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VCU Joins Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort

The Division of Community Engagement and the Office of Planning and Decision Support have led the university in joining the Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort.

The mission of the cohort is to apply long-term, place-based economic power, in combination with human and intellectual resources, to better the welfare of surrounding communities over time, with a particular focus on communities of moderate and limited incomes.

"Research universities—and especially those that are urban located—have a long history focused on innovation and development for their region," said VCU President Michael Rao. "The mission of a research university is more important than ever in the context of an economy that is built on innovation and ideas. A 21st century research university has to be relevant to the people it serves, including the community of which it is a part. "

This effort is being led by Valerie Holton, director of community-engaged research in the Division of Community Engagement and Shannon Cribbs, director of planning and organizational excellence in the office of Planning and Decision Support.

"In many ways, this initiative tells the story of the partnerships that exist among the VCU and Richmond communities," Cribbs said. "Without a doubt, VCU and the the Richmond community serve each other in substantive and meaningful ways. The key to this initiative is that it allows us to leverage our collective assets in making Richmond an even better place to grow, live and work."

Participating institutions in addition to VCU are Buffalo State, Cleveland State University, Drexel University, Rutgers University—Newark, the University of Memphis and the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Jennifer Jettner, research associate in the Division of Community Engagement, said the cohort is really about helping the university answer the question, "How can VCU be a good neighbor, particularly to the Richmond community?"  

"This opportunity recognizes VCU's long-standing role in our region and our dedication to improving the health and well-being of our community," Holton said. 

Coordinated by The Democracy Collaborative, with technical assistance from PolicyLink and financial support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort was launched in the fall of 2014, with benchmarking of an initial set of measures begun in the fall of 2015. The group expects to complete an initial benchmarking round by June 2016. The cohort will share lessons learned during the data collections effort and make recommendations.

For more information, contact Jettner at