She laughs when I call her a “grant dreamweaver,” but that’s how I see Amanda Decker and her superhero role at Virginia Western.
Amanda is currently the Workforce Student Services Team Lead and Career Navigator. She’s my go-to contact whenever I have grant-related questions involving the Workforce division … and those questions are multiplying, especially as more funders are emphasizing short-term, non-credit credentials.
In 2017, we’re tracking over $1.3 million in 13+ grant projects through Workforce, ranging from as little as $1,000 (for outreach to local faith leaders) to $439,062 (a program to help TANF recipients become self-sufficient).
Amanda is critical to the success of these grants, especially when she “braids” various funding streams for individual students. She explains more about dreamweaving, her love of superheroes, and her own backstory in this Q&A.
Current job title
Workforce Student Services Team Lead and Career Navigator
Years at VWCC
Please summarize your educational/career background
I have a B.B.A. with a concentration in Marketing from Roanoke College and a Master of Arts in Human Services: Life Coaching from Liberty University. Certifications I hold: Global Career Development Facilitator and Instructor, Virginia Career Coach, and Workforce Development Professional. Before coming to VWCC, I was a WIA Case Manager for Goodwill and Branch Sales Manager for a fine jewelry company.
Please explain your role as a “funding braider” or “grant dreamweaver” … how does that work?
Workforce currently has over eight streams of funding assistance for our programs. There is no uniform application like the FAFSA for the streams, each has its own eligibility criteria and application process. Some of these funds can be “braided” and will work together and others cannot. One of my roles is to understand the requirements to each and match potential students to the best possible combination of assistance to ensure their success. Often times this means having a holistic approach of understanding their unique circumstance and lives to determine exactly what supports will be needed. Most are surprised to find that not only do they have one option for funding assistance but may have a plan B, C, and D after we speak. They could end up with a support team of professionals there to help them achieve their goals.
I also meet one-on-one with individuals to discuss their career plans, do career assessments, and connect them to their next steps, which may or may not include taking a workforce program. If I can’t help someone, my goal is to at least have them leave with one referral that could.
Moved from Botetourt County to Franklin County in the sixth grade. I have always lived within an hour of Roanoke.
Drink girl on the front line at Western Sizzlin’, which was located on the corner of Orange and Williamson (where Sheetz is now).
Proudest career accomplishment
Having a job created here after the college saw the value in my work from a grant-funded position.
Used to be “American Idol,” now it’s superhero shows like “Arrow,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D,” and “The Flash.”
If you had to pick one movie genre
Marvel action heroes.
Favorite place to eat near campus
Whatever is new: currently Which Wich and Zoe’s Kitchen.
What I’m reading now
Steven Furtick’s “Crash the Chatterbox” and “(Un)Qualified”
I could talk for hours about …
Why anyone getting financial aid should have met with a career coach and done a career plan.
If I had a magic wand to change something at VWCC:
Late-night transportation and articulation of Workforce programs to credit programs.
What’s the most important points the VWCC community should know about Workforce?
We are involved in a lot. My team is mostly employed through grant funds to reach specific populations that have barriers to reaching self-sufficiency. Workforce programs are typically a good route for these individuals since they are shorter and lead to industry-recognized credentials that can get them better employment quickly. These are often a stepping stone for students to experience college and see the results of education. To reach these populations, we are at job fairs, community resource events, industry networking events, and even reaching out to the faith community to spread the word that we have much to offer.
The question you should have asked me (or random fun fact)
I love thrifting and finding deals, so much so that I have an eBay business where I flip items I find.