Monthly Archives: February 2012

Rebecca Morrissette: A Glimspe of Hope

On the surface of her charming and timid persona, it’s easy to see the sincerity and courage that lies inside. Her modesty and willingness to succeed is something to be envied and emulated, and the strength that she’s possessed to keep moving forward through great adversity is something inspiring.
For junior forensics major, Rebecca Morrissette, life has been a spiral of extreme ups and downs, and ultimately a reflection of the type of person that she’s molded into today. By the time she entered high school, Morrissette, began noticing a sharp, uncomfortable pain in her knees that forced her to seek orthopedic assistance. On the verge of trying out for her high school basketball team in Chester, VA, she and her family sought the medical attention of one of the best orthopedic doctor’s in Virginia. To her despair and astonishment, she was diagnosed with Osgood- Schlatter’s disease, which caused inflammation, pain, and swelling of the bone and cartilage of the shin. An x-ray revealed a patellar dislocation of her knee, a condition in which the patella is unable to support ligaments and tendons surrounding the knee, and causes extreme discomfort. Although these injuries are common for female athletes, the orthopedic surgeon recommended a large surgical procedure to repair the knee with screws and other mechanical incisions. Unfortunately, this meant that Morrissette’s playing career would be over and her dream of playing college basketball diminished.
“Sports were my life. I tried to focus and take my mind off of this terrible news, but athletics is all I really knew at that point. I tried to focus my time on school, but it was really difficult. I felt disappointed, I cried, and felt a lot of loneliness for a long period after the diagnosis,” said Morrissette.
At age 10, Morrissette hit an extreme growth spurt that would later inhibit her ability to play sports, and grew an astounding foot and a half over the course of a year. Having a deep love for the game of basketball, Morrissette saw this rapid growth as a blessing for her sports career and embraced the change. From age six and on, she had been a part of a number of recreational basketball teams and was even selected to play in a special AAU league for gifted players. It seemed as though she had the talent and capacity to develop into a great player and hoped to use her gift as a way to get to college. Throughout her life, her father, Doug Morrissette, had been a shining symbol of encouragement and always pushed her to be the best athlete and individual that she could be. Once the realization was met that she would not be playing basketball anymore, her family and friends offered her amazing support and encouraged her to keep moving forward and battle through the unfavorable situation that she was in.
“My family showed me a lot of support during these tough times. My dad seemed to take it as hard as I did. As for my friends, they showed support by telling me that there were other ways to succeed and be happy. Everyone definitely provided me with fuel and courage to seek other passions,” explained Morrissette.
Looking towards the future, she used her love for music and science as an outlet to guide herself towards a new beginning and to fulfill a deep void that was so abruptly pushed onto her. Using the vast support system around her as inspiration, she began taking trumpet lessons and joined the marching band at Thomas Dale High School. As time moved forward, her wounds from years of agonizing pain and numerous surgeries now seemed obsolete and a clear vision of her future was put into perspective. She practiced religiously and developed into one of the most talented brass instrument player’s at her school. When she came to VCU in the Fall of 2009, Morrissette knew that she wanted to keep playing music, but still yearned to be a part of the athletic scene that she so deeply missed. As a result, she joined the VCU pep band and began playing fight songs for the VCU basketball teams. It offered her a chance to be around basketball while still embracing her passion for music.
“It worked out really well as an alternative to playing sports. Going to the NCAA tournament was awesome and being around basketball was still really important to me. I met all my VCU friends there and it’s just a huge support system that’s allowed me to be a part of something bigger than myself,” she said.
Seeing the smiles in the crowd from her family and friends who often come out to cheer her on, Morrissette now understands that life is filled with obstacles and how one deals with adversity really shows the true character of that person. She feels no need to dwell on the past and instead looks towards her future success by concentrating on a grueling Forensics Program, juggling a part-time job, and playing music in the pep band. Even through years of battling her own uncertainties, Morrissette still remains positive and continues to keep a smile on her face. Her story is one of triumph, adversity, and perseverance and shows that no matter what challenges we face, there is always a way to realize our dreams.


Michael Schuster’s About Me Page

My name is Michael Schuster and I am currently a Junior at Virginia Commnwealth University. I am 21 years old and study Broadcast Journalism within the Department of Mass Communications here at VCU. In my leisure time, I enjoy reading, snowboarding, playing guitar, writing, and surfing. I’m from Falls Church, Virginia and currently live in the Fan District of Richmond, VA. I hope to cover sports in the near future and am currently writing for the “Around the Horns” sports blog at VCU alongside the Director of Creative Content for VCU Sports, Chris Kowalczyk.

Giants slide past Rams; improve to 1-1

A roaring crowd exploded with electrifying enthusiasm at Giants Stadium Monday night, as their boys in blue rolled past the St. Louis Rams 28-16 to improve their record to 1-1 on the year.

Monday was the first time these two NFC foes have met since September of 2008, when the Giants tromped the Rams 41-to-13 in St. Louis. Furthermore, it is the first time the two have met at Giants Stadium since 2005, which again saw a New York victory and yet another reason why Rams QB Sam Bradford and company looked to redeem themselves and get their first win of the 2011 season. The Giants have suffered numerous injuries to key players during training camp and pre-season, resulting in the absence of pro bowl defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee), middle linebacker Jonathan Goff (torn ACL), and first round Nebraska standout cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) to name a few on Monday night. Similarly, St. Louis was without the services of pro bowl sensation running back, Steven Jackson.

Quarterback Eli Manning and his offensive unit started off with the ball, moving effectively on the ground with key contributions from the lighting and thunder combination of running back’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. Early in the first, it was apparent that the Giants were dedicated to their running game in order to open up passing options on the outside. New York moved into Rams territory with just under 11:00 minutes left in the first when Manning under threw a fade route intended for WR Mario Manningham that was suddenly intercepted by St. Louis ball hawk CB Quinton Mikel. From their own 40 yard line, QB Sam Bradford floated a beautiful go route to speedster WR Denario Alexander, who was then untouched as he hit the ground. As a result, Alexander weaved all the way down to the Giants one yard line. However, New York’s defensive front came up big and denied the Rams a touchdown thanks to a devastating backfield tackle by defensive tackle Chris Canty that forced the Rams to settle for a field goal.

An early 3-to-0 lead did not deter the Giants, however, as they moved the ball down the field on an impressive aerial attack. On 4th and 4 in Rams Territory, Manning threw a deep fade towards the sidelines to WR Hakeem Nicks, who was originally ruled out of bounds until a pass interference penalty on Rams S Bradley Fletcher that then put the Giants deep into the red zone. Eli capped the drive off with a beautiful back shoulder fade for a touchdown to his favorite target, Hakeem Nicks.

On the Rams next possession, QB Sam Bradford methodically moved the ball down field with ease and played pitch and catch to second round WR Lance Kendricks out of Wisconsin. The thirty yard reception moved the Rams into the red zone, where Rams Offensive Coordinator, Josh McDaniel, decided to go to a hurry up offense. A swift running attack from the Rams was met with little resistance from the G-Men’s front line. As the Rams crept closer, a bizarre turn of events occurred in which it seemed as if some of the Giants defensive players purposely fell on the ground, faking an injury to prevent St. Louis’s hurry up scheme. The drive again stalled, resulting in a 31 yard field goal from kicker Josh Brown to make the score 7-to-6.

The second quarter was riddled with mistakes from the Rams offense that cost them significantly. A lateral pass from Bradford to RB Cadillac Williams was immediately scooped up by Giants OLB Michael Boley and returned 61 yards for a touchdown. Williams’s costly mistake of not realizing that the ball was still in play gave New York a 14-to-6 advantage in the middle of the second. With less than 40 seconds left in the first half, Manning and company looked to extend their lead with a continued passing attack against a depleted Rams secondary. Eli connected with Manningham on a deep fade route that was bobbled and eventually caught for a 31 yard completion and excellent field position in St. Louis territory. On the very next play, Manning moved out of the pocket and bought time on a Rams blitz attempt, and sailed another 30 yard reception for a touchdown on a spectacular circus catch from young WR Dominique Hixon. The score read 21-to-6 at halftime.

After getting the ball back at halftime, the Rams moved the ball down field with steady contributions from tight end Greg Salas and wide receiver Austin Pettis, who have both proved to be pivotal threats thus far. Unfortunately, the drive ended after a stout defensive performance from the Giants secondary, again forcing the Rams to settle for a field goal. Feeding the ball to Ahmad Bradshaw, the Giants were able to up the ante and put together another impressive drive that was finished off with a stellar inside run from diesel running back Brandon Jacobs. Bradshaw ended the game with 15 carries for 59 yards (3.9 yard average) and Jacobs finished with 15 carries for 50 yards (3.1 yard average) and a score. On the very next Rams possession, Bradford fed the ball to Cadillac Williams and found several receivers, including Mike Sims-Walker and a 19 yard touchdown reception to Denario Alexander to make the score 28-to-16. Bradford finished the game with 331 yards on 16-of-28 passing. However, the final quarter proved to be anything but pleasant for St. Louis as they were plagued by penalties and several mental errors. The Giants defense kept them honest and was able to hold on for a 28-to-16 victory.

            Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin was pleased with his team’s turnaround in week one, after a crucial divisional defeat against the Redskins. Their defense proved to be more effective against the run and their secondary unit was surprisingly good as well in defending the Rams aerial strikes. “We have to be consistent on both sides of the ball and limit mental mistakes. It’s something that we preach to our football team every day. You cannot beat yourselves and expect to win,” Coughlin said. The Giants take on the Eagles in week three and look to build on a solid overall performance and make a splash in the always competitive NFC East. The Rams, on the other hand, are at home against the defensive nightmare of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the Ravens on Sunday afternoon. St. Louis will look to make a statement at home in order to avoid an early 0-and-3 start to the season.         


Courtney Puts the Hurt on School Record, but Rams Fall Short

For VCU star forward, Courtney Hurt, there’s nothing more rewarding then going down in school history as the all-time leading scorer on her home floor; except, perhaps a conference victory against the Drexel Dragons.

Out of the gate, Hurt needed only five points to become the all-time leading scorer in VCU Women’s Basketball history, but came out flat footed and often struggled early to match up against the Dragons tough interior defense. She managed only nine points, but did hit the boards hard as she picked up game high 15 rebounds, and passed former all-time leading scorer, Kelly Hoover, with a career total of 1,755 points on a late fourth quarter free-throw. Soon thereafter, VCU Head Coach Beth Cunningham called a timeout and cheers of “Courtney!” rang out through Verizon Wireless Arena to honor the record setting senior. Hurt looked shaken on the offensive side of the ball, however, shooting 4-of-10 from the field and 0-of-2 from long distance. For much of the game, the Dragons utilized heightened full-court pressure that resulted in 19 turnovers for VCU.

Help sharing the scoring load was senior guard Andrea Barbour, who contributed a team best 15 points to add to a seven rebound performance. However, it was little consolation due to the defensive-minded play from Drexel, who forced VCU to take low percentage shots and force passes into the paint for easy turnovers.

Playing a zone defense for much of the game, the Rams allowed Drexel to shoot 6-for-14 from 3-point land (42.9 percent), which gave them the opportunity to break the game wide open late in the second half. Drexel Senior Guard Kamile Nacickaite scored a game-high 17 points, including 3-of-6 from behind the arc. Her ability to penetrate the lane and convert easy buckets made her a matchup nightmare for VCU throughout the contest. The Rams tried to surge late in the second half, but ended up falling short to their conference rival 47-to-41for their third consecutive loss.

 The Dragons improved their record to 10-8 (6-2), while the Rams continued their losing ways, dropping their third game in a row and making their record 11-8 (4-4) this season. They will look to regroup on Sunday afternoon at Verizon Wireless Arena, as they face off against the Georgia State Panthers in another important CAA clash.

Gender and Sexuality Expert, VCU Grad Saidel Comes to Richmond

On Thursday afternoon, Prof. Deborah Saidel, arrived in Richmond, VA to give an historical synopsis on the relationship that sexuality and gender relations has played in the development of music.

Recognized for her expertise in gender studies and extensive experience as a classical flute musician and composer, Saidel, a former graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University came to Richmond to discuss a wide array of gender and sexuality topics. For the last year, she has taught a unique class at John Tyler Community College that touches on the significant role women have played in the historical progression of music and musical theory. Saidel’s course is so unique, in fact, that there is no such class offered anywhere else in the state of VA. Her vast knowledge of art, religion, music, and gender are intertwined to provide students with the opportunity to explore how women have overcome sexual barriers to distinguish themselves as musical innovators.

“Having a chance to hear Deborah’s overview allows our staff to expand on their course structure and criteria, and gives our Women’s Studies majors the opportunity to expand their outlook and learn more about gender roles,” said Gretchen Hutchinson, the Director of Gender Studies at VCU.

Saidel began her speech by enlightening the audience of roughly fifteen people about the historical and theological roots of women’s societal roles, and how their effort to powerfully influence an assortment of music deserves more recognition. She went into great detail about ancient hymns that were conceived by women and discussed how matriarchal societies across the world concentrated on female centricity and sacredness in the development of music over time. Furthermore, Saidel presented her course foundation to give her listeners an understanding of the class goals and objectives. “Above all, the goal of the class is to cultivate musical knowledge, explore feminist studies, and to give an historical context for which students can converge ideas and understand the importance of women’s roles throughout the world,” Saidel said. Her course offers an artistic and spiritual perspective to gender roles, that’s designed to tie in ancient, medieval, jazz, folk, popular, and both western and non-western musical genres.

“Women have fought long and hard throughout history to overcome sexually-based obstacles. It’s time that we’re granted the respect and notoriety we deserve for our ability to contribute as instrumentalists and human-beings,” said Margaret Moore, a junior Women’s Studies major at VCU.

After providing such an insightful and sentimental speech, the audience truly appeared to be moved by Saidel’s distinct ability to express herself with such passion and enthusiasm. She clearly provided an invaluable outlook into gender roles throughout the world and made a very strong case for women to receive more  recognition for their artistic achievement. Ultimately, her tireless efforts to infuse interest in art, music, and sexuality mirrored the long, strenuous journey of a woman’s drive to contribute in all aspects of society.

VCU Sports Content Director Hits a Home Run

Engulfed by the thunderous roars of the crowd on television and the dazzling lights illuminating the stadium of his beloved New York Giants, a six-year old boy from Austintown, OH dreamt of the day he could be a part of it all and become a professional sports writer.

Ever since that night, Chris Kowalczyk realized his passion for sports and knew he wanted to pursue a career in journalism. After graduating from high school, Kowalczyk attended Ohio University, where he received a B.A. degree in Broadcast Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism in 2000.

Shortly thereafter, he spent several years working as a reporter for the Daily Feature Service, a subsidiary of the Newark-Star Ledger, in which he covered an array of high school and small college athletics in the central NJ area. After displaying a unique writing ability, in which he provided both humorous commentary and strong insight into the world of sports, Kowalczyk was recognized for his efforts and offered a position as the Director of Creative Content for the men’s and women’s basketball programs at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005.

Now at age 33, Kowalczyk has entered his 6th year at VCU, where he has been a driving force in the publishing and distribution of athletic-based media content throughout the Richmond area. His online blog, entitled “Around the Horns”, provides Rams fans with the opportunity to view player profiles and statistics, as well as provides audio and visual links to offseason conditioning sessions, interviews with coaches and players, and exciting game recaps and highlights. In addition to covering the VCU basketball program, Kowalczyk also writes feature pieces and game summaries for the women’s soccer and field hockey teams. Ultimately, his infatuation with writing about sports continues to drive him forward into the future. He hopes to build on the success that he’s had thus far and perpetuate himself further into the competitive world of sports journalism.

“It’s been a long, arduous road that’s definitely seen its fair share of ups and downs, but when you’re as passionate as I am about every detail of sports coverage, it’s easier to overcome some of those bumps in the road and move forward…It’s crucial to seize every opportunity in this field of writing due to the competitive nature of the business, but if you love it enough nothing will stop you from reaching your dream,” said Kowalczyk.

Both players and coaches alike at VCU have praised Kowalczyk’s determination and drive in becoming one of the most outspoken and knowledgeable sports writers in school history. “He [Konawalczyk] possesses an innate ability to interact with our players and coaching staff on a level we have not seen here at VCU. His stories are accurate as well as entertaining, and he does a tremendous job in exemplifying an objective perspective in his writing. Everyone who’s met Chris knows what he’s capable of and we greatly appreciate his commitment to the university’s athletic programs,” said VCU Athletic Director, Norwood Teague.

After contributing over 150 pieces in the sports infused VCU magazine, The Ram-Report, and a widely viewed and elaborate online blog, Kowalczyk has gone from a boy with a dream to a man who has realized the fruits of his labor.

“No reporter has ever been so honest and straightforward with me. It’s as if he almost puts himself in my shoes and is seeing the world through my eyes. I commend his passion and hope that he [Kowalczyk] continues to remain loyal to the Ram family,” said Jr. Women’s basketball player, Robyn Hobson.

With over a decade of experience in writing and reporting about numerous sports, Kowalczyk is someone that any aspiring sports journalist could look to for inspiration and guidance. He personifies the character and integrity that is necessary to become a successful journalist and retains a modest and humble personality while doing so. We are extremely fortunate to have such a dignified writer and individual covering our athletic teams and hope that he continues to epitomize that Ram spirit for years to come.


New President Incites a Promising Future

          Friday, Oct. 14th marks the inauguration of newly appointed Virginia Commonwealth University president, Michael Rao, establishing and recognizing him as the fifth head of the university since the school’s founding in 1968.

Formerly serving as the president of Mission College in California from 1994 to 1998, as well as Central Michigan University from 2000 to 2009, President Rao possesses an uncanny ability to thrive in a university atmosphere. Through his selfless vision of student excellence and his thorough belief in a strong academic foundation, Rao looks to progressively change the dynamic of the university by focusing on more extensive research studies and encouraging more community engagement. A new face and a determined ideology will not only prove to solidify VCU as one of the top institutions in the state of Virginia, but it will also help to ensure a more secure direction for the university, by providing students, faculty, and the city of Richmond an opportunity to prosper tremendously.

An overwhelming sense of promise and confidence has swept across the university in recent weeks, causing feelings of joy and excitement among students and faculty in anticipation for the formal introduction of Dr. Rao this week. Lindsey Hamby, 20, is a Socialism major at VCU, who exemplifies the optimistic spirit that has ardently been infused into the university’s aura. “It’s incredible to see how many strides the university [VCU] has made in only the last couple of years. An experienced president who is working to improve both academic standards and social consciousness is an important step in the continuing growth of the school,” she said. Hamby’s view has been echoed throughout the city, stretching even amongst Richmond locals and VCU employees’.

“It’s awesome to see how much this guy [Dr. Rao] really seems to care about the entire VCU body. I’m really interested to see what steps he’s going to take to expand the university and give back to the community,” said Cliff Bagley, 29, a manager at Subway in the VCU Commons and resident of Shockoe Bottom in downtown Richmond.

As the executive for both the Monroe Park Campus and the MCV Campus, President Rao will embark on a quest to distinguish VCU in a variety of ways. Anne L. Buckley, the University Relations Coordinator for the Office of the President, expressed full confidence in Dr. Rao’s ability to effectively run the university and propel the school to new heights. “The inauguration of Michael Rao as VCU’s fifth president marks a shift in the direction of the university. It’s a formal installation of a new president with a new vision for the university, one that is focused on academic excellence and student success, research, human health and community engagement,” she said. Buckley emphasized how important it was to Dr. Rao to establish VCU as one of the top research institution’s in the nation and to expand masters and doctoral degree programs that will help ensure student achievement.

“We [VCU] have a full head of steam moving forward, and I’m confident in President Rao’s vision to make the university a more unique place to learn,” said Ryan Mikula, 21, a senior Accounting major at VCU.

The inauguration of Dr. Rao will commence with the company of several prestigious guest speakers, including U.S. Secretary of Education, Anne Duncan, and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Furthermore, the Board of Visitors, a selective presidential advising group, will present Dr. Rao with a medallion to celebrate his new role as president of the university. Finally, nearly two full weeks of activities have been planned after the inauguration, focusing on fundraising and academic goals for the upcoming year. Dr. Rao’s principal philosophy of academic success and unity among the university’s body will allow VCU to further blossom. A vigorous sense of pride and humility has been implemented amongst our diverse university family, and Dr. Rao’s presence will act as a stepping stone to improve the well-being of VCU in all aspects.