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In honor of Rachelle Koudelik-Jones (1976-2020)

Virginia Western Dean of Institutional Effectiveness Rachelle Koudelik-Jones passed away peacefully on Saturday following a courageous battle with cancer. To read Rachelle’s obituary and find information about the celebration of her life, please visit: https://www.johnmoakey.com/memorials/paige-koudelik-jones/4331935/obituary.php.

A celebration will take place on Saturday, September 26, from 12-5 p.m. at Rachelle’s home and be held outside at 1627 Sunset Avenue, Salem, VA 24153. Her family looks forward to having you share your stories about this amazing scholar, educator, leader, friend, and mom. There will be overflow parking available for Virginia Western employees at Lakeside Church and daycare parking lots.

Virginia Western is working on an on-campus memorial for Rachelle. More information will be sent out as details are finalized.

Rachelle’s family has created a College Savings Fund to help her daughter, Maddy, pursue her dreams after her high school graduation and honor her mother’s legacy. For more details, visit: https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8sCRoPHpxd.

To read about Rachelle’s contributions to Virginia Western and how she inspired her colleagues throughout her long battle, visit: https://virginiawestern.edu/news/2020/09/dean-of-institutional-effectiveness-is-a-leader-and-friend-to-count-on/.

Virginia Western announces new cohort of Fralin Futures STEM-H scholarship recipients

After a successful pilot year, the Virginia Western Community Educational Foundation expanded the Fralin Futures STEM-H Scholarship program, doubling the number of recipients for 2020-21.

Twenty-six students were named to the 2020-21 Fralin Scholars cohort and will receive financial and academic resources to assist them in completing their final semesters at Virginia Western and graduating as planned.

The Fralin Futures STEM-H Scholarship program launched in fall 2019 with 12 outstanding students in science, technology, math, engineering and the health professions. Of that initial cohort, 11 graduated by summer 2020, with the 12th student still enrolled at Virginia Western.

“We are incredibly happy to see the Foundation’s most prestigious scholarship start with such success,” said Amanda Mansfield, Educational Foundation Philanthropy Director. She noted that a survey of scholarship recipients showed 83 percent were uncertain they could have completed on time without the Fralin funding. In addition, half of the students said they used the support to meet unexpected and critical expenses that might have forced them to leave school.  

“What may be even more meaningful,” Mansfield said, “is the added program benefits of cohort activities.” All of the students said they were more likely to pursue leadership opportunities in the future, after attending a Fralin-sponsored leadership training. Ninety-one percent said they were more or much more likely to pursue mentorship opportunities in the future, due to their experience as a Fralin Scholar.

Funded through an endowment from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust, the scholarship is meant to not only help recipients complete their degrees, but also to assist them in finding well-paying and engaging careers within STEM-H fields.

The idea for the program was sparked in 2017, when the Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money for College scholarships, conducted a campuswide listening tour with faculty and staff. Vice President of Institutional Advancement Marilyn Herbert-Ashton said a number of staff members pointed out that sudden misfortune could easily derail students, especially adult learners. Unexpected bills, job loss, a lack of transportation, child and elder care are among the common challenges that can force an otherwise promising student to drop out.

Herbert-Ashton said those responses were not surprising. Nearly one-third of Virginia Western students are over age 25, and most juggle full- or part-time jobs in addition to their class schedules. Some are single parents, or are responsible for the care of aging relatives; a number are the first in their family to pursue a postsecondary education.

By covering the cost of a recipient’s final two semesters, the Fralin Futures program eases one of the major burdens that can make completing a degree seem daunting. Recipients receive an additional stipend each semester equal to their tuition, which can defray unexpected costs that might come up during a student’s final year.

In addition to receiving the scholarship support, Fralin Scholars are paired with mentors and receive the opportunity to attend relevant professional and educational events, both within and outside of Virginia. Programming in fall 2020 will be conducted virtually, with Zoom sessions connecting students to mentors, leadership training and counseling from the Hall Associates Career Center at Virginia Western.

The following students are part of the 2020-21 cohort:

Kimberly Archer, Nursing

Alexis Bedrosian, Nursing

Kaitlyn Bowman, Radiation Oncology

Raistlin Brabson, Mechatronics System Engineering Technology

Tuan Chau, Computer Science/Engineering

Meredith Dobyns, Radiation Oncology

Christina Fiedler, Nursing

Raegan Glenn, Dental Hygiene

Kristine Harper, Practical Nursing

Lorenzo Hernandez-Suarez, Mechatronics System Engineering Technology

Allyson Herriges, Health Sciences

Alicia Hibbs, Practical Nursing

Trevor Hill, Science

Gabriel Johnson, Engineering

Madeline Jones, Database and Program Development

Macie Killen, Mechatronics System Engineering Technology

Sara Kingery, Dental Hygiene

Carrie Lawson, Practical Nursing

Mackenzie Massey, Science

William McCoy, Computer Science

Giovanna Morabito, Dental Hygiene

Kira Shelor, Computer Science

Sarah Snyder, Radiography

Selma Sosic, Health Sciences

Rory Underwood, Engineering

Deana Valade, Nursing

Fralin Futures scholarship applications for the 2021-22 academic year will be accepted starting in March 2021. To qualify, students must have a 3.0 GPA in a STEM-H program of study at Virginia Western and be within two semesters of graduating. For more information, visit www.virginiawestern.edu/fralinfutures.

It’s not too late! Enroll now for late-start Fall classes!

Virginia Western provides a wide-array of late-start classes this Fall Semester, lasting 8 or 12 weeks, both online and featuring in-person labs. Take courses related to such topics as public speaking, culinary, horticulture, U.S. history, U.S. government, network security and much more!

Visit the Fall Class Schedule and search via 8 week or 12 week session to see what is available and will help you get ahead!: https://m.sis.vccs.edu/index.php/app/catalog/classSearch/2204?institution=VW286

Nursing faculty earn national distinction

For the first time in the history of Virginia Western Community College’s Nursing Program, six faculty members have earned the designation of Certified Nurse Educator (CNE), one of the highest distinctions for a nurse educator.

The faculty members earned the credential by meeting strict eligibility criteria and successfully completing a rigorous exam administered by the National League of Nursing.

“It’s important that we are always challenging ourselves to be better, and we also want to be the best for our students to inspire them to be successful. The way to do that is to be at the top of our game,” said Lauren Hayward, Administrative Officer for the College’s Nursing Program.

Nationally, the failure rate for the CNE exam is high, so the College was committed to providing the faculty with the tools they needed to prepare for success. The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation awarded an Innovation Grant to provide funding to establish a library of resources, study materials and test fees.

Five of the six faculty members were scheduled to test in March before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted testing schedules, postponing exam completion until late summer.

“They rose to the challenge and kept their heads in the game,” said Hayward. “As nurses, we don’t get to collapse during a pandemic; we rise. They modeled resilience to each other, their peers, students and the community.”

Having most faculty members with this certification is unique for an associate-level nursing program, said Marilyn Herbert-Ashton, Vice President of Institutional Advancement.

“This is another way to demonstrate that our faculty are continuously learning, and that commitment to lifelong learning is important for nursing students to see,” Herbert-Ashton said. “It’s another way for the community to see that we have a stellar nursing program, taught by faculty of the highest caliber.”

The Virginia Western nursing program is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and approved by the Virginia Board of Nursing. There are about 120 first- and second-year nursing students enrolled in the concept-based curriculum program. Sixty students graduated in May 2020 to pursue their careers as registered nurses.

Donor’s gift doubles amount of emergency funds available to students

An anonymous donor’s gift of $10,000 has doubled the amount of funding available in the Virginia Western Rapids Response Student Emergency Fund. The donor is a retired businessman and an alumnus of Virginia Western College who wants to help students struggling to balance school and financial emergencies during the COVID-19 crisis.

The donor recalled meeting his wife 45 years ago in a Virginia Western geology class. “We were so poor, we couldn’t afford to buy a Texas Instrument hand-held calculator for each of us, so I used my slide ruler and gave her the calculator,” he said.

After graduating from a Virginia four-year university with an engineering degree, the donor went on to found a successful business. He supported that university as an alumnus, “but I realize it is Virginia Western that needs my help now, and they were the first to help me. They prepared me for what was to come.”

His gift benefits a longstanding Virginia Western Educational Foundation fund that was newly renamed in spring 2020 to recognize the college’s athletics nickname – the Rapids – and to reflect the urgency behind its commitment to assisting students. Applicants may receive up to $500 per academic year to address a financial hardship that threatens to interfere with them completing their coursework.

“Right now, we are seeing students who lack a computer at home, so they cannot complete online classes,” said Amanda Mansfield, Philanthropy Director of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation. “We’ve been able to buy them a laptop so they can finish the semester and hopefully graduate on time.”

In the past, the fund has been tapped quickly – within 48 hours of application – pay for unforeseen expenses such as medical or car repair bills. The Educational Foundation also can award Kroger grocery or gas cards, and arrange for emergency Uber rides to or from class.

“We know that most of our students work at least one job in addition to going to class. Their finances are tight, and with one missed bill things can quickly snowball,” Mansfield said. “The student can feel overwhelmed and lose focus on class. This fund helps take the pressure off.”

An applicant is also connected with a campus advisory council, whose members assess the student’s overall needs and help them connect with other community resources, such as the Bradley Free Clinic or the Council of Community Services.

“This isn’t just about providing that $500. We want our rapid response to also help connect the student to ongoing support and more long-term solutions,” Mansfield said.

To apply, students must be currently enrolled in at least 6 credits, have a minimum 2.0 GPA and meet other eligibility requirements. There is no deadline to apply; applications are accepted year-round.

Or contact:
Amanda Mansfield, Philanthropy Director
Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation
(540) 857-6962

In-person advising, financial aid and tuition payment appointments available

Virginia Western is pleased to announce the availability of in-person appointments for advising, financial aid & tuition payment services.  Advising & financial aid in-person appointments are available now.  In-person appointments to make cash or check tuition payments will be available beginning July 27 as the college prepares for the fall tuition payment deadline (August 5). 

In addition to these in-person appointments, online and phone support will continue to be available.  In-person, online, and phone appointments can be scheduled using Navigate, which is accessible through each student’s MyVWCC account.

To learn more, visit: https://www.virginiawestern.edu/advising/index.php

Notice of partial closure of Parking Lot 9 from 7/6-7/17

Please be aware that two bays of parking in (upper) Lot 9 along Colonial Ave. (between the STEM Building and College Services Building) will be closed for milling, paving and restriping from this Monday, 7/6/20 through Friday, 7/17/20.  During this time, student parking on South Campus will be available in Lots 1, 2, 3 & 4, with Faculty/Staff Parking also being available in Lot 1E. Upon completion, this portion of Lot 9 (including new ADA parking spaces near the STEM Building and Transportation Plaza) will be fully available for use. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we complete these campus improvements!

Educational Foundation awards Innovation Grants

The Virginia Western Educational Foundation awarded nearly $24,000 to six Virginia Western faculty and staff members to support innovative initiatives designed to positively impact student success and advance novel ideas. 

This year’s awardees received between $500-$7,200 apiece to fund their initiatives. The Educational Foundation’s Innovation Grant program has awarded 52 grants totaling more than $250,000 in the past decade.

This year’s winning projects are as varied as the curriculum at Virginia Western. One grant will purchase more microscopes and slides for a STEM lab; another will enable outreach and collaboration between the College and Northwest Roanoke in an effort to attract more students from that area.

“We’re always looking for bright ideas and creativity in action,” said Marilyn Herbert-Ashton, Vice President of Institutional Advancement. “We are pleased that the funds will go to address real needs and enhance student success.”

The Innovation Grant program is funded by donors to the Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports the College. The program’s growth is the result of a concentrated effort to create awareness of the funds available and educate faculty and staff on the opportunities, steps to apply, and evaluating the overall application process with staff to make improvements the following year.

The investment made by the Foundation is much greater than microscopes and slides or other project materials, according to Edwin “Ed” Hall, Chair of the Foundation’s Scholarship and Grants Committee.

“The goal of the Foundation is to attract really good faculty and improve education to the highest level possible so our students are employable,” said Hall. “We’re focused on the long-term growth of the individual student as well as our community, and these grants provide a means for us to continue delivering on that.”

Applications for 2021-22 funding will be available in December, and proposals are due in March. All faculty and staff are eligible to submit proposals.

For more information, contact Carolyn Payne, Scholarship Coordinator, at cpayne@virginiawestern.edu or (540) 857-6376.

2020-21 Innovation Grant Recipients

Proposal NameProject DescriptionAwardee/DeptAmount Awarded
Alleviating Barriers for Adult Learners Through Portfolio AssessmentProject phase 1 creates an innovative and more consistent credit for prior learning program for adult learners through portfolio development, assessment and evaluation. Professional development will educate us on how to engage key players, administer processes, create a pipeline of faculty evaluators, and outreach to students.Cathy Ferguson, School of CCT$5,000
Microscopes and Slides for STEM CenterThe primary goal of this project is to obtain microscopes and slides for the STEM center. Students will have greater access to microscopes in which they can utilize to enhance their technique and study for Biology laboratory exams.Matthew Goff, School of STEM$7,242
VWCC/Northwest Collaborative: United for ImpactTo increase the footprint of Virginia Western in Northwest Roanoke through collaboration with neighborhood, nonprofits and grassroots organizations which promote health, education and training and community development.Cheryl Hilton, TRIO Pathways$5,000
Accelerating the Automotive Technology PathwayIncrease students in BTT’s Automotive Analysis & Repair CSC courses. Expand program capacity, increase opportunity for new course development in automotive technology and support new automotive course partnerships focused on new English language learners.Wil Preston, School of CCT$3,000
Improv for Creative Teaching and LearningHelp foster a more creative culture at Virginia Western — ultimately improving the student learning experience — by providing an opportunity for faculty and staff to learn the basic techniques of improv theater.Stephanie Seagle, Institutional Advancement$500
Expanding Machining Program CapacityRestructure teaching space to create two dedicated teaching areas for the Machining Lab at the current Melrose campus, rearrange the machine shop layout to group machines to match the curriculum of the classes (Fundamentals, Milling, Turning and CNC Programming). We will also consolidate the former Industrial Maintenance lab equipment with newly purchased Mechatronics Fundamentals equipment into the STEM building for our partnership with the Mechatronics academic program.Bryan Walke, School of CCT$2,700

Campus re-opening plan for Summer Semester

Dear Virginia Western campus community,

During Spring Semester, Virginia Western made unprecedented changes to how we deliver academic courses in order to keep our students, faculty and staff healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. I applaud everyone involved for the efforts to rapidly transform Virginia Western into primarily an online and remote institution in order to complete the semester with as little disruption as possible.

As we prepare to resume a limited number of face-to-face labs and classes with clinical instruction — in accordance with guidelines from the CDC, the Virginia Department of Health and Governor Ralph Northam — I want to share with you our plan for reopening in Summer Semester 2020. This plan is our first iteration – designed to provide a framework for our limited return to campus this summer. Certain CCT training programs will pilot the re-opening of classes next week, with a priority on completing incomplete Spring courses. The rest of the campus will begin a limited return on June 30. As with most things right now, it is a fluid document and will be adjusted as additional guidance is received from the system office, the state and local health agencies.

A cross-functional team has explored regulations, recommendations and best practices in order to create this plan. The plan takes multiple perspectives into account to balance health and safety measures with the need and desire to move forward in fulfilling our mission.

We are pleased to share this with you as a means to communicate our progress and intentions. To view the plan, please visit: https://www.virginiawestern.edu/covid19/.

Please share your thoughts and questions with your supervisor or faculty member so we can work to address specific matters. We fully expect this plan to evolve throughout the summer and as we approach further campus classes in the fall. Thank you for your support!


Dr. Robert H. Sandel
Virginia Western Community College

A message from President Sandel

As we struggle as a nation to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and the deaths it has caused, we must also come to grips with the fact that countless unnecessary deaths in our country have originated from a place of hatred and institutionalized racism. We are fortunate in our region that the majority of those protesting the tragic death of George Floyd and others before him are peacefully making their voices heard. We also are fortunate to have government leaders and police officers who honor the first amendment and the rights of those protesters while also protecting public safety. There are no easy answers here and I will not pretend that I have a solution to the turmoil and anger that is boiling over in our nation.

What I do know is that education has always been and will always be the great equalizer. It gives individuals a way to uplift their lives and the place of their families in our society. It teaches us to approach others with understanding. At Virginia Western Community College, I am most proud of the “community” in our name. I believe we have fostered a community where anyone, no matter the color of their skin, their economic situation or their place in life can find their path to personal success.

Dr. Glenn DuBois this week released a statement regarding steps Virginia’s Community Colleges will take to ensure all individuals across the Commonwealth have equal access to opportunity no matter their race. He has appointed a task force to examine what all VCCS institutions are doing to ensure equity and to develop goals and measurable strategies to increase it. He also appointed a panel to examine the curricula used across the system to educate law enforcement officers in criminal justice.

I fully support Chancellor DuBois for taking this important step. As the first community college in Virginia, founded in 1966, Virginia Western has always been a leader in providing educational opportunities. Today, we must also be a leader in helping to tear down racism and build a stronger future for the Commonwealth and our nation.

As we proceed to make changes to how we operate in response to the pandemic, I promise you we will not change our dedication to our core values of diversity, integrity, respect, success and teamwork. We will continue to foster a marketplace of ideas in the region. We will continue to help all our students reach their goals through education. This is our community and we are committed seeing it remain safe and healthy, and to seeing it thrive.

Dr. Robert H. Sandel


Virginia Western Community College