A round of applause for our innovative colleagues!

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We’ve all been, uurmm, a little busy since March, so you may have forgotten Virginia Western’s Educational Foundation funded another round of Innovation Grants in late spring. 

The college shared a news release in June, touting these creative projects. 

Your colleagues deserve a round of applause for their successful proposals, which they submitted just as the pandemic was upending our lives. These grant champions have been given the option to extend their project into 2021-22 due to COVID.

Here are the innovators, listed in alphabetical order:

  • Cathy Ferguson, School of CCT: Alleviating Barriers for Adult Learners Through Portfolio Assessment; will help create an innovative and more consistent credit for prior learning program, and some professional development. ($5,000)
  • Matthew Goff, School of STEM: Microscopes and Slides for STEM Center, which will give students more access and time to study for biology lab exams. ($7,242)
  • Cheryl Hilton, TRIO Pathways:  VWCC/Northwest Collaborative: United for Impact, which will increase the footprint of VWCC in Northwest Roanoke through collaboration with neighborhood, nonprofits and grassroots organizations which promote health, education and training and community development. ($5,000)
  • Wil Preston, School of CCT: Accelerating the Automotive Technology Pathway, which will expand program capacity and support new automotive course partnerships focused on new English language learners. ($3,000)
  • Bryan Walke, School of CCT: Expanding Machining Program Capacity by creating two dedicated teaching areas for the Machining Lab at the Melrose campus and consolidating the former Industrial Maintenance lab equipment with newly purchased Mechatronics Fundamentals equipment into the STEM building for CCT’s partnership with the Mechatronics academic program. ($2,700)

In the spirit of empathetic design thinking, I went through the Innovation Grant application process just like everyone else and was awarded a very small grant — $500 — which will pay for an improvisational theater workshop for faculty and staff. My plan is to organize this FUN (and optional) workshop during our in-service weeks in January.

The idea was sparked by a 2019 LinkedIn survey, which revealed the No. 1 soft skill sought by employers was …. creativity.

My proposal was supported by the research of UNC-Chapel Hill professor Keith Sawyer, who believes all teachers can learn how to teach creative knowledge in their subject area by using a technique called “guided improvisation.” In his 2019 book, “The Creative Classroom: Innovative Teaching for 21st-Century Learners,” Sawyer argues teachers can learn to improvise in the classroom by experimenting with the same rules of improv theater. 

My goal for this innovation grant was to help strengthen our creative, collaborative culture at Virginia Western — but honestly, the pandemic is forcing all of us, in every department and role at the college, to be creative every day. We are grappling with change and uncertainty, with no playbook to follow. A short, improv workshop should be a piece of cake by January. I’ll be sharing more updates as we approach the new year. 

As always, I’d love to hear your creative ideas that could turn into a grant-funded project. Email sseagle@virginiawestern.edu.

— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, August 2020

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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!

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