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Welcome Home

Monday, Aug. 17, 2020

Dear VCU and VCU Health community,

It’s a pleasure to welcome you back warmly for the fall semester. It will be one in which we face new challenges together and in which we renew our commitments to each other and to our critically important mission. 

You join us in this mission to help students succeed in remarkable ways, help faculty create and advance new knowledge, and help healthcare teams save lives and make lives better. Together, we are a community of learners, and this has — for all of us — been a year of learning. At times, it hasn’t been easy. And that’s okay. Because we are in this together, we will support each other in our efforts and in our successes. 

We started getting ready for this unique fall semester all the way back in the spring, when VCU Facilities Management began preparing the physical spaces on our campuses for our return. As detailed in our Responsible Together reopening plan, the university has implemented several measures, including wearing masks, physical distancing, symptom checks, and testing that help address the risks associated with the ongoing existence of COVID-19 throughout our society.  VCU Residential Life and Housing meticulously transformed residential spaces to create a comfortable home that, together with other university-wide measures, will help promote the well-being of our student-residents and allow them to thrive. 

My faculty colleagues transitioned to a remote format very quickly, a remarkable pivot they made while also managing incredible change in their own lives. Equally impressive was their work this summer to prepare their fall curricula to meet the needs of in-person and remote delivery. I am grateful for their unbreakable commitments to student learning and student success. 

We have also seen VCU Libraries move to meet the unique needs of our time. You may find that Cabell and Tompkins-McCaw libraries look and feel a little different right now, but, as always, the work they do at the heart of our education, research, and health-care missions is awe-inspiring. Please go to the VCU Libraries webpage to see all their available services.

VCU Welcome Home - Fall Semester 2020

Despite our unprecedented preparation, we know that we will still face challenges this semester. We have to depend on — and trust in — each other. Please take care of yourself and others by wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently and practicing physical distancing. All students have been given supply kits containing facemasks and sanitizer. Please visit one of our supply replenishment sites on campus for free refills before you run low on supplies. Find the sites listed at One VCU: Responsible Together.

The challenges we share extend beyond threats from the ongoing existence of COVID-19. Physical, mental, and emotional well-being are all important and all interconnected. Please ask for help when you need it. These are uncommon times, and no one should ever feel like they are alone or unheard. Care professionals at the Health Promotion and Well-Being Center are here to work with you and provide much-needed resources and programming. Strategic Enrollment Management also offers resources and academic counseling services, and the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs offers workshops and virtual discussion groups.

We are also in a season of change throughout our society related to law enforcement’s role in public safety. That’s why we recently formed the Safety and Well-being Advisory Committee to help create at VCU a public safety model that is more equitable and focused on fostering safety and well-being. We are expanding our shared commitments to equity in other ways, too, including the work of the Committee on Commemoration and Memorials, which has gathered opinions and suggestions regarding who we honor in our shared physical spaces across the university and medical center. Many of you have offered comments, and we are thankful for that. 

As the world changes around us — and with us — I am impressed by and grateful for the hard work done all across VCU just to get us here, to the first week of class. Our work is only beginning. We are at the starting line.

In the weeks and months to come, let’s always show compassion and kindness toward each other, remembering that we are all adapting to a new environment and a new pace together. Let’s continue to care for ourselves and each other, because we value and need each other. Let’s continue our work to improve the human experience for everyone everywhere, now more than ever and even if it’s in new ways.

It’s what we do. It’s what we will always do.

Welcome home! I’m so glad you’re here. 


Michael Rao
President, VCU and VCU Health System