VCU Center for Corporate Education

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Audrey Walls is the marketing assistant for the Center for Corporate Education. She brings nearly 10 years of professional writing, coaching, and advising experience to the role, along with an appetite for all things career development. She holds an M.Ed. in Counselor Education, an M.F.A. in creative writing, and a B.A. in English. She lives (and works) in a small house with a lively assortment of adults, children, plants, and animals.

Think back to March. What were your initial reactions to the news of the pandemic?

At the time, I was a graduate student finishing up my last semester of my M. Ed. program in counselor education, balancing my schoolwork, a full time internship, and continuing some hourly work on the side with the Center for Corporate Education. My plate was full already. 

On Leap Day, February 29, I attended a small wedding where the majority of the couple’s friends and co-workers worked in healthcare. I remember during the reception, one of them pulled out their phone and showed us the headline that there had been the first positive COVID case in California. She said “It’s about to get real, people.” That moment was like the hairline crack that widened over the next two weeks.

What has helped you cope along the way?

I am an incredibly empathic person and a story-teller by nature. So putting myself in others’ shoes comes very easily to me. Early in the pandemic, this got me into trouble — by overempathizing with so many people I got unsurprisingly overwhelmed. But as silly as it sounds, I started seeing the pandemic through the eyes of my amazing Australian Shepherd. To her, 2020 has been the best year ever — I stayed home to be with her, she gets taken on more walks, more games of fetch, more treats and headrubs and accidental scraps of food on the floor. My dog sees nothing but positive (unless you’re delivering mail) so I have tried to do that, too.

What do you miss about a traditional work environment? 

I miss my walk to and from campus every day. I refused to pay for parking on campus, so I would intentionally park about ¾ to 1 full mile away from the School of Business in order to make it count. As an introvert, I had built in this time for my brain to wake up before I had to interact with other people. I could feel connected to the environment, listen to music, and just walk. It was almost meditative.

What do you feel you have gained from a remote work environment?

Time. Sleep. Flexibility. A whole refrigerator of lunch options at my disposal every day so I’m not going out to eat. Therefore, probably money!

How has your perception of online learning changed over the last year?

I ended my graduate program right as the CCE geared up for delivering all our programs online and I could really tell a difference in the thought process behind each. For a counseling class, we usually spend multiple hours a week in class, talking, listening, discussing, role play, in group projects or giving each other thoughtful feedback. It’s so much easier to do this in person, so shifting abruptly to online was a struggle. 

Alternatively, at the CCE, we immediately started thinking about how we deliver online content in a meaningful way, knowing that it doesn’t mean translating an all-day in-person program into an all-day virtual Zoom meeting. We added value and thought to our programs without adding clock time, realizing that learners crave interaction above all else. I do think online learning is here to stay and we will all be better for it.

What is the CCE doing right? What can the CCE do better?

As I’ve said before, we are an incredibly thoughtful team. We spend entire meetings thinking about ways we can make online learning and content more accessible and rewarding for our clients and participants. We’ve also done some amazing things with videos, our blog, and our learning management system!

It’s hard to think of what we can do better — instead I keep imagining what we could do next. In terms of bolstering our online offerings, I hope we will deliver shorter and bite-sized content that connects with users who may not have a half-day to spend on professional development. 

What do you feel grateful for?

My CCE team. I have been with this office for nearly two and a half years, from quitting my full-time job and returning to school all the way through my graduate program and beyond. I cannot imagine having a better support system of intelligent, perceptive, funny, progressive, hard-working women.

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