End of semester message to all faculty

Sent on Dec. 17

Dear VCU faculty,

Last weekend I had the honor of participating in VCU’s first in-person commencement ceremony since Dec. 2019. It was simply astounding - a true testament to the perseverance of our students and the unabashed dedication that you, the faculty, provided them to ensure their successful completion of their degree requirements during unprecedented times. It is this spirit of perseverance, resilience, and dedication that drew me to VCU just five months ago. And throughout my first semester here, I have had the opportunity to learn about this great university and the difference it has made — and continues to make — to the lives of our students and the prosperity and well being of our community.

VCU’s story is one of adaptability, ingenuity, creativity and tenacity. The vision for VCU’s future expands on those important traits and a universitywide shift toward a culture of responsiveness, speed, scale and transformative innovation.

Vision for Academic Affairs

During the December meeting of the Board of Visitors, I had the opportunity to present my vision for academic affairs – a vision that will be bold, distinctive, and impactful by building on our strong foundation of excellence, the enormous strides we have made as an institution, and the ideas presented in our Quest 2025: Together We Transform strategic plan. I pledged that we will:

  • Provide equitable access to transformative education leading to student success and social mobility in a rapidly changing world;
  • Foster a culture of inclusive excellence in teaching, research, scholarship, creative works, and clinical care;
  • Improve the human experience through impactful cross-cutting societally relevant research; and
  • Expand community engagement and partnerships that promote economic development and prosperity.

I am looking forward to discussing this vision with all of you during my first State of Academic Affairs address in early spring. Please mark your calendars for Mon., Feb. 28, 2022 at 11 a.m. Additional details are forthcoming.

Fall 2021 highlights

Each of you plays an important role in realizing our vision and our work together has already begun. For example, this semester we:

Supporting faculty research and training leaders

As we look forward to a new year, I’m pleased to announce several new initiatives to support VCU faculty. In addition to the research funding opportunities announced by the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, a series of new research and leadership training opportunities have emerged through the Office of the Provost:

  • Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts Seed Grants
    The Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation are partnering to offer seed grants to support faculty engaging in scholarly activities and creative endeavors in non-STEM disciplines. These grants will support both individual and interdisciplinary research projects with the expectation to advance excellent scholarship and creative works in the humanities, social sciences and the arts. The Request for Applications and details will be shared early next semester.
  • First-Generation Student Success Seed Grants
    VCU has received funding from the Jesse Ball duPont Fund to support scholarly activity focused on first-generation student success including diversity; underrepresented perspectives; and student success barriers (social, academic, and financial). These $5,000 grants will support interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research pertinent to the success of first-generation students. Information about the grants, including the Request for Applications, is online.
  • Student Success Seed Grants
    To support VCU’s continuing priority of student success, a new source of institutional grant funds will be launched to support scholarly activities focused on improving student success across diverse populations of students. The Request for Applications and details will be shared early next semester.
  • Faculty Fellows
    New opportunities for becoming a Faculty Fellow in the Office of the Provost will soon launch. Fellows will be an integral part of teams working on projects and initiatives focused on moving the academic agenda of VCU forward. The application and additional details will be shared early next semester.

Engaging our students to advance a culture of care

In my first few months at VCU, some of my most rewarding and motivating experiences have been my interactions with our students. I have been inspired and challenged by their intellectual energy, innate curiosity, compassion, and eagerness to contribute to our university and shape a better world for all human beings. Early next year we will launch the Provost’s Student Advisory Council, made up of students from a variety of disciplines at various points in their academic studies, who will work with me and my team to help us develop and implement initiatives that will improve student experience and augment their career success.

And I would like to challenge all of you to strengthen our collective responsibility to the success of our students by advancing a culture of care across our entire institution. A culture of care is one that proactively provides resources and supports relationships that foster learning, development, belonging and connectedness. I know as we work together to advance our culture of care, VCU faculty will remain a most impactful partner.

There is much to look forward to in the new year. And we’ll have many opportunities to work together to plan, discuss and implement strategies that will guide our future as a university.

Thank you again for your warm welcome and support during my first semester at VCU.

I extend to all of you and your loved ones my warmest wishes for a happy and joyful holiday season and a healthy, safe and productive New Year.

Fotis Sotiropoulos, Ph.D.
Provost and senior vice president for academic affairs