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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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Trevor Dickerson is the co-founder and editor of RVAhub.com, lover of all things Richmond, and a master of karate and friendship for everyone.

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Moody MS 8th-grader wins spell-off to capture pandemic edition of HCPS division-wide Spelling Bee

Ananya Nanduru clinched the 2021 title in the second round by correctly spelling “graticule,” the network of latitude and longitude lines on which a map is drawn.

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Ananya Nanduru of George H. Moody Middle School won a spell-off on January 26th to repeat as Henrico County Public Schools’ Division-wide Spelling Bee champion. The eighth-grader bested Hollie Kim, an L. Douglas Wilder Middle School sixth-grader, to win the tiebreaker, held virtually. Nanduru clinched the 2021 title in the second round by correctly spelling “graticule,” the network of latitude and longitude lines on which a map is drawn.

The winner was presented with the HCPS spelling trophy at Moody Middle School Tuesday afternoon by school division representatives, including Marcie Shea, School Board vice-chair and Tuckahoe District representative, and Amy Cashwell, superintendent. Nanduru’s is the third Moody Middle School championship in as many years. That means the trophy, which resides at the winning school, will remain on display at Moody. The award was made possible by a donation from four-time Henrico spelling champion Tejas Muthusamy, a former Moody student now at Maggie Walker Governor’s School. The Henrico Education Foundation had the trophy made.

Ordinarily, spelling champions from HCPS’ 46 elementary schools and 12 middle schools gather onstage at a middle school auditorium to determine the annual champion. Because of the pandemic, this year’s 58 school champions each took an online spelling test provided by Scripps, the media company that coordinates the national bee. Each was required to complete the test within a 15-minute window. When those results were tabulated, Nanduru and Kim had identical scores, and advanced to the virtual video spell-off.

Nanduru moves on to represent Henrico County Public Schools on March 15th in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Regional Spelling Bee, which will also be held virtually. The regional winner will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is held in late May and televised by ESPN.

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PHOTOS: Inside VCU Engineering’s new $93 million research building

The College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University officially opened its Engineering Research Building this week, marking a major milestone in the college’s growth in research and workforce development programs.

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The College of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University officially opened its Engineering Research Building this week, marking a major milestone in the college’s growth in research and workforce development programs. The four-story, 133,000-square-foot facility significantly expands the college’s laboratory capacity for advanced research. It also supports economic development initiatives and hands-on engineering education.

The grand opening ceremony took place virtually and featured a ribbon cutting by university leaders, the architects and construction crew, and greetings from elected officials, including former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and members of the community. The event culminated with a tour of the building and grounds.

“This brave new space is going to serve as part of a bold, advanced innovation corridor for VCU’s College of Engineering,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., to the hundreds of audience members who attended via Zoom. “It’s a great place where diverse talents will meet with the common goal of advancing humanity through practical, state-of-the-art, compassionate solutions to important problems. It’s a place where the future will be invented.”

Noting that more than 90% of VCU’s engineering students are in state, and more than 75% of the college’s graduates make their careers in Virginia, Rao added that “this great new facility affirms the fact that VCU’s College of Engineering is the commonwealth’s engineering school.”

The Engineering Research Building extends and connects the building shared by VCU Engineering’s East Hall and the VCU School of Business’ Snead Hall. The fully equipped Collaboration Hub and Innovation Courtyard, expected to be the social heart of the complex, are designed to knit together the three buildings in an open, light-filled space.

“The [Engineering Research Building’s] design creates a vibrant, flexible home for expanded public-private partnerships in VCU Engineering research. Construction of the $93 million building was funded by taxable bonds, which allows VCU Engineering to collaborate closely with industry to conduct translational research. This also supports the college’s mission to train students in real-world engineering, often alongside industry professionals,” said Barbara D. Boyan, Ph.D., the Alice T. and William H. Goodwin Jr. Dean of VCU Engineering.

“When you have the opportunity to be in here and look out the windows, you will see students from engineering, art and business sitting together with their faculty. They will come up with new ideas, get their laptops out, create new inventions, build new companies,” Boyan said. “I think that speaks well to the bedrock of our foundation. We were begun as a public-private partnership, and our students will be the workforce, throughout Virginia — and they are educated in an atmosphere that partners industry with universities every step of the way.”

The design also features specialized workspaces. One of the most notable is the Innovation Maker Facility, a makerspace supported by a donation from Altria and equipped with resources for hands-on prototyping and creative, experiential learning.

The look of the Engineering Research Building continues the VCU Engineering tradition of modern buildings with architectural details from past eras of engineering advancement. Engineering West Hall’s ziggurat, pyramid and post-and-lintel doorways refer to ancient Babylon and Egypt, while East Hall’s tower and rounded arches suggest the Renaissance. The Engineering Research Building’s red-brick and cast-stone construction and its roofline with updated smokestack forms recall the 19th-century dawn of industrial engineering. The building’s focal point, the rounded “spaceport” at the corner of Cary and Belvidere streets, gives a nod to future innovation.

“It just gives you a feeling of what engineering is all about,” Boyan said. “It’s solving problems. The whole engineering way of thinking is captured in this building.”

Richmond-based architecture firm Baskervill was the executive architect. Boston-based firm Goody Clancy served as design architect and Richmond-based Smith + McClane was consulting architect. Richmond construction management firm Kjellstrom + Lee Construction built the Engineering Research Building, which is being financed by investments from the state, VCU and private support.

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Education

After Debate and Split Vote RPS Superintendent Kamras to be Offered Four Year Extension

Jason Kamras gets another four years to work on improving Richmond Public Schools.

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Jason Kamras has served as the Richmond Public School Superintendent for the past 3 years. His contract was set to expire this summer. The crux of the debate centered on offering a 2-year, 3-year, or four-year extension. Four-year is the maximum allowed by state law. Kamras had stated that likely would not accept any offer below four years.

The measure to offer a 4-year extension passed 6-3 with Kenya Gibson, Stephanie Rizzi and Mariah White voting against. Critics want to see more measurable progress in the RPS five-year strategic plan and improvement in the RPS graduation rate which sits at the bottom of the state at 71.6%. It also is frequently pointed out that Kamras is the highest-paid Superintendent in Richmond’s hisotry making a $250,000 annual salary. Details of his new contract have not been made public at this time.

Mayor Stoney congratulated Kamras shortly after the vote last night.

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