VCU Inauguration 2011

Michael Rao, President, Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University’s place as the state’s premier urban, public research university has strengthened under the leadership of Michael Rao, Ph.D., who, in challenging times, is piloting strategic efforts focused on academic quality, student success and research that fosters regional economic development and improves lives.

As president of VCU and the VCU Health System, Rao leads a national research university with a leading academic medical center that, with more than 18,600 employees, is the largest employer in the Richmond area and the sixth largest in Virginia. VCU’s annual economic impact in the state is estimated at $3.6 billion and more than 43,000 jobs. VCU’s community impact, economic and cultural, was particularly evident during the Rams’ run to the Final Four in the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, which brought out an unparalleled display of pride from both the VCU community and the greater Richmond area.

Under his guidance, VCU has been designated in the top research category by the Carnegie Foundation, which, in combination with its community engaged distinction, makes VCU one of only 28 public universities in the country with an academic medical center to achieve this prestigious dual distinction.

Launched by Rao in 2011, the university’s strategic plan, Quest for Distinction, sets priorities of academic excellence, research that enhances the quality of life, human health and well-being, and contributing to the economic vitality and cultural richness of the community. Specific initiatives include the continued recruitment of high-quality faculty and resource development aimed at enhancing the overall student experience.

Toward that end, Rao is steering infrastructure improvements to bolster priority initiatives, such as the construction of a new medical education center for VCU’s School of Medicine that will support curriculum innovation across the spectrum of medical education. Also under construction are undergraduate living/learning residential villages focused on community engagement and international themes, and a state-of-the-art academic building that will be a technology showcase and home to VCU’s nationally ranked School of Social Work and its Center for Teaching Excellence.

In addition, Rao recently announced plans for the VCU Institute of Contemporary Art, which will be a signature building for the VCU School of Arts — the nation’s top-ranked public graduate arts program. The cutting-edge facility will represent the best in international contemporary architecture and art, and serve as a valuable community resource for the city of Richmond.

Under Rao’s leadership, VCU’s place among national research universities continues to rise, with 28 graduate and first-professional programs ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

In his capacity as president of the VCU Health System, Rao heads one of the nation’s most comprehensive academic health centers, which is ranked among the best hospitals in the country as well as the No. 1 hospital in the Richmond-metro area by U.S. News & World Report.

Rao assumed the presidency of VCU and the VCU Health System in July 2009 after serving as president of Central Michigan University for nine years. Prior to his tenure as one of the longest serving presidents in Michigan, Rao led two other institutions where he helped establish effective academic and physical master plans.

Rao holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida and a Ph.D. from the University of Florida.