Spring 2021 Commencement Honorees

Student Commencement Speaker

2021 Spring Commencement Student Speaker [View Image]Brandee Branche

Brandee Branche grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, and graduated from Duke University in 2014, where she earned a B.A. in international comparative studies with a concentration in European studies and a minor in chemistry. Before being accepted into the VCU School of Medicine, Branche spent several years working in various areas of health care, where she maintained an interest in narrowing health disparities. At VCU, she is a member of the International/Inner City/Rural Preceptorship program committed to helping underserved populations in medicine. She has continued to refine her leadership skills as a member of the Student Council for an Inclusive Environment ambassador cohort and a part-time Practice of Clinical Medicine teacher’s assistant. She enjoys volunteering in the Richmond community during her free time, in addition to maintaining her research engagements in urology. After graduation, Branche plans to attend the University of Michigan for residency in urologic surgery and will be the first to complete the new surgeon-scientist track.


2021 Board of Visitors Awardees

BOV Awardee - Grace Atkinson [View Image]Grace Atkinson

Grace Atkinson is an honors student majoring in nursing. Described admirably for her intellect, inquisitiveness, time management skills, compassion and dedication, Atkinson has used these qualities to carve out a full experience at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has taken advantage of myriad opportunities here to immerse herself in not only the university community, but also the larger Richmond community. She has participated in three of VCU’s living-learning programs, and was selected to be a VCU School of Nursing Research Undergraduate fellow. These opportunities have been integral in forming meaningful relationships across campus and within the community, as well as helping to foster her leadership skills. With long-held passions for community service and health care advocacy, Atkinson has provided comforting care to the patients under her watch and participated in the VCU da Vinci Center’s Healthcare Innovation Sprint, where she is now working with a team in order to develop a resource to help improve mental health for health care workers. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Atkinson plans to pursue a career as a psychiatric nurse practitioner.



Board of Visitors Awardee - Oscar Kemp [View Image]Oscar Kemp 

Oscar Kemp is a sophomore majoring in social work with a minor in public management. Kemp first arrived on campus during the summer of 2019 as a VCU Summer Scholar, completing some of his courses early. Since then, he has committed his time to uplifting those around him and the greater VCU community. Kemp has held numerous leadership positions, including but not limited to serving as Presidential Student Ambassador for the VCU Office of the President, fellow for the VCU School of Social Work and secretary of the Association of Black Social Workers at VCU. Kemp was awarded the 2021 Black History in the Making Award by the VCU Department of African American Studies, in addition to scholarships from the VCU School of Social Work and VCU Business Services. With a keen interest in public housing, Kemp plans to pursue a career in public policy, administration and planning. 




Board of Visitors Awardee - Anirban Mahanty [View Image]Anirban Mahanty

Anirban Mahanty is a junior majoring in biology in the VCU College of Humanities and Sciences. Mahanty is passionate about student advocacy and works as the VCU representative for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, SCHEV Student Advisory Council co-chair and REAL Student Advisory Board chair representing students’ needs both institutionally and across the commonwealth. Anirban was involved in the founding of the Medical Scientist Training Club to support underrepresented undergraduates interested in pursuing an MD-PhD, after recognizing this gap in diversity and the physician-scientist training pipeline. 

Equally passionate about community advocacy, he serves as president of the Center for Health and Human Rights, which organizes undergraduate volunteering around community needs, and co-founded VCU PRIME to support the success of underrepresented students interested in health care, in response to the harsh inequities highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mahanty leverages all of his experiences to expand his knowledge and continue to lead and serve in meaningful ways. A top student driven to bridge the gap between medicine and research, he currently conducts neurodevelopment research under Greg Walsh, Ph.D., and is interested in pursuing an M.D.-Ph.D. to become a surgeon-scientist.


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