Dean Coleman Welcomes Janet Cousins

Janet CousinsDear Colleagues,

Please join me in welcoming my new executive administrative assistant, Ms. Janet Cousins. Our friends in Psychology know her well from her most recent position as their receptionist, administrative assistant, event planner, and, as I understand, and chief motivational officer!  Janet began her career at VCU as secretary for the Department of Dance for five years and remembers when “you didn’t have to pay to park and Sunny Day was the place to shop.” Realizing she had a knack for leadership, Janet went on to serve as operations supervisor at the Department of Social Services until 1989 when she was wrested away from the state by Philip Morris. She retired from Philip Morris in 2011 after 23 years. Not one to sit and relax, Janet has spent her time in retirement working variously as a secretary in the General Assembly, intake coordinator in a local emergency room, community volunteer, and as receptionist for Psychology. Ms. Cousins runs a tight ship and the College has already reaped the benefits of her strong communication skills and spirit of mentorship. I feel very lucky to have someone of her caliber and professionalism in our office. Next time you’re close by, be sure to drop in and introduce yourself to Janet so she may get to know you all better!

In the future, please contact Janet for scheduling meetings with myself and/or Dr. Baski or for other matters requiring our attention. Her direct line is 804-827-0857 and her email address is For more general information, please continue to call the main CHS line, 804-828-1674, so that we may direct you appropriately.

Please enjoy a ridiculously pleasant beginning of the fall semester!

Jim Coleman






Jim Coleman
Dean, VCU College of Humanities and Sciences


Humanities Research Center Events – Fall 2014

Meet our Authors

Members of faculty in the Humanities at VCU have an impressive record of scholarly productivity and are recognized, both nationally and internationally, for their significant contributions to our understanding of the human condition across cultures, throughout the past, and in the present. Our new “Meet VCU’s Authors” series invites members of the Richmond community as well as colleagues and students from VCU and other local universities to come and meet VCU’s authors as they talk about their recently published books and answer questions about their work.  All are welcome! Co-sponsored by VCU Libraries.

Ryan K. Smith, Associate Professor of History and author of Robert Morris’s Folly: The Architectural and Financial Failures of an American Founder (Yale University Press, 2014)

September 24, 2014
Humanities Research Center, 
Seminar Room 201
Valentine House, 920 W. Franklin Street

Gregory D. Smithers, Associate Professor of History and author of Slave Breeding: Sex, Violence, and Memory in African American History (University Press of Florida, 2013)

October 15, 2014
Humanities Research Center, 
Seminar Room 201
Valentine House, 920 W. Franklin Street

Katherine Saunders Nash, Associate Professor of English and author of Feminist Narrative Ethics: Tacit Persuasion in Modernist Form (Ohio State University Press, 2014)

November 5, 2014
Humanities Research Center, Seminar Room 201
Valentine House, 920 W. Franklin Street

Speaker Series

Natasha Trethewey, United States Poet Laureate (2012-2014), winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, will read from her poetry and engage in conversation with VCU’s Professor Claudia Emerson, acclaimed poet and winner of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This event is co-sponsored by VCU Libraries and the Office of the President.

September 17, 2014
6:00 pm
Commonwealth Ballroom, Student Commons

James Grossman, Executive Director of the American Historical Association and formerly Professor of History at the University of Chicago, will talk about the AHA’s Tuning Project, which has brought together faculty from across the country to develop a common language that communicates to employers and a general audience the significance and value of a degree in the humanities.

October 3, 2014
Richmond Salon I-II, Student Commons

E. Patrick Johnson, Carlos Montezuma Professor of Performance Studies and African American Studies at Northwestern University, will perform his play Sweet Tea, based on his book, Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South (University of North Carolina Press, 2008) on October 29. Professor Johnson will also give a lecture on October 30 about his current research project on queer sexuality and performance in the black church. These two events are co-sponsored by the Department of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

October 29, 2014
8:00 pm
Grace Street Theater

October 30, 2014
Richmond Salon I-II, Student Commons

Anne Helmreich, Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles and formerly Associate Professor of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University, will be speaking about the future of Digital Art History along with the implications for Digital Humanities in general; earlier in the day Professor Helmreich will be leading faculty and graduate students in a more informal discussion about the future of digital resources and digital publication. Co-sponsored by the Department of Art History.

November 20, 2014
3.30 pm
Forum Room, Student Commons


Brigette Pfister, Director of Sponsored Programs in the Humanities and Sciences at VCU, and Richard Godbeer, Professor of History and Director of the Humanities Research Center, will lead a workshop on opportunities for research support within and beyond VCU.

September 26, 2014
2:00 – 4:00 pm
Humanities Research Center, Seminar Room 201
Valentine House, 920 W. Franklin Street

Dr. Robert Porter will lead a workshop on applying for grants in the humanities and social sciences, co-sponsored by the Office of Research and the College of Humanities and Sciences. Dr. Porter has presented grant writing workshops at leading universities and medical schools internationally, and is national leader in the growing field of research development. In 2013, the Office of Research invited Dr. Porter to offer grant writing training to new investigators at VCU entitled “Strategies for Success in Sponsored Research.” That event was an overwhelming success, with attendees stating that the session was “very focused,” “insightful,” and “fantastic!” Dr. Robert Porter will return to VCU on October 15 and 16, 2014 to present several grant writing workshops for graduate students, post-docs, faculty, and staff. The session devoted to the humanities and social sciences will include detailed discussion of funding opportunities offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Key elements of the NEH grant review process will be covered, and excerpts from successful proposals will be highlighted. Specific grant programs will be reviewed, together with eligibility requirements, funding levels, and lists of projects recently funded by each program. Additionally, participants will be guided to numerous opportunities posted by private foundations.


October 16, 2014
1:00 – 4:00 pm
VCU Globe
West Grace Street Student Housing North, 1030J

Christopher Rogers, Editorial Director at Yale University Press, will lead a workshop on strategies for preparing a book manuscript for successful submission to a university press.

October 23, 2014
Humanities Research Center, Seminar Room 201
Valentine House, 920 W. Franklin Street

Anne Helmreich, Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles and formerly Associate Professor of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University, will lead an informal discussion about the future of digital resources and digital publication.

November 20, 2014
12:00 pm
Humanities Research Center, Seminar Room 201
Valentine House, 920 W. Franklin Street


Staff Spotlight: Dorothy Booker

dorothy bookerDorothy Booker has been with VCU for nearly 30 years and with the dean’s office since 2005. She says she learned years ago that a first impression is a lasting one so she makes an effort to meet and greet every person that walks through the door as the Office Services Coordinator for the College. Dorothy will celebrate her 30th anniversary working for VCU next July. She is also the vice president of the newly reformed CHS Staff Council.

“This is a passion for me; “we” are a passion for me. I tell Anne (Stratton) all the time, my dad always told me that my mouth would be the death of me, but I believe in standing up for what is right. I don’t mind being one of the voices for the staff.”

“Everyone’s mentality and morale should be essential to get the job done; to speak on behalf of the staff and work with the faculty will bring everybody in on one accord. When everybody’s on one accord, good things happen.”

Dorothy began working for VCU at the Cabell Library in 1984 filling in for people who were on vacation or out on sick leave. Shortly after she took on a full-time position in circulation. She has worked on both campuses, including at the Tompkins-McCaw Library in the learning resources center and Sanger Hall on the MCV campus. She worked in procurement and payment for 14 years. Over the years, Dorothy has seen VCU go through a lot of changes.

“It’s just amazing. Even since I’ve been in the Dean’s office, I’ve watched buildings go up and down all around me. I’ve seen so much in my thirty years of being here.”

One of her favorite parts about working at VCU is the connections she’s made with other staff members.

“When I worked in procurement and payment, we were like a family. We watched each other’s children grow and now we all have grandchildren. We’re still as close now as we were when we all worked together.”

“The most intense thing that I can remember is when I came to the Dean’s office and I started working with Michelle Wilde, India Urbach, and Anne Stratton. I have never in my life met such a wonderful group of people. When they took me under their wing, it has been like a home here. We cry together, we laugh together, it’s been wonderful. Since 2005, it has been awesome.”

Dorothy grew up in Powhatan in Moseley. She is the youngest in her family with one sister and three brothers.

“I tell everybody, I have two mothers, my mother and my sister because while my mom worked my sister raised us, (laughs) she’s still raising us.”

“Now I get a chance to give back. My mom turned 85 on Monday (July 7th). For the past 7 months she has been living with us. So my day doesn’t stop here, it’s only beginning. I go home and take care of my mom and my husband, but it’s good.”

Throughout the years, Dorothy has relied on her faith to persevere through obstacles and challenges.

“When I first came to work at VCU I was raising my three children by myself and somehow God made it work….God doesn’t put any more on us than we can bear. And everything that happens to us is tailor-made for us by God.”

She is currently a Deaconess at her church, Second Antioch Baptist Church in Powhatan. She is also president of the pastor’s aide and acting president of the Deaconess board and sings in the choir. In addition to being heavily involved in her church, Dorothy is a proud mother, grandmother and wife to a man she calls her best friend.

“My husband and I have been married for 17 years. He brought two daughters to our union and I brought three (2 daughters and a son). We have 14 grandbabies; 9 boys and 5 girls between 5 and 16 years of age. Christmas is crazy around our house.”

Throughout her years at VCU, Dorothy has taken administrative courses and workshops for her professional development. She recently completed the Personnel Administrative Certificate Program through VCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education. She also plans on taking courses at Grace Harris Institute in the future.

“So much has changed over the years, the way they do things has changed. And that’s why I continue to go to classes so I can keep the knowledge that I’ve gained and bring it up to date.”

One of Dorothy’s favorite parts about working at VCU is the youthful energy students bring to the university.

“Sometimes I go and sit outdoors just to watch the students walking. It’s so exciting to see every year new students. It’s almost like having a new baby in the house, they bring so much energy to VCU.”

During her time at VCU, Dorothy has seen the university spread out across the city.

“In one of my classes, we had to do a profile of VCU and one of the things I said was that VCU has become the sun of the city, it brightens up the whole city of Richmond.”


Written by Denise Johnson


H&S Staff Council Re-established: Meet The Officers

The following message is from Marquita Aguilar, director of the Great Place Initiative for the College.

Dear H & S Faculty and Staff,

I am very pleased to announce that the College has re-established the H & S Staff Council!

Let me give you a brief summary that led to this decision…..

At the request of Dean Coleman, all H & S Staff were sent an invitation by email to attend an open staff forum regarding the H & S Great Place Initiative that was held on April 28, 2014.  At the forum staff had the opportunity to state their concerns, suggestions and ideas related to the College. One of the priority items of discussion was to re-establish the H & S Staff Council.  The Dean was in total agreement with this suggestion and asked me to facilitate the process.  I sent an email to all staff to inquire who would be interested in serving as a member of the H & S Staff Council.  A few staff responded and a meeting was held yesterday to elect officers.

Please join me in congratulating the following H & S Staff Council Officers for 2014-2015. Look for additional information about the H &S Staff Council in the upcoming H & S Newsletter..

Thank you and have a safe and wonderful 4th of July holiday!


The College of Humanities & Sciences Staff Council Officers for 2014-2015:

michelle carpenter_150x200President

Michelle Carpenter, Assistant to the Chair & General Administration Supervisor in the Department of Mathematics & Applied Mathematics.

“I have been in Higher Education for 13 years. I currently work for the Department of Mathematics & Applied Mathematics. I’m originally from Buffalo, NY and I’ve lived in Richmond, VA for 3 1/2 years. I look forward to serving as the President of the Staff Council for the upcoming academic year.”


dorothy booker

Vice President

Dorothy J. Booker, Office Services Coordinator in the Office of the Dean. Dorothy has been with the Dean’s office since 2005 and employed by VCU for 30 years.





 gail bartee canterTreasurer

Gail Bartee Canter, CHS Dean’s office Business Manager and College Engagement Representative. Gail has been employed with VCU for 21 years. Gail is looking forward to serving as Treasurer of the CHS Staff Council.




reena jadav_150x200Secretary

Reena Jadav, Department Assistant for the Department of African American Studies. She has held this position since April 2014. Previously, she was a Human Resources Assistant for the School of Dentistry and an Administrative Assistant for the Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Palliative Care at VCU Medical Center.  Reena earned an M.S. in Human Resources Management at VCU School of Business in 2011 and a B.S. in Psychology at VCU College of Humanities and Sciences in 2008.


Former Student Lauds Dr. Condit

Deirdre Condit, chair of Political Science, recently received this message from a former student:

You won’t remember me, so please don’t wrack your brain trying, if that’s something you do when you get these emails. I was an under-the-radar, average student who felt too unimportant to take your time by coming to your office, but I wanted to let you know how much of an impact you had on me both when I was your student (Class of ’01) and in the years that followed.

Personally, I remember you referring to your partner as such, rather than using a gendered term. It wasn’t something I had ever heard before and it modeled to me (though I wouldn’t synthesize it until years later) the power of language in creating a welcoming, inclusive, intentional environment.

Academically, you told the story of how you chose your undergraduate major one day in class. At that time, I was failing and miserable as an English major. My memory is that you said you surveyed the classes you most enjoyed and chose your major from there. I changed my major that day and enjoyed the rest of my college career immensely (and took every class you taught). I had you for a Political Theory class where we read St. Augustine, Machiavelli, and St. Thomas Aquinas most memorably. Having read and discussed those works gave me great confidence that I was able to read some hard “stuff” and make sense of it…, I get lots of Jeopardy questions correct as a result of those readings!

In short, you were different from any teacher I had ever had class with and both your presence and the content of your classes made a huge difference in my life. Thank you for all that you did. My partner is a college professor and I now see how painful it is when students don’t listen/read/respond/participate in class. I know I was a deadbeat student a lot of times in terms of contributing to the class community. You got through, though, on more levels than you might have imagined. Again, thank you.

I hope you’re well. I’m sure you’re still inspiring students and doing amazing research.

Dr. Condit shared this email with Dean Coleman and writes “…Rarely does having a seemingly disinterested student slog their way through St. Augustine prove to be so worthwhile — or at least given what most of our students communicate to us! I know we all get these emails, but I wanted to share this one with you because it charmed me so. I know you, of all people get this, but it’s why the College is so damned vital to the success of the University.”


Staff Spotlight: Ginny Schmitz

ginny schmitz_150x200Ginny Schmitz, assistant to the Chair of the Department of English, will celebrate 15 years at VCU this coming December. She began working  as an administrative assistant in December of 1999. She earned her master’s in Writing and Rhetoric at VCU and one of her professors in the English department, Elizabeth Hodges, advocated for her hire and thus she began her career with the university. In addition to her post at VCU she has also taught as an adjunct instructor at the University of Richmond.

Ginny grew up in a small farming community of 350 people in Wellington, Illinois where her father sheared sheep for a living. She is currently writing a memoir in hopes of capturing the era she grew up in. Harrison Fletcher, an assistant professor in the English Department, is assisting with the project. “We’re talking about the structure of it and whether I’m going to center it around a small town and the people within it, with each chapter devoted to a certain character from my childhood.”

“I think the main focal point is a sense of belonging. I’m exploring that right now, what that means to me, why it’s there because in creative writing, creative non-fiction, really it’s reflective and you’ve got to figure out why, what’s going on here.”

Ginny has been nominated for the Dorris Douglas Budd Award two times as well as the Pride Award, and she is very flattered by being recognized by her peers. “I’m always fearful that my mind is slipping a bit (laughs) so this tells me I’m still doing okay.”

Despite her many accomplishments Ginny remains humble.

“Being the daughter of a sheep shearer, I think anything that I’ve done like teaching at the college-level I never would have dreamed I’d do…. I’m still flabbergasted by it.”

In addition to her recognition and academic achievements, two of Ginny’s greatest accomplishments are her daughters.

“I have two very fine daughters, they’re both very assertive women and that can be tough for their mother (laughs) but I’m very proud of the women my daughters are, very proud.”

One of Ginny’s favorite parts of working in the English Department is the people. “I like coming to work each day, and I’ve had jobs where I didn’t want to come to work, but I don’t ever recall that here. I love the people, I think the faculty and staff are among the finest in the university and it just makes my job enjoyable. We’ve got a lot of humble faculty members.”

Ginny is also a big fan of the administrative staff at VCU. “I have a great respect for support staff; I am a support person, they’re the people that get things done.” She hopes to see more classified staff added to the university in the future. “You can have great ideas but if you don’t have that support staff to keep them in play and remain in play, then those ideas run the risk of not fulfilling their promise.”

In her leisure time Ginny works on her memoir and reads detective fiction books. Her favorite detective novel is by James Lee Burke, author of the Dave Robicheaux series. “Everybody teases me about this but I love detective fiction. I took Tom De Haven’s Detective Fiction class and it was wonderful.”

When she retires she plans to get involved in non-profit organizations and advocating for causes like education. Politics interests her as well.

Ginny also enjoys public speaking, she was a member of Toastmasters for many years. She imparts some of the wisdom she garnered from her experiences there to her students when teaching composition.

“I love the power of language, and that’s always my first lecture when I talk about composition. I tell my students, you may not be the CEO of a corporation but you have language and that’s your power, use it. Speaking is the same thing, it’s power. It’s a way to affect change, to make yourself heard. Using it well is key and that’s my obligation – to teach them to use it well.”

Written by Denise Johnson


In Memorium: Lawrence Winters

lawrence wintersDr. Lawrence Winters, former Chair of the Department of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, passed away June 1, 2014. He joined VCU in 1972, succeeding Mary Kapp as the Chair of the Department of Chemistry. He served as chair of chemistry from 1972-83 and 1988-95, and retired from VCU in 1996. Prior to joining VCU, Dr. Winters served on the chemistry faculty at Drexel University.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and completed his Ph.D. at Kansas University. He also did post-doctorate study at Florida State University. Dr. Winters’ specialization was organic chemistry, and he had a passion for teaching. He was instrumental in the growth of chemistry into one of VCU’s largest undergraduate majors and a highly respected research department. During Dr. Winters’ tenure as chair, Nobel Prize winner John Fenn joined the chemistry department.

Dr. Winters was a native of Chicago, and is survived by his wife, Honora Ann Murphy, three children and nine grandchildren. The family has requested that gifts in Dr. Winters’ memory be made to the Department of Chemistry through the VCU Foundation.


Alumni Relations Welcomes New Colleagues

The following is a message from Bethanie Constant, director of development and alumni relations in the College.


Dear Colleagues,

I am very excited to announce the arrival of two new VCU College of Humanities and Sciences colleagues.

Chnoic Adams Clarke has accepted the position of Development and Alumni Relations Manager for the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences. Chnoic will be handling a portfolio of alumni and donors; Dean’s Society (giving club) strategy, retention, increase, and acquisition; collaboration with communications on print materials and web content; and coordination with the central annual giving office on annual leadership mailings/solicitation. Chnoic comes from the VCU School of Pharmacy Development and Alumni Relations office where she has served as the Assistant Director of Development since 2005. Chnoic is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) and Virginia Association of Fund Raising Executives (VAFRE). Chnoic is a Virginia native, growing up in Winchester and moving to Richmond after she received a Bachelor of Sciences in Merchandising Management from Virginia Tech in 2004. She recently completed her Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management at VCU and plans to complete her Master’s in Public Administration.  In her free time, Chnoic enjoys being active and is an indoor cycling instructor.  She lives with her husband, Ryan, her daughter, Marlowe, and their three dogs. Chnoic can be reached at (804) 827-1306 or

Caitlin Hanbury has accepted the position of Stewardship Manager for the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences. Caitlin will be handling alumni interviews for publication and discovery; fundraising/friend-raising events; scholarship coordination; collaboration with communications for the e-newsletter, blog, and social media; and will serve as the liaison to VCU Alumni/STAT/GOLD/University Career Center. Caitlin most recently served as a development associate for Maymont Foundation since 2009 where she managed the individual gifts program and acted as the liaison for several Foundation affinity groups. Her previous experience also includes two years as a programs manager and exhibitions coordinator for the Hermitage Museum & Gardens in Norfolk, Virginia. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and English Language and Literature from the University of Virginia in 2005, and a Master of Arts in Art History and Museum Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. She lives with her husband, Josh, and her dog Mackie. Caitlin can be reached at (804) 827-0862 and email coming soon.

Both Chnoic and Caitlin started employment with the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences today and are located in the Harrison House, 816 W Franklin St, Rm 101. Please send our newest team members your warm welcome!

I would be remiss if I did not thank Dean Jim Coleman for his support of our strategic expansion. It is a very exciting time to be a part of VCU and the College!

With gratitude,