At spring commencement, a celebration of VCU’s newest graduates and their ‘undeniable courage’

Brandee Branche
Brandee Branche, Class of 2021 speaker. She received her M.D. from the VCU School of Medicine this weekend. (Kevin Morley, University Marketing)

Virginia Commonwealth University honored approximately 5,200 new graduates at a universitywide virtual commencement ceremony today.

The ceremony was accompanied by an assortment of in-person and virtual graduation events held this week at the department, school and college levels. During the ceremony, VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., praised graduates for their courage and patience in the face of the “unbelievable challenges” they have experienced over the past year since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we’ve experienced the unimaginable since last March, we’ve also encountered your undeniable courage,” Rao said. “We're in awe of the depth of your care for each other as you experienced major world events during your time with VCU.”

VCU Spring 2021 Commencement

Brandee Branche, who received her M.D. from the VCU School of Medicine, served as the Class of 2021 speaker. Branche said the day’s milestone made her think about “all of the events we have endured since our time here.”

“I am inspired by all those who gather here today, as we are unified by academic achievement that will forward our positions in this life to reach our greatest potential and impact others along the way,” Branche said.

Rao told graduates to use their strong voices and the lessons they learned at VCU to advocate for humanity.

“Continue to engage and work with leaders to ensure voices are heard and needs are met,” Rao said. “Don’t stop asking thoughtful questions and using your professional skills to press for better. And remember that you also improve the world by the civil, respectful and professional way you engage with those around you — especially those with whom you disagree. That respect empowers inclusion, allowing diversity of thought and perspective to flourish.”

The ceremony can be viewed at

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 30,000 students in 233 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Twenty-two of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Tappahannock Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, and MCV Physicians. The clinical enterprise includes a collaboration with Sheltering Arms Institute for physical rehabilitation services. For more, please visit and