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Grand Opening commemorates new STEM Building

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sponsorships will be sold for:

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

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

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

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

“I Persist” panel discussion to inspire and uplift on Sept. 18

Virginia Western Community College invites the public to attend a free discussion, I Persist, where panelists will share inspiring stories of how they overcame obstacles to gain their education and build fulfilling careers and lives.

Members of the panel will share their journey, answer questions and interact with members of the audience. This event serves to build cultural awareness in our community, help students feel connected to others who have successfully overcome adversity, and to encourage students to continue working toward their academic goals.

WHAT: I Persist panel discussion

WHEN: Noon, Wednesday, September 18

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


Dr. Saleem Ahmed – Director of Anatomy; Virginia Tech Carilion Medical School, retired
Angela Hairston-Niblett
– Director, TRIO Student Support Services; Virginia Western Community College
Alexander Scott – Professor; Virginia Western Community College
Mindy Woodford – Professional Photographer; Virginia Western Alumnus
MODERATOR: Natasha Lee – Student Activities Coordinator; Virginia Western Community College

For more information on the I Persist panel, please contact TRIO Pathways Student Support Services, at 540-857-7289 or pathways@virginiawestern.edu.