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2022 IEP Designee – Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU’s IEP Journey

Shari Garmise

Hi, I’m Shari Garmise and I joined VCU as Executive Director for Collective Urban and Regional Impact in 2021 in the Office of Institutional Equity Effectiveness and Success. My first big project here was to co-lead VCU’s IEP process with Ivelina Metcheva, VCU’s Assistant Vice President for Innovation, in the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.
I could not have been more grateful for the opportunity. The IEP process is a networking, listening and stewarding activity at its core – perfect for a newbie on campus, but equally valuable for university veterans. And right in the bailiwick of university community and economic development professionals.
Working in teams is critical for the IEP to reach into all the nooks and crannies of a university. Our leadership team also included participants from the College of Engineering and Career Services with data support from the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis and the Survey and Evaluation Research Lab, both divisions of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Policy and a university working group of 24 faculty and university leaders across 18 units including four cabinet members. We also engaged with external stakeholders through 12 focus groups, complemented by community surveys gathered across units to understand changing needs resulting from the pandemic.

Let me start our journey by introducing you to VCU. Here is the starter slide:

  • Public urban research university and academic medical center located in one of America’s most diverse cities.
  • Carnegie Tier One Research University.
  • Federal Minority Serving Institution (MSI).
  • Enrolls more underrepresented minority students than its Virginia peers and graduates them in higher numbers.
  • VCU Health is the largest safety-net provider in Virginia, with 65% of patients either uninsured or covered by government-sponsored programs.
  • Richmond’s largest employer, and one of the largest in its MSA.
  • A $9.5 billion regional economic impact, supporting 58,000 regional jobs and serving more than 29,000 students.

Now meet the VCU we got to know through the IEP process through the voices of our stakeholders.

  • “Critical partner to so many different elements of the Richmond Fabric.”
  • “I have not seen VCU for a second shy away from the commitment [to equity] where I have seen others walk back commitment on equity and just focusing someplace else.”
  • “VCU is a friend and a foe of Richmond and that gets borne out in a number of different levels.”
  • “VCU Health is really moving mountains when it comes to the medical industry.”
  • “We talked about all the positive impact VCU has had and even given that, we haven’t scraped the surface of the potential of leveraging the talent of the university to impact the community.”

During the process, it became clear that VCU, directly or indirectly, touches everyone in the region. Our impact was inspiring, particularly in three areas: health equity innovation, cluster and entrepreneurship development, and place-making. Here are a few examples:

  • Richmond Health and Wellness Program, a partnership with five low-income housing establishments and VCU’s Health Hub led to an 8.6% reduction in ER visits and a 9.8% reduction in hospital visits for residents and trained over 1400 students in working in multi-disciplinary teams over 10 years to directly deliver health care services.
  • Innovation Gateway’s Commercialization Fund supported 64 proof of concept projects generating 10 start-ups, almost $20 million in follow-up funding and 15 executed licenses.
  • The Community Health Partnership Fund invested in partners to deliver social determinants of health results such as building 90 homes for unhoused residents and increasing the number of community health workers.
  • The Entrepreneurship Academy, a partnership among the da Vinci Center for Innovation, Activation Capital and the Jackson Ward Collective trained 150 first generation college students and 50 local entrepreneurs.
  • The Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation supported 71 faculty across 22 schools forming 66 community partnerships that have been awarded 6.1 million in grants to meet community needs.

VCU’s extensive footprint can also create misaligned expectations from stakeholders who experience only part of the university, or reveal different values and perspectives. For example, a project hailed as a catalyst for a dynamic downtown was seen by others as gentrification, blind to community consequences. Similarly, a plethora of projects may receive cheers from some but tagged as fragmented and lacking a mission or clear focus by others.

In response we recognized three areas for improvement: 1) more equitable economic development; 2) an improved community engagement process; and 3) stronger communications with a more cohesive narrative describing VCU’s vision and priorities.

We were also very fortunate in the timing of our IEP process. It occurred during the recalibration of our strategic plan. The data we gathered and the connections we made to support IEP fed right into that process.

Thanks for reading the VCU story. Uncommon. Unlimited. Unstoppable.

  • IEP
  • Uncategorized

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