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.

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. 

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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."

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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.