VCU’s School of Allied Health Professions becomes the VCU College of Health Professions

Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Allied Health Professions is now the VCU College of Health Professions. The new name reflects the expanding breadth and level of academic programming, as well as the college’s increase in research, faculty and student enrollment.

“We are updating ourselves to current ways of identifying health profession colleges,” said Cecil B. Drain, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Professions. “The name change is going to pull us together within one college administration.”

The new name echoes another significant change on the horizon — construction of the new College of Health Professions building, which is scheduled to open for classes in fall 2019. The 154,000-square-foot building will provide a unified space for the college’s nine academic units, the doctoral program in health-related sciences, the dean’s office and the Virginia Center on Aging. The college’s top-ranked programs have occupied 13 buildings in the past 49 years and are currently scattered among five buildings on two campuses.

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VCU inspires alumna’s career in advocacy

By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Alexsis Rodgers (B.S.’13/MC), director of communications for Planned Parenthood Virginia, takes over the VCU Alumni Instagram account Monday. Outside of her full-time job, Rodgers is active in local politics and recently worked as director of policy for then-Lieutenant Governor of Virginia  Ralph Northam.

What drew you to VCU?

I originally chose VCU because of its top-notch medical program, but I later decided I’d rather work for doctors than be a doctor myself. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to lead communications efforts and messaging for the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Dr. Ralph Northam and the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood.

The diversity of VCU’s student population was also a driving factor in my decision to attend the university. The ability to learn from and build lifelong bonds with individuals from all over the world is a degree on its own.

What was your time like at the university?

A balancing act. Earning good grades and getting communications internship experience were my top two priorities. Of course, I wanted to have fun and try new things while I was in school, too. I’m sure I didn’t strike the perfect balance, but I think I came pretty close.

I loved traveling to Guatemala to serve as an interpreter for an arts education study abroad trip, working at a local coffee shop near campus and organizing the 2012 Intercultural Festival at VCU. None of these opportunities were “part of the plan,” but they were major highlights from my time at VCU.

When did you know you wanted to be involved with politics and issue advocacy?

During my senior year, a friend of mine was a national leader for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. His involvement inspired me to start volunteering. A few months later, I decided to defer my final semester and accept a full-time job on the campaign.

I’ve stayed active in local, state and national Democratic politics ever since. Recently, I was elected president of the Virginia Young Democrats, the largest partisan youth organization in the commonwealth of Virginia.

How has VCU tied into your career path?

I was really blessed to be able to weave a lot of career development opportunities into my time at VCU. I interned at PR firms and advertising agencies, and I served as a career center ambassador as well. Those real-world experiences prepared me to jump right into my career.

Evans-Haynes Burn Center earns Beacon Award for nursing excellence

VCU Health Evans-Burn Center received a 2018 Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

The 30-member nursing team at the VCU Health Evans-Haynes Burn Center has been recognized with a silver level Beacon Award for Excellence by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

The award honors North American hospital units for their, “evidence-based practices to improve patient and family outcomes,” according to the AACN website. Also used as a benchmark for the award are nursing units that demonstrate a positive and reassuring work environment, with greater collaboration between colleagues and leaders, higher morale and lower turnover.

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These eight VCU students are the first in their family to graduate from college. Here’s how they did it.

From left: First-generation graduates Sophia Booker, Jaren Butts, Ricardo Rodriguez, Brandon Watts and Tammie Goode

They each have a story: Jeff Petraco (B.S.’14/N) earned his first degree 42 years ago and now finds himself in cap and gown again, at the beginning of a new career. Brandon Watts was raised in a home without internet and now aspires to start a data science company. Candace Moore had to put her education on hold twice and cashed out her 401(k) to pay for school. On Saturday, she will graduate with two degrees.

They come from different places and have different dreams. But they also share something in common: They are the first in their family to graduate from college. VCU News sat down with eight students in the weeks leading to commencement to discuss the moments that mattered on the way to their degrees.

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She said yes! With help from VCU Libraries’ screen, proposal became a really big ask

Osman Malik (B.S.’15/B) and Faria Ahmed (B.S.’15/H&S) celebrate their engagement on VCU’s Compass outside the James Branch Cabell Library. Photo by Jay Paul (B.G.S.’85/H&S; M.F.A.’93/A)

By Julie Young

His stomach was in knots, and he stumbled over the words he had so carefully rehearsed. But at 2:50 p.m. April 21, with an assist from James Branch Cabell Library’s 400-foot digital screen, Osman Malik (B.S.’15/B) pulled off a surprise proposal to his longtime girlfriend, Faria Ahmed (B.S.’15/H&S), on the Virginia Commonwealth University Compass.

The big ask incorporated more than 50 covertly invited friends and relatives, professional and amateur photographers, a shiny new ring — and the screen flashing their photo and the text, “Will you …”

She will, sometime in 2019.

VCU holds special memories for the couple. They met in 2011 during Welcome Week and have been together since. The proposal had to happen on the Monroe Park Campus, Malik says.

“What better place than the place that started it all?” says Malik, a senior associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Tysons Corner, Virginia, where his fiancée works for MicroStrategy.

It took eight months of planning for Malik to hatch his plan, which involved accomplices from both families, their circle of friends and Sue Robinson, VCU Libraries’ communications and public relations director. VCU Libraries, which made a one-time exception to its guidelines and allowed him to use the Cabell screen, vowing it would stray from academics and art images into romance just this once.

He knew it would be easy to lure Ahmed to Richmond without arousing suspicion. What’s more romantic than a springtime visit to campus? The couple left Northern Virginia at 8:30 a.m. that Saturday. Once in Richmond, they hit their favorite restaurant, Thai Top Ten, for lunch, but Malik could only force down a couple bites.

“Why aren’t you eating?” Ahmed asked.

“Probably like a stomachache or something,” he replied.

He checked his phone repeatedly for texts from his “logistics team” at the library. After lunch, Malik suggested they sit outside the dining center, not far from where they sipped coffee and decided to be an official couple on Jan. 26, 2012. He got the text that the screen was ready and they walked toward the library.

Ahmed looked up quizzically at the photo of herself and Malik on the big screen. “And then I just started professing my love to her,” he says. “But at that moment, my memory is completely blacked out. I don’t remember exactly what I said.”

Friends and family members emerged from hiding places as Malik knelt on the Compass. A favorite Indian song played from his brother’s boom box. Ahmed said yes, tears flowed, hugs ensued and cameras clicked. “It was really special,” she says.

“Looking back now, I can see subtle signs,” she says of the surprise. “My friend was really adamant about me getting my nails done and a lot of my friends were asking what I was going to wear.”

What inspired Malik to such an over-the-top gesture? “I want to spend the rest of my life with the person who has not only helped me grow, but the individual who drives me to become the best version of myself,” he says.

 

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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As he prepares to speak at commencement, Boris Kodjoe recalls his road from VCU to Hollywood

Boris Kodjoe will deliver VCU’s spring commencement address on May 12.

In 27 years as head tennis coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, Paul Kostin has just about seen and heard it all. He’s coached hundreds of players of varying abilities and personalities, and they have challenged him in seemingly infinite ways. Still, he has only encountered one Boris Kodjoe (B.S.’96/B), and he has never faced a conundrum quite like the one Kodjoe brought to him one spring day in 1996.

Kodjoe appeared depressed when he entered Kostin’s office that day. A superb competitor in both singles and doubles, Kodjoe was nearing the end of a Rams’ career that would place him among the most successful VCU players ever. So Kostin was stunned when Kodjoe sheepishly asked if he could miss the team’s upcoming match with Clemson University.

Kodjoe wanted to be on the court with his teammates, he said, but he also wanted to attend a music video awards show in New York. Kodjoe wasn’t just looking for some random fun night out. While acing the rigors of a student-athlete’s life at VCU, Kodjoe had also carved out a promising modeling career that already saw him traveling in rarefied circles. He had been a breakout star in the recent video for TLC’s song, “Red Light Special,” a top awards contender, and the upcoming show would offer him an invaluable moment in the spotlight.

Few Division I athletic coaches likely would have even considered the request, but Kostin knew the event was a unique opportunity for a student whose star was rising fast outside of tennis. Also, he said, it was hard to say no to this particular player. So he reluctantly agreed to excuse him.

“I could never get mad at Boris because he was such an exceptional person and so unselfish as a player and a teammate,” Kostin said. “He deserved to go. It also was clear he was going places and I didn’t want to get in the way of that.”

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VCU recognized as a top producer of Gilman scholars

Marwa Eltaib, one of 14 VCU students who received Gilman scholarships during the 2016-17 academic year, at Chamonix Mont Blanc, at the border between France and Switzerland. Eltaib studied abroad as a Gilman scholar in fall 2016.

Virginia Commonwealth University has been recognized among education institutions that sent the most students overseas through the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program in academic year 2016-17. VCU ranked No. 41 among nearly 150 universities nationwide that enroll more than 15,000 undergraduates, according to a report issued last month.

In addition to its ranking among large institutions, VCU was listed in all of Gilman’s priority achievement categories, which included scholarships for minority students, first-generation college students, students with disabilities, STEM students, and variety in the total number of destinations.

VCU was Virginia’s top-ranked institution on all lists.

The Gilman scholarship plays a significant role in making study abroad accessible for VCU students, said Stephanie Tignor (B.M.’04/A; M.A.’12/H&S), director of the VCU Education Abroad office.

“We are immensely proud of our students’ accomplishments and of VCU being recognized among other institutions that produce Gilman scholars,” she said. “When students study abroad, they not only build skills that will benefit them academically, professionally and personally, they also bring their broadened global perspectives back to campus, and that enriches the entire VCU community.”

The Gilman scholarship program provides awards for U.S. undergraduate students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at two-year or four-year colleges or universities to participate in study abroad programs worldwide. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Institute of International Education.

Over the past five years, 59 VCU students have received Gilman scholarships. Fourteen were awarded in 2016-17 to students from 10 different academic majors who studied in 13 countries between fall 2016 and summer 2017.

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

Ultrasound technology can help paramedics save lives in the field. A groundbreaking new class at VCU is training them how.

Michael Ny (B.S.’13/H&S), a firefighter and paramedic for Chesterfield County, practices using ultrasound to find a vein to insert an IV.

A 62-year-old male has collapsed on a treadmill at the gym. First responders arrive to find that he’s unconscious and without a pulse. They start CPR.

“Let’s see what’ve got,” says paramedic Shawn Lawrence (B.S.W.’10/SW), as he runs a small ultrasound probe over the man’s chest, conjuring up a black-and-white image of the heart on a handheld monitor.

The ultrasound reveals the heart is quivering, just slightly.

“OK, so what do you think?” asks Stephanie K. Louka, M.D. (H.S.’17/M), an emergency medical services fellow and clinical instructor in the Department of Emergency Medicine of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.

“So, we’re going to shock him,” Lawrence replies. He applies a defibrillator. The ultrasound shows the man’s heart has started beating again with an organized rhythm.

“Oh, I’m happy with that,” Lawrence says. “It looks good.”

This scenario — a simulation in which Lawrence was resuscitating a medical training mannequin — took place in VCU’s trauma skills classroom as part of a new course in which first responder medical personnel from across Virginia are getting hands-on training to use ultrasound technology before the patient reaches a hospital.

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How do we view the Syrian refugee crisis? A new study looks to Instagram and Pinterest for answers

Sentiments about the Syrian refugee crisis are increasingly being expressed on social media. A new study led by Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, provides new insight into what and how information about Syrian refugees is being shared.

As millions of Syrians have fled their country’s civil war, the influx of refugees has prompted both humanitarian efforts to help them as well as growing views of refugees as a threat to the receiving countries’ security and autonomy.

Sentiments about the refugee crisis are increasingly expressed on social media. A new study led by Jeanine Guidry, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’17/M), an assistant professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences, provides new insight into what and how information about Syrian refugees is being shared.

The study, “Welcome or Not: Comparing #Refugee Posts on Instagram and Pinterest,” was a quantitative content analysis of a random sample of 750 Instagram posts and 750 Pinterest posts to evaluate and compare visual and textual messaging surrounding the crisis.

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