Thursday, November 21, 2019

Meet Justin Ellis

Counselor, Student Life



Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
I am from the big little county of Surry, VA. As a youth, there was a saying "Surry is something special." This was instilled in us to help us believe in the strength of who we are and who we were raised to be. 

You are relatively new to Reynolds. What brought you here? 
A mentor sent me the job listing. After I saw the job post, I knew this was within my skill set and decided that this would be the logical next step in progressing in a career in higher education. I am so glad I applied. This has been a life changing year.

What sparked your interest in working with students?  
My personal philosophy on life is "to help everyone I meet become the best them they can become."  I also have a love for student engagement. The joy in seeing a student find a connection that pushes him or her to pursue his or her dreams is what got me started in higher education. 

What are the most challenging aspects of your job? 
The most challenging part of my position is not being able to reach all students. I know that it is truly impossible to reach them all, but my goal will always be to not have one student feel disconnected.

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job? 
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing students engage with people, events, and activities that he or she may not have done had he or she not participated in the Student Life event. Students often say they were so glad that he or she participated in the event. It was the best time they have had.

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it? 
Spending quality time with my family. I live in Suffolk and drive to Richmond daily. I love watching movies with my wife and son.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds? 
I love sports, so watching any sport is a great time. I like running as well. I have run one full marathon and three half marathons. I also play golf on occasion. Those are my favorite things outside of family time and work.

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants? 
I still live in Suffolk so I am not very familiar with a lot of things in Richmond. My wife and I are foodies so I use yelp to find places to eat. Right now ZZQ is my favorite. I am a griller so good grilled food is amazing. 

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money? 
If I won $100 million, the first thing I would do is fund my wife’s business idea. Next I would purchase a lot of land that would be given to my son. I would also start a non-profit to help end homelessness. 




Friday, November 8, 2019

The Dynamics of Karim Sultan

Reynolds Community College Student

Seeking Degree: AS Mechanical Engineering


Karim Sultan is going to be an engineer. Minutes in to a conversation with him, it’s evident engineering is a perfect career choice. He’s studious, deliberate, direct, analytical, and he gets really excited by his classes.

This semester he’s taking Dynamics. Dynamics, if you're not familiar with engineering, is the study of unbalanced forces on a system, like the acceleration of a piston in an engine. If applied to Karim, Dynamics would reveal what moves him toward engineering is more than his personality. It’s his passion.

“I’m passionate about the Earth. I’ve traveled around the world, and seen some beautiful sights, and I want to do something to preserve our awesome planet. I want to work on alternative energy sources that preserve our environment.” And Karim has a plan to learn to do that. After Reynolds he is heading to VCU. “I want to study nuclear fusion after my bachelors degree is complete.” Not fission, he clarifies. Fission is breaking atoms apart; fusion is pushing them together – much more difficult but with less waste. “After VCU, I want to study Plasma Physics.”

There’s still more moving Karim. “My Mom went to Reynolds, and she has done really, really well. She is a high-level software developer in Washington, DC. She has gone far in her career, and speaks very highly of Reynolds. She got her start here. We came to the United States from Egypt when I was small. She didn’t speak much English. She got through her education and now she is doing great, she’s very successful.”

When Karim started at Reynolds he had an auto glass business and DJ’d at local bars to pay his bills. One of his first classes was Engineering Graphics. He started calling local engineering firms, and soon landed an internship. He knew immediately he had found his place in the world. Next he got his AutoCAD (Computer Aided Design) certificate. Then came a job as Drafter with Dominion Energy. Karim still DJ’s because it’s fun, but he’s given up his auto glass gig to focus on his studies and his work.

“I really like Dominion. I work with engineers all day, and I love it. I’m drafting electrical panels now and learning a lot about electrical engineering, not my field, but I will use the knowledge someday. Eventually Dominion will pay for my school.”

“Reynolds is great. I am really happy to be here and couldn’t imagine being at a better community college. I could say the professors are excellent teachers, but it’s more than that. The professors here pass on their real life experience, not just information. Professor Clay is my advisor. She can talk about the engineering job market, her life experience working as an engineer, and what it’s like in the field. I feel like I have a strong support team, and will come out of school knowing what to expect, and being prepared to deal with it.”

You don’t need to understand Dynamics to appreciate the vast distance travelled between auto glass and Plasma Physics. Reynolds has helped launch Karim Sultan on his upward trajectory, and we look forward to watching him cross the graduation stage and continue his journey.

Meet Paul Chapman

Academic Support Librarian


Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
My father was in the Coast Guard, so I grew up all up and down the East Coast and Gulf of the USA. I was born in Louisiana and then moved to Florida, Connecticut, Alabama, Virginia, back to Florida, back to Virginia. So it was a challenge as a kid always being uprooted and not being able to make friends that lasted more than two years. But on the other hand, moving around so much made me more flexible and adaptive to new situations.

Tell us a little about your background.
My academic background is in Fine Arts. I studied Studio Art in both my undergraduate work (JMU) and also have a MFA in Studio Art – Photography (GWU). Being the child of a military family and always moving around so much actually made me quite shy since I was always the new kid trying to figure out how I fit in, so I became more and more shy as I got older. But going to art school and constantly having to create new work weekly and defend it to my peers, helped me in so many ways.

I am a survivor of child abuse and I try to be as vocal about my experience as possible. I am a firm believer in speaking up and sharing about what I went through with others. By talking about my experience, it helps reduce stigma, lets others know they are not alone, and provides support to those who have gone through similar situations.

You are new to Reynolds. What brought you to Richmond, and to Reynolds specifically?
My Partner of 16 years accepted job at VCU last October. We still had a few months left on our apartment lease in Alexandria, so I stayed up there and continued to work while searching for jobs here in the Richmond area. Our lease ran out in January of 2019, so until just recently I was commuting from Richmond to Alexandria where I was a Librarian at Northern Virginia Community College.

I was very excited by the opportunity work at Reynolds because I fully support the mission and goals of community colleges and their essential roles as equalizers providing access to resources, technology, enrichment, and advancement opportunities for the entire community.

What sparked your interest in in becoming a librarian?
I have always been a teacher at heart. I love working with people and helping students to find their passion and inspiration for knowledge and lifelong learning. I grew up going to libraries as a place to do my homework. While pursing all of my degrees, I worked in some sort of library at each school. I don’t know why I didn’t consider Librarianship earlier, but it is interesting to look back at all the little things that led me to this career.

What are the most challenging aspects of being a librarian?
The most challenging thing about being a librarian is connecting with people outside of the library and effectively communicating what the library can offer. Most people, including teachers and administrators (not just students) don’t really seem to understand the true purpose and roll of the academic library.

There is a common misconception that libraries are just buildings full of books or that Librarians just sit around all day reading novels. Providing academic support services to patrons is our main goal, but in general people only come to the library when they need help with something. That point-of-need model limits how much interaction we have with patrons outside of those specific interactions. 

Libraries are here to provide access to so many different things: study space, technology, books, databases, Information Literacy Instruction, but above all our most important asset is our people. Librarians and Library staff are in the business of student success. It is core to our mission and therefore we are essential to our institution because our daily interactions with students directly impact enrollment, retention, persistence and ultimately student success.

What are the most rewarding aspects?
The most rewarding part for me is when students come back to you just to say thank you and that they got an “A” on the paper or project I helped them with.


Librarians sometimes have very focused jobs, but usually we need to be a jack of all trades. Being a service oriented profession, we never know what kind of questions or issues our patrons might have, so we are constantly being challenged. I love and embrace that I am constantly stimulated by learning new things, finding new things, keep up with changes in technology, changes in pedagogy, and myriad of other areas.

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
I love to cook so I would use an extra hour each day to try out more complicated recipes. Unfortunately, I have a few food restrictions, but that always makes for a fun challenge where I can try to convert and existing recipe into something that I can eat.

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I am writing my first novel. It is inspired by a nightmare I had a year ago. I woke up from the dream and immediately had to start writing it down.

Another passion of mine is Holistic Wellness. I am a firm believer that we all should strive for a balance of Physical, Nutritional, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness.

I started lifting weights in 2010 and I got completely hooked. I wake up early every morning and go to the gym to lift. I still call myself an amateur bodybuilder, but I have no desire to compete professionally. Lifting is my “me time”. I put on my headphones, crank up the music, and just get lost in the challenge of trying to be better each day.

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
I have only been living in Richmond full-time for a few weeks, so I am still learning all that it has to offer, but I really enjoy that there is so much access to the arts in this area. The other benefit is that we have all the advantages of being next to a city but without the traffic and overpopulation of the DC Metro area. I love that I can be out in nature or in the country in just a few minutes or head into the city for a concert or event without much trouble.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
If I won a $100 Million, I would immediately pay off my debt.

I would purchase a small farm somewhere around Richmond and build my dream home. I am a huge animal lover and gardening is one of my many passions. It is my goal to eventually have goats, chickens, and to grow as much of my own organic produce as possible.

I would establish a scholarship for LGBTQA students.

Of course some of that money would go towards retirement.

Another dream I have always had is to own a large warehouse in a city and convert it into visiting artist studio space and gallery space. I would set up a visiting artist program where artists are paid a stipend to come and use the space while they teach art master classes and give lectures. It would be an amazing partnership with all the colleges in the area to help art students and the community learn how to appreciate and make art from successful working artists.