Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) began in 1838 with the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College. In 1854 the Medical Department declared its independence from Hampden-Sydney and was renamed Medical College of Virginia. Today, VCU is the largest and fastest growing university in the state of Virginia. There are nearly 3,000 academic staff and a student body just over 32,000 with roughly 23,000 undergraduates and 9,000 postgraduates.
VCU spans two campuses and a combined 143 acres in downtown Richmond. Within the next decade, the university plants to add a billion dollars-worth of new campus facilities.
In addition to the main campuses at Monroe Park and the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, VCU has a branch campus in Education City, Qatar. Other learning centers included the School of Pharmacy Inova Campus, the school of Medicine Inova Campus, the School of Social Work-Northern Virginia, the Inger and Walter Rice Center for Environmental Life Sciences, and the VCU Medical Center at Stony Point.
Most undergraduates study at the Monroe Park Campus, at the eastern end of the Fan district, a historic residential area full of Victorian, Edwardian, Colonial, and Craftsman architecture with many cafes, restaurants, and other amenities for students. The Medical College of Virginia campus contains the VCU Medical Center and the schools of dentistry, pharmacy, allied health, nursing, public health, and medicine. The campus is located in the Court End neighborhood of Richmond, close to the state capitol.
Schools and Programs
VCU offers 60 baccalaureate degrees, 67 master’s degrees, 40 doctorates, 3 first professional degrees, and 41 certificate programs. One of VCU’s strengths as a university is their especially unique programs, such as their Illustration Academy and the Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness major. Although there are some distance education classes offered through VSU, online learning is a smaller part of the academic offerings than it is at many other universities.
The 2005 Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked VCU as one of the top 200 universities in the world. The School of the Arts is considered to be one of the very best in the country, and many consider it to be the very best among public schools. The School of Mass Communications advertising program is held in similar high regard.
VCU has particularly strong study abroad programs for students, thanks to a strong portfolio of international agreements with universities in other countries. Large numbers of VCU students spend part of their academic careers studying in Russia, China, South Africa, Spain, Mexico, India, Israel, Australia, Italy, Brazil, and the United Kingdom. These programs help students build language competencies related to their areas of study as well as give students the opportunity to create an international network of professional connections before they even look for their first job.
Research and Collections
VCU is considered to be a “very high research” institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. In 2010, VCU was granted $20 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for collaborative research on new medical treatments. VCU is also home to the third largest research library, with over 2 million print volumes, in the state of Virginia. The James Branch Cabell Library boasts the fifth largest comic book and graphic novel collection in the nation. The Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences has the largest medical collection in Virginia, including a medical artifacts collection with over 6,000 pieces of historical equipment.
Additional Programs and Campuses
The VCU Qatar campus is home to a branch of the School of the Arts. Located in Education City on the outskirts of Doha, the capital of Qatar, the VCU campus offers BFA degrees in Graphic Design, Interior Design, Fashion Design, or Painting and Printmaking. The Qatar campus also offers a MFA in Design Studies. Although the campus is small, there are many amenities, including a café, on site. Education City is also home to branches of the Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, and University College London—making for a rich and multifaceted educational community.
Most Popular Fields of Study
Applications for fall entry must be received each year by the first of May. All incoming students are required to submit SAT or ACT scores and a transcript showing that they have studied 4 unites of English, 3 units of math, 3 units of history, 3 units of science, and 3 units of a foreign language at the secondary level. Incoming students are required to have their own personal computer. VCU currently accepts roughly 2/3 of its applicants, who have an average GPA of around 3.50.
A number of merit-based scholarships are available from VCU, although they only cover in-state costs. Some scholarships cover up to the entire cost of tuition, fees, room, board, and books. There are also some sports scholarships available through the athletic department.
Student Financial Aid Details
VCU residences have capacity for roughly 5,000 students. Although 77% of first-year students live in the residence halls, most students live off-campus in The Fan, Carver, or Oregon Hill neighborhoods surrounding the university. The Greek system at VCU serves close to a thousand students through 36 residential sororities and fraternities and four separate councils. Students who do live in the dormitories must also participate in a dining plan through the university. There are many dining facilities, including two dining centers (Shafer Court and Larrick) where multiple vegetarian and vegan options and unlimited-serving meals are available.
Roughly 60% of the student body is female, with the remaining 40% male. 85% is from the state of Virginia. About 56% of the student body is European American, 17% is African American, 10% is Asian American, 5% is Latino American, and 4% is comprised of international students.
Clubs and Organizations
With such a large student body, there is a huge diversity of over 200 student organizations to meet the interests of new members. Although most universities with multiple campuses have a unified student government association, VCU has two—one for each of the main campuses.
VCU has particularly strong ethnic and culture-based organizations, including the Ethiopian Students Union, the Vietnamese Student Association, the Lotus Buddhist Group, and many more. VCU is also strong in music and dance groups, such as the award-winning Black Awakening Choir. One of the higher-profile and best-attended student groups on campus is the Pancake Club, which meets for the simple purpose of eating many pancakes.
As befits a university of its size, VCU is home to several forms of student media: the newspaper is The Commonwealth Times, the sports publication is Rams Review, and WVCW is the radio station. VCU has both a news, art, fashion, and culture magazine entitled Ink Magazine as well as two literary journals, Poictesme and Amendment. Additionally, VCU hosts the largest annual French Film Festival in the nation.
Full-time students may use the public transportation for the city of Richmond at no cost. The excellent bus system has four stops on campus and can take passengers virtually anywhere within the Richmond city limits. There is also a university-run shuttle between the two main campuses which runs from 7:15 AM to midnight during the academic year.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
The athletics department competes in NCAA Division I with 16 varsity teams. They are also members of the Colonial Athletic Association. Traditional rivals of VCU include University of Richmond, Old Dominion University, and George Mason University. The nickname for the athletics department is the Rams, with a mascot, Rodney, to match. The “Rowdy Rams” pride themselves on noisy support of their teams. School colors are black and gold.
Men’s varsity basketball is the largest sport at VCU. Both the men’s and women’s team have excellent winning records and high-profile coaches. Other popular varsity athletics include tennis, baseball, field hockey, soccer, track and field, and golf. For non-varsity athletes, VCU offers cheerleading, rugby, ice hockey, ultimate frisbee, lacrosse, and cycling.
One of the most unusual aspects of the athletics department at VCU is the lack of a football team. Past university presidents have blocked the institution of a football program due to the high costs associated with the sport, but the current administration is considering the possibility of starting a football team in the near future.
Famous alumni from VCU include novelists Tom Robbins, David Baldacci, and Robert Lanham; actors Zachary Knighton, Stephen Furst, and Boris Kodjoe; athletic stars Sean Marshall, Larry Sanders, Eric Maynor, Scott Sizemore, and Andrew Dykstra; musicians Stefan Lessard, Steve West, and Robbin Thompson; and corporate CEOs Nancy C. Everett of General Motors and John C. Neal of Union Bank and Trust Company.
Renowned faculty members include Nobel Prize-winning chemist John B. Fenn, American Academy of Arts and Sciences member Steven Woolf, winner of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Civilian Service Award Jennifer Johnson, and cofounder of Aderis Pharmaceuticals Gevork Minaskanian.
About Virginia Commonwealth University. Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 17 Apr. 2011.
FAQs. Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 17 Apr. 2011.
Financing College. Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 17 Apr. 2011.
Fiske, Edward B. Fiske Guide to Colleges 2011. Chicago: Sourcebooks, 2010. Print.
Pope, Loren. Looking Beyond the Ivy League: Finding the College That’s Right for You. New York: Penguin. 2007. Print.
Elisabeth Bailey is a freelance writer and editor with particular interests in academics, food,and sustainability . She is also the author of A Taste of the Maritimes: Local, Seasonal Recipes the Whole Year Round and writes regularly for Canadian Farmers’ Almanac and the National Wildlife Federation. Elisabeth and her family live and enjoy great local food in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.