Monday, March 30, 2020

Reynolds Professor Creates an Audio Diary 

to Document the COVID-19 Crisis



During the COVID-19 crisis Assistant Professor of Paralegal Studies Melissa Ansley Brooks has been keeping an audio diary that was recently featured on VPM.

VPM is Virginia Public Media, the local PBS station.

Here is an excerpt from Melissa's audio diary:

Monday March 16, 2020 7:52 PM 


This is the end of day one of social isolation. We made it through on a wing and a prayer. I did all the recommended things today, perhaps they were not meant to be done all in one day because I'm feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, working full time from home and trying this homeschool thing and still being a loving and attentive mother and all the things. I'm just kind of feeling the weight of it today. 


So, like I said, I'm really going to rethink what I try to accomplish for tomorrow, and give myself a little bit more grace, and a little bit more space to figure all this out. I think we're all just trying our best. I was able to speak to my Grammy today who is 91 living in an assisted living facility in Iowa, where she's on complete lockdown and not even receiving mail at this point, and taking all of her meals in her room. But she did tell us about a game we can play where you hide a button in the house and go look around So we might put that on the roster for tomorrow. For now, we're just gonna pack it in and call it a night.

You can hear Melissa's complete audio diaries via VPM's Soundcloud page. 

Reynolds Culinary Arts Department Empties the Kitchen to Help Meet the Needs of the Richmond Community



With classes going online, Reynolds Culinary Arts program had a host of items on hand . . . eggs, cheese, fruits, vegetables, bread . . . so they quickly got in touch with FeedMore and emptied out the kitchen. 

Within one day, the items were sorted, counted, boxed, and delivered. 
Reynolds Chefs and staff know how to mobilize and get things done!











See the list of what was sent.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Reynolds Mobilizes Resources for COVID-19

to Meet the Commonwealth's Desperate Need



If your classes have been moved online, and your labs are now conducted virtually, what do you do with your unused resources? 

Resources that are urgently, no desperately, needed NOW to battle the COVID-19 crisis that's daily closing in on our community. 

You pack them. And, you send them. 

That's just what Joy Kolovich and Taelor Poindexter did this week. They emptied Reynolds Nursing and Science department cabinets, scoured the classrooms and offices for boxes and tape, and went to work. 


Here's a partial list of what they pulled together: Non sterile gloves—181 boxes, Isolation gowns-302, Sterile gloves-175 pair, Fluid shield face masks-125, Plain face mask-300, N95 respirators-40, Safety goggles-46 pairs, Gallon Bleach-2, Large canister Sani wipes for cleaning -7, Gallon Antibacterial Soap-6, Gallon Hand Sanitizer-3, Cans of Lysol-5.

Joy Kolovich is Coordinator of Nursing Programs Reynolds School of Nursing and Allied Health. Taelor Poindexter is an Administrative Support Technician. 

Reynolds Facilities staff took over the project once Joy and Taelor were done and the supplies were boxed and ready. They loaded the boxes, rolled them to the loading dock, and lent a hand moving them on to Henrico County vehicles. 


Henrico County is the regional coordinator for the COVID-19 medical supply donations. While we don't know exactly where Reynolds items are headed, we do know they will be filling an urgent community need. 

Our special thanks, and our hearts, go out to all those helping to mobilize supplies, and all those in need of supplies. 

We are all in this together.



Reynolds Faculty Serve the Commonwealth

During COVID-19 Response



"I am humbled by your interest in my interpreting," Carrie Humphrey wrote at the beginning of her email. 

As part of the Commonwealth's COVID-19 Response, Reynolds 
ASL&IE Faculty and Program Head, Carrie Humphrey is one of two interpreters chosen to stand on the podium with Governor Ralph Northam as he delivers his video news briefings during the COVID-19 crisis.

Reynolds Alumna Carrie N. H. Humphrey (ASL CSC, 2002; AS Science - Science Specialization, 2003) served as an adjunct faculty member for two years before becoming a full-time ASL faculty member. Carrie has served as the Reynolds ASL&IE Program Head for the last two years.

Carrie took time to answer a few questions by email about what it's like to serve as an interpreter during a crisis situation. Here is what she shared:

How were you chosen as one of two of the Governor’s interpreters?

The Virginia Department for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing maintains a list of certified interpreters who are willing to be called in emergency situations and I am on the list.  March 12th, I received a phone call that the Governor was going to speak in less than an hour and the coordinator was looking for an interpreter.  I was finishing up my office hours on the Downtown campus and was able to walk over to the press conference in time. 

What is it like to be on set with the Governor and his staff?

Everyone on set is professional and courteous. He and his staff are a pleasure to work with.

You are so calm and controlled on camera. Were you ever nervous? If so, how did you overcome it?

I am incredibly nervous each time I go and am grateful that part of interpreter training includes managing our professional presence. I pre- and post-conference with my team interpreter regularly so that we can provide consistency in sign choices and how we interpret the information. The ASL community in Virginia is also very supportive. It is comforting to get messages of encouragement from Deaf friends, interpreters, and Reynolds colleagues.

What part of this experience is most useful to share with your students?

One of my biggest mental distractors each time in front of the camera is knowing our students will see the interpretation. I'm happy to have had candid conversations with our interpreting students about the experience and share the thought process behind interpreting choices. The biggest lessons from this experience have been the reminders to stay prepared for last minute calls and focus on conveying the message clearly in the midst of emotional stresses.  

Carrie, you say you are humbled by our interest in your service! We are humbled to see you on the frontline serving all Virginians in this time of crisis. We thank you, and the Reynolds community is proud to have you as our representative. Please stay safe. We are with you.


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

For this Culinary Student

Reynolds is Home



Growing up, Keonne Lomax watched cooking shows. His hero: International Chef and Restaurateur Gordon Ramsey. Ramsey was tough, his expectations sky high. The  chaos, the high energy, the drama, all sparked Keonne's curiosity. 

Later, at Armstrong High School, when given the chance, Keonne took his first culinary arts class, Culinary Arts 1. In 2016, his Junior year, he took Culinary Arts 2. That year he was offered a kitchen position at Peter Paul Development Center preparing meals for the staff and for the Center's after school program. The offer was a perfect fit. Keonne had been going to Peter Paul's after school program since his 4th grade year. 

In 2017 Keonne graduated from Armstrong. By the spring of 2018 he was enrolled in Reynolds Culinary Arts program. "It was like coming home," Keonne said of his decision to come to Reynolds. "It was easy to access. Comfortable. I was instantly drawn to Reynolds."

Keonne doesn't bemoan his full schedule. "I work all day Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I'm in class all day Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. I have American Regional Cuisine, my favorite class so far, until 3:30, I get about an hour break, then I have Food and Beverage until 9 p.m. I do homework at night and on the weekends." 


Perhaps watching Gordon Ramsey in action prepared Keonne for his long days and the multitude of tasks he would be asked to perform in the kitchen. His attitude and outlook are overwhelmingly positive and focused. "I love to do everything," he says without the slightest hesitation, "learning about different cuisines and cultures is fun stuff." No doubt, he has found his niche.

Keonne expects to take his last class, his Capstone class, in the summer of 2021 and graduate from Reynolds that fall. What's next for him? "In the short term I'd love to get into catering," he says, "then I'd like to be a traveling Chef, traveling around the country, then around the world. I'd like to go everywhere."

Given his drive, enthusiasm, curiosity, and desire, it's easy to picture Keonne going "everywhere".



Monday, March 9, 2020

Women's History Month

Saluting a Culinary Pioneer


Eugénie Brazier, known as "la mère Brazier", (12 June 1895 – 2 March 1977) was a French chef who, in 1933, became the first person to attain a total of six Michelin stars, three each at two restaurants: La Mère Brazier on Rue Royale, one of the main streets of Lyon, and a second, also called La Mère Brazier, in the Alpine foothills at Col de la Luère. She was also the first woman to earn three Michelin stars. 

“Mere", the French word for “mother”, was an honorary title given to talented female professional cooks in France during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries.

Her cooking attracted celebrities like Marlene Dietrich and Charles de Gaulle, but unlike her male peers, she never wanted to be considered a celebrity chef. Brazier began working on a cookbook two years before she died in 1977, but never finished it. La Mere Brazier: The Mother of Modern French Cooking was finally printed in 2009 with the help of her family.

From Eater:

Looking back, it now seems like the 1930s were a far more tolerant time for women in Michelin history. Just one generation later, the man who would become the king of French cuisine, Paul Bocuse, would famously say during an interview in the 1970s that he would rather have a woman in his bed than behind the stove in his restaurant. That sentiment ushered in a period of skepticism toward women chefs that is still with us (if you think cutting women out of history is a problem of the past, just consider contemporary restaurant rankings of today). The Michelin guide followed Bocuse’s lead, and 50 years would pass before another woman (Anne-Sophie Pic) received the three-star honor.



Now is the time to study Culilnary Arts!


Now is a great time for women to study Culinary Arts. 

Consider this: less than 7% of Executive Chefs at leading culinary institutions are women. 

The field is wide open! The opportunities are endless!

Consider these statistics gathered in 2016:

  • More than 50% of culinary school graduates are women
  • 59% of food prep workers in the US are women
  • 19% of chefs and head cooks are women
  • Female Executive Chefs earn on average $20,000 less than their male counterparts.


Sources
Eater: website
Starchefs: website
WCR - Women Chefs & Restaurateurs: website
The Independent: website
The 50 Best: website

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Meet Reynolds Culinary Arts Student

Kristen Stokes



What motivated you to study culinary arts?
I would have to say passion is what honestly drove me to pursuing my studies. I was stuck in a 9 to 5 that was draining the life out of me. I've always had a love for cooking and decided that it was time to start my culinary journey.

Where are you in your culinary studies?
I'm currently in the second year of my program.

What are you working on now?
Currently I'm working on finishing this semester out strong. When I am able to get some free time I love to try different baking recipes. 

What is your favorite task as a culinary student?
My favorite task would have to be learning new things and working with ingredients that I wouldn't normally cook with.

What is your favorite ingredient?
My favorite ingredient would have to be peppers and seafood. There are so many different peppers in the world. They range from sweet, mild, and spicy. They also add a lot of favor to dishes. 

Do you have a “signature dish”?
I currently don't have a signature dish but hopefully one will come along with this journey.

What would you most like to do in culinary arts when you graduate?
After I graduate, I would love to be able to travel. It would be an honor to be able to work hands on with local chefs and ingredients to get a real understanding of each regional cuisine. After traveling I would like to find a restaurant to work in, while I save money in order to maybe one day open my own restaurant.

What is your favorite restaurant in Richmond?
I honestly haven't been able to frequent many restaurants. I did get a chance to stop by Croaker Spot and it sure was a treat!

What would you tell other potential students interested in studying culinary arts at Reynolds?
I would tell other potential students that are interested in culinary to follow their dreams! Also, remember that hard work pays off.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Meet Loftan Miller

Library Services Coordinator



Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up mostly in Chesterfield County and graduated from Midlothian High School in the county's first class of International Baccalaureate students. I was a super nerd – played viola in the Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra and even on the weekends my friends and I would get together for studying parties. I really wish I was kidding. Earning an IB diploma meant that when I attended music school at Ithaca College most of my liberal arts classes were taken care of. I can only remember taking a math class titled, “What is Math?” which was naturally attended by mostly music majors. 

What brought you to Reynolds?
I started my professional librarian career in 2008 at Rappahannock Community College as the College Librarian. Though I loved being there, the commute really started to impact my growing family. When the position of Library Coordinator came up at Reynolds, I could not let the opportunity pass. It cut my commute in half and really opened up more opportunities for my family with having me be a lot closer to home. 

What is the most unusual situation you’ve had to handle in the library (no names, please!)?
I think my scale for unusual is a bit askew because libraries see a lot of really interesting characters and situations. It’s actually one of the things I love the most of working in libraries because no day is the same. Reference questions can often lead to some funny stories so I’ll tell you one of my very favorite questions I’ve ever received at the desk. This question came from a student when I was working at the University at Buffalo Undergraduate Library. She came up to me and asked me, “Where are the books for reading?” Turns out she was looking for the fictional books for pleasure reading but I really had to stop myself from laughing when I asked her follow up questions to find out what she was actually looking for. 

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
Essentially 99% of my job is finding ways to help people. We take people having a terrible day and we use patience and kindness to help them find something they need that might help make their lives a little easier. My tough days are far and few between the good ones and for that, I am very thankful. 

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
Sleep. I’m expecting my third daughter in June and there are just never enough hours in the day for me to get a full night’s rest. So I supposed I could lie and tell you I’d spend it reading a book but let’s be real, I’d spend it on sleep. 

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I’m naturally a homebody and though you might meet me and think I’m an extrovert, I really am an introvert. I love being at home with my kids and crazy dogs just cooking and cleaning around the house. When I’m not cooking or cleaning, I am running a taxi service for my children and their activities. I’m often not sure how I get everything done in a day but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel so lucky to have a job that not only lets me spend my workday doing something I love but also allows me to be a Mom to two great girls. 

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
Richmond is such a wonderful city – full of music and arts and fantastic places to eat! My fiancé and I love seeing concerts in the area. You would be shocked to know how many artists come to Richmond to play. It’s really hard to narrow down a list of favorite restaurants but if I had to they would be; Heritage for brunch; Edo’s Squid for a special occasion dinner (the arugula, white bean, and squid salad IS MY FAVORITE); Stella’s for amazing Greek food; Tazza Kitchen for its hot sausage and honey pizza and fabulous desserts and coffee; and Mamma Zu’s for Italian (but get there early because it’s super small). 

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
I would first hire a financial advisor and find out what to do with $100 million dollars! Did I mention I was a music major in college? We don’t take many classes on personal finance! I know I would set aside money for my children, give money to my church, and make a donation to the Richmond Symphony so hopefully they would name a concert series after me. Other than that, maybe buy a pony or two?! 

Monday, January 27, 2020

Meet Erica Cleaver

Customer Service Representative, Information Center



Where did you grow up and what was it like?
I grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia in the Hampton Roads area. I love Portsmouth. It’s creative, quirky, and there is water everywhere.

What brought you to Richmond? 
I moved to Richmond almost three years ago. My husband was given an opportunity in the Richmond area, and we decided as a family to go for it.  

What brought you to Reynolds?
It was kismet. I had been living in the area for about three months and we were all just riding around getting to know our surroundings, when I passed Reynolds on Parham Road.  My husband said you should work there the campus is beautiful.  I went home looked for jobs at Reynolds, found one, applied, and was working in the Information Center about three weeks later. 

What is the most unusual customer service situation you’ve had to handle (no names, please!)? 
We have a caller who has called the office for years, well before I ever worked here. She will call sometimes three times a day up to maybe eight times a week. She frequently requests college catalogs and literature about the college, but as far as we know she has never attended. She is extremely friendly and now the office has come to expect her calls. If we don’t hear from her we get a little worried. When we do get her call we announce it to the office just so everyone knows our favorite caller is doing okay.  

What are the most rewarding aspects of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of working in the Information Center is that we really get to help so many students. The services the Information Center provides are instrumental to the student who doesn’t know how to set their user preferences in order to make a payment, or the student who can’t log in to do their homework because they need a password reset. We are able to offer this help right over the phone saving valuable time especially to our students who are unable to make an in-person visit. 

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it?
If I had one extra hour a day I would either go to the gym or pleasure read.  I’ve been slacking heavily on both recently. 

What do you like to do outside of your work at Reynolds?
I really enjoy spending time with my family. I have an 18 year old daughter (who is in her second semester at Reynolds) and 14 year old twin boys. My twins play a lot of sports and that keeps me busy most of the year. I also, enjoy cooking, going to the beach, and painting. 

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? Favorite restaurants?
I love exploring Richmond. My favorite thing to do is to wander the city without an agenda and just explore. I love the Canal Walk, the Pipeline Trail, Pony Pasture, Libby Hill, Brown’s Island, Maymont, etc.  And even as an ODU alumni have grown to love, support, and follow VCU basketball.

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money?
If I won a $100 million in the Mega Millions lottery I would of course have the splurges like a beach house in Ocracoke and lots of traveling, but then I would look to invest in the communities that invested in me. I would donate to my Little League in Portsmouth, my high school sports teams, and of course set up scholarships at ODU and Reynolds for students plus donations to make sure college projects can be completed.    

Monday, January 13, 2020

Steve Vehorn

Student Outreach – Recruitment Specialist



Where did you grow up and what was it like? 
I lived most of my childhood in Greensboro, N.C. and Virginia Beach. Growing up in Virginia Beach was fun as outside of school and sports, I had time to go surfing, crabbing and fishing. I’m fortunate that I still get to enjoy surfing and fishing and they are extra special when I get to do them with both my boys. Blue crabs are also still my favorite food. 

What brought you to Richmond? 
I went through ROTC at East Tennessee State University and after serving my active-duty commitment in the Army, I got a job working with the Colonial Athletic Association as a sports information intern. 

What are the greatest challenges of student recruitment today? 
The greatest challenge of recruiting students is communicating to potential students the number of different options that Reynolds and CCWA offer in a concise message. We have a tremendous product at Reynolds and with a very diverse student population, there is a strong need for a wide variety of options of flexible class schedules, programs and degrees – it is often tough to get in the full Reynolds message in just a few seconds.  

What is the most rewarding aspect of working with students? 
Seeing the hope that Reynolds and CCWA provide them – for many of our students, without Reynolds and CCWA, there would be no hope. 

If you had one extra hour a day, how would you use it? 
Tying fly fishing flies.

You are a surfer and love other outdoor activities like golf. What is your favorite outdoor activity and why? 
I love hiking to small mountain streams to fly fish for brook trout, but am passionate about surfing. Both fly fishing and surfing are sports that have allowed me to see some of Mother Nature’s most incredible landscapes from the babbling streams and waterfalls deep in the mountains to surfing alongside dolphins and sea turtles as the morning sun crests over the horizon. I also enjoy golf, but have found it more enjoyable when I don’t keep score.

Being passionate about surfing, what do you think about indoor surf "parks"?
I’m all for surf parks – anything to build the sport, and a park would be a great place to learn on perfect waves. I doubt any of the “real” surfers will use it unless it is winter when it is cold, but I’m all for them. This summer will be the first time they have surfing in the Olympics. 

I’ve got a surf trip lined up for March to Florida, as my oldest son Sam got a job in Jacksonville - going down for a week to camp at a campsite on the beach and surf the week. Wahooo!

What do like most about Richmond? Favorite places to visit? 
Favorite restaurants? I have lived in Hanover for over 25 years and the location of Richmond allows for easy access to many of our state’s natural treasures - two hours to the beach to surf, two hours to great fly fishing and hiking areas in the Shenandoah National Park and two hours to the top of Wintergreen Resort to snowboard – one day my boys and I were able to surf in Virginia Beach in the morning and snowboarded at Wintergreen that evening. Favorite restaurant: ZZQ and Fat Dragon. Favorite place to visit: Richmond International Raceway on race weekend. Go Chase Elliott!   

If you won $100 Million in the Mega Millions lottery what would you do with the money? 
I’d first pay off any of my church’s debit and invest in its future. I would then support a few of my favorite nonprofits: Special Olympics Virginia, Wounded Warriors Project, Richmond SPCA, Camp Hope and Reynolds.



Thursday, January 9, 2020

CCWA’s FastForward Program: 

Catching the Growth Tsunami


If you think the world is growing fast, you’re right.

If you think Virginia is growing fast, you’re right again.

And Richmond? 
It feels like a tsunami. Blink, and you’ll miss a new business opening. Take a vacation, and a new convenience store or apartment building will have sprung up in your neighborhood.

We are growing. And, here’s proof. 

  • In 2019 CNBC named Virginia, America’s Top State for Business. Why? Because of “its world-class workforce, high performing education system, and business friendly regulation.”1
  • From November 2018 to November 2019 an estimated 40,100 jobs were added in Virginia.2 The hottest job areas? Manufacturing and warehousing, education and health care, leisure and hospitality, food and beverage, professional and business services, and information security.

Here’s the good news: 
CCWA’s FastForward Program caught Virginia’s growth wave long before it reached its current tsunami. In 2016 the program got started by offering credentials in the key areas of health care, trades and manufacturing, information technology, business and customer service, and education. A perfect match for Virginia’s current and emerging employment needs.

Here’s even better news: 
In the current fiscal year CCWA’s FastForward program took the lead again as one of just two Virginia community colleges with the greatest growth rate in credential training program enrollments. “We are number two for FastForward enrollments in Fiscal Year 2020, number two for FastForward credential attainments, and we’ve ranked at or near the top for credentials awarded since the FastForward program’s inception in 2016,” says CCWA Vice President of Workforce Development and Credential Attainment Elizabeth Creamer.  “We’re always in a race with Germanna,” Creamer smiles when she adds this. 

Now, with the help of unprecedented proposed state funding3, FastForward is ready to move even faster in 2020 to meet Virginia’s ever-growing employment needs. “We’ve never gotten state-level public funds like those now proposed by the Governor’s budget for FastForward. These funds can be dedicated to skills development for any adult in the region who is interested and ready to prepare for a high-demand occupation readily available in the region” says Creamer, “This funding gives opportunities to young adult students, to at-home parents reentering the workforce, to Career Switchers and transitioning service members, and to employees wanting to increase their marketability. FastForward credentials are designed to open doors to the jobs most in demand in the Commonwealth right now.” This proposed new funding would make it possible to open those doors even wider than ever before.

“We need many routes to success for young people, hardworking parents, and anyone else who wants to earn better wages, and a FastForward workforce credential is a proven route to success,” continues Creamer. And she has the numbers to back up that statement. Since the program’s inception over 16,000 credentials have been earned across the Commonwealth, with more than 2700 of those through CCWA.  Graduates typically boost their earnings 25 to 50 percent in the first year following program completion. And, with a FastForward credential an applicant is twice as likely to be hired as an applicant without a credential.4

Yes, this program fills gaps – a skills gap in potential employees, a workforce gap in the labor market – but, more than just training and jobs are happening here. FastForward is a quick uplift on a rising wave, but it isn’t a one-time event or fix. Rather, it’s an uplift that can entirely change the course of a lifetime. 

Consider William Penaloza. William is originally from Equador. He wanted a new career after working in retail. Through FastForward he earned his CDL (Commercial Drivers License) and was hired immediately by US Express. William says, "I am grateful for the experience, the training staff and for the grant support." With a baby on the way, William is driving locally now, but he hopes to go over the road later when the child is older. "It was helpful to have trainers that partner with companies who hire CDL drivers." In William's case, the rising wave lifted three lives, not just one.

What’s next for FastForward? What could this additional proposed funding make possible? “New, more and customized credentials,” says Creamer. “The idea would be to work with a business association or a large business to combine third party validated industry credentials into a FastForward program of “bundled” credential training and assessments. For example, a company might want manufacturing, safety, and customer service credentials.  Another trend in FastForward programming is career pathways. In some FastForwad programs, not all, we’re already working with academic faculty to have credentials “count” for college credits, so participants in FastForward are always moving and preparing for the next step in their education.”

In a state, and a city changing so rapidly, the FastForward program is good news - a lifeline, a buoy, a ship - that has already helped its graduates ride the wave of growth rather than be roiled by its current. Just imagine what the next two years could bring with the support of the proposed new funding. 

To learn more about CCWA’s FastForward Program, visit their website.



1. CNBC website, 7/10/2019.
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 2019.
3. On December 17, 2019 Governor Northam announced the proposed 2020 to 2022 state budget which included $13.5M this year for FastForward, $17.5M in 2021, the $21.5M in 2022. This funding is 100% dedicated to tuition support.
4. FastForward website, https://www.fastforwardva.org/.


Ambassadors Reunite

Special thanks to Kristine Dahm, Counselor, Student Engagement Services, for suggesting this story, and sending details and photos.


Group photo on the steps in Georgiadis: Back row, 4th row: 
Franck Kamga (2013-14), Johnathan Hancock (2017-18), 
Dylan Chaplin (2014-15), Kingston Joseph (grandson of
Christine Booker) 3rd row: Saadia Jones (2016-17), 
Cara Luyster (Coordinator of New Student Orientation 
and honorary Ambassador advisor), Muhahmmad “Moe”
Umar (2011-12) and his nephew, Chenelle Williams 
(2019-20) 2nd row: Theresa Johnson (2014-15), 
Ruxandra Zait (2014-15), Sakinah Jones (2019-20), 
Sharneice McDaniel (2018-19), Karen MacKay (2016-17) 
1st row: Kristine Dahm (Ambassador supervisor),
Christine Booker (former Ambassador advisor)
You've probably heard of the Reynolds Student Ambassadors program. The Ambassadors' primary role is helping with SOAR (New Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration) and giving tours for prospective students. You may also have seen them serving at information tables, and lending a hand at other campus-wide events like Convocation.

But, did you know the Ambassadors had a reunion this past December? Pretty cool, right? One Ambassador Alum was there from the Class 2011-12 - he is now in his last semester of law school. One current Ambassador brought along her sister who was an Ambassador in the Class of 2016-17. And, it's not just the students who are invited: a former Advisor attended who is now a professor at VCU.

Events like this don't just happen. There is always a "driver" who gets behind the wheel and mashes the gas. The Ambassador Reunion "driver" is Kris Dahm. 
Sakinah Jones (current Ambasador, 

2019-20), Saadia Jones (2016-17)
 – sisters.

Meg Foster started the Ambassador program in 2006. When Kris Dahm came to work at Reynolds in 2011 to fill Meg's position, Kris also inherited the Ambassador program and has been the Ambassadors' supervisor ever since. 

"Since I've been keeping an alumni roster (since my first group of Ambassadors in 2011-12)," says Kris, "we've had 57 Ambassadors. I started having reunions in 2014 and the plan was to have one at least every two years, although that didn’t always happen. We had another one in 2016 and then this last one in 2019.  It was especially important for me to have a reunion this year because my job is changing and I will no longer supervise the Ambassadors. I will miss working with this special group of students."

When asked what the best thing is about the Ambassador program, Kris has a clear list. "There are several good things," she says. Here they are:

  • Students learn valuable leadership skills as they learn how to work in a team, speak in front of a large group, manage conflict, and improve their communication skills.
  • The Ambassadors take part in the annual VCCS Student Leadership Conference, which is a weekend-long conference for student leaders in the VCCS. They attend break-out sessions on different leadership topics, meet students from across the state, and take part in a service project.
  • At the end of every year, I ask them if they think they have a greater sense of engagement with the campus community than they did before they started the program. Overwhelmingly, they say yes.  Being an Ambassador made them feel part of the campus community and they are able to get to know faculty and staff. Since they work so many SOAR sessions, they meet all of the advisors in Student Affairs, staff members in the Enrollment Management Division, faculty members who help with SOAR, and the Dean of Students and other upper-level Administrators.
     
  • They often form friendships with the other Ambassadors, which last long past their time at Reynolds.  

Ambassadors serve three semesters, summer, fall and spring. If you know a student who would make a good Ambassador, now is the time to encourage them to find out more about the program. 

At the start of this semester Kris Dahm is moving into a new role at Reynolds, Counselor, Student Engagement Services. Katelyn Eden, new to Reynolds, will be the Counselor, First Year Initiatives. Students interested in the Ambassador Program can call the general SOAR number: 804-523-5155 for more information.