Monday, April 5, 2021

Reynolds Receives Laptops for Veteran Students

Sixty military veterans and spouses enrolled at Reynolds are now "connected" thanks to a donation of laptops the college recently received from Tech4Troops. 

Tech4Troops is a Richmond-based nonprofit organization that provides computers to veterans. The donation was made possible by funds from the Altria Group to the Virginia Veterans Services Foundation (VVSF).

The laptops donation is part of the VDVS (Virginia Department of Veterans Services) Military Education Workforce Initiative, which creates partnerships with private employers and educational institutions in Virginia. The laptops will be distributed free-of-charge on a first-come, first-served basis to student military veterans and spouses attending Reynolds who complete and submit an application form provided by VDVS.

“We are grateful to VDVS, the Virginia Veterans Services Foundation, and Altria Group for this generous donation of technology for our students who have served their nation,” said Reynolds President Dr. Paula Pando. “We know that our veterans students bear many burdens, but access to the tools needed to complete their education should not be one of them.”

For more information on the project or to obtain an application to receive a free laptop, visit their website. 

Dr. Paula Pando and Dr. Terricita Sass Honored with the Dana Hamel Award

Reynolds President Dr. Paula Pando, and Vice President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Dr. Terricita Sass were recently recognized for their contribution as members of the "Opportunity 2027" strategic plan task force.

"Dr. Sass and I, along with other colleagues in the VCCS were honored with the Dana B. Hamel Award for our work on Opportunity 2027, the new strategic plan recently approved by the State Board for Community Colleges. It is a bold plan, squarely focused on Equity."

The Dana Hamel* Award is given in recognition of an individual’s leadership in serving the mission of Virginia’s community colleges, and acknowledges their commitment to public service; to fostering access to higher education; and promoting an understanding of the role of workforce development. This award is the “highest VCCS honor bestowed on an individual or group to recognize an extraordinary accomplishment or deed that exemplifies and advances the values reflected in our mission statement.” 

Congratulations to Drs. Pando and Sass for a job not just well done, but a job excellently done.

*Dana Hamel started life as a watch maker. At 97 in 2020 as he prepared to celebrate his birthday, he looked back on his role in the founding of the VTCS (Virginia Technical College System) that evolved into what we know today as the VCCS. The secret to his long life and success? "Optimism and faith", says Hamel. Read more about this man and his life as a champion of education.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

     The Evolution of Science Night

 This year Science Night evolved into STEMfest, a three night virtual event with a host of sessions on topics such as innovations in drug discovery, virtual reality techniques, math patterns, coding lessons and snakes of Virginia. The final session, "How did you get here?" was a panel discussion with faculty and professionals sharing their education and career experiences including their struggles and triumphs.

STEMfest was held from March 1 to 3, and had over 300 students, community members, faculty, and staff registered for the event. Session attendance ranged from 20 to over 100. Here are some comments from those who attended the virtual sessions. Presenters included faculty, staff, and other professionals from JMU, VCU, and ODU, as well as Dr. Andre Hudson from Rutgers University.

     Below are links to the sessions in case you missed the event.
6 p.m.
The Life of a Biochemist: The quest for new antibiotics
Presented by Andre Hudson, Rochester Institute of Technology
Watch the Recording
6:30 p.m.
Why microbes matter. The good, the bad, and the ugly of stuff you can't even see
Presented by Bryan Tims, Hampden-Sydney College and Reynolds Community College.
Watch the recording
7:00 p.m.
Ratsnake Phylogeny and Taxonomy: What the heck is going on?
Presented by Travis Anthony, Virginia Herpetological Society
Watch the Recording
7:30 p.m.
Snakes of Virginia
Presented by Larry Mendoza, Virginia Herpetological Society
Watch the Recording
Here is a link if you want to know more about the Va Herpetological Society

6 p.m.
Innovative Technology Disrupting Education, Training, Military, & Industry
Presented by Jessica Johnson
Watch the recording
Some additional links
6:15 p.m.
AWS Cloud Computing
Presented by Dick Burruss, Professor, Reynolds Community College
Watch the Recording
6:30 p.m.
RVAir: A Community Science Initiative to Understand Richmond's Air Quality
Presented by Devin Jefferson, Community Science Catalyst
Watch the Recording
7:00 p.m.
STEM Transfer Panel
Presented by Elizabeth Heck, VCU STEM Transfer Coordinator
Transfer advising request
Transfer Maps
STEM Transitions
VCU Transfer Center
Watch the recording  This session ends at the 31 minute mark
7:30 p.m.
Paradigm Shifts in Healthcare and Research Driven by Advances Technology
Presented by Dayanjan S Wijesinghe, Adjunct Associate Professor, VCU
Watch the recording  This session begins at 32 minutes
6 p.m.
Hanover Coyote Project
Presented by Dr. Richard Groover, Retired professor, Reynolds Community College
Watch the Recording
6:15 p.m.
Discovering Patterns in Nature through the eyes of a Mathematician
Presented by Kim Hasley, Mathematics Instructor, Reynolds Community College
Watch the Recording
6:30 p.m.
Summer Research Opportunities in Biology
Presented by
Corey Cleland, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology, James Madison University
Bisi Velayudhan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Biology, James Madison University
Join the Zoom
REU webpage
7 p.m.
HAWQS and How you can Help!
Presented by Stecey Heflin, Henricopolis Soil & Water Conservation
Watch the video
How did you get here?  STEM Professionals and their career journeys
Panel: Jenn Derkits, Otelia Vines, Doug Coleman
Watch the video
Other videos
Kyle Williams, Code Virginia
Digital Literacy and Safety for Families
Dr. John Ochab, Reynolds Physics Professor

Monday, March 29, 2021

Scholarships Help Students Stay Afloat in Choppy Waters

While the pandemic has created very choppy waters for many students, scholarship awards are helping hundreds stay afloat. “Even in normal circumstances our scholarship program is a critical lifeline,” said Marianne McGhee, director of development. “This year, we were so fortunate to have our donors continue their giving to help as many students persist as possible. Kim Cain is our scholarship manager, and she and the Financial Aid team do a brilliant job working together and bridging students’ financial gaps with scholarship dollars whenever possible.”  

The J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation is a 501c3 nonprofit and receives donations from individuals, local philanthropic foundations, community groups, and businesses. With annual gifts and income generated from endowments, the Scholarship Office assisted nearly 800 students with awards ranging from a few hundred dollars to $2,000 or more in a semester, depending on need and aid eligibility. 

For students like Juliahna, receiving a scholarship is one important step on a life-changing pathway. "I’m one of the first in my family to actually graduate high school and continue to pursue my dreams through college. After Reynolds, I plan to transfer to VCU and possibly study Homeland Security. One of the biggest burdens I have faced in life is a lack of finances. I don’t think I’d be here if it were not for getting a scholarship award.”

“Reynolds employees are among the most generous and enthusiastic scholarship donors every year,” added McGhee. “Look at the success of Stepping for Scholarships, which is a recent example, but there are so many more. Reynolds is a giving institution and part of a larger giving community. It makes a huge difference. We’ve seen students literally cry with relief when they’re told they’re getting an award. Scholarship donors are truly heroes and heroines to our students.” 

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

 Reynolds Grad Bakes Her Way to Food Network

Reynolds grad and Richmond culinary entrepreneur Keya Wingfield will be one of eleven pastry chefs to compete in the Food Network Spring Baking Championship.

Season 7 kicks off on Sunday, February 22 at 9 pm. The bakers are competing for a $25,000 cash prize and the title of "Spring Baking Champion". Tune and cheer for Keya as she represents Reynolds on network television. Learn more.

Learn more about Keya and her the role of culinary in her life in this interview article that appeared in Richmond Magazine.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

 Reynolds Conducts Successful Virtual Open House

Over 100 guests attended Reynolds Virtual Open House on November 11, as our COVID-affected community wanted to learn what classes and programs Reynolds is offering and how the college will be conducting future classes.

“It is vital that we create an open communication pipeline to the community so it knows what is going on here and they know we are open for business,” notes Reynolds Director of Admissions Karen Pettis-Walden. “I’ve been involved in dozens of open houses here at Reynolds, and I’m not sure I have seen a community information event more important than the open house we just conducted.”

Holding its second virtual open house in the last seven months, Reynolds Open House planning committee designed new specific sessions to ensure potential students knew about the college’s programs and resources available.

“In the past, we might have briefly covered online learning and virtual resources available. But this year we knew we had to share with our guests all we have to offer,” says Pettis-Walden. “We wanted to be sure that potential students knew that not only do we have outstanding programs and faculty, but also we care about them and have many available free online resources to assist with their college success.”

After a welcome by Reynolds President Dr. Paula Pando and Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Success Dr. Terricita Sass, the open house guests could choose from nine group discussions that gave faculty and staff time to hit the highlights about their academic programs and to answer questions.

“The night’s second sessions focused on “the how” resources that help our students succeed,” says Pettis-Walden. “For many of our students, if they don’t have and know about the “how” resources, they’ll never get to the finish line.”

This year’s event featured a “Bonus Round” that allowed potential students to join virtual breakout rooms where they could talk one-on-one with representatives from Financial Aid, Admissions and Veteran Services.

“The Bonus Round was very successful in that it allowed one-on-one conversations,” Pettis-Walden added. “When our guests left the virtual open house, we wanted to ensure they had the opportunity to find out as much about Reynolds as if they were participating in person.” 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Here are the "Comings and Goings" 

from the November 12, 2020 Wrap Up


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Dr. Shashuna Gray
Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs

Where did you grow up, and what was it like?

This is the most difficult question to answer. My father was in the United States Air Force. He worked in missile silos. We lived in obscure off the map locations. I loved living in Great Falls, Montana. In the summer we would hike to the falls and in the winter, we spent time sledding and skiing. School was never cancelled and at times the snowfall would surpass 12 inches in one day.  I was born in Forestville, Maryland but attended high school in Montgomery, Alabama. In between Maryland and Montana, I lived in England as well.  

If you didn’t grow up here, what brought you to Virginia?

I originally moved to Virginia because of my ex-husband’s job. He worked for PriceWaterhouseCooper at the time. Employees had to reside within a 50-mile radius of central office. There was an office in Fairfax, so we moved to Stafford, VA. I have lived in VA since August 2004.   

Please tell us about your background.

I have a BS and an MS in biology. My PhD is in Community College Leadership from Old Dominion University. I have worked in higher education for 26 years.  I spent 10 years at Alabama State University as the laboratory manager and laboratory instructor. I spent almost two years at Northern Virginia Community College as the laboratory manager and an adjunct biology instructor and prior to coming to Reynolds, I worked for fourteen years at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, VA as an instructor, department chair, and then becoming the dean of arts and sciences.   

Reynolds is fortunate to have you here with us as an Interim VP. You have been here since the summer. Please share your observations of Reynolds so far.

I have developed a philosophy which matches the excellent standards set by Reynolds Community College as a provider of quality, accessible education. The values of the institution align with my own and I am excited to come to campus (even without the presence of many students) to engage in an organization committed to providing relevant programs. 

What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?

This job varies greatly from my previous job as a dean. I rarely see students unless I pass them on a walk. I had to get use to this difference, I am an achiever. At the end of each day being able to help coach or mentor, ensure the quality of the courses and programs, and supporting my direct reports are the most rewarding aspects of my work. My strengths are ideation, achiever, learner, developer, and determination. I like that this position allows me to use my strengths to support the mission and values of Reynolds.  

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?

Honestly, with one extra hour in the day, I would either sleep or sit on my front porch.  Since Covid-19, I spend more time sitting on the porch.  It is hard to do this during meetings because of the outdoor noises. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I read, write novels, and play Pokemon Go. I am level 40 and playing the game helps keep me active. Every Halloween, the deans at Germanna created a costume experience. This was a well-planned event. I also make Christmas ornaments.  

What do like most about Richmond even though you are coming here at a time when your opportunities to explore have been limited by covid-19?

I love the multiple dimension of Richmond. This is city rich in history and the city acknowledges its past, red lining. You could experience a more rural environment and within a few minutes experience city dwelling. The city is the home to multiple institutions of higher learning so to me that speaks volumes of the values of this area. With so many institutions, the colleges and universities also have the obligation to give back to the city a more educated citizen.  

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?

If I won the lottery, I would set up an educational trust fund for each of my three children. I would donate to an orphanage in China, pay off the loans at my church, establish an endowed scholarship for a former colleague at Germanna, and buy my parents a house next door to me. I would still work every day. I believe we all have an obligation to support our society. I know you are probably wondering about the orphanage in China. One of my former office mates is from China and she told me once, she was leaving her estate to an orphanage. I shared with her that if I ever came into some money, I would donate on her behalf.  I might upgrade my 2012 Kia to a newer year…maybe.  

 American Girl dolls? Not just sparkle and shine with a headband and purse . . . 

Maybe you thought American Girl dolls were all about cute outfits with matching accessories. Think again. This summer American Girl dolls wanted to create a new doll to honor frontline heroes who have risked their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. They asked family, friends, or those who have been helped, to nominate a "Hero with a Heart", a frontline hero they felt best represented the caring and compassionate spirit of the times. 

"Whether you’re providing healthcare, keeping families stocked with food and supplies, or making sure cities keep running," the American Girl website said, "we owe you a huge thanks."

April O’Quinn, a Reynolds alumna and an EMT with the Richmond Ambulance Authority, was nominated by her niece, Lacey. In July, American Girl notified Lacey that her nomination was one of five winners from around the country. Her aunt April was going to be an American Doll. Lacey was sobbing when she called her aunt with the news.

“We’re thankful American Girl held a contest to recognize our frontline heroes," said RAA CEO Chip Decker, "and are thrilled to have one of our employees represent EMS.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Writing Studio: A Year of Building

An Interview with Apryl D. Prentiss 

Assistant Professor of English & 

Writing Studio Coordinator

You have been at Reynolds a little over a year now. Please tell us where you were and what you were doing before you came here. 

I've been teaching at Reynolds full-time since 2017. Before that I was an adjunct at Reynolds and teaching full-time at Virginia State University. I absolutely loved teaching at VSU, but when a full-time opportunity to teach at Reynolds opened up, I knew I had to try to get it because I love the students here so much. There's something really special about our students. They are always on their way to another place, whether that's the workforce or another school. I find that there's a unique and powerful perspective that comes with that. It's also important that our students get a high quality education while learning how they can affect their communities. I really believe in the community college mission, so returning here for full-time work was an easy decision. I came on as the Writing Studio Coordinator in 2019 and have spent the past year working with the Studio team to develop the Studio and get it up and running. 

Please tell us what’s kept you really busy this past year.

Besides teaching, I would say my PhD work kept me incredibly busy this year. I finished up my coursework in June and am currently studying for my candidacy exams. I'm studying Cultural Studies and Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse. My research concentration is pop cultural expressions of protest, It's a great time to be studying that with all of the cultural pressure for real structural change in our society. I love it! I mostly center on what our pop culture productions say about the heart of our society and about what kind of change we're longing for. It's pretty cool that I get to research and write papers about Beyonce', Kesha, Game of Thrones, hashtags, etc. and how they are both constructed by our society and how they, in turn, construct and contribute to our collective consciousness. 

The Writing Studio. Please tell us more about it. How does it work? Where is it? 

I'm so excited that it's almost time to open after a year of preparation! We'll be offering services remotely via Zoom for Fall 2020, starting in Week 4. We're operating under a studio model, which means that students don't even need to make an appointment to get help. We're providing a virtual space for them to come in and work by themselves or with a consultant for short spans of time. It's a collaborative effort, so we're there to support and aid the students in developing the critical skills they need to contribute to the academic conversation at Reynolds. 

How is the Writing Studio a different learning model?

The Studio acts a third space for students to work in (aside from their classroom and their home). That's how it works in theory, anyway. Obviously, all of these spaces are blended right now with the pandemic. What we offer is a different type of collaboration and support. It's not directive or even corrective. We work with the students to build a self-awareness of what they, as writers, need to better express their thoughts, arguments, etc. 

The model also mirrors how we write in the real world. We write a little, run it by some colleagues, adjust and then finish writing. The focus is on recognizing how the writing process proceeds for each individual and providing support to them at a crucial stage of their process. 

How does the Studio work for students? Is it open to everyone?

Yes! Absolutely! Students and faculty can find information on how to access and prepare for their sessions on our website: when we are up and running. It's a very simple process. Students simply submit an electronic form to gain access to the Studio hours and then jump right in.  

How are the Studio’s operations different now with Covid-19 than originally planned?

This has been quite a journey. Much of the processes and plans that we spent the 2019/2020 academic year creating have needed revision or to be put on hold due to Covid-19. The main difference is that we are offering primarily Studio hours and workshops as services, and that all services will be offered remotely via Zoom. I'm grateful to have such a skilled and talented team to work with in planning around and adapting to Covid-19. 

What are your goals for the Studio?

Simply put, we want to construct a space where students feel comfortable to create and compose their academic writing. We want to relax some of the restrictions of traditional tutoring and work to build students up as confident and adept writers through collaboration with our consultants. We aren't a "fix-it" service. It's more like come on in and compose and let us help you discover how you write best, why you write the way you do, and how to adapt all of the above to the assignment in front of you. Ultimately, we want students to see that they have an important voice and that their writing contributes to the important academic conversations we're having at Reynolds. We want them to find, craft, and express their unique and powerful voices! 

Monday, August 10, 2020

“This is the time to innovate . . . .”

Reynolds Receives $250,000 Grant from Truist 

The J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation received a $250,000 grant from Truist Financial Corporation to open the doors of The Kitchens at Reynolds, providing workforce training at a pivotal time for the Richmond area. The grant comes through Truist Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund at The Winston-Salem Foundation, and Truist Foundation.

“This is the time to innovate and commit to an equitable economic recovery,” said Reynolds President Dr. Paula Pando. “This gift from Truist Foundation is incredibly generous and perfectly timed. We know we can no longer wait to catalyze economic development and facilitate family-sustaining wages, especially for communities that have been underserved or never served. Reynolds is incredibly fortunate to have Truist as a partner in this work.”  

The Kitchens at Reynolds is among the new community resources located at 25th and Nine Mile Road. While it houses the college’s culinary, hospitality, and entrepreneurship programs, it also provides families in and around Church Hill with enrollment support to access the dozens of workforce and academic programs offered by Reynolds. 

“One of the reasons we chose to support this project is its ability to transform through a partnership with the community,” said Dan O’Neill, Virginia East regional president at Truist. “We’re committed to Truist’s purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Reynolds Community College has a vast toolbox to help individuals create the futures they see for themselves, their families, and neighborhoods.” 

With many Richmond's East End families devastated by COVID-19 and their loss of jobs and wages, an already-high rate of poverty is expected to climb. Truist’s support is helping workers reskill and upskill to land jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage. “We’re in this work to help students reach their goals,” said Bess Littlefield, executive director of the J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation. 

“In fact, Truist helped us with our own. With the bank’s gift, we met our fundraising goal of $10 million to open the doors of The Kitchens at Reynolds. We’re so grateful to Truist and all of the public and private partners who made this happen for our college and our community,” said Ms. Littlefield. 

* * *

About Reynolds
Serving over 13,000 students annually, Reynolds Community College is the youngest and third-largest of 23 community colleges in Virginia. Reynolds operates three campuses serving residents in the City of Richmond and the counties of Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, Powhatan and Louisa. Learn more at 

About Truist Charitable Fund
The Truist Charitable Fund is a donor-advised fund created by Truist and administered by The Winston-Salem Foundation.

About Truist Foundation
The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities and educational equity. Learn more at

Friday, August 7, 2020

Katelyn Eden – Counselor, First Year Initiatives

Where did you grow up? What was it like?
I grew up in Stafford, VA for most of my life with four brothers. I did gymnastics and cheer-leading as a kid so we stayed busy, and my mom runs an in-home daycare for work so our house was always full of love (and noise).

If you didn’t grow up here, what brought you to Richmond? What brought you to Reynolds?
My husband was actually my next door neighbor growing up, and we reconnected when he was at VCU for his biology degree and I was finishing up school at Radford. We decided to move in together and have called Richmond home ever since. I previously worked at VCU for three years as a School of Business undeclared advisor, and was ready to work with a different population of students and develop professionally, so Reynolds was the next step for me!

You have participated in 49 virtual SOAR sessions this summer, with seven left to go. What has been your most unusual Zoom experience?
We have had students try to zoom from a moving car so that is always a challenge, but so far my favorite was a student who joined us in a fuzzy robe from their bed. The 9 a.m. Friday sessions bring the most interesting situations. We also have siblings, children and pets join us too so that is always fun to get to know the students on a more personal level than I think we would have on campus!

What are the most rewarding aspects of working with
potential students?
I have the best job! I am sometimes the first person who gets to interact with new students who are excited to finally start college, and although all of the coordination is a challenge, I get to help set the tone for the rest of their college experience. The best part is onboarding new students from their very first interaction at orientation, and then seeing them approach graduation and beyond. We really do change lives in higher education.

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
With my dogs. Working from home has been a blessing and it has reminded me how important is it to slow down, take a walk, and cherish what we have. I have been soaking up the extra time with my pups and they remind me to enjoy the little things.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
We like to explore new parks in and around Richmond with the dogs. My husband and I are very close with our family so we visit Northern Virginia when we can to see our parents (who are still next door neighbors to this day).

What do like most about Richmond when you can get out and about again? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
I enjoy how everything is so accessible. We try and save money, but we like to try one new restaurant a month (we have been getting take out recently and it’s still great!). We have a little place here in Mechanicsville named “More than Greek” and it’s some of the best food I have ever had! When we have guests we like to walk Carytown and visit Belle Isle as well - I really find that getting outside helps my mental health so much.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
Help my parents retire early, and then buy a bunch of land and a farm. Our family is all animal lovers.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Reynolds Students Awarded Scholarships for High Academic Achievement

Outstanding Reynolds Community College students Abbygail Harris, Jamal Henry, and Makayla Simmons have been awarded scholarships by the Richmond Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG).

These students were selected on the basis of their high academic achievement, leadership, and commitment to community service. As recipients this year they had the additional challenges of finishing their spring semester, and completing their scholarship applications during the COVID-19 shutdowns. They will each receive a $1,900 scholarship. 

Read what how these funds will help them achieve their educational goals:

Abbygail Harris
“I am a very committed student and plan on graduating in 2021 and thanks to this scholarship, I am one step closer to reaching that goal. I will use the knowledge, skills, and expertise I gain during my time here at Reynolds to contribute to our community in the business field. Getting selected for this scholarship allows me to focus on the more important aspect of school, learning.”

Jamal Henry
"This scholarship will provide me the opportunity to take more classes a semester, while allowing me to reduce my work hours. You all have put your faith in me, and I will make sure this opportunity does not go to waste. My goal one day is to start a scholarship foundation for young business minds like myself. No business student should worry about the financial burden of school. The ACG allowed me to focus on my studies and other students one day will feel how you all made me feel with this amazing opportunity."

Makayla Simmons
"I am ecstatic and appreciative of the scholarship that will help with my upcoming fall semester to reduce my financial burden. The award motivates me to keep pushing academically to have a chance at my dream to be an entrepreneur. In the future, I would hope others would have the opportunity to receive financial support. I cannot express the gratitude in my heart, and I am very thankful for your kind gesture."

* * *

ACG Richmond is an association for professionals involved in corporate growth, corporate development and mergers and acquisitions. We offer an opportunity to connect with to the Greater Richmond business community. Our members find a valuable network of professionals and excellent presentations on relevant and contemporary topics delivered by members of the local business community. We provide the opportunity to engage at various levels to fit your schedule ranging from basic meeting attendance to committee participation and Board membership.

ACG Richmond is part of a global network of Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) Chapters, which connects local Richmond members to over 14,000 ACG members across the US, Canada and Europe. ACG serves 90,000 investors, executives, lenders and advisers to growing middle-market companies in its mission to drive middle-market growth.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

SOARing Virtually

On Monday, April 13, about a month into our new virtual world, First Year Initiatives Counselor Katelyn Eden sent an email to faculty and staff about the new "virtual" SOAR sessions. 

She and New Student Orientation Coordinator Cara Luyster, had worked feverishly to create a new experience for students that would be hosted on Zoom. Their first session was only days away.

The newly designed Orientation was still required for new students, it still had two parts, students still had to register through Reynolds website, and the same material - directions, Financial Aid, resources, success tips, advising - would be covered. But, all of it virtually.

Now, three months later, the new normal, is, well, becoming normal.  

Katelyn gives this report about the accomplishments of the virtual SOAR sessions to date:

Alongside Cara Luyster . . .
  • We made 1,500 SOAR seats available from our start back on April 15th through August 14th. So far, we have had 214 students attend as of Friday, May 22nd.
  • SOAR will remain virtual for the remainder of the summer through August, and we are working on a plan to extend SOAR into the fall semester for 12 week start students and beyond.
  • SOAR is mostly on Wednesday and Fridays, however there are several Tuesday sessions and Wednesday evening sessions to increase the number of seats that are available and flexibility for students who have other obligations during the daytime hours.
  • Reynolds is one of the first in the VCCS to have a live virtual orientation, and we have had other schools and staff shadow our innovation!
  • SOAR is composed of a 30 minute welcome, 30 minute “How to Pay for College” session with financial aid staff, a 30 minute advising appointment and assistance with registering for courses and identifying any next steps.
  • Overall, virtual SOAR has been very positive. We are truly bringing SOAR to the comfort of the student's living room, and we have had several memorable moments including students who have joined orientation from their bed in a fuzzy robe, pets making a guest appearance, while driving in a car, a student joining us from the break room of their job, and a whole family appearance including grandparents and significant others.
  • Students and families have expressed that in a time of losing a lot of important moments (like graduation, prom, etc), it has been nice to have a live program to attend and have some of that excitement of senior year return. Our non-traditional students are also appreciating the flexibility of virtual SOAR. Below are a few response from our SOAR eval survey:

Originial email from Katelyn:

From Katelyn Eden, 
Counselor, First Year Initiatives
Email: Monday, April 13

The New Student Orientation team has been quickly working to create a virtual orientation experience for new students. “SOAR” or Student Orientation Advising and Registration program has its first few sessions scheduled for the second week of April, and they will be hosted completely online through Zoom.

SOAR is still a two-part orientation program, and is required for new students wanting to start classes in fall 2020.

Students are encouraged to register for a live virtual SOAR session through our orientation website and will need to complete a virtual Go2Reynolds online orientation component prior to their SOAR session. This online orientation includes:
·         Directions on the enrollment process
·         Valuable information from financial aid on how to pay for college
·         College resources and their functions
·         Tips on how to be a successful college student and more!
The GoReynolds site available to anyone so feel free to visit and review: You do not need to use your MyReynolds log in credentials.

During the live virtual SOAR program students:
·         Engage in a zoom welcome session
·         Meet with an academic advisor
·         Interact with a staff member or Student Ambassador for registration assistance and directions on next steps  

As of right now, we have virtual SOAR dates scheduled into May, however we will likely be extending our virtual program for the remainder of the summer. SOAR sessions take place on Wednesday afternoons and Friday mornings for now. [Update: SOAR sessions are scheduled through the summer.]

If a new student approaches you and asks where to begin or how to sign up, please share these handy references:

You can also refer students to or our SOAR line 804-523-5155. Thanks for everything you do!

Questions? Contact Katelyn Eden, 523-5369, or Cara Luyster, 523-5096.

Lessons Beyond the "Sandbox"

Thanks to Pam Ratliff, Human Services Program Head & Professor in Reynolds 
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, we all get to meet - virtually - Kevin Holder. 

Kevin has been an adjunct faculty member at Reynolds since 2011. He was recently featured in an NBC article on May 11 about the challenges faced by black mental health clinicians during the COVID-19 crisis

While the NBC article focused on a more specific topic - black clinicians and the impact of COVID 19 - it was clear there was more to learn from Kevin about his experiences in the Richmond area. As if the stresses of mental health clinicians aren't enough, the pandemic has stretched our local services in ways we may never have considered. 

Kevin's thoughtful, robust, and informative insights give us a better understanding of what is happening all around us right now, even if we aren't out and about to see it in person.

Q:Tell us about your work with Chesterfield County. What was a typical day like before COVID-19?

Kevin: I work as a Senior Emergency Services Clinician for Chesterfield County.  Most people refer to us as Crisis Clinicians. Crisis work is 24/7 – 365 days a year just like police, fire, and EMS. At work I answer crisis phone calls as they come into the call center. I pre-screen individuals for psychiatric hospitalizations when they are having a mental health emergency, whether they are voluntary or involuntary. I provide crisis counseling to individuals and families. Chesterfield Jail is a partner with us so I conduct risk assessments for the people there. I participate in court hearings for “commitments” and “re-commitments” that determine if a patient needs to stay involuntarily at the hospital for additional psychiatric treatment, stay voluntarily, or can be discharged. The job comes with a fair amount of documentation and clinical charting that needs to be completed on a daily basis. In my profession of social work, especially in the Human Services and Mental Health courses I teach, students learn Surveyor’s Rule #1 – “If it hasn’t been documented, it hasn’t been done.”

Before COVID-19, my typical day would start with going into the office and logging in so the phones would ring in the office and no longer to the on-call clinician. Then I would post the schedule on the walls and door of the roles that clinicians would have throughout the day. I would make sure the fax machine and printers all were filled with paper since we do a lot of faxing and printing throughout the day/night. Then I would check work emails and just wait for the crises to start coming in. If a jail or hospital evaluation was needed, I would drive to the jail or the hospital. If the magistrate issued an order or the police picked somebody up that needed an evaluation, I would meet them at the police station (during late nights, weekends, and holidays). If this occurred during the day, police would bring them to the center to be evaluated. COVID 19 changed all that.

Q: How has your job changed now? What is your daily experience in this pandemic?

Kevin: My job has vastly changed now because I’m only in the office one or two days a week so the rest of the time I’m working from home providing tele-behavioral health services. The crisis calls come in via software that is installed on my work laptop. The face-to-face evaluations are conducted using video conferencing. The person being evaluated might be at the hospitals, jail, police stations, or juvenile detention. The time it takes to complete the work is still about the same, but there is no travel time involved now since I’m using this technology. Although travel time has decreased, I believe the volume of calls and evaluations has increased, unfortunately.

Q: What is the situation in the areas you are serving now? What do you see?

Kevin: A lot of people are hurting emotionally and feel isolated. Sometimes people feel isolated even if they are not the only ones living in their house. This has lead to an increase in suicidality, emotional disturbances in children and adolescents, as well as depression and anxiety in all populations. Psychiatric hospital beds are filled to capacity so people are spending hours and sometimes days in emergency rooms, waiting for a psych bed to become available. This is bad for the patients because being in an ER for that long can be over-stimulating and increase their anxiety. This is bad for the police that often times have to stay with the patients because that’s two police officers that are no longer on the road keeping the public safe.

Q: What does the community need the most?

Kevin: The community needs more inpatient psychiatric beds for children, adolescents, and the geriatric populations. There is a severe shortage of psych beds. We need more therapists providing individual and group telehealth services in the community, in private practice and in public mental health. The community needs equal access to adequate technology to allow for the provision of these services. That includes hardware (devices and laptops), software, and high-speed reliable internet connections. This pandemic has exposed the digital divide that our community has been experiencing for many years. 

Q: Will your experience impact what you share with your students? How?

Kevin: Absolutely! I share as many of my experiences with students as time permits because they need to know what they are getting themselves into and prepare for these situations in the “sandbox” known as my classroom so they can competently navigate these experiences while out in the real world.  Students tell me they appreciate the case scenarios and are often shocked to find out that the scenario was something I actually experienced in the field. I plan to share my telehealth and overall work experiences in this pandemic because part of my experiences will become their new normal once they graduate and are in the workplace.    

“I was happy every day I was at school . . . .”

We all start out with dreams. Of necessity, many of us set those dreams aside, “put them on the back burner” as the saying goes. Life gets in the way. Time goes by. The back burner gets turned down low. Then lower.

But for some of us, like Maureen O’Donnell, dreams are still dreams. For a time they might be lukewarm, but the hope of reigniting them is always there, just waiting for the spark of opportunity. 

“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse,” Maureen said, “and I knew I wanted to work in Hospice back when I was 20. But I got married. I had children. Then I made a home for ten foster children. Then came a divorce. Life really did get in the way. My dream was always there, but the opportunity wasn’t.”

“Six or seven years ago my dream turned up again when my father went into hospice,” Maureen explained. “My experience during that time prompted me to volunteer, and I knew then, that’s what I wanted to pursue. I wanted to become a hospice nurse.”

Two years ago Maureen finally got her spark of opportunity, and started pre-nursing classes at Reynolds. At the time she still didn’t know how she would pay for the classes, or if she was up to the task after so many years. “I was very nervous going back to school at my age. I didn’t know if I could get my brain working again. I didn’t know if I would be able to study. I didn’t know what was going to happen. All I knew was I was taking the first step.” 

“I was happy every day I was at school,” Maureen recalls, “the support I got from Reynolds faculty was amazing. They didn’t just teach the material. They taught me how to get the work done, and how to be successful. All the professors went above and beyond. They always helped me to get past the roadblocks, they always stepped in and worked things out if I had a problem with a class or a requirement. And, it’s not just me saying this. My classmates said the same thing. Reynolds is a wonderful, and inspiring learning environment.”

Two years have passed and Maureen has just finished her pre-nursing studies at Reynolds. She has been accepted into a nursing program with a faith-based approach that will give her the opportunity to do mission work. She currently volunteers each week in their hospice unit and will begin pursuing her BSN in August. “For me nursing is more than a job, it is a mission.”

“My experience at Reynolds was incredible! After returning to college at a much older age, I was nervous about whether I’d be able to, not only complete the required courses, but do well. I was able to maintain a great GPA. I can honestly say the support I received from my professors and the curriculum offered at Reynolds was exceptional, and set me up perfectly for a successful start to accomplishing my career goals. I couldn’t be happier! This dream, my dream, has been a long time coming.”