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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.



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.



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

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Governor Signs Executive Order Lifting Mask Mandate, RPS and Others Plan to Keep Masks in Schools

Covid-19 is still here and masks are one tool in the arsenal to prevent sickness and in some cases death.



In 2020, with support from both sides of the aisle, the legislature signed a law requiring schools to follow CDC guidance. That guidance currently recommends universal mask-wearing in schools. The CDC can’t “require” any measure but leaves that up to the schools. This weekend the new Republican Governor Youngkin signed an Executive Order stating that parents must be allowed to decide whether their child wears a mask in school, regardless of federal or district-level rules. This new rule will go into place on January 24th.

Sixteen school districts including Richmond and Henrico have stated their intention to keep mask mandates in place.

  • Arlington
  • Montgomery
  • Fairfax
  • Loudoun
  • Henrico
  • Richmond
  • Alexandria
  • Prince William
  • Roanoke
  • Pulaski
  • Charlottesville
  • Albemarle
  • Norfolk
  • Chesapeake
  • Fredersicksburg
  • Nelson

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamaras issued the following statement yesterday. The statement also touches on another Executive Order that is attempting to fight the non-existent boogeyman that is Critical Race Theory.

Dear #RPSStrong Family,

Normally, I wouldn’t be sending an RPS Direct this evening, as we’re closed today. However, in light of recent events at the state level, I felt it was important to reach out.

Masks – As I shared via social media this weekend, RPS will maintain its 100% mask-wearing policy for all students, staff, and families. The science is clear: masks are safe and effective. Per the CDC“Experimental and epidemiologic data support community masking to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2…The relationship between source control and wearer protection is likely complementary and possibly synergistic, so that individual benefit increases with increasing community mask use.”

Despite the Governor’s Executive Order #2, we believe we have the legal authority to maintain our mandate. Senate Bill 1303, signed into law last year, stipulates that Virginia school divisions must offer in-person instruction, and: “[P]rovide such in-person instruction in a manner in which it adheres, to the maximum extent practicable, to any currently applicable mitigation strategies for early childhood care and education programs and elementary and secondary schools to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 that have been provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” 

Therefore, we are actually mandated by Virginia law to follow CDC guidance, and to do so “to the maximum extent practicable.” Given the CDC’s clear position on mask-wearing in schools, our charge is clear: maintain our mandate. Towards that end, School Board Members Burke and Doerr will be introducing a resolution to reaffirm our 100% mask-wearing requirement at tomorrow’s School Board meeting. 

Updated Isolation and Quarantine Guidance – One of the key topics that came up last night during the town hall hosted by Chair Harris-Muhammed and Vice-Chair Gibson was confusion over isolation and quarantine protocols, given evolving guidance from the CDC. To clarify matters, we have updated our guidance in collaboration with the Richmond City Health District, and will be implementing it starting tomorrow. If you have any questions after reviewing the updated protocols, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

“Divisive Concepts” – The Governor’s Executive Order #1 bans the teaching of critical race theory and other “divisive” concepts. First, as has been widely discussed in the news media over the past year, critical race theory is a graduate-level framework that’s not taught in K-12 schools. As for the far more nebulous prohibition against teaching divisive concepts, all I can say is this: At RPS, we will continue to honestly study the fact that the Commonwealth of Virginia was literally created on the backs of enslaved Africans, and we will continue to help our students understand the connection between that history and the injustices that still grip our community today – in education, housing, healthcare, the legal system, and more.

To quote Dr. King in honor of today’s celebration: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.” That’s what we’ll continue to do no matter how painful the truth of our past may be. It’s only by fostering a deep understanding of how we arrived at the present will we equip our students to create a more just and equitable future.

With great appreciation,

Yesterday the Virginia Chapter of Pediatricians spoke out in favor of keeping masks in school




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University of Richmond announces new Dean of Arts & Sciences

Jennifer Jones Cavenaugh, an accomplished administrator and noted Theater History scholar, will join the UR community in July.



Jennifer Jones Cavenaugh, who currently serves as the dean of the faculty at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, will become dean of the University of Richmond’s School of Arts & Sciences July 1.

“Professor Cavenaugh is a champion of the liberal arts and an accomplished scholar and academic leader,” said University of Richmond President Kevin F. Hallock. “I eagerly look forward to her joining us this coming summer and am excited about her leading our terrific School of Arts & Sciences.”

“Having a long history of being a strong proponent of faculty development and an active participant in shared governance, Dr. Cavenaugh will be a great addition to the University,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Jeff Legro. “She has deep experience in recruiting, hiring, and retaining an outstanding diverse faculty and in strengthening an academic community, which are also priorities at UR.”

In addition to her role as dean of the faculty, Cavenaugh is the Winifred M. Warden Endowed Chair of Theatre & Dance at Rollins. Cavenaugh previously served for four years as the associate dean of Arts & Sciences. She also spent three years as producing artistic director of the Annie Russell Theater.

Cavenaugh’s areas of teaching and research include gender and performance, theater history, script analysis, and American musical theater. Her book Medea’s Daughters: Forming and Performing Women Who Kill examines representations of women criminals in plays and television. She is a member of Actor’s Equity and has performed and directed for over 25 years. She is the recipient of numerous teaching and research awards.

“The University of Richmond’s teacher-scholar model and its commitment to a liberal arts education and to undergraduate research drew me in immediately,” said Cavenaugh. “I look forward to working with such a vibrant community.”

Cavenaugh earned her undergraduate degree in policy studies at Dartmouth College, her MFA in dramaturgy from Brooklyn College, and her Ph.D. in theater history and dramatic criticism at the University of Washington.

All University of Richmond students begin their college journey in the School of Arts & Sciences, which is home to 23 departments and 13 interdisciplinary programs, and more than 300 faculty and staff. The School’s world-class faculty lead top-tier research programs while teaching in the small, intimate classrooms of a liberal arts college and work closely with students in scholarship and creative expression. The faculty of Arts & Sciences boasts a number of leading national research fellowships, including grants from Fulbright, Guggenheim, NSF, NEH, and NIH.



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Virginia‘s Community Colleges announce expansion of credits for prior learning and life experiences

Part of Lumina Foundation’s ‘All Learning Counts’ initiative, under the program, any adult learner can earn college credits for life experiences.



Virginia’s Community Colleges, the umbrella organization of Virginia’s community college system, have launched an expanded version of the organization’s Credits2Careers portal, allowing more adult learners to be aware they may be eligible for college credit based on their prior learning and experience.

Before the expansion, the Credits2Career portal only served individuals with military experience, translating their service into college credits.

The expansion of the portal, which includes statewide curriculum crosswalking, is made possible due to a generous grant from the Lumina Foundation as part of its All Learning Counts Initiative. In 2019, the Foundation awarded $3.5 million in grants to nine organizations across the nation committed to building clearer pathways to degrees and other credentials for adults.

Virginia’s Community Colleges was one of the nine recipients, and the only recipient from Virginia.

“Learning can take place in all kinds of settings, especially today, as many individuals have hybrid work models allowing for increased flexibility,” said Randall Stamper, assistant vice chancellor for grants and workforce programs at the community college system. “Whether it’s in the military, on the job or in an exam, Virginians deserve to be credited for their learning, even the learning taking place outside of a classroom.”

The grant has enabled Virginia’s Community Colleges to correlate military training, professional development, workforce and career certifications to courses within its course catalog, allowing all adult learners to jumpstart their paths to a college degree by earning college credit for certain life experiences without having to start the education process at ground zero.

Credits2Careers and the All Learning Counts initiative aim to make the path to a degree more easily obtained. By validating experiences and learning out of the classroom, adult learners will get their degree faster and for less out of pocket, lowering the bar for individuals to seek out and complete a postsecondary education.

“Applying and enrolling in school can be daunting, especially for adults juggling a family and a job, but the launch of the new Credits2Careers portal makes it easier to see how many credits an individual has and what they need to show to cash them in,” said Jenny Carter, director of workforce partnerships and projects. “We’re grateful to the Lumnina Foundation for helping make this effort a reality, and we’re even more grateful that Virginia adult learners are one step closer to accessible education.”

Individuals looking to explore the Credits to Careers portal can create an account at



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