VCU Update #1


VCU Health System

July 31, 2009

TO: The VCU and VCU Health System Communities
FROM: Michael Rao
SUBJECT: VCU Update #1

It is a pleasure to post a brief first update. These updates, which will be written periodically, are designed to help foster communication within the VCU and VCU Health System communities. I have enjoyed meeting so many people in these first few weeks, including members of the General Assembly and Executive Administration, members of various boards in which the president has a significant role, senior leaders within the university and the health system, faculty senate and alumni leadership, and many students at both campuses. I look forward to the many other meetings yet to come and appreciate everyone’s patience with what has already become a very challenging calendar.

The university and health system communities, the VCU Board of Visitors, the VCU Health System Board, President Emeritus Trani, and the greater Richmond community have shown us a very warm welcome. Monica, Miguel, Aiden, and I sincerely appreciate the reception extended to us.

It is an honor to serve as your president, and both Monica and I look forward to serving VCU. There is significant evidence of the excellent work that all of you have invested in this great institution. The university and health system are poised to enter an unprecedented era of excellence in teaching and learning, research, creative work, clinical care, and outreach. Working collaboratively to fully integrate our campuses, we will strengthen our academic foundation to help propel us forward.

The strategic plan, VCU 2020, has guided the university’s development since its formal adoption by the Board of Visitors in February of 2006 – and the accomplishments have been significant: the creation of University College and the Honors College, with attendant increases in student retention and success; enhanced facilities for student learning and for our research enterprise; the establishment of core instrumentation facilities on both of our campuses; improved processes for the allocation of the Higher Education Equipment Trust Fund and other resources; and major improvements to the infrastructures that support our research and teaching, to name just a few.

VCU 2020 speaks directly to the enhancement of VCU’s important research. Sponsored awards for the past fiscal year have exceeded those of the previous year, growing beyond $225 million; and we will exceed that significantly this year, as well. During this time, both the School of Medicine and the School of Education achieved all time highs in their research awards. Many of our faculty colleagues have continued to be recognized nationally for their achievements in research and scholarship. This past year, another colleague was elected to the Institute of Medicine, bringing our total to four members. As we take pride in our major accomplishments, and as we enter the fourth year of the plan’s implementation, it seems prudent to formally reassess where VCU stands – especially in light of today’s budgetary uncertainties.

The university is committed to providing attention to the strengthening of VCU’s academic profile: to enhancing the reputation of our faculty, and to ensuring its recognition; to increasing expectations and opportunities for students; to continuous improvement in facilities and the services we provide; to advancing further the quality of programs and ensuring multi-campus collaboration; and to strengthening our commitment to diversity and advancing multiculturalism. At the same time, we are faced with the reality of significantly declining state support. Toward that end, we will be working to strengthen and further diversify VCU’s financial profile through increased private giving and assessing all of the university’s sources of revenue. As such, I have already found myself investing considerable time with our legislators, donors, and other leaders talking about our commitment to continue to strengthen the academic enterprise.


Having referenced the budget earlier, here’s what we know. In mid-June, Governor Kaine announced that actual state revenues for FY 2009 would fall significantly below the levels forecast for the 2009 fiscal year. He indicated that once the fiscal year had ended, he would order a formal reforecast of state revenues for the FY 2010, with an eye toward taking the steps necessary to bring spending into line with lower revenues. Since that time, Governor Kaine has asked each state agency and institution to submit plans to reduce state support by 5 percent ($8.4 million), 10 percent ($16.8 million), and 15 percent ($25.2 million). Those plans are being made final now.

At this point, we do not know the magnitude of the reductions. We do know that VCU must prepare for the economic growth which will follow the current downturn. We are determined to minimize the impact on our core instructional programs, and to avoid actions that will undermine the great strides that VCU has taken in recent years. Of special concern is compensation for a dedicated faculty and staff, who are the backbone of this growing and great institution. In spite of pending state budget cuts, we will explore every avenue to reward contributions and commitment. We will keep everyone apprised of events as they unfold. In the meantime, kindly do everything possible to conserve VCU’s limited resources. I look forward to sharing more thoughts on this in the future.


My team and I welcome feedback about the university and its health system. I will be listening in an effort to better understand the opportunities and challenges facing the university and health system, and striving to provide the best possible leadership to both. Thank you for your willingness to work with members of the VCU and VCU Health System leadership as much as possible in addressing questions and concerns, and in providing constructive ideas and opportunities. Please direct inquiries to so that we may review your inquiries and respond.