NSF awards VCU a $1.2M grant to train math and science teachers for the Richmond region

Rosalyn Hobson Hargraves, Ph.D., an associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning in the School of Education and an associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in the School of Engineering, is part of the team working on the Noyce Phase III project.

The National Science Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to a Virginia Commonwealth University scholarship program that recruits science, technology, engineering and math students and trains them to serve as secondary school math and science teachers in the Richmond region.

The grant to the Noyce Scholarship program at the VCU School of Education is meant to help address a longstanding shortage of STEM teachers.

It will provide 25 scholarships, stipends and fellowships for students interested in pursuing teacher training in mathematics and science. The project will fund 12 STEM majors and 13 Masters of Teaching students over five years.

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A teaching assistantship in Ivory Coast is the latest adventure for this VCU Fulbright scholar

Tyler Tresslar, pictured here rock climbing in Cape Town, South Africa, is one of seven VCU alumni studying abroad as part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. (Courtesy photo)

For someone who didn’t do too well when he started college, Tyler Tresslar (B.S.’17/B) has come a long way.

The 27-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University graduate is a 2017-18 Fulbright scholar with an English teaching assistantship in Ivory Coast.

“I came to VCU as a transfer student, having not done too well [in] my first attempt [at the University of New Mexico],” said Tresslar, who grew up in Fredericksburg and moved around often. “I [had gone] back to community college to get my grades up, then transferred to VCU. Honestly, I don’t remember exactly how I ended up at VCU. It seemed like the obvious choice as a transfer student wanting to study business. Looking back, it was definitely the right choice. I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities at another school.”

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Making sure the beat goes on: Alumna and Fulbright scholar Hannah Standiford preserves traditional Indonesian music

Standiford speaking to a classroom of students while in Indonesia.

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Hannah Standiford (B.M.’11/A) picked up her first guitar at 13. Music has played an integral role in her life ever since.

She studied classical guitar at Virginia Commonwealth University, graduating with a bachelor’s in music in 2011. Since then, she has performed as the frontwoman for a number of bands and has taught guitar and voice lessons with several music schools in the Richmond, Virginia, area.

“Through [teaching], I’m able to help other people access something that’s enriched my life so much,” Standiford says. “It gives me an incredibly fulfilling feeling.”

Shortly after graduating from VCU, she attended a performance by the University of Richmond’s Gamelan Raga Kusuma Balinese ensemble, which performs traditional Indonesian music using percussion instruments. This was her first exposure to the concept of community music, a form of music making that emphasizes collaboration among individuals who play, create, improvise and perform music together.

Standiford was hooked and wanted to explore community music further, so in 2014 she applied for and received a Darmasiswa scholarship, which supports foreign students wanting to study the language, arts and culture of Indonesia. She traveled to Solo, Java, where she began studying gamelan and the traditional string music style called keroncong.

When she returned to the States the following year, she started her own keroncong group, Rumput, which combines both Indonesian and American folk styles.

Wanting to continue to study keroncong at its source, she applied for a Fulbright scholarship through VCU’s National Scholarship Office. The Fulbright program is an international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government that fosters international goodwill through the exchange of students and scholars in countries around the globe.

“It took me all summer to write the two-page proposal, but it was worth it,” she says. “I’m really grateful for the [National Scholarship Office] at VCU. Having somebody to help me through the steps and take me through a mock Fulbright panel was a huge help.”

Meredith Sisson, NSO assistant director, alongside NSO Director Jeff Wing, assisted Standiford through the application process.

“[We] work to help applicants make connections with alumni, faculty or other field experts that we think can help them think through their ideas,” Sisson says. “Hannah’s project builds on her previous experiences in Indonesia and on her studies of Appalachian folk music. If anyone can do this, it’s certainly her.”

Standiford was named a Fulbright Scholar and returned to Indonesia in early 2017. With her scholarship, she’s researching keroncong’s two unique styles, langgam jawa keroncong and stambul fajar, in different locations across the country.

“[Keroncong] is known as a music of nostalgia, past its halcyon days but still popular among music veterans,” she says. “Though it’s not widely practiced anymore, there are still communities where [keroncong] is evolving alongside the younger generation who want to keep the style alive.”

She’s currently living on the island of Medanau in Belitong, Indonesia, documenting the stambul fajar through recordings, writing and interviews with the island’s only veteran of the music, Achmadi, and another local, Jabing, who recently received funding from the local government to preserve the music as well.

“[Stambul fajar] music is extremely endangered,” Standiford says. “What we’re hoping to do is preserve a facet of human expression that is specific to the people on this island and nowhere else in the world.”

Once she completes her studies in Indonesia, Standiford plans to publish a paper on keroncong and its recent revival, with the hopes of making the music accessible to a wider audience by combining aspects of it with American folk music. She’s already planned a tour, starting in July, with Rumput to perform in both Indonesia and the U.S.

“[Rumput] relies on the idea of community music making just like keroncong,” Standiford says. “We’re all indispensable, and there’s no lead player. We just want to create the best musical experience possible.”

Scholarship assistance for alumni

More than 50 VCU students and alumni have earned Fulbright awards since the VCU National Scholarship Office was created in 2005. The office offers a range of services to VCU alumni interested in applying for competitive national and international scholarships and fellowships, including the Fulbright scholarship. Learn more.

Want to learn about the Fulbright application process? Register for one of the NSO’s informational webinars on March 6 or March 7.



Fraternity scholarship extends an engineering student’s legacy

Dillon Hensley, who received his physics degree in May and plans to pursue an M.S. in the subject at VCU, is the first recipient of Triangle Fraternity’s Chris Ducic Scholarship.

Dillon Hensley (B.S.’17/H&S) completed his bachelor of science in physics with help from a program named for an outstanding engineering student: the Chris Ducic Scholarship. Hensley is the first recipient of this award, which was established by VCU’s Triangle Fraternity, a social fraternity for science, engineering and architecture students. The scholarship is named for Chris Ducic (B.S.’16/E), an academic standout in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering and founding member of Triangle who died during his senior year in 2015.

“The best way to remember Chris is by remembering his work ethic and intellect. He had a big personality — that’s for sure — but also a very strong intellect. A scholarship named after him keeps that idea front and center,” said Zachary Cullingsworth, a graduate student in mechanical and nuclear engineering and Triangle member.

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Two VCU Honors College students awarded Boren scholarships

Sarah Sweeney, left, and Theresa Dinh.

Two Virginia Commonwealth University students will study language in Asia with support from the Boren Scholarship. Theresa Dinh will study in Ho Chi Minh City and Danang, Vietnam, while Sarah Sweeney will study at Chiang Mai University in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The Boren Scholarship, part of the National Security Education Program, supports undergraduate students who wish to study less commonly taught languages. Dinh and Sweeney will spend an academic year abroad. Participants commit to a year of federal government service upon graduation.

Dinh, an international studies major in the College of Humanities and Sciences, is also a member of the Honors College and VCU Globe. She will study human trafficking and other topics at Hoa Sen University and in the State University of New York-Brockport’s Da Nang program.

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Inaugural ball will celebrate black excellence, award $5,000 in scholarships

Virginia Commonwealth University is hosting its inaugural Black Excellence Scholarship Ball: Celebrating a Heritage Rooted in Excellence that will recognize the academic and personal accomplishments of VCU’s black students, faculty, and alumni.

The event will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 22 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, 403 N. 3rd St., Richmond. Faculty, staff and alumni tickets are available for $25, and can be purchased at https://blackexcellencescholarshipball.com/. Student tickets are sold out.

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VCU recognized as a top Fulbright producing institution

Virginia Commonwealth University is a top producer of Fulbright student scholars for 2016-17, according to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Eleven students from VCU received Fulbright awards for the 2016-2017 academic year, the most of any Virginia college or university. Four recipients have been awarded English Teaching Assistant grants and seven have been awarded study/research grants.

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VCU student awarded Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship

Alex Morales.  Photo by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs

Alex Morales.
Photo by Pat Kane, University Public Affairs

Alex Morales, a sophomore fashion merchandising student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts, will study in Italy this semester with support from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program.

“In Europe, fashion is everywhere,” Morales said. “It’s such a global industry. It brings people together, nations together.”

Morales will study at the European Institute for Design (Istituto Europeo di Design) in Florence, and plans to take advantage of every formal and informal opportunity to develop his fashion industry sense.

Gilman scholars receive up to $5,000 to apply toward their study abroad or internship program costs. Students work with the VCU Education Abroad office and the National Scholarship Office to develop competitive applications.

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Physical therapy fund provides opportunities for students

Sue Hirt, at right, has had lasting impact on the Department of Phys­ical Therapy through the Sue Hirt Fund.

Sue Hirt, at right, has had lasting impact on the Department of Phys­ical Therapy through the Sue Hirt Fund.

When Joseph D. Wilkins was a child, his father was involved in a serious car crash. The event planted the seeds of a career path.

“From the seventh grade, I wanted to go into physical therapy,” said Wilkins (M.S.’01/AHP; D.P.T.’06/AHP; M.S.H.A.’11/AHP). “After seeing the therapy that helped my father mobilize himself, I wanted to help people walk again. It had a huge impact on me and what I wanted to do.”

But as he searched for a way to attend graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University and pursue his dream of becoming a physical therapist, he realized he was going to need some help.

“Early on, as an undergraduate at William and Mary, I was on an academic scholarship, then I converted to a football scholarship,” Wilkins said. “So coming into graduate school, I was on my own. It seemed a little daunting, but I knew there was a light through the tunnel. I’d be able to survive and support myself.”

A scholarship from the Sue Hirt Fund enabled Wilkins to focus on being a full-time physical therapy student.

“The scholarship helped pay my rent, buy food and provide essentials such as clothing,” he said. “I dedicated my time to school because of the help it provided.”

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VCU students earn Boren Scholarships for international study

Gabrielle “Gabby” Beckford, at left, and Caroline Butler.

Gabrielle “Gabby” Beckford, at left, and Caroline Butler.

Two Virginia Commonwealth University students will study foreign languages overseas next academic year with support from Boren Scholarships.

Gabrielle “Gabby” Beckford will study Arabic in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, while Caroline Butler will study Wolof and French in Dakar, Senegal. Butler will also spend eight weeks this summer taking an intensive Wolof course at the University of Florida as part of Boren’s African Flagship Languages Initiative.

Supported by the National Security Education Program, the Boren Scholarship provides opportunities for U.S. undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. national security interests. The scholarship includes a commitment to work for the federal government.

“Their studies at VCU have certainly prepared Gabby and Caroline for this intensive, exciting opportunity,” said Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs. “We look forward to their return to Richmond with a richer, more nuanced understanding of language and culture.”

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