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The Green House Grants Blog

Bring joy to your coworkers … with Outlook?

OK, so when I use the word “joy” in this headline, I don’t necessarily mean obvious, delicious joy, like, surprising everyone with their favorite candies or work snacks or flowers …  (but you can do that with a joy survey).

I have broadened my definition of joy-bringing to include making our lives easier.

Case in point: Time and Effort forms (arrrrgggggh). I can’t magically make these required grant forms go away — which would indeed be joyful — but I can make them more convenient. So I’m working on digitizing the signature process. That’s sort of a microburst of joy, right?

Another example of small joy bursts: Sending Outlook meeting invites whenever you plan events or meetings with your teams.

This may seem strange or obvious, but it would be a big help, according to members of our Campus Engagement Workgroup. 

Back in September, as the new facilitator of this group, I took the time to send out meeting invites for each of our five Tuesday meetings through the end of the fall semester. 

I have to admit I felt like I was spamming everyone. But several times, our team members have expressed gratitude that I sent them. It made their lives a little bit easier to manage (and they showed up to the meetings!). 

If you’ve ever been involved with a grant, then you know sending Outlook meeting invites is standard practice in the grants office. One of our main functions is to facilitate and bring structure to grant projects, and we do this by scheduling meetings and providing agendas and recording meeting minutes.

And another confession: Most of my career was spent in a casual newsroom, so the idea of meeting agendas and minutes and even Outlook meeting invitations seemed a bit too formal when I started at VWCC almost four years ago.

But I’ve come to see the value of these almost invisible practices, which help keep us focused and communicating. Outlook invites can help meetings become even more productive, as you can include links or reports or other important documents for easy reference … no need to keep sending separate email attachments. And the automatic reminders built into the invitations will help everyone, too. 

While we’re on the topic of using digital calendars … I’ve found the idea of “timeboxing” an effective way to keep up with my insane to-do lists. I primarily use Google Calendar to keep track of my family’s activities and household chores … but my Outlook calendar helps me prioritize VWCC projects and break them down into micro-tasks. I even build in time every Friday afternoon to take a look at the week ahead (do I need to add an agenda for a meeting on the calendar?). If you’re curious to know more, this Harvard Business Review article is a good introduction to the concept of timeboxing: 

https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-timeboxing-works-and-why-it-will-make-you-more-productive

And if you ever want to chat about grant opportunities or some ideas that might lead to a grant, go ahead and send me an Outlook invite. 🙂

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, November 2019

Posted on November 18, 2019

My next Halloween party will be fa-boo-lous thanks to ‘The Fifth Discipline’

With as much as we talk about pathways, I have to admit I love my totally non-linear approach to books.

Sometimes I find books through random recommendations that float through my Twitter stream … sometimes it’s what’s on the “New in Nonfiction” shelf at the public library (my favorite shelf!) … and sometimes it’s because an author of a book I’m really loving cites a book so often, I figure I need to check it out myself.

“The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization” by MIT lecturer Peter Senge, falls into the third category.

As you may recall, I have been very inspired by the books about joy by author Richard Sheridan. He stressed the most important thing a leader can do for her organization is to stay in “learner” mode. Sheridan cited “The Fifth Discipline” numerous times, so off I went to Brown Library to check out their copy.

In this classic management book, which was originally released in 1990, Senge explains the five disciplines, which include systems thinking and team learning. He also emphasizes the importance of reflection — to develop our ability to see regular events (and crises) as opportunities to grow and learn. 

His quote by educational reformer John Dewey sums it up best:

“We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” (Emphasis mine.)

In the book, Senge mentioned the After Action Review (p. 290), a tool developed by the U.S. Army. 

In its simplest form, an AAR would involve three questions:

  1. What happened?
  2. What did we expect?
  3. What can we learn from the gap? 

I read about AARs the day after I hosted a Halloween party at my home, so I asked myself those questions to help improve my next party.

Because I read “The Art of Gathering” a year before, I planned this Halloween party with purpose in mind: To bring my 6-year-old’s school and soccer friends (and their families) together. Connection was the point. This helped me focus our invitation list and activities, which were kid-centered.

While the memories were still fresh, I took just a few minutes to review what happened: I tallied up how many folks attended; noted the food and beverages that were eaten (or not); and other observations about what worked and didn’t that evening.

Thanks to this simple review process (which took maybe 15 minutes?), I already have a list of improvements for next year, including:

  1. Cookie decorating with store-bought kits was a huge hit with the kids. Next year, I’ll nix some of the other crafts and double down on edibles. I might steal the make-your-own pretzel wand idea I spotted during the Hogwarts open house at Brown Library.
  2. The delivered pizza that was pre-cut into party-sized squares was super popular with kids and adults (and gone within 30 minutes). Next year, I’ll be sure to order more (especially plain cheese).
  3. Exactly zero people ate my cheese dip in the slow cooker, which was hiding in the kitchen. I’ll either nix this menu item completely, or move it to a central location, where most folks gather.
  4. Since all of the kids arrived in costume (and some of the adults), I plan to set up a more formal backdrop for photos.
  5. Next year, we’ll be sure to test drive the fog machine (which we scrapped at the last minute due to user error) and the dry ice for the bubbling cauldron punch a day before the party. I spent too much time troubleshooting witch’s brew and not enough mingling.

I can apply the same review process to grant proposals and any work project, no matter if they’re considered successful or not. The key is taking the time to reflect … and to make reflection a habit.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, November 2019

Posted on November 5, 2019

How to get the engagement conversation started: Are you in?

Engagement is a choice.

This is the main takeaway from “Engagement Magic: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations,” the book I’ve mentioned in a previous post, where I described the five key drivers of engagement: Meaning, Autonomy, Growth, Impact and Connection.

“Engagement Magic” is the latest book on my reading list, which is helping me facilitate the Campus Engagement workgroup through May 2020 at Virginia Western.

This passage really sums up the central message from author Tracy Maylett, who has advised companies on employee engagement for over 20 years:

Most organizations don’t understand engagement, so they can’t create it. One of the biggest misapprehensions is that engagement is something the organization imposes on employees — that it’s transactional. If I give you this, that, and the other, you’ll become engaged in your work. It’s as if engagement were something done to employees, something inflicted upon them. And this is another reason most engagement efforts fail — they assume the responsibility for engagement rests solely on the shoulders of the organization. But in reality, engagement is a 50-50 proposition — a two-way street. Yes, the organization is responsible for creating an environment where engagement can flourish — tilling and amending the soil so that engagement can grow, so to speak. But the employee has an equal responsibility to be engaged. Engagement is collaborative: The organization must create the environment in which employees can choose to engage, but it’s up to the employee to say, “I’m in!” (p. 3)

Are you “in”?

Do you want to be, but don’t know where to start?

I have two tools for you today, thanks to “Engagement Magic.”

First is a free self-assessment. All they want is your email address: www.engagementmagic.com/self-assessment

And let me say this: If you register as “Fully Engaged” on this assessment, please come talk to me about a “Joy Squad” idea I’m working on. You might be perfect.

The second tool was worth the price of the book: A list of questions that will help you reflect on the key drivers of YOUR engagement. We all engage differently based on what matters to us as individuals — so there’s no one-size-fits-all incentive program that will engage the entire campus. Remember, we like to choose how to engage (this applies to students, too).

The Campus Engagement team is working on some cool ideas to enhance campus communication and knowledge; however, the relationships you cultivate with your supervisor and immediate colleagues are really the key to your day-to-day engagement.

Below are the questions from the book’s appendix, a resource for managers who would like to start a conversation about engagement:

  1. What does a good day at work look like for you?
  2. What does a bad day look like?
  3. What do you like about your work?
  4. What do you wish were different?
  5. Do you have fun at work?
  6. How do you feel at the end of the day?
  7. MEANING
    1. What about your job gets you out of bed in the morning?
    2. Where do you find meaning in your work? Where is it missing?
    3. How does your job help you accomplish what’s most important in your life? How does it detract? What’s missing?
  8. AUTONOMY
    1. What type(s) of autonomy is/are most important to you? Where you work? With whom you work? When you work? What you work on? Any others?
    2. Where is that autonomy present, and where is it missing?
    3. How do you feel about the level of direction and support you receive from me? From others?
  9. GROWTH
    1. Where do you feel you are growing in your job? Where do you feel stagnant?
    2. Are there areas outside what you do each day that you would like to be involved in? Where would you like your career to go, and how can we support that?
  10. IMPACT
    1. Where do you feel your work has the greatest impact (on whom, what, etc.)? Where do you feel you’re spinning your wheels?
    2. When people evaluate your performance, what do you think are the key areas they look at? What’s going well? What’s getting in the way?
    3. Where do you see yourself currently making a difference? Where would you like to see yourself making a difference?
  11. CONNECTION
    1. Tell me about the people you work with. Do you enjoy working with them?
    2. What type(s) of connection is/are most important to you?
    3. Do you feel like you belong here? Why or why not?
  12. Where is our organization letting you down? Where is it lifting you up? What needs to change in that area?
  13. Where am I letting you down as a boss? How am I helping you? What needs to change in our relationship?
  14. If you won the lottery tomorrow and left your job, what would you miss most?
  15. What keeps you here? What might entice you away from our team today?

I encourage you to share ideas you may have for the Campus Engagement workgroup. And you’re always welcome to borrow any books I’ve mentioned, including “Engagement Magic.” (I’m amassing quite the personal library.) Email sseagle@virginiawestern.edu or call 857-6084.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, October 2019

Posted on October 22, 2019

How to make grant magic

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a conference hosted by the North Carolina Council of Resource Development (NC CORD). 

My presentation was titled “How to Make Grant Magic,” and I livened up my slides with photos of the Mill Mountain Star, plenty of Harry Potter references, and a GIF of the bewitching Debbie Reynolds in “Halloweentown.” 

But most importantly, I framed this hour-long talk around inspiring books (my magical ingredients)… as well as the key drivers of engagement.

This was a serendipitous accident.

In the weeks leading up to the conference, I volunteered to serve as facilitator of Virginia Western’s Campus Engagement Workgroup. As part of my research for that role, I stumbled onto a blog post by DecisionWise, a longtime consulting company based in Utah, which recently published the book “Engagement Magic: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations.”

Their acronym was absolutely perfect for my presentation theme:

M

Meaning: Does your job provide you with a sense of meaning and purpose?

A

Autonomy: Do you have the freedom to choose how to best perform your job?

G

Growth: Are you feeling challenged and stretched in your work?

I

Impact: Does your work have any impact on the success of your company, the people in your community, the world, etc?

C

Connection: Do you feel like you belong with your colleagues and your organization? 

In their blog post, DecisionWise explains these key drivers are based on two decades of research and over 12 million employee survey responses.

They resonated with my own experience (and were easy to remember), so I aligned my presentation draft with the magical acronym. I gave examples of how the grants office aims to foster these key drivers of engagement, either during the grant development process or through grant awards themselves. In each section, I grounded my anecdotes with book suggestions that have inspired my thinking (many of which I have discussed on this blog). 

For example, when I talked about the grants office’s role in fostering more connections across campus, I suggested reading “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.” I have found this book by Priya Parker helpful, whether I’m facilitating work meetings or hosting my daughter’s birthday parties. 

I also asked the 20 or so session attendees (almost all of them grant professionals across North Carolina community colleges), to share a book that has inspired their work. Their suggestions included:

  • “O Great One!: A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition” by David Novak
  • “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work: Build a Culture of Employee Engagement with the Principles of RESPECT” by Paul Marciano
  • “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl
  • “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles” by Julie Andrews Edwards

Below are all of the books I mentioned during the presentation.

Please share your own recommendations … or any thoughts you may have for the Campus Engagement workgroup. Email sseagle@virginiawestern.edu or call 857-6084.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, October 2019

Posted on October 4, 2019

Joyful, creative learners have this habit in common

I’m still on my joy ride, and I just finished another book: Chief Joy Officer: How Great Leaders Elevate Human Energy and Eliminate Fear.

ICYMI … over the summer, I read a Harvard Business Review article that argued that all organizations should prioritize joy. This HBR article clicked with me like no other in quite some time, and it inspired me to read an armload of books on the topic, all of which revolve around the importance of joy, especially in our jobs. Catch up on my reading list here.

“Chief Joy Officer” is book No. 4 since July, and the second book I’ve read by author Richard Sheridan (“Joy, Inc.” was the first). In both books, Sheridan talks about Menlo Innovations, the small software company he co-founded in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His ideas about intentionally restoring joy for customers and coworkers have resulted in ongoing public tours and workshops; some of the biggest companies in the world have visited Ann Arbor to learn more about “the Menlo way.” 

There’s a lot of good stuff to unpack in both books, but I’ll only share one tidbit today. Sheridan says the most important thing a leader can do for her organization is to stay in “learner” mode, which includes elevating a reading practice that will ignite imaginations. 

The Menlo team regularly hosts book clubs, Lunch and Learns, and visits by area professors to discuss their work. It reminds me of how in-service and other professional development opportunities impact our creativity and overall satisfaction with our jobs. (There are grants to help make them happen!)

This also validates my tendency to read like a maniac … and share some of my favorite reads in this blog space. 

If you’re a big reader (or want to become a bigger one), then you should immediately check out Book City Roanoke (www.bookcityroanoke.com), THE place to find all things literary in our region. 

“Book City Roanoke is really about creating the kind of city I want to live in— a city of readers and ideas,” founder Doug Jackson explained in a January 2019 Hollins Magazine article

“Readers and writers are good for community; a lively book culture in which ideas are batted about is good for a democracy. It’s the foundation of a creative community. Things only work in community when we know that our participation matters, that we have a voice and can effect change in our place.”

Months ago, I signed up for email alerts from Book City Roanoke, and the latest email noted a long list of book events scheduled through December.

 This event caught my attention, and I thought it might interest the Virginia Western community: “Using Graphic Novels in Teaching,” a free, day-long symposium, is happening from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at Hollins University. The event is free and includes a keynote address with graphic novel author/illustrator Ben Hatke. Call Laura Jane Ramsburg at 540-362-6081 or email LRamsburg@hollins.edu for more information. 

You can quickly sign up for Book City Roanoke emails by scrolling to the very bottom of this page: 

https://bookcityroanoke.com/contact/

Also: Don’t forget about the fantastic Brown Library right on our campus. Before going to other Roanoke Valley libraries or Amazon, I check for books in the Brown catalog FIRST … and I love to walk through their latest magazines and book releases for a serendipitous treat.

And if you have ideas about Lunch and Learns … or some other book-related event … please raise your hand. I’m on the Engagement work group this year and would love to get something started.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, September 2019

Posted on September 3, 2019

What does joy look like for our students?

Image from “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (Warner Bros.)

When my daughter first started preschool, I posted this iconic movie scene on Facebook with a quip:

“First days at school should always feel like this.”

I want her school experiences to be as magical as arriving at Hogwarts for the first time. 

I’m hoping our students feel like this when they come to Virginia Western. When they arrive on campus, and walk into our classrooms, or log onto their online portal. 

Over the summer, I read a Harvard Business Review article that argued that all organizations should prioritize joy … to put joy at the center of their missions.

This HBR article clicked with me like no other in quite some time, and it inspired me to read an armload of books on the topic, all of which revolve around the importance of joy, especially in our jobs.

Joy shouldn’t be seen as a frivolous side project … but at the heart of what we do. It can improve engagement, retention, and overall satisfaction with our work. 

Our enrollment struggles and gloom and doom in news headlines do not inspire joy. Quite the opposite. We will never thrive if we are working from a place of fear.

As we start the 2019 academic year, I want to focus on bringing more joy to the students and the communities we serve. To always keep asking ourselves: What does joy look like for our students? How can we design for delight?

This isn’t to say joy isn’t already happening on our campus. The fantastic work happening in Student Services … and TRiO … and the upcoming Harry Potter-themed open house on Oct. 31 in Brown Library all immediately come to mind.

I just want more of it … to be more intentional in our joy-making.

But creating more joy starts with us, and it will radiate out to our students and beyond.

So I started small, in my own division. I created a “Joy Survey” for the Institutional Advancement team.

I asked three simple questions:

  • What are your favorite candies?
  • What are your favorite work snacks and drinks?
  • What are your favorite flowers?

I compiled the answers and created a table of joy in Google Docs, and shared it with our whole division. (If you’re curious, we have a lot of coffee and Twizzler lovers on our team.)

Whenever we want to brighten a holiday or milestone for one of our team members, we know what will bring them joy.

I urge you to do the same on your own teams.

So start with your colleagues, and look for opportunities to bring joy to your students. 

I’m betting many of our efforts won’t cost much money … just time and focus. But if your ideas would require extra resources (grants, perhaps?), then come talk to me in the grants office.

We have annual Innovation Grants through the Educational Foundation, which are due every March. The maximum award is $10,000. All members of Virginia Western faculty and classified staff, including adjunct faculty and part-time employees, are eligible to submit proposals.  ( Here’s a good example )

There are annual Paul Lee Professional Development grants through the VCCS. The next round of applications are due Sept. 15. ( More details )

One tip I’ve learned from all of the joy books is the power of working in pairs. (I have written about super duos before.) If you have an idea and are a little hesitant to apply for a grant, I urge you to find a buddy, especially if that buddy is in a different division. It’s can be way more joyful to make magic as a team.

I’ll be writing more about joy and grant opportunities on the grants blog, so look for occasional updates in the Weekly Bulletin.

And if you’re just as intrigued with the idea of joy as I am, I urge you to join my unofficial joy book club:

  •  Joy, Inc.: How We Built a Workplace People Love by Richard Sheridan
  • Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee
  • Teach Like Finland: 33 Simple Strategies for Joyful Classrooms by Timothy Walker (available in the Brown Library)

“If we (as a team, a department, a company, an organization) can regularly delight those we serve, we will experience a joy that puts a spring in our step, a lift in our hearts, and a focus in our minds that will, in turn, produce better results, higher quality, more engagement, less turnover, better market reputation, and generally more satisfaction with our work. We will carry these feelings home with us, and we will end up being better spouses, better parents, and better neighbors with fewer health issues due to less unhealthy stress in our work lives. We may still be stressed at work, but it will be a healthier kind of stress because we can take pride in a hard day’s work.”

— Richard Sheridan, author of “Chief Joy Officer” and “Joy, Inc.”

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, August 2019

Posted on August 20, 2019

G3 update: We’re seeking feedback on 4 prototypes


Perhaps you saw the headlines last week, like this one: 

“Free tuition coming to Virginia community colleges under service program”
( Read the story )

Gov. Ralph Northam said a formal announcement would be coming in a few weeks, but he was talking about the G3 program that community colleges across the state — including ours — have been working on since February. Virginia Western’s popular Community College Access Program (CCAP) is mentioned in the article, as an example of a free-tuition model. 

As part of the G3 (Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back) planning grant, VWCC is developing at least one stackable pathway for healthcare, our region’s most demanding high-growth job sector. We also wanted to learn the design-thinking mindset to help us replicate the process for additional pathways, so we hired the Education Design Lab to lead a series of design sessions for the college.

REWIND << You can catch up on our G3 journey with my previous blog posts:

1: Introduction: Why I’m so excited about our G3 grant project
2: Design session #1 recap: What’s the ‘secret sauce’ for student success?

Design session #2: Prototypes created

Dr. Robert Sandel, president of Virginia Western Community College,
takes notes during the Gallery Walk on June 24, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle.

In late June, Virginia Western hosted a Gallery Walk for a variety of campus stakeholders, as well as some outside employers and community partners.

About 45 people experienced this Gallery Walk in the HR conference room, which was covered with printouts: Quotes from students, comments from staff, and other data related to the student experience at VWCC.

As a result of group discussions with participants after each Gallery Walk (and after hundreds of colorful sticky notes), the G3 Core Design Team narrowed down all of the emergent themes into four prototypes that aligned with the expected grant deliverables. 

These four concepts were explained in the Education Design Lab’s summary report:

  1. Soft Skills
    This concept encourages faculty members to not only embed but also call out the soft skills that are covered in their curriculum. The idea stemmed from an employer need that students need “soft” skills in addition to the technical skills they are learning throughout their clinical and non-clinical course. The prototype benefits students be allowing them to see which skills are covered in the courses and the hope is that eventually there might be a way to track and display these easily for students when they are applying for jobs within the Roanoke area.



  2. Choose Your Own Adventure + Program Publicity
    Two early concepts were combined to help meet the student need to find a program that best suits them moving forward. A common thread throughout the gallery walk was that students were unsure as to what careers and paths were available to them within the healthcare industry. There is a lot of talk about nursing, and in fact many students are confused as to what different people are doing even within that profession.

    This prototype will begin by creating a visual that shows students the multiple pathways as well as the projected time to graduation, average starting salary, format in which the program is currently available (day/night/online), any “other” requirements such as driving to clinicals, pre-reqs and other costs associated with the program. The map will link other like areas for students who find themselves unable to participate for one reason or another.

    It is the hope that once this early prototype is developed it could be expanded and scaled to exist on kiosks or apps that can be accessed from anywhere. The information provided will also include student, employer, and faculty testimonials, as well as on the job videos so students can become more familiar with the job, as well as the tools and equipment needed.



  3. 2 Doors 2 Nursing
    Regional and national data continues to point to the overwhelming need for more nurses, at all levels. Currently the nursing program at VWCC enrolls new students in the fall semester, leaving a large wait list for good students, as well as group of new nurses eligible for employment only in the summer, which can be difficult for employers who are constantly trying to find new employees. This prototype will create both a fall and spring start for the VWCC nursing programs which will double the number of new nurses graduating per year, as well as create more opportunities for enrollment and year-round reservoir of new nurses for employers. In order for this to take place, it would require buy-in from administrators, as well as hiring more faculty members. In addition to adding the spring start, the faculty will examine which courses might be able to be taught online or in a hybrid format to attract new students who are unable to attend on a full-time basis.



  4. One-door + VWCC online
    Plans are already underway to create a one-door advising model at VWCC. However, this prototype expands that thought to create a one-door to VWCC: One place where prospective students can go to get the information they need to become a student and continue their studies at VWCC. The idea also needs to be expanded to support the online student community and will include online advising, online services, and online faculty hours. The advising model will also include a peer mentorship program so that all new healthcare students (to start) will be paired with an existing student to help them traverse the first year. This program might also fulfill the community service deliverable required by the G3 grant for those interested in becoming peer mentors. 

Next steps: Feedback wanted

Keep in mind these are just rough concepts … starting points that will require much more discussion. We may pursue just one concept to completion … or more likely, a blend of two or more. We are learning the design-thinking approach: How to stay loose, seek any missing data and feedback, and adjust plans as necessary.  

Throughout July and August, the Core Design Team will be “testing” these prototypes with students, faculty, employers, and other campus stakeholders.

Look for the storyboards during breaks at in-service (details coming soon). You can always call or email with feedback:  sseagle@virginiawestern.edu or 540-857-6084.

Or reach out to a member of the G3 Healthcare Pathways Core Design Team:

  • Kathy Beard, Dual Enrollment Coordinator
  • Jeffrey Gillette, Professor, Medical Lab Technology
  • Tracy Harmon, Associate Professor, Administrative Management Technology
  • Lauren Hayward, Director of Nursing
  • Marilyn Herbert-Ashton, VP of Institutional Advancement (and Project Director)
  • Rachelle Koudelik-Jones, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness
  • Carol Rowlett, Coordinator of Research & Assessment
  • Stephanie Seagle, Grant Specialist
  • Marty Sullivan, Interim Dean of Health Professions

We’d love to hear your thoughts before Sept. 1

The Education Design Lab will join for a third and final session on Sept. 10, when the Core Design Team will finalize prototypes and pathways and design an implementation plan. All of the grant deliverables must be completed by Oct. 31.

This initiative is 100% supported by a federal U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) award made to Virginia Western Community College by the pass-through entity, Virginia Community College System. The total program cost for this initiative is $176,068.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, July 2019

Posted on July 25, 2019

Have you tried this magical trick in your classroom?

I love to read … and my rising first-grader is learning how to read … so lately I’ve been reading books about sharing the love of reading with kids.

*Cue the “Inception” music*

Before she was even born, I was designing my daughter’s life around books. For her baby shower, I didn’t want registry gifts … I just asked guests to bring their favorite childhood book. I knew a future library would have more long-term impact than newborn clothes and toys.

But showcasing cherished books throughout the house just isn’t enough.

So I’ve been testing some small habits to help instill a love of reading.

When I was a kid, my stay-at-home mom required I spend some quiet time in my room reading while my younger sisters napped. I devoured Ramona Quimby books and “The Baby-Sitter’s Club” series (which inspired my very real neighborhood babysitting business). These regular quiet times were effective, but enforcing this habit is a little harder for our family, so I found another trick to pilot this summer.

In “The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life” author Julie Bogart mentions the bedtime rule she credits with a lifelong passion for reading. Each night, her mother allowed her to stay up as long as she wanted … as long as she was reading books.

So we’re trying something similar: My daughter must be in bed by 8:30 p.m., but she is free to read as long as she wants (with the help of a special flashlight especially for reading).

She’s a fledgling reader, so she still prefers reading together right before bed.

Another book on this topic: “The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction,” has inspired me to seek out books related to my daughter’s interests. I love themes (English major!) … theme parties, theme gifts … so I’m attempting to “theme” part of our summer around “The Wizard of Oz;” the film celebrates its 80th anniversary in 2019. She is signed up for Roanoke Children’s Theatre’s week-long camp: “Lions, Tigers, & Bears” in July. Before then, I’m hoping we’ll read the classic that inspired it all: “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. I’m already dreaming up Oz-inspired ideas for the annual gingerbread house competition in Salem.

I really couldn’t believe an entire book was dedicated to the power of reading aloud … but “The Enchanted Hour” was eye-opening (and it’s available in Virginia Western’s Brown Library). We know reading with young children is powerful. That part was obvious. But author Meghan Cox Gurdon cites scientific research and numerous examples illustrating the magic of reading aloud to all ages. Examples include reading to folks who are recuperating in the hospital … military families who stay connected by reading books on video … and inspiring community college students by reading aloud in class.

I wanted to include the entire passage about Jane Fidler, who teaches remedial English for a Maryland community college. This is how she got students interested in fiction:

“Her classes were full of people who had slipped through the cracks of the public education system. Many of her students were working full-time as well as trying to get a degree. A few of them were combat veterans. A lot of them struggled. One of Fidler’s students, a young man who attended class through a day-release program, once came back from spring break without having done his homework because the prison where he lived had been on lockdown.

Most of her kids had never read a book all the way through before they go to community college, Fidler told me. “I say, ‘How did you pass high school?’ They say, ‘I just wrote papers on books without reading them.’ ”

To get her students interested in fiction, Fidler decided to read them the juiciest, most accessible material she could find: salacious thrillers with short chapters and lots of action.

“In my lower development class, we read Sail, by James Patterson [and Howard Roughan],” Fidler said. “It’s a very sexy book about a woman whose husband cheats on her, and she remarries, and he wants to kill her, and my students love it.

“‘Okay,’ I’ll say, ‘take out Sail and we’re going to read chapter twenty-five.’ And I’ll read to them about how Peter Carlyle is two-timing his wife and playing around with his student, Bailey. One student said to me, ‘I was up until four in the morning, finishing this book where you left off!’”

Fidler uses her unorthodox textbooks to teach specific lessons. She gets her students to draw inferences about what’s going to happen to the characters. She explains vocabulary words. “I can help them focus on things that they would not have thought about if they read it on their own. And what I see happening is, when students get to the end of the book, they’ll turn the page and see, ‘Ooh, there’s another book by Patterson, and this one sounds interesting.’ This from kids for whom it is the first book they’ve read! That’s pretty good.” (p. 133-134)

I’d love to hear if you are reading aloud to students … if you have any tips for creating a reading habit … or if you just want to share a good book recommendation. Email me at sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, June 2019

Posted on June 19, 2019

G3 update: What’s the ‘secret sauce’ for student success?

What’s the “secret sauce” for student success?

You may already have a hunch.

Because it came up time and again during the first design thinking session facilitated by the Education Design Lab on April 30.

About 30 faculty, staff, and administrators from the college (including Dr. Sandel) gathered in the Natural Science Center for a three-hour session to learn more about design thinking and how it relates to our G3 Healthcare Pathways Design Challenge (catch up on the backstory here).

Our special guests for the day included Todd Estes, Director of Career Education Programs and Workforce Partnerships, who is overseeing the G3 initiative for the VCCS, as well as eight students in various healthcare programs. We were thrilled so many students were able to participate, as students are the heart of our mission and this design thinking process.

Small groups of our faculty and staff interviewed each of the eight students, starting with these questions:

  1. Tell me about your decision to attend VWCC? Why?
  2. What has been your favorite experience at VWCC?
  3. What could have gone better?
  4. Tell me about your major and how you decided on that path.
  5. What are your goals after graduation? Tell me more about how you got to this decision.
  6. What are your goals five or ten years out? Who has helped influence these goals?

The discussion was robust — and it’s hard for me to capture all of the insights — but I thought I would focus on a recurring theme that we heard reported out from multiple interview teams that day.

Over and over again, the students talked about the personal relationships they have developed on their Virginia Western journey. Anne Marie Battista, one of our guests from the Education Design Lab, called these personal relationships the “secret sauce.”

Students mentioned faculty members, tutors, advisors, and TRiO coaches who made the difference. Studies show good relationships — more than money or fame — are what keep people healthy and happy throughout their lives, so no big surprises here.

These relationships also relate to more themes that emerged during the session, such as educating students about the resources and supportive services already available at Virginia Western (perhaps we regularly refresh faculty and staff memories during in-service?) and helping prospective students become more familiar with our campus (a visit to an actual lab classroom is what made one student finally follow through with her application). I’m reminded of our summer camps and the free movies we offer in Whitman, which can help kids and their parents get more comfortable with campus years before they even consider enrolling.

Later in the session, the group was asked to add some sticky notes under a series of questions, including: What more do we need to know?

I zeroed in on one of the anonymous stickies, which asked: “How can we create more opportunities for fostering meaningful connections?”

I interpret “meaningful connections” as going beyond our hard-working faculty, advisors, and staff (all of whom can only connect so much) to include other students, mentors, employers, and alumni — as well as “meaningful” experiential learning opportunities (internships, apprenticeships, community service) that make lessons concrete and relevant. Perhaps we should consider the college’s role not just as an educator or training provider … but as a connector … a bridge builder … a community builder … which helps our students become the changemakers they want to be (another observation shared during the session).

I’ll be chewing on “meaningful connections” as we continue our G3 journey … to see how we can amplify those opportunities within the stackable career pathways required by the grant project.

Social interaction already seems to be a major theme on my blog, as I have explored:

As always, I would love to hear your ideas on that topic and any questions you may have about G3. I’ll be sure to post occasional updates on our progress.

– Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, sseagle@virginiawestern.edu

This initiative is 100% supported by a federal U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) award made to Virginia Western Community College by the pass-through entity, Virginia Community College System. The total program cost for this initiative is $176,068.

Posted on May 3, 2019

How to have more fun with your coworkers

I’m a collector of ideas. I read a crazy amount of books and reports and Twitter threads … and I’m always ready to share useful or inspirational tidbits. Here a few ideas that might bring our campus teams together (which gets the creative juices flowing …. and the grant projects popping).

1. Lunch clubs. I’m aware of at least one small group on this campus who occasionally meets for a potluck lunch and board games. I love this idea, and this recent NPR story gives some examples of coworkers delighting in cooking meals for each other. “These lunch clubs can range from a two-person swap to a five-person rotation. Sometimes people use a communal lunch as an excuse to sit down together during a busy day; others simply take their lunches whenever they have time, then thank the meal’s maker later via text message. Wherever there are people who want something more than their sad desk lunches or expensive to-go food, there are co-workers who have found a way to share a meal in a way that works for them.”

2. Join a choir. Seriously.

Just as I noticed the fliers for the Virginia Western Singers events, I was reminded of another book I just finished reading.

Best-selling author Daniel Pink just *raves* about the benefits of choral singing in “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” (available in our own Brown Library).

Pink writes:

“The research on the benefits of singing in groups is stunning. Choral singing calms heart rates and boosts endorphin levels. It improves lung function. It increases pain thresholds and reduces the need for pain medication. It even alleviates symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Group singing — not just performances but also practices — increases the production of immunoglobulin, making it easier to fight infections. In fact, cancer patients who sing in choirs show an improved immune response after just one rehearsal.

And while the physiological payoffs are many, the psychological ones might be even greater. Several studies demonstrate that choral singing delivers a significant boost to positive mood. It also lifts self-esteem while reducing feelings of stress and symptoms of depression. It enhances one’s sense of purpose and meaning, and increases sensitivity toward others. And these efforts come not from singing per se but from singing in a group. For example, people who sing in choirs report far higher well-being than those who sing solo.” (p. 195)

The Virginia Western Singers spring concert is 7 p.m. Saturday, April 27, in Whitman Theater. Tickets are available at the door and cost $7 for adults and $5 for kids. Free admission for VWCC students.

3. Bowling nights. I once joked about starting occasional bowling nights based around career clusters — an advanced manufacturing team, for example, which could serve as ongoing alumni connection and a welcoming event for adults students who were curious about our programs. A group of Virginia Western folks could just decide to meet at a bowling alley for some family-friendly social time. Deal alert: Lee-Hi Lanes in Salem offers 99-cent games on Mondays and Tuesdays (shoe rental is $3.50). While we’re talking deals, I should mention the Skate Center of Roanoke Valley offers $2 admission and $2 skate rentals on Mondays (a new tradition in my family). The fliers write themselves, people! “Get your career rolling …”

Posted on April 19, 2019

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