Type your search keyword, and press enter

Virginia Western announces Spring Semester plans

Virginia Western Community College will provide a full array of Spring Semester classes with a mixture of online and remote learning formats along with in-person technical training, clinical and lab instruction. The college strives to meet the safety, health and well-being of the entire community, and to continue its mission to provide quality educational and training opportunities.

Virginia Western will provide the majority of lecture and general education courses online and will be prepared to pivot its hybrid and hands-on courses to online should that be necessary. Some online courses are structured to meet at specific times on tools like Zoom, just like a traditional in-person class, so students can engage with their instructor and classmates together. Others offer a chance to learn material at one’s own pace, needing simply to complete assignments or take exams by specific deadlines. Our faculty stand ready to help students succeed, regardless of which mode they prefer.

Read more about Virginia’s Community Colleges and their system-wide plans in a letter from Chancellor Glen DuBois: https://www.vccs.edu/blog/a-letter-from-the-chancellor-to-our-students/.

Anderson Hall: Building played critical role in growth of Virginia Western

By Tiffany Michelle Stevens

As a young mailroom clerk working in Anderson Hall in the late 1990s, Amy Maiolo knew she didn’t have to worry about reaching her car safely after work. Lou Bass, a Virginia Western Community College professor who taught biology in the building at the time, was looking out for her.

“Back then, the lights in the parking lot above Anderson were constantly going out,” Maiolo said.  “I was a young girl right out of college and he and another biology teacher were concerned about my safety.”

Years later, Maiolo said, Bass remained a comforting and protective presence in the building. Even after he died, she still sometimes was reminded of him while walking through Anderson. 

“When I’d get in the elevator to take the deliveries upstairs, all of the sudden I could smell Lou,” Maiolo said. “There was a certain smell from the brand of cigarettes he smoked — I don’t know what brand he had — and the formaldehyde from the lab. Sometimes at night, I would all of a sudden smell that when I was getting ready to leave. It wasn’t frightening; it was comforting, like Lou was watching over me.”

Lou Bass’s memory is only one of several that faculty, staff and students alike associate with life in Anderson Hall. Over the years, the building has played a critical role in Virginia Western’s development. The college’s science, technology, math and dental programs all can trace their start to the historic building, and many programs outside of the school’s STEM offerings have taught their classes in Anderson as well.

“It was really a foundation for many of the programs we have now. So many programs and people can trace their root to Anderson Hall,” said Amy White, Dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). 

New generations of Virginia Western students will not have an opportunity to become acquainted with Anderson, however. The building was demolished during the summer of 2020; a potential green space is slated to take its place, with room in the future for an amphitheater to be built that students, faculty and visitors alike can enjoy. Hill Studio conducted an intensive architectural study in 2019 to lay out potential future uses for the area.

“From a sentimental standpoint, it is bittersweet. I went up there one day when it was being demolished and just paused for a little while and thought about the last 15 years,” White said. “It was a great time to reflect on so many talented people who came through those doors and grew within those walls.”

The Virginia Community College System established Virginia Western as its first of 23 institutions in 1966. Erected between 1967 and 1969, Anderson Hall was one of the first three buildings constructed as part of the new college. Located on the northern part of campus in the Court of the Four Seasons, it is neighbored by the other two buildings constructed between 1967 and 1969 — Brown Library and Fishburn Hall. Anderson Hall was named for William Anderson, a Revolutionary War veteran and local official who lived in Botetourt County in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 

The decision to demolish Anderson Hall came about, in part, due to Virginia Western’s need for expanded STEM resources on campus. In 2006, a team evaluated Anderson Hall to see if it could be remodeled to accommodate the classroom and laboratory needs of STEM students. When experts determined that features such as the building’s waffle slab structure and its inefficient energy systems would make Anderson Hall difficult to remodel, the College built the Horace G. and Anne H. Fralin Center for Science and Health Professions in 2013. A new STEM Building followed in 2019, on the south side of campus.

It wasn’t just the building’s structure that made Anderson Hall a bad fit for remodeling. Many of the departments inside the building had been making do with outdated equipment to teach students. Dental hygiene students, for example, were manually developing X-ray film instead of having access to more modern digital techniques. 

Even the space where students would practice basic cleaning techniques was outdated. Colleen McGowan, co-director of Virginia Western’s dental hygiene program, said that the dental clinic contained an open bay where students conducted cleanings.  

“It was one big room and all the chairs were set up like a horseshoe, and you could actually reach out and touch the patient next to you. You could hear the conversations to your right and left and in front of you, you could watch someone get their teeth cleaned,” McGowan said. “Given the times we’re in, and even with things like HIPAA, they don’t make those kinds of clinics anymore.” 

Marty Sullivan, dean of Virginia Western’s School of Health Professions, said complaints about the outdated equipment frequently came up in student exit surveys. In some cases, graduates complained that their employers had to train them on newer technology.

“Now we are all digital, so it’s all real time and that offers a lot less radiation exposure to patients,” Sullivan said. “We also went to a state-of-the-art dental clinic that has electronic medical records so we don’t have any more paper charts. We have modern sterilization, we have modern instrumentation and modern equipment.”

Sullivan said the improvements made to the dental hygiene program after it left Anderson Hall are in line with the vision that Alice Becker Hinchcliffe Williams had when she founded the program in 1970. 

“She was a dental hygienist and she approached the college to say you should offer this education,” Sullivan said. “That’s how the program started and it’s going strong. When Alice died, she left an endowment for dental hygiene scholarships. We also have some discretionary funding that allows us to offer some things to our students through the endowment that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to have. We’ve been able to buy equipment, we’ve been able to do faculty development through these funds, so she was really instrumental.”

Anderson Hall did not only play host to students and faculty during its years as an academic facility. Among Maiolo and other campus veterans, the building affectionately became known as the “Critter Building” for its seemingly mystical draw over nearby fauna. In addition to chipmunks and groundhogs, the building became a frequent nesting and rest stop for local birds. Rich Crites, a beloved biology teacher at Virginia Western known by students and staff as “Mr. Wildflower,” was particularly enamored of the barn swallows that built their nests on the sides and back of the building, Maiolo said. 

“When the guys would come and mow they would swoop down — they fly like bats — and sometimes it would scare the students a little bit. They thought there were bats out in the daytime,” Maiolo said. “Rich Crites was always talking about the birds. Every time I see the barn swallows I think fondly of him.”  Another critter favorite were the chipmunks that resided right outside of Anderson. Pam Woody, a longtime Health Science advisor, fed these residents religiously; they would almost run to her when she came to feed them each day, even after she moved into the Fralin building. (Read Woody’s own recollections of Anderson here.)

Maiolo said she also fondly remembers Anderson Hall, especially the role the building played in bringing the campus together during its formative years. Since Anderson played host to the mailroom for a large portion of campus, Maiolo was able to get to know the majority of the professors and other staff members working in the business and science divisions. She fondly recalls chatting with former Virginia Western Dean Debbie Yancey back when she was a work-study student on campus. For her, Anderson Hall was a chief example of how Virginia Western’s staff and students worked hard to build a true community on campus.

“I wish I could’ve kept one of those mailboxes. That was something that reminds me of the fond memories I have of that building, when everybody would come and get their mail,” Maiolo said. “Then they’d stop for a few minutes and they’d tell me what things are going on around campus and check in on me, and then I’d check in on them. That was back when everybody knew everybody and they made an effort to get to know who was in the office. There was always a big thing about welcoming new people.”

White, too, said the building holds warm memories for her, not just as a place of employment but also as a place where her children grew up. She said her kids remember playing in Anderson’s halls and begging for sweets from Mary Perry, who served as administrative assistant over science and math. Julia Andrews, the administrative assistant over health, also played a crucial role in bringing the building’s occupants together, White said.

“Anything you needed to know about Virginia Western, you asked those two ladies,” White said. “They really ran the whole building.” 

 They were supervised by Dean Anne Kornegay, who was instrumental in the role that Anderson played on campus, and who mentored many campus leaders such as Sullivan, White and Rachelle Koudelik-Jones, who passed away in September 2020. Koudelik-Jones began as a math instructor, then served as Math Program Head and assistant dean under Kornegay. She then went on to administration and serves as the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and led the College through the successful SACS fifth-year review.

Although newer generations of Virginia Western students won’t get to experience Anderson Hall directly, White believes the building’s legacy will continue. The building’s story, and its next iteration, is proof of the growth that Virginia Western has been able to accomplish over the past 50-plus years. 

“The way I see it, Anderson isn’t dead because it lives on in Fralin,” White said. “It lives on in the STEM Building; it lives on in the Business Science Building and in the administrative wing of Fishburn Hall. The knowledge and spirit of Anderson Hall will continue to impact students for years to come.”

Would you like to share your memories of Anderson Hall with the College community? Email Carole Tarrant at the Virginia Western Educational Foundation, ctarrant@virginiawestern.edu.

Anderson Hall: Remembering a campus ‘home’ that forged friendships

By Pamela Woody

On June 3, 2020, when I received an email from someone on campus who indicated that this was the week that the demolition for Anderson Hall was to occur, I had tears in my eyes.  Anderson was my “home” for over 20 years, from 1993 when I began at the College to 2015 when I moved into the newly established Horace G. and Anne H. Fralin Center for Science and Health Professions. I can remember back to the day of my interview for a newly created position to assist the health program heads with the admission processes for all the health programs and advise the pre-health students. 

Dr. J Andrew Archer

Dr. J. Andrew Archer had created the job, and during the interview he indicated that he could maintain the health programs but he could not help them grow. His background was in math and they had just brought the health programs to be housed with science, engineering and math. Dr. Archer indicated that, in discussions with the program heads, the need for an advisor and someone to manage the student admission files was a high priority. Dr. Archer can be credited with creating a life-changing event for myself by hiring me to work in Anderson Hall in that capacity.

My first day on the job, I met Mary Perry and Julia Andrews, the two division secretaries for both horticulture, math and engineering and science and health. Mary was first a work-study student at the College and she remained in the same office as a work-study and then as division secretary until her retirement in 2012. Not many can say that they remained in the same office during their long work tenure. 

There was a core group of about seven of us who worked in Anderson Hall and formed lifelong friendships. Lyn Hursey, one member of the group, worked in another building but would come to Anderson to collect the mail and take her break and visit with Mary and others in Anderson for 10 minutes at least one time a week. We would socially gather after work and developed lasting friendships. Patti Prevo was the chemistry lab manager and had been in the same position for the College, in Anderson Hall, for 30-plus years and was one of our group members. Mary and Patti would discuss the faculty from the past before some of us arrived in Anderson Hall. Often, we would learn so much from listening to Mary and Patti engage about the lives of faculty members and the students as well.

Dr. John Killian

Dr. John Killian taught Anatomy and Physiology at the College and some students tried to avoid his classes. Anatomy and Physiology can be a difficult subject, and Dr. Killian’s test often involved short answers. Dr. Killian’s belief was that if a student knew enough and could write the answer, they should remember and retain the information. Often, nursing students would come into my office after being accepted into the nursing program and inform me that they were glad they had Dr. Killian for A&P.  As the nursing instructors would lecture, Dr. Killian’s former students could recall the previously learned A&P information and relate that information to the nursing aspect that the nursing instructors were discussing. They could “connect the dots” to previous learning from A&P. 

Dr. Donna Harpold, another science instructor, taught Microbiology and she would often come to my office and discuss the progress that the health students were making in her class. She was a passionate and smart instructor and so caring with her students. Dr. Harpold would sometimes share how her daughter, who became a professional dancer in California, was and which singer she was performing with at the moment. Dr. Harpold raised orchids and upon her death I bought two from the Virginia Western greenhouse in her memory. When one blooms regularly I think of Dr. Harpold and the knowledge that she shared with her students.

Sandy Myers

I think of the married professors, John Starnes who taught math in Anderson, and his wife, Patsy Starnes, who taught reading improvement courses inside of Anderson Hall. I think of Joel Pack, who taught math and would grow a beard beginning in September so he could play a Bible character in the Christmas pageant that First Baptist Church would hold each year. I think of the nursing students who would hear a nursing instructor, Sandy Myers, walking down the hallway and cringe. The students would often refer to Myers as the “drill sergeant” because of her fast-paced walk and the noise that her shoes would make in the hallways. Myers was also referred to as the “drill sergeant” because of the standards she expected nursing students in her clinical groups to uphold. Often, as in Dr. Killian’s class, the students grew to appreciate Myers and her standards after they finished their rotations. They discovered, after the fact, that they had learned so much with  Myers and that she would set them on the way to success within the nursing programs because of the way that she conducted her clinical groups in the hospital.

I think of the Radiography program and Shirl Lamanca, who graduated from the Virginia Western Radiography program and returned to become program head and interim dean of the math, science and health divisions. So many of the faculty within Radiography over the years returned to be a part of the Radiography program in some faculty aspect.

I think of Virginia Garden, Ellen Holtman and Tom Olsen, who would teach Biology and their passion for their discipline and for teaching the students. I also think of the faithful math instructors, such as Sarah Martin, Ray Tucker and Jim Fightmaster, who is still teaching math in the new STEM Building, and the caring developmental math instructors who were often retired high school math teachers. In the Physics Department, I remember  Don Benson having to have his morning coffee at a certain temperature and Barry Thomas who would visit the Division Office frequently and share stories of his family vacations out West. 

I remember the day when the Division Dean, Ben Zirkle, who became the Division Dean after Dr. Archer became Vice President, called Julia and me into his office early one morning. He had this sad look on his face. Julia thought someone had passed away. He then reported that a bomb threat had been phoned in and Julia and I had to “man” the back door of Anderson and not allow any students into the building. Dutifully, we did as told but I grabbed my purse and backpack as I was working on my graduate degree and didn’t want to lose my textbook or paper that I was working on for class. Then outside we looked at one another, and said we need to move away from the building in case the threat was true. We had a wide girth from the back door. The students would just roll their eyes when we informed them that they were not allowed in the building. After this episode ended, of course Mary and Patti began stories of the bomb threats in the ’80s that would occur. 

As I sat on the steps of Fishburn, watching the demolition of Anderson Hall, I remembered the barn swallows at the back of the building that would hunt for insects as students walked to class in the morning and how some on campus would want their nest removed.

Biology teacher Rich Crites would defend the birds and inform everyone who would listen how many insects the birds ate and how beneficial the birds were and how they were raising their young and the nest needed to remain until the young fled the nest. In the front of Anderson Hall, house finches would build nests above the lights on the front porch. Again, some would complain and about the “mess” the birds made at the front door. However, the finches typically remained and returned each year. 

My office partner, Debra Tyree, and I would feed and keep a water source for the birds outside our office window. We began keeping a bird “watch list” and reached 22 different types of birds that we noted that visited the feeders outside of Anderson Hall and the chipmunks that would visit as well. We enjoyed watching the parent birds feed their young with the seed by placing the seed inside their beaks. We also remember the groundhogs out back and the other critters that caused a scare during the hantavirus outbreaks in the Midwest one year. However, I think the groundhog remained as a guest, perhaps unwanted guest, on the back of the building. 

As I pondered the rich history of Anderson Hall, I remembered the celebrations held in the building with co-worker/friends. We had Christmas parties in labs. We had birthday celebrations in offices and baby showers in classrooms. We had a graduation party for a fellow staff member when she finished her graduate degree and a retirement party as well. I remember the beautiful angel and hand-made doily left on my desk by Julia and Pam Conner when I returned to work after the unexpected death of my brother and yellow day lily plant left in my office by Lee Hipp and Susan Barton, who ran the Community Arboretum.

I also began to think of the students who had class in Anderson Hall. I thought of the husband who worked while his wife finished her nursing program at the College, and how she then worked as he later finished in nursing as well. I think of Dr. John Boone, who completed the science program and then went further and became a doctor of osteopathic medicine. I think of the nursing students Stephanie and Joanna, who could always be found in the back left corner of the computer study room across from my last office — every day in between class and at the end of day, always studying in the nursing computer lab.  Both graduated and became RNs and Joanna recently graduated from Liberty as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

 I think of the nursing student Allison, who managed a divorce and co-raising three sons while at the College to become an RN and while in the program would share what a difference she was making in patients’ lives and how lucky she was to find her “calling” in life. However, I think too, of all the students who graduated and continued onward at another college or went to work upon graduation and are considered a success for the way they complete their jobs on a daily basis. 

As I rise from the Fishburn steps and gaze as the building is coming down, I think of the wonderful friendships, amazing faculty and remarkable students whose feet have walked the hallways of Anderson and I think — well done, Anderson Hall, well done.

Woody is the program advisor for Dental Hygiene, Nursing, Radiography, Radiation Oncology, Practical Nursing, Phlebotomy, MLT and Physical Therapist Assistant in the Virginia Western Community College School of Health Professions.

Would you like to share your memories of Anderson Hall with the College community? Email Carole Tarrant at the Virginia Western Educational Foundation, ctarrant@virginiawestern.edu.

Pandemic increases student emergency needs at Virginia Western

When spring classes at Virginia Western Community College were abruptly moved online last spring, many students found themselves unequipped to continue learning. Many didn’t have personal computers or internet service, and they didn’t have the finances to pay for these new necessities.

That was the case for William Hobbs, who was enrolled in computer and business classes last semester on his path toward an Integrated Environmental Studies degree. His Chromebook didn’t meet the requirements for his classes, and having lost his job due to the pandemic, he was unable to afford a new computer.

William Hobbs
William Hobbs

Money from the Virginia Western Rapids Response Fund allowed Hobbs to get a Windows-based laptop and prevented him from falling behind with his course load. He is on track to finish his associate degree this spring and plans to continue at University of Virginia or Virginia Tech next fall.

“I desperately needed a new computer so I could continue working on school,” said Hobbs. “I would not have been able to complete my coursework if it wasn’t for the financial help that the emergency funds program provided me. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and help I received, and I would highly recommend it to my peers if they are in financial need.”

Established by the Virginia Western Educational Foundation in 2005, the relief fund was set up to provide financial support (up to $500 per year) to students for unexpected emergency needs such as medical issues, car repairs or technology issues. The influx in applications this spring and fall affirms the increased hardship students are facing because of the pandemic. Nearly $4,000 has been awarded this year so far, nearly three times the amount as last year.

“We don’t want students to have to choose between pursuing their academic goals and basic needs,” said Amanda Mansfield, Philanthropy Director for the Education Foundation. “Now, more than ever, our students need our support to navigate their academic and personal lives so sustaining this fund is even more critical.”

Click to donate to the Virginia Western Rapids Response Student Emergency Fund

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 donations from Kroger and Kraft Heinz to renew support for Student Co-Op

The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation announces a $20,000 combined donation from Kroger and Kraft Heinz to renew support of the Virginia Western Student Co-Op fueled by Kroger. The Student Co-Op, which launched on campus in Fall Semester 2019, is aimed at eliminating student food insecurity at Virginia Western as part of Kroger’s Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Plan.

Kroger and Kraft Heinz donated $10,000 apiece to provide nutritious snacks and meals for students. In the 2019-2020 academic year, the Student Co-Op served more than 377 students, exceeding 2,454 student visits. It provided essential nourishment for food insecure students so they could continue their studies and succeed without worrying where and when their next meal would come.

“Before we launched the Student Co-Op, we estimated that up to 50 percent of our approximately 10,000 Virginia Western students could be going hungry every day. Through the immediate popularity of the Co-Op, we learned how real the need was,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “As the world has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are surely many more students who will need the sustenance that comes from the Co-Op. We are extremely thankful for Kroger and Kraft Heinz for their ongoing support of our students’ success.”

The Student Co-Op is located in the Strauss Family Student Life Center and is managed through Virginia Western’s student services, operating on an honor system with students logging their ID numbers to enter the space. There are healthy snacks, nonperishable items to create family meals and refrigerated items students can eat before class. During the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been able to schedule an appointment to visit or order online for pickup.

“Food insecurity on college campuses is an unfortunate reality for far too many students,” said Allison McGee, corporate affairs manager for Kroger Mid-Atlantic. “We felt privileged to be a part of launching the Student Co-Op in the fall of 2019, and are glad to continue our support of the important work being done on Virginia Western Community College’s campus.”

Individuals interested in supporting the Virginia Western Student Co-Op, should contact Amanda Mansfield, Philanthropy Director of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation at amansfield@virginiawestern.edu or (540) 857-6962.

Virginia Western announces upcoming Local Advisory Board meetings

Virginia Western Community College’s Local Advisory Board will hold an electronic meeting to conduct regular business at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020, in accordance with § 2.2-3708.2 of the Code of Virginia and Chapter 1283 of the 2020 Acts of Assembly. The Executive Committee of the Local Advisory Board will meet at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9, and the Finance Committee of the Local Advisory Board will meet at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17.

These are open meetings. Public comment for the Local Advisory Board meeting can be accepted only in written form, due to the nature of the electronic meeting. Comments can be sent prior to Sept. 14, 2020, via email to Amy Balzer at abalzer@virginiawestern.edu. The comments received will become a part of the public record.

These meetings can be witnessed via the URLs below:
Virginia Western Local Advisory Board Executive Committee
Sept. 9, 2020, 3:30 p.m. via Zoom: https://vccs.zoom.us/j/93833145945

Virginia Western Local Advisory Board Finance Committee
Sept. 17, 2020, 3 p.m. via Zoom: https://vccs.zoom.us/j/99350639681

Virginia Western Local Advisory Board Meeting
Sept. 17, 2020, 3:30 p.m. via Zoom: https://vccs.zoom.us/j/99350639681

If the meetings are interrupted by a technical problem, the public may notify Virginia Western by calling 540-985-5736.

Dean of Institutional Effectiveness is a leader and a friend to count on

Professionally, Rachelle Koudelik-Jones has always been a numbers person. As a mathematics professor, she showed her students how the study of calculus and statistics create exponential opportunities in their lives and careers. As the Dean of Institutional Effectiveness (IE), she has been counted upon to lead Virginia Western Community College’s re-accreditation and strategic planning efforts, all while figuring out new ways to recruit and retain scores of students. She has always been willing to take on additional duties while accepting a fraction of the credit.

Math has always added up for Rachelle. To those who work with her, though, it is difficult to sum up just how much she means to them and to the college.

“Rachelle is one of those special people who can work with every segment of the college. The faculty and staff believe in her and when she says something, they know it has been well thought out and researched,” says Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “We all care so much for her and her health struggles impact all of us. We want her to get better and back to work when she is ready. We need her more than ever.”

Rachelle Koudelik-Jones
Rachelle Koudelik-Jones, Virginia Western Dean of Institutional Effectiveness

While excelling at a wide range of work responsibilities and raising her daughter, Maddy, Rachelle has also been battling cancer for several years. Amidst it all, she received the J. Andrew Archer Administrative/Professional Leadership Excellence Award in 2018 and her perseverance has inspired her colleagues.

“As Rachelle bravely faces her battle with cancer; it is a parallel to how she faces obstacles at the college and that is with a smile and ‘have you thought about this?’ She doggedly fights and questions doctors to ensure she is receiving the best treatment for herself and she always fights to ensure that the college is doing the best for students. She presents questions to make us better,” says Lori Baker, Dean of Student Affairs. “Rachelle is also the organizer for gatherings. Before COVID-19, she was the one to gather a group of people to share a drink and some food. She recognizes the importance of community and that a strong community makes for a strong organization. Academic and Student Affairs is a tight-knit group because of Rachelle. She nurtures the relationships better than anyone does. This relationship is important to the overall health of the college. I cannot wait until Rachelle can once again organize some gatherings!”

Rachelle began her career at Virginia Western in 2003 as an adjunct lecturer in math and became an assistant professor the next year. In 2008, she became associate professor and took on the role of acting coordinator of IE. In 2011, after previously advancing to become Coordinator of IE, she became dean.

“Rachelle is a colleague and friend who masterfully guides Virginia Western through the maze of strategic planning, accreditation, and shared governance with a keen understanding of policy and an intuitive finger on the pulse of the college culture. In one word, she is amazing,” says Dr. Elizabeth Wilmer, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs. “She builds complex spreadsheets to manage large amounts of data while at the same time finding that right way to translate the data so that people understand it. She finds that beautiful balance in the dance between math and humanity.”

When first establishing the IE Office at Virginia Western, Rachelle and former colleague Anne Kornegay needed to develop a budget and they were assigned a code that ended in 666. They found that highly appropriate for the sometimes-devilish work of rounding up data for the re-accreditation process with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

“Rachelle has provided vision and direction as Dean of IE, and has applied her amazing work ethic every day to ensure that the college she loves provides demonstrable evidence of excellence and commitment to student learning and outcomes,” Anne says. “Rachelle never gives up – she finds solutions; she never complains — she keeps going; and she gives her best to her work. She is the epitome of professional. It was my great privilege to work with her in her many roles as a mathematics faculty member, math program head and in the IE Office.”

Carol Rowlett, the college’s Coordinator of Research and Assessment, has had a similar experience in the IE Office under Rachelle’s leadership.

“Rachelle and I clicked from the moment we met. It’s not overstating the case at all to say that I came to Virginia Western because of Rachelle,” she says. “In my early days here, she was the best boss I ever had for sharing credit – sometimes even giving me credit for things I hadn’t worked on!”

“Rachelle, Sarah Chitwood and I worked as a team in putting together the SACSCOC decennial reporting in 2012-14: coming in early, leaving late, and working weekends and holidays. Rachelle’s bigger-than-life personality, driving enthusiasm, ability to push through obstacles, and sheer joy in life made all the difference. She made what should have been miserable drudgery into the most rewarding professional experience of my life.”

Sarah says she too has been inspired professionally, but even more so, personally as she has witnessed Rachelle’s tenacity and love for life.

“Superhero. I don’t think there is a better way to describe Rachelle. She has a super-human ability to stand in front of fear, fight the most ferocious battles, and protect all that is good and right in this world,” she says. “Keep an eye out when she goes racing by. She’s the one with the Houston Texans fighting bull on her cape! How could it be anything else when it represents a fighting spirit, courage, pride, strength, tenacity, and vigor.”

In addition to her role in the IE Office, Rachelle has been a key member of the President’s Executive Team and has guided the college’s governance structure as well as College Council meetings for years. Other leaders have come to depend upon her insights and support. Marilyn Herbert-Ashton, who is also part of the Exec Team as Vice President of Institutional Advancement, describes Rachelle as “a true SACSOC champion, and math wizard.”

“Rachelle’s leadership provides an open and transparent environment for sharing data and trends. She is a terrific listener and brings valuable data driven insight to each discussion. Her extensive knowledge of SACSCOC and the college’s governance structure has guided our strategic path forward,” says Lisa Ridpath, Vice President of Financial and Administrative Services. “Rachelle always looks for ways to enhance and improve the services and experiences of our campus community. Her hard work and dedication is so evident in all that she does. She is a tremendous colleague and friend. … And she knows the best restaurants in Dallas!”

That knowledge of the Lone Star State has come in handy during SACSCOC conferences there. A native Texan, Rachelle earned her Bachelor and Master of Science in mathematics from Sam Houston State University before making her way to Virginia. She also earned a Master of Science degree in statistics from Virginia Tech.

A pair of Rachelle’s close colleagues have gone on to work at Virginia Tech and while they may love their maroon and orange, they clearly miss the camaraderie they had at Virginia Western with her.

“One of the absolute highlights of working at Virginia Western was working with Rachelle. She is one of the smartest, friendliest, and most loyal people you will ever meet. Her work ethic is second to none,” says Chad Sartini. “Rachelle is selfless and always focuses on the best interests of Virginia Western and its students. More than anything else, Rachelle is a wonderful person and a great mom. I am honored and blessed that Rachelle is a dear friend.”

“Rachelle is honest but thoughtful in how she relays that honesty. She doesn’t speak the truth to confront but rather to improve. Her bar is high and she is always willing to extend help, but expects everyone to do their best and work just as hard as she does. Rachelle is so very smart but she never made me feel inferior for not being her equivalent – she always made me feel like a part of the team on equal footing,” says Tara Nepper. “I love Rachelle’s sly smile and desire to laugh whenever possible. It was so fun working with Rachelle because she always looked for ways to find joy and laughter.”

Although she is well known on campus for her ability to decipher data that informs the direction of Virginia Western, Rachelle is much more than a numbers person. Her dedication, sincerity and friendship are part of what makes the college more like a family.

“She is such a great friend. There are people in this world who give and people who take. Rachelle is a giver, that is for sure,” says Amy Anguiano, Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Social Studies. “She gives her all to her friends, her family and to Virginia Western. I learn something new from her every day.”

“Rachelle is a bright star of the college. She is wickedly smart and has always had the college’s interest at heart. During my time in the dean’s position, she has helped me countless times. She is an incredible resource (her mind is like an encyclopedia) and a great sounding board,” says Yvonne Campbell, Dean of the School of Business, Technology and Trades. “She is one of a kind with the ability to garner relationships and respect across the college and most importantly – bring about change that positively impacts the college and our students. VWCC is her family …”

Additional Quotes:

“Statistician. Math Professor. Administrator. Dean. Colleague. Friend. Mom. Most people would feel blessed to hold just one of these titles, but Rachelle not only holds them all, but excels at each. Rachelle truly loves Virginia Western, and she knows it to its core. Her level of institutional knowledge is beyond compare, and she uses that knowledge every day to make Virginia Western better and to create opportunities for its students and staff. She does this with a sense of humor, a smile and a matter of fact attitude that motivates others to the same standard of excellence that she holds for herself. She is in the office well before the start of most people’s days, she takes her meals during meetings as to not miss work time, and on most evenings, she can be found on the front row of a dance or band performance of her precious daughter Maddy. Her commitment to all that is meaningful to her is heroic.”
-Amy White, Dean of the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

“Rachelle, in her ongoing health battle, has shown me the true definitions of strength, determination, courage and LOVE. Her struggles have been real and would have sent the non-Rachelle person to the ‘house’, but she continues push forward with responsibilities at work, and maintaining the crazy rigor of being Mom to a very busy and beautiful teenager. Every day I am in complete awe of and humbled by Rachelle. She is the truest of true heroes in my world and I am honored to call her my friend!”
-Amy Balzer, Assistant to the President

“Rachelle has so often been the behind the scenes support for so much innovation here at Virginia Western. During a planning meeting a few years ago, we were considering a new software package that could provide high-level data analytics to allow us to target student success interventions more effectively. It was sophisticated and expensive. Following an explanation about some of its capabilities, someone at the table said, ‘Hey, we have a Rachelle for that!’ After the laughter died away, this became a running gag. Whenever we face a particularly complex or daunting challenge, inevitably someone will pipe up and say, ‘We have a Rachelle for that!’ Like any good app, we have come to count on Rachelle to help us get the complex hard work done and done right.”
-Chris Porter, Dean of Learning Resources and Online Learning

“Rachelle has deep connections with faculty, staff and administrators across campus and the innate ability to bring people together. It says so much that she has connected with so many. She is always looking for ways she can move Virginia Western forward as a whole. It has been remarkable to see how much she has dedicated herself to supporting the college in the face of what some would see as insurmountable obstacles. She is the ultimate fighter and we are fortunate to have someone like her in our corner!”
-Josh Meyer, Director of Marketing and Strategic Communications

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.