Category Archives: General

Experts Directory serves as great resource for college and Extension

Need to find an expert for a story or article on agricultural productivity or animal genetics? Bioengineering or bioluminescence? Climate change or community development? Diabetes or drought?

Look no further than the new Experts Directory that contains detailed descriptions of almost 300 authoritative sources from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Virginia Cooperative Extension. The college is home to world-renowned scientists who are addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the planet.

Experts Directory
Faculty members from the college and Virginia Cooperative Extension are working on issues ranging from agricultural productivity to animal welfare, bioengineering to bioluminescence, diabetes to drought, and climate change to community viability.

Members of the media, fellow scientists, and others can easily find the expert they are searching for using keywords, departments, subject area, or names.

A new Newsroom site also is available where you can learn about the latest news from the college, trends in agriculture, upcoming events, videos, research blog posts, and more.

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What’s up in the VT, CALS, and VCE web world?

With the start of a new semester, I wanted to welcome those who are new to the CALS and VCE family and to give some web-related updates. I’ve gotten lots of questions in the past few months regarding a variety of things, so see the sections below for information on the CMS migration, new web templates, and restructured teams. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any additional questions!

Content Management System migration

The Virginia Tech web team is hard at work testing the new content management system (CMS) and making sure the migration will go smoothly. An exact date for the switch over has not been announced, but it should be in the next few weeks.

Please note that the VCE Unit Office websites will not be migrated at the same time as the rest of the CMS. It was originally built with special content types that require a separate process. While the rest of the websites are moved into the new system, the Offices sites will remain in the old system. This is a very good thing because it means that we won’t need to potentially troubleshoot the CALS, main VCE, and Publications websites at the same time as the 107 unit office websites! See the next section below for information regarding the Unit Office redesign project.

While the switch over is happening, we are anticipating a blackout period where CMS users will not be able to access the system and make updates. If you anticipate needing to update your website around the start of the semester, do this now! Don’t wait! Otherwise, it may be awhile before your content and/or documents can be updated. Continue reading

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Listening skills

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”

— Ralph G. Nichols, father of the study of listening

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness and on the quality of your relationships with others.

Given all the listening we do, you would think we would be good at it! In fact most of us are not, and research suggests that we remember only 25 to 50 percent of what we hear.

Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. By understanding your personal style of communicating, you will go a long way toward creating positive and lasting impressions with others.

Listening skills are essential to leadership that’s responsive, attentive, and empathetic, and they are skills we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you will improve your productivity as well as your ability to influence, persuade, and negotiate. Effective listening skills are necessary for workplace and personal success! Continue reading

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How to make your webpage stand out

You have a website. You have content on this website — perhaps information about an academic program, or an event, or your latest research — and you want it to pop out on your page over all the other content that might be stuffed there. What are some good ways to go about doing so?

There are good ways and bad ways to get your content noticed, and there are ways of getting your content noticed which may not necessarily help in getting people to take the action you desire. What follows are a few tips that will hopefully allow you to present your content in a way that is useful to your audience and help you to achieve your goals.

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Should Titles Be Capitalized?

When crafting a press release, publication, or letter, the rules for when and how to use academic or job titles can seem confusing. Virginia Tech follows the Associated Press Stylebook for guidance. Here are some general guidelines and examples to follow.

Academic Titles

The rule of thumb is to capitalize academic titles that precede an individual’s name but lowercase academic titles that follow a name.

  • Capitalize academic titles that directly precede individual names. Note: Capitalizing “professor” or “assistant professor” before a name is an exception to AP Style. Ex: Dean Vernon Wormer, Professor Severus Snape
  • Lowercase academic titles when they are used without a specific name. Ex: the dean, a professor of potions
  • Lowercase academic titles that follow the name of an individual. Ex: Vernon Wormer, dean of Faber College; Severus Snape, professor of potions


  • Capitalize University Distinguished Professor and Alumni Distinguished Professor whether or not they precede a name. If an area of study is included, capitalize it.
  • Capitalize all professorships and endowed chairs, whether or not they precede a person’s name.

Job Titles

With job titles, capitalize formal job titles that directly precede a person’s name but lowercase job titles that follow a person’s name, are used without name, or are more like job descriptions than formal titles. Continue reading

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Academic jargon: Keep things simple

If you’re a subject-matter expert, it’s a good time to be communicating. People no longer believe leaders are telling the truth, reports the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer. The public is more likely to turn to other sources, such as academic experts, whom they rate highly credible.

But you can alienate your audience from the start if you indulge in jargon. Consider how the venerable publication, The Economist, begins its style guide: “The first requirement of The Economist is that it should be readily understandable. Clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.”

Many great thinkers and writers have said as much, including Albert Einstein — “If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” — and Leonardo da Vinci — “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Did you know that if you use jargon, 74 percent of people will think you don’t understand your own words? A clever infographic shows how people respond to jargon. Only 21 percent of people are happy to work with people who lace their conversations with jargon. And half of all people think you’re using jargon to sound smart!

With 1 billion smartphones in use, a million apps floating around, and thousands of advertising messages beaming at us daily, not to mention social media – you’ve got to work hard to get your messages through. Rule No. 1: Keep things simple!

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Communicating Purposefully

Communication is a critical function in all of our lives. By communicating purposefully and focusing on results and relationships, effective communication strategies generate solid results with multiple audiences.

This blog will cover a multitude of topics to encourage an environment of open communication that is results-driven and strategically focused. From writing effective emails to learning how to clearly explain the benefits or results of a program or service, from learning how to listen and receive instructions to dealing with day-to-day problem-solving, good communication cuts down on misunderstandings, increases productivity, reduces confusion, and helps deliver a better end result.  Many rules of communication are unstated and assumed; unless everyone knows what is expected, misperceptions and frustrations can flourish. Continue reading

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