Faculty excellence

An increasing reputation for academic quality and student success has enabled Virginia Commonwealth University to recruit international leaders in their fields.

Photo of a person's hand touching an elderly patient's hand.

Nursing faculty inducted to national academy

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For two consecutive years, a School of Nursing faculty member has been among the fewer than 200 leaders inducted as fellows during the American Academy of Nursing’s annual meeting.

In 2013, Leigh Small, Ph.D., associate professor and chair, Department of Family and Community Health Nursing, received the honor. A nationally renowned nurse scientist, Small studies prevention and treatment interventions with obese/overweight young children and young children who have experienced ICU hospitalization.

In 2014, Angela Starkweather, Ph.D., ACNP-BC, CNRN, associate professor and chair, Department of Adult Health and Nursing Systems, became the ninth member of the school to be inducted. Starkweather has made significant contributions to advancing nursing science, largely through a research focus on innovative biobehavioral approaches to pain management. She is the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health R01 grant to study the influence of genetic factors on pain perception and how this may contribute to an increased risk of chronic low back pain.

Photo of Jeff South and Shawn Utsey, Ph.D.

Faculty members receive Fulbright grants to go abroad

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Jeff South, associate professor in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture and director of the Capital News Service, and Shawn Utsey, Ph.D., professor of counseling psychology in the Department of Psychology, each received Fulbright Scholar grants to travel abroad this past year.

South will teach at Northeast Normal University in Changchun, a city of more than 3 million people, in far northeast China. The school’s spring semester runs from February through July.

Utsey collaborated with faculty, staff and students at the Sinomlando Center for Oral History and Memory Work at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, to conduct oral histories with survivors of apartheid-era ethnoviolence and their families.

The Robertson School and the Department of Psychology are both part of VCU’s College of Humanities and Sciences.

Photo of Susan Gooden, Ph.D.

Gooden earns Fulbright Specialist Award, examines public administration

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Susan Gooden, Ph.D., professor of public policy and administration in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs and executive director of The Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute, received a Fulbright Specialist Award to collaborate with scholars at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates this past summer.

Gooden worked with faculty and senior administrators in the College of Sustainability Sciences and Humanities at Zayed University to gain an in-depth understanding of their public administration program and to work with them on global accreditation standards. In 2013, the Network of Associated Schools of Public Policy Affairs and Administration began offering accreditation of public administration programs based outside of the U.S. This is the first public administration program in the United Arab Emirates, and one of few internationally, to work toward this distinction.

James Vonesh, Ph.D.

Biology professor receives Fulbright to investigate invasive frogs

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James Vonesh, Ph.D., a biology professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences, received a Fulbright Scholar award to study Xenopus laevis, an invasive frog species in Asia, Europe and North and South America. The global expansion of Xenopus is associated with the introduction of a fungal pathogen that has caused mass amphibian extinctions around the globe.

As part of the grant, Vonesh will spend the 2014-15 academic year collaborating with scientists at several South African universities and research institutes. Xenopus laevis is native to parts of South Africa but invasive in other areas, such as the Western Cape. The aim of Vonesh’s Fulbright grant is to better understand the degree to which aquatic predators regulate Xenopus populations within their current range in South Africa to see if there are meaningful differences that give insight into when and where the frog species might become established as invasive.

David X. Cifu, M.D.

State honors Cifu as 2014 Outstanding Faculty

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David X. Cifu, M.D., has been selected as one of 12 faculty members from Virginia’s colleges and universities to receive the 2014 Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia and Dominion Resources.

A VCU faculty member since 1991, Cifu is chairman and Herman J. Flax, M.D., Professor in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and executive director of VCU’s Center for Rehabilitation Science and Engineering. He is also national director of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Program Office, Veterans Health Administration.

Cifu is the principal investigator on a $62 million federal grant awarded in 2013 to oversee a national research consortium of universities, hospitals and clinics that will study what happens to service members and veterans who suffer mild traumatic brain injuries or concussions.

Pictured top, from left to right: Joseph T. DiPiro, Pharm.D., Barry Falk, Ph.D. Pictured bottom, from left to right: Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D., and Niraj Verma, Ph.D.

New deans take leadership posts

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Joseph T. DiPiro, Pharm.D., dean, School of Pharmacy, joined the VCU team by way of serving as the executive dean of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. DiPiro successfully built the research program of the college to its top 25 national ranking and fueled a large increase in the college’s endowment. In 2013, DiPiro was one of six scholars in the nation elected as a fellow in the Section on Pharmaceutical Sciences of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Barry Falk, Ph.D., was named dean of The Honors College. Falk previously served as director of the Honors Program and a professor of economics at James Madison University. Before taking his position at JMU in 2007, Falk was an assistant, an associate and then a full professor of economics at Iowa State University. He has also served as a visiting fellow at Yale University and as a visiting scholar in the economics research division of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.

Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D., has joined VCU as associate dean for patient safety and quality care in the School of Medicine and chief safety and quality officer for the VCU Health System. The dual role is unique in academic medicine as it crosses over boundaries that traditionally separate domains of clinical work, academics and research. As chief safety and quality officer, Peterson is responsible for developing an integrated program that addresses patient safety and improves performance across the spectrum of medical education. A board-certified anesthesiologist, Peterson most recently served as associate medical director and co-director of University of Washington Medical Center’s Center for Clinical Excellence.

Niraj Verma, Ph.D., was named inaugural dean, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, after serving as the school’s director since 2011. Verma is an internationally recognized expert in urban planning and management, and previously served as professor and chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Buffalo.

Gardner Campbell, Ph.D.

“Top innovator” leads VCU’s learning innovation

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Gardner Campbell, Ph.D., was appointed vice provost for learning innovation and student success to provide leadership for programs that support the education of undergraduate students in a 21st-century global environment. Previously, Campbell served as the director of professional development and innovative initiatives and an associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He was named one of the “Top 50 Innovators in Education in 2012” by the Center for Digital Education and Converge Magazine.

Melissa E. Exum, Ph.D.

Vice provost for student affairs joins the team

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Melissa E. Exum, Ph.D., was appointed to serve as the new vice provost for student affairs. She comes to VCU with more than 25 years of progressively responsible experience in university-level student affairs. Most recently, Exum served as the vice president for student affairs at Purdue University and before that, she was the dean of students and associate vice-chancellor for student affairs at UNC Chapel Hill.

Brian Shaw, J.D., and John Wiencek, Ph.D.

New members join the president’s cabinet

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Brian Shaw, J.D., was appointed senior executive director in the Office of the President. Shaw previously served as president of the George C. Marshall Foundation in Lexington, Virginia, where he was responsible for the foundation’s financial, administrative and programmatic success. He also served as associate vice president for communications and publications at Washington and Lee University and as a member of the president’s senior cabinet.

John Wiencek, Ph.D., was named interim provost and vice president for academic affairs in June. Wiencek joined VCU in August 2013 as the senior vice provost for administration and strategic initiatives, after serving six years as dean of engineering at one of VCU’s Quest peer institutions, the University of South Florida. Wiencek rose through the faculty ranks at Rutgers University and the University of Iowa, where he was recognized for excellence in both teaching and research.

Hong Cheng, Ph.D.

Mass Communications announces director, new name

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Hong Cheng, Ph.D., director, joined the School of Mass Communications just prior to the school adopting a board-approved name, the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Previously, Cheng served at Ohio University where he was a tenured professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Scripps College of Communication.

The school’s new name, Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, recognizes the VCU alumnus and retired TV executive for his volunteer service and philanthropic support of the university. The renaming also reflects changes in the communications profession, as the transfer of information in the fields of advertising, journalism and public relations is becoming less aimed at a mass audience and more personalized, drawing on many new avenues, including social and digital media.

Pictured counter-clockwise: S. Celi, M.D., Mark G. Malkin, M.D., FRCPC, FAAN, and Shin-Ping Tu, M.D., FACP

Med school divisions expand expertise

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Francesco S. Celi, M.D., professor of internal medicine and chair of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, brings with him clinical and research expertise in the areas of thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer. Before coming to VCU, Celi served as a clinical investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, Celi also comes from an appointment as clinical associate professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. He was most recently principal investigator on 10 intramural NIDDK protocols, a member of several committees of the American Thyroid Association and on the editorial board of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Mark G. Malkin, M.D., FRCPC, FAAN, professor of neurology and director of the neuro-oncology program, is now the William G. Reynolds Jr. Chair in Neuro-Oncology. A physician, researcher and educator, Malkin comes to VCU as the region’s only board-certified neuro-oncologist. Fewer than 1 percent of neurologists are board-certified in neuro-oncology. Before coming to VCU, Malkin served as chief of the division of neuro-oncology, chair of the brain and spine tumor faculty research committee and professor of neurology at the Medical College of Wisconsin, as well as chair of the cancer committee at Froedtert Hospital.

Shin-Ping Tu, M.D., FACP, professor of internal medicine, joined the general internal medicine team as the division’s chair. At her previous post at the University of Washington, she worked at a safety-net hospital and studied how to bring evidence-based medicine — particularly preventive medicine — to underserved populations. She has served as the principal or key investigator on three grants and co-investigator on several additional grants from the National Institutes of Health. Tu is currently leading the flagship multi-site research project of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health.

Harry E. Wyatt Jr.

Facilities under new management

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Harry E. Wyatt Jr., associate vice president for facilities management, brings 30 years of leadership experience to the university. A registered architect, Wyatt has held a number of management positions at universities and academic health care facilities including Duke University Medical Center, Louisiana State University Medical Center and Georgia State. He comes to VCU from Ohio University, where, as associate vice president for facilities, he was the leader of facilities planning, design and construction, plant operations, transportation and parking, and sustainability.

Photo by Ben Siegel.

Beth O’Boyle

Rams welcome new women’s b-ball coach

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Beth O’Boyle, former Stony Brook University coach, was chosen to lead the VCU women’s basketball program. She coached Stony Brook to one of the largest turnarounds in the NCAA, increasing the program’s win total by double digits each of the past two seasons. O’Boyle has also shown a commitment to developing the total student-athlete, including a player who earned America East All-Academic status in 2012-13. At Canisius College, her position prior to Stony Brook, she monitored the academic progress of a team that was recognized in the NCAA Top 25 for team GPA.

Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics.



Fulbright scholar awards earned FY11 through FY14



faculty awards received through 2012-13 CMUP reporting period



Guggenheim fellows named since 2010-11



faculty growth in the past three years



faculty members hired last year



of VCU faculty members are minorities



of tenure and tenure-track faculty at VCU are now female