Posted on Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Being selected for the Chancellor’s Faculty Fellowship is not unlike winning a Grammy. In the world of classroom instruction, you’re viewed as an academic rock star; an educator with appeal and perhaps more importantly, unlimited potential.

“It came as a surprise,” said Chola Chhetri, a professor of information technology at Northern Virginia Community College. “I was happy because it would support my pursuit of a doctorate.”


Michael Sundblad, associate professor of music and chair of the Performing Arts department at Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC), said he too, was pleasantly surprised. But, resisting the impulse to share the news with his colleagues, at least initially, was a bit challenging.

“I had to sit on the information,” he observed. “I called my friends. I called my family. But, no one at the college could know for a couple of days. So, I was kind of busting at the seams, waiting to tell everyone.”

For Shanda Jenkins, assistant professor of psychology and department chair at TNCC, being named a Fellow was a tearful, overwhelming experience.

“I had to sit with it myself for a while so I could get my head around it before I started telling people about it. I had to understand for myself what it was going to mean for me and how it was going to change my entire life for a year.”


The Fellows receive a fellowship grant of $7,500, three-quarters salary and up to a one-year leave of absence. The program is intended to prepare faculty members for top-level management and instructional positions within the VCCS by giving them the time and financial support they need to pursue doctoral degrees.

Chhetri said he’s looking forward to making significant progress on his dissertation. He also hopes to present at conferences and publish a number of research papers. Sundblad said he hopes to successfully defend his dissertation and return to teaching next fall.

“If I do finish next year, it’ll be 20 years after I finished high school so it’ll have a nice symmetry to it. That would be a fun marker to have those numbers line up like that.”

For Jenkins, who got into psychology because “people are the most fascinating things in the world,” getting more involved with people and projects – the kind of things limited bandwidth simply didn’t allow for previously — are at the top of her to-do list.

“Time,” she noted, “is the most valuable resource you have. It (being selected) has given me opportunities to broaden my perspective outside of my college and that is very beneficial so I know I’ll go back with a different viewpoint; a different way of seeing things.”

Featured image (l to r): Michael Sundblad (TNCC), Shanda Jenkins (TNCC) and Chola Chhetri (NVCC)'

Craig Butterworth

A native of Richmond, Craig Butterworth is an award-winning broadcast journalist and communications professional. He has worked as a spokesperson, staff writer and editor for a variety of non-profit and for-profit organizations throughout the Richmond area.

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