REAL initiative

What is REAL?

Students work outside at the river

REAL's mission is to answer how VCU can guarantee every student an academic experience that involves hands-on learning activities directly relevant to realizing their personal and professional goals.

To our students, its the university's promise to engage you in meaningful, hands-on work that builds both your professional and personal identity.

For our faculty and university professionals, it is a promise to support you as you create unique ways to provide these types of meaningful experiences for our students.

What REAL means in practice

REAL is not a hard reset, nor will it have a negative impact on the faculty, programs and projects already engaged in experiential learning. Instead, it’s an intentional organizing of the types of career-building and civic-minded activities that VCU already does well, providing an anchor for all the university's experiential education activities, including research, study abroad,service learning, practicum and internships.

In practice, REAL means:

  • New or improved curricular elements to ensure adherence to best practices
  • New or improved tracking of experiential learning across the institution
  • Bringing an equity lens to experiential learning through information sharing and student exposure to tailored experiential learning opportunities

REAL does not:

  • Increase student’s time to degree
  • Increase student’s debt load

REAL types

A wide variety of academic activities qualify as a REAL experience, many of which already occur throughout the VCU curriculum:

Capstone experiences
Integrative learning experiences
Career exploration and development activities
Interprofessional collaboration
Civic learning and engagement
Leadership education
Living-Learning Communities
Entrepreneurship and Innovation activities
Project/performance-based learning
Field experiences
Practicums/clinical placements
Independent studies
Service learning

Recent news

A collection of recent articles about REAL:

REAL next steps

REAL goals for the 2019-20 academic year include:

  • Expand engagement: Convene an expanded REAL Council to engage and involve stakeholders in REAL, including alumni and business/industry leaders
  • Map engaged learning pathways: Use the results of the Opportunity Audit to identify curricular pathways to advanced experiential learning activities and to credentialing in high demand work force areas
  • Implement new IT solutions: Use the Student Opportunity Center platform's database to both connect students with opportunities and to track their engagement on a central level
  • Identify a co-curriculum transcript solution: Explore the utility of digital badging for capturing, verifying, and credentialing student non-credit activities