Angell named dean of the School of Social Work at VCU

Beth Angell, Ph.D.

Beth Angell, Ph.D., has been named dean of the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University, effective July 16.

Angell comes to VCU with nearly two decades of experience in the field of social work. She currently serves as associate professor and chair of the faculty for the School of Social Work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

“We are delighted to have Dr. Angell join the VCU leadership team,” said Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs at VCU. “Her prolific and widely recognized work within her field of research, as well as her leadership in faculty development, will add to the momentum of VCU’s School of Social Work in reaching its next level of success.”

Angell previously served as assistant and associate professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago and completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, Center for Mental Health & Aging Research.

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Aashir Nasim named new VP for inclusive excellence at VCU

Aashir Nasim, Ph.D.

Aashir Nasim, Ph.D., a respected scholar and academic administrator, has been named the vice president for inclusive excellence at Virginia Commonwealth University, effective April 2.

Nasim currently serves as interim senior vice provost for faculty affairs and director of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry & Innovation (iCubed) at VCU. In his new position, Nasim will lead the Division for Inclusive Excellence and implement a newly adopted Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Action Plan designed to fulfill VCU’s vision of becoming a model university for inclusivity.

“Aashir is a respected scholar who is admired around the nation and who brings an important lens of diversity and inclusion to his work and to our university community,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “He is a thoughtful and passionate leader who embodies VCU’s mission of tackling difficult problems to serve the public good. I have valued his leadership over the past decade and look forward to working closely with him as he advances our commitments to diversity and inclusion everywhere and ensures that VCU will always be a place where all people can succeed.”

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Grace Harris, a transformative figure in VCU’s history, dies at 84

Grace E. Harris, Ph.D.

Grace E. Harris, Ph.D. (M.S.W.’60/SW), whose leadership helped shape Virginia Commonwealth University during a pioneering 48-year career at the university, died on Monday at the age of 84.

Harris joined the social work faculty at Richmond Professional Institute in 1967, a year before the school merged with the Medical College of Virginia to form VCU, and she would prove to be an integral part of the university’s foundation and growth in the ensuing decades. Over the course of her career, Harris would rise to the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs at VCU, becoming the first African-American woman to serve as the chief academic officer at a four-year public university in Virginia.

“Throughout our 180-year history, a handful of people have been so vital to the story of Virginia Commonwealth University that their names are forever linked with ours,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “One of those people was Grace Harris. She was a giant in legacy and in character, a woman whose contributions to VCU and to the countless lives we touch are truly immeasurable. She helped us become one of the nation’s premier urban public research universities and, maybe more than anyone, personified our commitment to serve the public good.

“Dr. Harris lived as her name implied, with the utmost grace, even in the face of personal and professional indignities. May we all dedicate ourselves to living, working, and caring in the same profoundly meaningful ways that Grace did: with compassion, character, and — always — with grace.”

When Harris was first hired at RPI, she was one of the three African-American faculty members hired that year – the first black faculty members in the school’s history. Harris was named dean of the School of Social Work in 1982 and was later promoted to vice provost for continuing studies and public service. She served as provost and vice president for academic affairs from 1993 to 1999, while also assuming the role of acting president in 1995 and 1998.

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VCU bids a fond farewell to a true ‘alumni star’

Diane Stout-Brown

Diane Stout-Brown counts the “Tableith” sculpture honoring RPI as a proud accomplishment of her tenure at the university.

By Julie Young

In 1988, Virginia Commonwealth University celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding with an event known as Founders Day. The VCU Alumni Association subsequently started the Alumni Stars program to honor accomplished graduates during the annual celebration. Since 2008, the Alumni Stars ceremony has been a stand-alone biennial event, recognizing graduates from each VCU school who have a record of professional or humanitarian achievements.

Orchestrating the event throughout the years was an energetic VCU alumna, Diane Stout-Brown (B.S.W.’80/SW). To any colleague or graduate who worked alongside her, attended an event or met her in person, Stout-Brown was the real alumni star. Continue reading

Joshua Hiscock named VCU associate vice president for alumni relations

Joshua Hiscock

Joshua Hiscock will start at VCU on Jan. 4.

Virginia Commonwealth University announced today that following a national search Joshua Hiscock has been named associate vice president for alumni relations, effective Jan. 4. Hiscock currently serves as executive director of alumni benefits and services at the George Washington University.

In his new role, Hiscock will work closely with VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and senior leaders from across the institution, as well as volunteer alumni leaders to support VCU’s growing national reputation.

“We are thrilled that Josh will be joining the VCU team. Josh is an experienced alumni relations professional who impressed our search committee from our first meeting,” said Jay Davenport, vice president for development and alumni relations. “At a time when we are reorganizing our alumni relations effort, Josh has the vision, drive and passion to help connect all our alumni in a meaningful way. We look forward to welcoming Josh and his wife, Jennifer, to Richmond.”

Hiscock joined the George Washington University in August 2012 and was responsible for oversight of alumni benefits and services and advised the 60-member George Washington Alumni Association Board of Directors. Hiscock previously served as graduate coordinator for the National Clearinghouse for Leadership Programs at the University of Maryland from 2010-2012 and before that was graduate coordinator for the minor in leadership studies at Maryland. He has also held leadership roles in coordinating student activities and programs at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Roger Williams University and Boston University.

“VCU is a world-class institution with passionate alumni who are innovators changing Richmond, the commonwealth of Virginia, and the world in a wide array of professional industries,” Hiscock said. “I am excited to work collaboratively with offices across the institution to engage all our graduates through innovative new programming and volunteer opportunities that both reconnect alumni to their alma mater and fulfill critical university priorities that will enhance the experience for current students at VCU. There is no better time to be part of the VCU Alumni family and I am thrilled to join the team.”

Hiscock is currently a candidate for a Doctor of Philosophy in college student personnel administration at the University of Maryland. He received a Master of Arts in counseling and personnel services — college student personnel from the University of Maryland in 2005 and received a Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, in American studies from the George Washington University in 2003.

VCU researchers receive $4.2M NIH grant to study treatment for chemical attacks

With the backing of a five-year award of approximately $4.2 million in total costs from the National Institutes of Health, Robert DeLorenzo and a team of Virginia Commonwealth University researchers are studying and developing ways to treat and prevent human fatalities and morbidity that could result from chemical attacks on U.S. soil.

DeLorenzo, M.D., Ph.D., the George Bliley Professor of Neurology in the VCU School of Medicine, is the principal investigator on the team that received the grant from the NIH Countermeasures Against Chemical Threats program. CounterACT supports basic and translational research aimed at identifying medical countermeasures against chemical threats.

DeLorenzo said public safety is the key goal behind the research. He is working with Robert Blair, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’98/M), and Laxmikant Deshpande, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’06/M), assistant professors in the VCU School of Medicine Department of Neurology, as well as Rakesh Kukreja, Ph.D., the Eric Lipman Professor of Medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine, and Matthew Halquist, Ph.D., assistant professor and laboratory director in the Department of Pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy.

A decade of searching: Hadeer Omar finds her sweet spot among cultures and art

By Anthony Langley

“I’ve had a passion for art ever since I was a little girl,” says Hadeer Omar (B.F.A.’10/A; M.F.A.’16/A). “Following that passion and coming to [Virginia Commonwealth University] has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.”

In 2006, Omar was finishing high school in Alexandria, Egypt, when she was encouraged by her mother to enter the VCUQatar Design Competition. The annual contest awards five cash prizes from $200 to $1,000, and the winners are eligible to compete for two Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned Scholarships for Creativity, which provide a full, four-year scholarship to attend VCUQatar. Continue reading

Behind the music

Monty (left) and Andrew Kier

Professor and son pen VCU’s first alma mater

By Anthony Langley

A year and a half ago, Lemont “Monty” B. Kier, Ph.D., began reflecting on his time and experiences at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“I’ve been here since 1977,” says Kier, who has taught and held various roles in VCU Life Sciences’ Center for the Study of Biological Complexity, the School of Allied Health Professions Department of Nurse Anesthesia, and the School of Pharmacy departments of Pharmacotherapy and Outcomes Science and Medicinal Chemistry, the latter of which he served as chair for 10 years. “I’m so fond of the diversity and the opportunities that I’ve had here I began to write a little poem about it.” Continue reading

Making a surgeon

By Anthony Langley

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Mireille Truong, M.D.

Mireille Truong, M.D. (B.A.’03/H&S; Cert.’04/B; M.D.’08/M), had no idea what Richmond, Virginia, would be like.

“I’m originally from Canada, so when I got here, everything was brand new to me,” she says.

After her parents found jobs in the city, Truong, a college freshman at the time, moved to Richmond and, with her mother’s help, began researching colleges around the state. She applied to Virginia Commonwealth University to be as close to her family’s new home as possible. Continue reading

The woman behind Hannah’s Women (still) finds inspiration at VCU

Lucy Hudson

Lucy Hudson

Some people come to college, get their degree and leave. That’s not Lucy Hudson (B.S.’04/H&S; B.A.’08/H&S; M.Ed.’11/E).

“Sometimes I ask myself why I’m still here. It’s a hard question to answer,” says Hudson, assistant to the chair of the Department of Statistical Sciences and Operations Research in the Virginia Commonwealth University College of Humanities and Sciences.

This three-time graduate has been at VCU for 14 years and says she has “no plans on leaving any time soon.” Continue reading