Nandina covered in snow

The many reasons to celebrate Virginia Commonwealth University


This holiday season, I am reminded of the many reasons to celebrate Virginia Commonwealth University.

This fall, my faculty colleagues broke institutional records for research and creative activity for the ninth time in the last 10 years, topping $275 million and helping us land among the nation’s top 100 research universities. That is according to the National Science Foundation, not us! They also disclosed 134 inventions and filed 165 patents, innovations that will soon—in keeping with our mission—enhance, extend, improve, and save human lives. In the years to come, I expect even greater levels of success as we move toward convergent research that spans the many disciplines across VCU.

This is not surprising, of course. More than any university I know, we operate at the intersection of access and excellence, building on the diversity and inclusion for which VCU is known, and which make us great, while performing at the highest levels in our history. We welcomed one of our largest groups of new freshmen and transfer students this fall, and for the first time, our new class was majority minority. More of these students than ever are enrolled fulltime and are persisting through to graduation, which is why we graduated one of the largest classes in our history in 2017, adding to our nearly 189,000 living alumni who are well-prepared to lead in a 21st century knowledge economy.

Among our students are 11 Fulbright Scholars, one of the highest totals of any U.S. university, the State Department tells us. Our students engage in and out of the classroom: More than a third of our students completed community service last year, totaling 1.3 million hours and a $32 million benefit for the Richmond region. This was part of a total economic impact on Greater Richmond that reached $4 billion in 2017, with $3.70 returned on every dollar spent by VCU, and 47,000 jobs. Statewide, it’s a $6 billion impact with a 3.2:1 ROI and 63,000 jobs.

The Make it Real Campaign for VCU continues to build a legacy, thanks to many of you. Almost 90,000 donors (including a record 27,000 alumni) have given more than $558 million dollars so far, about 75 percent of our total goal. With more than 2 years left to go, the School of Engineering has already far exceeded its ambitious campaign goals, and the School of Education and Life Sciences are already 90 percent of the way there.

Donors to the campaign have established 51 endowed chairs and professorships, 65 endowed faculty support and research funds, and 230 endowed scholarships to support our students—another example of our ongoing commitment to access and excellence.

This year, we also broke ground on a new home for our nationally prestigious School Allied Health Professions and cut the ribbon on the Virginia Treatment Center for Children. Work continues on the Gladding Residence Center, which will be one of the premier student housing complexes anywhere in Virginia, and the Institute for Contemporary Art, which will be the East Coast’s new home for contemporary art.

In short, 2017 gave us so much to be thankful for and so much to celebrate. Most of all, I am thankful for your continued support and enthusiasm for the life-changing work VCU does every day.

In the meantime, I simply say thank you. And happy holidays.


Michael Rao

President, VCU and VCU Health