New living-learning launched this fall, applications open for next year

Two student dorms, West Grace North and West Grace South, face each other on Grace Street. The buildings used to house students in the VCU Globe and VCU ASPiRE programs, respectively. Photo by Jay Stonefield

Varsha Vasudevan, Contributing Writer

The newest student living-learning program, VCU Transform, was launched this fall. VCU Transform focuses on “leadership potential” and “career readiness” for its members, university spokesperson Matt Lovisa stated in an email.

The three former living-learning programs, VCU ASPiRE, VCU LEAD and VCU Globe, have merged into this single new LLP, according to the VCU Division of Student Affairs. The reason for merging the programs was to create a single program with a common mission, according to Director of VCU Transform James Gahagan. Gahagan became director of the LEAD LLP in 2015 and was hired as director of Transform in 2021.

There’s an interconnection between the themes of the LLPs,” Gahagan said. “We want to refine those themes and also help students with deep experiential learning.”

The program aims to assist students in pursuing career and research opportunities, according to Lovisa. The LLP has already welcomed 43 students in the fall and plans to welcome 150 to 400 students in the fall of 2022, Lovisa stated in an email

The VCU Division of Student Affairs website states that in order to stay in the VCU Transform program, students must be enrolled at VCU for at least two years, register for a nine to 12 credit curriculum, maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA and also stay in West Grace North Residence Hall.

A total of 60 “beyond-the-classroom” hours must be completed, for activities such as connecting with local Richmond leaders or otherwise serving the greater Richmond community. Members must also complete a “pathway experience,” which may be entrepreneurship, community service, peer leadership, research, an internship or studying abroad, and construct and submit an ePortfolio.

“The intent is to keep the best elements of the former programs and include new elements that will enhance the student experience,” Lovisa stated. “The essence of the LLPs will be retained: living, learning and engaging together.”

The Student Affairs Blog states that all expenses for VCU Transform come from the cost of on-campus housing in Grace and Broad Residence Center and the fees for the courses necessary to meet the required academic credits. There is no payment for the program itself.

Students in the VCU Transform living-learning program are required to live on campus while in the program. Photo by Jay Stonefield

Junior psychology major Taquoia Kilby has been in the Globe program since the second semester of her freshman year, and said in an interview that she was concerned about not being able to graduate from the program due to the merging of the programs.

“Since the communities are merging, a lot of the programs like Globe are trying to speed up the graduation process by telling students to double up on Globe courses, and if we don’t, then there’s a possibility that we may not graduate from the program,” Kilby said. “To think that I may not be able to graduate from the program because they went to merge programs is very annoying.” 

Gahagan said that the committees for each program are working to ensure that students will be able to complete the programs by providing access to more courses and opportunities in the program that would fulfill their credit requirements.

A lot of the lectures or some of the programmatic events that we’re doing in Transform, we’re also offering to Globe and ASPiRE and LEAD students as well to make sure that they finish,” Gahagan said. “We’re also providing opportunities like, you know, different kinds of service opportunities and leadership opportunities so that they can get their co-curricular hours.” 

The Division of Student Affairs website states that students who are currently enrolled in VCU ASPiRE, VCU LEAD or VCU Globe may complete their certificate and program as it had been initially outlined. However, those applying in the fall 2021 cohort will follow a new curriculum that is unique to VCU Transform. 

Since the former programs began off campus for most students, due to COVID-19, students in those programs are given the flexibility to opt in or out of on-campus housing, according to Gahagan. However, because VCU Transform was launched this fall, VCU Transform students are required to live on campus. 

According to the Student Affairs Blog, students currently participating in the former living-learning programs moved to Grace and Broad Residence Center on Aug. 1. The spaces that were occupied by VCU ASPiRE and VCU Globe have been returned for other upperclassman housing. 

The Division of Student Affairs website states that VCU Transform provides apartment-style housing, early registration for classes and lectures and trips offered only to Transform members.

Kilby stated in an interview that she doesn’t prefer the merging of the programs and that they would be more effective as separate programs.  

Any undergraduate student with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA and at least two years remaining at VCU is eligible to apply for VCU Transform. Applications opened on Oct. 11 and will close on Feb. 22, 2022. The application can be accessed on the Division of Student Affairs website.

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