One spends his time in a recording booth while the other hangs out in the trees. Get to know Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D., and Chris Gough, Ph.D., two faculty members who share a deep commitment to VCU and their students.
Local and Vocal
Chioke I'Anson, Ph.D.
Department of African American Studies
Chioke I’Anson, Ph.D., has always had a love affair with radio. “The first week I got to undergrad at Florida A&M University, I went to the college station and immediately started doing radio stuff,” says I’Anson.
Fast forward 20 years, you can listen to I’Anson on NPR everyday. He voices the underwriting credits—the credits that start with “Support from NPR comes from…”—for NPR’s newscasts and podcasts. It’s a “nerdy dream” come true for I’Anson, and one he does in the early mornings before he heads to the VCU campus for his main gig, as an assistant professor in the Department of African American Studies.
“I have always had this feeling that everybody can benefit from learning how to make media.”
I’Anson joined the faculty in 2014 and quickly developed a devoted following of students. One of his most popular courses is Podcasting While Black, a class that combines his love of radio and media production with Africana Studies and journalism. “I had these interests that didn’t really fit together. I was off doing radio stuff and then I was off doing professor stuff, and they weren’t ever really talking to each other,” says I’Anson. “But in the present day, podcasting is so popular and media production is so pervasive, that it finally became possible to think about doing something like podcasting in the university setting.” In the class, students learn critical concepts and rhetorical strategies of great African American communicators and then incorporate those methods into podcasts exploring the experiences, history and lives of African Americans.
His students’ ideas never fail to surprise and delight I’Anson. “I give them these parameters and they make this really cool neat stuff. There are a lot of shows that students have made that I’ve been really impressed with.” His students’ work even makes headlines. Last year, “When Time Slows Down,” a podcast created by three of his students about disruptive art through the lens of Richmond’s graffiti-covered Confederate monuments, was named one of 10 finalists in a national podcast competition held by NPR.
I’Anson’s audio reach has recently expanded even further. He was just named the inaugural director of community media for the VPM + ICA Community Media Center Institute located in the Institute for Contemporary Art. The new media center will train and educate students and members of the community to become audio producers, offering podcasting workshops as well as training sessions, presentations and workshops in other forms of media making, like writing, videography and photography. The idea for the media center originated with I’Anson.
“I have always had this feeling that everybody can benefit from learning how to make media. For instance, I think that anyone who knows how to make a commercial or a video will also be able to be more critical of a commercial or a video that they might see on TV or on their computer screen. We need that,” says I’Anson. “The center will help people learn new ways of production and through the process we might find new voices that we need to hear.”
The Forest and the Trees
Chris Gough, Ph.D.
Department of Biology
What word comes to mind when you think of a forest? For Chris Gough, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology, that word is curiosity. “Curiosity ultimately brought me to this career and area of research. I have always wanted to know about the various pieces of a forest and how they work together in a way to produce the ecosystem that we see today."
“We are trying to understand how we can better manage our ecosystems to sequester more carbon and for longer, to offset some of our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Now a biologist who studies forest ecology, Gough is fortunate enough to spend his time satisfying that curiosity, which means he gets to spend a lot of time in the woods. His research involves forest carbon cycling, the process in which ecosystems remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it (known as sequestration) in plant biomass and forest soils, as well as the ways in which carbon dioxide is eventually returned to the atmosphere following disturbance. Quantifying carbon cycling is an important step in understanding how forests affect climate and in developing forest management protocols for greenhouse gas mitigation. “Much of our research is about why some systems are more potent as greenhouse gas mitigators than others,” explains Gough. “We are trying to understand how we can better manage our ecosystems to sequester more carbon and for longer, to offset some of our greenhouse gas emissions.”
Over the years, Gough has received multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation. Soon, Gough will expand his focus to include wetlands, an ecosystem that hasn’t been as well studied as forests. “We have less data and knowledge of wetlands, and we are about 15 years behind forests in our scientific knowledge of rare wetland ecosystems,” says Gough. “Many of the tools and approaches that we apply to forests can map onto research in wetlands where we have less information.”
No matter what he studies, VCU students play an important part of Gough’s research. Every semester and over the summer a team of students—from undergrads to postdoctoral research fellows—collaborate with Gough to collect and analyze data, and report and translate research findings for scientists, managers and policy makers. It’s an arrangement that Gough relishes. “I got into this for education and teaching,” says Gough. And, to Gough, VCU students’ engagement in research is a core component of science education. “Our research lab is team-oriented and productive because we work together and learn from one another,” Gough says. “Research requires collaboration and multiple perspectives, and the diversity of experience, education, and interests that VCU students bring enriches our science and makes the research process rewarding—and a lot of fun.”