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Thank you, Team IET!

Last week, I shared some of the Virginia Western ingenuity and teamwork that we’ve witnessed during the pandemic.

I continue to welcome more of your emails!

Pam Woody, an advisor in the School of Health Professions, shared the following:

“I would like to recognize everyone on the Help Desk team — especially during the last two weeks where we were allowed to be on campus. They took time with each person checking their laptops to make sure all was installed correctly and ready to go from home. They all have extreme patience and the grace not to become frustrated as their work load increased greatly prior to March 20 and had to work with so many people in a short amount of time. They are a great team and all members work well together and are ready to pitch in where ever needed — great teamwork!”

When I shared Pam’s message with Shivaji Samanta, Director of Information and Educational Technologies (IET), he added:

“Glad to hear that the Help Desk is stepping up to the challenges of the new reality we are in now. I do have one comment to add to that. The Help Desk staff are in the forefront as the ‘face of IET’ and I’m proud of the great job they’re doing supporting VWCC faculty, students and staff. We have to remember, however, that there are many others working in the background to make it all work. I am referring to all the IET staff who are still coming in daily (in rotation) to manage and configure the IT infrastructure on site to ensure it stays operational. In addition, we have programming staff working from home who keep the SIS, procurement and other enterprise systems running. It is a team effort that keeps everything going.”

So thanks to the entire IET team for keeping us all connected!

If you would like to publicly recognize someone at the college, please email (I will ask the person before sharing!).

And Lindsey Weston urges us to continue to send “You Make A Difference” shout-outs by email to Human Resources ( The drawings will continue.

Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, April 2020

Posted on April 7, 2020

Look at this ingenuity and teamwork!

Last week, I shared how my family and I were coping with the pandemic … and I asked the college how the Campus Engagement workgroup might help.

The engagement team’s purpose is to help enhance internal communication and knowledge sharing across Virginia Western.

Becky Kraemer, VWCC’s Assistant Recruitment Coordinator (who also serves on the engagement team), quickly emailed me some examples of the positive — the joy! — happening in the midst of the crisis. 

Becky wanted to spotlight three coworkers (and all of them said it was OK to publish before this post went public). She wrote:

Ray Wickersty (New Student Advisor): He made an awesome YouTube video demo-ing how to work Google voice so all the advisors and people in Chapman could get a hold of students during this time but protecting their real cell phone numbers.  (Ray added that this allows anyone at the college to have a spare phone number to interact with students, thus protecting their personal phone numbers. He is setting up a Zoom meeting room at 9 a.m. weekly. If anyone would like to Zoom in and get some assistance or pose questions, he will be available. You can find Ray at:

Today the Fitness Center has a fun challenge with prizes to get you out of the house! PLEASE KEEP A SAFE SOCIAL DISTANCE (Minimum 6ft)! Watch the video for instructions.

Posted by Chad Heddleston on Friday, March 20, 2020

Chad Heddleston (Recreation Coordinator): I loved his video of the challenge with the water bottles. He is really making an effort to make things interactive and I thought it was great! (Chad said he couldn’t have gotten his Facebook Group going without the help and vision of Natasha Lee as well as Corey Bapst and Joe Bear on the technical side. The Fitness Center staff will be posting workout videos and more at

Nicole Bell (Help Desk / Information Technology Specialist): She was amazing helping me set up all my VM Ware from home, she WAS SO PATIENT! I have already sent her a thank-you and copied Shivaji and Elizabeth on it, but I think it’s so important to highlight KINDNESS and PATIENCE. After all, we truly are all in this together. 

Nicole also wanted to add: 

Thank you to everyone that has sent the Help Desk and IET such kind words of appreciation. The Help Desk is also telecommuting so please have patience with us as we also adjust to our new way of business. Anyone that is using new software or equipment should test ahead of time so questions can be answered and issues resolved before your class or meeting begin. Please remember to call the Help Desk before you are frustrated — we are here to help! [ Phone number is  540-857-7354 ] Everyone at the college has really pulled together during these crazy times. Thank you for all that you do!

The Campus Engagement workgroup met by Zoom on Tuesday, and everyone shared some silver linings of the past couple of weeks, ranging from getting outside to garden, to spending more time with family, to just taking a pause from our normal routines. 

We have each witnessed patience and teamwork and willingness to just “roll with it,” from our leaders to our colleagues to our students. 

If you would like to publicly recognize someone at the college, please email (I will ask the person before sharing!).

And Lindsey Weston urges us to continue to send “You Make A Difference” shout-outs by email to Human Resources ( The drawings will continue!

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, April 2020

Posted on April 1, 2020

3 tips for remote collaboration

Last week, I tuned into a free webinar by IDEO U called “Remote Collaboration.”

Sacha Connor, Founder of Virtual Work Insider, shared strategies for staying collaborative and creative while working from home (and none are about improving your Zoom background!)

Here are my top three takeaways :

1. Spend some time thinking about new communication norms. How will your team primarily communicate? Does it make sense to have a regular (weekly or daily?) Zoom chat to touch base? And if so, what hours would be best to schedule? Maybe have a rule about no Zooms before 9 a.m. or after 3 p.m.? This all depends on individual team members and their circumstances, especially if they are juggling childcare responsibilities, etc. (And if you’re struggling with all of your responsibilities at home, be empowered to ask your supervisor for accommodations, like moving a Zoom time.) One idea shared … if frequent communication is essential to your team, maybe have a standing 9-9:30 a.m. “coffee chat,” where everyone just touches base while they get their coffee ready?

2. Preparation for Zoom meetings is really important! Are you facilitating meetings for your team? Sacha says sending a thorough agenda at least 24 hours in advance is more important than ever. Use her version of the 5 P’s Framework to help develop the agenda:

  • Purpose: Why are you meeting? And is everyone clear about the purpose of the meeting?
  • Product/outcome: What are the explicit outcomes or action items you want by the end of the meeting? Is it to make a decision? Get feedback on an idea?
  • People: Who needs to attend? Narrow the invite list to the smallest group of the right people. Sacha says to avoid “tourists”— folks who can just be briefed by email after.
  • Process: How will we facilitate the discussion or get to a decision remotely?
  • Pre-work: What can be done in advance of the meeting to make the time in the meeting more worthwhile?

3. Use video wherever possible to help connect. Sacha recommends a tool called Loom, which allows you to record and edit videos with a share-screen option, so you can show and tell, do tutorials, etc. You can then email a link to your video. The basic version is free, and due to the pandemic, Loom has made their pro version free for educators. I’ve already signed up and started to play! Check out my test video:

More tips are available by PDF:

The full recording of the webinar is available on Facebook:

Remote Collaboration

The world has already been moving toward supporting remote workers and globally distributed teams. Now with COVID-19, record numbers of people are being told to work from home on short notice. In this conversation, Sacha Connor, Founder of Virtual Work Insider will share strategies for individuals and companies to cope with the new remote reality and how to turn remote work into a strength.We’ll talk about: • Strategies and pitfalls as you go remote.• How to keep the work and creative output high despite not colocating.• Sacha's story of building a remote work capability at a Fortune 500 company.• Activities, tips, and tools for productive remote work.

Posted by IDEO U on Thursday, March 26, 2020

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2020

Posted on March 30, 2020

How I’m coping with the pandemic … and how can the engagement team help?

The first time I cried was after I read that commencements across the VCCS had been canceled.

The second, more intense sobbing happened as I overheard my daughter’s teacher reading excerpts of “The BFG” during their first classroom Zoom session.

Waves of emotion continue to crash over me during my days at home …. fear, grief, rage, anxiety, gratitude.


We will continue to cope with the upside-down world in our own ways.

One week into social distancing, and my husband’s major coping project is: Adopt a chihuahua puppy. (He’s chocolate brown, weighs 1.5 pounds, and we’ve named him Chewbacca, “Chewie” for short.)

My husband’s major coping project is: Adopt a chihuahua puppy.

My way of coping is to read like a maniac. I spent about 20 years in newsrooms before working at Virginia Western, and my journalism roots are showing (also, my hair roots are starting to show, but whatevs).

Specifically, I’m reading about how the pandemic is impacting higher education. I scan the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and the AACC’s Community College Daily on a regular basis. Education futurist Bryan Alexander has been tracking the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its higher ed implications for quite some time.

One of the best bits I’ve learned so far comes from Tressie McMillan Cottom, an associate professor of sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University. I’ve been following her work since I learned about her book “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges” in a blog post by the same Bryan Alexander mentioned above. As the outbreak started to disrupt colleges an universities, Dr. Cottom looked at how New Orleans-area schools carried on in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and she noted one of the most important lessons:

Students relied heavily on their relationships with faculty and staff to help feel safe … and to learn about about college resources.

You probably knew that already … you’re probably experiencing that already.

This is why it’s so important for everyone to review the resources listed on Virginia Western’s website:

I’m so impressed how quickly our colleagues at VWCC pulled this information together.


I also cope through comedy, and I’m so glad my family streamed “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” over the weekend. This is the sequel to the 1995 “Jumanji” of my childhood.

In the 2017 version, a motley crew of teenagers find themselves trapped in a video game version of “Jumanji” … and jungle danger and hilarity ensue.

But the lesson about teamwork really hit home. The players use their individual strengths to overcome challenges … but they can’t exit the game until they work together.

I still wake up in the morning sometimes, hoping the last couple of weeks have been one big nightmare. Am I out of this horrible Jumanji pandemic game???

But we’re here together … and we’ll need to work together … remotely, almost like video game avatars … to get through it.

How are you coping? What do you need, as far as communications or information? Are you able to learn from your colleagues? What might help you do that better?

The Campus Engagement Workgroup is here to help as much as we can. Our purpose is to enhance communication and knowledge sharing across VWCC.

Please send any questions or suggestions along. I’d be happy to get some conversations happening in this space.

My email is open: … and I’m always up for a Zoom session.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2020

Posted on March 25, 2020

One year later: How ‘Traction’ keeps changing my life & work

A year ago, I didn’t own a bike. Now my family bikes the greenway almost every warm weekend.

Early in 2019, I checked out the business book “Traction” (by Gino Wickman) from Brown Library.

I heard about the book at the VCCS Hire Education conference, where folks from Lord Fairfax Community College explained how they used it to transform their Workforce division. It was my favorite session of the conference, as it was both inspiring and useful. This is going to sound extremely nerdy, but I just loved the idea of aligning bite-sized daily goals with a long-term vision. That’s how you get things done … how you gain traction.

One of the most memorable takeaways was the concept of “Rocks,” which the author actually credits to an analogy in Stephen Covey’s book “First Things First.” Wickman writes:

Picture a glass cylinder set on a table. Next to the cylinder are rocks, gravel, sand, and a glass of water. Imagine the glass cylinder as all of the time you have in a day. The rocks are your main priorities, the gravel represents your day-to-day responsibilities, the sand represents interruptions, and the water is everything else that you get hit with during your workday. If you, as most people do, pour the water in first, the sand in second, the gravel in third, and the rocks last, what happens? Those big priorities won’t fit inside the glass cylinder. That’s your typical day.

What happens if you do the reverse? Work on the big stuff first: Put the rocks in. Next come the day-to-day responsibilities: Add the gravel. Now dump in the sand, all those interruptions. Finally, pour the water in. Everything fits in the glass cylinder perfectly; everything fits into your day perfectly. The bottom line is that you need to work on the biggest priorities — your Rocks — first. Everything else will fall into place.

While the book is aimed at businesses, I used its trademarked Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) to create my own personal strategic plan. It forced me to think through my core values and personal priorities — about the life I really wanted for myself and my family. What were our Rocks?

After chewing on the ideas for weeks, I chose 12 areas to focus on, including “health,” “wealth,” and “adventures.” What do I want to see happen in each category in 10 years? In three years? In one? And then … how can I get closer to that vision in the next 90 days? What daily habits will help me realize this vision?

 I refuse to organize my life in corporate terms (quarters), so instead, I organize by the natural seasons.

My first 90-day plan began on the first day of spring 2019. I kept track of my goals and progress with a modified template provided in the book. This template lives in one of my Google Docs … kind of my own personal dashboard … and I use it and my Google Calendar to stay on track.

Almost a year later, I can report some exciting updates: 

HEALTH: I’ve developed a daily yoga practice … and yes, with a handful of exceptions, it’s really been daily. Even through vacations and overnight work conferences and a badly bruised knee. All because of the free “Yoga with Adriene” videos on YouTube. I started small with Adriene’s “30 Days of Yoga” series (check out her introduction video at right). And I’ve kept up the habit with her monthly calendar:

WEALTH: Beyond meeting my ROTH IRA savings goal for 2019 (yay!) … our family established a weekly “Sunday feast” with Grandma that doubles as meal prep, which helped cut our annual restaurant spending in half.

ADVENTURES: A year ago, I had never visited Carvins Cove or biked the Roanoke River Greenway. (I didn’t even own a bike.) Now my family bikes the greenway almost every warm weekend.

A year ago, I didn’t know how to make cinnamon rolls from scratch. I made my first batch for Thanksgiving.

A year ago,  I didn’t know how to make some of my favorite foods: Homemade chicken noodle soup … or banana bread … or cinnamon rolls from scratch. Just last month, I went on a hunt for Thai chili peppers at an Asian food market on Williamson Road … and almost killed the entire family when I stir-fried those peppers to make super-spicy drunken noodles (the tear gas was totally worth it!). 

Most importantly, “Traction” has helped fortify a habit of looking toward the weeks and months ahead. I’m much more intentional, and I focus my energy on what matters most … like brunching with my girlfriends each season … or sending birthday cards on time … or actually trying all of those new restaurants I’ve been meaning to visit (I consider these adventures). 

I’m designing my life for joy, peace, and magic.

As I reflect on the past year, I’m amazed at my accomplishments … at my overall traction. And there were failures, of course. Some home-improvement and creative projects that just didn’t happen. But they still can. I just have to focus.

I’m excited about my fresh batch of goals for spring 2020, which include training for a 5K that will loop through Kings Dominion (my 6-year-old is super jazzed) … and finally turning some of her baby clothes into memory quilts (with the help of Etsy).

So what does “Traction” have to do with grants?

Because successful grant projects function like successful enterprises. We try to align our projects with the college’s vision and the funder’s mission; set measurable goals; and gather data to show need and impact. Or to boil it down further with real talk: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Does it make a difference? 

Perhaps a grant project could help you focus on some of your ambitious career goals. What are your most cherished priorities? What are your Rocks?

Check out the book … or come chat with me about making your ideas happen. I might bring cinnamon rolls!

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2020

Posted on March 3, 2020

Field trip! Sign up to attend the Innovations in Pedagogy Summit at UVA

Dr. Jen Moon and Katie Dawson, both from the University of Texas at Austin, will deliver the keynote session: “Teaching with Intention: Facilitating an Inclusive and Joyful Classroom Culture for Effective Learning”

If you are feeling a bit restless … want to shake up your routine … or just need some inspiration, consider joining me on a road trip to Charlottesville on Wednesday, April 29.

I have already reserved a state van for the occasion.

Up to six passengers can board the van to the Innovations in Pedagogy Summit, which is hosted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Teaching Excellence.

Here’s a summary from the summit website

The Eighth Annual Innovations in Pedagogy Summit will bring together faculty, staff, and students from across UVA and beyond to explore the theme Curiosity, Discovery, and Wonder. Educators have the opportunity to both create and foster learning environments where students’ curiosity, discovery, and wonder thrive. But what does this look like — in and out of the classroom, with and without technology, in small courses and large — and how do we know it’s happening?

Admission is free, and the event is open to the public. 

And since you know about my joy obsession, you know I’m loving the interactive keynote session: “Teaching with Intention: Facilitating an Inclusive and Joyful Classroom Culture for Effective Learning”

Read more about keynote speakers Dr. Jen Moon and Katie Dawson, both from the University of Texas at Austin. 

Want to join us? Let’s plan to leave the Virginia Western parking lot by 6:45 a.m. Wednesday, April 29, in order to arrive at UVA’s Newcomb Hall before the 9 a.m. summit start time. The event is scheduled to end at 2:30 p.m. the same day, which means we should be back on Virginia Western’s campus around 5 p.m. 

Lunch will be on our own!

Please sign up here …

… and consider inviting a close colleague. 

So how did I know about this summit? Because I read about UVA’s Center for Teaching Excellence years ago. Authors Chip and Dan Heath touted the center’s week-long course-design workshop in their book “The Power of Moments.” Like the Innovations in Pedagogy Summit, the course-design workshop is open to any instructor — not just UVA faculty. I blogged about attending the workshop as a possible idea for a grant proposal:

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, February 2020

Posted on February 25, 2020

Joy is the energy of innovation … and 4 other takeaways from ‘Launching Innovation in Schools’

You remember when I said I read about creativity for fun?

Just in the last month, I enrolled in an MIT massive open online course (MOOC): “Launching Innovation in Schools.”

This course — which is free and open to all — is co-taught by Peter Senge, author of “The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.” I blogged about that book back in November.

Here’s a quick summary of the course:

Every great teacher and every great school constantly works towards creating better learning conditions for students. Just as we hope our students become lifelong learners, we as educators should be constantly learning and improving. This education course is for school leaders of all kinds (from teacher-leaders to principals to superintendents) who are launching innovation in schools—starting new efforts to work together to improve teaching and learning.

“Launching Innovation in Schools” started in early February and continues through April. Its target audience is K-12 educators, but most of its themes and strategies apply to higher education. 

I’m already discussing some of the ideas with the Campus Engagement Workgroup … and will bring back highlights to share in this space. If you would like to join the course, it’s not too late to enroll.

Some of the best takeaways so far …

  1. Joy is the energy of innovation … I love this direct connection, as I’m obsessed with both joy and creativity. Remember this when the going gets tough … or you think fun is frivolous. I’ve written about the power of joy herehere … and here.
  2. Build from our strengths: New innovations are ideally aligned with the great work that is already happening at Virginia Western. What makes VWCC distinctive? What are some of the signature strengths of our college? What major initiatives are going on already that we can build from?
  3. Don’t wait for the perfect plan to innovate. Start experimenting … prototyping … creating change now. Just get started, and don’t get hung up on a longterm plan. 
  4. Deep change doesn’t happen because of one person, even if it’s a charismatic leader. It’s almost always a result of partnerships and collaborations. Want to get something started? Form a “dynamic duo” with a colleague who shares your passion for the topic. I’ve written about “dynamic duos” before.
  5. What does a powerful learning environment look and feel like? Members of the Campus Engagement Workgroup wrestled with this question during a recent meeting, and the words that came to mind included: Unity, excited, creative, connected, sense of belonging, purposeful, feeling empowered, strong communication, willingness for risk/change, joyful, and organized chaos. Do you think VWCC is a powerful learning environment? Some of us felt like this was happening in classrooms across campus, but we didn’t have those feelings about the college as a whole. We’ll continue to explore ways to share knowledge and success stories, in the spirit of a true learning organization. 
Reflections by the Campus Engagement Workgroup

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, February 2020

Posted on February 14, 2020

Pop quiz! What was the No. 1 soft skill sought by employers in 2019?




(If you read 20 Ways to Be a Virginia Western Superhero, you probably know already!). 




Answer: Creativity … followed by persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and time management (source: LinkedIn).  

But I don’t need a LinkedIn employer survey to tell me creativity matters. 

I’ve known this most of my life. Fostering a creative environment was the topic of my master’s thesis … and a subject I read about for fun. Now I’m approaching creativity as the parent of a 6-year-old who is just starting her academic journey.

This is why the Innovation Grants awarded by VWCC’s Educational Foundation are my favorite grants to talk about. My goal isn’t just to increase the number of funded grant proposals, but to promote creative thinking every day.

But how do we teach creativity? Is that even possible?

Just as I learned of the LinkedIn employer survey, the Chronicle of Higher Education released a special report: The Creativity Challenge: Teaching Students to Think Outside the Box, which also cites the same survey.

Thanks to the help of Dale Dulaney and the Brown Library, we were able to purchase this report. The Creativity Challenge explains why creativity matters, and, most importantly, it showcases colleges that are trying to cultivate creativity through coursework. 

A program close to home was among the five case studies: James Madison University, which offers project-based learning courses through its interdisciplinary X-Labs program ( However, the report does not include examples at community colleges (I even emailed the reporter, who said she was unaware of any so far). 

If I had to distill the most important takeaways, it would be this list, lifted directly from the special report: 

How professors can foster students’ creativity:

  • Have students work on complex, open-ended problems
  • Let students collaborate, ideally across disciplinary lines
  • Give students ownership over their work
  • Encourage students to come up with lots of ideas, and to work through different iterations of an answer

How college leaders can foster students’ creativity:

  • Reduce barriers and provide incentives for students — and professors — to work across disciplinary lines
  • Provide opportunities for students to take risks and fail without penalty
  • Encourage and recognize teaching practices that ask students to synthesize material and create something new
  • Make sure that programs designed to support creativity are available to all students, not just a select few.

I would be happy to share the full report by request … it’s a quick read. Email

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, February 2020

Posted on February 13, 2020

I binged that ‘Cheer’ documentary; now I have 3 questions for Virginia Western

Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz about “Cheer,” that new cheerleading documentary series on Netflix.

What I didn’t know before bingeing all six hours of the series over one weekend (don’t judge) was that the school at the center of the series is a community college.

Navarro College, in Corsicana, Texas (outside Dallas), has an open-door admissions policy, and its enrollment is virtually the same as Virginia Western’s: 9,200+ students for Navarro, 9,300+ for VWCC. 

I wholeheartedly recommend you watch “Cheer” if you haven’t already … and I’ll leave it to the professional TV critics to summarize the highlights.

Instead, I’ll focus on some themes and questions that tie directly back to our work here at Virginia Western.


Distinctiveness: In the last month, Marilyn Herbert-Ashton (VP of Institutional Advancement, Director of Grants, and Dean of Nursing) has asked members of the IA team to think about what makes our work and our division distinct. In the case of Navarro, it’s clear their competitive cheerleading squad — the Bulldogs — is one of their most distinctive features. The team keeps winning national titles at the annual cheerleading competition in Daytona, Florida. As a result, Navarro has become famous within the cheerleading world. Students travel from across the country to attend this community college because of its cheerleading squad. But as you learn during the series, many of the Corsicana locals had no idea about their cheer fame (perhaps they will now?). Which leads me to this question … What about your own department is extra special? And what makes Virginia Western distinctive? We should be talking more about our strengths and what makes us unique … and showcasing our distinctiveness.  


My brief attempt at cheerleading in the mid-1980s.

Teamwork: The diverse Navarro students and their struggles are very moving … and they will sound familiar to community college educators. By the end, I was crying along with the young athletes — both women and men — as they prepared for another competition in Daytona. Beyond rooting for individual students, I became most fascinated with Navarro’s dynamic as a team; how they had to get over their fears or injuries or interpersonal squabbles and trust they would catch each other … and that’s literally catching each other in cheerleading, when they perform stunts with names like “basket toss.” While my brief cheerleading career ended in elementary school, I thought back to my years playing softball and volleyball. In college, my team was the student newspaper. Those late nights working on the paper were more memorable and valuable than most of my coursework at George Mason University. I remember those times when I pass our own student clubs setting up fundraisers in the halls, or practicing their dance moves in the commons. Natasha Lee, VWCC’s Student Activities Coordinator, spoke about soft skills and the sense of belonging during the “Superheroes, Assemble!” in-service session. Now it’s your turn to reflect: What was your best team experience? How could you apply those lessons to your work now?


Wherever you go, there you are. This is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received … and it came from the dedicated faculty advisor for my student newspaper (coincidence?). I thought about those words when I was the lowest lady in the newsroom hierarchy … it was my first job at The Roanoke Times, my hometown newspaper. Instead of resenting what many might think of as boring, repetitive work (editing calendar listings), I rocked that part-time gig and grew it into a full-time editing job years later. Those were some of the best, most creative years of my life. I thought about the advice once again as I was watching “Cheer.” The Navarro coach, Monica Aldama, grew up in that small town of Corsicana, Texas. She earned her MBA from the University of Texas and planned to build a career on Wall Street. Instead, she chose to raise her family in her hometown and applied for the coaching job at Navarro. She used her MBA skills to build this powerhouse squad — and put her college and herself on the map. Do you ever feel like you have to move to a bigger place — or have a more prestigious title at a more prestigious organization — in order to do your best, most innovative work? I don’t think you have to … because wherever you go, there you are. And here we are. What’s stopping us?

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, Feburary 2020

Posted on February 3, 2020

20 ways to be a Virginia Western superhero

Back in April, in a design-thinking session related to Virginia Western’s G3 planning grant, about 30 faculty, staff, and administrators across the college had the opportunity to interview eight students about their experiences at VWCC. 

Over and over again, the students talked about the personal relationships they developed on their journey, as well as the many resources and supportive services that helped them along the way.

Some in attendance were surprised to learn students with a current VWCC student ID can ride Valley Metro buses free of charge, prompting the comment from one dean: Maybe the college should be regularly updating faculty and staff about all of these student resources during in-service? 

And that’s exactly what happened eight months later, when I emceed the “Superheroes, Assemble! A Resource Roundup for Students” during the January 2020 in-service session.

A total of 12 speakers from across 10 departments each spent about 5 minutes talking about their services, the best ways to help students, and any fun facts or surprising data points from their departments. The purpose was to empower all of us — no matter our role at the college — to help students connect with resources beyond the classroom. 

You can watch the entire 90-minute session here:

After I re-watched the session, I created this list of 20 ways to be a Virginia Western superhero.  These are small actions you can take, or pieces of information shared during the in-service session, that can help change lives.

1. You don’t need capes and masks to look like a Virginia Western superhero: All you have to do is wear VWCC T-shirts and baseball caps around town to spark conversations in the community, and to show your Virginia Western pride. I’ve written about the power of small, face-to-face interactions before.

2. Did you know? Students with a current VWCC student ID can ride Valley Metro buses free of charge. These ID cards are also used to access the VWCC Fitness Center, Brown Library, and the food co-op. Students are encouraged to ask off-campus retail shops and entertainment venues for student discounts. The Student ID office is located on the top floor of the Student Life Center, at the Student Information Desk across from Subway. More details about IDs are here.

3. New in 2019: Students can pick up a free snack or light meal at the Virginia Western Student Food Co-Op. All they have to do is show their VWCC student ID. The food pantry is located on the top floor of the Student Life Center and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can donate here:

4. Consider adding a basic needs security statement to your class syllabus. Here’s an example from sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab:

5. Encourage students to read the weekly Student Bulletin email to stay on top of campus activities and announcements. (Faculty and staff should be reading it, too!)

6. Why are student clubs important? Because students are learning leadership and other prized soft skills by organizing fundraisers and other club activities (see No. 19 below). That sense of belonging and accomplishment are critical for student success. Check out the list of clubs here:

7. Want to supplement your classroom instruction with an extracurricular activity, field trip, or special event? Talk to Natasha Lee, Student Activities Coordinator: 540-857-6326 or

8. You have the power to help low-income students, first-generation students, and students with disabilities be more successful by referring them to our TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) team, federally funded by the Department of Education. (Under the TRIO definition, first-generation means neither parent has a bachelor’s degree.) The TRIO academic success coaches can help students register for classes early and navigate the financial aid and transfer processes. The team also organizes visits to four-year colleges and other cultural enrichment activities. Feel free to walk students over to the TRIO SSS office on the 2nd floor of the Student Life Center or call 540-857-7289. Find the program application and a helpful video overview at

9. Mental health and emotional well-being are just as important as physical health. Sheri Meixner, herself a VWCC alumna, asks us to get the word out about her services as the college Intervention Counselor. She assists students in crisis and provides behavioral assessments and interventions. Students, faculty, and staff are all eligible for this confidential, free service. Sheri is located on the 2nd floor of the Student Life Center. Call 540-857-6711 or email

10. Hillary Holland would like us to work together to make VWCC accessible for all. As the Disability Counselor and ADA Coordinator (who grew up with a learning disability in math), she advises all students, including at satellite campuses, and students enrolled in non-credit classes through the School of Career and Corporate Training (CCT). To help students connect with the Office of Disability Services, call 540-857-7286 or email

11. If students are bewildered by a financial aid situation, don’t be afraid to send them to Chapman Hall for a drop-in visit. There’s usually never more than a 10-minute wait, according to David Brod, the Director of Financial Aid, Records and Veterans Affairs.

12. One of the major challenges for the Financial Aid office is getting a required piece of paper from Point A to Point B. It sounds simple, but it can be difficult for students who don’t have computers or printers at home. David Brod recommends this easy solution for iPhone users with updated operating systems: Use the Notes app. When you press the “+” function, it should give you the option to scan documents.

13. The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation supports more than 85 scholarships for credit and non-credit courses. Students are eligible to apply each semester for awards that range from $500 to $2,000. A list of scholarships, along with information about how to apply, is available here:

14. The Educational Foundation also provides short-term emergency support for students who have suffered a house fire or medical issues, or for when “life happens.” Examples include food and gas cards, or assistance paying for emergency Uber rides. If you know of a student in need, print out one of the emergency aid applications at Note that instructors or advisors must submit the application on a student’s behalf. 

15. Grants and scholarships are available to non-credit students through the School of Career and Corporate Training (CCT). FastForward programs (with drastically reduced tuition) include Certified Nurse Aide (CNA), Clinical Medical Assistant (CMA), Pharmacy Technician, Project Management, Machining, and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The CCT staff are available to help braid funding sources to reduce costs as much as possible, and/or find wrap-around services, including childcare and transportation, for eligible students. More information is available at 

16. Help reduce the shame in getting extra academic help. That’s the request from Katelyn Burton, the Reference and Instruction Librarian at Brown Library. Faculty and staff can help normalize getting extra help by talking with the students about the times you personally needed extra support in your academic career. The Academic Link offers appointment-based tutoring, along with drop-in assistance in the STEM Center (located in the STEM Building) and the Writing & Research Help Center (in Brown Library). Online tutoring is available 24-7 through Brainfuse, which is accessible through MyVWCC. For more information, call the Academic Link at 540-857-6442 or visit the Academic Link website.

17. Little-known facts about Brown Library: (1) Most textbooks are on reserve and available to students who can’t afford to buy them and (2) Your VWCC employee ID gives you full access to the library, including audio books that can be downloaded for free from the website:

18. Under the leadership of Shonny Cooke, the Hall Associates Career Center intends to provide more services outside the physical walls of the center. Urge your students, employers, and alumni to check out Career Connection, an online career portal full of good stuff, including career development curriculum resources for faculty and staff. Access the portal at

19. Trivia time: What was the No. 1 soft skill that employers were looking for in 2019? According to Shonny Cooke (and LinkedIn), the No. 1 skill is Creativity. How are you cultivating creativity in your classroom? (Creativity is one of my favorite topics, so keep reading my posts … or come and chat with me in the grants office!)

20. I have no idea whom to call about  _______? When in doubt, call the Virginia Western Police Department. Chief Craig Harris says we should think of our police department as the clearinghouse for all kinds of issues: Lost and found, first aid, or if a student is acting a little off, like if they receive a failing grade and slams the door on the way out of the classroom. How should you handle those kind of situations? Chief Harris and the CARE team are here to help. Call 540-857-7979. The Campus Police phone number is also visible in the top right corner of our new desk phones.  

A huge thank-you to everyone who spoke at our Superhero Assembly (listed below), as well as to Joe Bear, who helped me record my first video on Panopto.

I encourage you to watch the whole sessionthe comic stylings of Rick Robers will not disappoint!

Superhero speakers (in order of appearance):

  1. Rick Robers, Coordinator of New Student Support Services
  2. Natasha Lee, Student Activities Coordinator
  3. TRIO SSS team (Angela Hariston-Niblett, Cheryl Hilton, Cathrin Walls)
  4. Sheri Meixner, Intervention Counselor
  5. Hillary Holland, Disability Counselor and ADA Coordinator
  6. David Brod, Director of Financial Aid, Records and Veterans Affairs
  7. Carolyn Payne, CCAP & Scholarship Program Coordinator
  8. Katelyn Burton, Reference and Instruction Librarian
  9. Shonny Cooke, Manager of Hall Associates Career Center
  10. Chief Craig Harris, Police, Security & Emergency Preparedness

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, January 2020

Posted on January 31, 2020

Contact Us

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

3093 Colonial Ave., SW
Roanoke, VA 24015