Virginia Commonwealth University was officially established through the merger of the Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) and Medical College of Virginia in 1968. The Medical College of Virginia (MCV) was created in 1868 as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney College, and then became independent in 1854. The Richmond Professional Institute opened in 1917 on what is now VCU’s main campus, Monroe Park. It was initially a division of the College of William and Mary.
RPI became an independent institution in 1962. In 1968 MCV and the Monroe Park Campus came together to become Virginia Commonwealth University as it is known today. By 2006 VCU became the most populated university in Virginia.
A relatively newer school, much of VCU’s history has centered on expansion. In 2001 the school opened the Lois E. and Eugene P. Trani Life Sciences Building, as part of the school’s commitment to life sciences as an avenue of future expansion. Most construction has been along the Broad Street corridor, including RAMZ Hall, the Shafer Court Dining Center and the University Student Commons, all of which opened in 2004.
VCU is split into two campuses, Monroe Park and the Medical College of Virginia, in downtown Richmond, Virginia.
The Monroe Park campus, which has only been known as such since 2004, has most of the academic programs that the university offers. Monroe Park is on the eastern end of the historic fan district, and its buildings are bounded by Cary Street to the south and Broad Street to the north. The campus is divided into ten zones, named after the main building in each region. For instance the University Student Commons Region contains the University Commons but also has the VCU Dance Center, Sitterding House and Oliver Hall.
Students hang out at the University Commons, which features an outdoor plaza and is a popular place for debates and concerts. For some quieter downtime, students head to the James Branch Cabell Library. There is a Starbucks on the first floor.
The Medical College of Virginia is home to the Health Sciences Division, including the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Allied Health, Nursing, Public Health, and the MCV Hospitals. The MCV campus is adjacent to Richmond’s business and financial districts near the Capitol. Like its sister campus, MCV’s buildings are vastly different from one another in architectural style. The campus is split into four regions generally bounded by Broad Street to the south and Duval Street to the north.
Virginia Commonwealth University is located in downtown Richmond, VA. The Monroe Park campus is adjacent to the historic fan district while the Medical College is near the financial district and Capitol. Both campuses are integral parts of the city and students and locals have an essentially symbiotic relationship. Indeed, locals rely on Medical College facilities for their health and medical needs.
As the seat of government of the State of Virginia, Richmond is a small yet bustling city with the charm and variety to keep students engaged and entertained. East and toward downtown from the Monroe Park campus are Shockoe Slip and Shockoe Bottom, neighborhoods frequented by VCU students for their restaurants and nightlife. The Bottom is an historic area featuring the 17th Street Farmers Market and Edgar Allen Poe Museum.
South of the main campus is Oregon Hill, with the James River and Hollywood Cemetery nearby. Carytown lies to the west of the VCU campus and offers nine blocks of locally-owned boutiques, fine restaurants and provides quality strolling. Located about a mile from campus, Belle Isle is on the other side of the James River and serves as a substitute to the beach for students, who go there to tan, read, and swim in the river.
In the fall of 2009, the 2nd Annual Richmond Folk Festival will be held in downtown Richmond. Over 180,000 travel to Richmond's downtown, and riverfront area to enjoy a array of dance, food, music, crafts, storytelling, and art.
Homecoming in the winter is one of VCU’s time-honored traditions. It includes a basketball game, usually against Old Dominion, parades, parties, talent shows, pep rallies, and the Chill N’ Grill Tailgating Party. Different organizations rent spaces in one of VCU’s many parking lots and tailgate all day before the big game.
The Fall Block/Step Show is the most anticipated step show of the year. It showcases the many months of practice that Greek members log so they can represent their fraternity or sorority with pride. This event is held every fall and one sorority and one fraternity are chosen as the winners.
VCU celebrates its diverse student body every spring with the Intercultural Festival. Thousands of Richmond locals come out to the Monroe Park campus to take in performances, exhibits, VCU student art shows, international cuisine from area restaurants, fashion shows, parades, dance lessons, and children’s activities.
Hunter Campbell “Patch” Adams (1973) is an American medical doctor, social activist, citizen diplomat, and author.
Andrea Detwiler (1991) is an Emmy Award-winning costume designer for Sesame Street.
Jason Butler Harner (1992) is a film and theater actor who has had roles on Law & Order, in The Good Shepherd, and many more.
Charles Brandon Inge (1998) is a professional baseball player for the Detroit Tigers.
Sean Marshall (2003) is a professional baseball player for the Chicago Cubs.
The VCU Rams are an NCAA Division I team and compete in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). They currently sponsor sixteen varsity teams. VCU students are avid supporters of their athletic teams, namely men’s basketball. The team has had the most Division I wins in Virginia since 2003. In 2004 they defeated George Mason to claim the CAA championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as the #13 seed. They lost in the first round to Wake Forest.
women’s basketball - In 2009, VCU competed in their first ever NCAA tournament, but lost in the first round to Rutgers University.
men’s basketball - In 2007, VCU defeated George Mason to claim the CAA Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as the #11 seed in the west region. They won the first round against the Duke Blue Devils, but were eliminated the second round by the Pittsburgh Panthers. In 2009, VCU once again defeated their rivals George Mason to claim a CAA Championship and dance in the NCAA tournament as a #11 seed in the East Region.
women’s volleyball - In 2005 they won the CAA tournament and went on to the NCAA tournament. In 2008 they placed second in conference and lost in the second round of the CAA Tournament. This year (2009) they were picked to get 2nd in conference in the preseason coaches’ poll and they are now 85th in the nation after a preseason record of 10-5.
men’s track and field - has had success as well, claiming the 2006 CAA Conference Championship and finishing second the previous two years.
soccer - Both varsity soccer programs have also won CAA championships and have appeared in championship games. In 2004 the men’s soccer team went to the quarterfinals where they were defeated by the UCSB Gauchos.
In addition to varsity teams, VCU has a number of club sports such as rugby, lacrosse, baseball, basketball and ice hockey. Fans also attend club games.
A 2008 New York Times article called into question VCU’s research integrity when they got hold of a contract VCU signed with Philip Morris. The contract prohibits VCU researchers from publishing findings without Philip Morris approval.
VCU’s Brandcenter was the first graduate program in marketing communications to combine business-oriented brand management and strategic tracks with a creative program for art directors and writers in an agency setting. Business Week named it one of the sixty best design business schools in the world in 2007.
Virginia Commonwealth University offers three types of residence halls – communal, suite-style, and apartments.
With special reporting by Iva Radman ’09:
VCU has three communal living dorms that are reserved for freshmen. The Johnson, Rhoads, and Cabaniss Halls are mostly all double rooms with one shared bathroom per floor. Brandt Hall and Gladding Residence Center II and III feature suite-style living with a private bathroom, and also house underclassmen.
Apartment-style housing is reserved for upperclassmen with two- and four-bedroom apartments available for nine- or twelve-month contracts, depending on the building. The VCU-owned apartment buildings are Broad & Belvidere, Ackell Residence Center, RAMZ Hall, Monroe Park Addition (not officially named—under construction), and Gladding Residence Center Phase I. These units have kitchens, and are not required to purchase meal plans if they live in them.