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Delta CEO to Speak at University of Richmond commencement

Government and campus leaders will address law, MBA, and Continuing Studies grads.

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The University of Richmond has announced the speakers for their 2021 commencement ceremonies.

  • Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, will deliver the speech during the undergraduate Commencement ceremony May 9.
  • Rita Davis, chief counsel to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, will deliver the address for the Richmond School of Law ceremony.
  • A variety of distinguished UR community members, including students, faculty and an alum will speak at the MBA and SPCS ceremonies.

Undergraduate, May 9, 9 a.m., Robins Stadium
As CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian leads a team of 75,000 global professionals. Under his leadership, Delta is transforming the air travel experience with generational investments in technology, aircraft, airport facilities, and Delta’s employees worldwide. A 20-year Delta veteran, Bastian has been a critical leader in Delta’s long-term strategy and champion of putting Delta’s shared values of honesty, integrity, respect, perseverance, and servant leadership at the core of every decision.

During his tenure as CEO, Delta has become the world’s most awarded airline, having been named The Wall Street Journal’s top U.S. airline; Fortune’s most admired airline worldwide; the most on-time global airline by FlightGlobal; and a Glassdoor Employee’s Choice company.

His commitment to putting the health and safety of employees and customers first amid the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in the airline’s industry-leading Delta CareStandard, enabling a cleaner, more reliable and safe travel experience for the long term.

Bastian joined Delta in 1998 as vice president – finance and controller and was promoted to senior vice president in 2000. He left Delta in 2005 and became senior vice president and chief financial officer of Acuity Brands. He returned to Delta six months later to become chief financial officer, and in 2007 was appointed to serve as Delta’s president.

Prior to joining Delta, Bastian held senior finance positions at Frito-Lay International and Pepsi-Cola International. He started his career with Price Waterhouse where he became an audit partner in its New York practice.

Richmond School of Law, May 8, 4 p.m., Robins Stadium
Rita Davis is chief counsel to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Davis is also a University of Richmond Law School graduate, class of 2000. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, she worked for nearly 15 years at Hunton & Williams, now Hunton Andrews Kurth, where she covered a broad range of commercial disputes on an international, federal, state, and local level. While in private practice, she was a bar leader and a recognized pro bono lawyer, devoting more than 1,350 hours to pro bono clients. While serving as chief counsel to the Governor, Davis has worked to facilitate the Governor’s initiatives to eliminate racial and social inequities in Virginia.

Robins School of Business MBA, May 7, 5:30 p.m., Robins Center
The MBA ceremony, which will celebrate both 2020 and 2021 graduates, will include two students as speakers this year.

Alexandra Wiles, class of 2020, earned both a Bachelor of Arts in leadership studies and an MBA from the University of Richmond. After devoting the first chapter of her career to non-profit fundraising and development with VPM and Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond, she recently joined Schnabel Engineering, a national professional consulting firm, as its human resources program manager. In this capacity, she leads and supports a variety of initiatives, including employee learning and development, diversity and inclusion, and succession planning. She also serves as the vice-chair of the board of directors of Virginia Voice, a non-profit serving Central Virginians who are blind or have vision impairments, and founded the organization’s Live Audio Description program.

Natasha Knight, class of 2020, is a program strategist and entrepreneur. She is a manager in Altria’s Corporate Citizenship department where she applies her public health and business management expertise to developing strategies for preventing underage use of tobacco and other risky behaviors and providing cessation support for adults who no longer wish to use tobacco. She is a certified career coach and recently launched Discover the Remarkable You, a coaching practice to help women create successful and fulfilling careers. She is also the co-founder of Taking It Pro, a career and professional development services firm for women of color. Knight received her undergraduate degree from Howard University. Her educational background also includes an MPH in Behavioral and Community Health Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh, a Ph.D. in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and an MBA from the University of Richmond. 

School of Professional & Continuing Studies, May 8, 8 a.m. & 11:30 a.m., Robins Center

As part of a long-standing tradition, a graduating student, faculty member, and alumnus will speak at the SPCS graduation ceremonies, which this year will celebrate both graduates of the class of 2020 and 2021.

Distinguished Graduate

The SPCS student commencement speaker is selected by committee from among the top graduating students.

  • For 2020, the student speaker is Brian Krach. After spending eleven years as the sole proprietor of an independent insurance practice, Krach decided to return to higher education to personally challenge himself and experience “professional metamorphosis.” Brian earned his bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies in May 2020 and has since started law school at the University of Richmond.
  • For 2021, the student speaker is Cooper Sved. Sved is earning his Master of Teaching degree, including endorsements in elementary education and theatre education, to prepare for a career change to teaching. Sved earned his Bachelor of Arts in theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2019 and was active in Richmond’s theatre community both as an actor and an educator before returning to school to fulfill the requirements to earn his teaching license.

Distinguished Alumnus
The alumni speaker is the recipient of the Gibb Family Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of an SPCS alumni member and their support of SPCS.

  • The 2020 recipient is Eric Beatty, who earned his master’s degree in Human Resource Management in 2012. Beatty served on the SPCS Alumni Association Board from 2012-19, was the Board’s president from 2017-19, and currently serves on the SPCS Dean’s Ambassador’s Circle.
  • The 2021 recipient is Margaret Dalton, who earned her Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in 2012. She’s been a member of the SPCS Alumni Association Board of Directors since 2014, having served as vice president, president, and past president. Margaret has been instrumental in the Board’s efforts to reshape its mission to focus on student and alumni engagement as well as expanded efforts to formalize project planning and communication efforts.

Distinguished Faculty Member
The faculty speaker is the recipient of the Itzkowitz Family Distinguished Adjunct Faculty Award, which is selected by the SPCS student body and recognizes the teaching achievements of an adjunct faculty member.

  • The 2020 recipient is Meghan Rosatelli, an adjunct professor in English and the humanities in SPCS, where she teaches courses in American literature and culture.
  • The 2021 recipient is Drew Baker, an adjunct professor of education. A graduate of the Teacher Licensure Program, Baker currently serves Henrico County Schools in the Office of Professional Development, focusing his work on teacher-leadership development, action research, and supporting continuing education for teachers.

Additional details about the University of Richmond’s Commencement plans are available in this media release.

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PHOTOS: University of Richmond celebrates in-person graduations

The University of Richmond awarded more than 1,100 degrees during a series of in-person, school-specific ceremonies May 7th through 9th.

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The University of Richmond awarded more than 1,100 degrees during a series of in-person, school-specific ceremonies May 7th through 9th.

The University awarded the following degrees:

  • 783 undergraduate bachelor’s degrees from the School of Arts & Sciences, Robins School of Business, and Jepson School of Leadership Studies,
  • 32 bachelor’s degrees and 95 master’s degrees, through the School of Professional & Continuing Studies,
  • 25 MBA degrees through the Robins School of Business,
  • and 137 juris doctor degrees from the Richmond School of Law.

The University of Richmond provided an in-person, residential educational opportunity for the entire 2020-21 academic year. Most students completed their classes in person with about 300 studying remotely.

From Chicago to Amsterdam and San Francisco to London, graduating seniors are heading to jobs and graduate schools around the world. The class of 2021 has secured jobs at highly-coveted companies and organizations, including Tesla, Teach for America, and the U.S. State Department. Students are continuing their education at some of the world’s premiere graduate institutions, including Yale, Harvard, and Oxford.

By the Numbers

  • The Class of 2021 includes 63 international students who represent 24 countries.
  • More than 230 students in the School of Arts & Sciences conducted undergraduate research in the arts, social sciences, humanities, and sciences.
  • The Robins School of Business’ Student Managed Investment Fund’s growth and value fund grew to a combined value of more than $1M this year, the first time the fund has hit this milestone since it was established in 1993. This year was also the first that Robins School students will graduate from UR with a business analytics concentration.
  • 22% of law school graduates earned the Carrico Center Pro Bono Certificate for completing 120 hours of service throughout their three years, collectively performing more than 6,000 hours of service.
  • The 81 members of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies Class of 2021 logged about 26,000 hours fulfilling their course service-learning requirements and Jepson internships. Three seniors were also named Jepson Scholars and awarded full scholarships to pursue one-year master’s programs at the University of Oxford.
  • For their capstone projects, Master of Nonprofit Studies students in the School of Professional & Continuing Studies conducted more than 2,800 hours of original research, engaging a wide range of nonprofit and civil society stakeholders in the Richmond area, throughout the U.S., and in Afghanistan.
  • Even with fewer study abroad experiences available in 2020 and 2021 due to travel limitations related to the pandemic, 61.7% (483 students) from the class of 2021 completed study abroad, research, and internship programs around the world with university support. Some of these experiences were virtual.
  • According to the Bonner Center for Civic Engagement, 27 graduating Bonner Scholars logged 23,457 hours of service throughout their four years.

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Graduation plans vary across Virginia universities

College graduations will still look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but more Virginia universities are returning to in-person ceremony.

Capital News Service

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By Sarah Elson

College graduations will still look different due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but more Virginia universities are returning to in-person ceremony.

Graduations will be held online, in person or a hybrid format. Gov. Ralph Northam announced last month preliminary guidance for graduation events, which continues to be updated.

“The acceleration of the vaccine program and the decrease in new COVID-19 cases make it safer to ease restrictions on activities like in-person graduations,” Northam stated in March.

Graduation events for K-12 schools and colleges will operate under two sets of guidelines, depending on the date. Graduation events held outdoors before May 15 will be capped at 5,000 people or 30% of the venue capacity, whichever is less. Graduation events held indoors may have up to 500 people, or 30% of the venue capacity, whichever is less.

More people can attend graduations held on or after May 15. The governor’s orders allow an increase to 50% of venue capacity or 5,000 people at outdoor graduations. Indoor events cannot exceed either 50% venue capacity or 1,000 persons.

Attendees must wear masks and follow other guidelines and safety protocols to ensure social distancing.

Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond will hold a university-wide commencement ceremony online on May 15, according to a statement the university released last month. Individual departments can decide whether to hold in-person graduation.

VCU College of Humanities and Sciences will hold three in-person graduation ceremonies outdoors on May 15. The ceremonies will be held rain or shine on an outdoor field used for sports. Guests are not allowed to attend, but the ceremonies will be livestreamed.

 Britney Simmons, a senior VCU mass communications major graduating in May, has concerns about attending an in-person event.

“I’d prefer that graduation is online,” Simmons stated in a text message. “I’m still uncomfortable with large gatherings and wouldn’t feel comfortable with me or any of my family attending and putting their health at risk.”

Federal health agencies called for a pause of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this month due to reports of blood clots in some individuals who received it. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration panel late last week recommended restarting the J&J vaccinations, with an added warning about the risk of rare blood clots.

“The university really put its hope in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and that lots of students would be vaccinated by commencement,” said Tim Bajkiewicz, an associate professor of broadcast journalism at VCU and the communications director for the American Association of University Professors. “Because of the pause that the CDC put on that vaccine, it really kind of blew a huge hole in those plans.”

Students and faculty originally scheduled to receive the one-dose J&J shot had to temporarily shift to a new timetable with the incremental, two-dose shots that could make it harder for everyone to receive a vaccine by graduation.

VCU spokesman Michael Porter did not respond to multiple requests for comment about any possible problems the university might encounter from that pause of the J&J vaccine.

“The ceremonies are already super stripped-down,” Bajkiewicz said. “But still over this whole thing is a pronounced risk of getting COVID-19.”

Virginia Tech in Blacksburg will have 16 in-person commencement ceremonies by college from May 10 to May 16 at Lane Stadium, the university’s football stadium. Graduating students are required to register and students are allowed to invite up to four guests.

Virginia Tech will also hold a virtual commencement ceremony on May 14.

Sarah Hajzus, a senior industrial and systems engineering major at Virginia Tech, said she would prefer to have graduation in person.

“Small, in-person [graduation], if we were to do it by major I feel like that would be ideal,” Hajzus said.

The University of Virginia in Charlottesville will hold its commencement outdoors on May 21 to May 23 for the class of 2021. Students will walk the lawn and process to Scott Stadium, where each student can have two guests. The class of 2020 will also get a chance to walk and attend a special ceremony, according to U.Va. President Jim Ryan.

Other Virginia universities will hold spring graduation completely online. George Mason University released a statement that its spring commencement will be held virtually. The ceremony is set for Friday, May 14 at 2 p.m.

 VCU students and employees are not required, but encouraged, to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Over 43% of the state’s population had received at least one-dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Monday, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

“It is really sad that I won’t be able to have an in-person graduation since I looked forward to having one all four years, but I think everyone’s health is more important than a graduation ceremony,” Simmons stated.

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University of Richmond announces new academic programs

The popular Healthcare Studies program is becoming the Health Studies Department; new programming is available in Africana Studies and Data Science/Analytics.

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The University of Richmond has announced curriculum changes that will provide new academic opportunities for students and faculty. These changes include the healthcare studies program becoming an independent department and establishing two new program areas: Africana Studies and data science/analytics.

“At the University of Richmond, we seek to educate students in an academically challenging, intellectually vibrant, and collaborative community,” said Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences Patrice Rankine. “To achieve this we must meet the needs of our students and fill in gaps in important fields of study that are necessary to educate our future leaders. These changes will continue advancing that mission.”

Health Studies Department

Healthcare studies was established as a minor in 2007 and quickly grew in popularity with at least 25 students graduating with the minor within five years. Healthcare studies was established as a major in 2012, and by 2015 became the fifth largest A&S major. This fall the program will become the Department of Health Studies to support additional options for faculty and students, specifically related to global health and epidemiology.

“Health-related fields play a central role in the global economy,” said Rankine. “We are uniquely positioned at UR to provide students with a foundation in all areas that comprise the health industry and allied fields, including the ethics and anthropology of healthcare, historical and philosophical analysis, and the humanistic sensibility about health and well-being that comes with the study of literature, philosophy, and other disciplines taught at UR.”

The Department of Health Studies, which will continue to provide students with options to study business, economics, and the health industry, will be chaired by Rick Mayes, an expert in healthcare policy and longtime co-coordinator of the healthcare studies program.

Africana Studies

A new Africana Studies program, a focus that reflects initial petitioning from students, has been approved. The program will officially launch in the fall of 2022 with a suite of required courses currently under development, but students wishing to major or minor in Africana Studies can begin taking elective courses in the fall.

“The Africana Studies program offers the depth of humanistic thought, including

philosophical, interpretive, creative, and fine arts, alongside training in the skill sets of the social and natural sciences,” Rankine said.

The home school for the Africana Studies program will be A&S, but students will be able to take elective courses across disciplines, including in the Robins School of Business and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.

Data Analytics and Data Science

We live in a world increasingly reliant upon data. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment in data-related fields will grow by 30% in the next 10 years. UR is now offering students new opportunities related to data analytics and data science, including a data science concentration for computer science and mathematics students, a business analytics concentration for business majors, and a Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies (BSPS) major in data analytics offered through SPCS.

“We are training our students for future careers that, in many cases, have not yet been invented, but we do know that data, and the quantitative, computational analysis of that data will be critically important,” said chemistry professor Carol Parish, the associate provost for academic innovation who is overseeing the data science initiative.

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