I’m excited to announce the beginning of the new school year for students at the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU. Especially for our new students, this marks the beginning of an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives.

As these students begin or continue their education, they are setting a path forward for successful careers and emerging leaders in public service. Each time I visit the campus, I enjoy the opportunity to speak with the students and learn about their goals and ambitions.

It’s also important to acknowledge the transformative leadership of Wilder School Dean Susan Gooden. As a world-class researcher and public policy expert, she brings decades of experience and understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing higher education today. In addition to improving the academic hands-on learning experiences for students, she has been extremely skillful in increasing the reputation of the Wilder School, as evidenced by the continuing rise in our national rankings from the U.S. News & Report.

Below is the welcome back message Dean Gooden shared this morning. It’s an excellent report of accomplishments and opportunities to look forward to in the coming year. Once again, welcome back and here’s to another outstanding year.

We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year, as the Wilder School continues to be ranked #1 among Schools of Public Affairs in the Commonwealth of Virginia and ranked in the top 15% nationally, at #35 in the 2023 U.S. News & World Report rankings. Since 2018, the Wilder School’s public affairs graduate school position has risen 21 spots and the 2023 distinctions mark the school’s highest rankings since its creation in 2004. Go Team Wilder!

A few impressive points of pride from last year include the Master’s of Urban and Regional Planning degree program receiving full, seven year accreditation by the Planning Accreditation Board; the recognition of Criminal Justice faculty member, Dr. Jay Albanese, with the Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), the highest honor for faculty members, recognizing superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service (and a Wilder School first!); Best Value Schools recently featured our Master’s in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness as one of the 2021 Best Master’s in Emergency Management Online programs in the country; and the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), the preeminent global network for academic advising, named Dr. Shajuana Isom-Payne as the recipient of the 2022 Outstanding Advocate for Academic Advising Award for Region 2.

The critical work of our Racial Equity Action Plan (REAP) continued, including one of the most tangible outcomes—a Wilder School book project, The Triple Pandemic: Implications for Racial Equity and Public Policy, which is in-press for publication and includes a foreword from our school’s namesake, Governor L. Douglas Wilder.

Our academic and center and institute faculty secured over $5 million in external funding during FY22, which is double that of last year’s record high. Our newest institute, the Research Institute for Social Equity (RISE) received $3 million in funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia which will significantly expand its role in promoting social justice research, academic scholarship and public engagement under the leadership of inaugural RISE director, Dr. Nakeina Douglas-Glenn.

Our Excellence in Virginia Government Awards (EVGA) luncheon made a phenomenal in-person return in April 2022, with more than 250 attendees as we celebrated and recognized Virginia public servants who have made exceptional contributions to the practice of government and improving the livelihood of our communities.

The Wilder School’s Commonwealth Poll, a CNN recognized poll, continues to lead the way in providing clear and accurate polling of the opinions of Virginia’s citizens and residents on an array of public policy issues, including the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election.

Our signature fall event, the Wilder Symposium will be held in person on Monday, September 19 from 6:00-7:30 p.m. in the Singleton Center.  Racism, Health, and Accountability with keynote speaker Governor L. Douglas Wilder, will discuss the complex ethical issues exposed during the case of Bruce Tucker, a Black man, whose heart was transplanted into a white businessman without the family’s consent at MCV in 1968.  Wilder filed a lawsuit, representing Tucker’s family on their quest for justice and accountability and will trace the role of institutionalized racism to today’s continuing battle for healthcare equity and access.

Hosted by the Wilder School and University College, this symposium is part of a larger series based on the 2022-2023 VCU Common Book, The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South by Chip Jones. The book follows a long legacy of mistreatment of African Americans for unethical medical advancement in the segregated south.

The 2022-23 academic year promises to be filled with many opportunities and new accomplishments as we lead the way in public service excellence through our teaching, research and service.  Thanks to each of you for your energetic commitment to the Wilder School! Let’s make it another great year!

Stay tuned.

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