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Want a super team? Start with dynamic duos

Image from IDEO U course: “From Superpowers to Great Teams”

Last fall, I wrote about my philosophy of life and approach to being a parent … about how I ask myself:

What are your superpower(s), and how will you use them to help others?

So you can understand why I had to sign up for an online course called “From Superpowers to Great Teams” — which helps you hone your unique superpowers while also exploring how to strengthen the relationships in your work teams.

The class summary explains:

Work is most joyful—and its outcomes are most impactful—when we embrace relationships as opportunities and focus on bringing out the best in our collaborators. It begins with you showing up as your best self at work, and then building the relationships and conditions for people around you to thrive.

The non-credit course is offered by IDEO, a global design company that has pioneered design thinking (another topic I have blogged about before).

For $199, I accessed this self-paced course (found at IDEO U) which features a series of short, well-produced videos and related exercises to do on my own.

One of my most profound takeaways was the focus on duos, which the course defines as “the smallest atomic unit of trust on any team.”

Some of the dynamic duo examples in the course include Tina Fey and Amy Poehler from “SNL” and Frodo and Sam from “The Lord of the Rings.”

I look back at my own career and recognize my best, most creative work has been accomplished with another person … (but not necessarily the same person). What we produced together was better than what we could have produced as individuals … which is the sign of a strong duo.

According to this IDEO course, if you focus on your duos, you can greatly improve yourself and the performance of your teams: “We believe a team’s foundation is based on the strength of duos within it.”

Try this quick exercise from one of the class videos:

  1. Identify your duos: Think about people you interact with consistently at work; who you partner with to achieve your goals.
  2. Evaluate bonds: What’s the current state of those relationships? Assess where they are at, from unbreakable to broken.
  3. Look for patterns: Why are some bonds stronger than others? What creates unbreakable duos? What conditions make for weak or broken duos?

As you consider grant opportunities, perhaps approaching them as a duo would make projects more manageable (and fun). I would be happy to help talk through your ideas and navigate the process. Email or call 540-857-6084.

Posted on March 5, 2019

Innovation Grant update: 30-minute coaching sessions now available

How’s your Innovation Grant journey going?

No matter where you are in the process, VWCC Grant Specialist Stephanie Seagle wants to help.

Take advantage of 30-minute, one-on-one coaching sessions, which might include:

  • An overview of the application process (especially if you missed the “5 Secrets to a Funded Innovation Grant” session at in-service)
  • Brainstorming and feedback about your idea
  • Specific questions you might have about your proposal (where do I even start with the budget?!?!, etc.)

Sign up here:

About the Innovation Grant: These annual grants are awarded by the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation. The maximum award is $10,000, and projects are expected to be finished in about 10 months (May 2019 to March 2020). All members of Virginia Western faculty and classified staff, including adjunct faculty and part-time employees, are eligible to submit proposals. The deadline for applications is March 29 … but there are key requirements due before then, so don’t delay reading the application closely and reaching out if you have questions. Note that in order for your grant proposal to be eligible for consideration, you must meet with grants office staff (Stephanie) at least once for guidance in completing the application. Previous workshops fulfill that requirement.

You can access the application below … along with the scoring matrix and FAQs.

Posted on February 5, 2019

5 Secrets to a Funded Innovation Grant: Workshops on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1

If you missed the “5 Secrets to a Funded Innovation Grant” session during in-service, you can see the same presentation at 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, or 11 a.m. Friday, Feb. 1, in the grants office conference room (top floor of Fishburn Hall, Room 204).

Stephanie Seagle will go over the application, explain the mysterious lollipops on the table (pictured), and will answer any other questions you might have about the process.

Please sign up here:

Note that in order for your grant proposal to be eligible for consideration, you must meet with grants office staff (Stephanie) at least once for guidance in completing the application. These workshops fulfill that requirement.

If you prefer a one-on-one discussion with Stephanie, please email or call 540-857-6084.

About the Innovation Grant: These annual grants are awarded by the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation. The maximum award is $10,000. All members of Virginia Western faculty and classified staff, including adjunct faculty and part-time employees, are eligible to submit proposals. The deadline for applications is March 29 … but there are key requirements due before then, so don’t delay reading the application closely and reaching out if you have questions.

You can access the application below … along with the scoring matrix and FAQs.


Posted on January 22, 2019

Innovation Grant proposals due March 29

Thanks to everyone who attended the “5 Secrets to a Funded Innovation Grant” session during in-service. We were encouraged to see the interest and hope more folks want to learn more about these annual grants awarded by the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation.

The maximum award is $10,000.

The deadline for applications is March 29 … but there are key requirements due before then, so don’t delay reading the application closely and reaching out to me if you have questions.

New this year: In order to be eligible for consideration, you must meet with grants office staff (Stephanie Seagle) at least once for guidance in completing the application. The in-service session fulfilled that requirement … and so will workshops that will be scheduled in the weeks ahead, so stay tuned.

You can access the application below … along with the scoring matrix and FAQs.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, , 857-6084

Posted on January 11, 2019

Paul Lee professional development grants due Feb. 1

What ideas are exciting you lately? Anything you want to learn? Anything our campus should be talking more about?

Don’t hold back … your ideas could turn into reality.

The VCCS offers two types of professional development grants for projects you would like to see happen in Summer 2019:

  • The Paul Lee Professional Development Grant, which awards up to $2,500 in the summer. (Open to all full-time and adjunct faculty.) Unallowable expenses include equipment, supplies, books, software, and student activities.
  • The Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant, with a maximum award of $1,500. (Open to all VCCS employees, including adjunct faculty and classified staff.) Funds are for conducting a conference/ workshop/ in-service activity, and can include food. The event must involve more than one VCCS college.

The deadline for applications is Friday, Feb. 1.

The VCCS suggests the following topics to get your ideas percolating:

  • Initiatives to enhance student success
  • Discipline-specific projects
  • Information literacy
  • Faculty learning communities
  • Student learning communities
  • Initiatives enhancing the use of technology in teaching and learning
  • Best practices in global awareness
  • Pedagogy
  • Leadership development
  • Developmental education
  • Alternative evaluation systems

To review the online application and learn more about these grants, go to

I have also blogged about one idea up for grabs … and the differences between the Paul Lee grants here.

The grants office would be happy to talk through you ideas. Please note all proposals must be reviewed by our office prior to submission. Please contact Marilyn Herbert-Ashton ( | 857-6372) or myself ( | 857-76084) for assistance.

Posted on January 8, 2019

Foundation Center class on Dec. 13 will help us find grant money

As we note in our popular training video, one of the most frequent questions we receive in the grants office is “Where do we find the grants!?”

The Foundation Center is one of those places.

The website ( ) offers a comprehensive database of grant opportunities, along with profiles of all active U.S. foundations and recent grants awarded by the nation’s top funders.

If you’re interested in finding funding for a specific program or idea, this is a good place to start.

However, Foundation Center requires a $$$ subscription, which the Roanoke Main Library provides free of charge to the public.

If, like me, you’re curious about how to make the most of this service, please join me on a field trip on Thursday, Dec. 13, when the library’s Virginia Room hosts a hands-on class about Foundation Center.

The class begins at 2 p.m., but I will be leaving Virginia Western at 1:30 p.m. If you would like to carpool, please let me know:

And please don’t forget to register for the workshop by email at

Foundation Center Basics
What: Learn how to find grants for your nonprofit in this hands-on class.
When: 2 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 13
Where: Virginia Room, Roanoke Main Library

Posted on December 3, 2018

How one Innovation Grant will help thousands of biology students

Dr. Matthew Goff was awarded an Innovation Grant to pay for 3D anatomy and physiology software that students can access for free.


I really can’t rave enough about the Virginia Western Educational Foundation’s Innovation Grants, which are due in March.

These annual grants award up to $10,000 to faculty and staff (including adjuncts and part-timers) … and because it’s an internal grant program, the odds will be ever in your favor (unlike more competitive federal, state or foundation grants).

I have previously blogged about the perks of Innovation Grants, but I will summarize:

  1. An innovation grant project can amplify your strengths and what you love most about your job.
  2. They can be a way to solve a problem that you have long complained about.
  3. Grants are professional development — not only will they stretch you and your collaborative skills, but they will get you noticed on campus, in the community, and if it’s successful enough — throughout higher ed.
  4. You can test an idea with this “starter grant” and build bigger funding opportunities based on what you learn.
  5. But most of all, the best Innovation Grants fulfill the mission of the community college and help our students succeed.

I will give you a perfect example.

Dr. Matthew Goff is an associate professor of biology here at Virginia Western. Last March, he proposed one of the five grant proposals that were funded by the Foundation.

This is the project summary from his application, which earned him bonus points because he specifically addressed student retention:

“Currently, 30-40% of students who fail BIO 141 do not return to VWCC the following semester. This could be due to discouragement of failing a course, cost of tuition, and/or not being able to afford the materials required of the course; therefore, not being properly equipped to pass the assessments. The purpose of this project is to obtain a software program that will allow students enrolled within A&P at VWCC to access the software free of charge to the student. This is part of a greater plan to eventually have the course sequence being at minimal cost to the students.”

The members of the Foundation’s Scholarship & Grants committee — made up of representatives from the business community — gave high scores  to Goff’s proposal, and he was awarded $5,940. The entire award paid the one-time fee for the Ovid Visible Body Software program, which features 3D medical visualizations that can be accessed on mobile devices. The program was implemented in Fall 2018 and will provide free access to students for years to come. The grant was part of a bigger department goal to reduce the cost of course materials through the introduction of an OER textbook and “in-house” lab manuals.

The project is a little over halfway complete, and Goff reports the software has had a greater impact than he originally expected. Not only do students in BIO 141/142 find it useful, but students enrolled in BIO 101/102 and other health programs are using it as well. He estimates it’s potentially benefiting 800 to 1,000 students each semester — and he plans to compare grades from previous semesters to the sections offered this year to determine if it has had any impact on student success.

I was curious to know more about what Dr. Goff thought about the Innovation Grant process … so I sent him these questions:

Why did you propose this project?

We have many students that are on a fixed income, and I want to provide them with the materials and knowledge that they need to be successful in their program of study at the lowest cost possible. Therefore, the project that I proposed and was awarded provided the students with a software program that covers all major concepts in anatomy and physiology — at no cost to the students.

What has been the most successful part of the project so far?

I have received positive feedback from many students and faculty on the program. This includes how the program has been helping students understand material for assessments in their courses and from faculty in other disciplines on how the software also benefits their students.

If you could go back in time, would you do anything differently?

I may have taken a survey before submitting the grant asking students about additional resources that they would like/need for success in Biology courses.

What advice do you have for your colleagues interested in pursuing an Innovation Grant? 

It is not an extremely tedious process. If you truly desire the best for our students and college then it is very much a rewarding process.

How might the college better assist you with grant projects?

I believe the guidelines for submitting the grant need to be improved. I had to go back and forth a couple of times to figure out who I needed to submit information to. For newer faculty that want to pursue grants, it is nice having clear guidelines on the process and those involved in the grant process.


Thanks to Dr. Goff for his feedback … and his efforts to remove costly barriers for our students.

If you’re interested in pursuing a grant this spring, I urge you to attend an Innovation Grant workshop during January’s in-service. This will include an overview of the application process, with helpful tips for refining your ideas and putting together a budget. There will be time for Q&A.

Note that attendance at a proposal workshop will be required to submit a grant this year (and the in-service session would fulfill that requirement). More workshops will be scheduled this winter. I would be happy to answer any questions in the meantime.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle,

Posted on November 27, 2018

3 brief bits about one big issue: Poverty

Last year, Roanoke’s newspaper reported on a New York Times analysis that ranked Roanoke in the bottom 10 in the nation for economic mobility.

Just today — Oct. 1 — the Census Bureau and researchers at Harvard and Brown universities published the Opportunity Atlas, which maps searchable, nationwide data about the outcomes of adult children and the neighborhoods where they grow up. Or, as the New York Times put it, data that will make it possible to pinpoint “where children of all backgrounds have the best shot.”

As the Times story notes, what seems to matter most for success is the neighborhood within about a half a mile of a child’s home.

“For any government program or community grant that targets a specific place, this data proposes a better way to pick those places — one based not on neighborhood poverty levels, but on whether we expect children will escape poverty as adults.”

Researchers believe the findings will help cities identify new sites for Head Start centers, or where students might receive more priority for selective high schools or other programs.

“The larger question is how to convert struggling neighborhoods into places where poor children are likely to thrive.”

Explore our region’s outcomes at


2. Poverty tops list of priorities in latest Community Health Assessment

Carilion Clinic, the Roanoke Valley’s largest employer, must conduct a Community Health Assessment every three years as a requirement of the Affordable Care Act.

The latest report was just released in August, and the following are the 10 priority health-related issues in the Roanoke Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), which includes the cities of Roanoke and Salem and the counties of Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, and Roanoke.

The 10 priorities for our service region are:

  1. Poverty / low average household income
  2. Transportation / transit system
  3. Access to mental / behavioral health services
    1. Access to substance use services
  4. Culture: healthy behaviors not a priority
  5. High uninsured/underinsured population
  6. Affordable / safe housing
  7. Access to dental care
  8. Poor diet
  9. High cost of care
  10. Educational attainment

To show you progress from report to report: In the last CHA (2016 to 2018), the top priorities for the Roanoke Valley included: (1.) Poor eating habits/ lack of nutrient dense foods in diet (2.) Access to mental health counseling/substance abuse (3.) Access to adult dental care (4.) Access to dental care for children (5.) Lack of exercise/physical activity.

The report notes “the work of conducting this CHA and the public availability of its findings is intended to enable the community to effectively plan the vital work of maintaining and improving health.”

Carilion also requires all funding requests for its community grant program align with these new priorities. Grant proposals are due Oct. 15 and April 15 each year.

If you have ideas for health-related projects that align with these needs, please discuss with your dean/supervisor and the grants office. Highly collaborative, impactful projects that avoid using funds for personnel costs are encouraged. Awards usually range from $5,000 to $20,000.

Jordan Herrera, a social worker, operates Amarillo College’s Advocacy and Resource Center, which includes a food pantry and clothes closet. Photo from Lumina Foundation’s Focus magazine.

3. A Texas community college pursues anti-poverty mission

Finally, I stumbled onto an excellent example of how one community college is addressing poverty in the panhandle of Texas.

Amarillo College, which serves about the same number of students we do (10,000), has embarked on a No Excuses Poverty Initiative.

As part of the initiative, the college has opened an Advocacy and Resource Center which includes a food pantry and clothes closet, and helps students with bills including rent, utilities, and childcare.

Russell D. Lowery-Hart, Amarillo’s president, said initially “we thought, like a lot of people: ‘This isn’t our mission. The community is supposed to solve those problems.’ But we’re the community’s college. We had to see our mission in addressing these issues, even if that meant gluing the resources in the community together in a coherent program. We knew we had to do something.

“A majority of higher ed is set up for the students from the ‘80s,” he said. “But our communities depend on us educating the students we have, not the students we wish we had.”

And is the initiative helping students attain their credentials?

“When we first started these conversations, our completion rates were in the teens,” he said. “Now, our three-year completion rates are 45 percent. We can celebrate those, but our goal is to be at 70 percent by 2020.”

Get the whole story in this excellent article and video package produced by the Lumina Foundation:

Posted on October 1, 2018

Calling all Virginia Western superheroes

That’s me dressed as “Social Media Butterfly” … with “Captain Classified” … at a “Superheroes of Journalism” party years ago. Guess who suggested the party theme.


Have you ever thought about what kind of superhero you would be?

Like, if you assembled with the Avengers or Justice League or Guardians of the Galaxy, what would be your talent … your thing?

I think about this a lot — and not because I’m a huge fan of spandex or superhero movies.

It’s just a fun way to explain my philosophy of life and approach to being a parent … which means, I keep asking:

What are your superpower(s), and how will you use them to help others?

My mission as a parent is to raise an empowered, creative soul who can recognize her strengths while also seeing beyond herself and her own needs. To help her develop a careful balance of confidence and empathy so she can work effectively in a team (think “Avengers”) … ideally in a life of service.

Now, how might my family — and countless hours of schooling — help my daughter do this?

By nurturing a sense of agency and purpose, which author/filmmaker/entrepreneur Ted Dintersmith thinks is lacking in most schools.

After reading his 2018 book, “What School Could Be: Insights and Inspiration from Teachers Across America,” I watched Dintersmith’s short TEDxFargo talk  …. and then this longer presentation, where he explains why he became alarmed as a parent. He noticed his children’s conventional school emphasized and rewarded four things:

  1. Memorizing content
  2. Replicating low-level procedures
  3. Writing formulaically
  4. Following instructions

Which describes most of my own K-12 schooling.

Dintersmith is alarmed because this skillset — designed for the industrial age more than a century ago — is exactly what machine intelligence is good at. Which means we’re preparing our kids to excel at jobs that will soon be replaced by robots. (I’ve explored this topic before in “How might we design a ‘robot-proof’ education?”).

He also woke me up as a parent who started saving for my daughter’s college education shortly after she was born.

Dintersmith writes:

“Children should be encouraged to shoot for the stars, to dream big, to be supported by adults who believe in them. But college in America isn’t a means to a dream. College is the dream. We don’t tell kids to shoot for a star. We tell them to be a star student, to get good grades so they can get into the right college. And pity the child whose plans don’t involve college. They’ll get discouraging feedback from school, family, random adults, and prospective employers. Education should prepare our children for life, but we have it backward. We prepare children’s lives for education.

While the book focuses on innovations at K-12 schools across the country, Dintersmith did address community colleges in this passage:

“Our country’s community colleges are a powerful potential resource. Currently, they’re viewed as a consolation prize for kids who can’t make it to four-year college. Many are traditional in structure — subjects, lectures, two years of seat time to get an associate’s degree, and “weeder-outer” prerequisites. Completion rates are abysmal. But these community colleges could reinvent themselves. Call themselves Career and Learning Accelerators. Award digital certificates for shorter-term immersive programs tied to career-elevating skills (e.g., graphic design, compelling writing, welding, computer programming), capabilities (e.g., sales, marketing, leadership, project management), or intellectual pursuits (e.g., Victorian literature, humanity’s great philosophers). Train faculty in state-of-the-art pedagogy. Align courses with real-world challenges, internships, and mentors. Students return multiple times as their careers progress. Turn our nation’s 1,655 community colleges into a strategic asset to help citizens at all stages in life — from high school to older workers in dead-end jobs — to turbocharge their skill sets and expand their minds. Will our community colleges seize the day? Perhaps. In any case, a bevy of aggressive start-ups see higher education as a large market ripe for disruption. Don’t underestimate what they’ll accomplish.”

So … are you ready to seize the day?

I’ll ask again: What are your superpower(s), and how will you use them to help others? …

And where should our Virginia Western superhero team assemble? Perhaps for a grant opportunity?

If you are intrigued by Dintersmith’s ideas, I encourage you watch the following:

Posted on September 14, 2018

Idea seeds: Humanities + Biology + Camping trip

For the past few years, a creative team at VWCC has pulled together proposals for a competitive federal grant through the National Endowment for the Humanities. This program encourages the blending of humanities with other disciplines at community colleges ( details here ).

So far, we have been unsuccessful … but I thought I would share some “idea seeds” from other schools that might inspire some innovation right here at Virginia Western.

Oakton Community College in Illinois was awarded one of these Humanities grants to develop an eight-week summer field study called “Plants, Society and Human Nature: Scientific and Ecocritical Perspectives.”

The six-credit honors class combines biology with the humanities and is team taught by professors of biology and English. Also: The class featured a 17-day camping trip that included stops at Yellowstone and Badlands national parks.

Read more about the class at the Community College Daily …. and Oakton’s interdisciplinary Environmental Studies concentration here.

What interdisciplinary projects might enhance Virginia Western’s strengths? If we’re not doing it already, how might we take advantage of the abundant natural resources in our backyard — and integrate them into curriculum? Would we even need a grant to make that happen?

Posted on September 7, 2018

Contact Us

Grants Development Office
Location: Fishburn Hall F204
Phone: 540-857-6372

3093 Colonial Ave., SW
Roanoke, VA 24015