Jitney,” the critically praised revival of the August Wilson play. She immediately encountered such an onrush of congratulations and genuine elation from her colleagues and students that she broke into tears. She couldn’t help herself. They seemed about as happy about her honor as she was.

“I’m so lucky to work with the people I work with,” James said. “The kids are so excited. We’re basically having a lovefest over here.”

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

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’

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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John Accordino named dean of VCU’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

John Accordino, Ph.D.

After a rigorous national search, Virginia Commonwealth University has named John Accordino, Ph.D., as dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, effective March 1. Accordino has served as interim dean of the Wilder School since last July.

“John Accordino has a well-earned reputation for excellence in research, teaching and community engagement,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “His leadership, vision and enthusiasm will advance the Wilder School’s commitment to preparing the next generation of leaders to solve complex societal problems, advance research to inform public policy and decision-making, and collaborate with communities to enhance the quality of life.”

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‘Support for NPR comes from … ’: VCU’s Chioke I’Anson named a voice of NPR

Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D.

Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D.

Listeners of NPR stations across the country are now hearing the voice of a Virginia Commonwealth University faculty member introduce the underwriting credits — the credits that start with “Support for NPR comes from … ” — for NPR’s newscasts and podcasts.

Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D., an instructor in the Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, joins Jessica Hansen as one of NPR’s two voices of underwriting. His voice started airing Nov. 28.

“I’ve been a public radio fan for a good 15 years,” I’Anson said. “[Underwriting announcers have been among] the most present, iconic voices on all of NPR. They are at the end of every newscast, of every show, and at the beginning of every podcast. They are as recognizable as Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish. The credits they read are essential to keeping the lights on, so to speak. It is a very nerdy dream come true to join Jessica as a voice of NPR.”

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Peter Buckley named dean of VCU School of Medicine and VCU Health executive VP for medical affairs

Peter Buckley, M.D.

Peter Buckley, M.D.

Virginia Commonwealth University announced today that Peter F. Buckley, M.D., has been

appointed dean of the VCU School of Medicine, effective Jan. 17. He also will serve as VCU Health System executive vice president for medical affairs, overseeing the 600 physician-faculty group practice of the academic health sciences center.

Buckley comes to VCU from Augusta University in Georgia where he is dean of the Medical College of Georgia and executive vice president for medical affairs and integration. A psychiatrist and expert in schizophrenia, Buckley also is a professor of psychiatry, pharmacology and radiology at MCG.

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