Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017
Another school year is off to a running start at Virginia Commonwealth University. Now is a good time to brush up on what’s new and different this year at this ever-growing, ever-changing university.
1) Linden Street Commons and an enticing new photo op
When students returned to campus last month, they found a striking change to a much-traveled section of campus. Linden Street Commons is a new pedestrian-oriented streetscape located between Floyd Avenue and Grove Avenue in the area between Cabell Library and the Academic Learning Commons.
The $2.2 million project creates a new walkable corridor in the heart of the Monroe Park Campus and provides traffic calming measures to slow vehicles in the area. New seating on the Cabell Library side of Linden Street encourages students, faculty and staff to gather in an area that was previously used solely as a pass-through stretch of campus.
In addition, the project featured the installation of large “VCU” letters at the Grove Avenue end of Linden Street, creating a prominent and visually appealing new campus landmark — and a great new photo op for the VCU community.
2) New leadership
VCU welcomed Shawn Brixey as the new dean of the School of the Arts in July. Brixey comes to VCU from York University in Toronto, where he served as dean of the School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design. A graduate of The Media Lab at MIT in design, media science and engineering, Brixey’s research focuses on pioneering complex interactive media environments developed with a wide range of custom technologies and intelligent applications. Under his leadership, the AMPD at York repositioned its mission and focus toward interdisciplinary, team-driven, technology-centered, creative research and discovery.
Later this month, Jay Davenport will join the VCU community as the university’s vice president for development and alumni relations. Davenport currently serves as associate vice president of individual giving and campaign management at Wake Forest University. As VCU’s chief development officer, Davenport will lead advancement efforts for both the university and VCU Health System, including the Make It Real Campaign for VCU, the largest fundraising effort in university history.
3) New programs and online offerings
VCU is offering two new certificate programs this fall that reflect the critical role of interdisciplinary approaches in today’s complex health care landscape. The Center for Interprofessional Education and Collaborative Care now offers a post-baccalaureate graduate Certificate in Care Coordination, the first of its kind in Virginia. The Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences is offering a post-baccalaureate graduate Certificate in Health Behavior Coaching. Both programs are primarily conducted online.
Several other existing programs are now being offered for the first time online this fall: the M.B.A., the Master of Social Work, the Master of Education in Educational Leadership and the post-master’s Certificate in Educational Leadership.
4) VCU home page redesign
This fall, VCU is launching a redesign of its main website — which includes the home page along with about 20 subpages — following months of research, including focus groups, online surveys, user testing, a competitive analysis and an in-depth examination of analytics.
A beta version of the site is scheduled to launch in late September and will run simultaneously with the existing site for four to six weeks. At the end of this period, vcu.edu will switch over to the redesigned site, but the old site will continue to be accessible for a number of weeks. Besides a new look and feel, the strategy of the redesigned site will shift slightly to target prospective students as the primary audience. Admissions information will now be housed in the main site instead of on a series of separate websites for undergraduate, international and graduate students.
5) The massive Honors College mural
Anyone walking or driving near the corner of Grace and Belvidere streets has likely noticed a new splash of color on the side of the Honors College building. London-born street artist Remi Rough painted a huge abstract mural on side of the 10-story building in August as part of the Richmond Mural Project. Rough is a founding member of the international artist collective Agents of Change, and his work has been displayed in New York, London, Paris, Tokyo, Los Angeles and many other cities around the world.
6) A new (but familiar) face in basketball
A popular sideline presence will return to the Siegel Center this winter. Mike Rhoades, who served as an assistant coach and associate head coach for the men’s basketball team from 2009 to 2014, has assumed head coaching duties for the Rams. Rhoades spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Rice University, where he was credited with a highly successful turnaround job that culminated in a 23-12 record in 2016-17 — the second-most wins in a season in school history.
Rhoades, a VCU alumnus who earned a master’s degree from the Center for Sport Leadership in 2002, takes over a program that has made seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Before his first stint at VCU, Rhoades served as head coach for 10 years at Randolph-Macon College, guiding the Yellow Jackets to six conference titles.
At the press conference in March announcing his hiring, Rhoades expressed his affection for VCU and Richmond. “This is home,” he said.
7) One SGA for all of VCU
For years, VCU has had two Student Government Associations — one for the Monroe Park Campus and one for the MCV Campus. This summer, the two groups officially merged to create one universitywide SGA.
Student leaders from the SGA work to promote student involvement and represent all students by serving as the direct liaison between the university administration and the student body. The SGA also allocates funding to student organizations. The new SGA is led by President Destineé Moragne, with the assistance of two vice presidents — James McPaul, the vice president of undergraduate students, and Keith Zirkle, the vice president of graduate and professional students.
8) The Medicines for All Institute
A $25 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this summer (the second-largest grant in VCU history) has allowed B. Frank Gupton, Ph.D., the Floyd D. Gottwald Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemical and Life Science Engineering, to launch the Medicines for All Institute within the School of Engineering.
The new institute aims to increase access to lifesaving medications for HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases around the world by lowering their manufacturing costs. With support from previous Gates grants, Gupton and his team developed an innovative model that reduces the cost of manufacturing AIDS treatments such as nevirapine by accelerating the creation of more efficient ways of synthesizing the active ingredients in the medications. The latest grant will fund the institute’s work on an additional 13 global health drugs over the next five years, both in market and in development.
9) Urgent care dentistry clinic
Patients and students will benefit from opportunities afforded by VCU Dental Care’s new urgent care clinic, which opened its doors in late May. Third and fourth-year dental students will practice at the clinic, which will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with walk-in availability.The clinic will simulate the environment of a private practice dental office, offering a full range of services to patients with dental emergencies, and will allow dental students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a practical setting.
10) RVA Bike Share
There’s a new way to roll around campus — and beyond — thanks to RVA Bike Share. The city’s new bike share system allows people to ride without the worry of storing or maintaining a bike on campus.
Several stations are convenient to VCU’s Monroe Park and MCV campuses — there is one next to the West Broad Street Parking Deck and another outside City Hall, and the city plans to add more stations in the future. A variety of payment plans are available, from a $1.75 per ride rental fee to annual memberships.
“Cycling is a healthy, quick and inexpensive way to explore Richmond,” said Erin Stanforth, VCU’s director of sustainability. According to RVA Bike Share statistics, Richmonders have already taken more than 500 trips since the system launched Aug. 29. VCU was reaccredited as a silver level Bicycle Friendly University last fall.
VCU students, faculty and staff can also access VCU’s free RamBikes bike loan program, which launched in 2012. Bikes can be checked out from Cabell Library and Tompkins-McCaw Library for up to 48 hours. Repairs, safety checks and other cycling resources are available at the RamBikes Shop, located at 201 N. Belvidere St.
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