Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Fall 2017 Outstanding Graduate Nominees

As we celebrate Fall Graduation 2017, we are reminded that every student walking across the stage faced unique challenges. Much hard work was required for them to arrive at a degree. Each student has a set of personal accomplishments and dreams for the future. Here are the stories of the three Outstanding Graduate nominees.

 Joanne Layton admits that she slept through her high school American History class. Now she says that American History fascinates her. “I yell at the TV news about things I know from class. I got so much out of it.”

Joanne will be graduating from Vol State at the age of 62.  Age buys plenty of perspective when it comes to college. “When you’re young you don’t appreciate education.”
She had a long career at AT&T, rising to management, all without a college degree. A forced retirement left her in a fix. “I found it difficult to find employment doing anything because I didn't have a college degree. When I worked with AT&T I handled projects with multi-million dollar budgets. I had all of this experience and I wanted to use it. It was demeaning.”
One company even suggested she seek employment as a hotel maid. Joanne had another idea. “My Vol State degree is in computer information technology. My AT&T experience was all main frame. Now I’m working with client-server and networking.”
The road to that degree wasn’t easy. She had to cope with the death of her brother, and her mother-in-law coming to live with her and her husband, Bruce. “He has been extremely supportive. My kids are very proud and supportive of me.”
That includes one son who actually attended Vol State at the same time as his mom. “My son thought it was cool. We were both inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success together, which was fun.”
Joanne plans to use her degree and IT certifications to have a different job search this time, one where her years of experience will actually be considered. In the meantime, she is simply proud to be graduating. “I was one of five kids. I’m the first to get a college education. When we were growing up girls just didn't get to go to college.”


Matthew Miller is a Tennessee Promise graduate who says his reason for attending college is simple: “I just wanted to get something more out of life. Tennessee Promise gave me the opportunity to get a quality first two years of education for free.”
His 3.9 GPA is just one number to consider when it comes to his future. Matthew is an accounting major.
“I like the numbers and the challenge,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed business. I like the aspect that you can see how a business is succeeding or failing with numbers.”
Matthew will take that ambition to Austin Peay University in the spring where he plans to pursue a degree and a certification in personal or managerial accounting.
Faculty member John Hoover nominated Matthew. “His academic work has always been exceptional. He has always been engaged and attentive….He will, in all likelihood, have a great career as a practicing account.


Many students travel to take advantage of a college opportunity. Anuradha Nugawela voyaged for more than 9,000 miles to make his dreams come true.
“I came to the United States on a student VISA,” he said. “Sri Lanka had a war going on and my parents didn’t have money for college. I always wanted to come to the United States, since I was a kid.”
Flash forward several years and Anuradha faced a new challenge at Vol State- and this time it wasn't a geographical or cultural struggle, but rather one that many adult students face.
“I was pretty nervous at first. I didn't know how to balance school, being a dad and work. I just put my head down and studied hard.”
He majored in information systems at Vol State and the hard work has paid off. He’s graduating with honors, the result of a 4.0 GPA. His wife Kaitlyn, and his three year-old daughter Harper, will celebrate with him. And then it’s off to the next leg of his journey at Middle Tennessee State University.
“I want to do my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree together. I want to study data science and predictive analysis. My dream job would be to work for a sports franchise.”

The Outstanding Graduate award will be announced at the ceremony on December 16 at 10 a.m. Commencement will be streamed live at www.volstate.edu/graduation

Congratulations to all of the Fall 2017 graduates.

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Parris Powers Memorial Arboretum is Now Official

Vol State officially has an arboretum.  What's an arboretum? “It is a place with an exhibit of trees and other plants for display or scientific study. An arboretum is a single site or place, whereas arboreta, the Latin plural, refers to several sites or places.” That comes from the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council (TUFC).

There are 62 trees on campus that have been identified and certified as a level II arboretum by the TUFC. It’s thanks to the work of Vol State alum Cynthia Hernandez and Math and Science faculty, including Le-Ellen Dayhuff. It’s named for former Vol State Chemistry Professor Parris Powers, who was not only an inspiration to students, but had a great love for the environment.

What is the point of a certified arboretum? TUFC says: “A certified arboretum must be open to the public with trees that are labeled, properly protected, and well maintained.” And that’s really the point- the tree labels are designed for education. If you step outside of the Ramer building you will see several trees on the Nashville Pike side of the building with silver name tags. If you didn’t know what a Black Gum tree looked like…now you do. The plan is to have even better signage identifying the trees and then some sort of Internet link so people can find out more about that type of tree. You could walk around campus and learn about trees as you go.

There will be a public event announcing the Parris Power Memorial Arboretum on Arbor Day, Friday, April 27, 2018.

Congrats again to Cynthia and Le-Ellen for the certification.

Story Slam Winners Announced


The Vol State Storytelling Project held a first for the college- a Story Slam competition. And here are the winners:

1- Evan Decker for “The Grandfather and the Chainsaw” – SPCH 103 A01 (Honors)

2- Abigail Vance for “Pinewood: The crowds, the coffee, and the celebrities” – SPCH 1010 010

Storytelling Project co-directors, Shellie Michael and Sheri Waltz, have more on the competition:

The SERS grant project gives students a wider audience for an assignment in some SPCH 1010 and SPCH 103 courses at Vol State: the Storytelling Speech, a short personal narrative about a meaningful life event. The project enhances storytelling pedagogy, the role of storytelling in our Speech curricula, and students’ public speaking abilities.

Online and on-ground students share their work by posting videotapes of their Storytelling speech online. Students in each class section watch each other’s speeches and vote for winning stories in various categories. The winners advance to inter-class competition, and outstanding presentations receive prizes. Students can participate in the competition entirely online, though the project may include an opportunity for winners to tell stories and/or receive recognition at an on-campus event, offered in conjunction with Vol State’s Office of Student Life & Diversity in Spring. Students who don’t usually get to participate in on-campus events, especially online students, can participate in the online Story Slam events (in their classes and in the inter-class finalists’ round) as spectators and competitors.

Engagement has a positive impact on students’ college success. In particular, at-risk students “need validation that not only are they capable of succeeding in college, but that they belong on campus as well” (“Moving Beyond Access: College Success for Low-Income, First-Generation Students,” The Pell Institute for Opportunity in Higher Education, 29). Storytelling provides validation as well as engagement. Through this speech, students can experience a heightened sense of belonging since their diverse backgrounds are celebrated. Many students often fear that they do not belong at college because of experiences they perceive as setting them apart from others. The process of sharing shows students that though struggles are unique to each individual, other students have wrestled with difficulties, and often the same kinds of challenges. Learning about one another, students find commonalities and forge connections, share similarities and celebrate differences. Together, they reflect on turning points in their lives, whether hardships or lessons learned, or joyful or comic incidents. Students feel valued because their classmates have emotional responses to their stories. Storytelling builds students’ self-assurance and skills, and it also creates tighter bonds.

-Shellie Michael and Sheri Waltz

Monday, November 27, 2017

Vol State #GivingTuesday Scholarships November 28

Help us spread the word!

#Giving Tuesday is coming up this Tuesday, November 28 and Vol State is participating in the fundraising effort.The money raised on #GivingTuesday this year will be used specifically for student book scholarships. The College Foundation has set a 24-hour goal of $5000, which would fund ten such scholarships. Donations can be made with a credit card on the college website at www.volstate.edu/foundation and then by clicking on the Giving tab. The College Foundation has been sharing messages from donors and student recipients on social media to kick-off the campaign.

#Giving Tuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Organizers of the event say they want to “inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.” 

Pictured: Vol State graduate and donor, Andrew Finney of Perkins Drugs, is just one of many community members participating in the Vol State social media campaign.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Meet Jessica Buchanan

Jessica Buchanan has been hired as Special Assistant for Strategic Initiatives. She will work directly with President Faulkner in developing community partnerships and special projects.

“It’s all about collaboration,” Buchanan said. “I’ll be making partnerships in the campus community and working on initiatives that cross academic divisions. I think a large part of my job is listening; trying to understand what people need.”

Buchanan comes most recently from Be Better Advertising in Franklin where she was operations and data analyst. She was assistant director for Student Success Services and Career Services at Midway University in Kentucky. She has also held career development positions at Berea College in Kentucky and Polk State College in Florida.

“I like this community," she said. "My boyfriend lives here in Sumner County and he graduated from Vol State last May. I was here for the graduation and I looked around and thought the campus looked pretty amazing.”

Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Communication Arts from Warner University and a Master of Science in Information Technology from Florida State University.

Vol State in the News

Health Sciences faculty got creative recently, attracting attention from Fox 17. The TV station did live reports before the opening of the Metro Schools Career Exploration Fair. Kevin Alspaugh, Lindi Boyd, Edward Carlton, Kimma Hammers, David Linn, Mel Matthews, and Brandie Park created a Health Sciences booth with a common theme. It was an interactive display featuring Bernie the Sim-Man ( one of our EMS high tech training mannequins). The scenario explained that Bernie had fallen asleep at the wheel, leading to a car accident. Students were able to experience how sleep problems are diagnosed, the emergency medical response, and the diagnostic roles of medical lab, radiology, and ultrasound. Here's the story.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Successful Hazardous Waste Collection on Campus

Vol State hosted a Household Hazardous Waste Event on October 28th. Organizers report that 194 households attended the event.
  • Flammable Liquids (Lighter Fluid, Gasoline, Lamp Oils)-998 lbs.
  • Non-Flammable Liquids (Antifreeze, Soaps)-1,113 lbs.
  • Poisonous Material (Pesticides and Herbicides)-2,231 lbs.
  • Aerosols (Spray Paint and Cleaners)-443 lbs.
  • Fluorescent Lamps-57 lbs.
  • Corrosive Materials (Oven Cleaner, Bleach, Draino)-307 lbs.
  • Oxidizing Materials (Peroxide, Pool Chemicals)-71 lbs.
  • Mercury-35 lbs.
  • Sharps-18 lbs. 
  • Event Total - 7,391 lbs.
Congrats to all of those involved on a successful day!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Help Get the Word Out About Health Sciences Associate of Science

A new Vol State degree can provide the education for a career on the front lines of public health. The Health Sciences associate of science (not to be confused with the longtime AAS) is the stepping stone towards employment in public health administration. It's a new option for students who may not make it into our highly competitive specialty programs in Health Sciences. Here's a story we did that explores employment in public health. Help us get the word out to students!

The kids hold up their hands excitedly inside the dark tent. There are patches of glowing white here and there. It’s a fun way for the Whitten Elementary School students to learn about handwashing. Sumner County Health Department public health educator, Beth Gray, assists them in the project, making sure they use the glow in the dark lotion correctly. Then the kids head off to wash off the lotion. They return under the black light in the tent to see how they did. The splotches show places they didn’t get “clean”.  Out in the gym, Kimberly Bonds, a health educator II, talks to the third graders about scrubbing beneath their nails and making sure to get the backs of their hands. The demonstration is on the front lines of public health and the simple lesson has big implications for all of us.

“We want to keep them in school,” Bonds said. “When they’re not sick, they’re learning. They may work in fast food restaurants as teenagers, and this can remind them how to keep their hands clean. When they enter the workforce they better understand how to be responsible when you have a cold or flu.”

Vol State has a Health Sciences associate of science degree program that is designed to train workers for public health administration jobs. Working in public health, as an administrator, educator or in community outreach, means a wide range of activities.

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Gray. “We go to many different schools. Rather than sit in the office, we go out into the community and meet people. We have an impact on their lives.”

The Vol State Health Sciences degree includes courses that you might expect, such as Medical Terminology and Anatomy and Physiology, but it also includes other important education for a public health worker, including Fundamentals of Speech Communication and Introduction to Ethics. The program is intended to transfer to a bachelor’s degree program in Health Sciences at a university. Most public health jobs require at least a four-year degree. The Sumner County Health Department handles many responsibilities, including the operation of health clinics, promoting immunizations and preventing the spread of disease. Public health administrators have many roles within the field.

“The roles of Public Health administrators are evolving to include community economic development, community planning, and design,” said Hal Hendricks, county director for the Sumner County Health Department. “We live in a global society, even in what we still consider rural communities. That, along with changes in healthcare, make public health an integral part of community safety and quality of life.”

“We are on the front lines of education and prevention with four major areas of concern: obesity; not getting enough physical activity; tobacco use; and opioid drug abuse,” Bonds said. “One day you can be teaching cute kids and the next day adults. You’re doing something that impacts the community.”


For more information about the Health Sciences associate of science degree program visit www.volstate.edu.

Vol State in the News

The Health Sciences associate of science degree publicity campaign got some help from the Sumner County Health Department. The Tennessean has our news release.

The Foundation recently completed the fundraising requirement for our portion of the Warf Math and Science Building renovation project. The Tennessean has the details.

The Tennessean also covered a recent "To Kneel or Not to Kneel" discussion organized by the Office of Diversity Initiatives.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Why a Vol State Mascot?

We recently unveiled the new physical mascot for Vol State and now we're in the process of taking suggestions for a name. Why are we going to a Pioneers mascot logo and physical mascot after all of these years of not having one? The answer is simple: students in our traditional age groups respond strongly to mascot identities for colleges and universities. This first dawned on those of us in PR after a student panel at a community college PR conference two years ago. The students all expressed regret that community colleges didn't have a stronger mascot presence and to them it reflected a boring campus life. Those who attended colleges with a mascot responded enthusiastically. This generation connects with mascots.

We understand that a community college mascot will never match the marketing power of Smokey the Dog at UT or Big Red at WKU. But a mascot can be a valuable part of student life and student culture, allowing us to share that our campus has many activities and events to offer students.

The mascot logo and character will be used in athletics and student engagement events. However, it will be used sparingly. Our academic foundation is the heart of what we do and student success will continue to be our calling card. Strong academic instruction and support is the primary focus for our marketing and outreach, as always.

A mascot does have a role in retention work interestingly enough. Studies show that students who are better connected to their college tend to do better in courses. A strong campus life and campus identity helps connect students to campus. A mascot can help in that process.

If you're interested in reading more about mascots and marketing, check out this blog article that brings up some of the main points.