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Grand Opening commemorates new STEM Building

Virginia Western Community College welcomed community members from across the Roanoke Region to celebrate the Grand Opening of its new $37-million STEM Building on Thursday. More than 300 attendees heard from local elected officials, business leaders and students about the impact the new facility will have on growing the local economy through collaboration and innovation.

“This building will drive our region forward in the fields of STEM and health professions,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “It will be the home of innovation and the next bright idea. It will help the Commonwealth of Virginia continue to be one of the best places in America to do business.”

The Grand Opening event had a student-focused feel as recent alumni introduced each of the speakers and shared details on how their STEM education at Virginia Western has impacted them. Following the speakers’ portion, faculty members showed attendees the facility, labs and the cutting-edge new equipment.

“To me, the building is about preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet,” said Amy White, Dean of STEM. “The space allows them to focus on critical thinking, problem-solving skills and communication skills. It’s not about the equipment. It’s not about the buttons on the machine. It’s about why the buttons are on the machine, and how the students can solve problems using the latest and greatest equipment.”

Speakers such as Delegate Terry Austin, Roanoke City Mayor Sherman Lea, Roanoke businessman W. Heywood Fralin and Richard Farthing of Virginia’s Community Colleges spoke about how investment in higher education, and STEM in particular, will continue to drive the region’s economic growth.

“One of the most important players in this [region’s] movement to a knowledge-based economy is Virginia Western Community College. Its growth not only in size but also in stature has been remarkable and this growth has focused on quality,” said Fralin, a member of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation Board of Directors. “There has been a recent focus on recruiting top business leaders throughout the region to serve on the Foundation’s Board of Directors, and [the college’s recent] accomplishments are a result of the leadership of the outstanding administration of Virginia Western Community College and the Foundation Board of Directors which has included visionaries like the late Charles Steger. Together they have produced for this region one of the best community colleges in the entire system. Needless to say, we are proud of Virginia Western Community College.”

Programs that will be located in the STEM Building include Mechatronics, Engineering, Biology, Chemistry, Biotechnology, Physics and Mathematics. New cutting-edge equipment includes a phase contrast fluorescence microscope, a multiphoton confocal microscope, a scanning electron microscope, four new spectrometers, process control units, a 5 axis CNC milling machine, a 24-foot water flume and a collaborative robot.

To view photos from the Grand Opening, visit: https://www.facebook.com/pg/VirginiaWestern/photos/?tab=album&album_id=10156162237936534.

To find out more about Virginia Western’s STEM programs, visit www.virginiawestern.edu/academics or call (855) 874-6690.

Monthly CCAP info sessions begin Oct. 8

Parents and students interested in learning more about Virginia Western’s Community College Access Program (CCAP) are invited to attend any of the public information sessions planned in October through January 2020. The 2020 CCAP application period opened Oct. 1 and closes Feb. 1, 2020.

Administrators from the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation and Office of Financial Aid will be on hand to answer questions about CCAP, which provides up to three years of tuition for Roanoke Valley high school graduates who meet program requirements.

The following meetings will be held in Whitman Theatre on the campus of Virginia Western, 3095 Colonial Ave., in Roanoke. (For a map and parking information, see virginiawestern.edu/about)

Oct. 8, 2019: 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Nov. 7, 2019: 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Dec. 10, 2019: 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Jan. 9, 2020: 6:30 to 8 p.m.

The Virginia Western Educational Foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with Virginia Western Community College, raises support for CCAP through a public/private funding partnership. Since 2008, more than 2,830 Roanoke Valley students have participated in the program.

For more information about CCAP, see virginiawestern.edu/ccap or contact Carolyn Payne, CCAP Coordinator: (540) 857-7544 or cpayne@virginiawestern.edu.

Supporting CCAP’s Future:
The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation has embarked on a fundraising campaign to support the evolution of its transformative Community College Access Program. Program enhancements include part-time eligibility, three years for completion, and the inclusion of the acquisition of industry-recognized certificates and credentials.

For more information about how you can join the localities, businesses, foundations, alumni, parents and friends that make college possible, contact Amanda Mansfield, Philanthropy Director; (540) 857-6962 or amansfield@virginiawestern.edu.

Join us for Four Seasons event at Arboretum on Oct. 6

The public is invited to enjoy afternoon tea and petit fours at the Community Arboretum at Virginia Western on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 2-4 p.m. Titled Autumn Afternoon, the festivity will serve as the inaugural offering of the Four Seasons at the Arboretum event series.

Organizers will speak about the history of the Community Arboretum, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Horticulture students at Virginia Western under the direction of Lee Hipp, former director of the department, led the charge in the 1980s to create a public garden for the community. It opened in 1993.  For more information, visit: www.virginiawestern.edu/arboretum.

During the tea, supporters of the Community Arboretum will also provide an update on the campaign to raise funds to replace the garden’s weathered gazebo. Over the years, numerous weddings and musical performances have been staged at the structure, which quickly became a focal point of the space. Supporters are working to raise the $70,000 needed for a new gazebo by the beginning of 2020 by selling engraved pavers which will go on the floor of the gazebo and the ground around it.

Recently, an anonymous family pledged up to $25,000 in matching funds for the project. This means donors will be able to double their donations, ensuring the Arboretum serves the community for years to come.

Sponsorships will be sold for:

  • $1,000 for an 8×8 paver (engraved paver will be placed under roof of gazebo. Includes certificate and small keepsake replica paver)
  • $500 for a 4×8 paver (engraved paver will be placed under roof of gazebo. Includes certificate)
  • $250 for a 4 x 8 paver (engraved paver will be placed under roof of gazebo)
  • $150 for a 4 x 8 paver (engraved paver will be placed around the outside of the gazebo)

To support the gazebo restoration project, go to virginiawestern.edu/arboretum and click the “Give Now” button.

The tea will conclude with a walking history tour. October is an especially lovely time at the Arboretum, according to Clark BeCraft, horticulture program coordinator.

“The mature annual displays in early autumn, followed by the transition of Japanese maple, Dawn Redwood, Parrotia and Viburnum from green to yellows, oranges and reds provide weeks of spectacular colors to enjoy,” he said.

Pollard Foundation announces winner of student chef competition

A chef representing a Rocky Mount catering company was awarded a full scholarship to the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program at Virginia Western Community College on Sept. 28 after triumphing in the 2019 Al Pollard Memorial Gala’s culinary competition. 

Daniel Lemons, of Center Stage Catering, will receive an $8,000 scholarship, which covers a two-year associate’s degree at the culinary school. The chef, who is in charge of smoking food at Center Stage, was discovered by culinary arts instructors Ted Polfelt and John Schopp after he posted pictures of his cooking online. He has been training as a secondary sous chef at the catering company ever since, and is particularly fond of cooking barbecue. 

CJ King, who serves as a board member for the Al Pollard Memorial Foundation, said that the Al Pollard Zero Hunger / Zero Waste Chef Competition is intended to help budding chefs like Lemon receive a culinary education while simultaneously continuing their work in fine dining and culinary institutions throughout Southwest Virginia. Competing chefs are sponsored by the restaurant or food company they are employed with, which include several notable local institutions, including Billy’s, Lucky Restaurant and 419 West. 

The competition, which consists of a mystery basket-style challenge overseen by experienced judges, benefits everyone who competes, King said. All participants are awarded with a $4,000 scholarship intended to cover a career studies certificate, which can be completed in one year. The winners of those scholarships include:

  • Devin Agosto of Frankie Rowland’s Steakhouse 
  • Ray Johnson of Billy’s
  • Josh McKnight of Remini’s 
  • Robert Thompson of Lucky Restaurant
  • Azariyah Yashrael of 419 West

Now in its 14th year, the Al Pollard Gala has always included a chef competition, with the aim of helping participants develop further culinary and kitchen management skills that will improve the fine dining scene in Roanoke and the surrounding areas. This year’s competition, however, incorporated a sustainability element. Kroger, a long-time sponsor of the Al Pollard Memorial Gala, invited the competing chefs to buy ingredients for the cooking challenge from its food waste program, which aims to eliminate all food waste stemming from Kroger stores by 2025. The program, launched in 2018, has already reduced the company’s food waste by 40 percent by either diverting edible produce to programs that can use it for food, or by sending it companies that can either compost it, use it to create renewable energy, or recycle it as a source of livestock feed. 

“They’re trying to get all this food before it spoils to people who need it, and they’re going to great lengths to do it,” King said. “You wouldn’t believe the food waste that they have, but it’s still good food.”

The Al Pollard Memorial Gala, which took place at Virginia Western’s culinary facilities at the Claude Moore Educational Complex at the Roanoke Higher Education Center, is held in memory of Al Pollard, an area restaurateur who created lauded local institutions such as Corned Beef & Co. Pollard was instrumental in revitalizing the downtown dining experience in Roanoke, and was an enthusiastic supporter of the culinary school, which was announced shortly before his death in 2006. The Al Pollard Memorial Foundation also hosts an annual golf tournament, which took place on Sept. 20. Since its inception, the foundation has raised over $500,000 to benefit of Virginia Western’s culinary program.

Join us for free talk from national STEM speaker Deanne Bell

Virginia Western Community College invites the public to attend a free talk on Wednesday, Oct. 9 by national expert Deanne Bell on science and technology careers that are far from boring. From her work with NASA to travels in Tibet, Bell has had experiences in a wide range of innovative and STEM careers.

Bell is an engineer, television host and the founder of FutureEngineers.org, a platform that hosts national invitation challenges for students. She received a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Washington University in St. Louis.

Prior to becoming a TV host, Deanne designed opto-mechanics for military aircraft sensors and worked as a senior application engineer for a CAD software startup in Boston.

In 2006, Deanne took her first job in television as a co-host for the Peabody Award winning children’s series, Design Squad. She is currently a co-host for CNBC’s ‘Make Me a Millionaire Inventor, and her previous hosting credits include ESPN, Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and DIY Network.

In 2014, Deanne founded Future Engineers, which hosted its inaugural challenge in partnership with NASA and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation. Students were asked to create a digital 3D model of a space tool, and the winning design is being 3D printed aboard the International Space Station.

WHAT: STEM talk by national expert Deanne Bell

WHEN: 1 p.m., Wednesday, October 9

WHERE: Whitman Theater, Virginia Western Campus (Directions and parking)

COST: Free and open to the public