VCU will honor distinguished faculty

VCU will honor distinguished faculty

Virginia Commonwealth University will recognize distinguished faculty during the 34th annual Opening Faculty Address and Convocation.

VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., and Gail Hackett, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs, will preside over the ceremony, which takes place at 11 a.m.on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at the W.E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts, 922 Park Ave. A reception will follow the ceremony. VCU will live stream the event online at

Awards will be presented to faculty members who have distinguished themselves and the university through their commitment to excellence, service, teaching and scholarship.

For the first time, two additional faculty members will be recognized in the categories of outstanding early career faculty and outstanding term faculty.

Michael D. Davis, Ph.D.
Michael D. Davis, Ph.D.

Michael D. Davis, Ph.D., School of Education (retired), will receive the Presidential Medallion. Davis retired from VCU in May after a 37-year-career but continues to serve the university in the Office of Continuing and Professional Education, which he was instrumental in creating. He began his career as an assistant professor and also served as associate and full professor of early childhood education. He also served as department chair, associate dean and interim dean, as well as the director of the school’s doctoral program in education, and interim vice provost for academic and faculty affairs in the Office of the Provost.

Within weeks of Davis’ retirement, the scholarship fund established in his name broke records for most funds pledged.  

Davis has also worked with rural, suburban and urban schools as well as Head Start, Title I and Virginia Preschool Initiative programs. He also served as a school improvement consultant in Blackwell and Whitcomb Court schools as part of a Southern Education Foundation, Richmond Public Schools and VCU collaborative, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.  

The Presidential Medallion was established in 1984 by the VCU Board of Visitors to honor the outstanding contributions by a member of the university community. The award recognizes extraordinary achievement in the world of learning and commitment to the mission of VCU.

M. Samy El-Shall, Ph.D.
M. Samy El-Shall, Ph.D.

M. Samy El-Shall, Ph.D., College of Humanities and Sciences, will receive the University Award of Excellence.

El-Shall, who is chair of the Department of Chemistry, joined VCU in 1989. He is known across the globe as a leader in the fields of physical chemistry and nanoscience. In 1999, he received the Outstanding Faculty Award of the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia, the commonwealth’s highest faculty honor.

El-Shall has published more than 220 research papers, holds seven U.S. patents (with four more pending) and has brought in more than $9.5 million in external funding to VCU.

A native of Egypt, El-Shall was a Jefferson Science Fellow through the U.S. Department of State, serving as senior science advisor for the Middle East Regional Cooperation program, which promotes cooperation between the Arab and Israeli scientific and technical communities through joint research projects to solve common development problems. He also helped to create a new initiative for young investigators aimed at fostering the next generation of Arab-Israeli research cooperation.

The University Award of Excellence recognizes a faculty member who has performed in a superior manner in teaching, scholarly activity and service. This award is one of the highest honors the university can bestow on one of its faculty.

Sonya Y.S. Clark
Sonya Y.S. Clark

Sonya Y.S. Clark, School of the Arts, will receive the Distinguished Scholarship Award.

Clark, who is chair of the Department of Craft and Material Studies and director of the department’s graduate programs, joined VCU in 2006.

Clark’s work, featured in hundreds of exhibitions and more than a dozen public collections in the United States and abroad, illustrates concepts in culture and identity through the use of raw materials ranging from textiles to beads to human hair. A performance piece, “Unraveling,” in which Clark and audience participants take apart a Confederate flag thread by thread, went viral in the wake of the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, shootings, and coverage of the work has reached millions worldwide.

Clark has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants for her department and her own research and has received multiple awards recognizing her work. In 2015 she received an honorary doctorate from her first alma mater, Amherst College, where she majored in psychology before moving on to study art.

The Distinguished Scholarship Award recognizes an outstanding scholar who has demonstrated a pattern of productive scholarly activity, which has been recognized nationally or internationally, as appropriate. Traditional research, creative endeavors and other scholarly activity are included in this category.

Jay S. Albanese, Ph.D.
Jay S. Albanese, Ph.D.

Jay S. Albanese, Ph.D., L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, will receive the Distinguished Teaching Award.

Albanese, who joined VCU in 1996, is an award-winning scholar who has also been recognized at the school, college and now university levels for his teaching.  

Albanese taught the first online course in criminal justice at VCU in 1999; today he works to incorporate an assortment of media and technology into his classes. Paramount in his approach is enabling students to connect the subject matter to their daily lives.

Albanese currently mentors three junior faculty members at VCU and informally supports numerous others. He has authored several highly praised publications on teaching and pedagogy and has served on multiple committees concerned with teaching experience and preparation of junior faculty. 

The Distinguished Teaching Award recognizes an outstanding teacher. This may be evidenced by being an inspiration to students; by utilizing stimulating techniques, materials and methods designed to promote learning; by outstanding attention to the development of curriculum, learning materials and teaching strategies; by serving in a teaching capacity outside the classroom and university; or by any combination of the above.

Susan Gooden, Ph.D.
Susan Gooden, Ph.D.

Susan Tinsley Gooden, Ph.D., Wilder School, will receive the Distinguished Service Award.

Gooden joined VCU 12 years ago and is a professor of public administration. A former director of graduate programs for the Wilder School, Gooden founded and led the Wilder Graduate Scholars Fellowship Program, an initiative that places second-year graduate students in positions with state and local government agencies and nonprofits. The program has brought in close to $1.75 million in new funding for students in less than 10 years, not to mention invaluable professional experiences for participants.

Gooden also served as executive director of the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, where, among other responsibilities, she managed the department chairs’ certification program. She served as vice president of the Black Education Association at VCU and on several promotion and tenure committees.

Gooden is currently president of the American Society for Public Administration. She is the first African-American female elected to this position in the organization’s 77-year history, as well as its first president from VCU.

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes a faculty member who has performed superior service to the university, the profession and/or the wider community. This may be evidenced by activities that extend beyond normal expectations, unique contributions or long-standing leadership and impact on the university and beyond.

Matthew L. Banks, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
Matthew L. Banks, Pharm.D., Ph.D.

Matthew L. Banks, Pharm.D., Ph.D., School of Medicine, will receive the outstanding early career faculty award.

An assistant professor, Banks joined VCU in 2010. He teaches in the university’s M.D./Ph.D. program, pharmacology and toxicology graduate program and in the School of Pharmacy.

His research on addiction is currently funded through the NIH National Institute of Drug Abuse by seven grants totaling nearly $2 million. He has published 66 peer-reviewed publications and co-authored five book chapters.

Banks mentors two postdoctoral fellows and has served on five graduate student advisory committees. He also supervises two to three research technicians a year, is an ad-hoc peer reviewer for more than a dozen journals and has served as a judge for state and local science fairs.

The Outstanding Early Career Faculty Award recognizes a full-time tenured or tenure track faculty member (rank of associate professor and lower) who has been in rank at the university or at another institution for a total of five years or less, and has achieved superior accomplishment consistent with the Quest for Distinction and in the areas of teaching, research and scholarship, and service. This new award was established in 2016.

Sarah Golding, Ph.D.
Sarah Golding, Ph.D.

Sarah Golding, Ph.D., College of Humanities and Sciences, will receive the outstanding term faculty award.

Golding has served since 2011 as an instructor and director of undergraduate research in the Department of Biology, as well as associate research-training director in the Center on Health Disparities in the School of Medicine.

In addition to teaching biology and life science courses, Golding leads several research courses for undergraduate and graduate students. She also helped to develop and implement the highly regarded summer “boot camps,” where students undergo a weeklong immersion in best practices for molecular laboratories.

Golding is a mentor and advisor, prepares students for conferences, and is instrumental in a variety of efforts to develop young researchers, especially those in underrepresented or underserved demographics. Of particular note are the Initiative for Maximizing Student Development and Maximizing Access to Research Careers programs, which serve approximately two dozen undergraduate trainees each year.

The Outstanding Term Faculty Award recognizes a part-time, full-time, collateral or adjunct faculty member (rank of instructor and above) who has at least three consecutive years of employment at the university, and has achieved superior accomplishment consistent with the Quest for Distinction and in the areas of teaching and service. This new award was established in 2016.


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