Friday, October 22, 2021

VJ Kumar: Learning Has No Age Limit

Spotlight on REV/G3 Scholars

by Steve Vehorn / Community Outreach & Student Recruitment

Reynolds Community College prides itself on being the college “Where Outstanding Careers Get Started” - After meeting VJ Kumar, you will know Reynolds can also add “Where Outstanding Learners Make a Difference”.

VJ Kumar is a lifelong learner - he says: “Don’t let your age stop you from going to school.” 

A native of Dubai, India, VJ is a Pharmacy Technician Career Studies Certificate program student and is excelling in his classes. After his education was delayed due to his genetic polycystic kidney disease, family responsibilities, and assisting in building a start-up company in Dubai, VJ at age 67, knows it was never too late to pursue his college dreams. 

After serving in the financial consulting field for over 17 years, VJ is currently working with an independent financial consultancy practice. His job entails helping individuals with retirement plans, annuities, life and health insurance, long-term care coverage, and education savings plans to ensure his clients’ needs and goals are within their budget. 

But, VJ is a true believer in being a lifelong learner as he noted, “It doesn’t matter what age you are (when) going back to school, and it doesn’t matter what challenges you are facing. You can still pursue your dreams. It’s imperative to continue with your education to help you diversify in other high-demand career areas.”

VJ is always looking for ways to diversify his skills and knowledge. While working as a financial consultant, he researched high-demand jobs and realized jobs in the cyber security field would continue to be in great demand - meaning qualified professionals would be needed. This realization led VJ to pursue cyber security classes in hacking, networking, and troubleshooting, as his new-found knowledge would enable him to be prepared if his company faced a cyberattack.  

Recently though, VJ took a break from his cyber security studies to work towards a Pharmacy Technician Career Studies Certificate at Reynolds as he wanted to better understand how medications could impact the clients he works with in his insurance business. 

Taking advantage of the Re-Employing Virginians (REV) and the G3 tuition assistance programs at Reynolds, VJ was awarded tuition assisting grants as both programs support Virginians in upskilling and pursuing career paths in selected high-demand fields. VJ had one semester of tuition paid for through the REV program, and he is currently using G3 grant aid funds to cover tuition and book/supplies for his classes this fall semester.  

“Acquiring the Pharmacy Technician Career Studies Certificate also adds another career option,” VJ added, as the specialized knowledge will give him an edge over other insurance professionals in his field.

VJ describes a college education as not only a way to secure a job, but also allows a person the opportunity to acquire different skills to help their career advancement. After his wife lost her job as a travel agent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, VJ said it was confirmation to keep having the mindset of continuing his education. 

“I love that Reynolds professors and faculty members are proactive for all students - as well as supporting students in their college education by helping them understand the course materials and answering any questions that students may have,” says VJ.

“The most important piece of advice I tell adult learners is to not look at school as just getting a job, because you can get a job anywhere. Instead, look at attending school as pursuing the dreams and passions you want out of life to become successful,” VJ said, as his consistent focus on academics has helped him obtain a 4.0-grade point average. “If students put in the required effort towards their academics, then they can achieve a high GPA, which will go a long way to carving their career path.” 

 Fun facts about VJ: He is the oldest of his brother and two sisters. He has a wife, a son, and daughter. His father was a first-generation student who inspired him to pursue a college education. His hobbies are playing soccer, table tennis, and chess. He enjoys listening to all genres of music, dancing with his daughter, traveling to the mountains, and looks forward to one day becoming a grandfather.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Sara Skeens Named Academic Innovator of the Year

Adjunct Instructor in Reynolds School of Business and Industrial Trades, Sara Skeens, was named Academic Innovator of the Year by Relativity, an industry preferred software for eDiscovery. Sara earned this distinction for her creative approach to using technology in the classroom. Sara shared the following details about her work. 

Every year at their annual conference Relativity holds an award ceremony for several categories. The Academic Innovator of the Year award recognizes an educator that uses the Relativity Academic program in their classroom and teaches the subject of legal technology in new and innovative ways. 

One of the innovative aspects I add to my class that I think is incredibly important especially in a virtual environment is finding ways to make technical concepts hands on. Technical concepts can be broken down into physical activities, similar to what happens within the tech itself. Essentially removing the black box. For instance, to demonstrate data variety I use shapes to represent different data types. They are placed in piles (different data sources) and then we have our processing software which is a cube with only a few shapes cut into it. After the shapes go into that box they all come out as the same shape to show how we normalize the data to load into our review software which is another box with a single shape cut out. This shows that we have to either 1. Normalize our data to work in processing and review OR 2. Adapt our software to be able to accept new shape (I do this by cutting new shaped into the box). 
This is something that students can easily understand by watching or can create their own shapes out of clay or paper and walk them selves through the process. This provides not only a reading and and verbal explanation, but also a visual and hands on. I make sure all technical concepts are broken down this way to the bare minimum to help students really relate to and understand the inner workings. Rather than just saying we collect or process the data, I break down the internal gears and steps that happen inside the black box. 

Additionally, having a consistent real world example gives students the ability to follow along the entire process. I provide sample case stories based on real life that we can follow throughout the class so students can relate each step back to that case and follow along throughout the semester in real time. I have created sample documents, pleadings, conference calls etc. around that story and I am currently expanding the data set so we can load it to Relativity and have a full case experience.

It is important to provide career guidance and opportunities. As well as skills around mindset and critical thinking that can be used in the classroom and outside as they pursue a career in what they are learning. I run a module just on careers based in eDiscovery. I bring in folks with lots of different backgrounds to talk about how they got into the field and navigated their career. First giving them a networking opportunity and a chance to see how different experiences can be and to have multiple perspectives. Throughout the semester I look at their resumes and send job opportunities and take the time to work through how to write their resume to their careers goals and help them through interviewing and networking. I have been able to place multiple students in eDiscovery positions each semester through this career module and by providing support through out the semester. I have found that focusing on some of those skills such as mindset and critical thinking has help students to have more confidence and a positive attitude towards the challenge of career searching. I work with recruiters to have a channel of opportunities for entry level jobs. 

Additionally, I have founded the Legal Technology Educators Community, a group of legal educators coming together to share ideas, collaborate on working projects to create sample data, resources and educative materials to share. Moreover, I am creating educational videos on YouTube and I have an educational podcasts where I speak with experts in the field. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Martha Harper
Student Support & Great Expectations Success Coach

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We moved there from Tampa, Florida when I was eight years old, it was 1972. My father joined the FBI just before I was born and after he finished a sociology Masters at USF, the bureau transferred him to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He was a founding member of the Behavioral Science unit that has been explored in Mind Hunter and other shows. 

When we moved, my younger brother entered Kindergarten and my mother went to work with gusto as a 2nd Wave Feminist, first as a secretary for the City Manager, and then as the first female employee at the water filtration plant. She was also the first female Class A water plant operator in the state of Virginia and eventually Superintendent of Waterworks. 

I was the fifth out of six kids, three boys and three girls. We lived right in the city next to James Monroe High School and the hospital. I say all this to show that we, my little brother and I, were just neglected enough to experience a world of our making. We wandered all over that town on our bikes from the campus of Mary Washington College to the Rappahannock River and from Motts Run to Alum Springs Park. We just had to be home by the time the streetlights came on. It was the kind of childhood depicted in southern movies full of racism and color lines and negotiating that world. We were great observers of all that went on, and developed very early into crusaders for justice. Much of what we saw as little kids was obviously wrong yet we had to process how so many adults in our lives seemed just fine with it. Despite that, I loved growing up in Fredericksburg, but when I was eighteen, I was ready to go to college for sure. I went to Richmond for VCU. 

So, college brought you to Richmond? 

I have lived in Richmond now since 1982. The punk scene was in full swing and I discovered rock and roll nights and big city lights to be very dazzling. As I said, my mother was deep in her career, and don’t get me started on how J. Edgar Hoover abused the lives of agents with the craziest work hours ever. By 1975, my parents were divorced and my Dad was shortly thereafter remarried and transferred to Omaha, Nebraska. There were lots of issues with staying in college, including my own ennui about the meaning of it all and I dropped out. Fast forward twenty years with a whole lot of Richmond engagement in there, and my own marriage and divorce, with my wonderful daughter born in 1990. I returned to school in 2004 to earn a BA in history, and religious studies and then a Masters of Education in Counselor Education: College Student Development, all from VCU. 

Before coming to Reynolds you were with VCU. What was your job there? 

My last job at VCU was Senior Academic Advisor for Interdisciplinary Studies. That’s a really great program for students who want a taste of several disciplines and extremely marketable to employers. I got to help them put together a declaration and ask the university for permission to study that plan. We were always able to do it in the credits they had left of college too, so always the shortest time to degree completion when switching majors or transferring and finding out you may have to exceed 120 credits to graduate. Before that, I was at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee from 2013 to 2017 coordinating a center for nontraditional students, though I hate that term, and helping adults, especially students with children stay in school. Like Reynolds, Austin Peay was an all access school, and it was also located outside Fort Campbell, so we were full up with adult and military affiliated students. Before that, I was at VCU earning those degrees I talked about, and managing Off Campus Student Services from 2004 to 2012.

Tell us about the Great Expectations Program and your work as a Coach? 

Well to be honest, I can’t yet. I can tell you what the mission is and how I plan to fulfill that, but as of now I am just getting started so expect to hear lots of stuff from me. Great Expectations is a VCCS program on many Community College campuses, though not all of them, that serves students who are currently, or formerly were in foster care. The statistics on young adults failure to launch after foster care are appalling and a Great Expectations Coach is there to help those interested in higher education, but have no parent or person telling them just how to do it. I am also responsible for Single Stop, like everyone else in my department, serving not just students who have experienced foster care but all students at Reynolds. 

What is your favorite book, movie, or TV series, and why? 

Like most people, that changes all the time. So today Thursday, September 30th, I am reading and enjoying The Virginia State Penitentiary, A Notorious History by Dale Brumflield, and a work of historical fiction, Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. You can see my bent toward history topics. Favorite movie will probably always be It’s a Wonderful Life despite how dated it is, the message still applies and still makes me cry every time George finds Suzu’s petals in his watch pocket. 

What do you like to do outside of work? 

Walk and read and meet friends for a cold beer. Travel when I can find the time or the money, but I like short local touring also. My daughter lives in New Orleans so I go at least once a year and try for twice, I love that broken city too. Probably for none of the reasons tourists go there. But I could talk to anyone who stops me about the cool places to hit off the beaten track.  

Do you have a favorite local restaurant or event? What is it, and why is it special? 

I will always love the Richmond Folk Festival. I started going and volunteering when it first started as the National Folk Festival. My daughter and I did that every year together till she left for college, so it brings back lots of fond memories. I look forward to seeing how it will be this year.  

If you won $100 million in the Virginia Lottery, what would you do with the money? 

First secure my family’s financial needs. Then, and this is a fantasy I have had a long time. I would set up a scholarship by buying a house on Monument Avenue, one of those big fourteen room jobs and provide that for low income first generation students who want to study history. Complete with a chef and tutor on premises. I imagine teaching them to democratically run the house, steward the endowment, hold events etc. all while going to college, and funny I have had this idea long before George Floyd died and Monument Avenue became a focal point for demonstrating structural racism in this country. 

When I was finishing my history degree, I pictured a house full of diverse students coming and going among the residents and knowing far more about the problem with those statues and the history of them than the people who already lived there. That was my former approach to the monuments, mostly because I lacked the creative thinking to see them just come down! With $100 Million, I would expand that scholarship to a second house maybe in Jackson Ward and house students with children in a big communal house providing that essential daycare and security while they could study full time any major!  

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Faculty Profile: Beverly Davis

In September 2021 Reynolds Associate Professor, Marketing, Business and Management, Beverly Davis was honored at the Ruth Cole Harris Annual Leadership Institute Luncheon. Her award profile - shown at the end of this post - tells the story of her accomplishments and why she was honored.

The Ruth Coles Harris Leadership Institute is part of Virginia Union University's Sydney Lewis School of Business. The Institute offers students a lecture series, and workshops and seminars for the community.  

The Ruth Coles Harris Leadership Institute offers leadership lecture series to students, workshops for professionals, certificate programs for professionals, and seminars to the community at-large. It is intended to deepen participants understanding of leadership, administration, business, entrepreneurship, and to strengthen leadership skills which embrace service to others. “The Leadership Institute is a special offering for our students so they can learn from accomplished professionals first hand,” said Dr. Hakim J. Lucas, President & CEO of Virginia Union University.

Beverly recently took time to field a few interview questions about her award and her work.

You were recently honored at the Ruth Coles Harris Leadership Institute luncheon. Please tell us about the Institute and the honor you are receiving. 

With the leadership award, the Institute honors people who are making a difference both professionally and in the community. The Ruth Coles Harris Leadership Institute shines a light on individuals who are wonderful role models for VUU students.

How are you affiliated with VUU and the Institute?

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Business from VUU in 1973.  I was nominated by Dr. Ruth Coles Harris for this award.  

How long have you been an Associate Professor at Reynolds? And tell us about the courses you teach.

I was hired as an adjunct faculty the summer of 1973 and offered a full-time position that Fall semester. I have been employed at Reynolds since that time. I teach classes in marketing, business and retail.

In addition to being an Associate Professor you are COO of Davis Brothers Construction Company. Please tell about your role in the company. 

I serve on the Board of Directors for DBCC and advise my husband and board members on marketing and business practices.  My son and two daughters have VP positions and oversee the day to day operations of the business. Davis Brothers Construction Company, Inc. is a multi-generational family business founded in 1908.

Please tell us about Dr. Ruth Coles Harris?

While attending VUU I was a work-study student for Dr. Harris. I worked for her during the four years I was enrolled at the college. She was Dean of the School of Business. She was an outstanding mentor and role model. Dr. Harris guided me with her knowledge, experience, and expertise. She always reminded me to keep an open mind, to have patience, tenacity, and to have a vision. 

She wanted me to always see the big picture and to understand what it takes for me to achieve my goals.

She stressed to me the importance of developing leadership skills and emphasized that I should always be my own person. 

You are a very busy woman. What do you like to do outside of your work?  

I am very active in politics and in community service organizations.  And of course, I enjoy spending time with my children and grandchildren.


Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Welcome to your new roles!

Dr. Ronda Bond, Elizabeth Roerink, and Ashley King have moved into their new G3 Advising Coordinator Roles!

G3 Advising Coordinators provide holistic advising support to students in G3 programs. They also provide supportive leadership in a content area and serve as a resource to assist individuals in overcoming non-academic barriers that may affect their ability to complete their educational goals successfully.

Dr. Ronda Bond - G3 Advising Coordinator of First-Year Success PRC & DTC

Ronda Bond is a native of Tennessee and has served in higher education since 2001. Until joining Reynolds in 2019 as a part-time Early Alert Coach, much of her career had been with 4-year institutions. Ronda has a wealth of experience that ranges from Admission, Enrollment, Retention, and Advising. During the pandemic, and defended her dissertation: Developing a Sustainable Model for Impactful Academic Advising, earned her Doctor of Education at Virginia Commonwealth University,  and was hired as a Career Advisor for Advising Services.  Ronda is a proud alumnus of the University of Memphis (Go Tigers), an expert Golden Girls Fan, and a wife and mother to the best Marvel-loving humans.

Elizabeth H. Roerink, M.S - Advising Coordinator for Career Services PRC & DTC

Elizabeth Roerink served for five years as a Reynolds Career coach.  Before serving as a career coach, she was a high school counselor and admissions counselor at The University of Memphis. Elizabeth earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from James Madison University and her Master’s degree in Counseling & Personnel Services from The University of Memphis. Elizabeth lives in Hanover County with her husband, two sons, and two rescue dogs who rule the house. She is passionate about working with all students and assisting them in reaching their academic and career goals. She is eager to serve Reynolds students in her new role. 

Ashley King - Advising Coordinator for the Parham Road (PRC) Campus

Ashley King is a graduate of Norfolk State University; she has achieved a B.A. in Sociology and minored in Criminal Justice. After graduating college, Ashley launched her career at Reynolds, a loyal employee for the past eight years. While working in Higher Education, Ashley actively engaged in many committees, completed a Career Coaching certification through the Virginia Community College System, and serves as a Women in Search of Excellence Mentor (WISE). Ashley lives in Hanover with her husband and bonus son. She is excited about her new role at Reynolds and cannot wait to collaborate with other offices to assist students with reaching their goals. 

Thursday, September 16, 2021

from The Goochland Gazette / September 16, 2021


Thursday, September 2, 2021

Meet Michael Beamer
Co-Program Head & Assistant Professor | ESL 
Reynolds Community College | School of Humanities & Social Sciences 

Michael Beamer doesn't just dream about travel. He travels. He has travelled and lived all around the US, the UK, and Japan before settling here in Mechanicsville and teaching ESL at Reynolds.

Michael came to Reynolds in January 2021 at the height of the pandemic. He had taught online in grad school, but the spring semester would be his first fully online experience.

But, like any world traveler, Michael is flexible, and he adapted quickly and easily to his changing scenario. He's ready for the fall semester, and he and his family are looking forward to more adventures in the Richmond area as life moves in the direction of normal.

You are a native of Bethlehem, PA. What was it like growing up there?

Growing up in Bethlehem was pretty cool. Definitely not as bad as Billy Joel made the area out to be ("Allentown" is about the general area, as there were no steel mills in Allentown--only in Bethlehem😊). My family was in the suburbs and it actually was a pretty idyllic life looking back on it (and comparing it to other places I've lived). By the time Bethlehem Steel shut down, a lot of other industries had moved into the area so the economy was fine. Also, there's a great 10-day music festival in the area that's been going on since 1984.

How did you get from Bethlehem to JMU where you earned your BA in English? 

My oldest brother went to Bridgewater and the middle brother went to William and Mary. I got used to coming to Virginia and I liked JMU (it was also the quickest application of all the schools I applied to--no essay!). I did get into University of Richmond as well, but it was a bit expensive. I didn't want to go to Penn State as it seemed like half my high school went there. Only one other student from my class went to JMU and I don't remember even seeing her once. I guess I wanted to leave the nest as much as possible.

Please tell us a little about your background and travels.

When I was younger, my family would take vacations to different places like Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, Maine, Canada, South Carolina, etc. So I started to enjoy traveling and learning about new places, food and people from a young age (although I was not the most adventurous eater until I got to college). Also, when I was very young, my oldest brother got me interested in The Beatles, which in turn got me interested in England. I can still do several British accents fairly well. Anyway, when I was at JMU I was accepted to the Semester Abroad program and went to London, which turned out to be one of those life transforming experiences. I absolutely loved my time there and it was then that the international travel bug had bit me. After graduation, I dreamed of living and teaching in Japan (see below), but I had to put it off for various reasons. However, in 1997 I left for Japan to teach in an English conversation school for two years. At the end of that time, I wasn't sure of what I was going to do, but the reactions from my students at my going away party overwhelmed me, and I realized I must have done something right, so I decided to go to grad school for teaching ESL. I was accepted to three grad schools, but I chose University of Hawaii because it was (is) the best program, it gave me the best financial deal, and I got to go study in Hawaii (Duh! What would you choose?). I was there for almost three years, but I had a dream to teach in higher ed in Japan, so I was able to get a job at Nihon University (which at the time had about five people from UH) in Shizuoka. On a good day, you could see Mt. Fuji from the school. They limited international faculty to three-year contracts, so after that I went to a small two-year college in Yokohama. I was there for four years and during that time I met my yet-to-become wife and we had a long-distance relationship between Osaka and Yokohama. I had got a job in Osaka and had planned to move there when I saw an ad for a job as Director of the Intensive English Program in at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. I probably wouldn't have looked much further, but my parents had actually gone there and met there, so I knew about it. I asked my then fiancé if she thought it was OK if I applied to a job in the US. She said yes, but later told me she thought I wouldn't get it! After I did get the job, we had to get married very quickly as a spouse visa is much easier to get than a fiancé visa. While at Juniata, my wife took ESL classes in my program (but not my classes as the other students might have wondered how she really got her A, hehe) and eventually earned her BS in Educational Studies (in between, our son was born!). She had agreed to move to the US and support me to further my career. After her graduation, she had received a job offer in California, so I wanted to support her. Luckily, I was able to find the job at USC after we arrived in CA. While we were able to save money (even with the outrageous rent), but we both eventually realized we are east coast people. So when I saw the ad for the job at Reynolds I applied right away. We have since bought a house in Mechanicsville, have two young puppies, Cody is now seven and starting second grade!

You have lived in Japan, in the US in Hawaii, California, Pennsylvania, and Virginia and in the UK. What is your favorite place to live and why?

So far, Hawaii has been my favorite place to live, even though I was living on a Graduate Assistant's pay. It is very cosmopolitan, which I really enjoy. The people are very friendly, the food is great, and the natural features are incredible. There's actually a lot you can do there that doesn't cost a lot (as long as you're willing to live in a smaller place than you would be able to get for the same price as in Richmond). It's not perfect, by a long shot, but it was a great place to live. I would absolutely love to retire there as it would fit my wife like a glove with all the Asian food and culture.

You’ve been working in ESL for about 25 years. What got you interested in ESL?

When I was an undergrad at JMU, I had applied to join the Peace Corps and went to an informational meeting. I wasn't accepted because I didn't have a teaching degree/experience and the recruiter told me they had English teachers coming out their ears. He told me I should study ESL and look into getting experience in the field. I took a class to finish my last three credits at JMU in an ESL teaching methodology course and got interested in it. I was hired by Eastern Mennonite College (in the same town as JMU) to teach two ESL classes. Almost all the students were Japanese and that got me interested in teaching in Japan. I wonder if I could get into the Peace Corps today?!

How have you seen the study of ESL change over 25 years?

That's an interesting question. There's been a (good) shift in using more and more advancing/emerging technology in and out of the classroom. Some people (students and teachers) are reluctant to use it, which is a shame, in my opinion, because they could expand either their learning opportunities for students or their teaching repertoires for the instructors. Of course, as with any field, weeding through so many websites/programs to find the gems can be daunting, so I understand some of the reluctance. Also, institutions must be willing to support instructors in terms of using technology, both in terms of hardware/software and training. 

What was the most challenging aspect of teaching ESL online during the pandemic? What did you find most rewarding?

I was a full-time administrator in California, so I wasn't teaching there. My first online teaching experience during the pandemic (I had taught online during grad school) was in Spring 2021 for Reynolds. I think the most difficult thing was I had several lower-level classes and I think many of those students didn't have as much exposure to technology previously, so that limited what I could do in the classes as far as fully utilizing the available technology. I admire them greatly for working their jobs, raising kids, and taking classes (often at the same time) to learn English. I also felt disjointed from them as they were "boxes" on my computer. I hope they come by my office and say hello (a few have).  The most rewarding thing is basically the same as F2F classes--seeing your students achieve their goals, realizing they can do something they thought they couldn't, and seeing those "light bulb" moments. 

You, your wife Megumi, and your seven year old son were looking forward to exploring Richmond when you moved here. In spite of covid restrictions, have you been able to discover some interesting spots around Richmond?

We've seen some of Richmond, but we'll be happy to see more. We did enjoy going to Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm in CA, so we got passes for King's Dominion (which is owned by the same company as Knott's Berry Farm). We're looking forward to getting our son involved in some organized activities like sports so we can meet more people through that. Of course, my wife has found the Asian supermarkets and just found one with what she considers the best kimchi she's had in a while, so that makes her happy. I have been golfing a couple times. I still play horribly, but I enjoy it. Cody has made a lot of new friends in our new neighborhood and we're sure he'll make more when he starts school in person.

 We find our way when we least expect it . . .

Looking for deaf man with two senior Dachshunds. Hi all, A couple of months ago I met a deaf man at Barker Field. He looked to be about 50-60. He was there with 2 senior long-haired Dachshunds (they were 18 years old). We were able to communicate a little bit by drawing in the dirt, but you can imagine it was frustrating to not be able to talk about anything. I've always loved the idea of learning ASL, and meeting this man was just the thing I needed, during these pandemic days, to do it. I'm 60 now, but I've enrolled in Reynolds Community College to get a certificate in ASL. I start next week with 2 classes and hope to be done in a couple of years. If any of you know this man, please thank him for me. He was the person I needed to meet at that moment, at that place, to turn my 60s into a new exiting time. Take care, Susan

This post was found by Cory Walter, Administrative Support in Dr. Pando’s office. The post was on Cory's Neighborhood site. 

Cory was so moved by the message that she took her own time to track down the poster to share her story with Reynolds faculty and staff. 

The “Susan” who posted on Cory's Neighborhood site is Susan Sabo, and she is now a few weeks into her studies at Reynolds.

Susan Sabo wanted to know more about the deaf man she met. In turn, we want to know more about her. Get to know Susan in this blog profile . . . . 

Susan, where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in Los Angeles and lived there most of my life. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I started my career without college, as a secretary and receptionist. I've been an editor, writer, publisher, and now a photographer. I’m also a lifelong dog person and was a single mom at age 20. My body says I’m 60, but my brain says I’m 19, so I’m going with that. I dress like a 15 year old boy. I may age, but I will never grow up :) 

What brought you to Reynolds?

I was looking for a comprehensive ASL course, not just an app or a couple of basic lessons. I really want to learn not just the language but also the culture. This is something to which I’ve never been exposed, so I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can. 

What got you interested in learning ASL?

Learning ASL is different from learning, say Spanish or Russian. If you remove sound, hearing, from a language it really becomes a different world. It’s like suddenly noticing a door that has been there the whole time, but never opened. 

What spurred me to actually sign up was a chance meeting with a man at a local dog park. Although the park was crowded, he was sitting by himself at one end, and had two senior Dachshunds with him. I walked over and immediately tried to start communicating. We drew in the dirt with a stick and through body language, facial expressions, and some writing, were able to trade a little bit of information about our dogs. After he left, I couldn’t get him out of my mind and I kept thinking about how much I just really wanted to be able to talk to him about his dogs. I learned they were 18 years old, but I didn’t even get their names. And I’m huge on the dog’s names. (I keep a running list of all the dogs we meet at the park.) 

That meeting led me to download a few apps, which I found were really superficial. I did a quick search online, and that’s how I found Reynolds. I was thrilled to find they have a program for learning ASL, so I enrolled right away, just in time for the fall semester. 

What are your goals after finishing the program?

A lot of my work has been volunteer work; I’ve worked with MHA and a lot of dog shelters and rescues. In the past few years I’ve narrowed my photography down to dogs and volunteer work, and I don’t know yet how I’m going to merge those interests with ASL, but I’m eager to find a way. 

You are a photographer. How does ASL relate to photography?

I honestly can’t say, I’ve just started to ask those questions. I’ve found some amazing deaf photographers through google searches, and I’m really anxious to learn more and maybe meet some of those photographers. I’d love to know their process and how differently they may work from a hearing photographer. I imagine some of the differences, and advantages, are profound. 

Friday, August 13, 2021

Meet Andrea Niedhammer

Director of Facilities Management and Planning

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in Connecticut  on Long Island sound. I remember going to the beach with my family on the weekends. I think that is where my love of swimming and the beach started. It was a small New England town where you knew all your neighbors. We moved to upstate New York when I was in High School but consider Conn my home town.

Tell us a little about yourself. What were you doing before coming to Reynolds?

Before Reynolds I was working at Magellan Health as the Director of Facilities. I worked out of the Glen Allen office but traveled to many different locations to build out new spaces or renovate older ones. I was lucky to go to Sacramento CA, Scottsdale AZ, Salt Lake City UT, Newport RI, Orlando FL, and a couple places in NY. I love to travel and got to see some beautiful sites in some of these locations. 

How did you get involved in Facilities Management?

I graduated with a Degree in Architecture in NY and a recession was going on so I was able to get a job with a bank in Manhattan working in facilities division. I loved the fast pace of getting spaces designed and built and then renovating the old space. There was always plenty going on with banks growing or merging. Upgrading technologies made the working environment also change. Over the years I have enjoyed watching the evolving of the office as people knew it. So many changes in how we work, where we work, furniture that is ergonomically built, offices that are more informal, more collaborative spaces and less offices and personal space. Also rooms being used for multi purposes not just one thing. I look forward to seeing the office evolve into the future as our business needs change.

What do you like to do outside of work? Hobbies, interests, passions?

I love to read, and work in my garden, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my two year old grandson.

If you won $100 million in the lottery, what would you do with the money?

Probably give a good amount to some charities I support. Then I would do somethings around my house maybe add a pool. I would help my son and daughter buy a house, new cars for everyone and take my whole family on a wonderful vacation.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Reynolds Forgives Nearly $400,000 of Student Debt

On Tuesday, August 9, Reynolds Community College announced that nearly 500 students with outstanding balances incurred since the spring 2020 term because of the Covid-19 pandemic have had their debt cleared. As part of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) signed into federal law in response to the pandemic, the college has recently discharged nearly $400,000 of student debt.

Students who were enrolled on or after March 13, 2020, were eligible for the debt cancellation. Financial holds on student accounts for unpaid balances to Reynolds, with the exception of fines related to a laptop loaner program, were extinguished.

“Erasing student balances because of the devastating impact of Covid-19 is more than a gesture,” said Dr. Terricita Sass, Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Success at Reynolds. “Reynolds is committed to removing as many barriers as possible and we know that the financial challenges faced by many of our students is one that can derail their education and future. We hope that this act will enable students to move forward in pursuit of their dreams.”

Monday, August 9, 2021

 Words to Live By

One year ago in June Nakia Austin gave a very short, very direct, very memorable message to the graduates participating in Reynolds 2020 Virtual Commencement ceremony. She spoke passionately about the graduates having GUTS, the Great Urge to Succeed. (watch Nakia's graduation speech)

At that time, most of us didn’t know, Nakia was demonstrating her own GUTS. At that time she was in the throes of pursuing her own success: Her Doctorate.

Now, one year later, Nakia has graduated from Nova Southeastern University with a Doctorate of Health Science (DHSc) in Health Care Education. Her applied research topic was Clinical Simulation in Respiratory Care, in which faculty are educated to incorporate low, medium, and high fidelity simulators into a Respiratory Care curriculum, preparing students for clinical rotations.

Nakia is a woman with words to live by. There is the GUTS acronym. But, as an individual she also lives by, and shares the following quote with her students:

Effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.
– Carol S. Dweck

Nakia has been with Reynolds full-time for 20 years. Many colleagues know her, and possibly know her personally. But there are new faces at Reynolds, and for those who don’t know Nakia, it’s time to meet her and catch the wind of her spirit and drive. Here is her Employee Profile.

Did you grow up in the Richmond area? If so, what was your experience?

Yes. Richmond is home for me. I attended Richmond Public Schools through the 7th grade. I then transitioned to All Saints and St. Gertrude’s Catholic Schools. The transition was definitely a culture shock, but I quickly adjusted to my new learning environment. During the summer of my sophomore year, I made one last school change, which resulted in me graduating from Hermitage High School in Henrico, VA. My movement through different school systems gave me an opportunity to experience people from all walks of life.

Growing up in the Richmond area has been enjoyable. I have enjoyed what Richmond has to offer from the entertainment venues, parks, museums, restaurants, and the personal and professional relationships.  

How did you get interested in studying Science and Respiratory Therapy?

My niche has always been math and science. After graduating from high school, my goal was to become a Physical Therapist. I attended Old Dominion University to complete a BS in Exercise Science before applying to PT school. To gain experience in the field, I volunteered one summer at a Sports Medicine Clinic. I worked with great people throughout the summer but realized the Physical Therapy profession was not a good fit. Not wanting to change my major, I spoke with my advisor, who was previously a Respiratory Therapist in the Richmond area. I graduated from ODU and immediately enrolled in the Respiratory Therapy program at Reynolds Community College.

What motivated you to become a professor? At St. Gertrude’s Catholic School, my 9th grade science teacher provided me with feedback on a presentation. She stated, “you would be a great teacher.”

As a 9th grader, being a teacher meant working with students in K-12. Therefore, I had no interest in teaching especially after being exposed to some unruly classmates. In moving forward, I became a clinical instructor for students in the Respiratory Therapy program. Soon after, I was approached with applying for a full-time faculty position. I guess others saw the potential in me that I didn’t see in myself over the years.

How long have you been with Reynolds? Full-time for 20 years.

What is your greatest challenge, and greatest reward in teaching? My greatest challenge in teaching is motivating students to push through obstacles. The greatest reward in teaching is seeing students grow in their knowledge, hands-on skills, and attitude from the beginning to the end of a course.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Dr. Terricita Sass of Reynolds Community College Chosen for National Presidential Fellowship for Community College Leaders

40 Aspiring Community College Presidents Will Participate in 2021-2022 Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship to Advance Student Success

Richmond, VA, (August 5, 2021) – The Aspen Institute College Excellence Program today announced that Dr. Terricita Sass, Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Services at Reynolds Community College, is one of 40 leaders selected for the 2021-22 class of the Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship, a highly selective leadership program preparing the next generation of community college presidents to transform institutions to achieve higher and more equitable levels of student success.  

The Rising Presidents Fellows will embark on the 10-month fellowship beginning in November 2021. Delivered in collaboration with the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, the fellows will be mentored by esteemed current and former community college presidents who have achieved exceptional outcomes for students throughout their careers, and will learn strategies to improve student outcomes in and after college, lead internal change, and create strong external partnerships with K-12 schools, four-year colleges, employers, and other partners. 

“To become institutions that truly advance social mobility and talent development, community colleges must have presidents with a clear vision for equitable student success,” said Monica Clark, director of leadership initiatives at the College Excellence Program. “We have selected these fellows because they share that commitment and are well-positioned to become transformational leaders.” 

“We are honored and thrilled by the selection of Dr. Terricita Sass for the 2021-22 Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship,” said Dr. Paula Pando, President of Reynolds. “Since first stepping foot on campus, Dr. Sass has been a transformative leader at Reynolds. She brings keen insights and an equity lens to her work leading our enrollment management and student services teams.”

The Aspen Rising Presidents Fellowship responds to the growing need for a new generation of leaders well-equipped to meet the challenges of the future. Nationally, nearly 80 percent of sitting presidents plan to retire in the next decade. While the traditional pathway to the presidency has often excluded women and people of color, the incoming class of Aspen Rising Presidents Fellows is composed of 68 percent women and 70 percent people of color, and represents institutions of varying sizes and locations.

Together, the 2021-22 fellows are leaders at colleges that collectively serve more than 400,000 students. As well, 67 Rising Presidents Fellowship alumni have become presidents of community colleges that collectively serve an additional 953,000 students nationwide.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Reynolds Appoints New Deans

Jeffrey Allen Appointed Dean of Students

Reynolds Community College Reynolds recently announced the appointment of Jeffrey Allen, Ed.D. as its new Dean of Students. 

Dr. Allen previously served as Dean of Student Retention and Success at Vance-Granville Community College in Henderson, North Carolina. While there he also served as Dean of Enrollment and Outreach, and Director of Leadership and Professional Development. 

Dr. Allen earned his Doctor of Education – Adult and Community College Education, in May 2020 from North Carolina State University. 

During his interview process with Reynolds’ faculty and staff, Dr. Allen clearly stated his focus in directly communicating with students: “I think one of the things that we can do as an institution is communicate effectively, letting students know we are here . . . and that we care. I want to be accessible to students and work with them as much as possible.” 

“I am excited to welcome Dr. Allen to Reynolds,” said Dr. Terricita Sass, Vice President of Enrollment Management & Student Success at Reynolds. “He brings nearly a decade of community college experience supporting students in various leadership roles including teaching. His demonstrative collaborative efforts across divisional lines, proven commitment to equitable outcomes for students, and data-informed strategies, position him well at this time in the college’s history.” 

Dr. Allen will assume his role at Reynolds on August 10.

* * *

Stacie Davis Appointed Dean of the School of Business and Industrial Trades (SBIT)

Reynolds Community College is pleased to announce the recent appointment of Ms. Stacie Davis as Dean of the School of Business and Industrial Trades. Ms. Davis joined the college on July 25.

Ms. Davis’s impressive career began in the private sector with positions in sports marketing, construction management, and human resources before finding her passion in education.  She has dedicated her years in education to CTE and developing industry-driven programs in our region’s high schools.  

Ms. Davis was born and raised in Henrico County where she is deeply involved in community outreach.  Ms. Davis will complete her dissertation defense and earn her Ed.D. from Regent University in the coming months.  

“I’m confident she will be a wonderful asset to the Reynolds team,” commented Dr. Lori Dwyer, Reynolds Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, “and I am excited for each of you to meet her.”

Ms. Davis describes herself as, “An educational leader with GRIT [Guts Resilience Initiative Tenacity] and commitment to wellness and awareness in educators while empowering all students.”

Ms. Davis started at the college on July 25

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Bank of America Grants $100,000 to The Kitchens at Reynolds to Help Bolster Social and Economic Mobility in Richmond’s East End

RICHMOND, Va. (July 27, 2021) – Bank of America today announced a $100,000 grant made to The Kitchens at Reynolds, located at 25th and Nine Mile Road in Richmond’s East End. The grant will allow the college to provide job training in culinary arts and connects the community with the full array of academic and workforce programs offered by the college. The investment focuses on changing outcomes for residents in one of the most needed areas of the city.  

(Photo left: Victor Branch with middle-school students and teens from the Boys and Girls Club of Richmond attending the Culinary Arts & Entrepreneurship Camp at The Kitchens.)

“The Kitchens at Reynolds is about so much more than a new facility, as impressive as it is,” said Victor Branch, President of Bank of America Richmond. “We’re impassioned about helping Reynolds lower the barriers to workforce training and higher education that have hampered East End neighborhoods too long. The training and education this grant will help Reynolds provide are foundational to jobs that pay well and help families not just get by, but plan and save for the future.”

A more equitable region is a shared goal of Reynolds and Bank of America, with both investing resources and partnering with individuals and organizations in the East End to advance this work. The investment in The Kitchens at Reynolds comes at a crucial time as the city seeks to fill a massive shortage of workers in its prolific restaurant industry that is working to rebound from losses caused by last year’s massive shutdown of restaurants and catering businesses. 

(Photo left: Victor Branch with a student at The Kitchens.) 

“At the time we began construction of The Kitchens in 2017, no one could have predicted the pandemic, but even then we knew it was critical that the college do more to serve the eastern corridor of the City of Richmond and Henrico County,” said Dr. Paula Pando, President of Reynolds Community College. “Bank of America is bolstering our ability to provide advising, financial aid, enrollment and retention support that will help individuals start and complete our programs.”

The Kitchens at Reynolds is home to the college’s culinary arts, hospitality and entrepreneurship programs, and is a new neighborhood access point to the more than 100 academic and workforce offerings at the college. The grant from Bank of America comes from the company’s $1.25 billion commitment made last year to address racial equality and opportunities highlighted by the impact of the pandemic.  

“The timing of this grant is especially impactful. Communities of color and families with low incomes have shouldered a disproportionate burden of personal and economic loss brought on by the pandemic. We have an opportunity to help change that. Our recovery will only be successful if it represents the entirety of our region,” noted Dr. Pando. 

The J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation raised $10 million to open the facility in July 2020. While a hybrid of in-person and virtual culinary instruction proceeded, the level of community engagement The Kitchens was designed to accommodate was hampered by the pandemic. 

“I’m happy to say we’re now back on campus and eager to serve our East End neighbors and the local industries ready to hire our graduates. Bank of America’s outstanding support means we can help more individuals reskill and upskill in order to do the same,” said Dr. Pando.


Serving more than 14,000 students annually, Reynolds Community College is the youngest of 23 community colleges in Virginia. Reynolds operates four campuses serving residents in the City of Richmond and the counties of Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, Powhatan, and Louisa. In addition, Reynolds partners with John Tyler Community College in the Community College Workforce Alliance, which annually provides non-credit workforce training to more than 5,000 individuals.

Bank of America 

At Bank of America, we’re guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better, through the power of every connection. We’re delivering on this through responsible growth with a focus on our environmental, social and governance (ESG) leadership. ESG is embedded across our eight lines of business and reflects how we help fuel the global economy, build trust and credibility, and represent a company that people want to work for, invest in and do business with. It’s demonstrated in the inclusive and supportive workplace we create for our employees, the responsible products and services we offer our clients, and the impact we make around the world in helping local economies thrive. An important part of this work is forming strong partnerships with nonprofits and advocacy groups, such as community, consumer and environmental organizations, to bring together our collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. Learn more at, and connect with us on Twitter (@BofA_News).


Media Contact info:
Reynolds Community College

Joe Schilling

Bank of America
Andy Aldridge

Alliance Group
Geoffrey Zindren

Monday, July 19, 2021

Four Out of  Four

Reynolds is batting 1000 with the Brown family. Four out of four of the Brown children have attended, or will soon attend Reynolds. There's Aaron, Sarah, Rachel, and Laura.

The Brown family lives in Goochland. Mom, Helen Brown, home schooled all four children through K-12, except for Laura who chose to finish her high school years at Goochland High School. All four Brown children were swimmers. This comes as no surprise since their mom serves as a swim coach for the Goochland YMCA.

The first to attend Reynolds was the Brown's son, Aaron. He applied and received a scholarship to Reynolds and started his education at the college before transferring to Ferrum College, and then on to Baker College online. Aaron will graduate in the fall of 2021.

Pictured here in order of their
attendance at Reynolds: 

top, Aaron Brown, 
second down, Sarah Brown;
third down, Rachel Brown; 
bottom, Laura Brown.

Next came Sarah who attended Reynolds for two years before being accepted into the much sought after Bon Secours Nursing program. While at Reynolds, Sarah was in the Honors program and a member of PTK.

Rachel followed Sarah to Reynolds, and in her mom's words, "did very well" at the college. 

But, when Rachel started at Reynolds, unlike her sister Sarah, she didn't know what she wanted to do. She had always loved watching crime programs, but it never occurred to anyone in the family, even Rachel, that her interest would extend beyond the television. 

"It came out of the blue," said Helen Brown. Rachel had gotten bitten by the science bug while at Reynolds, and after her May 2021 graduation she immediately transferred to VCU and began studying Forensic Science in the summer session. 

The last of the Brown children is Laura. Laura will begin her studies at Reynolds this fall. "Laura is artsy. She likes to write, she draws," says Helen Brown. 

Like her sister Rachel before her, Laura isn't sure what she wants to do. Maybe her degree will be focused in liberal arts, maybe English. Her educational journey is just beginning . . . her special bug has yet to find and bite her.

Welcome to Reynolds, Laura! All the best to you in the coming year.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

How do we lead Virginia?

From Leesburg to Danville, from Chesapeake to Norton, Virginia spans 42,775 square miles, about the same footprint as the island of Cuba. 

Life in Richmond is as different from life in Winchester, as it is from life in Bristol, or Lynchburg, or Arlington. Yet we live within the same lines. So, the question becomes: How do we begin to understand and appreciate the challenges and strengths of our entire Commonwealth?

One Richmond-based nonprofit is literally “leading” the way. As its mission, Lead Virginia, is dedicated to bringing together leaders from Virginia’s far-flung regions to talk, explore, understand, exchange insights and perspectives on how to shepherd our rapidly growing and changing home. 

Lead Virginia organizes their program into “classes” that essentially run parallel to the academic year, from September to June. Each class has approximately 40 participants. During the session, meetings are held over a three day weekend in each of the five designated regions of the Commonwealth: Hampton Roads, New River Valley, Southern Virginia, Northern Virginia, and Southwest Virginia. 

On Friday, June 25 Reynold hosted a panel discussion, Education and Workforce in the Richmond Region, as part of the final graduation weekend for the Lead Virginia Class of 2020. Reynolds President Paula Pando (on right in photo), a graduate of Lead Virginia’s 2019 Class, served as the panel’s moderator. On the panel were (from right to left after Dr. Pando) Eva Colen, Manager, Office of Children and Families and Senior Policy Advisor, Office of Mayor Levar Stoney; Dr. Tyren Frazier, Chesterfield Education Foundation; and Tamekia LeGrand, VCU Vice President for Strategy, Enrollment Management, and Student Success. 

To learn more about Lead Virginia and their upcoming events, visit:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

 Reynolds Advancement Team Recognized Internationally

Reynolds Advancement Team has been awarded a 2021 Circle of Excellence Award by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). The team is being recognized in the category "Events on a Shoestring" for its event "A Sneak Peek of the Kitchens at Reynolds."


This award category was for offices with limited staff, resources, and time. Entrants were asked to demonstrate creative ways of executing an event designed for a special occasion or purpose, using minimal resources - particularly budget. 

In the entry submission, Reynolds Special Events Manager Ariel Cole described tackling the challenges that made the gathering especially unique. “A grand opening celebration was changed multiple times due to COVID-19.  A large community celebration continues to be delayed, but Reynolds had to find a way to thank key supporters in a timely and safe way.

Reynolds held a series of small in-person tours of the building in September 2020.  Key community leaders, donors, and local officials were invited to visit the building during two staggered event timeframes. After a self-guided tour and socially-distanced remarks in the courtyard from the college president, lead investor, city mayor, and other officials, attendees reported being impressed with the completed facility, excited to see their investment in action, and eager to discuss opportunities to stay involved.”

Congratulations to the Advancement Team for their hard work staging this community event and for receiving this prestigious recognition for Reynolds. Job well done, recognition much deserved.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021



Culinary Arts Instructor

Reynolds Community College

The Kitchens at Reynolds

Interview by Zippia Career Site

Will there be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates?

Dave Quisenberry: Yes! I think the whole planet, as well as the hospitality industry, will have a lasting impact. As the industry struggles to cope and redefine itself, we are forced to embrace some fundamental principals. The reliance on building partnerships and networking is now more important than ever before. This will help those in the labor pool match skill sets with the need in industry.

COVID-19 has also been disruptive in the traditional foodservice model. No longer can we assume that viable business models are "dine-in" consumer-based primarily. As we practice more and more social distancing, we need to incorporate food outlets such as "to-go" and home meal replacement in existing models. These options will require specific operational guidelines and technical support to achieve success safely and efficiently. These trends have already started being addressed in educational content to better prepare graduates upon entry into the job market.

Are there any particularly good places in the United States for graduates to find work opportunities in this field after they graduate?

Dave Quisenberry: While COVID-19 has most of the industry being restricted, one way or another, some sectors have been less affected. Healthcare and Corporate entities have maintained consistent; however, diminished labor needs. Graduates will be forced to consider options such as relocation and redirection of career pathways in the post-pandemic environment. That said, we have seen an unfortunate acceleration of business failures due to the economic impact of COVID-19. The post-pandemic environment will undoubtedly provide opportunities to fill voids in local markets as well as emerging markets, such as home meal replacement, etc. The need for trained professionals will have a much greater demand for emphasis on an understanding of total operational knowledge.

How do you envision technology impacting this field in the next 5 years?

Dave Quisenberry: As we deal with the impact of COVID-19 in our industry, we are being forced to rely on technology to communicate with each other, as well as our potential customers. Business models that have seen some success in maintaining market share have relied on new and existing web platforms to bring products and services to the market. The demand for knowledge in web design and virtual marketing will increasingly be a strong asset in any candidate's skill set.