We believe different perspectives and expertise only enhance solutions and their possibilities.


We strategically invest in academic and research programs that employ transdisciplinary approaches to solve challenging and persistent problems in urban communities. These program approaches draw stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and also set the stage for partnership equity between university and community partners where all perspectives are valued.

Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of what we do.


We model partnerships.

We collaborate to help others work together. Collectively, the iCubed signature initiative and its center and programs act as a catalyst for engaging faculty, staff, students and other stakeholder groups in collaborative activities that connect science, pedagogy and practice within urban communities.

Strategic partners of iCubed include the Virginia Commonwealth University Office of the President; Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs; Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences; Office of Research and Innovation; Division for Inclusive Excellence; Human Resources; and the colleges, schools, and institutes and centers within the university.


We guide and support.

A signature initiative of iCubed is transdisciplinary core development, providing guidance and support to senior administrators, academic deans, department heads, and institute and center directors on the creative integration of multiple communities of knowledge to solve societally relevant challenges.

iCubed is comprised of the Cluster Hiring Initiative and Program, the Pathways to the Professoriate Program, the Visiting Faculty Scholars Program, the Commonwealth Scholars Program and the Commonwealth Citizens Awards Program.


We are new.

We established iCubed in July 2015.


Aashir Nasim, Ph.D.
Aashir Nasim, Ph.D.
Vice president for inclusive excellence and director, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation
  • Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Ginter House, 901 West Franklin Street, Suite 103
  • Box 842527
  • Email: anasim@vcu.edu
  • Phone: (804) 828-1345
Meet Aashir Nasim, Ph.D.   

Aashir Nasim, Ph.D. holds dual positions as interim senior vice provost for faculty affairs and director of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry & Innovation (iCubed). As senior vice provost, he serves as chief administrator for the Office of Faculty Affairs and leads faculty development and success initiatives on academic, medical and international campuses.

As iCubed director, he is the responsible authority for new transdisciplinary academic and research programs that include more than 50 faculty and postdoctoral researchers across the university’s colleges and schools. Previously, he served as vice provost for faculty affairs, special assistant to the provost, and chair of the Department of African American Studies.

Dr. Nasim is a National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities Scholar and a VCU Massey Cancer Center member.  He has served as principal or co-investigator on grants totaling more than $25 million, and he has published his research in high-impact journals related to culture and health. He also has been acknowledged for his mentorship of faculty and for his work on institutional capacity-building grants to enhance the pipeline of minorities and women in health sciences and STEM.

Dr. Nasim is a tenured professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences. He joined VCU in 2008 as a jointly appointed associate professor of Psychology and African American Studies. He is a veteran of the Gulf War and has received recognition for distinguished service.

Aashir Nasim's CV »

Brandi T. Summers, Ph.D.
Brandi T. Summers, Ph.D.
Associate executive director, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation
  • 816 West Franklin Street, Room 110
  • Box 842509
  • Email: btsummers@vcu.edu
  • Office: (804) 828-9349
Meet Brandi T. Summers, Ph.D.   

Brandi Thompson Summers, Ph.D., is assistant professor of African American Studies and director of the Center for Research on Culture, Race and Representation at iCubed.

Her research and teaching interests explore the broad range of meanings ascribed to black bodies in urban environments and global fashion metropolises, as well as the spatial production of blackness as a way to understand race and political economy. Her current project explores the way that competing notions of blackness structure efforts to raise capital and develop land in Washington, D.C., as well as practices and policies concerned with reshaping prevailing narratives about progress in U.S. race relations.

Summers received her M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, an M.A. in social sciences from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. with honors in history from the University of Pennsylvania.

At iCubed, Summers will pursue research projects that study the shifting meanings and modes of race and representation with a view toward broadening application for inclusive ends. She will organize research symposia as well as themed campus events that will engage in collaborative, transdisciplinary research and public teaching on issues specifically related to the intersection of culture, race and representation.

Brandi T. Summers' CV »

Neha J. Goel
Neha J. Goel
Transdisciplinary research fellow, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation

Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Ginter House, 901 West Franklin Street, Rm B-01 
Box 842527
Email: goelnj@vcu.edu
Office: 804-827-2376

Meet Neha J. Goel   

Neha Goel is a counseling psychology doctoral student and the first transdisciplinary research fellow at iCubed. She coordinates and mentors undergraduate students through the iCubed Commonwealth Scholars Program and independently facilitates research studies assessing eating disorders amongst South Asian populations.

Prior to her appointments at VCU, Goel completed bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. After she graduated in 2015, Goel served two years as the Project Manager of a large-scale, NIMH-funded trial that aims to examine the efficacy of an online, guided self-help intervention for the treatment of eating disorders in college-aged women at 28 universities across the United States.

Goel was a member of a multi-site team headed by clinical researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto University, and Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine. Through this role, she gained essential experience developing and implementing technologically-enhanced interventions, supervising undergraduate and graduate students, and fostering business partnerships to ensure successful trans-research collaborations.

Here at VCU, Goel is excited to further the iCubed mission by collaborating with faculty to design programs aimed at highlighting inclusion and diversity within the VCU community.

Susan Brock Wilkes, Ph.D.
Susan Brock Wilkes, Ph.D.
Faculty development consultant, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation


Meet Susan Brock Wilkes, Ph.D.   

Susan Brock Wilkes, Ph.D., is the faculty development consultant for iCubed. Wilkes is an organizational psychologist with extensive experience in executive coaching, leadership and team development, strategic planning, and facilitation with institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations.     

Wilkes’ previous positions include 20 years as a faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University and service as senior consultant for the Leadership Development Center at the University of Virginia. Active in the community, she is the current board chair for the Health Brigade, formerly Fan Free Clinic, in Richmond, Virginia, and a founding member of the ConsultCorps for the Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Charlottesville. Wilkes received the Instructor of the Year Award from Nonprofit Learning Point and has served as the lead faculty member for its highly successful Emerging Nonprofit Leaders Program for 10 years. She also served on the founding leadership committee for Impact 100 Richmond, a philanthropic program that has given over one million dollars to community organizations, and currently serves on the faculty of the Chrysalis Institute nonprofit where she teaches mindfulness-based interventions.

A Phi Kappa Phi graduate of the psychology doctoral program at VCU, Wilkes also holds an undergraduate degree in psychology, with distinction, and master’s degree in counseling from UVA.  A skilled designer of assessment tools and experiential training activities, she has published four works in the Pfeiffer Annual series. Her latest publication is "Strengthening the Next Generation: A Multi-faceted Program to Develop Leadership Capacity in Emerging Nonprofit Leaders" in the Journal of Nonprofit Management and Leadership. 

Wilkes will be supporting the development, success and retention of iCubed faculty. Through a series of seminars and individual coaching experiences, she will help faculty gain skills in the unique competencies needed for success in the iCubed program.

Faika Zanjani, Ph.D.
Faika Zanjani, Ph.D.
Associate director of academic programs & research training, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation
730 East Broad Street, Box 980228
Office: (804) 828-0670
Meet Faika Zanjani, Ph.D.   

Faika Zanjani is an associate professor in the Department of Gerontology at the VCU College of Health Professions. She has a Ph.D. in human development and family studies, with a concentration in gerontology, from Pennsylvania State University, with postdoctoral training in geriatric psychiatry from the University of Pennsylvania.

She also has had appointments as NIH/NIMH Predoctoral Fellow, APA Minority Health Fellow, NIH/NIMH Geriatric Postdoctoral Fellow, NIH BIRWCH Scholar, USDA Grant Awardee, and NIH/NIDA K Awardee.

Zanjani has experience in geriatric public health, particularly within the areas of health behavior change and health promotion; mental health and substance abuse/use; and community health intervention.

Her work focuses on both urban and rural community applications of health promotion, with respect to disease management/adherence and prevention. She also examines the management of mental health and substance misuse behaviors among older individuals through interventions and effective collaborations with clinical and community teams.

Here at VCU, she plans to continue her research and extend her efforts into overseeing iCubed’s ongoing academic programs and research training at the graduate, undergraduate, and postdoctoral levels, to reduce community health disparities.

Faika Zanjani's CV

Emily Avesian
Emily Avesian
Talent acquisition partner, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation
  • Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Ginter House, 901 West Franklin Street
  • Box 842527
  • Email: ejavesia@vcu.edu
  • Office: (804) 828-6827
Meet Emily Avesian   

Emily Avesian serves as talent acquisition partner for the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation. Her role includes providing full-cycle recruitment services for iCubed and on-boarding support to incoming team members.

Avesian holds a Master of Public Administration from the VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, where she concentrated in human resources. She previously studied at Arizona State University, where she earned a Master of Performance and Literature. Avesian has been a certified Professional in Human Resources since 2011.

Her experience includes serving as personnel and operations manager for the Richmond Symphony and as human resource generalist/compliance for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. Specialties include selection, workforce planning, policy development and data analysis. She is committed to fostering a fair, inclusive and productive work environment.

Aman Bhogal, M.P.A.
Aman Bhogal, M.P.A.
Special assistant to the vice president for inclusive excellence
  • Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Ginter House, 901 West Franklin Street, Room 105a
  • Box 842527
  • Email: bhogalak@vcu.edu
  • Phone: 804-828-6992
Meet Aman Bhogal, M.P.A.    

Aman Bhogal, M.P.A., serves as special assistant to the vice president for inclusive excellence, where she highlights work done by iCubed faculty and members of the surrounding communities. She seeks to connect underrepresented minority students with access to professional development, networking and research opportunities that further strengthens relationships between the campus and communities.

Bhogal has an extensive background in fostering transformative change among those facing mental/spiritual challenges through her passion of practicing and facilitating yoga. She is currently striving to become a successful business owner committed to serving mindfulness.

Bhogal is a graduate of the RVA Works program that helps local business owners with resources and education. As their recent alumna, Bhogal spreads her knowledge of building access to minority business owners as a RVA Works ambassador and public relations specialist. She is also an active member of Richmond Society of Human Resource Management, where she plays a vital role in the planning committee, providing professional developmental resources to members. 

Bhogal received her bachelor’s of science in psychology from VCU, and now enjoys giving back to the VCU community. She earned her master’s of public administration degree from Rutgers University and served as the assistant to the press secretary for Mayor Ras Baraka’s office for two years aiding community development. Bhogal is passionate about facilitating transformative change and hopes to provide students, faculty, and communities with knowledge and resources to flourish.