REAL initiative


What is REAL?

VCU's Relevant, Experiential and Applied Learning initiative serves as a central hub for experiential learning activities, both curricular and co-curricular, that happen as part of the VCU academic experience.

REAL works with key partners across campus — such as Undergraduate Research, Career Services, Education Abroad, and Community Engagement and Impact — to bring to life President Rao's promise that all VCU students will participate in at least one hands-on learning activities during their time at the university.

At VCU, our goal is not only workforce readiness — it's world readiness.

Screenshot of REAL website

Learn more about REAL at

REAL types

A wide variety of academic activities qualify as a REAL experience, including:

  • Project-based learning
  • Professional/career development (internships, co-ops, practicum experiences)
  • Research
  • Capstone experiences
  • Service-learning
  • Global learning

For the full list, see

REAL Research

Virginia Commonwealth University is committed to bringing the resources of a research institution to bear on student learning opportunities. A key component of this commitment is engaging our undergraduate students in research activities with an outstanding faculty, a central high-impact educational practice of our Relevant Experiential and Applied Learning Initiative (REAL).

Learning by doing is a proven method of enhancing the educational experience. Whether by working with faculty in the areas of breast cancer, polymer-metal composites, understanding terrorism, or dispersal processes in forest systems, being involved in the creation of new knowledge is an exciting and rewarding experience for both students and faculty.

At VCU, undergraduate research takes place both inside and outside of the classroom and is defined as a mentored inquiry, investigation, or exploration conducted by an undergraduate student that involves critical reflection and communication of results, and aims to make an intellectual or creative contribution to the discipline or disciplines.

Related links

  • REAL website
  • Student Opportunity Center: A central platform connecting students with experiential learning opportunities
  • REAL Data Dashboard: Tracks student engagement in experiential learning activities, and provides colleges and schools a detailed picture of who is enrolling in these activities, with the goal of finding and addressing gaps in access