Wednesday, November 15, 2017

PTK Induction Ceremony



Reynolds Community College’s Chapters of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society recently inducted 86 new members recently at their annual fall induction ceremony. Students who have completed 12 transferable credit hours and have a 3.3 cumulative GPA are invited to join PTK every fall and spring semester. 

Matthew Shapiro delivered a motivational speech as the keynote speaker, emphasizing to the students their responsibility to serve and to lead.  Matthew who lives with cerebral palsy, has spent most of his life striving to teach those he has met how to better understand the disability community – he even has his own business: 6 Wheels Consulting. The name references his wheelchair, including its two hidden wheels. As the CEO of 6 Wheels Consulting, Shapiro works daily to expand his client’s understanding of disabilities, and to give them knowledge they can use in any environment.

“Take the idea of service and leadership and scholarship and continue to do good,” said Mr. Shapiro talking to the PTK inductees. “Make this recognition you are receiving today mean something by embodying the ideals of Phi Theta Kappa – make your communities better – make your school better.”

Established in 1918, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society serves to recognize and encourage the academic achievement of two-year college students and provide opportunities for individual growth and development through honors, leadership and service programming.  Reynolds has two chapters at the college.  The Alpha Iota Beta chapter represents members enrolled in programs at the Parham Road Campus and the Alpha Gamma Omicron chapter represents members enrolled in programs at the Goochland and Downtown campuses.  Since 1997 when the Reynolds’ Phi Theta Kappa Alpha Gamma Omicron Chapter was founded, Reynolds has inducted nearly 7,000 students into PTK. 

Pizza, 

The President,

No Cell Phones


The dress code was definitely student-casual, but the attitude was all business. During the hour on Wednesday, November 8 when Reynolds Community College President Dr. Gary Rhodes shared his wisdom and insights about leadership with the current group of Reynolds Honors students there were serious faces, close listening, evidence of processing of deep thoughts, and pizza. What there wasn’t, was cell phones.

Reynolds Honors students are serious. They have goals. They have ambitions. They are looking for opportunities to succeed. And, they are mature enough to forego social media to listen and learn.

Dr. Rhodes began his talk by pointing out his “uniform”. For the day he was wearing the custodial staff uniform: khaki pants and burgundy shirt with the Reynolds logo. His title, he told the students, is bigger than he is. As a leader, he leads from the front, but he acknowledges all those following his guidance.

Dr. Rhodes is not new to talking about leadership. He has presented his list of leadership values and tips statewide in a number of venues. Of utmost importance is, he told the students, is knowing your values. Sometimes that involves asking yourself questions like the one he always asks himself: “Is today’s decision in the best interest of our students?” He asks that question so often he had it embossed on coffee cups and added to a print hanging on the walls of many Reynolds conference rooms.

Other values Dr. Rhodes shared with the students were the importance of caring and of doing your very best at whatever you do, of holding yourself accountable, of leading with respect, of making a good first impression, of maintaining a life balance – but, perhaps most important: Dr. Rhodes emphasized finding their passion, and following it. “When you pursue your passion,” he said, “then you’ll get up every day and life will be an exciting adventure.” Great leadership is sure to follow.

Before ending with a Q&A session, Dr. Rhodes shared a final story to illustrate the difference between reality and the perception of reality, and how the perception of reality is often more powerful than reality itself. The story was a mix of dilemma, ethics, philosophy, and the how the intention to do right doesn’t always come out as planned. Should the opportunity arise, ask Dr. Rhodes about his baby goose story.

“We teach the Honors students to be engaged, to be leaders,” said Ashley Bourne-Richardson, Honors Program Faculty Coordinator and Professor of English at Reynolds. “Today was great! The students were engaged. They took notes and they listened intently. It was so exciting for them that the president of the college took the time to talk to them and share his knowledge and experience. Some of these students intend to go on to leadership roles, as I looked around the room I could see they were really interested in getting the perspective of someone with years of experience.”

The four pillars of the Reynolds Honors program are critical thinking, independent research, interdisciplinary learning, and engagement. From the questions they asked Dr. Rhodes, the students demonstrated these qualities and more. Clearly they are looking for ways to navigate their future, to be great at the lives they are about to begin, and to make a difference in a world that needs their energy and passion.


When the session was over the room erupted in twenty different intense conversations, the noise and energy was high and contagious. Fueled by pizza and Dr. Rhodes’ advice, eventually they moved on to face their next classes, their jobs, and whatever other challenges were to come their way that day.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Meet Wes Smith – Interim Assistant Vice President of Workforce Development


How long have you been with CCWA and what are your work responsibilities?
It’s been a wild ride. Over the last 7 years, I’ve been CCWA’s Richmond GATE Director, Manufacturing Coordinator, Director of Manufacturing & Logistics Programs, and currently, the Interim Assistant Vice President for Workforce Development. My goal at CCWA is to engage local business and industry partners and job seekers through various workforce solutions and industry credentials. The trades industry is a specific growth sector that I’m currently spending a lot of time on these days.

We heard you were in the military – what did you do while serving our country?
I joined the Marine Corps directly after high-school. My parents really wanted me to perform a technical job in the military in order to increase my skill-set. I went the opposite direction and enlisted as an infantryman. My unit’s specialty was raiding beaches with zodiac boats. But jokingly, I like to tell people our actual specialty was digging holes and shooting stuff. My personal specialty within our unit was mountain warfare. I became one of the few lead mountain climbers in the division and spent a lot of time hiking and cross-country skiing in California. I also completed two combat tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2004. Iraq was a true blessing for me. It was tough at times, but it changed my outlook on life and made me a truly grateful person. I feel like I gained 15 years of life experience from those 4 years of service.

What do you like to do when not at work?
Hanging out with my wife and kids is my favorite. They’re just fun people! Outside of family, it’s all about my side business in real-estate investing and the great outdoors. I try my best to keep the family involved in those areas too. My kids really enjoy the demolition component of rehabbing a house. This may be a slight exaggeration, but I also like to think I’m one of the best smallmouth bass fisherman in Virginia.

If you won the lottery, what would be the first thing you would do?
Build a team/framework that would allow me to become a serial entrepreneur and invest in a ton of real-estate. I’d always be involved in workforce development as well.

Where is your dream vacation?
Nowhere specific, but I am planning to take my family to Costa Rica soon. No resorts or fancy things, just traveling around in a 4-wheel drive rental car to go surfing, fishing, hiking, eating good food, talking to good people, etc. I think we’ll go when my youngest is six.

We know you love the outdoors – what would be some of your suggestions for a person who wants to start hiking and camping?
Just Do It! I think folks worry about tactics, special gear, expert advice, and preparation too much. Just grab your sneakers, water bottle, beef jerky, and GPS and go play in the mountains. Shenandoah National Park is a good place to start.

Where is your favorite place to eat around Richmond?
Anywhere I can have a fun date night with my wife and drink a craft beer.

What do you like best about working at CCWA?

The changing environment. Our workforce is changing at a rapid pace and I believe community colleges are in a position to help drive new innovations within the education and workforce development industry. I’m a huge fan of change and innovation, and CCWA allows me to work in this ever-changing environment on a daily basis. Our team is pretty cool too.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Khalil Named 2017 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar



Reynolds Community College student Khodr Khalil has been named a 2017 Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholar and will receive a $1,000 scholarship. He is one of 207 Phi Theta Kappa members nationally to earn the distinguished honor.

The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Scholarship Program helps new Phi Theta Kappa members defray educational expenses while enrolled in associate degree programs. Scholars are also encouraged to assume leadership roles by participating in Society programs and are selected based on scholastic achievement, community service, and leadership potential. Nearly 1,000 applications were received.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation provides $200,000 in funding for the scholarships, with $25,000 set aside for members who are veterans or active members of the U.S. military. The remaining amount is supported by donations to the Phi Theta Kappa Foundation and provides Leaders of Promise Global Scholarships, earmarked for international students.

“The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has a long history of providing financial assistance to outstanding students at community colleges,” said J. Mark Davis, President of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Phi Theta Kappa, make it possible for more deserving students to achieve their educational goals, and support tomorrow’s leaders of the global community.”

The funds provided by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation not only aid college completion, but also give students the opportunity to engage in Society programs and develop leadership skills to become future leaders in their communities.

Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of community college students and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in nine nations.