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The Green House Grants Blog

I tried speed dating once … and how it relates to Innovation Grants

You’ve heard of speed dating, right?

Where you meet with a bunch of potential romantic interests in efficient, 10-minute increments?

Based on my own comic experience at Roanoke’s now-defunct Saltori’s in the early 2000s, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this method for actual dating.

But I think the concept might help some of us out with grant ideas.

Hear me out.

Six of your colleagues attended the Innovation Grant Workshops last week (THANK YOU!), and one of them made a comment that sparked this idea.

The gentleman said it seemed the Educational Foundation was looking for broad ideas that impacted more of the college than just one class or department (correct), and he wondered how more folks across campus could share their ideas. He suspected that some of us are probably mulling similar ideas and just needed to be connected.

*Light bulb*

So this is a huge experiment, because I don’t know how many of you are willing to try “speed brainstorming.”

But I’m going to just try.

Anyone intrigued by sharing their innovative ideas (or kernels of an idea) should email me and let me know you’re game.

I will then take those names and check all of our Outlook calendars for a one-hour gap where most of us are available in the next two weeks.

We’ll meet in the grants office during that hour … and we’ll pair up for increments of 10 minutes or so, where you give the elevator pitch to your colleague. This is an excellent opportunity to talk through your ideas … ask some questions, give some feedback, etc.

And then, after those 10 minutes are up, we switch and repeat.

Who knows … maybe you’ll find someone with similar ideas, and you can collaborate for an even stronger proposal.

No matter the outcome, I’m betting this will be fun.

Also, we have candy.

And I’m hoping someone can come up with a better name than “speed brainstorming.”

If you want to give it a try, email sseagle@virginiawestern.edu by Friday, Feb. 16.


Posted on February 12, 2018

If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for the Innovation Grant …

How are those Innovation Grant proposals going?

I’ve been hearing some good questions from your colleagues about the process, and I thought I would post some tips for generating grant-winning ideas. Here are five:

  1. Think “Project Runway”

So if you’ve ever chatted with me for more than 5 minutes, then you probably know I’m a huge fan of “Project Runway.” I’ve watched this fashion competition since the first episode in 2004. I love Tim Gunn and the “unconventional materials” challenges the most, but I also reference the show when trying to explain the creative process. Specifically, how constraints tend to bring out the most creativity.

For example, the show is built around challenges for fashion designers: Limited time (usually a day or two), a limited budget ($200 at most) and a specific focus, such as fashion that looks good under black lights … or dresses made only out of stuff sold at a grocery store …. Or an outfit for professional stiltwalkers (this was real).

So when I’m asked about coming up with winning grant ideas, I analogize with “Project Runway.”

Think of yourself as the creative designer.

The grant rules and regulations …. i.e., the maximum budget, the allowable expenses, the funder’s mission (in this case, student retention!) … are the creative constraints.

Your job is to create a beautiful project within those constraints. Sometimes you have an idea that will work perfectly within those limits … and then sometimes those limits push you to a place you could have never imagined. I find that process exhilarating.

  1. Try not to look at grants as extra work …

I know … you’re busy. We’re all busy. The last thing we want is to add more to the workload. So instead of approaching grants as one more burden, look at them as a tool for fixing problems. What are your pain points? What problems do you encounter in your classrooms, in the college’s processes, etc.? What are you always complaining about? How might a grant help address those problems… and might that solution benefit students and the whole college? A grant will help you prototype a possible solution.

  1. Build on our strengths

On the flipside, consider the vast resources Virginia Western already offers. What do we do *really* well? This is the first example that comes to mind: We have lots of parking lots, so potential room for mobile services and food trucks. We now have a presence in the emerging downtown Roanoke “innovation corridor” through our involvement with the RAMP business accelerator … so how might we use that space? I’m sure there are many more examples. What do *you* do really well? What do you love the most about your job? How can we amplify your strengths … and strengths of this college … in a more innovative way? In the grants world, we like to use the fancy word “leverage” … how can we better leverage our resources?

  1. This is professional development.

I lifted this idea from a Fast Company story about rethinking your career: Imagine your best, actualized self in 10 or 20 years. What are you doing? And what steps do you need to take tomorrow — and next year — to get there? Which leads me to this question: How might proposing a grant project help you grow out of your comfort zone and expand your professional horizons? I guarantee you will meet new people and learn more about the college and your community by going through a grant process.

  1. This is not time wasted … even if you FAIL.

Speaking as a recovering perfectionist … the kind of high-achiever who tried to avoid failure throughout my formal schooling years  … this has been one of my hardest life lessons. Yes, going through the grant process will take time. It will take effort. And you’re not guaranteed a payoff. The grant might not be awarded at the amount you requested … or at all. And that’s OK. You spent that time focusing on an idea that you love. You thought it through … you talked about it with colleagues, some of whom you hadn’t worked with before. There might be a better grant opportunity right around the corner. Or the idea will morph into something else … and get stronger. You are exploring and planting seeds and moving forward … and hopefully having fun. So don’t be afraid to just try. You never know where your first idea will lead.

Don’t forget! If you plan on submitting a proposal, consider signing up for the Innovation Grant Workshop (perhaps with your collaborative partner?).

I’m piloting some small, 1-hour workshops in the grants office on two dates so far … Wednesday, Feb. 7 (10 to 11 a.m.), and Thursday, Feb. 8 (3 to 4 p.m.).

During the workshop, we’ll go through the application step-by-step. Bring your questions … and a laptop or iPad if you want to write or edit your proposal as we talk.

I may schedule additional workshops (in groups or one-on-one) depending on the demand.

Please sign up for the limited number of spaces at this link:


Or reach out to me directly if those times/days don’t work for you:

Stephanie O. Seagle |  sseagle@virginiawestern.edu | 857-6084.

And in case you missed it:

Thinking about an Innovation Grant? Don’t skip these important first steps (with downloadable grant application)

Posted on January 31, 2018

Thinking about an Innovation Grant? Don’t skip these important first steps

So perhaps you have some creative ideas floating around your head … ideas to help students succeed, or possible solutions to help with student retention.

If you’re like me, your idea might feel a bit half-baked … the start of something cool, but you feel like you need to talk it out with another colleague.

Awesome, let’s work with that.

Or maybe you love your idea but are totally mystified and overwhelmed by the grant process.

That’s OK, we’ve all been there.

So let’s take some baby steps to see what might be possible with the Educational Foundation’s Innovation Grant: an excellent starter grant with pretty good odds for funding.


Step 1: Read the Innovation Grant application. All the way through. It’s only five pages long (which, compared to a federal grant RFP, is easy-peasy).

Give the application just 10 or 15 minutes of your time, even if you skimmed it before the holiday break.

Personally, I like to print out all documents and read with a highlighter in hand.

Download the Word document here: 2018-2019_Innovation_Grant_Application

Go ahead, I’ll wait ….

The most important information for this grant (or any grant) should be in this application, including an explanation of the submission process … the deadline (March 30) … and the maximum amount considered ($10,000).

Most importantly, it goes over the rules and intent of the grant. Does your idea make a good fit?

And do you even qualify? (The answer is yes, because according to the FAQs >>>  FAQs_Innovation_Grant_2018 <<<  all members of Virginia Western faculty and classified staff, including adjunct faculty and part-time employees, are eligible to submit proposals.)


Step 2: Time to talk

Hopefully you noticed the number of signatures required on the application cover page (which note earlier deadlines).

The grant process will require multiple conversations, so please allow time for those conversations early in the process … the worst thing to do is wait to complete the application at the last minute.

New this year is a Scoring Matrix:


Take the time to read this document, too, because this is how the Educational Foundation board members will judge the proposals.

And here is a key point about the Scoring Matrix to keep in mind:

We often encourage collaborative approaches and projects around campus in general, but this grant actually awards up to 10 points for collaboration with another colleague, department, student group, or outside organization. Teamwork truly makes the dream work, so build those bridges early.

Finally, as you consider submitting an Innovation Grant, please make it a top priority to discuss your ideas not only with your colleagues, but with your supervisor and/or dean early in the process. The conversations you have NOW can help refine your idea or connect it with others that might be percolating within your own department.


Step 3: Proposal workshops

If you believe your idea is a good fit for the grant, and you plan on submitting a proposal, consider signing up for the Innovation Grant Workshop (perhaps with your collaborative partner?).

I’m piloting some small, 1-hour workshops in the grants office on two dates so far … Wednesday, Feb. 7 (10 to 11 a.m.), and Thursday, Feb. 8 (3 to 4 p.m.).

That gives you a little over three weeks to hold those important conversations and gather the information required for the application.

During the workshop, we’ll go through the application step-by-step. Bring your questions … and a laptop or iPad if you want to write or edit your proposal as we talk.

I may schedule additional workshops (in groups or one-on-one) depending on the demand.

Please sign up for the limited number of spaces at this link:


Or reach out to me directly if those times/days don’t work for you:

Stephanie O. Seagle |  sseagle@virginiawestern.edu | 857-6084

I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

Posted on January 15, 2018

‘Western, we have a problem’: 5 tough takeaways from Dr. Monty Sullivan

More than 20 years since I first watched “Apollo 13,” I’m often reminded of one particular scene.

And no, it’s not, “Houston, we have a problem.”

In order to save the Apollo crew, a group of NASA engineers raced against the clock to create a carbon dioxide filter from the limited equipment available in the spacecraft.

They quite literally had to figure out how to put a square peg in a round hole.

I love this scene because it required not only creative problem-solving skills but also teamwork under life-or-death stress. Watch it here.

After hearing Dr. Sandel and Dr. Monty Sullivan challenge us to work together on our enrollment and retention goals — to influence our future instead of being at the mercy of the trend lines — I was reminded once again of that dramatic “Apollo 13” scene.

Racing against the enrollment declines, I imagine our college sitting around a big table with the parts of VWCC spread around for all to examine … questioning and re-imagining their original purpose. How might we make the parts work better together … to help all of our students shoot for the moon?

Our budget isn’t the only potential casualty. The lives of our students — and our community — depend on the answers.

But before we explore some possible answers, we need to ask the right questions.

Dr. Sullivan’s presentation to the college on Jan. 4 was inspiring and chock full of ideas (loved the work ethic grades on transcripts!), but these are the five tough questions that got my attention:


(1) Would you send your child to Virginia Western? Why or why not? If not, what would change your answer?


(2) What makes Virginia Western special? What do we offer that is changing lives … or could be changing lives?


(3) We are not a university. How would we refine/re-imagine/redesign our role based on the changing needs of our community?


(4) Instead of exclusively focusing on the 4,459 high school graduates in the region, why don’t we better serve the 100,000 working adults with a high school diploma or less?


(5) Is your program in high demand in our region? How might we tweak the program to incorporate credentials that lead to better-paying jobs? What credentials would help people go from making $8 an hour to $15 an hour?


And if you don’t know what are considered high-demand jobs, you should read the Local Workforce Plan by Virginia’s Blue Ridge Works, paying closest attention to pages 3-19.

The plan identifies five existing target industries with high job growth:

  1. Healthcare
  2. Manufacturing
  3. Construction
  4. Transportation and warehousing
  5. Financial services

It also explains three emerging sectors, with a few shout-outs to Virginia Western:

  1. Food and beverage manufacturing
  2. Life sciences
  3. IT

You can drill into the wage data and credentialing requirements here:


I’m looking forward to our Retention Town Hall on Jan. 11 and future meetings to discuss our challenges together.

And while these ideas are percolating, don’t forget about a few grant opportunities that could help turn them into reality. If you’re wondering how you — an individual faculty or staff member — can effect change, a grant can be a first step.

(1) The Paul Lee Professional Development Grant ($2,500 for the summer) and the Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant ( $1,500 maximum). Deadline is Feb. 1.

(2) The Educational Foundation’s Innovation Grant applications ($10,000 maximum) are due March 30. (Details)

The grants office would be happy to talk through you ideas. Please note that all proposals must be reviewed by Virginia Western’s Office of Grant Development and Special Projects prior to submission. Please contact Marilyn Herbert-Ashton ( mherbert-ashton@virginiawestern.edu | 857-6372) or myself ( sseagle@virginiawestern.edu | 857-76084) for assistance.

Posted on January 5, 2018

Wait! Before you log off for winter break …

As I’ve emphasized before, ideas — our imagination — are the real power behind grants.

And I collect rando ideas like some people collect Star Wars action figures.

I read like a maniac because it helps stuff my brain with as many ideas as possible — and then, like magic! — some joke or frustration or grant RFP will spark a connection.

Before we peel off for holiday break, I wanted to give you just one link to click.

Just one! And it’s an easy list to skim.

These are the best community college innovations of 2017, as chosen by the League of Innovation in the Community College … and you can find them here.

My hope is that just one of these innovations will get your attention … something might spark an idea.

And it might not be immediately.

Just skim it … no heavy lifting here. I want to put our unconscious selves to work … because while we are sleeping late and reading for fun and traveling and celebrating over the break, our brains will rest.

And a rested brain makes the magic happen.

If we’re really lucky, an entire string of idea bulbs will light up in our collective heads!

When we return in January, I’ll focus more attention on the Educational Foundation’s Innovation Grant.

I have blogged about some previous awards to give you an idea of what your creative colleagues are already doing.

This year’s application is out earlier than usual — and you can find more about how to get it here.

I helped tweak the format to (hopefully) make it easier to apply, and I plan on offering an application workshop early in the spring semester.

Among the most important points to know:

  • All members of Virginia Western faculty and classified staff, including adjunct faculty and part-time employees, are eligible to submit proposals.
  • Requests will be considered up to $10,000
  • Proposals that introduce strategies to improve student retention will receive 5 extra points in the scoring process. (But themes other than student retention are welcome.)
  • The deadline is March 30.

Enjoy the holidays and the time off … I’m looking forward to very creative 2018!

(And if you’ve read this far, then you might also be hungry for more League of Innovation ideas … find the award winners for 2016 and 2015.)

Posted on December 14, 2017

Here’s an idea for the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant. What are yours?

Before we get bogged down in the details of the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant, I thought I’d expound on an idea that I mentioned in a previous blog post.

In “The Power of Moments,” authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath introduced me to the Course Design Institute (CDI), a week-long workshop offered at the University of Virginia.

“The dirty secret of higher education is that faculty aren’t taught how to teach,” said Michael Palmer, an associate professor of chemistry who started the CDI at UVa in 2009.

Here’s a passage from the book that explains the power of this program:

[Palmer] puts the following question to his audience of 25 to 30 professors: “Imagine you have a group of dream students. They are engaged, they are perfectly behaved, and they have perfect memories … Fill in the sentence: 3-5 years from now, my students still know _________. Or they are still able to do _____________. Or they still find value in _________.”

After some brainstorming and listing answers (very few of which are content focused), Palmer then asks the professors to pull out the syllabus they brought to the institute.

“How much of your current syllabus will advance your students toward the dreams you have for them?”

There’s an awkward silence in the room. George Christ, a biomedical engineering professor, remembered the moment with a chuckle: “You look at your syllabus, and you go, ‘Zero’.” Most professors discover exactly the same thing. It’s a head-slapper of a moment.

… The differences between the “before and after” syllabi from the CDI are often striking.

Lucky for us, the authors provide an example of an improved biomedical engineering syllabus on their website: http://heathbrothers.com/cdisyllabi/.

The book reports that 295 instructors participated in CDI through 2015. They rated the workshop a 4.76 out of 5.0 — and all 295 said they’d recommend the course to a colleague. Not bad!

I was intrigued … so I explored the CDI website and learned that the program is open to any instructor — not just UVa faculty. The 2018 sessions include May 21-25 and June 18-22. Registration is $900, and lodging and most meals would be extra. Learn more by watching this video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfzT5iilQWY

And through the CDI website:  http://cte.virginia.edu/programs/course-design-institute/.

I’m curious if there would be any interest from VWCC faculty who would not only attend CDI for their own course, but go with the intention of sharing the same techniques with faculty at Virginia Western? Someone (or some team) willing to host our own version of a course design workshop … folks who would champion student-centered design thinking on our campus?

Perhaps this idea — or a similar one — might inspire you to consider the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant or an Innovation Grant through our Educational Foundation or some other funding alternative.

As always, I’m happy to talk through your ideas and questions.

Now back to the professional development opportunities through the VCCS …

The VCCS offers two types of professional development grants:

  1. The Paul Lee Professional Development Grant, with a maximum stipend of $2,500 for the summer.
  2. The Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant, with a maximum award of $1,500.

Last week, I focused on the Workshop Mini-Grant. Today, I’ll spotlight the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant.

Full-time and adjunct VCCS faculty members are eligible. Classified staff may not be primary authors, but may be involved as collaborators and co-applicants.

Faculty may apply individually or collaboratively for time and expenses. Maximum funding for time is eight credits. Most time is funded at three credits. Summer funding for Paul Lee Professional Development Grants is $2,500.

The next deadline is Feb. 1 for projects proposed for the 2018 summer semester.

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

  • Initiatives to enhance student success
  • Discipline-specific project
  • 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

Eligible projects
The following projects are typically eligible for grant funding:
• Grants supporting research and activities advancing teaching, learning and student success and the mission of the VCCS are eligible, including research; writing professional articles/books (with shared ownership with the VCCS); developing courses not listed in the master course file; collaborative projects with high schools, other higher education institutions or the community; and projects related to VCCS-identified priorities.
• Conference expenses — if they are part of a larger project or activity. Applicants should demonstrate college match for a portion of the costs.
• Travel (domestic and overseas)—approval is dependent upon the purpose, methodology, and justification of costs. Make sure that the travel budget is well researched, detailed, and realistic.

What kind of projects are NOT eligible for funding?
• Professional development activities typically funded by the college, i.e. tuition reimbursement; travel to VCCS-sponsored events; licensures; equipment, supplies, textbooks, and software purchases; student activities funding; normal teaching or administrative duties; and developing courses similar to those in the VCCS master course file.
• Design and development of a web-based course that is already available online (check VCCS Master Course File listing online) will not be funded unless there is a distinctive or innovative component.

More information

To review the online application and learn more about these grants, go to  http://www.vccs.edu/careers/office-of-professional-development/opd-grants-program/

The grants office would be happy to talk through you ideas. Please note that all proposals must be reviewed by Virginia Western’s Office of Grant Development and Special Projects prior to submission. Please contact Marilyn Herbert-Ashton ( mherbert-ashton@virginiawestern.edu | 857-6372) or myself ( sseagle@virginiawestern.edu | 857-76084) for assistance.

Posted on December 11, 2017

Got a workshop idea for the summer? VCCS Paul Lee grant applications due Feb. 1

Pictured: The Instructional Technology Mini-Conference at Virginia Western in July 2016.

I’m hoping you’re as excited about professional development as these folks are, because the VCCS offers two types of professional development grants:

  1. The Paul Lee Professional Development Grant, with a maximum stipend of $2,500 for the summer.
  2. The Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant, with a maximum award of $1,500.

Today, I’ll spotlight the VCCS Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant.

Dr. Carrie Halpin, Virginia Western’s Instructional Designer and Technologist, has been awarded this workshop mini-grant for the past few years … they have funded her successful summer Instructional Technology Mini-Conferences, which she raved about in our YouTube video, 7 Ways Grants Have Transformed Virginia Western.

The grant pays up to $1,500 to host a workshop that must involve at least two or more VCCS colleges.

The next deadline is Feb. 1 for projects proposed for the 2018 summer semester.

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

  • Innovations in technology, professional activities, and shifting community college roles
  • Future directions for the community college
  • Articulation with public schools and 4-year colleges
  • International education
  • Mentoring part-time employees
  • Student development, assessment, or retention
  • Complete 2021-related topics
  • New relationships between and among community college employees
  • Time management/stress management
  • Promoting pleasant, positive work environments
  • Motivational topics
  • Dealing with change
  • Other topics that meet discipline, instruction, career, or organization needs

Some FAQs from the VCCS:

1. What distinguishes a workshop mini-grant from a professional development grant?
Mini-grants are awarded for day conferences, in-service activities and workshops. Funds are allocated to conduct a meeting, not attend one. Those conducting mini-grant workshops are not eligible for honorariums.

2. Who is eligible to submit a mini-grant application?
All VCCS employees, including adjunct faculty and classified staff, are eligible to submit a mini-grant.

3. What activities associated with mini-grants are eligible for funding?
Mini-grants may be used for all of the following: one or more speakers from outside the VCCS; travel costs for speakers within the VCCS; food and beverage at per diem rates for attendees; and the cost of handouts.

4. Which budgetary items will not be funded?
Speakers actively engaged in the sale of a product and speakers from within the VCCS are not eligible for compensation, and services not connected with an approved budget activity.

Also not allowed:

  • Purchasing classroom, student or software supplies
  • Funding student activities
  • Licensures
  • Workgroup meetings normally supported by colleges
  • Gifts, entertainment and alcoholic beverages.

More information

To review the online application and learn more about these grants at http://www.vccs.edu/careers/office-of-professional-development/opd-grants-program/

The grants office would be happy to talk through you ideas. Please note that all proposals must be reviewed by Virginia Western’s Office of Grant Development and Special Projects prior submission. Please contact Marilyn Herbert-Ashton ( mherbert-ashton@virginiawestern.edu | 857-6372) or myself ( sseagle@virginiawestern.edu | 857-76084) for assistance.

Posted on December 4, 2017

Thanks for sharing your creative Student Success Kit ideas

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the Student Success Kits that are mailed to each new student at Western Governors University.

The kits include practical tools to help these students succeed at an online university, including a webcam.

But more importantly, the act of receiving — and unpacking those kits — have become a “peak moment” for these students, as evidenced by numerous posts on social media.

Dan Heath, co-author of “The Power of Moments,” explains why building those peaks is so important in this 4-minute video … (see if you can spot my childhood doppleganger) … and if you liked that video, the next one talks about creating peak moments in schools.

So the Western Governors Student Success Kit got me wondering: What might we include in Virginia Western’s version?

Two of our colleagues were inspired enough to share some suggestions by email. I’ve posted their ideas here with their permission:

Jeffrey Kamal, Academic Link Program Assistant, writes:

I had several ideas for a student success kit. Then I thought more about it and asked myself, “What could VWCC include in a student success kit that’s different from WGU’s and cost-effective?” Here are my ideas so far:

  • VWCC tumbler (for coffee & tea – maybe the coffee shop would agree to give them a discount)
  • Coupons (locations TBD or it could just be for the Domino’s/Coffee/Subway on campus)
  • VWCC planner

And then I tried to think creatively:

  • VWCC flash drive
  • $10 WEPA print card (or maybe $5?)
  • Headphones
  • How about if we took things a step further and mailed the health professions/nursing students a scientific or graphing calculator?
  • Paper items:
    • A small booklet that contains a comprehensive list of study tips
    • Help Desk “bookmarks” on how to connect
    • A guide on how to use WEPA (somebody could create one if it doesn’t already exist.)
    • A doorknob hanger like WGU’s. Maybe there could be a contest where students submit their designs. This was the best I could do so far …

Office supplies: These items are relatively cheap so I am thinking they wouldn’t be so “special” to include in a student success kit:

  • Note cards w/ VWCC logo
  • Pens w/ VWCC logo
  • Mechanical pencils w/ VWCC logo
  • Mini hand sanitizer

Now how do we get the students to actually read the documents included?
Perhaps there could be periodic or weekly emails that say “The first ___ students to submit a study tip from the booklet included in their student success kit will receive a prize of ___/will be entered into a drawing to receive a prize of ___.”

Here are some ideas for renaming the kit:

  • Student Savvy Kit
  • Student Welcome Kit (as in “welcome to VWCC! Whether this is your first semester or second (or more!), we are pleased to have you as a student. We hope you enjoy the following items included in your kit: [list of items]”


That is awesome, Jeffrey! I’m really impressed by how much thought you put into this challenge … and that you actually designed a doorknob hanger!

Heather Derrick, one of our new program coordinators in Workforce, emailed:

I was thinking about holding a Healthcare Workforce orientation night late January 2018 for our four core healthcare programs. A chance to bring all the students together in one room, get them pumped about the upcoming semester, communicate expectations about what it’s going to take to succeed, and also connect them to initial strategies and resources. A Healthcare Workforce Success Kit would be the ultimate take-away! (Especially if I can figure out the scrub voucher thing. We could put a little note in there with their voucher asking them to share a pic in their new scrubs with the hashtag #scrubup!)


So one of the key points from the authors of “The Power of Moments” is that truly outstanding peak moments are personalized, not standardized. And that’s why I really like Heather’s idea. These kits would be specifically tailored for healthcare programs in Workforce … so a Virginia Western Student Success Kit might look different from focus area to focus area, program to program. By giving them out in person at orientation (and by making the event feel special), it would create an exciting social experience that I doubt these students would soon forget. On the academic side, perhaps success kits could become part of the retooled SDV experience?

If you like the idea of creating student success kits — and more peak moments for our college — then I highly recommend the *free* resources on this page, including the first chapter of “The Power of Moments.”

The lessons I’ve learned apply to my daily interactions on this campus … not just highly choreographed moments.

And here are the links to the videos again … [Video 1: Build Peaks, Don’t Fix Potholes … and Video 2: Is Your School All Practice, No Game?] They are worth 8 minutes of your time.

I’ll be discussing a couple more takeaways from “The Power of Moments” in future blog posts, including a successful college course design program that’s in our backyard. The question at the heart of the program is: “What do I want my students to know 3-5 years after the course is over?”

Posted on November 27, 2017

What would you put in a Virginia Western Student Success Kit?

Perhaps this idea has floated around campus before …  but I thought I’d share a noteworthy nugget that popped into my Twitter stream.

Apparently all new students at Western Governors University (WGU) — an online university — are mailed a Student Success Kit at the beginning of their first term. I know this because WGU retweeted one of their students, who wrote:

Finally got my Student Success Kit from @westerngovernorsu and I’m so excited! They definitely understand the need for coffee. I’ve already had some very early mornings and late nights, but I’m loving every minute of school so far. #liquidmotivation #wgu #teacherscollege #momoffour

So what’s inside? The WGU Student Success Kit includes:

  • A webcam for taking online proctored exams (with instructions)
  • Dry-erase whiteboard and marker
  • WGU-branded swag (such as that plastic coffee mug referenced above and a “do not disturb” door sign)

I’m struck by how excited students are when they receive the kit … excited enough to post Instagram and YouTube videos as they unpack their boxes.

Watch one of those “unboxing” videos here:


Besides serving a practical function — giving students the tools they need to succeed with a distance learning program — the kits also create an emotional experience.

Why is this important?

I’m about halfway through The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, the latest book by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, the brothers who wrote best-sellers “Made to Stick,” “Switch” and “Decisive.”

In “The Power of Moments,” the authors explain how the best organizations create defining moments … including moments of pride.

The Heath brothers write:

We all work to improve the experience of the people we care about: the patients we treat, the customers we serve, the students we teach, and the kids we raise. We want to create memories that matter. Great experiences hinge on peak moments. We’ll call them “defining moments”: short experiences that are both meaningful and memorable … Research suggests that organizations dramatically under-invest in building peaks, choosing instead to fill potholes.

Unboxing a student success kit would count as a peak experience to commemorate the beginning of a learning adventure at Virginia Western … which might help with retention.

Now maybe the contents of the WGU kit wouldn’t be right for our students … so I’ll challenge you to brainstorm: What would you include in a Virginia Western Student Success Kit?

And beyond the kits, I’m curious to hear more ideas about creating peak experiences at Virginia Western (which don’t have to cost money).

Email ideas and requests to the borrow this fantastic book: sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

Posted on November 13, 2017

If Virginia Western were a theme park …

If you’ve ever been in my office in Fishburn, you probably noticed my bulletin board.

Half of it is designated as an “Idea Shelf” — where I jot down creative thoughts to use for later.

The other half prominently features a Busch Gardens park map.

Let me explain.

Months ago, as our office brainstormed through a big grant opportunity, we were discussing the college’s strengths, weaknesses, and wicked problems.

I let my corny humor take over. As legendary ad exec David Ogilvy once said, “The best ideas come as jokes.”

So I started drawing.

When I think about Virginia Western, I immediately think of bridges … especially since we have a giant bridge over Colonial Avenue.

So when I started sketching out bridges to all of our programs and connections with our community, my sketch started to look like a theme park map.

And I love a good theme park. Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Universal Islands of Adventure in Orlando are among my favorites.

Soooo … please forgive my crude doodles, but I tried to imagine Virginia Western as if we were a theme park:

Some questions I had to consider as I drew my map:

  • How would we design our park for maximum enjoyment for the lifelong learner?
  • Should there be multiple entrances?
  • What “lands” would we include, and what are their proportions?
  • What are the signature, standout “rollercoasters” … the ones most visible to the public … the ones we are famous for? Certain degree programs? The FAB LAB?
  • How should we connect the different lands? Do we need more bridges and “sky rides”?
  • How do we help lifelong learners navigate our park — and keep them coming back again and again?
  • How would potential employers / business and industry fit into this park?

Now, of course, I’m NOT trying to turn Virginia Western into an amusement park … (even though some schools are actually installing lazy rivers).

I’m just looking at VWCC — and how we all connect together — in a different way.

Months after my theme park exercise, I read an article that really helped articulate why these kind of metaphors are important.

In “A New Liberal Art,” the Chronicle of Higher Education explores the concept of systems thinking — which emphasizes the relationships between the parts of an organization. My a-ha! moment happened when the article explained “mise en place” (French for “everything in its place”), which chefs use to manage a kitchen.

This is my favorite part of the story:

“The culinarians have a saying: A cook sees his station, and a chef sees the whole kitchen,” says Dan Charnas, a New York University journalism professor and author of Work Clean: The Life-Changing Power of Mise-En-Place to Organize Your Life, Work and Mind. “Being a chef requires a global vision — the ability to see systems, to see how everything fits together.” The greatest chefs are not just thinking about when to broil the fish, but how the fish relates to the pasta cooking at another station, the food delivery that evening, the fishermen working on the ocean, the changing climate’s impact on the fisheries, and so on.

“If you’ve ever seen some of the chefs graduate and go on to do other things — whether it’s run their own businesses or run consumer-products companies — they take their mise en place with them, because it’s now ingrained in them,” Mr. Charnas says.

Systems thinking can help us better understand Virginia Western — how do each of us and our departments interact with one another to create experiences (good or bad) for our students?

And what would your theme park map look like?


Posted on November 6, 2017

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

3093 Colonial Ave., SW
Roanoke, VA 24015