cherry blossom tree blooming in front of the Student Commons
The 40th annual Faculty Convocation will take place on Aug. 30 at 3 p.m. at the W. E. Singleton Center and will be live-streamed. (University Marketing)

Faculty Convocation will honor seven outstanding educators and researchers

The annual awards recognize faculty for their teaching, scholarship and service.

Share this story

Virginia Commonwealth University will recognize seven faculty members for outstanding teaching, scholarship and service at the 40th annual Faculty Convocation. The event will take place on Aug. 30 at 3 p.m. at the W. E. Singleton Center and will be live-streamed on this VCU News article page.

Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D., VCU provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, will welcome everyone, and VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., will make the opening remarks. This year will feature a new award for adjunct professors.

A glance at the honorees:

A portrait of M. Imad Damaj, Ph.D.
M. Imad Damaj, Ph.D.

M. Imad Damaj, Ph.D., School of Medicine

University Award of Excellence

Damaj’s research on the use of nicotine and nicotine-like drugs in prevention and treatment of peripheral neuropathy, a common result of chemotherapy, is nationally recognized. With a strong record of NIH grant funding since 2001, he has published 236 peer-reviewed papers and 15 reviews and book chapters. He has shared his work through more than 100 scientific meeting presentations and 35 invited lectures. Damaj has had a significant impact on VCU, the professional community and the Richmond area through his advocacy work and service on numerous departmental and university committees, community leadership positions and boards.


A portrait of Benjamin Van Tassell
Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D.

Benjamin Van Tassell, Pharm.D., School of Pharmacy

Distinguished Scholarship Award 

Van Tassell is best known for his research and achievements in heart failure. He has an international reputation with substantial achievements in cardiovascular disease and drug therapy, often working closely with colleagues in the School of Medicine. He was a pioneer in understanding the role of inflammation in cardiovascular disease and the development of therapeutic agents targeting inflammation. Van Tassell has been a prolific scholar with 171 peer-reviewed publications, most in high-visibility journals, such as the Journal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology, British Medical Journal, and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.


A portrait of Dewey Taylor, Ph.D.
Dewey Taylor, Ph.D.

Dewey Taylor, Ph.D., College of Humanities and Sciences

Distinguished Teaching Award

Over the years, Taylor has contributed to many aspects of the growth of the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics but most exceptionally with her outstanding teaching and development of undergraduate research programs at VCU. Taylor has taught 25 different courses at VCU, ranging from general education to graduate-level courses. She has consistently excelled in the classroom and receives high evaluation scores from students. Taylor has made an impressive mark at VCU with her mentoring of faculty and students in undergraduate research activities: 18 of her articles were co-authored with 58 undergraduates, 56% of whom are women and 20% of whom are from historically excluded minorities.


A portrait of Tracey Gendron
Tracey Gendron, Ph.D.

Tracey Gendron, Ph.D., College of Health Professions

Distinguished Service Award

Author of the bestselling book “Ageism Unmasked: Exploring Age Bias and How to End It,” Gendron was one of the founders of the VCU iCubed transdisciplinary program to address issues related to “health and wellness of unserved older individuals.” Additionally, she recently led a successful initiative for VCU to acquire the distinction of being designated an age-friendly university. VCU now is one of just 78 institutions worldwide with such recognition. As chair of the Department of Gerontology, she developed several dual degree programs and three 4 + 1 accelerated BS-to-MS programs with the Departments of Sociology, Kinesiology and Exercise Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences.


A portrait of Caitlin E. Martin
Caitlin E. Martin, M.D.

Caitlin E. Martin, M.D., School of Medicine

Outstanding Early Career Faculty Award

Martin is the only VCU academic specialist in OBGYN who serves as the principal investigator of a clinical research laboratory at VCU. Her research highlights include over $425,000 of funding. She has given more than 100 presentations on evidence-based addiction care at regional or national conferences. In 2021, she received a prestigious National Institute on Drug Abuse K23 Career Development Award providing support for supervised study and research for outstanding junior researchers who have made a commitment to focus their research endeavors on patient-oriented research. She has published 48 peer-reviewed papers in high-quality research journals, with another 14 manuscripts in peer review or preparation.


Portrait of Robbie Kinter
Robbie Kinter

Robbie Kinter, School of the Arts

Outstanding Term Faculty Award

Kinter is an essential member of the VCUarts Dance community with responsibilities that span a wide academic spectrum. He is an educator in the classroom, a music director in the department and oversees the use of the facilities for the school’s dance community. His work with students also extends beyond performance as he engages with the multitude of academic and professional activities that dancers encounter during their careers in their industry. He is committed to guiding each one to be an active participant in their learning, empowering them to create trusting relationships within their community.

A portatif of Ewell Dingani Mthethwa
Ewell Dingani Mthethwa


Ewell Dingani Mthethwa, College of Humanities and Sciences

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award

A social historian, Mthethwa is one of the first South Africans to publish on Zulu history from a Zulu perspective. He brings to VCU his expertise in the areas of history, language and the culture of the Zulu people to the courses that he teaches in the School of World Studies. His other area of academic expertise is in the study of comparative global social justice movements. He is a certified mindfulness instructor and focuses on how the use of mindfulness in education enhances student learning, self-esteem and self-efficacy. He has received five teaching awards and fellowships during his tenure at VCU.