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The Green House Grants Blog

Why this matters

Graduation is on the horizon, so if you haven’t heard it enough: THANK YOU to all of our faculty and staff and leadership who made this possible, during such a harrowing, historic year.

What we do matters, and our community will not forget it.

I know we all have moving stories to tell about our journey since last March. I just wish we could gather to share those stories around a giant campfire … with coffee and cookies and stackable lemon lasagna. 🙂  

Maybe someday.

In the meantime, I offer a few inspiring nuggets, which fill my heart with joy: 


Acknowledging our grief

I tend to reference movie scenes in my daily life, so I very much appreciate Josh Eyler’s explanation of the collective grieving process through the animated film, “Up.” This is an important message, especially as we feel pressure to snap back to “normal,” whatever that means. He talks about how students, faculty and staff will not forget the flexibility over the past year — and what that could mean as we create the future together. Eyler is author of “How Humans Learn” and serves as Director of Faculty Development and Director of the ThinkForward QEP at the University of Mississippi. Watch “On Grief & Loss: Building a Post-Pandemic Future for Higher Ed without Losing Sight of Our Students and Ourselves” on YouTube. It’s about an hour long. 


From my bookshelf

I had no idea how much Fred Rogers obsessed over the scholarly childhood research that informed his show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” until I read “When You Wonder, You’re Learning: Mister Rogers’ Enduring Lessons for Raising Creative, Curious, Caring Kids” by Gregg Behr and Ryan Rydzewski. I scarfed this book up over one weekend.

Love and relationships are the key to learning — the root of everything — according to Mr. Rogers. He purposely designed a warm, caring atmosphere to make the children watching at home feel loved and accepted, right down to his cozy cardigan and comforting routines. This applies to adults, too. Students can get creative in environments where they feel psychologically safe and have the tools and freedom to explore their interests. And keep this sentence in mind as we continue to navigate choppy economic and political waters: “Study after study has shown that nurturing relationships and environments can act as a buffer against toxic stress” (p. 145). This is why I aim to create “islands of sanity” at home and at work. 


Why this matters

Perhaps you have noticed the *free* professional learning opportunities I have started to list at the end of my weekly blog posts. I have been including virtual events that cut across disciplines, most of them focusing on equity, supporting students, grant opportunities, and future trends in higher education. Many are recorded and available to watch at your convenience, and I note that whenever possible. All of them are free of charge — they just require time and curiosity.

Why am I taking the time to do this? Because teaching and learning are at the heart of our mission — and we transform ourselves by learning like our students. I consider all of us teachers and learners, no matter our titles.

Grants can help us on this journey. They can demand extra work, agreed, but they are also tools for creating change in our communities. The most effective grant projects require imagination, courage, good planning and collaboration — which is why I’m so obsessed with cultivating creative environments, and why I’m so excited about this event next week, which very much ties back to that Mister Rogers book: 

Keynote speakers Jen Moon (left) and Katie Dawson, both from the University of Texas at Austin, will explore active, creative teaching strategies educators can use to support students’ connections with you, with your course content, and with each other.
  • Innovations in Pedagogy Summit: Fostering Curiosity, Wonder, and Creativity for All Students. A virtual event presented by UVa’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Educators have the opportunity to both create and foster learning environments where students’ curiosity, wonder, and creativity can flourish. But what does this look like in and out of the classroom, in person and virtually, in small courses and large — and how do we ensure we are creating spaces where all students thrive? Synchronous workshops will focus on how this relates to enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion. I spotted one session that might be of interest: Habibe Aksoy of Northern Virginia Community College will discuss the STEM “Students on the Stage” (SOS) teaching model on Day 1. The summit is set for May 12-13, noon to 4 p.m. each day. Free and open to the public. Registration required.

I would love to hear your big takeaways from the summit —  or any more professional development events our colleagues might enjoy. Email sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, May 2021

On our grant radar

*Free* professional learning opportunities

The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. May 6: How can we best design learning experiences with technology? With professor Karl Kapp. May 27: How can we enhance the academic opportunities for Black students? with Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. June 3: How can colleges and universities better support equity by race? with Dr. Tia Brown McNair, Vice President in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Student Success and Executive Director for the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) Campus Centers at the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). More upcoming programs. Video recordings available on YouTube.
The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. A series of online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Upcoming topics include a conversation with “Pregnant Girl” author Nicole Lynn Lewis on May 12, and “Campus-Based Supports for Students with Familial Responsibilities” on May 19. Coming June 2: A Pedagogy of Care: Reflections with Jesse Stommel of Digital Pedagogy Lab & the #RealCollege SLAC. Register here. Recordings of previous events available by scrolling to “Previous Events” at the bottom of this page.
NSF Spring 2021 Virtual Grant Conference. Designed to give new faculty, researchers, and administrators key insights into a wide range of current issues at NSF. Program officers will be providing up-to-date information about specific funding opportunities and answering attendee questions. June 7-11. Registration is free.
Bookmark the VCCS professional development website
Funding opportunities
  • NSF: Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. Provides funding to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers, especially in high-need school districts. Community colleges strongly encouraged to apply; however, it requires collaboration with K-12 and co-leadership with 4-year school. (due Aug. 31)

Grant starter kit
Posted on May 4, 2021

What ‘The Great British Baking Show’ can teach us about teaching and learning

“The Great British Baking Show,” class of 2020

I never thought I would get this emotionally involved with a cooking show.

Or, to be more precise, a *baking* show.

It’s not that I haven’t watched them before. 

My 7-year-old is a HUGE fan of the Kids Baking Championship on the Food Network. In fact, Taylor Pusha, a Northside Middle School student, won the holiday version of this kids show in 2020, dazzling the celebrity judges with her flavorful gingerbread.

And, of course, who could forget Virginia Western chef John Schopp, who competed in the Halloween Baking Championship in 2016?

So I’m very familiar with the competitive food TV genre … which is why I became so enchanted by “The Great British Baking Show,” which my husband and I continue to binge on Netflix. We’ve watched about six seasons already, starting from the most recent (2020), and going backward.

I love this show even though I don’t really love to bake.

How is this possible?

Because “The Great British Baking Show” isn’t really about baking.

For me, it’s about creating a little learning community — an “island of sanity,” to borrow a term from author Margaret Wheatley, whom I have mentioned before.

Margaret Wheatley explains her “island of sanity” concept in this excellent YouTube interview about building relationships, fighting bureaucracy, and teaching in a post-COVID world.

Here’s what I mean about the GBBS becoming a learning community/island of sanity:

About a dozen home bakers — all amateurs — gather under a giant party tent in the English countryside for a series of 10 weekly baking challenges. With the exception of the most recent quarantined season, the bakers compete on the weekends and go home to practice during the week, which reminds me very much of a class. The international TV audience is learning along the way as well.

While a baker is eliminated each week during this “bake-off,” the vibe feels much more collaborative. They never work as formal teams — but the “competitors” often help each other as they struggle — and sometimes spectacularly fail — throughout the challenges. Instead of cutthroat conflict I’ve seen amplified on most other food shows, this one is … supportive. Collegial. Downright joyful. 

I don’t think this can be attributed to just one thing.

Like a good bake, there are many ingredients that come together in this magical recipe.

Let’s start with the production design: The beautiful outdoor setting, with natural sunlight and numerous shots of blooming spring flowers. The pastel, Easter-egg color scheme — down to the stand mixers — and plucky background music. The judges deliberating around a kitchen table, cups of coffee (or tea?) in hand. Even the wardrobes: They tend to be colorful and full of happy polka dots and floral prints.

Anna Beattie, the show’s creator, told the Guardian in 2013: “I loved that idea of village fetes and an old-fashioned baking competition with people who only wanted to bake a good cake. It was as simple as that.”

Each season features the same familiar format: Three challenges per episode. Two judges who focus on the baking results, and two hosts who bring some pep talks and comic relief during the actual baking, which can get a little tense. As we watched, my husband remarked on comedian Noel Fielding: “He just seems like a genuinely nice person.” 

The judges are honest, but the feedback is kind and constructive and will help these bakers long after the show ends. Which is important, as baking is a craft that takes years of practice.

For most of these bakers, their creations are expressions of love. Many of their cakes and breads and pastries celebrate childhood memories or members of their family.

Now here’s where it gets emotional. Some of these contestants are so humble and surprised when longtime judge Paul Hollywood raves about their bakes, they don’t gloat. They just … cry. 

The show helps these bakers believe in themselves.  

The “Great British Baking Show” also helps us get to know each baker, spotlighting their personalities, day jobs, and relationships at home. We hate to say goodbye when it’s their time to leave the tent — and all the bakers and judges gather for hugs right after they deliver the sad news. But we’re also crying happy tears as the credits roll, especially when an ecstatic “star baker” calls a loved one to tell them the good news. 

When the field is narrowed down to three finalists, the winner is announced in front of proud family and friends who have gathered on the lawn for that “village fete,” sometimes with slides and bouncy houses.

The winner walks away with some glory, a bouquet, and a fancy cake plate … but the camaraderie feels more like the real prize. The finales end with photos of the competitors hanging out with their new baking friends all around the UK, long after the filming ends.

It didn’t really surprise me when I learned the company that created the show is called Love Productions, as it seems love is what they are trying to spread.

Love for baking, love for learning, love for one another. 

This is exactly what I want to model in my work and at home: Creativity, care and collaboration.

I’m all about reflective exercises, so please indulge me a minute. 

Would it be possible to create a similar GBBS atmosphere in a classroom — no matter the subject? What about in your area of expertise? 

Let’s have some fun here: If I were to create my imaginary “Great Nonfiction Writing Class,” what might that look like?

  • For the asynchronous portion: A series of weekly, real-world writing challenges to practice technical skills and to showcase what students love. I would start with John Warner’s “The Writer’s Practice” for ideas.
  • For the face-to-face or synchronous session: Use most of this time for students to share and edit in a supportive, collaborative, psychologically safe environment — probably in duos and building from there. Maybe we could meet in the arboretum.
  • I would aspire to become a balanced blend of artisan teacher and supportive comedian — to share honest, constructive feedback while also giving everyone a proverbial hug of encouragement. I would recognize my power to control the emotional climate. I would also wear statement spectacles, like judge Prue. 
  • Maybe we bring in at least one “celebrity judge”/leader/employer from the community to talk about our work. 
  • Our class would end in a celebration of some sort — a live reading and publication of our favorite writing? Or another idea chosen by the students themselves?
  • Baked goods will always be welcome.

Which reminds me … you can help congratulate Taylor Pusha, Roanoke winner of the Kids Baking Championship, by ordering sweet treats through her home-based business: https://www.tmcakesandcreations.com/

My daughter was thrilled to meet her baking hero when we picked up some delicious cupcakes, cookies, and rice cereal treats for Valentine’s Day. We can’t wait to try her famous gingerbread around the holidays. (Because as much as I love these baking shows, I will NOT be baking gingerbread.)

Episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” are streaming now on Netflix. Season 12 is currently being filmed and may be released in Fall 2021.

On our grant radar

*Free* professional learning opportunities

The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. April 29: MIT professor Justin Reich will discuss his new book, Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education. May 27: How can we enhance the academic opportunities for Black students? with Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. More upcoming programs. Video recordings available on YouTube.
Innovations in Pedagogy Summit: Fostering Curiosity, Wonder, and Creativity for All Students. A virtual event presented by UVa’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Educators have the opportunity to both create and foster learning environments where students’ curiosity, wonder, and creativity can flourish. But what does this look like in and out of the classroom, in person and virtually, in small courses and large — and how do we ensure we are creating spaces where all students thrive? May 12-13, noon to 4 p.m. each day. Free and open to the public. Registration required.
The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. A series of online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Upcoming topics include a conversation with “Pregnant Girl” author Nicole Lynn Lewis on May 12, and “Campus-Based Supports for Students with Familial Responsibilities” on May 19. Register here.
NSF Spring 2021 Virtual Grant Conference. Designed to give new faculty, researchers, and administrators key insights into a wide range of current issues at NSF. Program officers will be providing up-to-date information about specific funding opportunities and answering attendee questions. June 7-11. Registration is free and opens at noon May 5.
Bookmark the VCCS professional development website
Funding opportunities
  • NSF: Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. Provides funding to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers, especially in high-need school districts. Community colleges strongly encouraged to apply; however, it requires collaboration with K-12 and co-leadership with 4-year school. (due Aug. 31)

Grant starter kit

Posted on April 27, 2021

Don’t be the piñata: 5 lessons learned as a workgroup facilitator

I recently attended a child’s birthday party in a beautiful city park, and it involved a piñata.

After joking with another parent about why we love this tradition — where kids beat their cartoon heroes with a stick until candy falls out — I focused my attention on Birthday Dad, who was managing the festivities.

I noticed how he was able to get this group of 15ish kids — most around the age of 8 and all sugared-up with birthday cake — to follow some basic rules, the most important being: Stay behind this stick I’m holding until it’s your turn

This was a critical maneuver, as the kids mobbed the ground under the piñata any time candy went flying. He ensured every child got a swing, asking them to raise their hands each round. 

Birthday Dad was cheerful, crystal clear, and fair. 

Most importantly: There were no injuries, and everyone was able to get some treats.

I congratulated both parents, as they had gracefully — almost effortlessly — controlled pure chaos without feeling autocratic.

“Yes, he was once a camp counselor,” laughed Birthday Mom, as she made sure my daughter’s goodie bag was full.


Image by Alexander Kliem from Pixabay

I share this story partly because I was so overjoyed to cautiously mingle with humans again. But mostly because I continue to learn what it means to be an effective leader and facilitator, and this piñata game — which lasted all of 15 minutes — was an excellent example of those skills in action.

I have to be honest: Two years ago, when I first volunteered to facilitate the Campus Engagement Workgroup, I felt like that piñata. I remember my nerves during our early meetings — all butterflies and sweaty palms. And don’t get me wrong — I’ve led various projects and meetings over the course of my career. But I’m much more comfortable expressing myself through blog plosts like this one. I didn’t want to make any embarrassing belly-flops, especially in front of colleagues I didn’t know very well.

Two years and a pandemic later, I’m feeling exhausted … but really good about what our group has accomplished. In Fall 2020, the Engagement team morphed into the Strategic Planning: Communication Workgroup, and we are wrapping up our substantial deliverables now. I feel so fortunate to work with all of our team members, past and present.

I am by no means an expert on workgroup facilitation, but I do want to share what seemed to work well for our teams — and to help nudge anyone who might be on the fence about facilitating a group next year. Here are my five lessons learned along the journey:

1. Focus on building relationships first.

Approach these meetings as opportunities to get to know your colleagues better, as the relationships you build will outlast the workgroup. Why is this so important? I will continue to link back to my blog post about creating a “relationship-rich education” — my theme of 2021.

So how do you focus on relationships? Spend a good chunk of your first meeting on introductions. Ask fun, icebreaker questions, like the one I posed to our communication team: “What song best captures Virginia Western’s future?” Try to draw everyone into the conversation. Consider breaking up into smaller teams to accomplish your goals.

During one of our first engagement workgroup meetings — long before COVID — I asked about our favorite candies, and brought most of those treats to the meetings that followed. I wanted everyone to feel welcome and engaged, kind of like a gracious party host. If this role excites you, then I highly recommend reading “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters” by Priya Parker.

2. Create meeting agendas.

I recently watched a very helpful TEDx talk, where Dr. Madeleine de Hauke provided a strategy to COPE with “meeting madness.” The first “C” of her COPE acronym stands for “Captain.” She explains: “Every ship needs a captain to get safely to its destination on time, and meeting science tells us that the meeting leader makes or breaks the meeting.” As workgroup facilitator, YOU are the captain of the ship! Or … combining the role of captain and party host, you could think of yourself as a hospitable Cruise Director, aka Captain Party (which is an actual store in Roanoke).

At the very beginning of the fall semester, prepare your ship: Take the time to really understand your workgroup’s mission and design some structure, like sending Outlook calendar invitations for your meetings. One of the best ways to get your team to the desired destination is by creating meeting agendas, which I usually send out on Mondays — at least a day in advance. And because I am very corny, I created an agenda template that looked like a quest map — because we were on a year-long quest.

The process of creating an agenda will help you think through your purpose and desired outcomes ahead of time, which will help make the most of everyone’s time. Which reminds me of this tip from “The Making of a Manager”: The larger the meeting, the more important the preparation. Author Julie Zhuo points out the actual costs of a meeting — in terms of time. Then multiply that by how many are involved. Spend our time wisely!

3. Be clear about your goals, and keep repeating them.

I believe our communication workgroup was successful because we had a very clear mission and expected deliverables, which I put at the top of every meeting agenda. I like to call this “radical focus” — and your job as workgroup facilitator is to keep the group focused on ROLES and GOALS (an unforgettable phrase I learned from “Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager.”)  We had to stay flexible as we powered through our quest, as two of our workgroup members left the college during the year, but one teammate remarked this month: “We set a plan, stuck to it, and didn’t get distracted.”

4. Do more, meet less.

Our workgroup’s mission was clear: We were asked to gather internal perspectives for the strategic planning process using three suggested questions. The “how” was up to us as a group. We could not do this by meeting by ourselves, so our team made a decision early on: We would use our designated workgroup hours to conduct Zoom interviews at our convenience.

During our first meeting in September, we paired up into “dynamic duos,” decided on a first goal (interview all the VPs), and then each duo worked out how to interview their assigned VP before our first deadline, which was about a month later. Our workgroup huddled again on that date, reflected on our progress, and set our next deadline. Month by month, we made baby steps toward the big goal.

All of us have been in meetings where we feel like we talk in circles … where we’re not getting much traction. Using our allotted workgroup hours for DOING felt much more satisfying. As facilitator, I used the official workgroup schedule (provided by Institutional Effectiveness) to help map our periodic “check points,” which kept us on track.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

I’ve written before about movie directors — and how their main job is to constantly communicate and collaborate to complete their projects. Communication is your primary role as facilitator, and you can do this through (1) Regular Outlook calendar invitations (2) Meeting agendas and (3) Email updates between meetings. 

Dynamic duosComplete before April 30Interview notes received?
Joe and Sandy W.   
Darla and Sandy S. 
Annemarie & Bryan
 
  
Lindsey & Stephanie 
Stephanie & Kathy
 
 

This can be challenging, I know — I never felt like I was communicating enough. But a progress chart can help. The seasoned movie director who wrote “The Director’s Journey: The Creative Collaboration Between Directors, Writers & Actors,” provided an example of the chart he shared with his entire movie crew every week, and I will do the same. Here is the “status chart” I included in every workgroup meeting agenda and in emails throughout the year, which noted who was doing what and by when (ROLES and GOALS). 

Sharing lessons learned is another, broader form of communication — so try to find some time to share your updates with the whole college, through Bulletin posts, in-service sessions, short videos, or some other creative way. We should brag more! 🙂 


As I said before, I’m still learning. You don’t have to be in a formal management role to be a leader — just think about Birthday Dad managing that piñata.

Same goes for facilitating effective meetings. This is a practice, like sports or writing or yoga. We will make mistakes, and it will be OK, because we’re all students. 

I have this idea about bringing some professional development to campus next year — maybe our governance/workgroup facilitators could act as a cohort, getting some coaching from an expert facilitator as we proceed through the year. So we would learn by doing — but also take the time to reflect on best practices. I would love to see our facilitation skills radiate throughout the college, and into the community.

And I would love to hear your ideas, including any lessons learned from your previous workgroups, committees, task forces, or teams. My inbox is always open for humble-brags: sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

On our grant radar

*Free* professional learning opportunities
  • The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. April 22: How can we best reform teaching and learning? Should we rethink grading and student autonomy? with author Alfie Kohn. April 29: MIT professor Justin Reich will discuss his new book, Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education. May 27: How can we enhance the academic opportunities for Black students? with Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. More upcoming programs. Video recordings available on YouTube.
  • Innovations in Pedagogy Summit: Fostering Curiosity, Wonder, and Creativity for All Students. A virtual event presented by UVa’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Educators have the opportunity to both create and foster learning environments where students’ curiosity, wonder, and creativity can flourish. But what does this look like in and out of the classroom, in person and virtually, in small courses and large — and how do we ensure we are creating spaces where all students thrive? May 12-13, noon to 4 p.m. each day. Free and open to the public. Registration required.
  • NSF Spring 2021 Virtual Grant Conference. Designed to give new faculty, researchers, and administrators key insights into a wide range of current issues at NSF. Program officers will be providing up-to-date information about specific funding opportunities and answering attendee questions. June 7-11. Registration is free and opens at noon May 5.
  • The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. A series of online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Upcoming topics include a conversation with “Pregnant Girl” author Nicole Lynn Lewis on May 12, and “Campus-Based Supports for Students with Familial Responsibilities” on May 19. Register here.
  • Bookmark the VCCS professional development website
Funding opportunities
  • NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
  • NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
  • NSF: Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program. Provides funding to provide scholarships, stipends, and programmatic support to recruit and prepare STEM majors and professionals to become K-12 teachers, especially in high-need school districts. Community colleges strongly encouraged to apply; however, it requires collaboration with K-12 and co-leadership with 4-year school. (due Aug. 31)
Grant starter kit
Posted on April 21, 2021

Time again for the Virginia Western Game of Trivia (G3 edition)

Hello, and welcome back to the Virginia Western Game of Trivia, which is really a quiz, but GOT is the only acronym that makes any sense.

(Cue the laugh track)

The game is a quick way to relay important data points and random bits of trivia about our college … and also an excellent excuse for our game host to learn how to use Google Forms. (Ba-dum-tisssss!)

But first … do yourself a favor and play this background YouTube music to get the full quiz show experience!

Can you hear those happy horns?

OK, much better.

Today, we have two (2) questions for you about the new G3 tuition assistance program, which you can learn all about here.

So let’s get to the quiz … (and be sure to click “View score” after you answer) …

In case you missed Round 1 of our Game of Trivia, catch up here.

Did I hear someone ask about a prize?

Ahhhhh, yes.

We all win a valuable prize pack full of … knowledge!

And maybe some lemon lasagna at some point?

🙂

Thanks for playing the (deep, dramatic voice): GAME OF TRIVIAAAAHHH (echo, echo, echo).

GOT some fascinating trivia?

GOT data points we should share with the college?

Let’s turn it into a quiz question!

Email GOT host Stephanie at sseagle@virginiawestern.edu

On our grant radar

*Free* professional learning opportunities
  • Innovations in Pedagogy Summit: Fostering Curiosity, Wonder, and Creativity for All Students. A virtual event presented by UVa’s Center for Teaching Excellence. Educators have the opportunity to both create and foster learning environments where students’ curiosity, wonder, and creativity can flourish. But what does this look like in and out of the classroom, in person and virtually, in small courses and large — and how do we ensure we are creating spaces where all students thrive? May 12-13, noon to 4 p.m. each day. Free and open to the public. Registration required.
  • The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. April 15: What do accrediting agencies foresee for higher education’s evolution? with Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). May 27: How can we enhance the academic opportunities for Black students? with Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. More upcoming programs.
  • NSF Spring 2021 Virtual Grant Conference. Designed to give new faculty, researchers, and administrators key insights into a wide range of current issues at NSF. Program officers will be providing up-to-date information about specific funding opportunities and answering attendee questions. June 7-11. Registration is free and opens at noon May 5.
  • The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. A series of online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Upcoming topics include a conversation with “Pregnant Girl” author Nicole Lynn Lewis on May 12, and “Campus-Based Supports for Students with Familial Responsibilities” on May 19. Register here.
  • Bookmark the VCCS professional development website
Funding opportunities
  • NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
  • NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
Grant starter kit
The (G3) Stackable Lemon Lasagna
Posted on April 13, 2021

How to build better relationships with Goofus, Gallant and ALICE

Did you read Highlights magazine as a kid?

One of our neighbors — a retired military colonel who I only remember as “The Colonel”  — gifted our family a subscription when I was just learning to read in San Antonio, Texas. 

The subscription continued when we moved to Roanoke — and one of the features I remember most vividly was “Goofus and Gallant,” which is still published in Highlights. This is a didactic comic that contrasts two young boys: Goofus, who is always rude and selfish, and Gallant, who models virtuous and respectful behavior. As you can imagine, it is often parodied.

From the July 2020 issue of Highlights

I was reminded of “Goofus and Gallant” while learning about another fictional composite character: ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

ALICE households — which made up about 29% of Virginia families in 2018 — are employed and earn above the federal poverty level, but they do not earn enough to afford basic household necessities. An additional 10% of households lived in poverty, which adds up to 39% of the state struggling to support their families. And keep in mind this is 2018 data … before the COVID disaster. 

Those numbers were shared during a series of VCCS webinars about better serving under-resourced ALICE students, which is where I also learned about this helpful website:  https://unitedforalice.org/virginia

You can explore the local 2018 data on a map of Virginia  — an alarming 57% households in the city of Roanoke were below the ALICE threshold, followed by Salem at 49%.

Relationships are the driving force for ALICE

In the ALICE webinar on March 24 entitled, “Relationships and Motivation: Building Bridges for Student Success,” we learned relationships — not achievement — is the driving force for ALICE students. 

(I would argue relationships are everything, but that’s because I’m obsessed with this book.)

For many of these students, a college campus is like a foreign land. Or … since I’m very literary … it’s like ALICE in wonderland. Virginia Western can be a very peculiar world with our own language and hidden rules … but with so many opportunities for wonder, right? 🙂  

I never heard the term “adult learners” once during the webinar, but that’s who ALICE students are, and who we aim to better serve with our ambitious Title III project, Get REAL

Laura Clark, webinar host and executive director of the VCCS Student Success Center, emphasized we must approach our ALICE students as members of the community and not as a problem to be “fixed.”

I immediately flashed back to my own Montessori teacher training, which aspires to *serve,* not help or fix. Montessorians listen first. They also guide, not control. 

Clark, who served as a College Success Coach at Paul D. Camp Community College for six years, also encourages us to remove the word “should” from our vocabulary … which is funny, because she also shared a table of “constructive” and “destructive” behaviors to keep in mind as we coach and instruct students. 

These feel very much like “Goofus and Gallant” shoulds and shouldn’ts, but I digress … it’s a very helpful guide as we continue to build relationships of mutual respect, both with our colleagues and our students. 

I should also point out the current Highlights comic notes “there’s some Goofus and Gallant in us all. When the Gallant shines through, we show our best self.

GALLANT
Constructive attitudes & behaviors
GOOFUS
Destructive attitudes & behaviors
Seeking first to understandAssuming you know what the student thinks and feels
Appreciating student’s humorPut-downs or sarcasm about the student’s humor
Accepting what the student cannot say about a person or situation (loyalty to the absent)Demanding full explanation
Respecting the demands and priorities of relationshipsInsisting that achievement supersedes relationships
Using the adult voiceUsing the negative parent voice
Assisting with goal settingTelling the student their goals
Identifying options related to available resourcesMaking judgments on value and availability of resources
Understanding the importance of personal freedom, speech, and personalityAssigning pejorative character traits to the student

To learn more about ALICE households, check out https://unitedforalice.org/virginia, or this highly recommended book, available in Brown Library: Understanding and Engaging Under-Resourced College Students. This feels like it would be an excellent “community of practice” read.

ALSO: Highlights magazine is still mailing issues every month! And in a fitting tribute to “The Colonel,” I gifted subscriptions to all the nieces and nephews a couple of Christmases ago.

On our grant radar

*Free* professional learning opportunities
  • The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. A series of online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Upcoming topics include a conversation with “Pregnant Girl” author Nicole Lynn Lewis on May 12, and “Campus-Based Supports for Students with Familial Responsibilities” on May 19. Register here.
  • The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. April 15: Dr. Belle S. Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). More upcoming programs.
  • Bookmark the VCCS professional development website
Funding opportunities
  • NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
  • NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
Grant starter kit

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, April 2021

Posted on April 7, 2021

Please welcome our new Get REAL coordinator: Crystal Hall

We’re excited to introduce Crystal Hall, Virginia Western’s new Get REAL Activity Coordinator, who started March 25.

Crystal Hall

This role is foundational to our 5-year, $1.8 million Title III project, as Crystal will lead the day-to-day grant activities and serve as a connector across college departments and the greater community to help Refocus Education on Adult Learners (REAL).

So far, the Get REAL core team includes Project Director Milan Hayward and Cathy Ferguson, Virginia Western’s first Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) Specialist. Future hires will include a College Career Navigator and College Affordability Navigator.

Crystal earned a Bachelor of Arts from Roanoke College, with a major in Music and minor in Religion, followed by a master’s in Christian Education from the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. She served in church and parachurch minisitries for more than 15 years before joining the Roanoke Housing Authority, where she has worked for almost nine years. During that time, she helped secure and manage a federal Jobs Plus grant and became a key community partner with the RSVP program through the College of Career & Corporate Training.

What called her to work for Virginia Western?

Crystal said she wants to help us engage and serve a broader audience. “I believe in the importance of education,” she said. “This grant will focus on adult learners and will lay the foundation for them to build better lives for themselves and their families.”

I once read entering an organization is like joining a party that has been going on without you for years (source) … so I’m going to act like a polite hostess and help make some introductions through the Q&A below.

Isabelle

Hometown: I was born in Roanoke but moved to Franklin County when I was 10.

First job: Library assistant during college.

Proudest career accomplishment: Helping the Roanoke Housing Authority get the Jobs Plus grant. We were one of nine awarded nationwide.

Favorite music: Classic rock like the Doobie Brothers or Bob Seger.

Favorite TV: I like sci-fi.  

If you had to pick one favorite movie: “My Cousin Vinny”

Any book recommendations? The Bible

Favorite Roanoke-area restaurant(s): Abuelo’s

Favorite candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

I could talk for hours about … My dog, Isabelle. She’s a miniature long-haired dachshund.

Random fun fact:  I love to camp.


Please help me welcome Crystal Hall as we start this journey together!

You can reach her by email: chall@virginiawestern.edu.

On our grant radar

*Free* professional learning opportunities
  • The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Over a 9-month period beginning with a March 31 kickoff with Soledad O’Brien and Wes Moore, the Journey will provide participants with online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Register here.
  • The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. April 1: How can we best measure and understand student growth with higher education? with professor Richard Arum. More upcoming programs.
  • Building Equitable Learning Environments in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM. This webinar focuses on successful strategies applicable to 2-year college technician educators from Action Research for Equity projects that were completed by participants engaged in the NSF ATE-funded EESTEM II project. These projects provide helpful guidance, strategies, and interventions for faculty and administrators in CTE and STEM to foster an equitable learning environment. April 7, 1 p.m. Register here.
Funding opportunities
  • NSF (S-STEM): Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (due April 7) A little late to submit a proposal this year, but we can start planning for spring 2022.
  • NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
  • NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
Grant starter kit

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2021

Posted on March 25, 2021

Wa-hoo! Please congratulate Cathy Ferguson on her latest adventure

Many of us already know Cathy Ferguson.

Beyond advising students through the Career Center for the past five years, she currently chairs the Staff Senate and serves on the college Reopening Taskforce.

Cathy Ferguson

Last year, she was awarded a $5,000 Innovation Grant to advance the work of our Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) workgroup.

If you’re unfamiliar with CPL (sometimes called PLA, or prior learning assessment), it means granting academic credit for demonstrated college-level equivalencies gained outside of the classroom. This could include CLEP tests, ACE recommendations, and PLACE portfolio development and assessment. 

Just this month, Cathy transitioned to a new role: She is Virginia Western’s first, full-time Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) Specialist. She plans to stay “housed” in the Career Center.

This job is a critical piece of our 5-year, $1.8 million Title III grant, as it helps adult learners reduce the cost and time to attainment of a credential or degree. As Cathy noted in her Innovation Grant proposal: Research shows that adult learners, who earn CPL credits vs. their peers who don’t, have better academic outcomes.

In this role, Cathy will coordinate and accelerate the continued development of Virginia Western’s CPL programs. This means directly serving adult learners, while also working with CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) to help support faculty and staff through professional development.

What would she like to accomplish as CPL Specialist?

“I would like to create a program that is sustainable beyond the grant period and will lead to a collaborative effort within the college to increase enrollment, better our community, and help people to gain college credit for experience that is equivalent to college learning.”

Cathy attended the University of Virginia (“go Wahoos!”), and has work experience in telecommunications and insurance, as well as higher education.

“I am passionate about mentoring and coaching and encouraging others to pursue their dreams,” she said.

OK, so beyond her new CPL role, let’s get to know Cathy a little better:

Cathy has traveled to 37 countries. Here she is acting like she’s running on the first Olympics track in Olympia, Greece.

Hometown: Hooville, aka Charlottesville, VA.

First job: While in college, I was a car rental agent for AVIS and worked at the airport. I loved meeting people from all walks of life and hearing their stories about travel.

Proudest career accomplishment: I was the Director of Career Services at ITT Tech when it closed unexpectedly. There was so much disappointment for our students, who had been declared graduates, but had yet walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. With community support, I was able to provide an “unofficial” graduation for our recently declared graduates. It was important to me that they celebrate their success and be recognized by their family, friends and faculty.  I will never forget the looks on their faces as I handed them their empty diploma cases and reminded them that “a piece of paper does not define you … but your hard work over the last two years does.”

What do you love most about Virginia Western? Hands down, the people.

Favorite music: I love Motown and Beach music.

Favorite TV: Hallmark, HGTV and sports.

If you had to pick one favorite movie: “The Wizard of Oz.”

Favorite Roanoke-area restaurant(s): Los Arcos (previously known as El Toreo) at the corner of Brandon Avenue and Peters Creek Road; and Alexander’s in downtown Roanoke.  

Cathy and her husband, Steve, in Ephesus, Turkey.

Favorite candy: Mounds and Hot Tamales.

I could talk for hours about … My grandchildren! Six strong-willed, determined, funny and plain adorable kids, ages 1-12.

Any book recommendations? “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.

Random fun facts: I have ziplined through the rainforest in Puerto Rico, played glacier golf in Whistler, British Columbia, and sung “Amazing Grace” in the amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey.  

Please help me congratulate Cathy Ferguson as she starts her latest adventure as CPL Specialist! You can reach her directly at cferguson@virginiawestern.edu.

On our grant radar

*Free* professional learning opportunities
  • The ALICE Series: Engaging Our Under-Resourced Students. This five-part series continues March 25 & 26. All Zoom workshops are from noon to 1 p.m. No registration required. Get the Zoom links.
  • The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Over a 9-month period beginning with a March 31 kickoff with Soledad O’Brien and Wes Moore, the Journey will provide participants with online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Register here.
  • The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. March 25: How can we use data analytics to improve education? with University of Arizona professor Greg Heileman. April 1: How can we best measure and understand student growth with higher education? with professor Richard Arum. Upcoming programs.
  • Building Equitable Learning Environments in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM. This webinar focuses on successful strategies applicable to 2-year college technician educators from Action Research for Equity projects that were completed by participants engaged in the NSF ATE-funded EESTEM II project. These projects provide helpful guidance, strategies, and interventions for faculty and administrators in CTE and STEM to foster an equitable learning environment. April 7, 1 p.m. Register here.
Funding opportunities
  • Perkins: Internal requests due March 26. Discuss with your dean.
  • NSF (S-STEM): Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (due April 7) A little late to submit a proposal this year, but we can start planning for spring 2022.
  • NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
  • NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
Grant starter kit

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2021

Posted on March 24, 2021

DIY creativity retreat: Choose your own adventures

Just in time for spring break … or when you just need a day to hit the reset button:

I’ve boiled down years of research about creative people, creative spaces, and creative habits into a simple way to plan your own creativity retreat, which you can do ASAP, in your own home, with stuff you already own.

(The idea for this blog post bubbled up during my own “DIY creativity retreat” over Thanksgiving break.)

Why is creativity so important? My very first grants blog post explained how innovative ideas power the best grant proposals. And last year, we learned *creativity* was the No. 1 soft skill sought by employers.

This is a skill that is slippery and quite magical, but everyone can be creative. Celebrated biologist Edward O. Wilson believes our capacity for imagination and creativity is the distinguishing trait of our species — a trait that was born as we told stories around ancient campfires. Creativity is what makes us human. So you are already creative … and we can learn how to teach it as well.

A creativity retreat can help us tap into our unconscious — this is the mysterious, murky space where creative connections are made, and where big ideas gurgle.

The “agenda” is designed to be super flexible — I know how busy our schedules can get! — and also to give you plenty of mix-and-match options for any season and any kind of weather.

Your retreat could happen over one day … or an entire weekend, if need be. Maybe you invite others? Maybe not?

Just go with the flow … and have fun choosing your own adventures!


Morning

  • As soon as you wake up, immediately write down anything you remember from your dreams. (A bedside journal and pencil would be helpful!) We’re taking advantage of this groggy, twilight zone before your brain’s prefrontal cortex gets to work … so linger in bed and think over your big questions: What do you want? … or a less ego-centric question: What is needed here? (And how can I serve well?)
  • Eat whatever you want.
  • Light a candle … we’re igniting your creative fire!
  • Stuff your conscious mind with information. Read, read, read whatever you want.

Afternoon

Pick at least one: 

  • Get high: Go on a hike, take in a view at a mountaintop winery, or picnic on the parkway. The key is you find an *expansive* view to help jostle some big ideas.
  • Play: LEGOs, puzzles, basketball, ride a bike, do whatever brings joy (what did you do in 4th grade for fun?)
  • Create: Art/craft project, write in a journal, vision board, musical playlists (ex: soundtrack of the happiest times of your life, songs for the future)

Evening

Pick at least one:

  • Cook or bake something decadent.
  • Watch anything that will make you laugh. I’m a fan of Will Ferrell comedies.
  • Take a long shower or bath. Break out the mud masks and bath bombs!
  • Create: Art/craft project, write in a journal, vision board, playlist. 

Let’s see what bubbles up!

 (Repeat as necessary.)

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2021

On our grant radar

Professional learning opportunities
  • The ALICE Series: Engaging Our Under-Resourced Students. This five-part series will examine economic class and the implications for engaging under-resourced students. Sponsored by the VCCS Student Success Center. Session 3 on March 24 got my attention: Relationships and Motivation: Building Bridges for Student Success. What does it take to build connections with students? How can relationships affect student success and improve motivation? We will explore strategies to connect with students and consider factors that can influence motivation both in and out of the classroom. All Zoom workshops are from noon to 1 p.m. March 22-26. No registration required. See the full schedule.
  • The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Over a 9-month period beginning with a March 31 kickoff, the Journey will provide participants with online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Register here.
  • The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. Upcoming programs.
Funding opportunities
  • Perkins: Internal requests due March 26. Discuss with your dean.
  • NSF (S-STEM): Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (due April 7) A little late to submit a proposal this year, but we can start planning for spring 2022.
  • NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
  • NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
Grant starter kit

Posted on March 9, 2021

What can we learn from one of the most innovative schools in higher ed? (Plus: *Your* professional development ideas)

About three years ago, I first learned about Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). The private, nonprofit school has been celebrated as not only one of the most innovative colleges in the America … but one of the most innovative organizations in the world.

They are able to serve over 3,000 residential students on their campus in Manchester, while enrolling over 135,000 online learners worldwide. All while touting affordable tuition.

I’ve been impressed by how SNHU designed themselves to serve those two different student groups: (1) The more traditional student who wants an on-campus, coming-of-age experience … and (2) the adult learner who wants convenience, credentials, and speedy completion times. I blogged about SNHU in 2018.

Just recently, I have considered taking a few a la carte classes in screenwriting at SNHU, which would round out my master’s degree and give me enough graduate-level credits if I ever wanted to teach English. Their online program would meet my needs as an adult learner.

So I was very much interested to hear what Dr. Paul LeBlanc, SNHU’s visionary president, had to say during this Future Trends Forum (Feb. 25, 2021), available to watch on YouTube.

I must give a shout-out to writer/host/futurist Bryan Alexander. Years ago, he introduced me to the work of Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom — author of “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy” and recent MacArthur “genius grant” award winner. Alexander was blogging about the COVID pandemic long before last March, so he has futurist cred. You can browse the archive of his previous forums (all available on YouTube), as well as upcoming programs here.

So what can we learn from one of the most innovative presidents in higher education?
Dr. Paul LeBlanc
Photo from snhu.edu

Not only did LeBlanc use the term “rocks” to describe his top 3 priorities for the next year (I explain how “rocks” changed my life here), but his most important “rock” is about reinventing leadership at SNHU. He wants to move away from a top-down, silo-ed, rigid culture and instead focus on developing leaders throughout the organization.

When I shared this blog post on Twitter, LeBlanc himself responded with this comment: “A process that begins with the person at the top recognizing the ways he or she is modeling the very practices that need changing (an exercise in humility).”

So …we know he’s listening! 🙂

What else does this look like?

If, for example, a new academic advisor had only been working at SNHU for three months, would that advisor feel empowered to take care of a problem for a student without asking for permission? LeBlanc said that is leadership.

Another example: In an effort to spend SNHU’s new $5 million social justice fund, the school created three communities of practice, made up of about 20 people each. They make sure each group has the faciliation knowhow and tools necessary to make these important funding decisions. Membership in those communities was determined by (1) credibility and (2) passion for the topic. Ultimately, the groups determine how the money will be spent, not institutional leadership.

Finally, LeBlanc said SNHU has been training “meeting ninjas,” or faciliators, who can be called into meetings across the organization to make sure every voice is heard. He said this is a messy work-in-progress but critical to their culture change and continued innovation.

Closer to home, this reminds me of the Strengthening Your Facilitation Skills (SYFS) training offered by the Virginia Cooperative Extension. This kind of professional learning could be helpful for our governance workgroups, committee meetings, grant projects, classrooms … the more I think about it, wouldn’t most of what we do be considered facilitation?

BTW, I like author Adrienne Maree Brown’s definition: “Facilitation is the art of making things easy.”

LeBlanc’s emphasis on facilitation and culture change dovetails beautifully with my previous essay about transforming ourselves by learning like our students … and an Innovation Grant project we just completed.

Back in January, we hosted an Improv for Creative Teaching & Learning session, which was paid for with an Innovation Grant from the Virginia Western Educational Foundation. We had 29 employees participate (yay!), with representation from full-time and adjunct faculty, staff, and college leadership. Many thanks to our facilitator, Ami Trowell, and everyone who attended — we had some fun!

About a month following the workshop, I reached out to the participants for their feedback … and most importantly, their suggestions for future learning opportunities.

Many participants reported the workshop techniques have helped them keep an open mind; be more present; and be better listeners, both in their work and personal lives.

One faculty member emailed, “This was, hands down, the best session of my two weeks of in-service.”

Here are their ideas for future professional development:
  • Soft skills: “I really enjoyed this workshop and would love for VWCC to offer more of this type of ‘outside the box’ type of professional development. … I think more professional development sessions that focus on soft skills would be excellent, both because emphasizing soft skills will make us better co-workers and because we know that students need to learn these skills within their college experience.”
  • Leadership and/or management training. “Just put me in front of a classroom and I’m totally comfortable. One-on-ones with employees, not so much.”
  • More improv, but with a different focus. More “exercises on how to respond to people in a constructive and meaningful way when you aren’t sure exactly what to say. I think that this could benefit faculty and staff in their interactions with students.”
  • Connecting to students (and co-workers) who are on the spectrum for Asperger’s syndrome.
  • Public safety trainings, such as those offered by NOVA community college police. “Self-paced modules I could complete on my own time, answer questions to prove my comprehension, and then get a certificate of completion at the end.”
  • Stress management
  • Work-life balance/integration. “How to keep yourself from being too dedicated, while still doing an excellent job, and not letting that encroach on your personal time.”
  • Mindfulness and the adult learner. “I think we talk so much about stress and students, but I think we sometimes do not address the solution.”
  • Invite author(s) of “Relationship-Rich Education” to speak at the college.
  • More trainings about “training.” “I like to make training fun and interactive, but it is hard sometimes.”
  • “Relationship identifying” workshop – basically how to create the one you wish to develop.
  • “I would like any training where our own teachers share their best practices with proven results. They know our audience and they can tell us what works or doesn’t.”

I’ll leave you with this testimonial, which inspires me to continue this conversation about professional learning:

“I wasn’t sure about this session at first, but I am so glad I attended. Some in-service sessions seem to be geared toward faculty, so staff members may not feel comfortable attending. Offering sessions, like this, with humor and a positive message sets a wonderful tone at the beginning of a semester and can boost employee morale. I also enjoyed the breakout rooms where I got to interact with others that I don’t typically see. Sessions that provide real-world, simple tools (yes, and..) that can be implemented quickly can drive change. This session provided context first, then role playing which helped bring it to life. The two combined really demonstrated that everyone could do it. Motivational, entertaining (fun/lighthearted), and engaging/interactive sessions is what I would like to continue to see in the future.”

I know we’re all busy, but we *must* make time to learn together, think together, create together.

If you have more professional development ideas, please email: sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2021

On our grant radar

Professional learning opportunities
  • The ALICE Series: Engaging Our Under-Resourced Students. This five-part series will examine economic class and the implications for engaging under-resourced students. Sponsored by the VCCS Student Success Center. Session 3 on March 24 got my attention: Relationships and Motivation: Building Bridges for Student Success. What does it take to build connections with students? How can relationships affect student success and improve motivation? We will explore strategies to connect with students and consider factors that can influence motivation both in and out of the classroom. All Zoom workshops are from noon to 1 p.m. March 22-26. No registration required. See the full schedule.
  • The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Over a 9-month period beginning with a March 31 kickoff, the Journey will provide participants with online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Register here.
Funding opportunities
  • Perkins: Internal requests due March 26. Discuss with your dean.
  • NSF (S-STEM): Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (due April 7) A little late to submit a proposal this year, but we can start planning for spring 2022.
  • NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
  • NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
Grant starter kit
Posted on March 8, 2021

Sunny? Cloudy with a chance of rainbows? You have the power to make the weather

This is going to sound way more boring than it was, but here goes:

Over the summer, in an effort to better understand my role in the grants office, I read books including “Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager” and “Meeting Design.”

In those books, I learned some valuable tips, like this one:

  • The most important job of the project manager is to make sure the team is clear on ROLES and GOALS. The rhyme makes it easy to remember. 

And this one:

  • We can roll our eyes at the thought of another staff meeting, but what if we approached our routine meetings as opportunities to build better relationships — a way to change the culture and model the value of lifelong learning?

Too boring? OK, maybe. But here’s the twist:

One of the best books I read about project management was really a book about … Hollywood.

In high school, I dreamed of becoming a film director … without a true understanding of what this meant. I’ve always been fascinated by their process, even more so after I’ve worked in organizations full of creative people with their own ideas. How do these leaders galvanize so many talented people to work together toward a common vision? 

So I read “The Director’s Journey: The Creative Collaboration Between Directors, Writers & Actors” by Mark Travis.

The more I learn about what film directors do, the more I realize I can actually be one … just without the Hollywood part.

Very much echoing that project management tip about ROLES and GOALS, Travis explains that the director has only two roles.

They should: (1) Formulate a vision of the film and (2) constantly communicate the vision.

Travis explains: “The director is a communicator, an inspirer, a visionary. The main thing we do as directors is we talk and we talk and we talk. Consequently the most important skill for a director to develop is the art of communication.” (7)

Ultimately, the director must constantly communicate and rely on her relationships with the creative team to complete the project — ergo, collaboration.

We always hear about the importance of collaboration — in fact, it’s one of Virginia Western’s institutional goals — but do we truly understand what that means?

Travis defines collaboration NOT as unquestioning support; instead, it’s “a journey wherein the team members share a vision, but are willing to challenge and be challenged with the keen awareness that the end result can far exceed the efforts of any one individual.” (134)

Now here’s where it gets interesting.

The author’s first two rules for working with the screenwriter are these:

  1. Express genuine enthusiasm.
  2. Identify the key relationships in the script. Travis explains: “Relationships are at the core of every story. Without relationships we have no story, and in every script there are key relationships that are the foundation of the story.” (47)

Huh. Now where have I heard about the importance of relationships before? 🙂

But going back to that first rule: Express genuine enthusiasm

Travis says directors must establish mutual respect and trust with the writer from the beginning, where no one dominates. “It must be a relationship based on the notion that through shared mutual interest, passion, desire, and collaboration, you will be able to achieve a result that surpasses either of your individual abilities. This relationship needs to be initiated and maintained by you, the director.” (44)

I think the last part is key: Maintaining the relationship is the director’s role — her responsibility. 

I think a lot about taking responsibility with my own daily interactions. I make a conscious effort to greet my daughter, my husband, and my spoiled chihuahuas with genuine enthusiasm. Same with contractors and delivery drivers who visit our home … I just try not to be too weird about it (I also overtip).

I’m trying to mimic the feeling I had every time Ms. Shopper, my first-grade teacher, welcomed me into her classroom 35 years ago. Or when my daughter’s first-grade teacher hosted one of her first pandemic Zoom sessions, a year ago this month, when our worlds were falling apart. I quietly cried in the next room as her familiar, cheerful voice soothed the kids … and this anxious mommy.

Which brings us right back to our own realm: the classroom. 

In “The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion,” Sarah Rose Cavanagh discusses the phenomenon of emotional contagion. She quotes Haim Ginott, a teacher and psychologist, who wrote in 1972: 

“I have come to a frightening conclusion. I am the decisive element in the classroom. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather.(48)

We can each take responsibility for the “weather” in our classrooms, in our Zoom rooms, wherever we gather. 

Mark Travis, the film director who works with actors — those masters of emotion — writes:

“Your energy is always infectious. If you are down and depressed and feeling negative, the actors will pick up on it and it will affect them. If you are up and bubbly, then they will have a tendency to become lighter as well. Your attitude is one of the greatest directorial tools you have.” (251)

No matter our role — instructor, supervisor, teammate, parent — our attitude, our emotions, our ENTHUSIASM — can make a difference, especially during a time of crisis and uncertainty.

We each have the power to make the weather.

What’s in our forecast?

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2021

Posted on March 2, 2021

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