VCU Update #10


Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Health System

Office of the President

May 18, 2010

TO: The VCU and VCU Health System Communities
Michael Rao
VCU Update #10

As the end of this academic year approaches, I recognize that while there have been a number of surprises — namely, the realization of the university’s most significant budget reduction in its history — I am grateful to work alongside extraordinarily talented colleagues at VCU. Many of you have helped me quickly learn as much as possible about the internal operations, students, faculty, and staff of the University. While there is much knowledge still to be aquired on this front, my recent deliberations with senior management and the Board of Visitors concerning the financial condition of VCU, our faculty infrastructure, student access, the evolving research-based learning mission, and the growing needs of our student body underscore the need for a sharpening of my focus toward the university’s most urgent needs.

VCU has reached a point in its evolution that holds significant promise along with challenges. These challenges demand much greater attention on my part toward strategic level issues which will direct the path of VCU while shaping the University’s ultimate destiny. Accordingly, much as is the case with leaders of the largest emerging research universities, my attention must be directed less toward the internal day-to-day operations to those issues that are central to growing and sustaining VCU’s viability as a major institution in Virginia. As the vice presidents and senior management of VCU continue their outstanding stewardship, I will devote the majority of my time to issues of strategic planning and implementation, alumni and donor development, and the continued growth in VCU as a first-rate teaching and research enterprise. While such will limit opportunities for engaging in a wide range of events and meetings, it will permit me to focus on activities most critical to the long-term development and future success of VCU.

Our thoughts are with the students, faculty, staff, families and friends of the University of Virginia as they mourn the tragic loss of one of their students.  Relationship violence, a pattern of behaviors used by one person in a relationship to exert power and control over another, strikes at the heart of any community regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, education, employment, or marital status. It may entail physical, emotional, verbal, and/or financial abuse. To prevent relationship violence and attend to the health of our community, each of us needs to take a strong stand against relationship violence of any kind. There are resources both on and off campus, such as the VCU Coordinator of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Services, (804) 828-2085 and

2010-2011 Budget

On April 29, the VCU Board of Visitors voted to increase its tuition and fees for resident undergraduates from $7,117 to $8,817 — a significant increase but a total which is still below average for the state’s 15 four-year institutions. Increases were also enacted for other student groups. The Board took this action only after careful deliberation and after considering at length the impact it might have on continuing and entering students. Some of the information the Board considered is available at While the university’s budget situation remains challenging, I will recommend to the Board at its meeting next week a significant increase in the university’s faculty, which would both permit VCU to hire faculty for oversubscribed courses immediately as well as to initiate searches in a range of areas. Increasing faculty by approximately 100 positions will allow us to open up more than 300 course sections, all of which would be available for enrollment in the fall semester, pending Board approval. Additionally, I will propose a substantial increase in funding for student financial aid, which will bring the amount of financial aid that VCU can provide more in line with what is offered at other doctoral institutions. VCU will use federal stimulus funding to support a large portion of this additional aid, which will be allocated to assist those students with the greatest need. I am grateful to the many who have thoughtfully considered the options available to VCU and who have supported the university’s decision to protect academic quality and address important matters that impact the success of its students.  

VCU 2020

Last month I asked Academic Vice Presidents Beverly Warren and Sheldon Retchin to lead the efforts toward the recalibration of the University’s strategic plan, VCU 2020: Vision for Excellence. Visit the new VCU Strategic Plan website at to learn more about the task force members and their charge. More than 150 faculty, staff and students from both campuses attended forums last week to share preliminary feedback and suggestions regarding the recalibration of VCU 2020. Videos of these forums have been posted to the website. A comment form has been posted, so that all members of the VCU community can provide their thoughts regarding our current progress and ideas for the future. I encourage everyone to become engaged in this important strategic process.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges Report

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the Southern states, including Virginia. VCU has been accredited by SACSCOC since 1954. Our accreditation was last reaffirmed in 2004 and will be reaffirmed again in 2014. VCU’s 5th year interim report, which was delivered to SACSCOC on March 15, 2010, will be reviewed by SACSCOC Board of Trustees in June. The SACSCOC review team visited two sites where students attending classes are pursuing the Master of Education degree, Post-Master’s certificate in Educational Leadership, or the Ph.D. in Education. The review team observed, “Site visits and student interviews provided strong evidence of a commitment by faculty and the School of Education to provide the necessary resources, tutorials, and communication for students to be successful in their programs.”

The full visiting committee report, along with the letter from SACS/COC, is available at [PDF].
Note: “The findings of this visiting committee represent a preliminary assessment of the institution at this time; final action on the report rests with SACS/COC Board of Trustees.”

Commencement 2010

VCU’s Commencement Exercises will be held on May 22 at the Richmond Coliseum. Her Highness Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, a private non-profit organization founded in 1995, will be the featured speaker. <more> If you need any information, please contact Kathy Honsharuk at (804) 828-8418 or by e-mail at


The Schools of Education and Medicine moved up in the U.S. News Best Graduate Schools rankings released in April. The School of Education ranks 28th, up from 38, and the School of Medicine now ranks 66th among best medical schools. Twenty-seven graduate and first professional programs at VCU are ranked among the best, including No. 1 programs in sculpture and nurse anesthesia. <more>

Information Technology Strategic Plan Feedback Needed

VCU Technology Services is in the midst of developing an updated IT strategic plan for VCU. Providing a robust, secure, and forward-looking technology infrastructure for the VCU community over the next five to 10 years is at the heart of this endeavor. The draft document has been shared with various University constituencies this spring and is available for your individual review and comment. Please take this opportunity to help shape the future priorities of Information Technology at VCU and share your thoughts by May 31.

Awards and recognition

Professor Michael McKean (Sculpture) was recently awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. In the visual arts, the Guggenheim is second only to the MacArthur “Genius” Awards in national prestige. <more>

Seven Virginia Commonwealth University students have received Fulbright Student Scholarships for 2010-11, a record for VCU in a single academic year. They will receive grants to study, conduct research, teach or collaborate on artistic projects abroad for up to one year. <more>

Richmond Magazine top docs issue recognizes VCU Medical Center physicians. <more>

Four College of Humanities and Sciences faculty have been selected as Fulbright Scholars for the coming year. <more>

VCU Health System was selected as No. 1 of top 50 employers in the Richmond area. <more>

School of Dentistry’s W. Baxter Perkinson Jr. Building receives top award for going green. <more>


VCU Recognizes Excellence in Women’s Health Research
Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University who have dedicated their time and efforts advancing women’s health enjoyed a day of celebration during the 6th Annual Women’s Health Research Day. <more>

On April 27, Virginia Commonwealth University dedicated the Cellular Therapeutics Lab for the VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Bone Marrow Transplant Program. The new facility will provide a Food and Drug Administration-compliant area to expand the current cellular therapeutics clinical enterprise to perform procedures more specifically tailored to individual cancer patients’ needs as opposed to broadly supporting intensive, high-dose chemotherapy treatments used in bone marrow transplantation. <more>

VCU researchers have identified a new tumor-promoting gene that may play a key role in the development of liver cancer. Levels of the gene’s expression are significantly higher in more than 90 percent of patients with the disease compared to their healthy counterparts. <more>

Associate Professor Terry Dozier in the School of Education’s Department of Teaching and Learning and Director of the Center for Teacher Leadership, will serve as program director of a $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create a teacher-residency program.

Nephrology Professor Elizabeth Ripley was awarded a recent grant from the National Institutes of Health under the highly competitive ARRA Challenge Grants Programs in Health and Science Research to test a new model that implements active involvement and partnership with community members. The program — called the Community Partnership for Ethical Research — is part of the VCU Center for Clinical and Translational Research.

Dr. Scott Gronert (Department of Chemistry), along with his colleagues Dr. Michael Grotewiel (Human and Molecular Genetics) and Dr. Jill Bettinger (Pharmacology and Toxicology), have been awarded a 4-year $980,000 grant from the National Institute on Aging to use mass spectrometry to investigate protein damage that results from oxidative stress caused by environmental factors, aging, and genetic effects.

Dr. Arun J. Sanyal, chair of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, was the principal investigator of a study demonstrating that vitamin E can be used to treat nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). <more>

In addition to the posters showcasing the research of undergraduate students from across campus at the 2nd Annual Undergraduate Poster Symposium, VCU’s Goldwater Scholars and their mentors were recognized. <more>

Governor Bob McDonnell visited Virginia Commonwealth University’s Minimally Invasive Surgery Center to sign into law legislation dramatically expanding telemedicine coverage for Virginians. <more>

Professor Lyon appointed chair of Family and Community Health Nursing. <more>

Nursing students are banding together to bring their medical knowledge and services to people in need through the Nursing Students Without Borders program. <more>

May is Stroke Month and the VCU Stroke Program is taking the opportunity to enhance stroke awareness efforts and education throughout the environment. <more>

VCU Health System aims to help employees’ ‘work-life balance.’ <more>

VCU Health System cafeteria going green. <more>