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,


Director of The Great Place Initiative

 The following is a message from Dean Jim Coleman:

The College of Humanities and Sciences has over four hundred full time faculty, over 200 part time faculty, 80 staff, and approximately 14,000 students creating a large and very complex culture spread out across the Monroe Park Campus. We have come to recognize that this complexity creates a need to have a dedicated person in the Dean’s Office charged with helping to ensure that the Humanities and Sciences is a great place to work.
We are pleased to announce that we are going to draw on Marquita Aguilar’s extraordinary professional and interpersonal skills, her profound knowledge of VCU, and her exceptional ability to inspire trust and resolve problems to lead and coordinate our efforts in the Great Place Initiative.  Marquita’s primary responsibility will be to lead and facilitate the implementation of activities and initiatives to promote faculty and staff development, to promote work-life balance, and to build camaraderie.  Additionally, she  will help ensure that there is a safe and secure pathway for staff to bring concerns forward with trust that the concerns will be heard and resolved as best as they can be; she will be a voice for the Humanities and Sciences staff ensuring that culture and climate issues identified by staff, faculty and students are heard and acted on in the Dean’s Office and discussed at the University level; she will create an infrastructure in the Humanities and Sciences aimed at making progress toward establishing a great work environment; and she will be available to provide professional coaching of staff as needed.
As you know, Marquita has a Walk-a-thon named after her because of her inspiring ability to rally people around a beneficial cause.  She has years of professional development training and on-the-job expertise. She will continue to train as a career coach and all of us in the Humanities and Sciences will benefit from her support and advocacy.
Please congratulate Marquita on her new, and very, very important, role as Director of GPI for the College of Humanities and Sciences!!! As of May 19, 2014, Marquita will have a nice new office in Harrison House, 816 W. Franklin Street, Room 111. Stop by if you get a chance and congratulate her in person.

Read more about Marquita in a previous Staff Spotlight Blog Post.



Undergraduate Summer Research Fellows Announced

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) with the Virginia Commonwealth University Office of Research has announced the 2014 Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Summer Fellows.

The fellowship provides the opportunity for faculty and students to partner together on a funded research project of their choice. The fellowship is designed to provide outstanding undergraduates the chance to make substantial and significant progress on a formal, structured research endeavor during the summer in collaboration with a faculty mentor.

2014 UROP Summer Fellowship Awardees from the College of Humanities and Sciences  include:

Donald Cox: A study of feather reflectance and nestling provisioning in prothonotary warblers. Faculty mentor: Lesley Bulluck, Ph.D.

Mitchell Layne: Exploring racial disparities in the child welfare system in Virginia. Faculty mentor: Nao Hagiwara, Ph.D.

Julian Neuhauser: The trajectory of “Phylaster” and how the materiality of the play informs its afterlife. Faculty mentor: Claire Bourne, Ph.D.

Logan Wilder: Exploring the potential use of benzimidazole-linked polymers in sensing applications. Faculty mentor: Hani El-Kaderi, Ph.D.

Lena Sinanian: Capital One hosting a credit card rewards program for a microfinance institution in Sub-Saharan Africa. Faculty mentor: Christopher Saladino, Ph.D.

Ashley Cooley: Forensic characterization of bacillus spores using cell surface hydrophobicity. Faculty mentor: Christopher Ehrhardt, Ph.D.

Christina Merritt: Drug of abuse (ketamine): An effective treatment for depression? Faculty mentor: Joseph Porter, Ph.D.

Alexander Burkard: The investigation of protrusion dynamics in motor neurons via time-lapse imaging. Faculty mentor: Gregory Walsh, Ph.D.

Leah Soukup: A gas phase study of SN2 reactions on substituted benzene rings. Faculty mentor: Scott Gronert, Ph.D.

Samantha Meacham: Fossil bovidae of Cooper’s D, and their significance to the paleobiology of Paranthropus robustus. Faculty mentor: Amy Rector Verrelli, Ph.D.

Grace Cummings: Nanopore sensing of glutathione-protected gold clusters. Faculty mentor: Joseph Reiner, Ph.D.

Daulton Sink: Variation in N-fixing community composition and activity between native and non-native species on Hog Island. Faculty mentor: Joseph Battistelli, Ph.D.

Lama Elsharif: Investigating cultural influences on behavior and psychological processes through proverbs. Faculty mentor: Vivian Dsokoto, Ph.D.

Mrignayni Venkatesan: The effectiveness of meteorites as a mock extraterrestrial environment for the growth of cyanobacteria. Faculty mentor: Joseph Battistelli, Ph.D.

Leon Jia: Surgical operations performed in the lateral position: A study of the impact on brachial blook flow as a possible mechanism of ulnar nerve injury. Faculty mentor: Chuck Biddle, Ph.D.