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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.

Virginia Western presents Distinguished Alumni Award to Deborah L. Petrine

The Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation recognized Deborah L. Petrine (’74), Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Care of Roanoke and Chair of the Foundation’s Advocacy Council for the Virginia Western Forward Endowment Fund: A Vision of Dr. Charles W. Steger Jr., with its 2019 Distinguished Alumni Award.

A first-generation college student, Petrine first attended Virginia Western in 1973-74, later returning for enrichment coursework.  Petrine worked her way through Virginia Tech as a secretary/receptionist in a nursing home. Upon graduation, she entered the company’s Administrator in Training Program and worked her way up through the company, eventually becoming president at one of Virginia’s largest providers of long-term care services. Under her leadership, the company expanded from skilled nursing facilities to add assisted-living facilities, a pharmacy company and a home health company. 

“Debbie’s journey typifies the best outcomes of community college opportunity. Her accomplishments and service have made an indelible impact on so many lives, and we are honored and proud to recognize her as a Distinguished Alumna,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, president of Virginia Western Community College.

Virginia Western’s Distinguished Alumni Award was established in 2006 by the Virginia Western Alumni Association and recognizes Virginia Western Community College alumni and former students who have attained extraordinary distinction in their professional field or life. The award serves to honor all the men and women whose attendance at Virginia Western helped them achieve their educational and professional goals, allowing them to better serve their communities.

In 1996, Petrine co-founded and served as President of Colonial Care, LLC, managing facilities in Virginia and North Carolina. This company grew throughout Virginia and was purchased in 1998. Petrine’s desire to be a “hands on” manager and to own and operate facilities led her to leave that organization to form CCR. CCR began operating in July 2001 and has grown to 12 skilled facilities. Additionally, in 2010 she served as president of Longleaf Senior Living, LLC, managing 35 assisted-living facilities in North Carolina.

“The one attribute that Debbie possesses that makes her a treasured mentor, colleague and friend is her internal compass. Debbie’s compass points the right way, a true north,” said David W. Tucker, President and COO of Commonwealth Care of Roanoke.

In 2005, Petrine was awarded the prestigious James G. Dunton Lifetime Achievement Award for her service to the elderly and infirm in Virginia. She served as the first female Chair of the Virginia Health Care Association from 1993-95. She also served a two-year term representing Virginia on the American Health Care Association Board of Directors. Additionally, she served four years on the Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators, was appointed in April 1997 to the statewide Nursing Facility Advisory Committee where she served two years, and was appointed by the governor in 2010 to a four-year term on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Revenue Estimates.

Petrine received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Virginia Tech, where she has remained active. She was appointed by the governor to the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors in 2011 and was elected Rector in 2014, making her the first female in the school’s history to lead the board.

“I am sincerely humbled and honored to be selected for this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award and to be included alongside the previous recipients,” Petrine said. “Virginia Western was the perfect place for me. The college provided an excellent educational foundation and enabled me to pursue my dreams. Looking back, I wonder where I would be now if Virginia Western had not played such an important role in my early life. For that and the support of my family, friends and mentors along the way, I am grateful.”

Petrine continues to serve on the Board of Visitors and also on the Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business Advisory Council. She was a member of the Virginia Tech Foundation and the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine Board for two years, served as the first Chair of the Center for Gerontology Futures Board upon its inception in 1992 and subsequently as the first Chair of the Pamplin College Management Department Advisory Board. She is also a lifetime member of the Women in Leadership and Philanthropy and a member of the Roanoke Valley Hokie Club.

Married and mother to two adult children, Petrine is active in her community and currently serves on several local and regional boards, including the GO Virginia Region 2 Council and Feeding America Southwest Virginia.

A Franklin County resident, Petrine will be recognized for her contributions and impact at an upcoming event on campus hosted by the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation.

For more information on the Virginia Western Alumni Association, see virginiawestern.edu/alumni or contact Philanthropy Director Amanda Mansfield at amansfield@virginiawestern.edu or (540) 857-6962.

Prior Distinguished Alumni honorees: 

2018 – Elizabeth Testerman (’06)

2017 – Dr. Carol Swain (’78)

2016 – Dr. Mary Loritsch (’74) and Chief Michael Crawley

2015 – Debbie Yancey (’97)

2014 – Chief Craig S. Harris (’00) and J. David Wine (’73)

2013 – Cheryl Cunningham (’86)

2012 – Anne Hogan (’76)

2011 – Carolyn Webster (’81)

2010 – Russell H. Ellis (’80)

2009 – Shirl D. Lamanca (’75) and Dennis R. Cronk (’72)

2008 – Donna L. Mitchell (’81)

2007 – Dr. Kent A. Murphy and Charlotte C. Tyson (’84)

2006 – John B. Williamson III (’75)

VWCC Educational Foundation launches innovative Fralin Futures scholarship program

In a recent survey of incoming Virginia Western Community College students, 92 percent reported they planned to work while pursuing their degree. Nearly a third expected to log at least 20 hours a week, on top of tackling a full-time or near full-time class load.

Those financial realities prompted the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation to create an innovative scholarship program that aims to couple full tuition support with living-expense stipends, career-focused cohort activities, mentorships and additional degree-completion incentives. The intent is to remove common obstacles facing community college students and to help them cross the “finish line” to graduation.

Students may apply for the Fralin Futures STEM-H Scholarship through May 1, 2019. To be eligible, they must be within two semesters of graduating from Virginia Western as of fall 2019, enrolled in a STEM-H program of study and maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA. The College expects to enroll 10 recipients, called Fralin Futures Scholars, as a pilot program in fall 2019 – not long after a new $30 million STEM building opens on campus.

The Fralin Futures STEM-H Scholarship program is made possible by a $5 million gift from the Horace G. Fralin Charitable Trust. The donation, initiated in 2013, remains the largest-ever single gift to the College, and the largest donation dedicated solely to scholarships in the history of the Virginia Community College System. It established an endowment that will benefit generations of Roanoke region students who seek careers in the region’s growing health care and life-sciences sectors.

“It is truly exciting that Virginia Western has been able to provide a quality education to its outstanding students,” said W. Heywood Fralin, a member of the Educational Foundation’s Board of Directors and Chairman of Medical Facilities of America.  “It is because of this quality that the Fralin Charitable Trust committed to fund these finish-line scholarships, which that will provide residents of this region the opportunity to further their education and position themselves to lead the next generation to great success.”

The Educational Foundation’s flagship effort is the Community College Access Program (CCAP), which draws on public and private support to fund up to three years of college for recent high school graduates. Founded in 2008, CCAP has provided tuition support for nearly 2,500 Roanoke region students.

CCAP historically focused on the “A” – for access – in spreading the message that college is possible for everyone in the Roanoke region. The Fralin Futures STEM-H program complements CCAP by focusing on a student completing his or her educational journey. Unlike CCAP, which serves recent high school graduates, Fralin STEM-H scholarships are open to students of all ages.

“We believe this scholarship will make a real difference for students who have done well at Virginia Western but might be forced to delay graduating because, quite simply, life gets in the way,” said Amanda Mansfield, the Educational Foundation’s Philanthropy Director. “Our older students, in particular, sometimes must juggle taking care of their family and going to school. One financial bump in the road can seriously derail an otherwise excellent student.”

The recipient may use the living-expense stipend – which is equal to the tuition award each semester – however he or she wishes.  “Medical bills, day care expenses, an emergency car repair – these are all things that can throw students off track,” Mansfield said.

Recipients also may apply the stipend to their future tuition, giving them a financial head start if they plan to transfer to a four-year school.

Fralin Futures Scholars will benefit from organized cohort activities that expose them to mentors and employers in the region’s STEM-H fields. The College has established a partnership with the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC that will provide these students a close-up view of the facility’s growth and potential career pathways. 

“Virginia Western has been so fortunate to benefit from the vision and commitment of the Fralin family,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, Virginia Western’s President. “They understand that a key to building a stronger economy is educating our workforce. And they wanted to make a lasting impact that will touch everyone in the region.”

To apply and learn more, go to virginiawestern.edu/FralinScholarships. Or contact Carolyn Payne, Scholarship Coordinator at the Virginia Western Community College Educational Foundation, at cpayne@virginiawestern.edu or (540) 857-6371. The deadline to apply is May 1, 2019.

Fast Facts about STEM-H at Virginia Western

  • 47 percent of program-placed Virginia Western students are enrolled in either “STEM” (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) or “H” (health professions) programs of study.

The top STEM-H programs, by enrollment:

  • Science (Associate of Science)
  • Nursing (Associate of Applied Science)
  • Engineering (Associate of Science)
  • Mechatronics (Associate of Applied Science)
  • Information Systems Technology: Network and Security Analyst (Associate of Applied Science)
  • Dental Hygiene (Associate of Applied Science)
  • 61 percent of all program-placed students at Virginia Western receive some type of financial aid.
  • 47 percent of all program-placed students are age 22 or older.

Source: Virginia Western Community College Office of Institutional Effectiveness, based on 2017-18 enrollment