Many of us already know Cathy Ferguson.
Beyond advising students through the Career Center for the past five years, she currently chairs the Staff Senate and serves on the college Reopening Taskforce.
Last year, she was awarded a $5,000 Innovation Grant to advance the work of our Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) workgroup.
If you’re unfamiliar with CPL (sometimes called PLA, or prior learning assessment), it means granting academic credit for demonstrated college-level equivalencies gained outside of the classroom. This could include CLEP tests, ACE recommendations, and PLACE portfolio development and assessment.
Just this month, Cathy transitioned to a new role: She is Virginia Western’s first, full-time Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) Specialist. She plans to stay “housed” in the Career Center.
This job is a critical piece of our 5-year, $1.8 million Title III grant, as it helps adult learners reduce the cost and time to attainment of a credential or degree. As Cathy noted in her Innovation Grant proposal: Research shows that adult learners, who earn CPL credits vs. their peers who don’t, have better academic outcomes.
In this role, Cathy will coordinate and accelerate the continued development of Virginia Western’s CPL programs. This means directly serving adult learners, while also working with CAEL (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) to help support faculty and staff through professional development.
What would she like to accomplish as CPL Specialist?
“I would like to create a program that is sustainable beyond the grant period and will lead to a collaborative effort within the college to increase enrollment, better our community, and help people to gain college credit for experience that is equivalent to college learning.”
Cathy attended the University of Virginia (“go Wahoos!”), and has work experience in telecommunications and insurance, as well as higher education.
“I am passionate about mentoring and coaching and encouraging others to pursue their dreams,” she said.
OK, so beyond her new CPL role, let’s get to know Cathy a little better:
Hometown: Hooville, aka Charlottesville, VA.
First job: While in college, I was a car rental agent for AVIS and worked at the airport. I loved meeting people from all walks of life and hearing their stories about travel.
Proudest career accomplishment: I was the Director of Career Services at ITT Tech when it closed unexpectedly. There was so much disappointment for our students, who had been declared graduates, but had yet walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. With community support, I was able to provide an “unofficial” graduation for our recently declared graduates. It was important to me that they celebrate their success and be recognized by their family, friends and faculty. I will never forget the looks on their faces as I handed them their empty diploma cases and reminded them that “a piece of paper does not define you … but your hard work over the last two years does.”
What do you love most about Virginia Western? Hands down, the people.
Favorite music: I love Motown and Beach music.
Favorite TV: Hallmark, HGTV and sports.
If you had to pick one favorite movie: “The Wizard of Oz.”
Favorite Roanoke-area restaurant(s): Los Arcos (previously known as El Toreo) at the corner of Brandon Avenue and Peters Creek Road; and Alexander’s in downtown Roanoke.
Favorite candy: Mounds and Hot Tamales.
I could talk for hours about … My grandchildren! Six strong-willed, determined, funny and plain adorable kids, ages 1-12.
Any book recommendations? “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.
Random fun facts: I have ziplined through the rainforest in Puerto Rico, played glacier golf in Whistler, British Columbia, and sung “Amazing Grace” in the amphitheater in Ephesus, Turkey.
Please help me congratulate Cathy Ferguson as she starts her latest adventure as CPL Specialist! You can reach her directly at email@example.com.
On our grant radar
*Free* professional learning opportunities
- The ALICE Series: Engaging Our Under-Resourced Students. This five-part series continues March 25 & 26. All Zoom workshops are from noon to 1 p.m. No registration required. Get the Zoom links.
- The #RealCollege Virtual Journey, sponsored by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice. Over a 9-month period beginning with a March 31 kickoff with Soledad O’Brien and Wes Moore, the Journey will provide participants with online workshops and engaging activities led by experts and delivered free of charge. Register here.
- The Future Trends Forum: Discussions about the future of education and technology with writer/futurist Bryan Alexander. March 25: How can we use data analytics to improve education? with University of Arizona professor Greg Heileman. April 1: How can we best measure and understand student growth with higher education? with professor Richard Arum. Upcoming programs.
- Building Equitable Learning Environments in Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEM. This webinar focuses on successful strategies applicable to 2-year college technician educators from Action Research for Equity projects that were completed by participants engaged in the NSF ATE-funded EESTEM II project. These projects provide helpful guidance, strategies, and interventions for faculty and administrators in CTE and STEM to foster an equitable learning environment. April 7, 1 p.m. Register here.
- Perkins: Internal requests due March 26. Discuss with your dean.
- NSF (S-STEM): Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (due April 7) A little late to submit a proposal this year, but we can start planning for spring 2022.
- NSF: Advancing Innovation and Impact in Undergraduate STEM Education at Two-year Institutions of Higher Education. NSF encourages bold, potentially transformative projects that address immediate challenges facing STEM education at two-year colleges and/or anticipate new structures and functions of the STEM learning and teaching enterprise. It also seeks to support systemic approaches to advance inclusive and equitable STEM education practices. (due May 10)
- NEH: Humanities Initiatives at Community Colleges. An opportunity to create curriculum, community partnerships, and faculty development with up to $150,000. (due May 20)
Grant starter kit
— Stephanie Ogilvie Seagle, March 2021