Next in line: Legacy students forge fresh paths at VCU


For some parents and other family members who attend Virginia Commonwealth University’s Family Weekend Oct. 23-25, they won’t be visiting campus for the second or third or even fourth time — they’ll be coming home. That’s because many VCU students follow in the footsteps of other relatives who attended VCU before them and make their own memories on their family members’ old stomping grounds.

Legacy students often bond with their relatives through their shared experiences at VCU — all while experiencing the university in their own unique way. Below are a few of their stories.

The Etiennes

Darice Etienne is the sixth member of her family to attend VCU, a tradition that goes back three generations and five decades. The legacy began with Darice’s grandmother, Carol Belton-Bynum, who studied education at what was then the Richmond Professional Institute in 1966, followed by Darice’s mother, Sheronda Bynum, who graduated with a degree in fashion and merchandising in 1999. “Actually, my mother had me while she was going to school here,” says Darice. “I even remember going to her graduation when I was 4 years old.”

Darice’s father and uncle, twin brothers Derrick and Darrell Etienne, studied mass communications and played soccer for VCU from 1995 to 1997 before starting professional soccer careers, while her aunt on her mother’s side, Sheila Bynum-Coleman, graduated with a B.S. in political science in 2010.

You might say Darice was destined to be a Ram, but she wasn’t convinced until her mother gave her the grand tour of campus. On her one-woman guided tour, Sheronda pointed out the highlights that remained from her time at VCU in the ’90s, such as the Pollak Building where she studied and John Chandler and Kat Farley’s Mobile Munchies campus food kiosk. But she also noted the array of new buildings to show her daughter how VCU had developed in the past 20 years.

Read more about the Etiennes and other legacy families.

‘Art Doors’ challenge raises awareness of community organizations

A door designed by sculpture major Lindsay Parnell is perched in front of The Diamond.

In the past couple of weeks, freestanding doors have been popping up all over Richmond. At first glance they may appear to lead nowhere, but for the Virginia Commonwealth University community they could lead to free indoor cycling sessions.

The creators of Find Art Doors, a public art installation and quest, issued a special challenge to the VCU community: During the UCI bike races Sept. 19-27, wear VCU gear or colors, find the doors, take selfies with the doors and post to Instagram. Whoever posts the most Ram-centric selfies with the doors will win a five-class package for Boho Cycle Studio in the Museum District.

The art doors bring awareness of the missions of Virginia Supportive Housing and Art on Wheels. Professional and amateur artists, including several VCU alumni and students, participated.

The Richmond Flying Squirrels asked sculpture major Lindsay Parnell, daughter of Todd Parnell, the team’s COO, to design the door at The Diamond.

“I was super-stoked about the mission of the project,” she said. “I also liked the idea of my work being exhibited outside of the ballpark since I practically grew up in that setting. Virginia Supportive Housing and Art on Wheels are both amazing organizations in our community so it was a no-brainer to want to be a part of this. I also think it provides a great opportunity for people to explore Richmond by going to each venue or organization that has a door on display. The doors are now installed at museums, parks, historic sites and other landmarks around Richmond.”

Read more.

Six VCU alumni selected for Fulbright grants

Six Virginia Commonwealth University alumni have been awarded Fulbright grants for the 2015-2016 academic year. The awards include four English Teaching Assistant grants and two research grants.

With this newest group of Fulbright student scholarship recipients, 34 VCU students and recent alumni have been offered Fulbright awards since VCU established the National Scholarship Office in 2005.

Read more.


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Robertson: School graduates largest class to date

Recent grads Brandon Day (B.S.'15/MC) and Ashley Robinson (B.S.'15/MC) Photo by Natasha Long

Recent grads Brandon Day (B.S.’15/MC) and Ashley Robinson (B.S.’15/MC)
Photo by Natasha Long

In May, the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture held its annual spring graduation commencement at the Richmond Convention Center. This year saw 213 graduates – from undergraduates, to masters and to even one Ph.D. student – walk across the stage. This was the largest class to have ever graduated in the history of the Robertson School.

Mark Raper (B.S.’82/H&S), alumnus and president of Padilla CRT, was the speaker at this year’s graduation.

Learn more.

Robertson: Professor snags community engagement grant

robertson rowenaRowena Briones, assistant professor of public relations for the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, helped secure a year of funding for the Red Flag Campaign to raise bystander awareness on sexual violence, dating violence and stalking. The efforts of Briones and her team have made it possible to continue the important research that began with a $5000 Avon Foundation for Women grant in the Fall 2014 semester and will continue with a $15,925 community engagement grant starting July 2015.

Over the past year Briones has seen her team grow significantly, with collaborators from units such as VCU’s School of Education and School of Social Work. The involvement of so many different groups even resulted in a Building Interdisciplinary Bridges in Women’s Health Research Award at the VCI Institute for Women’s Health Women’s Health Research Day, which included a $1,000 prize for conference travel.

Read more.

Robertson: Journalism major awarded coveted internship

hands leonardDuring past summers, journalism major Matt Leonard has worked as a raft guide in Richmond and in his home state of North Carolina. He sees parallels between that job and his intended profession.

“One of the most important qualifications for both a raft guide and a journalist is the ability to earn trust,” said Leonard, who grew up in Sylva, North Carolina, and graduated from Smoky Mountain High School. “The passengers in a raft have to trust they’re in safe hands, while readers of an article have to trust they’re reading honest work.”

During the coming summer, Leonard will trade a fast-moving river for a fast-paced newsroom: He has been awarded a prestigious Dow Jones News Fund internship to work as a digital journalist at The Denver Post. It’s a coveted opportunity that may carry him into his career after he graduates in December from the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

“My career plan is to go into print or online journalism,” said Leonard, who will turn 22 this month. “I want to write stories that help readers better understand the community they live in and hold people in power accountable. The digital internship with the DJNF is a step in that direction.

“As news outlets move from print to Web, I need to be prepared for the transition. This will be an important part of preparing for and continuing that transition. While at The Denver Post, I hope to acquire skills that will improve my storytelling ability, my computer capabilities and the ability to bring readers to a story.”

Read more.

Robertson: Alumna pens award-winning Holocaust book

Nancy300Nancy Beasley’s (M.S.’00/H&S) career as a journalist started with a wager — one that she lost. In 1979, Beasley’s husband bet her $10 and a haircut that she could get a job as a reporter at the Richmond News-Leader. She took him up on the bet thinking she wouldn’t get the job, seeing as she had never written professionally. She lost the bet, and now 36 years after this accidental beginning, the VCU School of Mass Communications alumna is still writing.

Earlier this month, Beasley was selected as the Monroe Scholar at VCU for her book, “Izzy’s Fire.” The book is a nonfiction account about a family that sheltered a Lithuanian Jewish family during the Holocaust. It has won numerous awards on the national and state level and is currently being taught in schools and universities across the country.

“It was a story that broke my heart,” Beasley said. “I didn’t think I could call myself a journalist if I didn’t write it.”

The Monroe Scholar program at VCU recognizes alumni that have authored successful pieces of work in both fiction and non-fiction. In regard to being honored as the Monroe Scholar, Beasley said she was absolutely “incredulous.”

Beasley credits much of her success to Clarence Thomas, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at VCU, who helped guide her through the struggles of graduate school as a nontraditional student.

Read more.

Robertson: School hosts Virginia Communications Hall of Fame

Director of the Robertson School, Hong Cheng, addresses the crowd at the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame ceremony. Photo by Kegham Hovsepian

Robertson School Director Hong Cheng addresses the crowd at the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame ceremony. Photo by Kegham Hovsepian

Seven longtime media veterans were inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in April. The 28th annual induction took place at the John Marshall Hotel, with almost 200 guests in attendance.

Each year, the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame honors media professionals with extraordinary careers in public relations, journalism, advertising and other media fields. Throughout the night the seven inductees, whose careers range from radio, public relations, broadcast and print, shared personal stories as they accepted their medals.

Francis Eugene Wood shared how he got his start in radio more than 30 years ago. Wood joined WFLO in 1971 and hosted morning shows, as well as the award-winning “Call Flo Radio Show.”

“Years later my boss found my original application for the station ,” Wood said. “He told me he didn’t think I was very good, but he needed someone for the job.”

Over the years, Wood would go on to prove that WFLO made the right choice in hiring him. Wood is now the general manager of Colonial Broadcasting Company Inc., which includes the Farmville, Va. station he began his career at.

For some inductees, a career in journalism was a childhood dream that came to life. Cheryl E. Miller from CBS 6, and Diane Walker from NBC12 both shared stories about growing up as young girls watching television. Walker stressed the importance of media representation in her ultimate decision to study journalism at the University of Virginia.

“I didn’t see anyone who looked like me on TV,” Walker said. “Then one day my little brother ran into my room, laughing, and said ‘Diane, there’s someone on TV who looks like you.’”

Read more.