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Progress Report: Excellence Beyond Boundaries

Just one year ago, the College of Humanities and Sciences launched a new strategic plan, “Excellence Beyond Boundaries.” The plan rests on four pillars: enhancing student success, building and supporting a world-class faculty, conducting nationally recognized research and scholarship, and creating collaborative community engagement. The past year has been a busy time, and we’ve garnered several wins toward the plan. We are pleased to present our top five accomplishments of the year.

Maryum Elnasseh
Maryum Elnasseh, a double major in journalism and political science, was one of twelve students who received the first year of funding of the Baldacci Student Experiential Learning Fund in the spring of 2018.

Expanded Experiential Learning

Our commitment to experiential learning was reinforced this year as we expanded opportunities for students. Sarah Golding, Ph.D., special assistant to the dean for experiential learning, found 3,074 undergraduates engaged in experiential learning in 2018-19 and 168 courses met the criteria for REAL (Relevant, Experiential and Applied Learning) experiences. Even more will be added in the coming year. The College also selected its second cohort of 12 Baldacci scholars ($50,547 in awards) which provides students with financial support to pursue experiential learning opportunities. In June, David and Michelle Baldacci expanded the award by doubling the fund which will benefit students in 2020.

Revamped Process for Sponsored Research

This past year ushered in some exciting changes for the Sponsored Programs Office (SPO). With the implementation of an online form, faculty were able to simultaneously notify the SPO of their intent to submit a grant proposal, provide information needed to start the internal approval process and select from a menu of services, including grant editing, peer review and budget development. The office also provided automatic reminder emails for deadlines and created a webpage with an abundance of resources for faculty, including a library of 25 successful proposals and templates for common documents requested by sponsors.

Additionally, the office hosted two workshops during the spring semester, one in collaboration with the College of Engineering, titled "How to Write Winning NSF Proposals," and another, "Building Skills for Grant Writing." More than 120 faculty members attended these workshops.

New College Website

In May, the College launched a new website To align with the university in focusing primary-facing web content on student recruitment, the new website offers content geared toward that audience as well as alumni and media. Internal-facing content of interest to faculty and staff was moved to the new site and content of interest to current students was moved to the new site Site visitors can now find the information they need faster than before and report an enhanced browsing experience. In addition to bringing the College into compliance with VCU’s web standards and guidelines, the redesign helped it meet and exceed ADA web accessibility requirements. At last check, the website was rated as one of the highest quality websites at VCU with respect to accessibility and quality assurance.

Significant Gift to Support Students and Faculty

This year the development office secured a $2 million gift from Patricia T. Kirkpatrick. Patricia, a retired Richmond native who now lives in Northern Virginia, made the gift on behalf of herself and her late husband, David W. Kirkpatrick. The gift will go toward three main initiatives. It will establish a need-based student scholarship, support faculty professional development and create a fund to train science majors in verbal and written communications, presentation and interpersonal skills to improve academic and career outcomes.

The Kirkpatrick Faculty Fund will be used for professional development and incentives to increase the recruitment, retention and advancement of College faculty. The fund could provide support to promote diversity and inclusion in the highest academic ranks, and support CHS's Eminent Scholars program that recognizes midcareer faculty and rewards them for scholarly contributions to their discipline, the College and VCU.

Increased Mentorship of Faculty

Last year the Office of Faculty Affairs launched a mentoring program for all 4th and 5th year tenure-eligible faculty and hosted a well-attended workshop for both tenure-eligible and non-tenure-eligible associate professors. They began brown bag lunch discussions with Mentor Champions, designees from each department/unit, in which the group discussed such topics as mentor mapping and mentoring diverse faculty.