Virginia Change Agent Team

Peter Berquist, Thomas Nelson Community College
Karen M. Layou, Reynolds Community College
Lynsey LeMay, Thomas Nelson Community College
Initial Publication Date: October 11, 2016


Prior to the Faculty as Change Agents project, our team was active in various SAGE 2YC initiatives for several years. We each made many improvements to our own geoscience classrooms using evidence-based teaching practices to which we had been exposed. However, this project gave us the chance to truly broaden our reach. We have brought more ideas about active learning strategies and inclusive classrooms to our science colleagues at our home institutions and have fostered interdisciplinary collaboration. Additionally, we have contributed more geoscience-specific content at professional development opportunities within the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) and have established deeper connections with faculty at four-year colleges and geoscience professionals across the state.


Throughout the last decade, members of our team have been intimately involved in helping to grow an active network of two-year college geoscience faculty by serving in leadership positions within NAGT Geo2YC Division, participating in national and facilitating local SAGE 2YC workshops, and contributing abstracts to national and regional conference sessions on geoscience teaching. We have recognized the value of a strong network of educators who understand the unique needs of two-year college populations, and wanted to recreate those interactions within our own departments and among the various institutions of the Virginia Community College System (VCCS). By leading conversations about innovative teaching strategies on our campuses, we hoped to encourage better learning experiences, not only in geoscience classrooms, but across disciplines. Because both of our team's institutions are part of the VCCS, many initiatives start at the system office and trickle down to individual campuses, providing clear opportunities for faculty to work together toward common goals. By encouraging participation in system-level activities such as our Science Peer Group meetings, we hoped to grow relationships to allow for more collaboration among VCCS geoscience faculty. Finally, given our own experiences, we wanted to provide students a clearer picture of the exciting and fulfilling careers that can lead from a degree in geoscience, and how a student might begin to journey along a geoscience career path. By increasing student awareness of professional pathways in geoscience, we have also begun to broaden participation of underrepresented groups within the discipline.

Aligning with Institutional Priorities

Our efforts are well aligned with the current strategic plans of both Reynolds and Thomas Nelson Community Colleges. Both plans include a focus on initiatives that promote development skills indicative of a well-prepared workforce through inclusive and welcoming environments. Both plans also specifically address development of pathways to successful degree completion, with emphasis on strategies that promote academic success for all students, encourage retention and credential completion (particularly for under-prepared students), and strengthening relationships with four-year colleges to enhance transfer success. The SAGE 2YC Faculty as Change Agents project is ending as an exciting new initiative, Transfer VA, is beginning within the VCCS. The goal of Transfer VA is to facilitate increased collaboration between 2YC and 4YCs across the state to streamline transfer pathways and align course outcomes across institutions. Due to the work of both Virginia Change Agent teams, Geology is one of the disciplines in the first wave of the project, and some of the Change Agents are actively involved in this process.

This project description is part of a collection documenting work by teams of two-year college faculty to implement high-impact, evidence-based instructional and co-curricular practices at their own institutions in pursuit of improved STEM learning, broadened participation, and a more robust STEM workforce.

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