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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

Summer Semester update

Virginia Western’s campus is currently closed to students until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is holding online and remote learning classes for Summer Semester. The college is planning to reopen for limited in-person labs and clinical classes when permitted during Phase 2 of Governor Northam’s Forward Virginia reopening plan and when the appropriate health and safety protocols and supplies are in place.

Students, the public and guests will not be permitted on campus unless to attend specified laboratory, clinical or hands-on classes. Students who are not taking those specified classes or guests who need to visit campus must schedule an appointment. Not all buildings will be open.

Watch the 2020 Graduation Video

Virginia Western honored its 2020 graduates and conferred their degrees with a special video message. You can watch it here:

Be sure to see special Thank You messages from our students, faculty and staff here:

We look forward to honoring our graduates in person when it is safe to do so!

A message to graduating students from President Sandel

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones healthy. As we begin the final stretch of Spring Semester, it is a time that many of us would normally be preparing for and imagining a special commencement ceremony to honor you, our upcoming graduates. Unfortunately, due to the impact of COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines, we have had to cancel Virginia Western’s in-person commencement ceremony that was scheduled for May 15, 2020.

It is my great desire, and that of the Virginia Western faculty and staff, to honor those students who have worked so hard to complete their degree or certificate. On May 15, we will post a video through Virginia Western’s social media outlets and on our website to virtually confer degrees and recognize the graduating class of 2020’s academic achievements. We also will invite the Class of 2020 to participate in the next in-person Virginia Western commencement ceremony when it is appropriate and safe to do so.

In addition to the graduation video, we will continue the tradition of compiling a “thank you” video where students may recognize those who have helped them along the way like family, friends, faculty and staff. To submit a video (Maximum 3 minutes), upload a video onto your Google Drive or Dropbox, then email mediageeks@virginiawestern.edu. The deadline to submit is May 1 and guidelines for your video are listed here.

On May 15, we hope to see an abundance of Virginia Western spirit across social media. Through the student bulletin and on social media, we will provide printable signs you can show off and images for social media you can share to let everyone know about your graduation. Please share to our social media accounts too!

For students who already placed a regalia (cap and gown) order that was being shipped to Virginia Western, this order will be cancelled and payment refunded. Should you wish to have regalia to take photos in and have a keepsake of your important milestone, Oak Hall is opening a “ship to home” website for you to place a new order to be sent to you. To order regalia, visit:  https://vwcc.shopoakhalli.com/.

Unfortunately, this pandemic has changed almost everything about our regular ways of life. While it has prevented our ability to conduct an in-person commencement ceremony this May, it will not stop us from celebrating your achievements! Please join us as we honor the Class of 2020.


Dr. Robert H. Sandel


Virginia Western Community College