Monday, September 14, 2020

New Home for Middle College

Plant Operations has been working on a renovation project for the third floor of the Wood Campus Center. It's now the new home of the Sumner County Middle College High School. You may remember that the Middle College office used to be on the first floor of the Wood Campus Center, as part of the Student Services suite. That location was always cramped and the Middle College keeps growing. The new area has plenty of room for students to meet and study. There is also a classroom, a computer lab, and a seminar/lecture room. The space helps as Middle College students are coming to campus each day to take their classes via Zoom. They can spread out and keep socially distant. Middle College staff have also helped students utilize hallways in SRB this fall for even more spacing. The Wood project is almost complete. Middle College administrators plan to have a socially distant open house once the work is done.

APSU, Vol State, and Robertston Schools Team Up for Teaching Degree

Vol State Springfield is partnering with Austin Peay and Robertson County Schools on a new teaching degree program, specifically designed to get teachers into Robertson County classrooms. This is the APSU news release about the program:

Over the last 50 years, the U.S. has suffered from a growing teacher shortage, with fewer and fewer college students majoring in education.

This shortage has hurt schools across the country, but small, rural school districts are often the hardest hit by this educational crisis. In Tennessee, communities such as Robertson County need more teachers, and they need them now.

“Robertson County is a fine school district, but they struggle – our rural counties really struggle – to attract teachers because of the lure of going to larger districts,” Dr. Lisa Barron, director of teacher education and partnerships at Austin Peay State University, said.

“These rural districts have found if they can get people already committed to or with ties to the district, if they grew up in the district, they’re less likely to go somewhere else. They want to grow their own,” stated Barron.

That concept of a rural district “growing” its own teachers is at the heart of an innovative new partnership between Austin Peay’s Eriksson College of Education, the Robertson County Schools System and Volunteer State Community College. This fall, the three organizations launched the Grow Your Own Rural Teachers Residency Program, which is providing recent high school graduates in Robertson County with an accelerated, free path to become full-time Robertson County school teachers in just three years.

“During the day, the candidates will be working in classrooms as teacher’s assistants,” Dr. Benita Bruster, APSU professor of education, said. “It’s a residency model, so they’ll learn their licensure through embedded student teaching. Every day they’ll go to work and shadow classroom teachers. They’ll be placed with some of the highest performing teachers in the county.”

These individuals will earn a full salary with benefits from their jobs. In the evenings, the students will then head to the Highland Crest Campus – a 25,000-square-foot educational facility in Springfield, Tennessee, where they will initially take classes through Volunteer State.

“At Highland Crest, they will participate in classes specifically designed for them,” Barron said. “They will complete their Associate of Science in Teaching degree in two years from Vol State. All those hours will transfer to Austin Peay State University, and then our faculty will go to Highland Crest. It wouldn’t make sense for them to work all day in Robertson County and then come to Clarksville, so we’ll go to them.”

After a year of classes, the students will graduate from Austin Peay State University with a Bachelor of Science in Education with a K-5 license. They can also add on a special education endorsement, making them more marketable. And the entire program is free, with APSU, Vol State and Robertson County Schools covering tuition and textbooks.

Last year, Austin Peay State University launched the state’s first “Grow Your Own” program, when it partnered with the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System on the Early Learning Tennessee Residency Program. That program provided 40 candidates with an accelerated, free path to become full-time CMCSS teachers in just three years.

The new Grow Your Own Rural Teachers Residency Program began this fall during one of the most challenging times in public education with the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic causing administrators and teachers to re-think education delivery. These new challenges, however, didn’t stop this important program from moving forward.

“The pandemic did change our strategy somewhat, but the cohort is moving along successfully,” Dr. Anne-Marie McKee, director of Vol State Springfield, said. “Vol State provides laptops and hot spots to participants so they have access to all their classes.”

“In addition to classes, the program is designed so students get together once a week via Zoom to discuss successes and challenges, and provide support to one another. It is rewarding to be a part of an innovated program and I am grateful to Vol State, the Robertson County School System and APSU for the forward thinking to meet the future educational needs of Robertson County,” stated McKee.

When the program’s students graduate in three years, they will be offered jobs in Robertson County.

“I’m very excited to see this innovative partnership begin, and I look forward to Vol State’s continued participation to support the educational needs of Robertson County,” Dr. Jennifer Brezina, vice president for Academic Affairs at Vol State, said.

Austin Peay State University’s Eriksson College of Education is currently working with four other rural school districts to develop similar Grow Your Own programs.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Koester Named Dean of Nursing

Vol State has named Cassie Koester as the new dean of Nursing. She will supervise the Vol State RN Nursing associate of applied science (AAS) degree program. It’s a two-year degree to prepare students to apply to sit for licensure as a Registered Nurse, held on the Gallatin and Livingston campuses.

“I love the area and I love the community college setting, especially when it comes to nursing,” Koester said. “Vol State has a great deal to offer their nursing students and there is still room for growth.  Vol State seemed like the perfect fit.” 

Koester was most recently on the nursing faculty at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL. She is a licensed Registered Nurse in Tennessee. She has a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree from Chamberlain College of Nursing in Downers Grove, IL.

The first class of Vol State Nursing A.A.S. students finished the program this summer, for a fall graduation. The second class is underway currently. The application for the next group will be available in March, for a June start. For more information on nursing opportunities at Vol State visit:

Men of Color Achieving Success

The Men of Color Achieving Success (MOCAS) Initiative first began at VSCC in Fall 2018. This group aims to increase the graduation rate of persons identifying as men of color learning in a predominately white institution. A series of six sessions utilizing personal and professional development will be conducted this semester via Zoom to discuss barriers to achievement, cultural competence, appropriate social and professional conversations, as well as identifying successful strategies and resources to improve academic performance. The Fall 2020 dates are October 9, 16, 23, 30, November 6, and 13. If you know of any students who may benefit from this program, please have them contact Professor Taylor Moore ( or 615.461.0674).

Professional Development this Year

There are many topics coming up for Vol State Professional Development. Professional Development for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 is the Professional Development Calendar for the Fall and Spring semesters. More sessions will be added to the calendar moving forward.

iAttend is the registration tool for Professional Development this year. You are encouraged to read the information at the top of the page regarding the Registration and Confirmation process (it will be slightly different from the Summer Series). 

Here are some highlights for programs this fall: 

  1. Teaching Diversity in the Classroom: Why it Matters Professional Development Program 

·         The Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Teaching and Learning Center at Volunteer State Community College are implementing a professional development program that allows staff and faculty to educate themselves on the issue of racism and anti-blackness that is very much prevalent on college campuses, including their own. This is one step that Volunteer State Community College is taking in addressing racism on their campus and providing the resources that our college employees need to begin the work of anti-racism in their classrooms, on campus, and elsewhere in their community. Sessions that are a part of this professional development program will be presented by professional staff from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and fellow VSCC faculty members. The goal of each session will be to provide attendees practical knowledge and skills that will strengthen their ability to teach the diverse student body found at VSCC. 

·         Each session that a staff or faculty member participates in will result in a certificate of completion (if you participate in all 12, you would receive 12 certificates). Staff and faculty that participate in two sessions in the fall semester of 2020 and two sessions in the spring semester of 2021 will be provided with a VSCC licensed keepsake/swag item. Staff and faculty that participate in five sessions in the fall semester of 2020 and five sessions in the spring semester of 2021 will be provided with a second VSCC licensed keepsake/swag item and can begin the process of training to present future sessions within the program. Individuals that complete all 12 sessions in the fall and spring semester will receive further recognition by the college and a third VSCC licensed keepsake/swag item. 

  1. Successful Students Professional Development Program 

·         This 2-year series of Professional Development will focus on providing faculty an introduction on a series of topics that are designed to encourage students to be successful in and out of the classroom. The PD will also provide practical uses of these topics that can be used in the classroom (in both a traditional setting and an online setting).

·         This series will be designed to help faculty foster student success at Volunteer State Community College. It will also meet training requirements for FYEX faculty and supplement the Newly Hired Faculty Training program. 

  1. Teaching Virtually Professional Development Series

·         There is a new model for online learning that is rapidly evolving as more and more faculty are using it. These roundtable talks will be a way for faculty to combine and document knowledge from those that are teaching in this format have been acquiring. They will also be a way for faculty interested in teaching virtually to see what is going on or how and where to get started. What works? What doesn’t? Come join the conversation!

  1. Distributed Education Professional Development

·         Distributed Education will be providing a variety of Professional Development over the year, as they continue to provide our faculty with the resources they need to be successful in their classes. 

  1. New VSCC Faculty Professional Development

·         Faculty that are new to Volunteer State Community College will participate in a variety of Professional Development throughout the school year. Some of these sessions are open to other faculty as well.  

  1. Online Learning Consortium Workshops

·         The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) offers a variety of workshops, such as the titles below:

·         Strategies for Facilitating Live, Online Sessions

·         Strategies for Increasing Interaction & Engagement

·         Strategies for Designing and Facilitating Engaging Online Discussions

·         Fundamentals: ADA & Web Accessibility

·         Creating Effective Assessments

·         Fundamentals: Giving Effective Feedback


·         Distributed Education can cover a faculty member’s workshop registration fee for up to two events per person for full-time faculty and one event for adjunct faculty. Workshops must be completed by December 4, 2020. Everyone who completes a workshop will be required to share what they learned with other faculty through either a blog post or Zoom session. Funding is limited, so requests will be honored on a first-come, first-served basis.


·         Any faculty member who wishes to sign up for an OLC workshop needs to simply submit a Vol State Travel Authorization Form to Dr. Rhonda Gregory, Dean of Academic Support at least two weeks before the workshop is scheduled to begin. Here is a link to the full list of OLC Workshop Events.

For information about all of this contact

Monday, August 31, 2020

Vol State TRIO Receives $1.3 Million Grant Renewal

Extensive mentoring, counseling, and tutoring are just a few of the services that are provided in the TRIO Student Support Services program at Vol State. The program has been awarded $1.375 million in funding by the U.S. Department of Education for another five-year cycle: 2020-2025. Vol State has served students with TRIO services since 2005. 

“I’m a first-generation college student, which means my parents didn’t attend college,” said LaBryian Scharklett of Gallatin. “I didn’t have anyone to help me. TRIO staff were like my parents. They helped me to register for classes and fill out the financial aid forms. They even helped me with transfer applications and university visits. I honestly believe that without them I would not be where I am in my academic career.” Scharklett is now a transfer student at TN Tech University.

“I have worked with the TRIO program here at Vol State since the beginning in 2005 and became the director in 2006,” said Andrea Boddie. “Having amazing staff and the support of the campus have been factors in the continued success of the program. Over the years, we have seen students reach their academic goals, some even with master’s degrees now.”

This year, the program is funded to serve 200 Vol State students in the areas of academic support, graduation planning, four-year college transfer planning, career planning, laptop checkout, and cultural enrichment. TRIO Retention Awards may available for eligible TRIO students. Eligibility for TRIO includes first-generation college students and those who may have other challenges. Space is limited. For more information on the criteria and the online application visit

Pictured: 2019 TRIO students and staff.

New WVCP Radio Show

Vol State radio, WVCP-FM, will have some new programming this fall. Main Street Media – “Main Street Preps” is teaming up with popular local sports host George Plaster to produce a weekly high school football show, “On the Field”. The show will debut Friday, Aug. 28 from 6:30–9:30 p.m. and run throughout the high school football season.

“On the Field” will be broadcast live on Main Street Media of Tennessee’s 12 Facebook pages and simulcast on WVCP 88.5. The fast-paced show will feature real time updates, interviews and insights from games across the midstate.

“Especially during this time with the COVID, many people interested in their high school football teams won’t be able to go to the games,” Plaster said. “The service that we are trying to provide will help that as people will be able to keep up with their favorite team as the game is going on.”

Main Street Media of Tennessee is a multi-media company that produces 12 weekly newspapers in 10 Nashville-area counties.

Online Academic Coaches - Share with Your Students

Vol State has Online Coaches for students this semester.We put together an easy message to email to your students, if you want. 

Do You Need Help Taking Online Classes? Coaches Can Help

Vol State now has Online Learning Academic Coaches to provide students with support for online classes. Are you having a hard time navigating eLearn? Trouble uploading an assignment? The coaches can help. They can also help you get organized for your online learning and provide tips for how you can do well in your classes. They don’t offer tutoring for the class subject matter. But they can help with many other things. Students can book an appointment for a virtual meeting, email, or call the coaches. Visit this web page for details:

Vol State in the News

Channel 2 and Channel 4 covered a brief nationwide Zoom outage on the first day of classes last week. While the impact to Vol State was minimal, it provided an opportunity to remind people that students need to keep trying if they have problems getting on a particular platform for an online class. Quite often you can get in after a few tries. We reinforced this on social media, as well. Persistence is critical for online learning.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Vol State Joins OpenStax

OpenStax, Rice University’s openly licensed textbook publisher, welcomed a dozen new colleges and universities to its Institutional Partner Network that together serve the most diverse student populations the program has ever seen. Vol State is now a member.

The OpenStax Institutional Partner Network is a group of more than 60 colleges and universities in the United States dedicated to expanding the use of open educational resources (OER) on their campuses. Each school in the network participates in a first-year program that guides institutions through the development and execution of a highly successful OER adoption program.

“As a past OpenStax intern who attends Volunteer State Community College, I am excited to see the institutional partnership between both OpenStax and Vol State,” said Vol State sophomore Barbara Gooch. “The door that this could open in making more professors aware of OpenStax and OER, and the cost benefits to students, is a cause dear to my heart and I cannot wait to see where this takes Vol State within that partnership. In a pandemic and an ever-changing world, students’ needs – especially saving them money — should be a top priority, along with putting more options in the hands of professors with the high-quality material that OpenStax provides.”

In selecting new partner schools for the 2020-2021 academic year, OpenStax gave special consideration to those with high numbers of Pell grant-eligible students and to minority-serving institutions.

Participating schools in the 2020-2021 first-year program include Lincoln University; the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley; San Antonio College; Lamar State College Port Arthur; Volunteer State Community College; Tarleton State University; Spring Hill College; Saginaw Valley State University; Molloy College; Minnesota State University, Mankato; Texas Woman’s University; and Texas Southern University. These 12 institutions will work throughout the year to expand the use of resources that encourage long-term learning and support greater academic freedom.