Monday, August 31, 2015

Be A Tn Promise Mentor!

There are plenty of reasons to be a TN Promise Mentor. I took part in the program last year and it was rewarding to help high school students set a clear path through college. I had students who were confused by the differences between TCATs, community colleges and universities. I had several who had no idea what programs Vol State offered. I helped them to find the path that was right for them and stay on track with what they needed to do in the TN Promise program.

The Tennessean had a good article today explaining the importance of mentors to TN Promise.

There is no doubt in my mind that the best mentors out there are people who work at a community college or TCAT. You already have a base of knowledge about higher ed that most people don't have. Put that knowledge to an even greater good - consider being a TN Promise mentor this coming school year. I have signed-up again. The sign-up has been extended. It only takes a couple of minutes to sign-up and only a couple of hours a month to participate. Here is the sign-up page.

-Eric Melcher

Help to Determine Our Future

Higher Ed is changing quickly. There are many challenges we face and many directions we should consider. This is your opportunity to participate in the strategic planning for the college. That planning will set the agenda for the next ten years.

The college has a series of Listening Sessions coming up soon to get input from faculty, staff, students and the community. The questions asked will include: What does Vol State do well? What can Vol State do better? And, what should Vol State be doing in the future? These discussions will include ideas on strengthening college relationships with K-12 education and how to expand the Vol State commitment to business and workforce development. The sessions will be informal and provide plenty of opportunity for conversation. Participants are asked to come with ideas to share.

The faculty and staff Listening Sessions will be held on Friday, September 11 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the Nichols Dining Room of the Wood Campus Center. You are also welcome to attend the public meeting on September 29 at 8 a.m. also in the Nichols Dining Room

People can submit ideas for Vol State planning online by visiting For other questions please call Lauren Collier at 615-230-3530. The current college strategic goals can be found at

Sumner County Impact Award

Dr. Faulkner was recently awarded a Sumner County Impact Award by the Nashville Business Journal (NBJ). Each year the NBJ honors a group of Sumner County leaders who have made a difference. Here are a couple of Dr. Faulkner's answers from the survey that led to the award:

Other than the people you work with and for, what is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is to be able to go around the Vol State service area and tell people about the many ways that Vol State contributes to the community.  There are many misperceptions about the quality and quantity of opportunities Vol State provides.  Too many people think Vol State consists of the three buildings visible from Nashville Pike.  I like to surprise them with what happens in those three buildings and in the 14 other buildings that are part of our Sumner County campus.

What is the biggest challenge facing Sumner County? 

As more employers consider Sumner County as a potential site for new location or for expansion of existing facilities, a well prepared workforce continues to be a top priority.  In order to meet this challenge,  local government, the Sumner County Schools, and Vol State must partner with business and industry to create a skilled and work-ready populous. 

Vol State in the News

Tennessee Promise students at Vol State tell about their first day on campus. It's in the Tennessean Sumner A.M.

And now we're already working to get current high school seniors signed-up for Tn Promise. The college has help sessions coming up on all campuses. See the website for details. Here's the story in the Tennessean.

The Fall Job Career Fair is coming up on Wednesday, September 23. Here's coverage on Channel 5 and the Lebanon Democrat.

September 2015 Calendar of Events

Ongoing          Faculty Art Exhibition, Thigpen Gallery and Ramer Great Hall, through October 5

Sept. 1             Welcome Day and Commit to Completion Signing, Highland Crest, 10am to 1pm

Sept. 2             Welcome Day and Commit to Completion Signing, Livingston, 10am to 1pm         

Sept. 7             Labor Day Holiday, all locations closed

Sept. 8             Cycling 101- How Do I Get Started?, Vol State Bike Club, Nichols Dining, Noon

Sept. 9             Intramural Soccer Sign-ups, Library Lawn, 2pm

Sept. 9            Coffee with the Prez. Cafeteria, 10am-11am

Sept. 10           Commit to Completion Signing, Cafeteria, 10am to 1pm

Sept. 10           Belmont University Nursing Info, Warf Room 110, 12:45pm-2:10pm

Sept. 11           Harvest Moon Soiree, Bluegrass Country Club, 5:30pm, tickets $75, Foundation

Sept. 12           TN Promise Sign-Up Event, campus-wide, 8am, RSVP to

Sept. 15, 16     Career Readiness Symposiums, all students invited, Caudill Hall, 12:45-2:10pm

Sept. 16           Hispanic Heritage Quiz Bowl, Cafeteria, 12:45pm

Sept. 17           Constitution Day, Speech and Election 2016, Thigpen Library, 1pm

Sept. 17           Cumberland Nursing Info Session, Warf 110, 12:45-2:10pm

Sept. 17           TN Promise Sign-Up Event, campus-wide, 5pm, RSVP to

Sept. 18           Movie Night: Avengers Age of Ultron, Library Lawn or Pickel, Dusk (6:45pm)

Sept. 22           Motivational Speaker: Odell Bizzell, Nichols Dining Room, 12:45pm

Sept. 23           Fall Job Career Fair, Pickel Field House, 10am-1pm

Sept. 23           Sumner County College Night, Pickel Field House, 6pm to 8pm

Sept. 29           Open Mic- Students Perform, Library Second Floor, 12:45-2:10pm

Sept. 29           TN Promise Sign-Up Event, Highland Crest, 5pm, RSVP to

Sept. 30           Employee Benefits Fair, Ramer Great Hall, 10am-3pm

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Promise of TN Promise

The latest numbers, as of August 24,  have 1486 Tennessee Promise students attending Vol State classes this fall. That pushes overall enrollment up more than five percent. The Promise students are also credited with increasing our Full Time Equivalency. It’s up nearly 15 percent over last year. The thought is that Promise students have to take at least 12 credit hours, so we have more students taking more classes.

So, now the big questions: How will they do academically? And perhaps most importantly- what will we do to help them succeed?

We have four new completion coaches on campus this semester. That means that each academic division will have a person to contact students who are in trouble (Health Sciences already has such a position). But that can only happen if faculty members use the ALERTS system as early as possible. The goal is to stage an academic intervention with students who are doing poorly, and to do that intervention as early in the semester as possible. The completion coaches, coordinated by the Office of Retention, will contact students in trouble and help those students get extra academic support. The college will also have a new software system, called Starfish, to help with ALERTS and intervention.

Tennessee Promise students may be a different type of community college student. They are already used to responding to deadlines and listening to instructions, just by the very nature of the Tennessee Promise program requirements.

“They have been pushed to complete things much earlier than we have seen before,” said Dr. Emily Short, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management. “They’ve been indoctrinated early.”

A Summer Bridge pilot program attempted to get Promise students up to speed in English and Math.

“The Bridge Program was successful. We had 96 percent of students who took Summer Bridge either increase their scores,” said Short. “49 students out of 81 in the pilot tested out of some or all of their Learning Support needs.”

The hope is to expand Bridge next year.

In the meantime, the focus is also on recruiting a new class of Tennessee Promise students. The application for high school seniors to enroll in Tennessee Promise is open now. The deadline is November 2. Vol State will be holding info sessions for the high school students in September and October. Click here for a list of the dates and other details for students. 

“We learned a lot this year,” Short said. “We have learned how to better prepare ourselves and how to better prepare campus for an influx of students like this.”

Vol State is also trying to retain the title of most college employees signed-up as TN Promise mentors. It is rewarding volunteer work. You have the opportunity to put students on the right path and get them thinking about college programs and requirements much earlier than the typical community college student.

“I have already signed up,” said Criminal Justice instructor James Brown. “I enjoy helping a new group of students. I like to think I made a difference for them.”

You can sign-up, as either a new or returning mentor, here.

Dr. Faulkner: Fish Out of Water

From 1962 to 1971 one of the most popular television programs was The Beverley Hillbillies.  For the young and unenlightened the 30 minute weekly program was about a family of hillbillies who became over-night millionaires because oil was discovered on their mountain land.  (Bubblin’ crude, black gold, Texas tea.)  They moved from a one room mountain cabin to a mansion in Beverley Hills.  (Swimmin’ pools, movie stars.)  Most episodes can be viewed on You Tube.  The plot of each episode generally revolved around their discovery of this new and different world.  The program is widely regarded as the first of the “fish out of water” genre of TV programs.  They never did find the ghost that played chimes in the mansion but they did come to realize that each time it happened someone would shortly knock on the front door.

Other programs of this genre followed with more or less of the theme included.  The 1979 to 1981 program Buck Rogers in the 25th Century capitalized on the idea.  Even today’s hit series The Big Bang widely uses the inability of Sheldon Cooper to understand the world around him as a comic device and plot topic.

What got me thinking about this is an article in UB Magazine (March, 2015)  (  that offers 20 recommendations for how we can better serve first generation students.  We have always had a high number of students that are first in their family to attend college.  I really enjoy asking first in their family students to stand at graduation and so appreciate the applause they receive.  With the TnPromise, we believe the number of these students will increase dramatically.
Many of these first generation students will feel like fish out of water.  One of my favorite stories is of a TnAchieves student who arrived on campus on the first day of the semester.  He called his mentor in a bit of a panic because he couldn’t find the MWF building. 

I thought back on personal occasions when I felt out of place and tried to remember what helped me to get through.  In most instances it was some person that took time to guide me along.  These mentors:
·         gave me a heads-up on what to expect.
·         explained things in a clear way without acronyms or jargon.
·         anticipated where the rough spots may be.
·         answered my questions.
·         stayed close by to bolster my confidence.
·         never made me feel embarrassed because of what I didn’t know.

You may not have signed up to be a TnPromise mentor, but all of us can help these new students that will be arriving on our campus feeling like fish out of water.

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

Meet the New English Faculty Members

The English Department is officially the largest academic department on campus, perhaps a friendly and well-read English army, judging from this picture. Here's a note from Laura Black:

It's been a busy summer in the English Department.  We've hired in nine new full-time term/temporary English faculty. These new colleagues include Julia Cawthon, Arlo Hall, Emily Ledbetter, Cori Mathis, Laura McClister, Joy Nettles, Sarah Passino, Cathy Randall, and Stephanie Webb.  Currently, we have hired in over twenty new adjunct faculty, and we are still hiring as we continue to add classes.

We are thinking of changing our name to the English Division.  

We're in for a big year ahead as we implement the new Co-req model and teach over 100 sections of ENGL 1010, a record offering to fulfill the Tennessee Promise.

-Laura Black, English Department Chair

Vol State in the News

PBS Newshour, the national news broadcast for public television, was on the Gallatin campus a few weeks back to do a story about Tn Promise preps. That TV story is scheduled to run tonight at 6pm on Channel 8, Nashville Public Television. However, as is always the case with a feature story, it could be delayed due to breaking national news. If so, I will let everyone know the reschedule date. Here is a link to their website. The full broadcast is usually available the next day.

The Humanities Building topping-off ceremony was a great event, decades in the making, Here is the story in the Tennessean.

A couple of our new faculty members are part of this timeline the Tennessean put together about Tn Promise.

A Gift from Barry Cecil's Daughter

One of the founding fathers of Vol State passed away in 2003, but his daughter has left the college with something very personal to remember his commitment to the school. Barry Cecil was a business leader who worked with founding President Hal R. Ramer to bring the college to Gallatin in 1972. Cecil even served as the master of ceremonies at the college groundbreaking ceremony. The Cecil name is remembered in a Vol State scholarship set up by the family. Now his daughter Nan Rankin has donated the military flag from Barry Cecil’s funeral to Vol State. The flag was given to his daughter after the death of Mrs. Cecil in 2013.

“I have had it at home and every time I see it I think that’s nice, but why can’t we do something meaningful with this to honor Dad?” said Rankin.

The flag is flying over the college at the Ramer Building this week.

“The college meant a lot to him. He frequently gave scholarships to people without ever giving his name,” Rankin said. “He knew how important Vol State is to people in this area.”