Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Meet Pat Evans

Instructional Assistant & Testing Center Manager

Reynolds Testing Center

Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I was born and raised in Richmond, VA. I lived in Jackson Ward through the 3rd grade. The summer before I began 4th grade, we moved to Church Hill.  Growing up in both neighborhoods was fun and adventurous. I grew up in the era when children were told, “Go outside and find something to do. Don’t come back until it’s time to eat or before dark". And outside we went. We played games, walked to each other’s houses, and taught each other all of the words to the latest songs and all of the latest dances. There were no organized play dates. All of the neighbors were babysitters. Everyone knew each other in detail—your momma and daddy, your grandparents, your siblings, etc. Every adult watched out for you and stepped in on the spot if you misbehaved. Then they would let you know that your parents would be informed. We played, talked, argued, sometimes fought and made up. I still have friendships from that time in my life.

How long have you worked for Reynolds and what
brought you here?
I have worked for Reynolds for 42 years. Yes, I said it—42 years. Say it loud, 42 and I’m “proud”. I came here to start my education.  I had a part-time job at the telephone company in my senior year of high school working after school and full-time during the summer. I was offered a full-time position. I didn’t think that was the right fit for me. You couldn’t talk to each other while working, you were timed when you left for breaks and lunch, etc.—very regimented. It was hilarious watching the full-time employees find innovative ways to communicate with one another without being caught. A lot of people, including family members, thought I was crazy. Back then, it was a big deal to get hired at one of big companies. Reynolds was in its infancy. An outreach team came to Armstrong High School (Go Wildcats) to talk about this new “community college”. So I was a student, a work-study student, a part-time employee and then on to full-time.  I have worked the academic side, the non-credit side and off-campus.  I have worked in the School of Business, formerly known as the Business Division, in Continuing Education, in the Community College Workforce Alliance, and now, Student Affairs. I have been a secretary, an instructional assistant, a trainer, an adjunct instructor, a site manager, and a program manager.  I am now the Testing Center Manager for the DTC.

What is the best part of your job?
You have heard this before. I love interacting with people—the students, co-workers, the public, etc. I get to interact with people from all walks of life, all age groups, different backgrounds and life experiences, etc. Most of the time, it a good thing, sometimes it’s not, but it’s always interesting. You never know who is going to walk into your office, what their needs will be, and how they will present themselves. You just have to be ready, flexible and open to be of assistance.  I have also developed and maintained some life-time friendships here.

Tests make all of us nervous, no matter how much we have prepared. How do you keep test-takers calm and
relaxed for their test?
Tests do make all of us nervous. And different people handle the stress differently. Also, the level of stress increases from the beginning of the semester to the end. You can just feel it. We greet everyone that comes into the testing center. You can usually judge their mood and mindset by the response that you receive. We just try to be low key and friendly, and get the student processed and seated as quickly as possible. We try to develop a feel for what they want or need and adapt our interaction as needed. Some people want a lot of interaction and hand holding and others just want to get to their test.  It definitely tests your “people skills”, but meeting the challenge of having a satisfied customer when they leave, is worth the effort.

What has been your greatest challenge in your position so far?
The biggest challenge so far has been trying to do all that we do with a staff that is completely part-time. It means a lot of staff turnover and continuous training. What we do is not rocket science, but the devil is in the details. We proctor a variety of tests, placement, distance, makeup, Foreign Language Achievement Testing, Credit by Able Testing for ITE 115 and CSC 155, specialty testing for Nursing and Allied Health, Culinary Arts, etc. The list goes on. We provide proctoring services for Reynolds students, those who want to become Reynolds students, and students from other Virginia community colleges. We proctor internet-based tests, Blackboard based tests, and paper tests. All testing is offered on a walk-in basis, so you have to be prepared to go from zero to 60 at a moment’s notice.  Again, that helps keep things interesting, challenging and fun.  There is a lot of communication with staff from the other testing centers, staff and faculty from the various Schools and other College areas like Distance Ed, Middle College, ESL, etc. We reach out to whomever we need to be able to assist the students. I have been lucky over the years to find qualified and enthusiastic people to share this responsibility with me. My staff and I share the good, and not so good, support one another, and make it work.

What is your favorite food? Why?
I love good, down-home southern cooking. The basics like fried chicken, baked chicken, fried fish, baked fish, mac and cheese, collard greens, cabbage, green beans, potato salad, corn pudding, etc. I judge it all by my mother’s cooking, and most of the time what I am finding out there now, doesn’t meet her standards. Now, I also love chocolate—chocolate candy, chocolate cake (preferably Devil’s Food), chocolate mousse, etc. Is chocolate considered a food?
What is your favorite Richmond activity outside of your
work at Reynolds?
Well my favorite activity outside of Reynolds is reading. I know that sounds boring, but reading relaxes me. I take a book with me everywhere that I go.  There is a book laying on my desk right now. I drive my family crazy, but we are all avid readers. Sometimes I feel the need to visit places in the neighborhoods where I used to live, especially, Libby Hill Park and Chimborazo Park in Historic Church Hill. It hadn’t been designated as Historic when I was growing up there. My husband and I will drive around and visit the areas where we grew up and met. We spent a lot of time in Libby Hill Park and Chimborazo Park, walking around and talking about our future (cheap date). We used to take our children, and now we take our grandson. He is into statues now. He is really in love with the Statue of Liberty and the Maggie Lena Walker statue. At his request, one of us or all of us, will jump into a vehicle and drive around Richmond checking out all of the statues in the various parks and on Monument Avenue. Do you know that there is a miniature Statue of Liberty in Chimborazo Park?  

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Okay, you know, the usual. Pay all the bills, provide for your family, give to charities.  I would love to fund locations for kids to go after school and weekends to get help with reading, homework and tutoring. Then you would find me at every Dallas Cowboy football game, and at all of the major tennis tournaments, Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US open.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

“Voyage to Mars: Red Planet Chemistry” Comes to Reynolds

Here we go marching to Mars
On a rainbow bridge, it don't seem so far
Steppin' into our universe
Moving towards life to solve the problems on Earth
Is there life in the universe?
(Yes, there's life in the universe)
We'll find life in the universe

-from Marching to Mars, by Sammy Hagar

“Science Fiction often pulls Science into the future. How many times have we romanticized about travel to Mars? Is it humanly, physically possible? What are the realities?” Reynolds Chemistry Professor Dr. Ann Sullivan poses these questions. On Tuesday, October 23 at 6:45 p.m. Reynolds science students, and anyone interested in the topic, will have a rare opportunity to get some answers. 

On that night Reynolds will host “Voyage to Mars: Red Planet Chemistry,” an International webinar offered by the American Chemical Society (ACS). Experts in chemistry, planetary geology, and aeronautical engineering will give presentations and field audience questions on subjects ranging from information gathered by the Curiosity Rover to what scientists currently know about the realities of space travel and sustainability. Dr. Sullivan has made this event possible through her membership and long years of dedicated service to the ACS.

Dr. Sullivan is passionate about providing her students with learning experiences. That’s why she started hosting these ACS webinars. The first of these was “The Chemistry of Sports.” Only 15 students attended, but that didn’t discourage Dr. Sullivan. Then came “The Opiate Crisis.” Attendance soared to 120. Then last fall, “Chemistry Rocks! Exploring the Chemistry of Rocks and Minerals” and over 100 came to rock with the experts. 

“It just got bigger and bigger,” said Dr. Sullivan. It was clear: these webinars weren’t just boring presentations, but unique opportunities to connect with fascinating people far outside the galaxy of Richmond, Virginia. 

Dr. Sullivan is pleased. “In the last two webinars Reynolds has been one of the largest community college sites. For those programs, our attendance beat out VCU’s. Of the more than 100 Virginia sites for the last program, Reynolds was the ONLY community college site, right there alongside Longwood, Mary Washington, VCU, W&M, and JMU.” Now THAT is impressive. 

In the 25 years Dr. Sullivan has been teaching at Reynolds she has witnessed changes in students, faculty, staff, administration, buildings, and in the City of Richmond. Her years of experience have made her a keen teacher and innovator. She knows education today must be more than periodic tables and labs. For example, she exposes her students to the benefits of membership in professional societies like ACS where they can make meaningful contacts, find resources, and land interviews with big companies. She is intent on broadening their horizons along with their chemical knowledge.

“Voyage to Mars: Red Planet Chemistry” will be held in the Lily Pad (Room # 138 – under the stairs), in the Massey Learning and Technology Center on the Parham Road Campus on Tuesday, October 23. A Preshow will open at 6:45 p.m., the webinar and information sessions begin at 7 p.m. Pizza will be served. The event is free and open to the public, no RSVP is required. 

Don’t miss this chance to find out whether life on Mars is for you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

An Engineer at Heart, Soon to be an Engineer by Degree

Meet Greg Hargraves - Reynolds Engineering Student 

and “Tinkerer”

What’s a perfect storm on the International Space Station? When something breaks. And, then the tool to fix it breaks.

When that happened in 2015, it was engineers who came to the rescue. Engineers are tinkerers and makers. They are wired to use whatever materials and equipment are at hand. The engineers knew the Space Station had a 3-D printer, so being engineers, they digitally designed the needed ratchet and uplinked it to Space Station where it was manufactured (printed), right there in space. 

Reynolds Engineering student and veteran Greg Hargraves is wired that very same way. He is an engineer at heart, soon to be an engineer by degree, beginning with his studies at Reynolds. 

“I always liked figuring things out, tinkering with things. But, I never knew I wanted to be an engineer,” Greg said. The Army helped him make up his mind. “I figured it out the first year I was in Germany.” He was assigned to maintaining cameras and electronics and soon discovered that “engineering was a good fit for me.”

Greg grew up in a small town – population approximately 4,000 – west of St. Louis. Only sure of one thing: that he was ready to move on, he joined the Army. After seven years his tour was up and he and his wife (from Pennsylvania) picked Richmond as their home. Greg picked Reynolds as his school and engineering as his career.

In addition to his studies Greg is Vice President of Reynolds fledgling Robotics Club. The Club meets twice a week with five or six students regularly in attendance and a few others who float in and out. Greg noted that their projects are short term, unlike the Clubs in four-year schools, because students are only here for two years.

But that doesn’t stop the Club from sharing the stage with the big engineering guns: Virginia Tech and VCU. On the table next to Greg is the Club’s robot named “Steve” – still in the tinkering phase – which they put on display in the MakerFest held at the Science Museum. The list of MakerFest participants was a who’s who of Virginia “makers” such as VA Tech and VCU with fancy logos and glossy photos. Reynolds Robotics Club proudly added their “MakerSpace” logo printed on their 3-D printer. Go Reynolds Robotics Club – a group of true engineers up for a challenge.

From his learning, to his desire to travel to Japan and eventually Syria, Greg is all in for a challenge. Of his education he says, “I could find the answers to just about anything online. But that’s not learning. Here at Reynolds I feel like I am doing something. There is a purpose for everything I am asked to do. Everything I am learning is applicable.”

What’s next for Greg? “To get my life going,” he says. Which means for Greg to complete his studies at Reynolds then head for a transfer to VCU. It also means lots of travel, a home, children . . . but always a life full of challenges. “I’ll never be comfortable with the familiar,” says Greg.

Spoken like a true engineer.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Have your fossils ever had a check up? Now is the time!

Earth Science Week is Sunday, October 14 to Saturday October 20. While this special week may not get a government or banking holiday, it is a very special event for scientists, and a great opportunity for them to share fascinating aspects of their knowledge and work. Each day of Earth Science Week has a particular focus. 

For example, Wednesday, October 17 is National Fossil Day. To celebrate the day, Reynolds Science Club invites you to bring in your fossils for a "check up" by Reynolds resident Paleontologist and Professor of Geology, Dr. Karen Layou. The Club is also hosting a fantastic display of fossils. 

Fossils. In Virginia?

And, what fossils might you find in Virginia? pelecypods, brachiopods, ferns, coral, trilobites, skolithos, and shark teeth and whale bones (yes, shark teeth and whale bones!). Pictured here: the Virginia state fossil, Chesapecten jeffersonius.

“I don’t know anyone who isn’t attracted to fossils on some level. They represent these former worlds, windows into Earth’s past—they can tell us a lot about where the planet has been and where it’s headed. So many people have at least one or two fossils sitting on a desk or rattling around in a drawer at home—bring ‘em in!  I would love to take a look and see if I can share some of that fossil’s story with you!”

Even if you don't have a fossil to get checked, stop by the table to learn more about these ancient remains.

The Science Club display and fossil check up will be in the Burnette Hall Commons on the Parham Road Campus from 11 a.m. to Noon on Wednesday, October 17. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Reynolds Student Leaders Meet Reynolds New Leader:

Reynolds Student Leadership Fall Retreat

September 22 was a perfect end-of-summer day, and it was a Saturday. But, instead of hanging with friends, this group of students came to campus early, and they came to campus ready to work. 

These students are Reynolds leaders, and this is their fall team building retreat. Even if the weather is perfect and it's a Saturday, they are all in, and they are all here.

Twenty-two students - leaders of Reynolds leadership groups: Student Senate, JSR Lead, PTK officers and Student Ambassadors - came together with the goal of building relationships across their "borders" and talking about what it means to be leaders on campus. 

They spent the morning outside (they did get to enjoy the beautiful weather) working through low ropes team building activities. Afterwards, inside, they were joined by Dr. Pando who spoke about her vision for the college and gave the students a chance to ask questions and have open dialog. Dr. Wendy Bolt also stopped by to spend some time with these leaders.

The group wrapped up their retreat by taking a professional competency assessment with the goal of helping them identify areas where they need to concentrate their energy on development.  

At a time when the entire Reynolds community is working through this period of transition, student leader Grace Swal noted that there is an intense excitement about what will come. "Students have heard about, and read about, Dr. Pando. They are anxious to see what will happen here." Grace found Dr. Pando incredibly approachable and accessible, and was impressed that the "President" would invite students to come to see her and tell her what was on their minds.

Of the retreat, Grace had this to say, "It was good to be among like-minded students. It was good to find them, and spend time with them."

No wonder they all showed up on a beautiful September Saturday. 

No wonder there are so many smiling faces in the picture.

Meet Leah Exline – Instructor, Opticianry

School of Nursing & Allied Health

Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up right here in Richmond Virginia. What I loved most about Virginia is that you can drive two or three hours to the beach or two or three hours to the mountains. My family was always finding new places to go camping in between my sister and my soccer games and dance recitals.  

What got you interested in Opticianry?
Coming from a medical background, I have always enjoyed helping others. In June 2011 on the way home from Virginia Beach, I was involved in a car accident that took me out of work for three months. After talking with one of my good friends, who had just completed the Opticianry Program that same year in May; she spoke about the wonderful teachers and great support throughout the courses.  Knowing I needed a change, I completed the program interview, enrolled and started classes within two weeks of the conversation with my friend. Registering for community service events and continuing education conferences are what keeps the fire lit.  
What is the best part of your profession?
Seeing a child smile the first time he/she sees their parents.  Watching the students bloom into the great Opticians.  

In your career so far what has been your greatest “ah ha” moment?
Realizing that I love teaching!! As a child I never thought I would have the patience to help students, but after graduation in 2013, a Managers role proved me wrong.  While educating new sales associates on optics, it was great when the “ah ha” moment happened for them and they started to understand why they are doing what they do with the pair of glasses in front of them.  

You are new to Reynolds. What brought you here?
I’m new in one way and not in another.  I started at Reynolds in 2006 with the Dual enrollment program at Hanover High School.  After taking a break, I came back to the Opticianry Program in 2011. 

Teaching Continuing education credits to the Opticians Association of Virginia enlightened me that standing in front of a group is not as scary as some lead you to believe.  

What has been your greatest challenge in your position so far?
Learning about the program's 45 year history. Taking a look at what has worked and seeing where we can make improvements for the students experience.  

What is your favorite Richmond activity outside of your work at Reynolds?
Spending time with my family, we like to go out and try new events/restaurants/activities.  

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Make sure that family is taken care of first (housing, education) then some would go to charity, cannot forget buying the house in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and what is left goes into savings.  I would not retire just yet because there are still so many people to meet and students to teach.  

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Thank Goodness for Sociologists!

Sociologists look at our world, identify our human habits, trends, or issues, and like archaeologists they dig deeper. The “shovel” of their trade is research. Sociologists use formal, step-by-step research to confirm or deny their observations or questions. Unlike archaeologists, sociologists can’t just order their shovels online. Sociologists must learn and develop their research skills through education and application.

Reynolds Professor of Sociology Dr. Gayle D’Andrea knows excellent research skills are essential for the success of her students. She also knows how excellent research skills and solid data can be used to unearth our most pressing human needs and lay the groundwork for solutions and change. 

So, in 2017 when she was looking for a project to challenge her Honors students, build their research skills, AND help them comprehend how their intended profession could change the world, like a true sociologist she posed a question . . . a question embedded deeply in her students’ world.

Do the trends of Reynolds students match those of other college students throughout the US? A major national research study found students experiencing food and housing insecurity had lower academic success than students without those pressures. Dr. D’Andrea challenged her students to use their sociology “shovels” and dig out an answer: were the pressures of student life at Reynolds the same as those of students in California, Texas, Missouri or Maine?

Her students began to dig. Following a standard research model they reviewed the literature, got permission from the college for their study, developed a survey instrument, put together a student sample, and conducted their research. The answer: yes, Reynolds student success was affected by food and housing insecurities in the same way as other students across the country.

But that wasn’t all. Dr. D’Andrea’s students compiled their data into a presentation delivered at the Faculty Symposium. Their work was so sound, Dr. D’Andrea then submitted their findings for publication to the VCCS academic journal, Inquiry. The paper is currently under review.

Aside from the excitement, the learning, and the full circle completion of the project, there was another important outcome. Not just one for the students, but an outcome for the whole of the Reynolds community: awareness of an issue. Then the question became, if food and housing insecurity affect enrollment and retention, what can we do to address these challenges?

In the fall of 2018 Dr. D’Andrea posed a new question to her next group of Honors students. A follow up national study had found that mental health and substance abuse also affected the success of college students. Was this true at Reynolds as well? Again, the students were challenged to follow the rigors of academic research to find an answer. Again, it was a resounding “yes”: Reynolds students experienced the same pressures.

And again the students prepared a presentation and delivered it, along with their professor, at the annual Faculty Symposium. Dr. D’Andrea remembered their comments: “I can’t believe I am doing this! I can’t believe teachers are listening to US!” For them, the project wasn’t just something to list on their resumes, they were excited that their efforts had an impact, and they understood for the first time on a visceral level that the academic process is relevant and can be used to influence change.

Indeed, what the students discovered – that food and housing insecurity, mental health and substance abuse impact the success of Reynolds students – could not have come at a better time. With the decline in enrollment and retention, the college administration is looking at all factors that contribute to student success and well-being, and like Dr. D’Andrea, they are asking questions: What can we do differently? How can we change? How can we use our knowledge and resources to help our students?

Thanks goodness for sociologists! With the help of Dr. D’Andrea, and the diligence and digging of her students, meaningful answers to these questions are beginning to surface.

(Dr. Gayle D' Andrea is pictured above, bottom row center, with her students. Back row left to right is Mary Fishwick, Grace Swal, Stephanie Cull, and Charles Raum. Bottom row left is Sarah Brown, bottow row right is Donald Cooper.)