Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) is a public research university located in Richmond, Virginia. It comprises two campuses in the Downtown Richmond area, the product of a merger between the Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia in 1968. It has over 32,000 students and is classified as having very high research activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. In the fiscal year 2010, VCU was awarded over $82 million in NIH research funding, the second highest amount among universities in the state of Virginia. VCU's athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the VCU Rams. They were members of the Colonial Athletic Association, but joined the Atlantic 10 Conference on July 1, 2012.
Though officially created with the merger of the Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) and Medical College of Virginia (MCV) in 1968, VCU's history began in 1838 when the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College opened in Richmond. In 1854, the Richmond Department of Medicine broke away from Hampden-Sydney College and became an independent institution known as the Medical College of Virginia. Richmond Professional Institute traces its roots back to 1917, when it began as the Richmond School of Social Work. VCU claims 1838 as its founding date on its official seal and on promotional materials.