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Home > About > Where We Are > Newsroom > VCCS, VCU Earn Mellon Foundation Grants to Create Next Generation Transfer Pathways for Arts and Humanities Students

VCCS, VCU Earn Mellon Foundation Grants to Create Next Generation Transfer Pathways for Arts and Humanities Students

June 6, 2018

RICHMOND —Virginia’s Community Colleges (VCCS) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) are working together to reduce barriers and make college transfer seamless for students who attend J. Sargeant Reynolds (JSRCC) or John Tyler (JTCC) community colleges and aspire to attend VCU. The collaboration between the VCCS and VCU to build new transfer models, for students majoring in arts and humanities, is being underwritten by grants awarded to the institutions by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The new transfer models, called the “Guided Pathways to Arts and Humanities” by VCCS and “Mapping Pathways to the Arts and Humanities” at VCU, will support four-year pathways in humanities and select arts disciplines between VCU and John Tyler Community College and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, and will accelerate baccalaureate degree completion and strengthen faculty collaborations between the partner institutions. Those students will follow guided pathways focused on courses offered at the community colleges that will be aligned with major maps of the full undergraduate experience at VCU, including curricular, co-curricular and experiential and applied learning opportunities. Faculty members from all the participating institutions will collaborate to design the shared courses and curricula. Students will also receive comprehensive transfer advising along the way.

“This is an exciting opportunity to build a smarter, more student-focused transfer blueprint that could then be applied to other programs and other institutions,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “Ideally, this process will build a college transfer experience that is closer to the expectations of our students, will result in the loss of fewer college credits along the way, and will help students seeking a bachelor’s degree reduce their debt burden. We couldn’t ask for better partners in this work than VCU and the Mellon Foundation.”

The first year of the three-year, grant funded effort will focus on evaluation and planning. The first cohort of students to participate in it will occur in 2019, and one of the key outcomes by the end of the grant period is to develop and implement dual admission policies and processes for interested and eligible students. In addition, a select group of Mellon Fellows identified by the community colleges would participate in undergraduate research and learning experiences beyond those available to today’s transfer students in preparation for their successful transition to VCU.

“The generous grants from The Mellon Foundation help make VCU’s mission to provide students with a high-quality undergraduate experience possible,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “I look forward to collaborating with my colleagues at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College and John Tyler Community College to develop a seamless transfer process that is easy to navigate and cost-efficient for students. Collectively, our goal is to ensure that students receive an education that will prepare them for their next step in life. I am confident we will succeed.”

The Mellon Foundation awarded $1.48 million to the VCCS, and $868,000 to VCU, to support the planning and execution of this new transfer model. The grants represent the first award the Mellon Foundation has made to either institution.

“As more than one-third of America’s 17.5 million undergraduates are enrolled in community colleges, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has sought to support innovative partnerships that provide new pathways for aspiring humanities students to obtain four-year degrees,” said Mariët Westermann, executive vice president for programs and research at the Mellon Foundation. “In addition to providing scholarly resources for community college faculty and students, collaborations of this sort also give university faculty and doctoral students insight into diversity and inclusion practices that are the hallmark of community college classrooms.”

The VCCS currently holds a guaranteed articulation agreement with VCU. Historically, approximately 75 students a year transfer from J. Sargeant Reynolds and John Tyler to VCU in the arts and humanities. This collaborative effort aims to increase the number of transfer students in the arts and humanities, but more importantly, to ensure that these students successfully compete with other degree-seeking students and prepare them for careers or graduate education.

All told, the VCCS holds formal, statewide transfer agreements with nearly three-dozen four-year universities, including VCU. In addition, Virginia’s 23 community colleges offer hundreds of local articulation agreements, and Virginia has a tuition grant in place to encourage transfer students to complete their associate degree before transitioning to a university.

The VCCS and VCU grants were awarded through The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Community College-Research University Partnerships, a special initiative of its program in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities. This initiative, which grew out of the Mellon Foundation’s 2014 strategic plan, aims to foster collaborations that can respond effectively to challenges across the system of higher education. The growing role of community colleges in that ecosystem, which has been promoted by a range of federal and state entities, is of great interest to the Mellon Foundation.

The Mellon Foundation’s initial grants in support of such collaborations in Cleveland, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Baltimore, New York City, and now Virginia, focus on partnerships between universities and community colleges that have strong humanities leadership and that share a commitment to successful humanities transfer. Given the enormous size of the community college sector and the wide variety of articulation agreements between two- and four-year institutions across the US, the Foundation has sought to identify areas of intervention that can gain scale and be replicated around the country.

About Virginia’s Community Colleges: Since 1966, Virginia’s Community Colleges have given everyone the opportunity to learn and develop the right skills so lives and communities are strengthened. By making higher education and workforce training available in every part of Virginia, we elevate all of Virginia. Together, Virginia’s Community Colleges serve approximately 252,000 students each year. For more, please visit

About VCU and VCU Health: Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 217 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Thirty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit and

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: The Mellon Foundation endeavors to strengthen, promote, and, where necessary, defend the contributions of the humanities and the arts to human flourishing and to the well-being of diverse and democratic societies. To this end, it supports exemplary institutions of higher education and culture as they renew and provide access to an invaluable heritage of ambitious, path-breaking work. The Foundation makes grants in five core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities; Arts and Cultural Heritage; Diversity; Scholarly Communications; and International Higher Education and Strategic Projects. For more, please visit