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.
Interim vice provost for faculty affairs 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 105
  • Box 842527
  • Email: anasim@vcu.edu
  • Phone: (804) 828-1345
Meet Aashir Nasim, Ph.D.   

Aashir Nasim, Ph.D., was named inaugural director of the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation on July 1, 2015. He previously served as chair of the Department of African American Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, a position he held since 2013.

As chair, Nasim developed a strategic plan for the department, led a major transformation of its curriculum to enhance students’ digital fluency and integrative thinking, and increased enrollment from 18 to more than 100 undergraduate majors. He also raised federal research funding and expenditures in the department to levels competitive with applied and basic science units in the college, and recruited an interdisciplinary teaching and research faculty in areas related to behavioral genetics, clinical psychology, higher education, history, philosophy and sociology. In addition, he broadened campus and community participation in the department by growing the number of affiliate research faculty members in the biomedical sciences, humanities and social sciences, from eight to 30. Under his leadership, the department met and exceeded the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia’s minimum productivity standard for the first time in its 40-year history.

He is a National Institutes of Health National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities Scholar. As such, his research focuses on risk and protective factors for adolescent and young adult tobacco use. He has served as principal or co-investigator on grants totaling more than $25 million, and much of his research has been published in high-impact journals such as Addictive Behaviors, Drug and Alcohol Dependence and Nicotine and Tobacco Research. He is a VCU Massey Cancer Center member in Cancer Prevention and Control. Nasim also has served as principal investigator for program evaluation components on several grants, totaling about $15 million, from the National Science Foundation: Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Research Scholars Program and the NIH-NIMHD Health Disparities Research through International Exchange.

Nasim came to VCU in 2008 as a jointly appointed, tenured associate professor of psychology and African-American studies. He received his Ph.D. in developmental psychology, with concentrations in social and personality psychology, from Howard University.

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.

Jena K. Gray
Jena K. Gray
Communications coordinator, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation
  • Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
  • Ginter House, 901 West Franklin Street, Suite B-1A
  • Box 842527
  • Email: jgray9@vcu.edu
  • Office: (804) 828-6992
Meet Jena K. Gray   

Jena K. Gray serves as communications coordinator for iCubed, where she highlights work done by iCubed’s core members in and with the community.

Gray comes to iCubed with a passion for storytelling and experience working alongside people of diverse backgrounds in cross-cultural contexts. She aims to convey impactful stories with integrity which express human dignity inherent to all. Gray seeks to spread the discipline of empathetic and active listening in and outside of her workplace to highlight the importance of genuine, reciprocal communication.

Her experience includes serving as community outreach and engagement coordinator as well as internship coordinator for the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and as a marketing consultant for a local farm-to-fork restaurant, The Caboose Market & Café. 

In addition, Gray has also worked with 3e Restoration, a nonprofit organization that assists those in extreme poverty, on its communications strategies, community outreach and development.

Gray graduated from William & Mary with degrees in anthropology and Latin American studies, focusing her coursework on identity formation, sociocultural linguistics, religious/spiritual self-identification, and native and indigenous peoples.

Brandi T. Summers, Ph.D.
Brandi T. Summers, Ph.D.
Associate director, Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation
  • 816 West Franklin Street, Room 110
  • P.O. 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.

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
  • P.O. 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.