Wilder alumnus hopes to make big change by starting small

Upper body photo of Javon Davis wearing a suit, while standing in front of a wall covered in street art.By Anthony Langley (B.S.’16/MC)

Javon Davis (B.A.’14/GPA; Cert.’15/GPA; M.P.A.’16/GPA), policy and government affairs manager for the Kansas City, Missouri Health Department takes over the VCU Alumni Instagram tomorrow, Sept. 18.

Why did you choose VCU?

After growing up in a small town in southern Virginia, I was really looking for an urban environment for college. My uncle, a fellow VCU alumnus, lived in the Richmond, Virginia, area and I always loved coming to the city to see him and explore. While VCU had always been No. 1 in the back of my mind, it was a campus tour that really sold me. I instantly felt at home on campus and the welcoming, diverse community was everything I dreamed of. VCU is one of few schools in the country that offers a homeland security program, and with incredible opportunities in and out of the classroom, it was an easy choice for me.

What sparked your interest in public administration?

My father, uncle and grandfather all had public service experience in some capacity so it has always interested me. When I originally came to VCU, I studied homeland security and emergency preparedness in hopes of working in federal law enforcement with an agency like the FBI. However, through different experiences I had while interning around Richmond, I learned that instead of putting more people in prison, I wanted to be on the other side and help build strong communities that give people opportunities outside of crime.

After that realization, I worked to get a Master of Public Administration after I finished my undergraduate studies in 2014. Now I’m applying my degree by working in local government.

What was your VCU experience like over the years?

Nothing short of amazing. When I finished undergrad, I knew I wasn’t quite ready to leave yet, so I was extremely happy when I was awarded the Eva S. Hardy Scholarship in Public Administration and the L. Douglas Wilder Graduate Scholars Fellowship which allowed me to gain real-world experience working with the Virginia Department of Corrections while pursuing my M.P.A.

I think my experience at VCU definitely played a role in encouraging my call to work in government. From the moment I stepped on campus, I was floored by the diversity. I learned so much about language, religion, gender, sexuality and race from my peers. VCU opened my eyes to the fact that 32,000 people, all of whom come from different backgrounds, can still connect in a meaningful way. In many ways, I see VCU as a microcosm of what America could be.

How did you land in Kansas City after graduation?

I knew I wanted to be a part of creating strong, prosperous communities, and I knew that local government is where one can have the most impact in the shortest amount of time. However, I didn’t know which department or which position would be the best for me within a large city government.

After being chosen for the Cookingham-Noll Management Fellowship by the city of Kansas City, Missouri, I started working in the city manager’s office here. It allowed me the opportunity to rotate through six departments over a two-year period, helping me grow in ways I could not have imagined. From this experience, I learned the intricacies of city administration, researched issues that are being faced in cities throughout the country and have met connections that will last a lifetime. While I do miss Richmond, Kansas City has been exactly what I needed right out of graduate school.

VCU’s Center for the Study of Tobacco Products receives nearly $20M grant to predict outcomes of tobacco product regulations

A manvapes while hooked up to various body monitoring devices and a researcher takes notes.

The $19.78 million grant will be used to launch a five-year project focused on predicting the outcomes of government regulations of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The Center for the Study of Tobacco Products at Virginia Commonwealth University has received a $19.78 million grant through a partnership between the National Institutes of Health and the  FDA Center for Tobacco Products to launch a five-year project focused on predicting the outcomes of government regulations of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

The center, which is part of the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, is one of nine Tobacco Centers of Regulatory Science across the country that provide research to the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to ensure U.S. tobacco regulatory actions and activities are based on sound and relevant scientific evidence.

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VCU awarded Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine has selected Virginia Commonwealth University as a recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award.

The HEED Award is a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. VCU will be one of 96 recipients recognized in the November 2018 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

This is the second time VCU has been named as a HEED Award recipient. The first was in 2012, the inaugural year of the awards.

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‘Without this scholarship, my life would be in a totally different place’

Three students hold a sign to thank donors at Thank a Donor Day

VCU students gathered on the Compass on Monday to sign posters, write letters and record video messages thanking donors for their support.

Giovanni Knight knows firsthand the importance of philanthropy. She has two younger siblings who have autism and their care is expensive. When Knight was looking to attend college, the financial burden on her family appeared too much to handle.

“When it came to funding and financing school, it wasn’t in the cards,” she said.

Undeterred, Knight applied for scholarships to offset the cost. She also started working part time after enrolling at Virginia Commonwealth University. Along the way, she started hearing stories about donors.

“I started hearing about all these people contributing to scholarships,” Knight said. “And I was like, ‘That’s pretty amazing.’ You don’t know me, you have nothing to do with me, but you decided to contribute to my education. I just really appreciate that.”

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Nonprofit CEOs who opt for lower pay lead more effective organizations, VCU research shows

businessman pushing golden dollar coin forward on floor in flat icon design with blue color background

CEOs of nonprofits who purposefully earn less than their peers tend to lead organizations with superior performance, according to a new study conducted by two Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business professors.

Serving Others at the Expense of Self: The Relationship between Nonprofit CEO Compensation and Performance in Trade and Professional Associations,” co-authored by Christopher S. Reina, Ph.D., and Joseph E. Coombs, Ph.D., was published in the latest issue of the Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs.

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What’s new at VCU for 2018-19

A grassy courtyard with outdoor seating stretches out behind the building at the new Gladding Residence Center.

A grassy courtyard with outdoor seating stretches out behind the building at the new Gladding Residence Center.

While Virginia Commonwealth University likes to commemorate its heritage, including throwing its own 50th birthday party this month, the university is most focused on its present and future. Every year, VCU introduces exciting new programs, people and places to the university and local communities.

Here’s a sampling of what’s new at VCU this year.

VCU schools of the Arts and Medicine launch physician-scientist-in-residence program

April 24, 2015, 23rd WISDM Leadership Conference_John E. Nestler

John E. Nestler, M.D., the first physician-scientist-in-residence at the VCU School of the Arts.

John E. Nestler, M.D. (H.S.’80/M; H.S.’83/M; H.S.’86/M), has been named the inaugural physician-scientist-in-residence at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts. Former chair of VCU’s Department of Internal Medicine in the School of Medicine and a member of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Nestler will bring his in-depth knowledge of medical science, the local medical environment and clinical research to the School of the Arts.

The physician-scientist-in-residence program, one of the first residencies of its kind in an arts school, is part of an ongoing collaboration between the School of the Arts and the School of Medicine to help improve medical education and advance the clinical health and well-being in the community by addressing and solving problems through art and design.

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VCU professor’s Garry Winogrand documentary premieres in Virginia

Black and white photograph of a man and women driving down a street in Los Angeles.

“Los Angeles,” by Garry Winogrand. (Photograph by Garry Winogrand, Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona)

A Virginia Commonwealth University professor’s feature documentary on iconoclastic photographer Garry Winogrand will have its Virginia premiere at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Sept. 7 at 6:30 p.m.

Produced and directed by Sasha Waters Freyer, chair of the VCU School of the Arts Department of Photography and Film, “Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable” is the first documentary film on the life and work of the acclaimed photographer. An epic storyteller in pictures of America across three turbulent decades, from the 1950s to the 1980s, Winogrand’s artistry encompassed the heartbreak, violence, hope and turmoil of postwar America.

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VCU opens academic year with recognition of distinguished faculty

Winners of 2018 distinguished faculty awards stand together for a photo.

VCU honored distinguished faculty with annual awards for excellence, service, teaching and scholarship Wednesday at faculty convocation.

Blue Wooldridge once lived in a section of Lexington, Virginia, called “Mudtown,” so named for its lack of adequate street paving. Every time it rained, Wooldridge said, the neighborhood would be covered in mud.

The experience sparked in Wooldridge an early interest in government, one he still holds as a professor in Virginia Commonwealth University’s L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

“My work is in public administration,” he said. “And the first question is: ‘Is a program effective?’ The second question, and equally important, is: ‘Effective for who?’”

Wooldridge, D.P.A., an expert in public and nonprofit finance and social equity, has spent his career asking these questions. On Wednesday, he was one of six faculty recognized for teaching, scholarship and service achievement at the university’s Opening Faculty Address and Convocation.

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In ‘Gay, Inc.,’ VCU professor shows how nonprofit sphere’s expansion has helped — and hindered — the LGBTQIA+ cause

Myrl Beam next to the cover for Gay, Inc.

In “Gay, Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics,” Myrl Beam relies on oral histories, archival research and his own activist work to explore how LGBT nonprofits are grappling with the contradictions between radical queer social movements and their institutionalized iterations.

The conservative turn in queer movement politics is due mostly to the movement’s embrace of the nonprofit structure, argues a new book by Myrl Beam, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences.

In “Gay, Inc.: The Nonprofitization of Queer Politics,” Beam relies on oral histories, archival research and his own activist work to explore how LGBT nonprofits in Minneapolis and Chicago are grappling with the contradictions between radical queer social movements and their institutionalized iterations.

Beam discussed his new book, which was published by the University of Minnesota Press, with VCU News.

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