The Next Big Idea

Jeannie Plybon, grants coordinator, meets with staff members to discuss a grant opportunity.

Jeannie Plybon, grants coordinator, meets with staff members to discuss a grant opportunity.

Jeannie Plybon has had a hand in a multitude of projects around Randolph College: new carpet in Thoresen Theatre, hands-on activities during Science Festival, an ancient drama conference, and student research projects are just a few.

For more than four years, Plybon, Randolph’s grants coordinator, has worked behind the scenes, helping faculty and staff members find outside funding for their projects.

“When people come to me with an idea, sometimes it’s just a seed,” Plybon said. “If I’m just there to support them and help them, ask them the right questions, and be positive about what they want to do, it turns into a big idea.”

Faculty members recognize Plybon’s instinct and talent for analyzing ideas, suggesting improvements, and discovering grant opportunities. Jennifer Gauthier, a communication studies professor, said Plybon’s work helped her get a second Fulbright scholarship. “She is upbeat, positive, and dedicated to her work,” Gauthier said. “She really makes you feel confident about what you are submitting and goes over it with a fine-tooth comb.”

One of Plybon’s proudest accomplishments is the $600,000 National Science Foundation grant she worked on with Peter Sheldon, a physics professor. Although the College’s first application for the grant was rejected, they were undaunted. One year later, the revised application to fund a science scholarship program was approved.

It was worth the time, she said. “If people are willing to put effort into it, why not try?” she said. “And if it doesn’t work the first time, why not try again?” Plybon’s enthusiasm and supportive nature are prevalent in all areas of her life. About the time she came to work at Randolph, her fiancé, Adam Eller ’13, was considering changing careers. Plybon encouraged him to pursue his dreams by enrolling in the College’s environmental science program. Shortly after graduating, he was hired by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. “It completely changed his life,” Plybon said. “Randolph means a great deal to both of us for that alone.”