Here’s an idea for the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant. What are yours?

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Before we get bogged down in the details of the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant, I thought I’d expound on an idea that I mentioned in a previous blog post.

In “The Power of Moments,” authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath introduced me to the Course Design Institute (CDI), a week-long workshop offered at the University of Virginia.

“The dirty secret of higher education is that faculty aren’t taught how to teach,” said Michael Palmer, an associate professor of chemistry who started the CDI at UVa in 2009.

Here’s a passage from the book that explains the power of this program:

[Palmer] puts the following question to his audience of 25 to 30 professors: “Imagine you have a group of dream students. They are engaged, they are perfectly behaved, and they have perfect memories … Fill in the sentence: 3-5 years from now, my students still know _________. Or they are still able to do _____________. Or they still find value in _________.”

After some brainstorming and listing answers (very few of which are content focused), Palmer then asks the professors to pull out the syllabus they brought to the institute.

“How much of your current syllabus will advance your students toward the dreams you have for them?”

There’s an awkward silence in the room. George Christ, a biomedical engineering professor, remembered the moment with a chuckle: “You look at your syllabus, and you go, ‘Zero’.” Most professors discover exactly the same thing. It’s a head-slapper of a moment.

… The differences between the “before and after” syllabi from the CDI are often striking.

Lucky for us, the authors provide an example of an improved biomedical engineering syllabus on their website:

The book reports that 295 instructors participated in CDI through 2015. They rated the workshop a 4.76 out of 5.0 — and all 295 said they’d recommend the course to a colleague. Not bad!

I was intrigued … so I explored the CDI website and learned that the program is open to any instructor — not just UVa faculty. The 2018 sessions include May 21-25 and June 18-22. Registration is $900, and lodging and most meals would be extra. Learn more by watching this video:

And through the CDI website:

I’m curious if there would be any interest from VWCC faculty who would not only attend CDI for their own course, but go with the intention of sharing the same techniques with faculty at Virginia Western? Someone (or some team) willing to host our own version of a course design workshop … folks who would champion student-centered design thinking on our campus?

Perhaps this idea — or a similar one — might inspire you to consider the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant or an Innovation Grant through our Educational Foundation or some other funding alternative.

As always, I’m happy to talk through your ideas and questions.

Now back to the professional development opportunities through the VCCS …

The VCCS offers two types of professional development grants:

  1. The Paul Lee Professional Development Grant, with a maximum stipend of $2,500 for the summer.
  2. The Paul Lee Workshop Mini-Grant, with a maximum award of $1,500.

Last week, I focused on the Workshop Mini-Grant. Today, I’ll spotlight the Paul Lee Professional Development Grant.

Full-time and adjunct VCCS faculty members are eligible. Classified staff may not be primary authors, but may be involved as collaborators and co-applicants.

Faculty may apply individually or collaboratively for time and expenses. Maximum funding for time is eight credits. Most time is funded at three credits. Summer funding for Paul Lee Professional Development Grants is $2,500.

The next deadline is Feb. 1 for projects proposed for the 2018 summer semester.

The VCCS suggests the following topics to get your ideas percolating:

  • Initiatives to enhance student success
  • Discipline-specific project
  • Information literacy
  • Faculty learning communities
  • Student learning communities
  • Initiatives enhancing the use of technology in teaching and learning
  • Best practices in global awareness
  • Pedagogy
  • Leadership development
  • Developmental education
  • Alternative evaluation systems

Eligible projects

The following projects are typically eligible for grant funding:

  • Grants supporting research and activities advancing teaching, learning and student success and the mission of the VCCS are eligible, including research; writing professional articles/books (with shared ownership with the VCCS); developing courses not listed in the master course file; collaborative projects with high schools, other higher education institutions or the community; and projects related to VCCS-identified priorities.
  • Conference expenses — if they are part of a larger project or activity. Applicants should demonstrate college match for a portion of the costs.
  • Travel (domestic and overseas)–approval is dependent upon the purpose, methodology, and justification of costs. Make sure that the travel budget is well researched, detailed, and realistic.

What kind of projects are NOT eligible for funding?

  • Professional development activities typically funded by the college, i.e. tuition reimbursement; travel to VCCS-sponsored events; licensures; equipment, supplies, textbooks, and software purchases; student activities funding; normal teaching or administrative duties; and developing courses similar to those in the VCCS master course file.
  • Design and development of a web-based course that is already available online (check VCCS Master Course File listing online) will not be funded unless there is a distinctive or innovative component.

More information

To review the online application and learn more about these grants, go to

The grants office would be happy to talk through you ideas. Please note that all proposals must be reviewed by Virginia Western’s Office of Grant Development and Special Projects prior to submission. Please contact Marilyn Herbert-Ashton ( | 857-6372) or myself ( | 857-76084) for assistance.

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About Stephanie

Stephanie SeagleStephanie Ogilvie Seagle has served as Grant Specialist at Virginia Western since 2016, but she prefers her honorary title: “Chief Joy Officer.” Stephanie spent most of her career at The Roanoke Times, a daily newspaper, where she served in various news and features roles including “Shoptimist” shopping columnist. She earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies at George Mason University and a master’s of arts in liberal studies at Hollins University. Stephanie is a mom to one human daughter and multiple chihuahuas … and is obsessed with reading nonfiction, Halloween, and crafting glow necklaces inspired by the Mill Mountain Star. Glow Roanoke!