Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Governor Northam Announces Collaborative Effort to Transform Virginia Community College System

Governor allocates $5 million investment of federal workforce funds to redesign career pathways to place skills training at forefront

RICHMOND—November 27 - At an event held at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College, Governor Ralph Northam announced a collaborative effort to transform workforce programs offered through the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). Currently, many programs intended to train students with applied skills require them to take general education courses before advancing to essential skills-based courses. To best prepare students with the skills needed for high-demand, well-paying jobs, VCCS will work to redesign career pathways so that skills training begins at the start of each program.

“Completion shouldn’t be the only measure of success at the community college level—it should also be defined by securing a good job,” said Governor Northam. “We can and should prepare students with high-demand skills the moment they enter the community college system, and ensure that they have a foundation that will yield success at several points over the course of the program, including if they leave with a job before completion.”

Governor Northam has allocated $5 million of federal workforce discretionary funds to support the redesign of Virginia’s community college system. Each college will compete for funds used to rethink how they will do business and support students as well as current and future companies. Each college will receive a minimum of $100,000 and a maximum of $500,000. Businesses will endorse each pathway to ensure curricula align to twenty-first century needs.

“This thoughtful transformation of the VCCS will benefit Virginians throughout the entire Commonwealth,” said Chief Workforce Development Advisor to the Governor Megan Healy. “A recent study revealed that 650,000 people are currently out of work in Virginia. We are proud and excited that this initiative will allow this significant population, along with those who seek more gainful employment, an opportunity to pursue pathways to well-paying and in-demand jobs within their local communities.”

“Virginia’s community college system has always offered an abundance of programs that can help students learn new skills and continue their education,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “Moving in this new direction will be transformational for job-seeking students and employers across Virginia as it seeks to improve how the system prepares and trains the workforce of the present and future.”

“What we’re announcing today will enhance our traditional applied programs, making them attractive to those seeking to stack earned credentials and further their careers,” said Glenn DuBois, Chancellor of the Virginia Community College System.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Nat Wooding – Research Analyst

Reynolds Office of Strategic Planning & Institutional Effectiveness

Where did you grow up and what was
it like?

I grew up in Halifax Co (Virginia, not that one in North Carolina) where my father was a country doctor. He had a one man practice and there were no such things as answering services so people routinely called our home or even showed up at the front door. It made for an interesting childhood. Scene: teenage boy answers front door. The man says, “My wife has just had a baby. Can you come out and cut the birth cord." No, I didn’t.

How long have you worked for Reynolds
and what brought you here?

I spent about 37 years in Dominion’s environmental group “counting fish” meaning that I managed the data collected by the water quality field group. When I retired from there in 2010 I wasn’t ready to stop working and after a year some networking paid off and I started here where I count students. The major difference in the two tasks is that before, we could use nets and other methods to immobilize our subjects, but those techniques are frowned on in an academic environment.

Please tell us about your role with the OSPIE? 
I’m part-time and work with a full time analyst and together we gather information on the student body and the college both for regular reports such as can be found on the OIE site as well as ad hoc requests where some specific bit of information is needed. I also prepare and analyze surveys that are sent to students, faculty, and graduates. The recently deployed 360 surveys are an example of these. 

I understand you have a BS in Biology and an MS in Zoology. How did you transition to a career in research and data analysis?
When I started grad school at NC State I was recruited by a professor who ran a wildlife statistics group and who was looking for biologists who were willing to work with numbers. I had taken a lot of math so he spotted my application. Under his direction we worked up data collected by biologists from fish and game departments in the southeast. I left State soon after the enactment of the Clean Water Act and electric utilities were scrambling to meet the new regulations and were hiring a slew of biologists who were catching lots of fish and other critters. Data aren’t much good in file drawers so I was hired to get them onto punch cards and then reports.  I was working with biological data so I had an understanding of the basic material that a programmer/analyst hired off the street wouldn’t possess. 

What do you like most about your job?
Being able to deliver results that would be extremely difficult for faculty and staff to produce given the demands on their time and the tools available to them.

What has been the greatest challenge in your job?
Learning how student data files are related and which to trust. 

What is your favorite activity outside of your work at Reynolds?
While I have a number of interests, these days I probably spend most of my time working on the Library of Virginia’s Virginia Memories project where volunteers transcribe documents held by the library. The project is about four years old and we have completed about 60,000 documents. We only have about 1,940,000 to go.

What do like most about Richmond?
As an adult, I have always liked living in the state capitol where so much is readily accessible. And, by picking a direction as I leave the driveway, it is so easy to get to so many different places and environments such as DC or Ocracoke.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
I think that issue’s moot since about the last thing on earth that I’d do would be to buy a ticket. I’m not into driving ridiculously expensive cars or taking cruises so I’m simply not lured by the hype of a large pot.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Lock and Load:Armed Fiction
Event Review

Contributed by Lisa Bishop

Gun violence is a distressing reality in American society and school shootings seem increasingly in the news. But suicides, say writers Deirda McAfee and BettyJoyce Nash, editors of Lock and Load: Armed Fiction, are the most common occurrence. Suicides happen every day while school and other mass shootings are really quite rare. 

In a presentation of the Around the World through Books series on Thursday, November 15, at the Parham Campus, McAfee and Nash discussed how literature can help us discuss the problem of violence without resorting to the extremes of rhetoric so prevalent in the media. They note that nobody believes shootings and other forms of violence are an appropriate use of firearms. Between the concepts of “all guns should be banned” and cries of second amendment protections is a reasonable middle ground. Stories can help us realize the causes of violence and also acknowledge the deep integration of guns in American society and history.

McAfee and Nash invited the twenty-four people attending to write down their first experience with guns, real or imagined. One audience member spoke of great water gun battles when she was a child. A visitor from the community told of being in an outhouse as a child when his father and uncle began using the chinks in the tiny building for target practice. They turned pale when he came out. Everybody had a story or memory to show how guns have affected their lives, sometimes with violence, but often not. The conversation moved from there to questions and answers about how to approach discussions and problem solving. The authors ended the evening by autographing copies of their book, which were given as door prizes.

Around the World through Books is sponsored by the Reynolds Multicultural Enrichment Council.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Dr. Sowulewski Speaks to World Congress
on Nursing and Health Care

Dr. Stephen P. Sowulewski, professor of health sciences and Honors Program Assistant Coordinator recently presented his doctoral research at the 5th World Congress on Nursing and Health Care in Toronto, Canada. The title of his presentation: A Qualitative Look at "Nurse-Side Manner" in Post-op Males Undergoing Gastric Bypass Surgery. His research revealed that follow up with the bariatric nurse coordinator was a positive and life-affirming step in adjusting to changes in lifestyle post surgery. He also found that this supportive role by the nurse coordinator may provide further impetus for the ways in which the ancillary bariatric team interacts with patients who might not always be able to see their surgeon for follow-up.  

Dr. Sowulewski commented: "The conference provided abundant perspectives from health professionals and clinicians on a global scale. Some of the attendees came as far as Europe, Africa and Asia.  When I was an undergraduate student in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I had a chance to interact with Canadian students with regard to our disciplines of kinisiology and sports medicine. Thus, as a professor, it was especially apropos to be in Toronto this time and be able to engage my Canadian counterparts in conversations centered around health care in the U.S. and Canada."  

Contributed by Dr. Sowulewski 

Meet Culinary Arts Student

Samuel Bausone

What Motivated you to study Culinary arts?
Actually, my biggest motivation to study Culinary arts was memories. Even though I did not really work in a professional kitchen before starting my studies, ever since I can remember I have always cooked at home. Some of my favorite memories with my family have all come from cooking in our kitchen or eating out somewhere. That and I have always been fascinated with how food (especially desserts) gets plated. I love the art of how to present a dish just right.

Where are you in your culinary studies?
I am brand new to my Culinary studies and this is currently my first semester at J. Sargent Reynolds.

What are you working on now?
Currently I am working on getting my Associates of Applied Science in Pastry Arts and trying to gain as much experience in the industry as possible. Later on, I plan on getting an Associates of Applied Science in Culinary Art as well.

What is your favorite task as a culinary student?
Like I said I am a new student so I am not entirely sure yet, however, I think I will enjoy learning to decorate wedding cakes.

What is your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient is probably chocolate because it can be use in so many different desserts. Not to mention the sweetened kind makes a good snack when you are not baking.

Do you have a “signature dish”?
I would not particularly say I have a signature dish as of yet. But, the closest thing I can think of is simply pancakes with eggs and bacon, which has always been a favorite in our household especially with my siblings.

What would you most like to do in culinary arts when you graduate?
Right now, when I graduate I would most like to just spend time getting experience in the field. My dream is to one day open a bakery, but I still have quite a bit to learn before that can become my main focus of my career choice.

What is your favorite restaurant in Richmond?
Hands down my favorite restaurant in the Richmond area is Roma’s Italian Restaurant in Sandston on Williamsburg Road. Extremely friendly staff, great food, family friendly and overall it just has a great atmosphere. Our family has been going there since my dad was a kid and it’s always our family place when my grandfather comes to town or any other special event. Not to mention they’ve become family and have helped inspire my love of cooking. Every visit involves hugs, conversation, and a hopefully a taste of their incredible desserts.

What would you tell other potential students interested in studying culinary arts at Reynolds?
For anyone looking to start studying Culinary Arts, my biggest piece of advice is to get into the industry as soon as possible. It is very different than most people's idea of it. In addition, find someone in the field to look up to and ask questions. Also start networking early. Culinary Arts is based more than most Industries on who you know; a good word goes a long way after all.

Monday, November 12, 2018

On the Rocks!

The weekend was wet and cold, weather that drives most of us indoors. Not Geologists. They’d rather be on the rocks any time. In spite of less-than-ideal conditions, the 48th Annual Virginia Geologic Field Conference held on Saturday October 27 was well attended by 60 academics and professionals and 20 students – 11 from Virginia community colleges.

Reynolds Professor Karen Layou, and Geology Instructor Lynsey LeMay from Thomas Nelson Community College organized a pre-field trip Mentoring Workshop to get students started on the next day’s adventure. “For the workshop, we did a series of “geoscientist speed dating” sessions, where students chatted in small groups with one or two professionals, then they rotated. We ended with a discussion of knowledge, skills and attitudes that allow you to be successful in geoscience careers,” said Professor Layou.

Layou and LeMay organized the first of these workshops in 2017. About this year’s workshop Layou said: “Most people don’t know a geoscientist personally, so they don’t know the various ways you can be employed as a geoscientist. There was a fantastic energy in the room as students learned more about the professionals' jobs and educational experiences.  Because we had a diverse group of professionals (field vs. office-based/private vs. public sector), students were able to explore many options within an hour. The professionals who were involved are an enthusiastic bunch and happy to share their knowledge with the students.  These interactions then extended to the field trip the next day, allowing the students to feel comfortable engaging with the professionals and other attendees during the day.”

“It was so much fun,” said Reynolds student Rachel Phelps who attended both the Mentoring Workshop and the Field Trip. (Rachel is pictured here with the other VCCS students - bottom row, center.) “I had no idea how much fun education could be. I met a lot of people, many from William and Mary, and I really got to know how the geology community works. The most important thing for me was it made me decide what I want to do and where I want to go. I know now I want to transfer to William and Mary and go in to environmental science or geology – maybe even chemistry.”

Rachel graduated early from New Kent High School and is in her first semester at Reynolds. Her friends came to Reynolds and told her about their great experiences and she decided to come here too. She is already headed on an Honors track, thanks to help from Professor Layou. “I never really struggled with school, I understood math and chemistry . . . I didn’t enjoy trying to remember all of those dates in History,” Rachel said. When she isn’t working at her part-time job, studying, or going on her own field trips (she loves the outdoors) Rachel is teaching herself calculus online.

No surprise a little cold rain didn’t keep Rachel away from the weekend event. She has found her place with friends, students, academics and professional, on the rocks.

Meet Rachel Jasiczek

Associate Professor of English

School of Humanities & Social Science

Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Williamsburg, Virginia and loved what the community offered: great schools, sports programs, and lots of family-friendly activities. I played basketball in the community rec league, for my middle school and high school teams, and also for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Girls Basketball League. My younger sister and I made many good friends through those events, and those friendships continue today.

You are relatively new to Reynolds. Tell us about your background and what brought you to Reynolds?
I earned my B.A. and M.A. degrees in English at Virginia Tech (Go, Hokies!) and my Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Professional Communication from New Mexico State University. In New Mexico, I developed a passion for working with community college students, and that led me to Connecticut where I was hired full-time at Norwalk Community College. At NCC, I served as writing program coordinator, and in that role I was able to develop curriculum for our writing courses, as well as mentor adjunct faculty and oversee our writing placement process. While I loved the work I was doing, I missed my family so much (who all live in the Richmond and Virginia Beach area). My husband and I knew we wanted to make Virginia our home again. I was incredibly excited when I saw the job posted at Reynolds; my sister, who teaches clinical microbiology in the evenings here at Reynolds, had told me how wonderful the students and faculty are, and I knew I wanted to make Reynolds my forever academic home!

When did you discover your love of English?
I discovered my passion for writing when I took a course in rhetoric during my junior year at Virginia Tech. My professor taught me how words can change lives, how words can be used to advocate for others, and how words can make truly significant differences in the world. I started to think of writing as a puzzle, something that has pieces that I must fit together perfectly in order to effectively communicate a message. I enjoyed taking on various writing challenges, one of which was to write a grant for a non-profit organization that trained service dogs for people with physical limitations. When I realized how my words could help improve other people’s lives, I knew I had found a way to make my love of English my purpose in life, and that led me to teach. 

What do you like most about being here? 
Everything! My colleagues have supported me, my students are engaged, and I am close to my family. I have also noticed just how hard every person at this college works to give students what they need to succeed. It’s easy to be inspired in this environment. 

What has been a challenge for you?
My biggest challenge so far is teaching everyone how to pronounce my last name . . . I’m kidding! But in case you’re wondering, it is pronounced Yah-She-Check. Otherwise, my biggest challenge is simply adapting to a new place, with new courses, and new everything. However, I am enjoying the challenge and am learning all along the way. 

What is your favorite book, and why?
This is the hardest question for an English major to answer. There are just too many good books! I am a big fan of historical fiction and also southern lit. Two books I will always have nearby are The Awakening by Kate Chopin and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I love that these books have strong female characters who challenge social definitions of femininity. 

What activities do you enjoy when not being an English Professor?
When I am not teaching, you’ll find me reading good books (lots of books!), traveling, and playing beach volleyball. I have been to 16 different countries and have plans to visit more next year. During the summers, Mikey (my husband) and I play in a competitive beach volleyball league and have so much fun. Almost anything I can do outside, I will enjoy.

Everyone who does a Profile gets the “Lottery Question.” If you won $900 million, what would you do with the money?
I would definitely start a scholarship in my grandparents’ names to honor their memory and help deserving students get access to a college education. For myself, I would travel, travel, and travel some more. There are so many beautiful places I want to see, and I’d bring my entire family along for the journey. We love big family vacations and spend a lot of time laughing when we are together.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

Dana Newcomer

Apprenticeship Coordinator

Community College Workforce Alliance (CCWA)

She wore a tiny glittered black hat and a pair of stockings that appeared to have survived a zombie attack. A spider web crossed her desk. It was Halloween and CCWA Apprenticeship Coordinator Dana Newcomer was in the spirit.

Aside from the tiny hat, Dana takes her work seriously. At a time when “community colleges find themselves in a great position to reinvigorate and grow apprenticeships,”* Dana is the perfect person to meet the challenge. Couple her wonderfully quirky inventiveness, creativity, and technical skill with her love of planning, her 12 years as a technology engineering and manufacturing educator, and her master’s degree in project management, and you have someone ready to breathe vigor into a program that’s time has come.

To get an idea of what’s underneath Dana’s tiny hat, when she taught manufacturing enterprise, she expected her students to take charge of their jobs. Their “job” was to follow the design process, to each come up with an idea, do the research, determine the costs and logistics of production, and present their ideas to the class. A vote would be taken and one idea would be mass produced. Her students manufactured and sold laser engraved items, notecard and ear bud holders, they made videos shown at a Film Fest (with ticket sales!), and they were tasked with recreating the school’s floor plan. Students left the class with a clear understanding of how their part fit the whole, and how the whole fit together.

Dana has an exceptional grasp of that concept. To gain a better understanding of the credentialing process she earned her Manufacturing Technician 1 Industry certification (MT1). She is currently working on her Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, one of the toughest and most demanding certifications a planner can achieve. Because she has worked with students and been a technical student herself, she understands the rigors of the process. She knows how to make meaningful connections between companies, student job seekers, and education. What better background to coordinate a growing apprenticeship program?

Apprenticeships have been around for centuries and in the US were once a sure ticket to security and job growth. In most European countries this is still the case with 70% of apprenticeship candidates earning high enough scores on their General Certificate of Education to qualify for four-year universities, but opting instead for entry into apprenticeship agreements. “Nationally [in the US], 87 percent of apprentices find full-time employment, with an average starting salary of at least $50,000—the same starting salary as if they had earned a bachelor’s degree.”* This is the kind of statistic that draws students and companies together, and makes apprenticeship options so attractive.

Unlike internships that seem so popular these days, apprenticeship programs are formal competency-based agreements, and come complete with benchmarks and pay for the apprentice, and must be approved by the Department of Labor and Industry. By the time an apprentice completes a program their promotion is guaranteed. “One of the best things about these programs is their flexibility. They are structured so they can cater to what is needed on the job. In our rapidly changing technical environment, this ability to adapt quickly is key.”

Like the spider web crossing her desk, Dana’s job casts a wide net. She connects with big-name companies like Philip Morris, Rolls Royce, and DuPont to set up their apprenticeships’ educational programs and assists with the process to gain the necessary regulatory approvals. She interviews and counsels potential student-job seekers to determine what programs are the right fit, or gets them started on a pre-apprentice track. She handles funding that pays for classes. She makes presentations to veterans, transitional services, conferences, professional organizations, state organizations involved with unemployment, job fairs – just about anyone, anywhere who could benefit from this life-changing program.

When asked about her goals as CCWA Apprenticeship Coordinator, Dana’s personality and exuberance shine through: “I want to do it all!” In the short time she has been on the job she has been focusing on building a pipeline of skilled employees who don’t just meet the needs for the manufacturing industry, but exceed them. To do this she would like to reach others who could benefit from apprenticeship, gain additional support, and continuously advance and grow the program to adapt to this ever-evolving industry. If it’s anything like her success as a teacher, great things are about to come.

When Dana isn’t crisscrossing Richmond and the surrounding areas talking about the value of CCWA and apprenticeship programs she is involving neighborhood kids in learning to draw – she displays some of their work on her office walls - and enjoys the company of her Pitbull, Athena, and her Boxer, Luna. She also plays video games, her favorite being Skyrim. Her character? Something akin to an orc. “You know,” Dana says with a note of shyness, “video games are valuable, you have to face lots of challenges and complete tasks, just like real life.”

What do you get when a PMP and MT1 meet Halloween and Skyrim? One terrific Apprenticeship Coordinator. 

Welcome to CCWA and Reynolds, Dana.

* Can community colleges reinvigorate apprenticeships? The Fordham Institute, October 24, 2018. A report from the American Enterprise Institute, Jorge Klor de Alva and Mark Schneider.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

I’m Living My Dream 

Reynolds Culinary Alum Denton Taylor 

2018 Reynolds Graduate – AAS Culinary Arts & 

Culinary Arts Management, & 2018 Elby Winner

“I’m living my dream.” Denton Taylor’s enthusiasm pops like oil in a hot skillet. He has won his culinary lottery: a cooking position in the world-renowned Momofuku restaurant in Washington DC. As Denton talks about his work, his voice is full of boundless energy and open joy, byproducts of his achievement. That’s what you get when you go for your dreams - and you get them. Here’s what happened.

“I started following Momofuku when I started in Reynolds culinary program,” Denton explained. “I idolized David Chang, the Chef who started Momofuku. I loved his style and his outlook on food and how it affects the world, and our connections with one another. It was another level of thinking about food. Kind of a punk rock style. And, I wanted to be part of it.”

When he graduated from Reynolds, Denton sent three resumes to Momofuku, and never got a response. But, he knew what he wanted, and “no” was not an option. So he got in his car, drove to DC, walked in to Momofuku, and said: “I want to work here.” The Chef that day told him simply, “Show up tomorrow.”

And he did. His interview that day was a “stage” – (pronounced: staage) which involved working a hectic shift to demonstrate his knife and prep skills, all the while being peppered with questions by one of the army of Chefs on duty. Afterwards there was a 15-minute sit-down interview. “It’s a personality test too. They want to know if you fit the culture and the team.” When asked if he was nervous, Denton said, “No, not at all. Everyone was so accommodating. Even though everything was riding on it for me, I was prepared and confident. I was, however, extremely anxious the next few days while I was waiting to hear whether I got the job.”

Sure, his education taught him skills, how to handle pressure in the kitchen, how to work as a team, and it definitely fueled his passion for culinary, but perhaps the most important “take away” was flexibility. “My education enabled me to need a lot less time to get acclimated to a new environment. I can jump in to a situation quickly and get started. I may not be using all of my management and administration knowledge right now, but because I know it, I have a broader understanding and appreciation of why HR, Inventory, Costing – the business side – are all so important. It’s a valuable perspective.”

Denton’s days are long. He leaves for work at 7:30 a.m. to get to DC for his 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. shift. Usually he stays to help the evening staff, stretching his work day to 10 or 12 hours. But there is no place he would rather be. Momofuku offers incredible learning opportunities. “They offer scholarships to travel around the world to their restaurants and study with their Chefs. They have a Michelin style restaurant in Australia. I am going to write a scholarship paper and try to go. I can’t believe David Chang will read what I wrote!” This is the stuff of dreams.

“One thing I would tell other culinary students if I had the chance,” Denton says, “and I know it sounds like a cliché – but just GO AND DO IT! If anything seems unobtainable, out of reach, or just a dream, don’t be afraid, just go for it. That’s what I did, and I got my dream. I still pinch myself when I go to work and see “Momofuku” on the door. I say, no way I really got this job!

Momofuku means “lucky peach.” Yes, Denton is a lucky guy, but as Bruce Springsteen says, “When it comes to luck, you make your own.” Denton’s luck was born by study, work, determination, and an overwhelming desire to follow his dream. Reynolds is proud to count him among our alumni.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Meet Reynolds Culinary Arts Student

Shouvik Sarkar

What motivated you to study culinary arts?
The thing that motivated me the most to start culinary arts was first getting experience working back of house in a restaurant doing prep work. I started to really enjoy it so I started looking up recipe videos of Gordon Ramsay and watching a lot of food documentaries. I then started practicing a lot at home cooking for my friends and family and it inspired to me to try and become a professional.

Where are you in your culinary studies?
Right now I am about two years into the program. I maybe have about two more semesters to go until graduation.

What are you working on now?
Currently in school I am taking Food and Beverage Cost Control which is about learning how to maintain and calculate food costs for recipes and menus in restaurants.   

What is your favorite task as a culinary student?
I think my favorite things I have done as a culinary student is be able to volunteer in after school events to get real experience in the culinary world. I really enjoyed volunteering for the Elby's because I was able to meet and see many of the other restaurateurs in the city that I could potentially work for in the future.

What is your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient to work with is pancetta.

Do you have a “signature dish”?
I would say my signature dish is a Carbonara pasta. It is my signature because it uses my favorite ingredient, pancetta. It is also my favorite pasta dish to eat and I make it all the time at my workplace. I think I eat Carbonara at least once a week.

What would you most like to do in culinary arts when you graduate?
What I would like to do the most when I graduate is try to travel and work in as many different kitchens I can to gain as much experience in all types of cuisines. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Richmond?
My favorite restaurant that I've been to so far is Edo's Squid. 

What would you tell other potential students interested in studying culinary arts at Reynolds?
My biggest piece of advice I would tell potential students interested in studying culinary arts is to get as much experience as you can. Try working in a restaurant or practice recipes you have never made before at home. Always keep an open mind and listen to others that can help you. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Reynolds Chefs & Culinary Students
Lend their Hearts, their Hands, and their Education

What does it take to fix Thanksgiving dinner for Metropolitan Richmond? Lots of giving hearts, lots of working hands, and a massive amount of planning.

On November 22 The Giving Heart will host its 13th Annual Community Thanksgiving Feast at the Richmond Convention Center. This year, Reynolds Community College Chefs Jesse Miller, Darren Rounds, Jeff Baird, and Jonathan Highfield, and their team of talented culinary students will lend their food preparation skills to the battalion of volunteers who make this event possible. While many of us are gathering with family and friends, the Chefs and students will be gathering to “fabricate” 200 turkeys and make gravy to feed almost 3,000 Richmonders.

When Bess Littlefield, executive director of the Educational Foundation, and Vicki Neilson, founding and executive director of The Giving Heart, approached Chef Jesse about this opportunity to involve the culinary students, he didn’t hesitate to say “yes.” Even a simple meal requires preparation. But, preparation for a Thanksgiving meal for thousands? Now that’s a perfect organizational and service-learning experience for students about to graduate from Reynolds and move on to the frenzy of commercial kitchens.

Here’s the plan: On the Thursday before Thanksgiving the turkeys are to be delivered to the Reynolds Downtown Campus where they will be met by students and moved to the 6th floor kitchen. “Fabrication” starts Friday morning. Chef Jesse explains, “We fabricate the turkeys by removing the bones to reduce oven space and shorten cooking time. This ultimately saves the volunteers’ carving time. On Monday, we make the gravy with the bones and trimmings. Everything has to be ready for loading early Tuesday morning when the refrigerated truck arrives.” 

From Reynolds, the turkeys get a short ride to the Convention Center where they are met by two shifts of ten volunteers who carve the turkeys from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Reynolds culinary team will also be whipping up a variety of desserts to be delivered Thanksgiving Day.

The day before Thanksgiving is reserved for final food preparation and set up. “Set up” isn’t just tables and chairs for dining. Other areas must be organized so guests can receive donated food bags, toiletries, clothing, shoes, haircuts, medical assistance, and nonprofit agency information. A stage is also assembled for instrumentalists, acoustic musicians, and singers and dancers to entertain guests during the meal service.

At 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning the line begins to form. Guests arrive on foot, by bicycle, by car and by bus using free roundtrip tickets issued by The Giving Heart Bus Ambassadors who ride the bus routes to show the way to the Convention Center. By 8 a.m. the atmosphere is electric. This is community. This is sharing. And, this is a true Holiday. Snacks are handed out at 8:30 a.m. to hold guests over until the main event, the Thanksgiving Feast, is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Giving Heart has thought of everything to make Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving for the Richmond community.

Reynolds Community College, Chefs Jesse Miller, Darren Rounds, Jeff Baird, and Jonathan Highfield and the Culinary Arts students are all extremely proud to lend their hands, their hearts, and their education to support this amazing Richmond Thanksgiving tradition.

Update, Wednesday, November 7: Reynolds culinary staff has lent its expertise in logistics and purchasing to reduce food costs for The Giving Heart. The Reynolds team has also expanded their role to baking and cutting 160 pies and ferrying the massive amounts of food to the Convention Center. A call is going out to all Reynolds staff who can lend their hands and hearts to this event as well.

* * *

The Giving Heart serves a Thanksgiving Day Feast on Thursday, November 22, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, visit The Giving Heart.

To donate items, sponsor a table or volunteer visit The Giving Heart Information page.

Photos: The Giving Heart

It’s Official! “The Kitchens at Reynolds” Announced

The Reynolds Community College expansion into Richmond’s East End now has an official name: “The Kitchens at Reynolds.” This new facility will give Reynolds the ability to double its culinary enrollment and become a pipeline for talent desperately needed in the growing Richmond restaurant and hospitality industry. 

While the teaching and demonstration kitchens are the centerpiece of the new 25,000 square foot facility, the building will also serve as a gateway to many of the college’s academic and workforce programs and services. Space has been dedicated for career planning, financial aid workshops, enrollment assistance, and access to short-term courses and workforce certification and credential programs offered by the Community College Workforce Alliance.

The Kitchens at Reynolds speaks beyond traditional culinary education. It’s about the expertise and innovation to give individuals a foundation to explore their culinary potential,” said Paula Pando, Ed.D., president of Reynolds. “Community colleges are engines of economic mobility. Our goal at Reynolds is not only to provide a world-class culinary education in a state-of-the-art facility, but to also connect students with educational opportunities that impact their ability to have meaningful careers in the greater Richmond region.”

“The Kitchens at Reynolds” is part of a larger revitalization initiative along Nine Mile Road and 25th Street. Plans include “The Market at 25th” grocery store, a VCU health education and wellness center, and Bon Secours’ existing Sarah Garland Jones Center.

Even before The Kitchens at Reynolds is open, the college has been at work with other non-profits and organizations in the East End. Less than a mile from its new building site, Reynolds Community College Educational Foundation has funded an onsite career coach at Armstrong High School to help middle and high school students plan for an associate degree or a workforce credential after graduation.

“This is the power of collective impact,” said Elizabeth Littlefield, executive director of the Educational Foundation. “From dialogue with residents to investments from Richmond’s philanthropic community, so many people are coming together to make this happen.”

The building is expected to open for college programs and services in late 2019, with the first culinary classes offered in the spring 2020 semester.

To learn more, visit The Kitchens at Reynolds.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Meet Pat Evans

Instructional Assistant & Testing Center Manager

Reynolds Testing Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2018

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

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

-from Marching to Mars, by Sammy Hagar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

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

Meet Greg Hargraves - Reynolds Engineering Student 

and “Tinkerer”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spoken like a true engineer.

Monday, October 8, 2018

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

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

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

Fossils. In Virginia?

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

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

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

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