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Law Enforcement Memorial Service to honor those killed in the line of duty

Virginia Western Community College Campus Police is this year’s host of the 2019 Law Enforcement Memorial Service, which will honor the memory of fallen officers of Virginia and the Roanoke Region at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 16 at St. John Lutheran Church. The ceremony is free and the public is invited to honor those who have been lost and share in a reception and fellowship with food provided courtesy of Mission BBQ.

Since 1892, 42 officers have been killed in the line of duty in the greater Roanoke Valley. Fifteen of those lost were with the City of Roanoke, nine were employed with area State Police and three were with the City of Salem. Fallen officers from other area police departments will be honored as well.

Virginia Western Campus Police, Virginia State Police, Roanoke City Police, Roanoke County Police, Salem Police, Roanoke Sheriff’s Office, Buena Vista Police, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Christiansburg Police, Craig County Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Virginia Tech Police will all be represented.

WHAT:                   2019 Law Enforcement Memorial Service

WHO:                     Law enforcement representatives from across Virginia and the Roanoke Region will honor fallen officers.

WHEN:                   4 p.m., Thursday, May 16, 2019

WHERE:                 St. John Lutheran Church, 4608 Brambleton Ave. SW, Roanoke, VA 24018

QUESTIONS:         Craig Harris, Chief of Virginia Western Campus Police, charris@virginiawestern.edu or 540-857-7797

Chef Polfelt awarded Endowed Teaching Chair

The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation has awarded the Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair to Ted Polfelt, an award-winning local chef and instructor in the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program.

The Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair is intended to honor an outstanding Virginia Western instructor who advances the understanding of business management principles in his or her coursework, regardless of academic discipline. The honored teacher may use the funds to enhance the quality of his or her curriculum, facilities or instruction in any way he or she deems necessary.

Polfelt plans to host a culinary competition and educational seminar at Virginia Western that will give students the opportunity to compete in a professional-level “culinary salon” without the cost of travel. The competition would be open to students and culinary professionals alike, and draw on judges sanctioned by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).

The endowed chair is named for the late Don Smith, who led Roanoke Electric Steel and was a Director Emeriti of the Educational Foundation. Steel Dynamics Inc., formerly Roanoke Electric Steel, established the endowed chair in 2006 with a $100,000 gift to honor Smith’s longtime leadership. Smith was president of Roanoke Steel from 1985 to 2004 and worked for the company 49 years.

Polfelt said instructors in the Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program “literally apply business management principles into everything we do. We talk about utilizing every piece of animal or vegetable to maximize profits, as well as how to maintain your professional appearance to separate yourself in the job market.”

Acquiring business management skills early in a hospitality industry career is critical, Polfelt said. Too often, talented culinary students don’t understand the importance of maintaining core costs such as labor, food and rental. He offers, as an example, the idea of opening a coffee shop. “It sounds like a great business plan: Cheap to produce, low labor costs and great cost margins. But how many cups do you have to sell to cover your $2,000 lease and the rest of the expenditures?

“I like seeing the ‘A-ha’ moment in our students, when the picture of entrepreneurship becomes a little bit clearer,” he said.

The Al Pollard Culinary Arts Program is housed in newly expanded space at the Claude Moore Educational Complex, which is part of the Roanoke Higher Education Center in the historic Gainsboro neighborhood. The program currently enrolls 308 students who are pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree. Polfelt has been an instructor in the program since 2012.

“Ted’s project proposal is a creative and interactive way to marry our student’s culinary college tutelage with real-world experience and skills,” said Yvonne Campbell, Dean of Virginia Western’s School of Business, Technology & Trades. “He has smartly structured the project event agenda so that the experience increases student exposure to business principles employed in culinary arts at a level experienced by few.

“Seeing firsthand practical application of entrepreneurship by talented, dedicated experts is an important career and life lesson, and, honestly, can be life-changing for many of our students.”

Polfelt’s endowed chair appointment spans the 2019-20 and 2020-21 academic years. He is the third recipient of the Donald G. Smith Endowed Teaching Chair, following Alexander Scott, an associate professor of Spanish, and Cristin Barrett, an assistant professor of mathematics.

Polfelt previously was named the 2016 ACF Southeast Region Chef of the Year and was a semi-finalist for National Chef of the Year. He has also won more than 20 medals competing in ACF-sanctioned competitions across the country. He is currently the Vice President of the Southwest Virginia Chapter and is the Chair of the National Certification Commissions Appeals Sub-Committee. He also serves as Corporate Chef for Jefferson Street Management Group.

Cooke named new manager at Hall Associates Career Center

At the start of the Spring 2019 semester, the Hall Associates Career Center at Virginia Western Community College welcomed a new manager.

Although Shonny Cooke’s title is new, she is already well-acquainted with the Career Center. She first joined Virginia Western in 2012, where she managed internship programs and acted as an employment relations specialist. In 2015, Cooke left to pursue another opportunity, but it wasn’t long before she was back on campus.

“The Career Center is that place where you see the impact that happens when the right education and career training meet opportunity,” Cooke said. “I love hearing from students who come back and tell you how this changed their life. You really do know you’ve made a difference.”

The Hall Associates Career Center is a free service that can be accessed by any Virginia Western student or alumnus. It is located on the second floor of Virginia Western’s Student Life Center, which underwent a significant renovation in 2014 including the addition of a fitness center and student activities space. The Career Center is named for Hall Associates, the Roanoke-based real estate management firm founded by Edwin C. Hall, a longtime member of the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation Board of Directors.

While career services divisions are common at four-year colleges and universities, they remain a rarity at community colleges. But they can play a critical role in students’ success, Hall said. “With the help of the Career Center staff’s professional guidance, students can have a means to immediately seek employment after graduation.”

Providing real-time information on the regional market is a key. Career Center staff study labor market data and talk with local employers, Cooke said. “We are constantly asking, ‘What are the jobs, who’s hiring, what are the requirements and how can we help our students compete for those opportunities?’ ” she said.

The Career Center offers three primary types of services to current students and alumni:

  • Career planning: This includes a career assessment and one-on-one advising that focuses more on a student’s professional path that aligns with his or her academic plan. “We ask, ‘What do you really want to do? What are your interests and strengths? Do you have a certain passion or purpose that can lead to a profession?’ ” Cooke said.
  • Career preparation: “We connect what you’re learning in the classroom to employment.” Free workshops focus on how to write your resume for today’s HR managers, how to prepare for an interview and how to communicate the skills you possess to employers.
  • Career opportunities: Through its online job bank, career fairs, job shadowing opportunities and supervised internships, the Career Center helps students gain professional connections and relevant work experience. “We want to make sure we guide you toward employers that are hiring in that field – that we are opening up pipelines of opportunities for our students and alumni.”

Cooke earned her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and African-American studies from the University of Virginia at a time when college officials at many schools told students “what you majored in didn’t matter, just that you had the degree,” she said.  “I found out the hard way how important it is for your educational path to align with your career goal.”

After graduation, Cooke experienced a few false starts before landing a position as a training coordinator for at-risk youth. That job ignited her passion for career services. “What really interests me is trying to help others figure out the best pathway and being able to witness someone set a career goal, commit to the education and training it takes to get there, and land that opportunity,” she said.

Over two decades, Cooke has used her expertise in career education training and services to help students and companies alike. She’s developed and led training sessions for IT professionals, as well as workers in other industries. Cooke has created courses that help the unemployed gain the skills and knowledge they need to navigate the job market. She’s also passionate about helping business owners and other employers learn how Virginia Western students and alumni can meet their needs.

The Career Center invites employers to visit campus, interview students and make them aware of job openings. But before that happens, Career Center employees assess students’ abilities and help them fill in knowledge or experience gaps. “We need to know what our local employers are looking for but also make sure our students are prepared, so they can meet those expectations.”

The Career Center also aims to serve as a key conduit for employers who want to connect with the College in ways outside of direct hiring. Through its Workforce Solutions Division, for example, the College can develop customized training for employees in on-site classes that can cover leadership, team training, OSHA-mandated education or be built around a new initiative, such as a software launch. 

“The Career Center will be responsive to what we’re hearing from employers and communicate it back to the College,” Cooke said.  “We want to be a key connection point for business and industry, regardless of what their needs are.”

For more information on the Hall Associates Career Center, go to www.virginiawestern.edu/careercenter.