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Night shift: Student safety ambassadors provide a resource for the VCU community after dark

The ambassadors, part of the university’s transition to a more equitable public safety model, provide assistance when people need help but don’t need to contact law enforcement.

RVAHub Staff

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If you’re looking for Virginia Commonwealth University sophomore Ayanna Farmer-Lawrence in the evenings, you’ll most likely find her around the Compass wearing a bright-yellow vest.

Farmer-Lawrence is a newly hired student safety ambassador for the VCU Police Department — and her vest is both a uniform and visual identifier for VCU community members.

This past summer, the university announced a plan for police reform initiatives, including workforce realignment and the hiring of non-sworn, unarmed employees to serve as resources on campus when members of the VCU community need assistance, but do not feel compelled to contact law enforcement.

Carly Jackson wearing a safety vest.
Carly Jackson models a designated, uniform vest during her shift. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

John Venuti, VCU’s associate vice president of public safety and chief of police, said with safety and well-being as the focus, a student may be a better alternative option for needs such as asking for directions, answering questions about transportation, working at events and walking people to their cars at night.

“The safety ambassadors will be present in places with high volumes of students, such as outside the University Student Commons and the Compass,” Venuti said. “They will predominately work at night because in the spring 2020 perception of safety survey, students told us they feel less safe at night.”

The three safety ambassadors received 40 hours of training and are also tasked with reporting safety concerns they come across during their shifts. In their first two nights working, they reported to police about damaged property, a traffic light failure and a fire at a business on West Broad Street.

Farmer-Lawrence, a homeland security and criminal justice major in the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, said the part-time position coincides with her goal of becoming a special agent for the FBI. She was drawn to become a safety ambassador to learn from police, build relationships, network and be ready for internships or employment opportunities upon graduation.

“I thought it was a good idea to be that person that [people] can go to if they have a problem, but don’t want to go to the police directly,” Farmer-Lawrence said. “It’s a good idea given what’s going on in society currently.”

Venuti said he looks forward to hearing feedback from community members about the new program and plans to expand the number of student safety ambassadors, and their designated locations, in spring 2021.

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U of R announces socially distant service opportunities and virtual events in honor of MLK Day

Virtual events, such as luncheons and meditation sessions, are slated to take place on Zoom throughout the week in order to bring the campus community together to pause, reflect, and discuss the legacy of Martin Luther King and what it means to heal.

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The University of Richmond has announced it will be closed Monday, January 18th to allow the campus community to engage in physically-distanced service activities celebrating MLK Day.

Historically, UR celebrates the life and contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through a day filled with service opportunities completed alongside the greater Richmond community. Due to COVID-19, this year’s MLK Day events will foster opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to volunteer virtually by working on project kits developed by the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement. The kits entail projects such as transcribing documents from the Library of Virginia; creating birthday cards for Celebrate! RVA; making toys for the ASPCA; writing letters to elected officials; and more.

The community will also have the opportunity to use the Book Arts Studio’s printing press on MLK Day, to create book art and journals that align with this year’s theme, “The Revolution Then And Now: A Time of Healing.”

Virtual events, such as luncheons and meditation sessions, are slated to take place on Zoom throughout the week in order to bring the campus community together to pause, reflect, and discuss the legacy of Martin Luther King and what it means to heal.

“In the wake of two pandemics — COVID-19 and social injustice — we’re encouraging our community to reflect on what it will mean to heal as we look to the future and explore the ways that we can better impact the lives of those in our community and beyond who experience social injustices and are fighting their own individual revolution,” said Morgan Russell, associate director of multicultural affairs and event organizer.

Full details about UR’s MLK Day celebration are available at richmond.edu/mlk.

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RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras Statement on Trump Riot in DC

“Yesterday’s events were horrific. But rather than run from them, let’s confront them and the uncomfortable truths about race that they laid bare.”

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The Superintendent of Richmond schools, Jason Kamras, issued a strong statement yesterday in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack at the nation’s Capitol.

Dear #RPSStrong Family,

As many others have noted over the past 24 hours, one of the most striking aspects of yesterday’s events was how law enforcement responded to the overwhelmingly white insurrectionists, as compared to how they responded to BLM protestors of color in Lafayette Park in DC this past summer.

Yesterday, mostly white men seized and vandalized the United States Capitol – and were then allowed to simply walk away.
Last summer, peaceful, mostly Black protestors, who had gathered a block away from the White House to make their voices heard, were gassed and forcibly removed with military tactics, including the use of a US Army helicopter. I shudder at the thought of what would have transpired if the individuals who attacked the United States Congress were Black.

As educators and parents, we need to talk about this with our children. And those of us who are white have a special responsibility to do so. For our national “reckoning” on race to yield tangible results, we must actively and repeatedly call out inequity, educate our children about it, and teach them to uproot it.

Yesterday’s events were horrific. But rather than run from them, let’s confront them and the uncomfortable truths about race that they laid bare. In doing so, perhaps we can take one more step towards fulfilling the ideals symbolized by the United States Capitol.

With great appreciation,
Jason

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Four UR Students Awarded Gilman Scholarships to Study Abroad in England, Jamaica, China, France, and Switzerland in 2021

The University of Richmond has had 47 Gilman Scholars since the program started in 2001.

RVAHub Staff

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Four University of Richmond students have been offered Gilman scholarships to support their study abroad experiences in 2021. Students will complete their experiences based on travel conditions and program adjustments in line with the global pandemic.

The latest Gilman recipients include:

  • Hannah Hald, a sophomore from Powhatan, Virginia. Hald intends to complete the award in China.
  • Marie “Mako” Inasaridze a junior from Lorton, Virginia. Inasaridze is majoring in global studies and intends to complete the award in France.
  • Eva Kemal, a junior from Woodbridge, Virginia. Kemal is double majoring in leadership studies and healthcare studies and intends to complete the award in England and Jamaica.
  • Nicky Ramirez, a sophomore from North Bergen, New Jersey. Ramirez is double majoring in biology and Latin American, Latino, and Iberian Studies and intends to complete the award in Switzerland.

Additionally, Morgan Malstead, a junior from Stanton, Kentucky, has been named an alternate and may receive an award at a later date.

“Even in the face of global travel restrictions, UR students and our Office of International Education are finding innovative ways to make study abroad possible. The Gilman’s recognition of these Richmond students is a testament to their dedication to becoming global citizens,” said Dana Kuchem, director of the Office of Scholars and Fellowships.

More than 65 percent of University of Richmond students complete a study abroad experience before graduating.

University of Richmond has had 47 Gilman Scholars since the program started in 2001.

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