Team Projects

Team Project Overview

Each year, VCU Leadership Development Program participants develop a project where they work in assigned teams to address issues of current importance to the University community that align with the University Strategic Plan. Together with a team sponsor from upper administration, these teams develop a project to be carried out at various levels of the University. The interdisciplinary nature of the teams provides excellent opportunities for learning new perspectives and networking across campuses. Project teams also provide a venue for applying new skills, developing creative strategies for solving problems, as well as a laboratory for working on diverse teams. Many of these projects have gone on to be implemented into successful University programs. 

VCU Leadership Development Program Team Projects focus on capitalizing on:

  • the outstanding assets of the VCU experience that truly distinguishes us as a major research university committed to academic quality and student success (Quest for Distinction, 2011);
  • our will to innovate better, faster and with greater focus than our peers around the nation; and
  • our will to stay true to our roots of discovery in science, scholarship and creative expression to unfailingly serve the public good we rise as a preeminent urban, public research university, committed to advancing equitable access to social, economic and health success."  (Quest 2025, 2018).   

 VCU Quest 2025 focuses on 4 major themes: 

  • Theme I: Student Success - Transform the lives of our distinctive and diverse student population through a university culture that supports every student’s success through inquiry, discovery, innovation, civic engagement, and creative expression.
  • Theme II: National Prominence - Distinguish VCU as a preeminent urban public research university by growing areas of strength as researchers, educators and innovators.
  • Theme III: Collective Urban and Regional Transformation - Mobilize VCU's human capital and economic resources, collaborating with the community to address social and health inequities.
  • Theme IV: Diversity Driving Excellence - Translate our value philosophy of diversity and inclusion into practices related to excellence and success.

2019 Team Project Presentation

Thursday, October 10, 2019
Richmond Salons
University Student Commons



2018 Team Projects

Mental Health First Aid for VCU Faculty and Staff 

The Mental Health First Aid program offers professional development opportunities for VCU faculty and staff to receive training to better assist those who may be living with mental health, and provide self-care. This program will provides VCU an opportunity to become a leader in establishing health work environment that address the needs and concerns of all faculty, staff and students. VCU faculty and staff will be better equipped to recognize and find help for their colleagues. This program is consistent with other programs such as Safe Zone, Green Zone which have helped open doors to address issues within the LGBTQ population and military veterans in the VCU community.

Roy Brown
, Research and Education Librarian, VCU Libraries
Kendra Gerlach, Director of Communications and Marketing, College of Engineering
Cristen Jandreau, Assistant Director, Office of Research and Innovation
Jennifer Lee, Assistant Director, Student Success
Anne Massey, Director of Projects and Program Planning, Office of Health Innovation
Jennifer Tennison, Enrolled Graduate Student Services Coordinator, Graduate School
Peter Uetz, Associate Professor, Life Sciences

Team Sponsor
Michelle Schmitt
, Assistant Professor and Director of the Center for School-Community Collaboration, School of Education


RAM Opportunity

RAM (Research Assistance through Mentoring) is a self-sustaining mentoring and experiential learning program designed to serve high school students in the local community. Partnerships will be established with local high schools and to develop a pipeline for potential students who will be paired up with graduate students, who will provide mentorship and guidance throughout the program. RAM’s focus on high school students opens new pathways to develop student skills, interest in postsecondary education, and creates networks and connections that bolster their chances of success. The program creates outreach and engagement within the community by creating a relationship with schools that encourage interest in postsecondary education and provides access to VCU resources to both graduate and high school students to develop skills in research and career development.

Jaycee Dempsey,
 Senior Integrity and Compliance Specialist, Audit and Compliance Services
Kathy Gabriel, Assistant Director, Office of Research and Innovation
Sara Kohout, Director of University Academic Advision, Division of Strategic Enrollment
Joshua Mathews-Ailsworth, Information Services Manager, VCU Health System
Ben Plache, Director of Advising, Honors College
Sally Santen, Senior Associate Dean and Professor, School of Medicine
Devanand Sarkar, Professor of Human and Molecular Genetics and Associate Director of Education and Training, Massey Cancer Center

Team Sponsor
F. Douglas Boudinot
, Dean, Graduate School



Ramstart provides pre-semester orientation workshops for new students granted accommodations through the office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (SAEO). These orientation workshops provide students and their families with tools for transitioning into the VCU community and self-advocacy. These tools include knowledge on SAEO services and responsibilities, FERPA, campus resources, and the University’s policies and procedures to improve their chances of success. Ramstart will also facilitate student ambassadors and peer mentors from the Emerging Leaders Program working with students with SAEO accommodations through monthly social gatherings to encourage and support integration into campus life and the larger VCU community.

Marc Aiello, Financial Analyst, Office of Budget and Resource Analysis
Justin Alexander, Interim Chair and Assistant Professor, School of Arts
Marie Greenwood, Director of Human Resources, VCU Health System
Jeannetta Hollins, Director of Student Services, School of Nursing
Melissa Johnson, Chair and Associate Professor, University College
Lukasz Kurgan, Vice Chair and Professor, College of Engineering
Chris Mowery, Undergraduate Program Director and Assistant Professor, College of Humanities and Sciences
Grace Palmer, Senior Performance Improvement Coordinator, VCU Health System

Team Sponsor
Ian Kunkes,
Director, Office of Student Accessibility and Educational Opportunity


Project C.O.R.E.

Project C.O.R.E. (Coaching Opportunities with Real Experiences) is proposed as a sophomore focused program that builds upon an existing freshman course on professional development for Men of Color (MOC). Project C.O.R.E. aims to increase university retention by expanding the student support network to members of the local community.

Elizabeth Bambacus,
Student Engagement and Summer Studies Administrator, Division of Strategic Enrollment
Lee Franco, Associate Chair and Assistant Professor, College of Humanities and Sciences
Melissa Hopkins, Finance and Business Manager, School of Medicine
Marcus Messner, Associate Director of the Robertson School and Associate Professor, College of Humanities and Sciences
Cheryl Slokker, Marketing and Communications Manager, School of Business
Alison Ullman, Fellow and Physician, School of Medicine
Jon Waybright, Instructor, College of Humanities and Sciences

Team Sponsor
Erin-Marie Brown,
Director of ASPiRE, Division of Community Engagement


Ram Essentials (Formerly Food Foward @ VCU)

The underlying causes of food insecurity are complex and often intertwined with related issues that affect a student’s ability to meet even basic needs, forcing them to choose between their well-being and their education. Ram Essentials is a holistic approach to addressing basic needs insecurity among VCU students by asking the question, "What is essential for our students to be successful?" The project focuses on raising the awareness of all existing VCU resources and disseminating them widely through a single user-friendly portal to enhance students’ experience, academic achievement and physical and mental well-being.  

Sompop Bencharit,
Director of Digital Dentistry and Associate Professor, School of Dentistry
Cait Burns, Assistant Director of Student and Corporate Engagement, School of Business
Kristen Caldwell, Associate Director of Development and Alumni Marketing and Communications, Office of Development and Alumni Relations
Muthoni Imungi, Director of Field Education and Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
Matt Lovisa, Director of Communications and Marketing, Division of Student Affairs
Magda Morgan, Licensing Associate, Office of Research and Innovation
Bert Waters, Assistant Director of Virginia Center on Aging and Assistant Professor, College of Health Professions

Team Sponsor
Erin Stanforth
, Director of Sustainability, Office of Sustainability

2017 Projects