Shafer Court on a snowy day

Welcome back


Dear Members of the VCU and the VCU Health communities,

Welcome back. I hope the new year finds you refreshed and ready to accomplish great things in and out of the classroom, laboratory, studio, and clinic.

We have much to look forward to this semester, beginning with MLK Week at VCU on Sunday. Please take a look at the event schedule. The theme for the week is “We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident,” a line from the Declaration of Independence often included in Dr. King’s speeches as a reminder that it is still necessary to reflect upon our basic rights and how we treat one another. I am proud of the ways our VCU community works together to advance and promote these ideals.

I also invite you to the attend the annual State of the University address, which is 11 a.m., Thursday, Jan. 31, in Cabell Library 303, where I will lay out my vision for VCU in the coming year and beyond, guided by our new strategic plan.

Throughout the semester, you will no doubt notice the expanding physical footprint of our medical campus as we bring online state-of-the-art clinical, research, and educational space. Notably, our vision for the College of Health Professions will soon be realized as we cut the ribbon on a new facility that, for the first time, brings all 11 departments of the college under one roof. This will allow our students to collaborate more effectively across programs as they prepare for their future as leaders in a world with growing and pressing healthcare needs.

We are also building a facility that will make patient care and healing easier, an Adult Outpatient Facility that is our largest-ever capital project. This 16-story facility will bring together adult outpatient clinics, including for VCU Massey Cancer Center, and spaces for research and teaching. With this important facility will come accessible parking. We expect to open this facility next summer.

We are continuing our partnership with the Greater Richmond Transit Company, which provides all faculty, staff, and students with free and unlimited access to any GRTC bus line, including the Pulse Bus Rapid Transit that services both downtown campuses. You should receive your VCU/GRTC GO Pass this month. More information can be found here.

We also recognize the impact of the federal government shutdown, and the Office of Financial Aid continues to monitor the situation and its impact on students. Guidance on how to best reach the office, including for questions about student assistance like Federal Work Study and Pell Grants, can be found here. And our Global Education Office can assist with any questions regarding visas.

VCU continues to monitor actions taken regarding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Resources can be found here. Likewise, we continue to monitor potential Department of Education action regarding Title IX regulations and potential impact on our university community.

Mental and physical well-being and safety are critical to your success. The Wellness Resource Center is an exemplary place dedicated to helping you learn, live and thrive. In addition, VCU Police offers abundant resources and tips to help you to stay safe on and off VCU and VCU Health grounds.

Your success also depends on resources to support you. That’s why I am so proud that our largest capital campaign ever, the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, is breaking records. To date, almost $670 million has been raised, including the creation of 282 endowed student scholarships, 78 endowed faculty support and research funds, and 52 endowed chairs and professorships. For more information on scholarships available at VCU, please see the Division of Strategic Enrollment Management.

We look forward to celebrating your ultimate success. You received an email earlier this week regarding the university-wide commencement, which will be May 11 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. I am grateful for the work done by my colleagues to ensure that our graduates and their families and friends will have an appropriate site to celebrate. Up-to-date information on spring commencement can be found here and here.

Finally, I note with a heavy heart that we recently lost Phoebe Hall, a brilliant leader and gracious human being who served as rector of our Board of Visitors and as a member of the VCU Health Board of Directors. I am grateful for her leadership and guidance, and the love she had for this university, especially for our students.

VCU is a nationally prominent research university because of you, our people. Thank you for your scholarship, creativity, boundless humanity, and the desire to make our world a better place.

I look forward to a great year with you.


Michael Rao
President, VCU and VCU Health System