Provost’s Report to VCU Faculty Senate - November 30, 2021

Celebrating VCU faculty

VCU faculty are accomplishing great things every day at VCU in classrooms, studios and labs, and in the community. With more than 3,000 faculty members at VCU, we can’t call attention to each achievement - but we can try! For each of my monthly reports to the Faculty Senate, I’ll highlight a few from the previous month. Here are seven picks for November:

  • The VCU da Vinci Center for Innovation held the grand opening of the SHIFT Retail Lab on Nov. 10. SHIFT exemplifies how VCU can infuse high-impact, career-focused experiences into the curriculum and develop the “classroom of the future.”
  • Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D., dean of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, is the new president of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration.
  • Vann Graves, Ed.D., executive director of the Brandcenter, has been selected as a contributing author in a new anthology, “The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Reflection & Expression.
  • Arnethea Sutton, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at VCU Massey Cancer Center, has been named by STAT News as one of this year’s 27 STAT Wunderkinds — the news organization’s prestigious award that aims to recognize rising stars in biomedical research.
  • Ibrahim Guven, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering in the College of Engineering, has received $450,000 from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Naval Research to analyze how rain, ice, sand, dust, volcanic ash, aerosols and other particles impact surfaces of hypersonic aircraft, which are vehicles traveling at five times the speed of sound.
  • Chioke l’Anson, Ph.D., the inaugural director of community media at the VPM + ICA Community Media Center and an assistant professor of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, celebrated the grand opening of the Center in early November.
  • Kenneth S. Kendler, M.D., professor and eminent scholar at the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics and a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the School of Medicine, is one of the three multiple-principal investigators for the largest population study of its kind aimed at learning more about the genetic variations that affect individuals’ risk for depression. The study is funded by a five-year, $8.98 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Updates from previous report

Survey -- Recalibration of Quest 2025: Together We Transform
On Nov. 16 all VCU faculty and staff received a survey designed to ascertain perceptions about VCU’s future. The survey was sent via email from with the subject line, VCU's Strategic Focus Faculty and Staff Survey 2021. If you have not already done so, please complete the voluntary survey to ensure that your voice is heard. Your response will not be identifiable as this is an anonymous survey.

School of Public Health
The proposal to create a new School of Public Health passed the Academic Affairs and University Policy Committee of the University Council on Friday, Nov. 19. The proposal will be voted on by the full University Council on Dec. 2. It will then go to the VCU Board of Visitors on Dec. 10 and the VCU Health Board of Visitors on Dec. 9-10.

Online Strategy Task Force

The Online Strategy Task Force was announced to the university on Nov. 4. The task force is charged with developing strategy recommendations that will ensure VCU offers high quality online courses and programs; improves both student and faculty experiences with online courses; increases and accelerates the development of marketable online credentials; and expands online education to support teaching, learning and innovation in undergraduate and graduate courses. Dr. Tomikia LeGrande, vice president for strategy, enrollment management and student success, chairs the task force steering committee. A survey was sent to all faculty and students earlier this month; results will inform the work of the task force. A reminder is forthcoming. Additional information on the structure and activity of the task force, including members, is available online.

October Faculty Senate meeting follow-up questions

Annual faculty evaluations:
Q: Faculty Senate leadership requested that all faculty members receive an “excellent” rating for their 2021-22 annual evaluations. This request was based on the excellent rating given to all faculty for 2020-21 in light of the global pandemic.

A: VCU has returned to standard practices and procedures for employees while maintaining flexible work arrangements. This includes the standard, merit-based performance ratings. We have also returned to standard practices for our students (ex., discontinued the temporary and lenient Pass/Fail policy). Faculty merit increases are included in the university’s 6-year strategic plan and the annual evaluation for faculty is still based on meeting expectations and workload. Any faculty member who believes their workload is not representative of their effort and expectations should consult with their department chair or supervisor.

Academic Analytics:
Q: Does the growth in research expenditures correlate to the time frame that OVPRI has been using Academic Analytics?

A: VCU is extremely proud of the rapid increase in research funding. More specifically, VCU has increased research funding by more than 25% over the past three years due to a variety of strategic initiatives. For example, VCU researchers secured 51% more industry funding in FY 2020 compared to the previous year (including $32.5 million for clinical trials in testing potential therapeutics for COVID-19 patients). It is difficult to claim the cause of the rapid growth in research funding can be tied to the use of any one strategy or tool (Academic Analytics, Research Insights, Nvivo, etc.). VCU makes a concerted effort to connect researchers using a variety of tools and strategies. While funding rises, expenditures also rise. But, again, it is difficult to claim a correlation between research expenditures and the use of any one strategy or tool.

Course Modality:
Q: Is there a plan to survey students about their course modality preferences? Does the mandate of "75% in-person classes" for the Spring 2022 apply to the graduate classes?

A: As was shared at the October 2021 Faculty Senate meeting, the goal is to have 75% of undergraduate courses in spring 2022 in-person or hybrid. There may be a different percentage of in-person/hybrid courses for graduate programs depending on the needs of the department and unique aspects of the curriculum. There was no university survey about student modality preference for spring. However, some schools and colleges initiated a survey to inform their scheduling.

Policy updates

Syllabus policy workgroup
VCU’s Course Syllabus Policy Work Group is a new workgroup that will be charged with creating a policy for a course syllabus requirement that is both consistent and flexible. We will convene and charge the workgroup before the end of the fall semester, with the primary work of the group to be completed in the spring.

Academic Analytics Policy Draft
The Office of the Provost has drafted a proposed policy that will govern the use of Academic Analytics. The draft policy has been submitted to Faculty Senate leadership for review and input.

Central Bank Internal Loans Policy
The policy was reviewed by the UCAAUP in September, 2021. It was removed from the October 2021 University Council agenda so that the University Treasurer could address the questions that were raised by stakeholders. Any other questions related to the timing and process can be directed to the policy office. Specific questions about the policy should be directed to the Treasurer's Office.

New announcements

Dean’s performance rubric
Earlier this month I provided all deans on the Monroe Park Campus (MPC) a new Quantitative Performance Goals Rubric. Focusing on the areas of academic performance, faculty recruitment and retention, scholarly excellence, research growth, fiscal management and fundraising, this rubric provides a framework for MPC deans to work with me in developing their goals for 2022-23. A similar rubric is in place for MCV Campus deans who develop their goals with the senior vice president for health sciences.

This process is intended to provide clear expectations to guide deans in their work and, also, to support them in decision-making. In addition, it will provide a clearer picture of how and where my team can best support deans and faculty by identifying needs and challenges.

Leadership searches

  • Dean, School of Dentistry. Finalists’ visits are complete.
  • Dean, School of Business. Finalists’ visits are complete. Feedback forms and open forum recordings for each candidate are available online (VCU eID required). The feedback period will close at 5pm EST on Wed., Dec. 1, 2021.
  • Vice Provost for Strategy and Implementation. This is a new position. The committee has been formed and recruitment is taking place.


Provost’s Lecture Series - Dec. 1 at 6 p.m.
Please join me this Wed., Dec. 1, at 6 p.m., as we launch the Provost’s Lecture Series at the ICA. As the inaugural speaker, I will give a Ted-Talk-style presentation, “Fluid Flow Challenges in Energy, Environment and Human Health: From Respiratory Viruses to River Flooding and Wind Energy,” highlighting my research and the societal problems it addresses. A discussion, moderated by Dominic Asmall Willsdon, executive director of the ICA at VCU, will follow. RSVP using our online form to join us in person or via live stream. Please also use this form to submit any questions for consideration that you'd like to see addressed at the event.

Fall commencement (Dec. 11)
On Saturday, Dec. 11, we will honor the achievements of our graduates in-person at the VCU Siegel Center, as part of the university's Fall 2021 Commencement exercises, with a formal commencement celebration at 10 a.m. Faculty who plan to participate in VCU’s university wide Commencement ceremony should register and reserve their seat using the following link: