Annual PACME awards honor employees and students for making VCU more inclusive

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Individuals whose time, work and energy go into making VCU a more accepting and welcoming place for all were recognized April 16 at the 2014 Presidential Awards for Community Multicultural Enrichment (PACME) ceremony.

Cynthia Newbille, councilwoman on Richmond City Council for East End Richmond, 7th District, kicked off the event by speaking about service leadership and the importance of finding significance in one’s work.

“Building an inclusive and diverse community is a labor of love,” said Newbille, who is a VCU alumna. “It takes time, patience, perseverance, courage. But this is some of the most worthy work, because when it works, things start to happen in a very different kind of way.”

Presented by the VCU Division for Inclusive Excellence, the PACME awards honor individuals who have made significant contributions toward enhancing VCU's commitment to diversity. Four separate awards recognize students, faculty, classified and hourly staff, and administrators. In addition to the award, each recipient receives $500.

Christopher Woleben, M.D., assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, and associate dean of student affairs in the VCU School of Medicine, won the 2014 PACME Administrator Award. He said he is grateful to VCU for giving him “a safe place to develop my own unique identity, as a health professional and as a person.”

Faye Belgrave, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences, was the winner of a 2014 PACME Faculty Award. Recognized for being an advocate of the recruitment of diverse faculty and students from underrepresented minority groups, Belgrave was also the recipient of the capstone Riese-Melton Award, given for contributions to cross-cultural relations, for which she received an additional $250.

Another PACME Faculty Award was awarded to Steven Crossman, M.D., director of predoctoral programs in the School of Medicine’s Department of Family Medicine and Population Health. Crossman was described as being someone who lives their values every day.

The 2014 PACME Student Award went to Jenson Larrimore, a student in the Department of Psychology, who is striving to make VCU a better place for people with disabilities, and who had a piece of advice for them.

“Owning your disability, accepting it as part of who you are, shows the community that it is not something to be ashamed of…it’s something to be celebrated,” Larrimore said.

“I have seen him (Larrimore) in action – he is a force,” said Beverly Warren, Ed.D., Ph.D., provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.

New this year was a presentation of the President's Inclusive Excellence Lifetime Achievement Award, given to Henry Rhone, Ph.D., vice provost for student affairs. This award is given for outstanding service in promoting diversity, inclusion and equity through leadership, service and volunteering, and is awarded at the discretion of VCU president Michael Rao, Ph.D., in consultation with the vice president for inclusive excellence, Wanda Mitchell, Ed.D., and the PACME Awards Committee.

“I did not envision this at all,” Rhone said. “It caught me off-guard.”

Closing out the program was a surprise recognition for Warren – the 2014 Inclusive Community Leader’s Award, in recognition of her commitment to advancing excellence through diversity.

“Diversity in all of its forms is really a hallmark of our VCU,” Warren said. “Each and every individual has something to contribute.”

Warren is leaving VCU at the end of May after 14 years at the university to assume the presidency of Kent State. She was surprised by the award, and said the acknowledgement was bittersweet.

“I love this community,” she said. “I love VCU, and I will always, always be grateful for this community.”

Two musical selections were performed by the Black Awakening Choir of VCU, a collegiate ensemble. A reception followed the presentation.

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