Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Vol State Faculty Perform Shakespeare on PBS

You can watch two Vol State Upper Cumberland faculty members perform Shakespeare this weekend on the Cookeville PBS station, which can be seen on Nashville area cable systems. David Johnson and Lucas Flatt were in the play Much Ado About Nothing that was produced as part of the Cookeville Performing Arts Center’s Shakespeare in the Park.  The play was performed at Dogwood Park in Cookeville for the community. Lucas played the role of Benedick and David played the role of Dogberry.  Both Lucas and David are seasoned actors and have had leading roles in plays both locally and regionally.

WCTE, the Upper Cumberland Public Television station, brought a full crew and tech truck and live streamed the show. They also recorded the play to air as part of PBS’s Shakespeare Uncovered Series. The play is scheduled to air on Sunday, November 18, at 3:30 pm on WCTE. You can also watch online:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

English Professor's Battle with Lung Cancer

“If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer,” said Leslie LaChance, professor of English at Vol State, who was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer in November of 2017. She added that lung cancer is one of the most underfunded, under researched, and highly stigmatized cancers that exist. It’s considered a smoker’s cancer, yet anyone can get it.

“I developed a really bad cough, it wasn’t going away. My doctor and I thought that it was my asthma flaring up and that I needed to get on a different inhaler. A few days later I got a little lump in my neck. It was a lymph node that had swollen up, which could be a sign of something infectious or of something metastatic,” she explained. In her case, it was metastatic. After seeing multiple doctors and receiving CT scans, she got a call two days later stating that it was lung cancer and that it had spread to her lymphatic system. At stage four, the cancer was technically incurable, yet it was treatable.

Leslie discovered that it was an extremely rare form of cancer, caused by a genetic mutation of the ROS1 gene. Her doctor informed her of a drug specifically designed to treat her type of cancer through targeted therapy. On the day she was supposed to begin the treatment, she woke up unable to breathe. She called her doctor, who told her to get to the ER right away. On arrival, Leslie had emergency heart surgery.

“I’m lucky I woke up, because what happened was a bunch of cancer cells had attacked the fluid around my heart and the pericardium, there was all kind of fluid buildup around the heart.” Following the heart surgery, she began the treatment.

“Sadly, in May, I had some follow up scans and it showed that the drug had stopped working.” The cancer had developed a resistance to the drug. “Cancer is really clever and it will do whatever it can to survive.” It had metastasized to her brain. “I had about 20 small tumors in my brain.” At that point there were no drugs available, that she knew of, to treat her type of cancer that had spread to the brain. “The only solution was to go into a chemotherapy kind of thing, and I would have had to have whole brain radiation,” she said.

Leslie began doing research. A tremendous amount of research. “I tried to Google myself to PhD in lung cancer,” she said. In the meantime, she joined a Facebook support group for those with ROS1 cancer. “It’s a group that calls themselves the ROS1DERS (pronounced ROS wonders) because we keep finding ways to stay alive apparently.”

From the support group, she located a clinical trial in Boston for another targeted therapy that would treat her type of cancer, both in the brain and the body, by penetrating the blood-brain barrier. She qualified for the trial. “I got myself a plane ticket and I was there the next week.” 

By July, she had no evidence of disease in her body. “All of the tumors in my brain were gone, I just had a tiny little bit, and by September that tiny little bit was gone. It does not mean I’m cured. It means I have no visible cancer in my body. I have it at the molecular level, but as long as this drug keeps it suppressed, I won’t have tumor growth. So, I can kind of walk around like a normal person.” The current side effects that she’s dealing with are fatigue, forgetfulness, and neuropathy in her hands. 
“Different things work for different people. So many factors determine it. This just happened to work for me. So, I come up lucky on this one … We don’t know how long it will work for, or how long I’ll be able to tolerate it,” she explained.

“The most important thing I’ve discovered is that it’s really important to be your own best advocate. Play an active role in your treatment and treatment decisions. Think of your doctor more as a partner, not necessarily as the person in charge … I’m going to be that person that tells people to do their own research. By doing research, I learned it’s good to do research.”

November is Lung Cancer awareness month. Leslie’s first year “cancerversary” was on Nov. 9, 2018, which was the day she was diagnosed. LUNGevity Foundation is one of the major fundraisers for Lung Cancer research, also providing patient education and support. They’ll host a walk on November 17th at 8:00 A.M. in Nashville, and you can get involved. Colleagues of Leslie have formulated a support group called the “Lit Wits” who will participate in the event together. Everyone is welcome to join them in the walk.

Please visit to register to volunteer or to find out more information. To donate to or join Leslie’s group, please search “Lit Wits” in the search bar on the website.

Leslie is retiring from Vol State at the end of the current fall semester. She plans to return to next fall as an adjunct faculty member. Leslie has been channeling her writing energy into her blog, which she started in response to her journey with cancer. You can follow her blog at:

-By Rachel Keyes

Cookeville Faculty Member PTSD Family Research Published

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a tragic condition, recently highlighted by a mass shooting in California. A combat veteran there killed 12 people in a bar. Friends and relatives say the former Marine suffered from PTSD. The condition doesn’t just impact those afflicted, friends and family have to deal with effects of PTSD. Vol State adjunct faculty member Stephanie Voris, who is also the coordinator at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC), was recently published in a journal for her research with PTSD and the wives of veterans. Here is how she explains it:

“My research was part of an opportunity I took in my Master’s Program with New Mexico State University. I have an interest in combat veteran spouses due to my own history with the military at Fort Campbell, Ky. Further, I have direct relatives who suffered secondary trauma from PTSD and Shell Shock aftereffects from both a WWI combat veteran great grandfather and a WWII combat veteran grandfather.”

“Whereas research has been abundant in recent decades regarding PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injury in combat veterans, little has been sought in the livelihood after military service of combat veteran spouses who are often the ones picking up the pieces post-combat. In a time of “Thank you for your service,” spouses often hear: “…and thank your husband for his service.” While combat veterans often need help with acclimating into civilian society, spouses needs and struggles tend to be ignored.”

“My study was a qualitative analysis on the struggles that combat veteran spouses face while attempting to support their spouses and in acclimating to the civilian sector. Findings include troubling emotional, financial, and social challenges and, further, social and emotional isolation from both military and civilian communities. Further research is needed in how to better accommodate transitioning for both combat veteran and spouse post-service and also how to give spouses a needed voice throughout and after active military life.“

Story Slam Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the Second Annual Vol State Live Story Slam, student Ryan Kennedy and Nicole Black, shown here with poet and Story Slam host Jon Goode. Students in COMM 2025 and COMM 2045 classes study the art of storytelling. They tell stories in their classes, and then compete in Story Slams within their class and then a finalists' round held online. This enables on-ground and online students to connect by hearing each other's stories. This event started with a TBR grant given to Shellie Michael and Sheri Waltz, which also included the development of a storytelling curriculum in COMM 2025 and COMM 2045.

Monday, November 5, 2018

$102,000 Zoom Room Grant Announced

A new US Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant provides $102,000 for Vol State to install Zoom Rooms in rural high schools in our area. The goal is to provide Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) classes to six high schools. The grant also provides for adding Zoom technology to the Livingston campus. The college has been using Zoom technology on our campuses for a while now and the use is expanding. Zoom is a teleconference system with far more flexibility than previous systems. Kevin Blankenship is the lead for the Vol State grant. It comes as part of $39.6 million in grant funding through the Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) Grant Program. The USDA said that more than 4.5 million residents in 40 states and three territories will benefit from the funding.
 “We are pleased to assist Volunteer State Community College in improving its educational opportunities,” Tennessee Rural Development State Director Jim Tracy said. “Investments such as this one, significantly advance the quality of education made available to its students, specifically those in technology and healthcare.”

Shipley named TPA President

Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Jeremy Shipley, has been named President of the Tennessee Philosophical Association. The naming of the position came at a recent meeting of the organization, where Jeremy also presented a paper titled: “How to Give Equal Weight to Peer Opinion.” This is from the abstract:

“Sometimes, when forming our own views we should give equal weight to the views of our peers. How should we do this? In the context of updating our credences (degrees of belief) on the credences of others there are two main approaches: the ``come together'' approach and the ``synergize'' approach. Neither approach is uniquely correct, and attention must be paid to the difference between the role of probability in credences as attitudes toward a representation with determinate content and credences arising from probability in the content of the representation.”

Congratulations to Jeremy!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Spread the Word: College Foundation and #GivingTuesday

People can make a difference on #GivingTuesday, November 27, by donating to Vol State student scholarships with the Volunteer State College Foundation. Organizers call #GivingTuesday a “global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide.” The Volunteer State College Foundation has set a goal to increase donor giving during the 24-hour #GivingTuesday event. Donations can be made online.

“No amount is too small, because each dollar makes an impact in a student’s life,” said Foundation development officer, Alison Muncy. “The money raised during the #GivingTuesday campaign will fund book and tuition scholarships for Vol State students. We’ll be sharing the stories of those students and have messages from our donors on social media over the next few weeks.”

Last year, the Volunteer State College Foundation was able to raise enough money on #GivingTuesday to fund nine book scholarships for students at the college. To donate and for more information visit

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

No Shave November

People may be getting hairy here at Vol State. Campus Police are participating in No-Shave November. The annual national event is designed to raise awareness for the importance of cancer research, and also raise money for that research. You can get hairy with Campus Police, just be sure to tell people why you are doing it and how they can make a difference by supporting cancer research. You can also drop-off monetary donations for the American Cancer Society at the Campus Police office in Gallatin. Here's info on the effort:

Vol State in the News

WPLN, Nashville NPR radio, did a story recently about TN Promise and students who are still struggling financially. They highlighted the work of the Feed, our student food pantry.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation led a hazardous waste drop off day at Vol State last Saturday, as they have done for many years. This year was a bit different, after someone dropped off a tiny amount of what was thought to be TNT. Despite the exciting headlines, the four ounces of powdered TNT was in the parking lot at the event, never inside the college, and was picked up by the Tennessee Highway Patrol for disposal. In case you are wondering- TNT is not allowed at a Hazardous waste drop off event. Fox 17 had this story.

Fox 17 also ran a story about TN Reconnect. We're not sure where they got the idea that we filled up classes due to TN Reconnect. We accepted and enrolled everyone who applied and was eligible. We are encouraging people to apply for TN Reconnect for the spring semester.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Meet Jeff King and Celebrate Diversity Week

In case you haven’t met him yet, Jeff King is the new Manager of Diversity and Inclusion at Vol State. He came most recently from Vanderbilt University where he held the position of Associate Director of Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. The office has had several successful events this semester, and now they have an entire week of activities planned for Diversity Week.

The Color of Fear, Part One (90 min)
3:00 pm • Mary Cole Nichols Dining Hall B
Refreshments provided
Co-sponsors •Returning Students Organization

The Color of Fear, Part Two (56 min)
3:00 pm • Mary Cole Nichols Dining Hall B
Refreshments provided
Co-sponsors •Returning Students Organization

The Color of Fear, Part Three (60 min)
3:00 pm • Mary Cole Nichols Dining Hall B
Refreshments provided
Co-sponsors •Returning Students Organization
Fall Festival and International Food Day
11:00 am to 2:00 pm
Thigpen Commons/Weather Contingent is Gym
Lunch provided
Sponsored by Student Engagement and Support

(Count It, Lock It, Drop It) Nugs for Drugs
10:00 am – 2:00 pm • Duffer Plaza
Sponsored by Student Engagement and Support
Identity and Career Choices/Challenges
Featuring Lamont Holley, Nashville Cares
12:30 pm • Mary Cole Nichols Dining Hall B
Lunch provided • Co-sponsors • Spectrum
The Color of Fear Wrap-Up Discussion
Featuring Rev. Dr. Michael McDonald
3:00 pm • Mary Cole Nichols Dining Hall B
Reception following
Co-sponsors • Returning Students Organization

For additional details, flyers, and program descriptions, please visit  .  Be sure to click on the Inside Diversity and Inclusion button.