Three CHS alumni to be honored at Alumni Stars

VCU Alumni celebrates and honors the 2019 Alumni Stars Nov. 7 at the Dewey Gottwald Center at the Science Museum of Virginia.
2019 alumni stars

Virginia Commonwealth University will honor three alumni from the College of Humanities and Sciences at the 2019 Alumni Stars ceremony. The biennial event, hosted by the VCU Office of Alumni Relations, celebrates alumni from across the university’s academic units for their extraordinary personal and professional achievements. Honorees are selected through faculty recommendations and alumni committees from across the university.

The 2019 Alumni Stars event is Nov. 7 at the Dewey Gottwald Center at the Science Museum of Virginia. Purchase tickets online.

Jeffrey Blount

College of Humanities and Sciences, 1981, B.S. in Mass Communications

Jeffrey Blount

Jeffrey Blount, Emmy Award-winning television director with 34 years of network television experience, is an accomplished public speaker, award-winning author of two novels and an award-winning scriptwriter for documentary projects. Blount directed a decade of “Meet The Press,” helping take that show from a half hour to an hour and from the third rated Sunday morning political program to the top-rated show. He directed The “Sunday Today” show, “Today,” the Washington portions of “NBC Nightly News” for more than 15 years and 11 years of “The Chris Matthews Show.” He has been a part of directing major Washington events including the State of the Union and rebuttal responses, the funerals of Presidents Reagan and Ford, presidential addresses, press conferences and election night coverage. His career at NBC culminated with his role as director of Washington segment of NBC Night News, retiring from this position in 2016.

Blount is also an accomplished public speaker, writing and commenting on important issues of race, death, grief, integration, rape and oppression. He writes about issues of social justice as a contributor to HuffPost and has also published op-ed pieces in The Washington Post, TheGrio.com and other publications. He is an award-winning author of three novels — "Almost Snow White," winner of the 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and "Hating Heidi Foster," winner of the 2013 Readers Favorite Book Award for young adult literature, and just released, "The Emancipation of Evan Walls."

He has also written scripts for films and interactives that are now on display in the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, the Muhammad Ali Center, the Newseum, The Hall at Patriot Place, “America I AM: The African American Imprint” at the National Constitution Center, The Museum at Bethel Woods, the site of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, and others. These projects have won Cine Golden Eagle Awards, Muse Awards and a Thea Award.

He was honored as an inductee into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame in 2016. He also serves as a member of the advisory board at the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University, his alma mater. Jeffrey was also appointed as a Shapiro Fellow and Journalist in Residence at the George Washington University School of Media & Public Affairs in 2017.

Rodney Ganey, Ph.D.

College of Humanities and Sciences, 1975, B.S. in Sociology and Anthropology

Rodney Ganey

Rodney F. Ganey has spent a lifetime improving patient care and practicing applied, public sociology. Co-founding Press Ganey Associates in 1984, Ganey, a renowned expert in sociology, statistics and survey methodology, helped to create the company’s first scientifically rigorous and valid survey and to help improve health care. Through the use of integrated data, advanced analytics and strategic advisory services, Ganey has been a part of transforming organizations to deliver safer, high-quality, patient- and family-focused care.

In addition to his professional accomplishments with Press Ganey Associates, Ganey served as a faculty member at Notre Dame in the Department of Sociology from 1980 to 1996, and was associate director of Notre Dame's Laboratory for Social Research and director of the Social Science Data Center.

During Ganey’s time at Notre Dame, he encouraged community-based research initiatives of fellow faculty members and graduate students. Together with his wife, Carol, he established the endowed Rodney F. Ganey, Ph.D., Community-Based Research Award at the Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns. This award is presented annually to a faculty member who has completed at least one research project that addresses a need within South Bend, Indiana, or the surrounding area. This award is one element of an initiative in community-based research through the Center for Social Concerns that he established as a way of deepening the university's stated commitment to place learning at the service of society.

Ganey is a non-managing partner and principal investor with Zacharias Ganey Health Institute in North Chesterfield, Virginia.

His civic and nonprofit service is also extensive, having affiliations with Michaina Public Broadcasting Corporation (vice chair, director), Life Treatment Centers (director), Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center (trustee), United Way of St. Joseph County (director), Healthy Community Initiative of St. Joseph County (director), Community Foundation of St. Joseph County (director) and others.

Ganey believes in the transformational power that sociological research methods can contribute to the community, policy and human health. He is an ardent proponent that the humanities and social sciences are vital and that classic sociological skills such as writing, critical thinking and working in groups are what make great leaders.

DaNika Robinson, Ed.D.

College of Humanities and Sciences, 2011, B.A. in World Studies and Religious Studies
Wilder School, 2015, M.P.A. in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management
School of Education, 2018, Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

DaNika Robinson

As chief financial officer for the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, DaNika Robinson is charged with the oversight of the annual $46 million operating budget for one of the largest marine research and education centers in the United States. The institute, comprised of 500 faculty, staff and students, conducts research in coastal ocean and estuarine science, educates students and citizens, and provides advisory service to policy makers, industry and the public. Under her fiscal direction, VIMS is also home to three federally funded marine programs, Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Virginia, Virginia Sea Grant and Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office in Virginia. Her leadership maximizes the impact of the institute, its expert staff, cutting-edge facilities and equipment, and the highly regarded research, education and advisory service it provides. Robinson is responsible for the development of financial policies and procedures and serves as the state legislative liaison for VIMS. Most importantly, she is a mentor and leader of VIMS’s diverse team of faculty and staff. In her time at the institute, she has worked to increase diversity training to ensure all members of her team feel empowered and welcome at VIMS. Her passion for diversity and inclusiveness stems from her experience in the VCU religious studies program.

Robinson holds three degrees and a graduate certificate from VCU (B.A. Religious Studies ‘11/H&S, Cert Nonprofit Management ‘14/Wilder, MPA Public Administration ‘15/Wilder, Ed.D. Educational Leadership ‘18/SoE). She has deployed the well-rounded experiences she had with programs at VCU to become the fiscal lead for one of the country’s major marine research institutes. From skills in policy analysis in the Wilder School to educational leadership strategies in the School of Education to exploring other perspectives in her religious studies courses in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, Robinson has propelled a promising career from a unique and distinctly VCU background.

Additionally, Robinson's service and community work is extensive. She has been involved as a volunteer with Impact 100 Richmond, the Pregnancy Resource Center, the Giving Heart, the Family Peace Festival, God Sistahs Ministry and YMCA Bright Beginnings, and is frequently invited to talk with students as a mentor, most recently as the School of World Studies spring 2019 commencement speaker. Robinson is the founder of Wailing Women Ministries, which serves as a resource to women of all faiths and provides annual scholarships to women pursuing higher education. Through her volunteer work, Robinson demonstrates her passion for opportunities that empower women of color through the creation of real-world experiences and scholarships.

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