View this email in your browser

REAL Update for January 2020 

The REAL Update is a semi-monthly newsletter dedicated to sharing news and information related to VCU's REAL initiative and our partners in experiential learning at VCU.  If you would like to host a REAL Takeover and have your program showcased, please fill out our short form or contact

Welcome 2020!

Erin Webster Garrett, Ph.D., 
Assistant Vice Provost

Dear REAL Colleagues and friends,

I vividly remember sitting in Mr. Read's 3rd grade classroom running math exercises, when all of a sudden he turned to us and said, "Hey! I know!  Let's imagine what life will be like in 2020. How old will you be and what will you be doing?"  At the time I quipped, "old and walking with a cane," thinking I was being funny. Then Mr. Read said, "do the math, Erin," and when I finished I thought, "Geez.  I really will be old."  Ah, the arrogance of 8 year olds.  Now I know that, for me, 2020 will be about renewal, rejuvenation, and reflection. Students are back, we've enjoyed moments of spring in January, and there is so much great and important work to do. But before we get busy, I also want to take a moment to celebrate just a few of the many things we have accomplished with REAL so far this academic year.  After all, a healthy dose of reflection makes for a more thoughtful path forward! 

So, without further ado, I hope you'll enjoy this edition of the REAL Update with its brief recap of Fall 2019 and preview of the signature activities planned for Spring 2020. I hope you will also take time to be introduced to a few new REAL faces--the talented and dynamic team of VCU students who are working and volunteering with the REAL office this academic year to bring REAL initiatives to the campus at large.

Many thanks for all you do everyday to make VCU such a remarkable place to learn and work, and best wishes for a great start to 2020!


Fall 2019 Spotlight


REAL Council

The VCU REAL Council convened for the first time on August 16, 2019.  A diverse collective of 50 + members, the Council includes faculty, staff, and students and is broken into six Work Groups charged with developing recommendations and supporting key initiatives related to REAL's implementation. As a full Council, the Work Groups came together in October and again in December to provide progress reports and solicit input from one another. The full Council will convene again in February and May 2020.  Council meetings are open to the public and you are welcome to attend (see below for dates, times and locations). 

The faculty, staff and students of the Council are the true power behind REAL. All things seem possible because of their generous gifts of time, talent, and expertise.  If you have an opportunity, take a Council member or two to lunch and learn more about their work.  You'll be impressed, of that I have no doubt.

As a consequence of the REAL Council's indefatigable work, we have many things to be proud of but there are two that I think you will be especially interested in: the REAL Challenge Grants (more below) and the initial build out of the Student Opportunity Center (SOC) platform.

Student Opportunity Center

Student Opportunity Center, SOC for short, seeks to bring together in one easy-to-use platform all the experiential learning opportunities that are currently accessible to students only through searching dozens of separate databases and platforms used throughout VCU. Our goal in piloting the platform is to directly respond to student feedback that they want to go to one place to find opportunities and they want the process for finding the right opportunity demystified. 

SOC was built by students for students, and provides a search tool similar to but for experiential learning.  The beauty of SOC is that it does not replace or compete with any existing systems departments or units might have in place:  people can and should keep doing the great things they are already doing. In fact, SOC can't work without the ongoing use of  platforms like HandShake, PeopleGrove, and CampusGroups.  What SOC does bring to the party is the ability to bring all those opportunities into one place so a student has a one-stop-shop for finding that campus job, volunteer opportunity, publishing opportunity, research mentor, or scholarship that can make the difference between a good VCU experience  and a transformative one.  

Formal piloting of the platform is underway this spring with students and faculty in Honors and School of Pharmacy, and additional pilot programs will be launched soon.  (Please let me know if you'd like to be a part of the pilot study.) However, the platform is already accessible to VCU faculty, staff and students using your VCU credentials.  Just go to and create your account using your VCU email and password.  

Spring 2020: RFPs and upcoming events

REAL Challenge Grants:  Applications are being accepted! 
Deadline: 5 p.m. March 2, 2020. 
Information Session: 
9:30-10:45 AM Thursday January 30th, ALC 4100.  RSVP
Link to application:  REAL Challenge Grant Application   
The REAL Challenge Grant fund will support costs associated with furthering the reach or deepening the impact of experiential learning initiatives for your students. It is anticipated that funding awards will range from $1,500 to $8,000. For more information, including how to apply, please visit our REAL Challenge Grants webpage or contact We look forward to receiving your wonderful applications for the REAL Challenge Grants!

REAL Poster Session and Collaboratory:  Proposals are being accepted!
Deadline: 5 p.m. March 6, 2020
Workshop:  2 p.m. March 2, 2020, in ALC 4100   RSVP
Link to Proposal FormREAL Poster Session and Collaboratory    
The REAL Council, Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry, Center for Community Engagement and Impact, and Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence are delighted to announce that the 2nd annual REAL Poster Showcase and Collaboratory will be held on April 6, from 9 a.m. to noon, at the Institute for Contemporary Art. The poster session plays an important role in REAL’s mission to facilitate communication and collaboration across the institution, and will highlight and celebrate outstanding experiential learning activities happening at VCU.  

REAL Council (Full) Meeting Schedule

  • February 19, 2020 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., Cabell 303
  • May 13, 2020 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., Cabell 250 

To find out about the work of one or more of the Council Work Groups, please contact

Get REAL:  Course Classification Workshops
Come learn everything you wanted to know about having your course or co-curricular included in the REAL universe, and provide feedback on the application process!  

  • March 25, 2020 12 p.m. - 1 p.m., ALC 4100 RSVP 
  • April 16, 2020 10 a.m. - 11 a.m., ALC 4100  RSVP

REAL Poster Showcase and Collaboratory:  Save the date!

In our own voice

REAL's student workers and volunteers

Office Staff

Alexis Donaldson

REAL Office Support Specialist

Hi there! My name is Alexis Donaldson. I am currently a full-time Master of Public Health student and work part time as the REAL General Support Specialist. I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work (BASW) from the University of Pittsburgh and spent the last three years working in adventure-based counseling and case management with veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.

What REAL means to me

Of the experiential learning opportunities I had during my undergraduate degree, my field placement, study abroad, and mentorship shared with faculty played pivotal roles in how I view and take on the world. Upon graduation, I felt ready for employment thanks to my education, experiences, and the ability to articulate their impact. This is why I’m passionate about the REAL initiative and being a part of this team! 

Justin Mapp

Student Engagement Coordinator and RAM Scholar

What’s up VCU students and faculty! My name is Justin Mapp. I’m from Norfolk, Virginia and I graduated from the International Baccalaureate program at Granby High School. I’m currently a freshman student fulfilling my Federal Work Study as a REAL Student Engagement Coordinator. In this position, I am involved meeting/interviewing students, document management and generally collaborating with the other members of the REAL team. My most interesting set of tasks so far deal with the Student Opportunity Center (SOC), which is a vast network of experiential opportunities that will be available to all VCU students in the near future. As far as my major, I am undeclared yet continuing to explore various resources available to me.

What REAL means to me

In addition to my collection of various work and volunteer experiences, the most meaningful experiential learning experience in my life would definitely be the development of my musicianship. As a whole, music revealed to me a grander purpose in my life path to communicate ideas and emotions in a way that other (artistic) mediums cannot. I have found that it is essential for me as an individual to have a reliable emotional outlet/mental stimulus that I can find many different ways to interact with.  In spite of the influential role that music plays in my life, there are still plenty of other things in life that consistently pique my interest. 

I am glad to be a part of the REAL team, as my position will allow me to continue to explore my other interests, form connections with interesting people and become involved in more experiential learning opportunities that will enrich my life. - Justin 

Maame Owusu 

Student Office Assistant and RAM Scholar

Hello everyone! My name is Maame Owusu. I am currently studying Health Science with a concentration in Exercise Science and a minor in General Business. I also work at the REAL office as a RAMscholar. I am originally from West Africa, Ghana and moved to the United States when I was 12 years old. In my spare time I enjoy reading and exercising!  I completed my Globe Certificate in 2019. 

Student Volunteers

Courtney Latourrette

REAL Student Volunteer and RAM Scholar

Hello! My name is Courtney Latourrette and I am a senior studying International Studies with a concentration in Social Justice. I am a volunteer with the REAL Program working with the RAM Scholars and Dr. Erin to determine how REAL can further students’ higher education experiences! 

What REAL means to me

I participated in the VCU ASPiRE LLP Program from 2017 - 2019. ASPiRE is a 2-year living learning community focused on community engagement where participants complete 100 hours of service. I actually found out about REAL through a town hall meeting held at ASPiRE! Experiential learning opportunities through ASPiRE changed my college career and I am passionate about helping other students have these experiences, as well! 


Kayla McLean

REAL Student Volunteer and RAM Scholar 

Hi! My name is Kayla McLean, I am a junior currently studying Psychology. Born and raised in the Tidewater area, I  came to college with a passion for science and found my niche in researching over the past summer.  I have been a VCU GREAT Fellow since May 2019.  VCU GREAT is an NIH-funded behavioral sciences research training program, co-sponsored by the department of Psychology, Spit 4 Science, and the Office of Undergraduate Research and Creative Inquiry. VCU has a lot of hidden treasures and opportunities to help you find a way to apply your degree, so, students, don’t be afraid to start searching.  Also, if I could give one piece of advice, it would be to make sure you are taking care of yourself, inside and out. 

Do you know of a professional meeting or workshop that might be of interest to the REAL community?  Let us know!  We are happy to send out notifications through our REAL listserv! 

Need more space than that?  Sign up to do a REAL Takeover!  

Copyright © 2020 VCU REAL, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp