Charlene Crawley

Alumni Spotlight: Charlene Crawley

Dr. Crawley grew up in Richmond, across from Fairfield Court, and attended Kennedy High School. She recalls integration busing in the ‘70s; this effort brought students living in the Windsor Farms neighborhood, including a daughter of Governor Holton, to her high school.

Charlene began taking classes at VCU in 1973 in the VCU Advanced Scholar Program, which allowed her to earn college credit and get first-hand experience as a student at a university. As she approached her academic pursuits she asked herself “am I prepared academically to do what I want to do?”

When Charlene was a student at VCU she was one of the few African-American females in the sciences. Charlene also recalls fewer females than males, “I remember Dr. Mary Kapp was a real pioneer, serving as a faculty member and the first Chair of the Chemistry Department in the ‘50s through the ‘70s. Dr. Lidia Vallarino was also instrumental in paving the way for female students, chemists and faculty members at VCU. These women offered a different perspective and made it easier for females to identify and find the potential of a career in the sciences.”

Charlene received her B.S. in Chemistry from VCU in 1978 and M.S. in Chemistry from VCU in 1982. Although she received her Ph.D. from the University of Delaware she considers VCU her alma mater. After receiving her Ph.D. she entered industry for eight years. She found little freedom in the corporate sector and decided that performing research and teaching at a university would be a better fit for her talents, interests and goals.

Charlene started as a faculty member at VCU in 1995, and is currently the B.S. Interdisciplinary Science Program Coordinator, and the Emerging Scholars Program in Chemistry Coordinator. Dr. Crawley says she tries to instill in her students:

“Making mistakes doesn’t mean you can’t get what you want or be who you want to be, but you will need to work hard and find the tools to help you become successful. You need to be appreciative of opportunities presented to you.”

Charlene’s passion is advocating for and assisting students who have the ability to be successful academically in the sciences, but lack direction or familial resources. Charlene’s dedication to this cause is close to her heart because her parents did not have a formal education. She is the youngest child of ten biological brothers and sisters and four foster siblings. Her parents worked many jobs to support the family and were entrepreneurial – owning several small businesses and restaurants around Richmond. Charlene worked about fifty hours a week while in school at VCU to help provide for the family.

Outside of VCU and work, Charlene enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs.