What’s new at VCU

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The fall semester is in full swing, but Virginia Commonwealth University wasn’t exactly resting on its laurels over the summer. The university is always changing and growing, so much so that it can be hard to keep up. To help, here’s a brief selection of what’s new around campus this school year.


1)  The Depot – open for classes (and coffee)

VCU School of the Arts' Depot building
VCU School of the Arts' Depot building

After months of renovation, this historic Broad Street building originally built in 1907 as a station for the Richmond-Ashland trolley line is now holding classes, exhibits and more. The multidisciplinary facility is overseen by the School of the Arts and, combined with the Depot Annex building behind it on Marshall Street, provides nearly 30,000 square feet of new space, including a student gallery, kinetic imaging studio classrooms, a dance studio and ample space for interdisciplinary projects and community engagement. And conveniently, local food-cart favorite Alchemy Coffee just opened its first-ever bricks and mortar location on the ground floor – because creativity sometimes requires caffeine.


 2)  President Rao on Twitter

If you want your Twitter feed to be a bit more presidential, you’re in luck. As of August, VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., has taken the plunge into social media in order to connect and engage with VCU students, faculty and staff in as many ways and places as possible. Along with Twitter (@VCUpresident), you can also find him on LinkedIn and Instagram. Best tweet so far? The picture he posted from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was pretty “refreshing.” If a blog is more your speed, President Rao continues to be active on his President’s Posts blog.





3)  VCU Libraries introduces a new way to publish

VCU Libraries has launched a digital publishing platform that is making thousands of scholarly articles, presentations, research findings and data produced at VCU available to the general public.

The open-access platform, called VCU Scholars Compass, will serve as VCU’s repository for the intellectual output of the university’s faculty, researchers, students and staff.

So far, upwards of 4,100 papers and other scholarly materials have been uploaded to Scholars Compass, and have already been downloaded nearly 23,000 times. The platform is in its early stages, but it already features an array of open-access journal articles, conference presentations, unpublished papers, working papers and select chapters from published books.


4)  New interim provost

John Wiencek, Ph.D., became VCU’s interim provost and vice president for academic affairs in late May when Provost Beverly Warren, Ed.D., Ph.D., left the university to serve as president of Kent State University. Wiencek joined VCU in August 2013 as the senior vice provost for administration and strategic initiatives and professor of chemical and life sciences engineering after serving as the dean of the School of Engineering at the University of South Florida from 2007 to 2013. You can follow Wiencek on Twitter (@VCUProvost) or check out his blog at provost.vcu.edu/engage/provosts-blog.


 5)  A new hub for humanities research

The newly established Humanities Research Center will aim to increase awareness of the humanities, support faculty research and enhance excellence in the humanities through intellectual exchange across traditional disciplinary boundaries. The center already has awarded a series of research grants to VCU faculty working on humanities projects and has named four residential fellows from the college who are working on book projects. The center will also convene interdisciplinary research groups to encourage conversation and creativity among faculty and graduate students from different departments but with common interests.

In addition, the center is planning a number of lectures and workshops through the upcoming academic year, including a speaker series showcasing VCU faculty members who have recently written books. All of the events will be open to the public. Richard Godbeer, Ph.D., is the center’s inaugural director.


6)  New deans for the School of Pharmacy and the Honors College

Both the School of Pharmacy and the Honors College have new deans at the helm this year.

Joseph Dipiro, Pharm.D., has assumed the leadership responsibilities at the School of Pharmacy. Dipiro, who previously served as executive dean of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, is past chair of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy Council of Deans and has previously served as president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy. One of DiPiro’s points of emphasis will be collaborations through the Center for Interprofessional Education to further align pharmacy programs with VCU’s team approach to health care solutions.

Barry Falk, Ph.D., is the Honors College’s new dean. Falk most recently was director of the Honors Program and a professor of economics at James Madison University. Before his time at JMU, Falk was a professor of economics at Iowa State University. Falk is a respected scholar in the field of economics who has served as a visiting fellow at Yale University and as a visiting scholar in the economics research division of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.



7)  New undergraduate certificate programs in sustainable innovation and venture creation

VCU launched two new certificate programs this year.

The Certificate in Venture Creation program encourages students to develop a mindset that embraces a multidisciplinary perspective for successful entrepreneurialism and venture creation. Students will develop multidisciplinary venture creation models and apply lessons to create, plan and implement a venture. For more information, including application information, visit pubapps.vcu.edu/bulletins/prog_search/?did=20760.

The Certificate in Sustainable Innovation allows students to add a formal program in sustainability and sustainable approaches to problem-solving to their studies. The certificate will use a systems-thinking approach to problems of sustainability across all of the academic disciplines. Students will maintain a portfolio that incorporates work from each of the certificate’s elective courses and includes a product from their practical experience. For more information, including application information, visit pubapps.vcu.edu/bulletins/prog_search/?did=20759.


8)  VCU Police unveil noise suppression vehicle

The VCU Police Department’s new noise suppression unit will be used to deter students from making excessive noise off campus and will monitor residences that receive ongoing noise complaints.
The VCU Police Department’s new noise suppression unit will be used to deter students from making excessive noise off campus and will monitor residences that receive ongoing noise complaints.

The VCU Police Department unveiled a new noise suppression unit to strengthen efforts to curtail noisy parties around VCU’s Monroe Park Campus.

The unit – a van equipped with audio and video recording equipment – will be used to deter VCU students who continually ignore warnings about hosting loud, disruptive events off campus. The van is outfitted with eye-catching graphics and VCU Police logos – a design that will be very visible in local neighborhoods.

The new, innovative vehicle will serve as both a deterrent to suppress noise problems and a monitor for problem properties. Readings from the vehicle’s sound meters (which measure decibel levels) and video footage may be used to pursue charges for noise violations and may be used as evidence for VCU Code of Conduct violations.


9)  New Office of Continuing and Professional Education

In July, VCU launched a new office to provide high-quality, noncredit courses and programs to the community; offer continuing and professional education support to the schools and colleges of VCU for credit- and noncredit-based offerings; and offer mediation services and skills training to the public, nonprofit and private sectors. Led by interim director Michael Huffman, Ph.D., the OCPE centralizes the functions of the School of Education’s Center for Professional Growth and the Office of Continuing Studies in the Division of Community Engagement, and also houses the new Virginia Center for Consensus Building, which will provide mediation services and negotiation skills training to state, local and regional entities and to private stakeholders.


10)  Introducing … “Make it real” moments

This fall VCU is rolling out a series of new “Make it real” print and digital ads featuring candid, real-life moments and photo-blog-style imagery of VCU students, alumni, and faculty and staff. By enlisting the VCU community to help tell the university’s story, the latest iteration of the marketing campaign focuses on capturing the real moments – both big and small – that make VCU such a unique and vibrant place. In addition to the launch of a redesigned website (makeitreal.vcu.edu), a new “Make it real” Instagram series kicked off last month, featuring bimonthly challenges with dedicated hashtags asking students to share their VCU experience. The VCU community can also share their “Make it real” moments via a form on the campaign website.


Subscribe for free to the weekly VCU News email newsletter at http://newsletter.news.vcu.edu/ and receive a selection of stories, videos, photos, news clips and event listings in your inbox every Thursday. VCU students, faculty and staff automatically receive the newsletter. To learn more about research taking place at VCU, subscribe to its research blog, Across the Spectrum at http://www.spectrum.vcu.edu/