Send off the Class of 2021 in style

Join VCU Alumni and VCU New Student and Family Programming for our summer sendoffs in Washington, D.C., and in Fredericksburg, Lynchburg, Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia. Share your VCU experience and postgrad life with VCU’s Class of 2021 before they start their college career and savor hearty hors d’oeuvres and beverages while talking with families.

Most of the events are free for alumni to attend. The Nationals Game in D.C. is the only event that requires a ticket.

Fredericksburg
When: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 1
Where: Kenmore Inn, 1200 Princess Anne Street, Fredericksburg, Virginia 22401
RSVP: By July 28 to Allison Toney, associate director of outreach and engagement, or Lauren Leavy, program coordinator of outreach and engagement

Richmond
When: 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 3
Where: District 5, 1911 Main St., Richmond, VA 23220
RSVP: By July 28 to Allison Toney, associate director of outreach and engagement, or Lauren Leavy, program coordinator of outreach and engagement

Lynchburg
When: 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 8
Where: Charleys Restaurant, 707 Graves Mill Road (Route 501N, Exit 11), Lynchburg, VA 24502
RSVP: By July 31  to Allison Toney, associate director of outreach and engagement, or Lauren Leavy, program coordinator of outreach and engagement

Hampton Roads
When: 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 9
Where: Meyera E. Oberndorf Central Library, Folio Room, 4100 Virginia Beach Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA 23452
RSVP: By July 31 to Allison Toney, associate director of outreach and engagement, or Lauren Leavy, program coordinator of outreach and engagement

Washington, D.C.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 12
Where: Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC 20003
Cost: $29. Ticket includes entrance to the game and a $15 food and/or drink voucher. Please note tickets are nonrefundable.
Register: Online

Warren Brandt, VCU’s president in a time of transition and turmoil, dies at 93

Warren Brandt. Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries.

Warren Brandt, the first president of Virginia Commonwealth University, died this week at the age of 93. Brandt served as university president from June 1969 through October 1974 after Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia merged to form VCU. He presided over a period of rapid growth and steep operational challenges associated with the charge to unite two distinct institutions with their own administrations, facilities, processes and traditions.

Eugene Trani, Ph.D., who served as president of VCU from 1990 to 2009, said at the 2005 dedication of Brandt Hall, a 17-story dormitory named to honor Brandt’s critical role in the history of the university, that Brandt deftly managed the difficult transition.

“As with any change of that magnitude, there were many pressing issues to handle, from setting up a new governance system to addressing budgetary issues to dealing with faculty concerns — including considerable resistance to the merger on the part of some faculty,” said Trani, now a president emeritus and university distinguished professor. “Dr. Brandt skillfully combined his knowledge and abilities as a researcher, professor and administrator to successfully lead Virginia Commonwealth University as its first president from 1969 to 1974. He set the stage and created a strong foundation for the tremendous growth that we have experienced since his time here.”

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VCU’s Center for Sport Leadership ranked top 10 in North America

The Center for Sport Leadership at VCU is ranked eighth in North America and 12th in the world in the 2017 Sports Business International Postgraduate Sport Course Rankings. This is the second year in a row the CSL has been included in the definitive list of top sports management programs. The CSL is also ranked fifth worldwide in graduate satisfaction and 12th in highest average salary.

“We are honored to be ranked among the best sports management programs in the world for the second year in a row,” said Carrie LeCrom, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Sport Leadership. “We are particularly excited to be ranked fifth worldwide in graduate satisfaction. Our alumni are our greatest asset and we appreciate their continued support of our program.”

his is the sixth year Sports Business International has conducted the rankings for sport business and sports management programs worldwide. The publication received a record number of entries for consideration. The methodology of the rankings is based on several factors: graduates employed within three months of graduation; work placement; male/female ratio; domestic/international student ratio; and average salary after three years of graduation. There is also a student satisfaction component, which is based on a survey filled out by a program’s alumni from a designated year.

The Center for Sport Leadership, part of the VCU School of Education, was established in 1999, developed with the idea of creating an innovative, practical learning environment that would prepare students interested in the sport industry for a successful career in the business.

Modeled after the highly successful VCU Brandcenter, the top-ranked graduate advertising program in the country, the Center for Sport Leadership launched as a nontraditional sport leadership graduate program that focuses on experiential learning through hands-on experiences.

The Center for Sport Leadership at VCU has more than 800 alumni working in all areas of the sport industry, including the NFL, NBA, NHL, USGA, and more than 50 Division I college athletic departments across the country.

VCU Libraries secures $1 million Cabell Challenge grant

VCU Libraries has achieved a major fundraising goal by matching a $1 million challenge from the Cabell Foundation. The fundraising challenge was issued by the foundation in December 2015, and VCU Libraries exceeded the $1 million goal 90 days before the deadline.

The Cabell Foundation, a prominent Central Virginia philanthropic group, seeks to make lasting, positive impact on the Richmond region by strengthening key educational and cultural institutions and projects. The challenge grant was intended to stimulate philanthropic support of VCU Libraries as well as provide essential funds to fulfill the rich promise of VCU’s new library building on its Monroe Park Campus. The challenge was a success on both fronts: VCU Libraries exceeded the monetary goal, and expanded its community of supporters, through a record 434 gifts and pledges from alumni, faculty, staff, community members and others.

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VCU lab 3-D scans mastodon fossils, helping researchers around the world study the massive Ice Age animal

Jerre Johnson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of geology at the College of William and Mary, brought a number of mastodon fossils, including this tooth, to VCU last week to be 3-D scanned.

Boxes upon boxes filled with the fossilized remains of a mastodon that died in Virginia more than 18,000 years ago are being hauled up the steps to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Virtual Curation Laboratory, where the massive Ice Age animal’s fossils — including the tip of a tusk, a very worn tooth, toe bones, a rib bone and a mandible — are slated to be 3-D scanned.

“Mastodon,” said Bernard Means, Ph.D., director of the lab, which specializes in 3-D scanning and printing of historic and archaeological objects. “It’s what’s for breakfast.”

The fossils, dating to 16,260 B.C., were excavated from a site near Yorktown between July 2015 and last November and are the most significant mastodon remains to be found east of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The mastodon’s tooth was first discovered in 1983 by a bricklayer named Lawnell Hart, who then enlisted the help of College of William and Mary geology professor Jerre Johnson, Ph.D. Hart and Johnson visited the site again and found additional fossils, but the property owners would not grant them permission to conduct a proper excavation.

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Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University named one of nation’s best children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report has placed Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU in the new 2017-18 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings.

CHoR tied at No. 45 in nephrology. This is the fourth time CHoR has been ranked for kidney care.

U.S. News introduced the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings in 2007 to help families of children with rare or life-threatening illnesses find the best medical care available. The rankings are the only comprehensive source of quality-related information on U.S. pediatric centers.

“It takes a team to care for kids with complex pediatric kidney disease,” said Timothy Bunchman, M.D., professor and chief of the Division of Pediatric Nephrology. “Our team includes kidney doctors, nurses, dietitians, nurse educators, social workers and a full complement of pediatric specialists who rally around a child to take care of the entire family and community that supports them. We see improved outcomes and happier families with this comprehensive approach to care. That’s the true reflection of our commitment to our kids and their families.”

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VCU brews up a craft beer certificate aimed at both enthusiasts and brewing industry professionals

As the craft beer industry in Richmond and across Virginia continues to explode, Virginia Commonwealth University is launching a new noncredit certificate of completion that will give enthusiasts an in-depth understanding of craft beer and will prepare students for a variety of careers at both small and large craft breweries.

The VCU Craft Beer Certificate Program will offer two tracks: the Business of Craft Beer and the Craft Brewer Certificate, which will require prerequisites in college level chemistry and biology and will focus on preparation for industry credentialing. A packaging course and internship opportunities with Richmond-area breweries will also be available as part of the program.

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Brandcenter students win prestigious Cannes festival competition for second year

Charged with connecting audiences to an idea from a global brand in a way not possible three years ago, a team of students from the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter has won the prestigious AKQA Future Lions competition for the second year in a row.

Limah Taeb, Stanley Hines and Xia Du, all students in the Experience Design track, won the Future Lions award for “BoseNeuro 35,” an idea that uses neuro-technology to send mental commands to Bose headphones, allowing users to interact with music via brain wave technology sensors. Their idea was born from the insight that many people listen to music to help them focus and be productive. The brain wave sensors assess music preferences, allowing for personalized playlists to achieve peak mental performance and productivity.

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Dental Hygienist finds his Disney princess at VCU

By Anthony Langley

Jorel Belarmino, RDH (B.S.’06/H&S; B.S.’14/D), is a registered dental hygienist living in Kissimmee, Florida. When he’s not working, he’s either working out at the gym or spending time at Disney World where his wife, Honey (B.A.’10/WS; B.A.’10/WS), works as member services manager at the Disney Vacation Club. He will be taking over the VCU Alumni Instagram account next week to give us a glimpse into his life.

What drew you to VCU?

I was born in Toronto, Ontario, and my family moved to Surrey, British Columbia, when I was 8. I attended middle school and high school through 10th grade there before we relocated to Richmond, Virginia. When it came time to choose a college, I wanted to stay close to my younger brother. After doing some research and learning about the outstanding reputation the health sciences program [at VCU] has as well as just the community feel and diversity around campus, it seemed like a perfect fit. VCU is a place I call home.

Do you remember your favorite moment from your time on campus?

There’s so many to choose from! One that’s on the top of my list is a clinic session I had in the dental hygiene program. During one of our first clinic sessions as junior dental hygiene students, Joan Pellegrini Ph.D., RDH (Ph.D.’08/E), was on duty grading my clinical notes.

I signed them “Jorel” without my last name to which she commented, “Jorel, you didn’t put your full name. How do you spell your last name? I’ll put it in for you.”

I thought, how professional of her to write my name in for me. This was my opportunity to set the tone for the year. I said, “Oh OK, thanks Dr. P.! It’s A-W-E-S-O-M-E.” She turned around and gave me this blank stare with an underlying smile.

I apologized and told her I was kidding, then spelled out awesome again. She said, “Oh jeez, nevermind, you do it,” chuckled and walked away.

Why did you choose to study dentistry?

I grew up enjoying the sciences and thought about becoming a doctor. I really wanted to use my hands so I thought being a surgeon would be a good option for me.

When I sat down and considered my options, I thought about the costs, happiness and quality of life. Dental hygiene fit the bill; it’s a highly rewarding career with flexibility, and I get to deliver great patient care.

I think my favorite part of working in dentistry is educating patients on how to improve their overall health through dental care at home.

How did you and your wife meet?

After I finished my first bachelor’s degree in science at VCU, I decided I’d go back to school. Shortly after my first semester back, I was working as a teaching assistant and tutoring entry-level biology and physiology classes. One day I just happened to sit in on an introductory biology lecture and there she was, Honey Delo, in the first row taking notes.

We had some mutual friends, had been introduced to each other in the Student Commons once but that was it. So there I was enamored with this stunning girl in the front row of the class I was tutoring. I decided to go for it, and the rest is history.

What prompted your move from Richmond to Florida?

It was always my wife’s dream to work for Mickey. We both grew up loving the magical world of Disney so we decided to make it happen.

Together, we set a goal, drew up a plan and executed it. I completed my second bachelor’s in dental hygiene, which gave us a solid foundation. Once she finished her degrees, we made the move to Florida where she’s pursued a career with the Walt Disney Co. Now we live our lives filled with pixie dust!

The both of us always say you should never fully become an adult. We’ve been Mouseketeers at heart since we were kids. Walt Disney World is the happiest place on earth. What’s not to love?

Pharmacy professor named first da Vinci Center Faculty Fellow

Dayanjan “Shanaka” Wijesinghe, Ph.D.

Dayanjan “Shanaka” Wijesinghe, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’08/M),  wants to go beyond standard science.

“People like to say, ‘I’m doing arts, I’m doing science.’ No, no, no,” he said. “You are both doing art. It’s creating something brand new with the tools that you have. It’s art that’s based on a logical process, that’s true. But it’s creativity at its heart.”

The assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Pharmacy is the first da Vinci Center Faculty Fellow. Wijesinghe’s commitment to collaboration across disciplines brought him to Garret Westlake, the center’s director.

“He actually reached out to me,” said Westlake. “I think it was my first week at VCU, and he said, ‘I would like to be more involved with the da Vinci Center, I wanted to get your ideas about where you see the center going in the future.’”

The faculty fellowship’s purpose is to highlight VCU faculty who champion cross disciplinary collaboration and innovation. Wijesinghe saw an opportunity to bring pharmacy and da Vinci students together to inspire entrepreneurship and creative thinking. He sees collaboration between the two as a ripe opportunity for student startups.

“Thinking outside the box, bringing the right people together and getting things done. That’s pretty much what we are trying to do here,” Wijesinghe said.

Wijesinghe recently sat down for an interview to discuss his roots as a scientist, and what intrigues him about the future.

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