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Faculty & Staff Newsletter
Week of September 3, 2019

All content for weekly newsletter is due by Thursday at noon for following Monday posting. Please submit content to

Faculty Profile:
Gabriela Leon-Perez, Ph.D., 

When VCU College of Humanities and Sciences announced a cluster hiring for a migration studies initiative with a focus on Latin America, Gaby Leon-Perez, Ph.D., knew she had found the right fit. She immediately applied. A native of Mexico, Gaby's research interests include internal and international migration, the experiences of Latinx immigrants in the U.S. and health disparities. VCU felt likewise; in the fall of 2018, Gaby started at VCU as an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology. Click here to learn more about Gaby.


Primary Care Psych Training Collab Receives $1.35 Million Grant

The Primary Care Psychology Training Collaborative ( has been awarded a 3-year $1.35 million HRSA Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) grant for continued training in nine different safety net primary care clinics in the city of Richmond. The grant will expand the focus to include training in substance abuse screening and treatment, behavioral services to supplement medically assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, and expanded telehealth services to primary care clinics in rural Virginia. Faculty on the grant include Bruce Rybarczyk, Ph.D. (PI), Heather Jones, Ph.D., Paul Perrin, Ph.D., Leila Islam and Carla Schaffer (program alumni). 

Gregory Smithers Awarded 2019 British Academy’s Global Professorship

Gregory Smithers, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of History, is one of 10 scholars from around the world selected for a prestigious four-year professorship in England. The British Academy awarded Smithers one of its 2019 Global Professorships, a program that aims to demonstrate and enhance the U.K.’s commitment to international research partnerships and collaboration, as well as strengthen its research capacity and capability in the humanities and the social sciences. The four-year professorship will allow Gregory to undertake a research project exploring how threats to our well-being posed by climate change can be addressed by drawing on Indigenous knowledge rooted in the deep past. Read more here.
New KHS Grants Support Research on Liver Transplant Recipients, Cystic Fibrosis and Heart Failure

Three professors in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences recently received grants from the Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Danielle Kirkman, Ph.D., was awarded a Multischool Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) Endowment Fund Award for $130,000 for her research on the “Impact of low carbohydrate diet on metabolic inflexibility and cardiovascular risk in liver transplant recipients.” The application was submitted in collaboration with faculty from the VCU Department of Internal Medicine. 

Paula Rodriguez Miguelez, Ph.D., and new faculty member Salvatore Carbone, Ph.D., both received Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research (CCTR) Clinical Research Voucher Awards, each for $10,000 for one year and renewable for an additional $10,000 for a second year. Paula's research is on "Non-Pulmonary Contributors to Exercise Intolerance in Cystic Fibrosis," while Salvatore's research is on "Unsaturated Fatty Acids to Improve Cardiorespiratory Fitness in Patients with Obesity and Heart Failure with preserved Ejection Fraction - The UFA-Preserved2 Study." Congrats to all! 
Paarlberg Finds Political Rhetoric Blows MS-13 Violence Out of Proportion

A new study by Michael Paarlberg, Ph.D., in the Department of Political Science, and four VCU undergraduate research assistants, examined 20 years of violent crimes linked to MS-13 and found that political rhetoric greatly exaggerates the size of threat posed by the gang. The group compiled news reports and U.S. Department of Justice indictments into a database of all reported murders and other violent crimes associated with MS-13 from 1998 to 2018. They found that for most years, however, the number of homicides linked to the gang was fewer than 20 and usually below 10, never accounting for more than a quarter of 1% of all homicides in the United States. Read more about the study here.
Convocation Honors Four CHS Faculty Members

On Thursday, August 29, four faculty members from CHS were honored at the 2019 Faculty Convocation. John T. Kneebone, Ph.D., associate professor (retired) in the Department of History, received the University Award of Excellence; John J. Ryan, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biology, received the Distinguished Scholarship Award; Karen Kester, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology, received the Distinguished Teaching Award; and June O. Nicholson, professor in the Robertson School of Media and Culture, received the Distinguished Service Award. To read more, click here.
2019 CIVVY Honorable Mention

Last week, we neglected to mention the contributions of Michael Pyles, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Sciences. Michael was integrally involved in the "Debate Across the Curriculum" project, which received an honorable mention in this year's national Civvy Awards. The American Civic Collaboration Awards (aka The Civvy Awards) highlight outstanding efforts of civic collaboration making impacts in local, national and youth communities. Michael implemented the debate strategy in his course of 240 students and presented at the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) 2019 national conference on "Debate for Civic Learning: A Collaborative Model for Debate Across the Curriculum."  

Professional Development

Sponsored Programs Faculty Seminar

Friday, September 6
9 a.m. - Noon
University Student Commons, SGA Senate Chambers

Faculty will be provided with information on how to submit research, scholarship, and fellowship proposals; how to manage those awards; and information on more university resources available to support research and scholarship. Register here.


Want to stay on top of all CHS events? Add “TheCollege” to your Google calendar. Here's how.

Forensic Capabilities of the U.S. Secret Service

Wednesday, Sept. 4 at 2 p.m.
MPC Learning Commons, Rm. 2201
Speaker: Kelli Lewis, MS, Laboratory Director, U.S. Secret Service, Forensic Services Division

Kelli Lewis, MS, is the laboratory director for the U.S. Secret Services Forensic Services Division. The Secret Service is home to an advanced forensics laboratory, which includes the world’s largest ink library and the Forensic Information System for Handwriting (FISH). Join her as she discusses expert analysis provided by the U.S. Secret Service related to polygraph examinations, fingerprints, false identification documents, credit cards and other related forensic science areas.

Death by Media: The Politics of Eventocracy in the Late Eurocene
2019 Annual MATX Marcel Cornis-Pope Lecture

Thursday, Sept. 5 at 3 p.m.
Cabell Library, Rm. 303 
Speaker: Rohan Kalyan, Ph.D.

Rohan Kalyan is a political theorist and filmmaker who teaches in the School of World Studies at VCU. This lecture builds on Rohan’s current research on the theory of eventocracy, or rule by event in a time of ubiquitous media. Through close readings of two violent events enabled by social media platforms in disparate locations (WhatsApp in India and YouTube in the US), he argues that the virtual events of digital media have real effects in the collective subjectivities that form a broader community of sense and sense-making. How can media events and collective subjectivities be re-worked to not only oppose fascistic ways of making sense of the present, but make space for alternative communities of sense-making that interpret events in radically different ways?

Israeli Elections (Again!)

Thursday, Sept. 5 at 7 p.m.
Cabell Library, Rm. 303
Speaker: Arie Dubnov, Ph.D., George Washington University

In early April, Israelis went to the polls to select a new government. Prime Minister Netanyahu won the election, but failed to form a governing coalition. Now, new elections will be held in mid-September. How and why did this happen? What will happen in these second elections? And what does it all mean? 

Professor Arie Dubnov, the Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies at George Washington University, will unravel the complexities of the upcoming Israeli elections. Dr. Dubnov is a scholar of twentieth-century Jewish and Israeli history, with particular expertise on the history of political thought, the study of nationalism, decolonization, and partition politics. 

Civil Discourse in an Uncivil Age: Media and the 2020 Election

Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 6:00 p.m.
Cabell Library, Room 303
Speaker: Alexander Heffner, host of “The Open Mind” on PBS

The Robertson School of Media and Culture brings Alexander Heffner, host of "The Open Mind" on PBS to campus to discuss media and the 2020 election. Heffner has covered American politics, civic life and Millennials since the 2008 presidential campaign and his work has been profiled in The Washington Post, New York Times, and on NBC News, CNN and the BBC, among other media outlets. He is coauthor of "A Documentary History of the United States." He is the recipient of the University of Denver’s Anvil of Freedom Award, Franklin Pierce University’s Fitzwater Medallion for Leadership in Public Communication and Yale University’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism. A native New Yorker, he is a graduate of Harvard University.

From Biblical Plagues to Extraterrestrial Life and Microbial Forensics: Near Misses in Applied Research

Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 2 p.m.
MPC Learning Commons, Rm. 2201
Speaker: Christopher Ehrhardt, Ph.D.

The N-word: History, Race and the College Classroom

Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 4 p.m. 
Cabell Library, Room 303
Speaker: Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Ph.D.
 (Smith College)

The n-word, a word prevalent in both racist and anti-racist documents, art, literature and politics, is wreaking havoc across U.S. classrooms. With personal, pedagogical and historical perspective—framed in part by her experience as a biracial woman who is also the daughter of iconic comedian Richard Pryor—Dr. Pryor reflects on why the n-word is so hard to talk about. Sponsored by the Humanities Research Center.

Persuasion, Human Improvement, and Disability

Thursday, Sept. 12, from 3:30 - 5 p.m.
University Student Commons, SGA Senate Chambers
Speaker: George Estreich (Oregon State University)

George Estreich, author of "Fables and Futures: Biotechnology, Disability, and the Stories We Tell Ourselves" (MIT Press, 2019) will discuss how new biomedical technologies—from prenatal testing to gene-editing techniques—require us to imagine who counts as human and what it means to belong. Sponsored by Science, Technology and Society, The Department of English, and the VCU Transforming Accessibility Initiative.

A Conversation: "The Emancipation of Evan Wells"

Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.
Cabell Library, Room 303
Speaker: Jeffrey Blout

Join us as we hear from Robertson School alumnus Jeffrey Blout as he talks about his new book, “The Emancipation of Evan Wells.” The event will be followed with a Q&A, a book sale, and a reception. “The Emancipation of Evan Wells” tells the story of a black child growing up in the racially charged 1960s. Inspired to overcome the racism and class status imposed on blacks, Evan Wells dreams of a life bigger than that lived by most everyone he knows in the small Virginia town of Canaan. He gets caught in a crossfire of hate from whites and his own people, who question whether he is black enough, which leaves Evan often alone and bewildered. Only the love of his great grandmother, Mama Jennie, and his mentor, Bojack, keeps him on track. Together, they help Evan find perspective and peace.

Tech Tip

Reboot Your Computer on a Regular Basis

According to Ramont Reed, Help Desk Manager in HASTech, you should reboot your computer at least three times a week, if not daily. Not only will this clear out any temporary files stored on your computer, but it will allow updates to be installed more frequently (and as a result, faster) on your machine.
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