VCU's Relevant, Experiential and Applied Learning initiative passed another major milestone as the REAL Council, the standing committee that will fulfill the role of its advisory board and curriculum committee, convened for the first time on Aug. 16. The council, which met for a three-hour kickoff in Cabell Library's Room 250, will carry on the work of the REAL Task Force, which met weekly during the 2018-19 academic year.
"Forming this council is a landmark for REAL, and something that it necessary for its progress," Erin Webster Garrett, the assistant vice provost for REAL, said. "One of the first things I realized in this job was that if REAL was going to be impactful and sustainable, we needed to have a permanent committee in place governing it. So it's very exciting to have that now."
Currently, the REAL Council boasts 51 members, representing a diverse range of units across campus — from the academic schools/colleges to Student Affairs, Community Engagement and even the Virginia Community College System. All told, 37 different units and organizations are represented in the council's membership.
"The diversity of departments, programs and initiatives represented on the council is incredible," Webster Garrett said. "The council literally has representatives from almost every aspect of a student’s VCU experience, from registering for their first classes to returning for graduate experience or continuing education to becoming an engaged alumni. It really shows VCU's dedication to creating an environment where students — whether they are 18 or 54 — can hone their skills as socially conscious problem-solvers."
The REAL Council's work can be broadly categorized into two subcommittees: the Curriculum Subcommittee and the Outreach and Engagement Subcommittee.
Within those two subcommittees, three specialized work groups have been created to take a deeper dive into specific areas of focus.
Work groups within the Curriculum Subcommittee include curriculum development, co-curriculum development, and data and assessment, while groups within the Outreach and Engagement Subcommittee include faculty/staff outreach, student outreach, and community/industry outreach.
"There are many challenges that come with bringing an initiative as ambitious and wide-reaching as REAL to a student body as large and diverse as ours," Webster Garrett said. "It will take all of us working toward a common goal and shared vision to ensure that REAL fulfills its potential. But with a strong infrastructure, REAL can inform and support departments, programs and administrative units, and help them ensure equity and consistency in access to experiential learning activities for all of our students."