Friday, Sept. 7, 2018
While Virginia Commonwealth University likes to commemorate its heritage, including throwing its own 50th birthday party this month, the university is most focused on its present and future. Every year, VCU introduces exciting new programs, people and places to the university and local communities.
Here’s a sampling of what’s new at VCU this year:
Monroe Park, a city and university landmark, to reopen after renovations
Monroe Park, one of Richmond’s oldest and most historically significant parks, is scheduled to reopen later this fall after an extensive renovation project. The park’s new features will include repaved walkways, new benches, Wi-Fi, bocce ball, bike share stations, a water bottle station, LED lighting, more than 130 new trees and more than 3,000 new plants. The Checkers House in the center of the park will be home to a coffee and sandwich shop and a satellite police station. The nearby fountain also has been refurbished. A new pavilion and plaza near the Altria Theater will be available for weddings and other events, and the park’s electrical, sewage and irrigation systems were upgraded.
The park has been closed since November 2016. The city of Richmond owns the park and leases it to the Monroe Park Conservancy, a nonprofit.
Gladding Residence Center opens to students
VCU’s newest residence hall is designed to encourage students to get out of their rooms and meet and mingle. The $96 million, 12-story Gladding Residence Center opened its doors to more than 1,470 first-year students earlier this fall. The 360,000-square-foot building replaced the former GRC I and II residence halls.
VCU, GRTC agreement provides unlimited transit access to students, employees
Together with the Greater Richmond Transit Company, VCU is piloting a $1.2 million ridership program to give students and employees unlimited access to Richmond’s bus service — and greater access and alternative means to explore and connect to more areas of the city. The program started Aug. 1 and runs through July 31, 2019, and includes GRTC’s Pulse line and all regular fixed-route bus service. All students and employees of VCU and VCU Health System, including Virginia Premier, can ride at no cost by presenting their valid VCU, VCU Health System or Virginia Premier ID. More information is available on the VCU Parking and Transportation website.
New academic programs
Education is always evolving, as are the academic programs at VCU. This year, the university has added a set of new programs for students in a range of disciplines. VCU’s newest programs include
ICA fall exhibitions
This fall, the Institute for Contemporary Art will present two exhibitions featuring leading international contemporary artists, including two new site-specific commissions.
Opening simultaneously on Oct. 17, “Provocations: Rashid Johnson” and “Hedges, Edges, Dirt” explore socially and culturally specific issues in nuanced, conceptual and poetic ways. Through these, the ICA will continue presenting exhibitions that engage audiences with dynamic programming on themes of social relevance and local resonance. The ICA opened its doors in April of this year.
Two new vice presidents join the VCU leadership team
P. Srirama Rao, Ph.D., an allergy and immunology expert, has been named the new vice president for research and innovation. Rao comes to VCU from the University of Minnesota, where he is professor and associate dean for research in the College of Veterinary Medicine and holds a joint appointment in the medical school.
Aashir Nasim, Ph.D., started his role as vice president for inclusive excellence in April. Prior to this appointment, he served as interim senior vice provost for faculty affairs and director of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry & Innovation (iCubed) at VCU. He now leads the Division for Inclusive Excellence and the implementation of the newly adopted Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Action Plan designed to fulfill VCU’s vision of becoming a model university for inclusivity.
New deans at the helm for University College, School of Social Work
In July, Constance Relihan, Ph.D., joined VCU as dean of University College. Relihan came to VCU from Auburn University, where she served as associate provost for undergraduate studies and director of University College.
Beth Angell, Ph.D., also started in July as dean of the School of Social Work. Angell came to VCU with nearly two decades of experience in the field of social work. She previously served as associate professor and chair of the faculty for the School of Social Work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Health Professions and Engineering elevate in status
Two of VCU’s schools recently received a name change — and a boost in status. The School of Allied Health Professions is now the College of Health Professions, and the School of Engineering is now the College of Engineering. The new names reflect the expanding breadth and level of academic programming, as well as an increase in research, faculty and student enrollment.