As a transfer student to Virginia Commonwealth University, Carrie Roth (BA Political Science ‘95/H&S) was delighted to find a school where she could “create [her] own avenues of learning.” Through internships, independent study and a flexible course schedule, Carrie blazed a trail to a degree in Political Science in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Like her undergraduate experience, she has also found tremendous success in her career by forging a path to her current position as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park in downtown Richmond.
Through a foundation in the humanities disciplines at VCU, Carrie sought opportunities to exercise and grow her communication and problem solving skills including a challenging course load in the Political Science department and an internship with George Allen’s campaign for governor. Building on her student experiences, her early career in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and later in various press secretary and communications positions under U.S. Senator George Allen and Attorney General Jerry Kilgore required the familiar process of articulation, communication and implementation of vision that she had learned in her undergraduate studies. Carrie also was President of her public policy and communications strategy company, Capitol Square Communications. Later, a position in economic development for the Commonwealth as Deputy Secretary of Commerce and Trade under Governor Bob McDonnell prepared her well as the interim and, shortly thereafter, the permanent president and CEO of the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park beginning in December of 2013.
The Research Park is a life sciences community adjacent to the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Medical Center―housing private sector companies, research institutes, non-profits, and state and federal laboratories on a 34-acre campus in downtown Richmond, Virginia. The park is home to over 60 private and non-profit companies, state and federal laboratories, and research institutes/administrative functions of VCU and the VCU Health System, employing approximately 2,400 researchers, scientists, engineers and support personnel. Major member organizations in the park include the VCU Innovation Gateway, the Altria Center for Research and Technology, United Network for Organ Sharing, True Health Diagnostics and the Virginia Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services. Under Carrie’s leadership, the research park has enjoyed considerable success that includes growing collaboration amongst the parks resident companies and organizations throughout the region that are integral components of the innovation ecosystem. The shared laboratory space, completed in 2014, is one such effort aimed at encouraging partnerships and attracting new startups without the resources for laboratory space of their own. Carrie sees her duties as tied not only to the physical space of the research park’s facilities but also the innovation that a research park can inspire. “If we can create more outcomes that improve human life, at the end of the day that’s what innovation is about.” Her recent effort to bring seed funding to the Richmond area in order to encourage new knowledge-based, high-growth startups to take residence in the region smartly echoes that of research hubs in Raleigh and Atlanta.
Carrie truly values the sense of community the research park aims to achieve and also sees that emerging pride with regard to VCU. “It’s great to see the university transition to a real sense of community.” And, clearly, that vision is shared—in June of 2015, VCU president Michael Rao, Ph.D., announced a $1.2 million commitment to support innovation activities at the biotech park. Coupled with Carrie’s diligence, direction and vision, the Virginia Biotechnology Research Park and its apparent promise will surely translate to continued success.
Written by Caitlin Hanbury