VCU Update #2


Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Health System

Office of the President

September 8, 2009

TO: The VCU and VCU Health System Communities
Michael Rao
VCU Update #2

Here’s another update for the university and health system communities.


Governor Kaine announced today that base state support for VCU would be reduced by an additional $25.2 million for the current fiscal year. Fortunately, about $11.8 million of that cut is expected to be offset this year by federal stimulus funds – leaving a net reduction of about $13.4 million. In addition, Governor Kaine announced that all executive branch employees, which includes higher education, will take one day’s unpaid leave, which is now targeted for May 28, 2010. Details about the furlough are still forthcoming, although it appears that no reductions in retirement contributions or other benefits will occur as a result.

Over the coming days and weeks, VCU will be considering carefully how to absorb these additional reductions in state support without compromising VCU’s core mission, while simultaneously planning for the loss of federal stimulus funds in FY 2012.


Since the beginning of the academic year, two crime and safety alerts have been issued and a full test of VCU’s emergency communications system has been completed. All of this serves as a critical reminder that your safety on campuses and surrounding neighborhoods is extremely important. Safety and security measures and VCU’s emergency communications are updated on an ongoing basis – many of the changes due to the work of the University Safety Committee which meets throughout the academic year. Information on the committee and safety at VCU is readily available at Please take a look at previous messages that encourage all students and employees to be mindful of their personal safety and those of others, and to make use of campus safety features such as the VCU Escort Service, the emergency telephones and text messaging. For the most current safety and security information, visit the VCU Alert Web site at

2009 Faculty Convocation

Four distinguished faculty colleagues will be honored during the 27th Annual Faculty Convocation ceremony on Thursday, September 10, at 4:00 p.m. at the Singleton Center for the Performing Arts.

Convocation serves as the formal opening of the academic year and celebrates the quality and excellence of VCU’s faculty. Honorees this year include professors Everett L. Worthington Jr., University Award of Excellence (; Patricia W. Slattum, Distinguished Service Award (; Ena Gross, Distinguished Teaching Award (; and Rakesh C. Kukreja, Distinguished Scholarship Award (

It is a pleasure to congratulate the 2009 honorees.

New PhD program

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) ( recently granted approval to VCU to initiate a PhD program in nanoscience and nanotechnology. This new program will support research in an important scientific area and expand partnerships. The addition of this program supports VCU 2020’s strategic initiative to increase doctoral degree programs.

NSF grant

The National Science Foundation (NSF) ( has awarded $10 million in grants to VCU researchers for the development of initiatives to improve student learning in middle schools and rural elementary schools in Virginia. The initiatives will help prepare teachers to serve as mathematics specialists who, in turn, coach other teachers. The five-year research and development effort will be led by the VCU Department of Mathematics & Applied Mathematics and the VCU School of Education, in collaboration with the University of Virginia, Norfolk State University, Longwood University, Virginia Tech, the University of Maryland, the Virginia Department of Education, the Virginia Legislature, the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition and participating school systems.

Graduate rankings

U.S. News & World Report has updated this year’s edition of “Best Graduate Schools” to add another top 10 specialty ranking for the VCU School of the Arts ( VCU’s Metal/Jewelry program in Craft/Material Studies is now ranked 10th in the nation, tied with Indiana University – Bloomington, University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, and Southern Illinois University – Carbondale. The School of the Arts now has nine ranked graduate specialty programs, with seven in the top ten. The Sculpture program is ranked no. 1 in the country.

Colleague research, scholarship and creativity

Many thanks to so many of you who have generously shared published books, articles, and other forms of creative work. As many know, I am personally interested in the scholarly and creative work of faculty colleagues, staff, and students at any level. Please continue sharing with me copies of your published books or articles, as well as originals, photos, or prints of your creative work. Reviewing your work helps me shape our profile as a research university. I am also very proud to display the work of my colleagues in my offices. If you are comfortable sharing your work, kindly forward it to the Office of the President at 910 West Franklin Street, Post Office Box 842512. If you have any questions regarding how to transmit your work, please contact Elaine Abernethy at or 828-3835.

Faculty award

Warm congratulations to Accounting Professor Rasoul Tondkar ( & who recently received the 2009 Outstanding International Accounting Educator Award by the International Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association. The award is given to a faculty member who has a sustained record of excellence in advancing the field of international accounting through published research, has served as a dedicated mentor to graduate students, and has provided high-impact service to the profession.

Student recognition

Alison Kuchta, a VCU MD/PhD student, was named a Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar for 2009-2010, joining nearly 100 top graduate students and post-doctoral trainees from the United States and 19 other countries to train in global health research in low- and middle-income countries. Ms. Kuchta, who is the first VCU student to receive a Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar award, will take part in a year-long fellowship studying factors contributing to cholera in Dhaka, Bangladesh. On behalf of the entire VCU community, I offer Ms. Kuchta congratulations for this high honor.

Rice gift

Virginia Commonwealth University received a $1.2 million gift from long-time benefactor Inger Rice. Mrs. Rice’s most recent generosity and leadership provides vital support for the new Inger Rice Endowment Fund, which will provide funds to maintain the Walter L. Rice Education Building at the Rice Center, the first LEED platinum building in Virginia – the highest sustainability rating possible – as well as maintain grounds and roads on the property. In 2007, Mrs. Rice donated $2 million for construction of the education building, which now houses lecture and laboratory rooms for classes, a conference room and offices and features sustainable strategies for efficient energy use, lighting, water and material use. Mrs. Rice’s contributions to the Rice Center now total $6.6 million.

Year of the Environment

VCU announces The VCU Year of the Environment, a year-long series of events that will highlight the leading contribution that universities can make to increasing awareness of and improving sustainable practices. A kick-off event will take place at the VCU Rice Center on October 1. All events and activities will be publicized on VCU’s on-line “Calendar for the Environment” and will be available to the VCU and greater Richmond communities. University-wide involvement is vital to ensuring that this initiative promotes the mission and values of VCU. To find out about the events and other Year of the Environment happenings, visit the Web site at

Energy and sustainability efforts

As part of VCU’s pledge to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment to become more sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint, VCU has undertaken projects to capture energy from the sun. Most recently, a solar photovoltaic array was installed at the base of the smokestack on the MCV Campus Steam Plant, which will provide the electrical power the plant needs for the computer and control systems that make the natural gas boilers operate at optimum efficiency. Additionally, this unit will enable visitors to the VCU Goes Green Web site ( to observe the quantity of electricity the array is producing. VCU has a similar photovoltaic array at the Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences. Each of these efforts represents a step in increasing the university’s usage of renewable energy, and they demonstrate an important commitment to using new technology to improve VCU’s sustainability posture. As the systems become less expensive, they will be used on a broader scale.