VCU Update #6


Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Health System

Office of the President

January 27, 2010

TO: The VCU and VCU Health System Communities
Michael Rao
VCU Update #6

Here’s another brief update to help keep you informed. We can probably never take enough opportunities to say thank you for the many ways in which you help improve the lives of Virginians, particularly given the complex circumstances we face at an unprecedented time.


On December 18, 2009, the governor submitted to the General Assembly budget recommendations for addressing a budget shortfall estimated at more than $3.5 billion for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next biennium. On January 13th, the General Assembly convened in regular session to consider Governor’s Kaine’s proposal, as well as consider a full range of other issues.

The budget picture for VCU and all state agencies and institutions is stark. Although Governor Kaine’s budget relies on the remaining federal stimulus funding, additional budget cuts for VCU remain. By FY 2012, VCU is slated to receive $34.8 million less in state support than it did in FY 2001 – despite educating more than 9,000 additional students.

The table below details the amounts recommended for combined state-stimulus funding for FY 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Fiscal Year State E&G Support Federal Stimulus Total Diff. from Prior Year
FY 2009 $190,430 $190,430  
FY 2010 162,154 $13,799 175,953 ($14,447)
FY 2011 159,638 23,161 182,799 6,846
FY 2012 140,445 0 140,445 (42,354)

There are many changes affecting VCU and VCU faculty and staff included in Governor Kaine’s proposal. For a more complete description, please visit

The university is assessing the Governor’s budget, and considering its options. The university continues to advocate for differential reductions based on its exceptionally high disproportion of in-state students, representing VCU’s commitment to the commonwealth. Constituencies are invited to advocate positively for VCU; for additional information on how, please visit  

Help for Haitian Earthquake Victims

Thanks to the many who have expressed interest in helping with relief efforts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake. According to Vice Provost Cathy Howard, the most important assistance needed is the donation of money to the American Red Cross or another reputable relief organization. Monetary donations now will be used to provide immediate life-sustaining relief. Vice Provost Howard has indicated that the second phase of efforts will be to assist key organizations in the Richmond area that have a sustained presence in Haiti, and she will notify the university community in coming weeks as these additional opportunities become available. For more information, please visit:

Fund Development

Last semester, discussions with former and current board members of the VCU Alumni Association and the MCV Alumni Association about the goal to raise the academic profile of the university were received quite well. One of the ways to achieve this goal is through scholarships.  

The associations accepted this challenge, launching the Opportunity VCU ( scholarship campaign. The campaign sets out to raise $50 million for student scholarships and fellowships across all academic units of Virginia Commonwealth University. Since July 1, 2007, the university has raised about $6.5 million toward that goal. New scholarship dollars will help VCU to continue to attract the most-motivated and qualified students to campus as a first-choice university while providing much-needed financial relief to students and their families.

2010 General Assembly Session

To date, approximately 2,000 bills and resolutions have been introduced. To view the 2010 State Legislative Priorities for VCU and the VCU Health System, tracking lists for education and health related legislation, and weekly legislative updates, please go to the Office of the Vice President for Government Relations and Health Policy Web site at or email to receive the weekly highlights. The Web site also includes a reminder of guidelines for faculty and staff taking public policy positions or offering public comment during the General Assembly (

In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever that the VCU community be engaged in the state legislative session. Please contact your respective House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia members to inform them of how the Governor’s budget recommendations will impact the academic and health care missions of VCU and the VCU Health System. For your convenience, click here for a link to “Who’s My Legislator” which includes a link for their office contact information. Two advocacy efforts are being coordinated for the 2010 General Assembly — the VCU Massey Cancer Center event will be held on January 28th; and the VCU Student Government Association and the VCU Alumni Association are hosting a similar effort for students, faculty, and staff on February 3rd.  Please contact the respective groups if you are interested in advocating on behalf of VCU.

New University Equity and Diversity Committee Web site

The University Equity and Diversity Committee, which is advisory in nature, is charged with monitoring, reviewing and recommending to the Provost changes to policies and practices that affect that university’s ability to provide equal opportunity and treatment, and to provide a supportive, non-hostile environment for its diverse populations of students, staff and faculty. The committee seeks to assure compliance with applicable laws and regulations under affirmative action and equal employment opportunity. The Committee’s new Web site can be accessed at and includes a blog and a feedback link, as well as a calendar of activities and events. Future plans for the site include posting profiles that highlight units and individuals who are contributing to VCU’s diversity.

Leadership Changes

New Chief of the VCU Police Department – Richmond Police Major John Venuti was named chief of the VCU Police Department, effective February 1. His appointment follows a national search that drew 170 applicants. Major Venuti’s record of achievement in Richmond and his commitment to VCU made him an excellent fit for the position. He has more than 25 years experience in law enforcement, joining the Richmond Police Department in 1984 as a patrol officer and rising through the ranks to major. His most recent assignment is command of Support Services, a role in which he supervised more than 175 sworn and civilian employees and managed a $15 million budget. For more information, please click on the following link:

Interim Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine – John Nestler, M.D., who has been Vice Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine, was appointed Interim Chair of the Department. He holds an appointment as the William G. Blackard Professor of Medicine, and was Chair of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism within the Department.  Nestler replaces Dick Wenzel, M.D., who stepped down after a distinguished career as chair of the Department.

New Chair of the Department of Health Administration – Cindy Watts, Ph.D., has accepted the position as the new Chair of the Department of Health Administration in the School of Allied Health. Watts is Professor in the Department of Health Services, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington. Watts received her degrees from Johns Hopkins and replaces Steve Mick, Ph.D., who stepped down in December as chair.

Departure of the Dean of the VCU School of Dentistry – Ron Hunt, D.D.S., will depart VCU on March 15, 2010, to assume a position as Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Midwestern University College of Dental Medicine in Glendale, Arizona. In his 12 years as Dean, Dr. Hunt has made many notable accomplishments, including: helping to establish a number of new master’s programs; increasing the enrollment of DDS students from rural Virginia communities, increasing the number of full-time institute faculty members and increasing the diversity of the school’s faculty; doubling external funding for research; expanding and enhancing the School’s facilities, including the state-of-the-art W. Baxter Perkinson, Jr. Building, which opened last June; and fostering innovative collaborative efforts. Many thanks to Dean Hunt for his tremendous commitment and accomplishments.  

Medical School Dean Jerry Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., will chair a search committee for a new School of Dentistry dean.  In the meantime, David Sarrett, D.M.D., Associate Vice President for Health Sciences on the MCV campus, will assume responsibilities as Interim Dean of the School of Dentistry. While serving as Interim Dean, Sarrett will also continue in his role as Associate Vice President.

New Facilities Openings

As noted in the November Update, four new projects are coming on line this semester. Many thanks to President Emeritus Trani for his significant investment in facilities that continue to raise the quality of the university’s spaces that are so important to ensuring student, faculty, and staff learning and success. For additional information on facilities projects, please visit

Larrick Student Center: Grand Opening was January 15 – The last component of this project, the food service venue opened on January 6, and is already proving to be a great addition to the food venues on the campus. The recreation center at Larrick set a record for recreational use on January 4th, exceeding the previous high day usage by about 30%.

Cary Street Recreation Center: The facility opened on January 4th and is already seeing daily usage of over 1,500 — before students return for classes. It is a “wow” facility receiving positive comments from all that have visited.  

Harris Hall Student Services Center: This facility also opened on January 4th. The student service counters and financial aid counseling staff, which were formerly housed in Founders Hall and Ginter House, have moved to the first floor of Harris Hall. The center also houses the offices of Records and Registration and Student Accounting, and the Cashier’s Office.  

500 Academic Centre: The facility is ready for classes to start. It will have six classrooms ranging in size from 52 seats to 84 seats, while another portion of the building will be used for library stack storage for low demand books. Adding library storage has allowed us to increase student and study space in Cabell Library.


Sustainability efforts continue to grow at VCU. Stimulus Funding of $3.1 million has been received for the installation of photovoltaic (PV) panels on the West Broad Street Deck and the N Deck, as has funding for solar thermal panels for Shafer Court Dining Center, the installation of four sun tracking  panel systems, and installation of three sustainability education kiosks. Recyclemania, a nationwide contest with over 600 participating institutions, kicks off January 17th. You will see and hear more about this contest over the course of the following 8 weeks. This is VCU’s third year participating in Recyclemania, with a long-term goal to increase awareness about recycling to help increase the recycling rate. Last year, VCU finished 4th out of all Virginia institutions.  The University’s current recycling rate is near 30%, but with more participation, it could be 40%. Recycling is one of many efforts contained within sustainability initiatives.  For information on how you can participate, and 60 practical steps you can take to conserve energy and helped build a greener VCU, visit the Web site at

Health System

The VCU Health System held a strategic retreat in Williamsburg, January 10-11. Participation in the retreat included the VCUHS Board and the health system executive team. The discussion was far-reaching and included elements of health reform, fundamental review of the health system mission and vision, and a focus on strategic directions for the future. The retreat was well attended by all members of the Board.  


VCU recently received its third award from the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). These awards support programs to develop imaginative approaches to science education focused on systems biology. The most recent award provides resources that allow VCU faculty members to teach laboratory courses that give students the opportunity to make real scientific discoveries as part of their educational experience. These grants place VCU in a very select group of about 20 research universities in the United States with two or more HHMI institutional awards.

VCU has enhanced opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research. The newly instituted Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellowship Program was an unqualified success in its inaugural year. One of VCU’s 2009 Fellows, Kanwar Bir S. Anand wrote a paper on the research he did under Dr. Leslie Stratton in the Economics Department. Kanwar’s paper on health care reform was recently honored with the National Gerald L. Smith, Jr. Alumni Award by Gamma Iota Sigma, the International Collegiate Insurance Society. The paper appeared in Sextant, the official publication of the Society.

Many thanks to my colleagues who have aggressively sought new grant opportunities and, since April 2009, have received approximately 60 awards amounting to $29 million, all of which will significantly boost VCU’s ability to continue to impact positively the lives of Virginians and Americans and people abroad. In particular, more than $21 million in grants to support health-related research have been made to VCU from the National Institutes of Health.

Colleague research, scholarship and creativity

Many thanks to those of you who have generously shared published books, articles, and other forms of creative work. I very much appreciate 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 shape VCU’s profile as a research university. Unless a colleague is opposed, I usually display their work in our offices on both campuses. 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.