Monday, September 30, 2013

Meet Visiting Professor - Jun Zhao

Anne-Marie Ruttenbur and Jun Zhao.
There are some big differences between life in Beijing, China and Gallatin, Tennessee and it's a subject Chinese professor Jun Zhao takes not only a personal interest in, but also a professional one. She's doing research in cross-cultural communication, comparing three places: the United Kingdom, China and the United States. She normally works at Beijing City University, but her studies have brought her here, to Vol State.

"The culture is similar between the UK and America," Zhao said recently. "The food and culture are similar."

And her first impressions of Tennessee?

"There's a large variety of land here and very few people compared to Beijing and China. People here are very friendly."

Zhao will be a fixture on the Vol State campus for the next year. She is visiting through a program with the Confucius Institute at MTSU. The Confucius Institute is an international Chinese project to share faculty with colleges and university across the globe. It's just the next step in a growing relationship between Vol State and the Confucius Institute being cultivated by the Vol State International Education program.

"Gallatin is the first place for me to reside in the United States, and it is very cozy. The students here are interested in China and Chinese culture."

Mrs. Zhao has been on a whirlwind tour of classes across campus, meeting with students and faculty. The long term goal is to have her teach here on the academic side. While the International Ed folks work with SACS on her credentials she will start with Continuing Education classes, including Chinese cooking, simple Chinese daily expressions, Chinese culture and eventually Chinese art classes.

"As we develop with infrastructure this could be a continuing thing," said International Education Coordinator, Anne-Marie Ruttenbur.

Zhao has a son who has also traveled the globe as part of his education. He began studies in Beijing and continued in Manchester, England. He is now taking classes at Rutgers University in News Jersey in financial mathematics.

For now the visiting professor is staying with Ruttenbur and her family. She is looking into an apartment or house rental. Look for events and opportunities to meet her in coming weeks.

Beth Cooksey Nomination

Congrats to Business and Finance VP Beth Cooksey for being nominated for honors in the "Women Impacting the Community" event hosted by the Hendersonville Area Chamber of Commerce. While she didn't win the category, it is a recognition of her significance in the community, leading the financial side of an organization with  more than 450 employees and a more than 20 million dollar budget. The recognition will be held on Thursday, October 24 at Bluegrass Yacht and Country Club.

Vol State in the News

The Vol State ranking in ran in the Gallatin News Examiner and Tennessean this weekend.

Hispanic Heritage month features a number of events on campus over the next few weeks, including the seventh annual Vol State Fiesta, as reported in the News Examiner.

The Fall Job/Career Fair was a platform for the Tennessean to talk about employment.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Fun Filled Celebration for Humanities

The fund raising campaign for the new Humanities building has gone well. A big part of the campaign has been campus support. Many people have stepped up to make individual contributions. Some offices had challenges to reach 100 percent employee participation. There was reportedly a lot of IT folks with pie on their face. This celebration for the entire campus included Brian Kraus and Beth Cooksey getting a pie in the face, because of the overwhelming generosity of the people in their offices. The pictures, as you can see, are priceless.

Then it was Dr. Faulkner's turn. Apparently no one wanted to throw a pie at him and so a song was devised by Ben Graves and James Story. Sung to the tune of the Tennessee Waltz, the creative lyrics spoke of the great need for a new humanities building and the opportunities the facility will provide. It was funny and managed to speak to the cause, all in the same song. Dr. Faulkner and Ben Graves sang it for everyone.

Karen Mitchell announced that she had one final surprise. Apparently the committee had suggested that Dr. Faulkner kissing a possum might be a good finale for the event. You may remember that Dr. Faulkner has often referred to himself as a cosmic possum, describing the blending of his rural and baby boomer roots. Dr. Faulkner looked a bit worried when the idea of kissing a possum first came up. Luckily, he was provided a break. Out strode Wanda Faulkner, in a shirt labeled "Awesome Possum." The worry melted away and he enjoyed a kiss with his wife.

Thus ended an enjoyable lunch hour. The Humanities campaign continues, so if you would like to donate please contact the Foundation. Here's a list of the 100 percent participation offices as of this writing.

Admissions, Advising Center, Athletics, Career Placement, Disability Services, Financial Aid, Foundation Office, Grants, Human Resources, Humanities, IT, Institutional Effectiveness, Library Services, Payroll, President’s Office, Public Relations, Records and Registration, Student Services, TRIO, Telecommunication.

Visiting Students from Argentina

A presentation for one of Michelle Vandiver's Spanish classes.

Fourteen  university students and faculty members from Argentina have just finished up a nearly two-week stay in Tennessee and at Vol State. The visit is just the latest cultural exchange with Argentina, a relationship that has been growing for the last few years. The students come from a number of different universities, with a number of different majors.

The Argentine students made presentations and talked to Vol State students in many classes, including Geography and Spanish. They also had a tour, delivered by History Professor Carole Bucy, of downtown Nashville sites, including the State Capitol. Carole even managed to pull aside Tre Hargett, Secretary of State, to chat briefly with the students. They also toured the Hermitage Hotel, which gave the students a glimpse of Tennessee history and present. The TV show "Nashville" was taping in the venerable hotel. Reportedly the Argentine students hoped to be extras on the show, but no such luck.

Rafael Costa, an Argentine student visiting Vol State visits with Vice President Powell.
The International Education program organized the trip, with Anne-Marie Ruttenbur and several other staff and faculty putting the students up in their homes.

Vol State Events Calendar for October

October Events

OCT. 1- Nov. 5 Stacey Irvin Art Exhibit Thigpen Gallery 7am-9pm Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday

5 Fall Carnival at Highland Crest in Springfield, campus grounds, 10am to 2pm

7 ACE Salsa dancing, Nichols Dining Room, 12:30pm

9 ACE Hispanic Heritage Quiz Bowl, Cafeteria, 12:30pm

14, 15 Fall Break-No Classes

15 Highland Crest Job Fair in Springfield, 9am-2pm

16 Professional Development Day- No Classes

17 Coffee with the Prez, Cafeteria, 10-11am

19 Hispanic Fiesta, Center Campus, 10am-4pm

22 Vol State Book Club meeting, “Ballad of Frankie Silver”, Nichols Dining Room, 12:45pm

22 Caring for Aging Parents, financial presentation, Caudill Hall room 102, 6:30pm

23 Comedy: Mission IMPROVable, Cafeteria, 12:30pm

23 Perspectives in Cultural Geography, lecture by Keith Bell, Nichols Dining Room, 12:20pm

24 Photographer Stacey Irvin discussion, Thigpen Library, 1pm

24 Sharyn McCrumb, author of “The Ballad of Frankie Silver”, reading and discussion for One Book, One Community, Thigpen Library, 7pm

25 Movie Night: Monster’s University, Library Lawn or if rain in the Pickel Field House, dusk

26 Household Hazardous Waste Collection,
Wood Campus Center Parking Lot, 9am-2pm

30 Joss Whedon’s Pop Culture Genius by Dr. David Lavery, Honors Lecture Series, Nichols Dining Room, 12:20pm

30 Fall Festival, Pickel Field House, 12pm-6pm

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dr. Faulkner: Discontented

This past week the Tennessee Board of Regents held their quarterly meeting at Austin Peay State University (APSU).  As is the custom, the host school gives a presentation on Friday morning before the board convenes.  APSU President Tim Hall did an excellent job of telling the story of the exciting things that are happening at the university.  He talked much about the variety of efforts to increase student success.  I was gratified that most of the things he talked about are also initiatives we are implementing at Vol State.

President Hall concluded his remarks by revealing that many discontented people work at APSU.  He used a quote from Thomas Edison.  Restlessness is discontent and discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man and I will show you a failure.”  His point was that despite the gains at APSU, they are not content with their progress.  They want to increase student success even more.

With that in mind, here are some things with which I am discontent:

·         I am not content with the number of students that are not retained from semester to semester.  We made some great progress this year.  The percentage of students that returned from Spring semester to this Fall increased by 5.4%.  It appears this is mainly due to the calling project in which many of you participated.  This is good, but I’m not content with a 5.4% increase.  I want more.

·         I am not content with the number of students that enroll at the college and end up earning zero credit.  They withdraw or fail in every class.  Could we save them all?  Probably not.  Could we save many?  Absolutely!

·         I am not content with the health science “wanna-bes” that don’t get accepted into a program and don’t finish a degree.  I know there are many limiting factors that control the number of students we can accept, but there are scores of good students that should be re-directed to other programs where they can earn a degree and enter a fulfilling career.

·         I am not content with the number of students that have financial aid problems because they don’t make satisfactory academic progress (SAP) or they exhaust their benefits before reaching a degree or certificate.  Our financial aid office does a great job of working with our students but we have to help students get on track sooner and stay focused on their goal.

These are some of the things that make me discontent.  I hope you feel the same and that we can together harness our discontent to make even more progress in improving student success.

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Getting Away from the Term "GED"

We've been using the term "GED" for so long to stand for an adult equivalency test that it's almost the Coke of the soda world. While quite often the GED test means the actual GED, in the future that might be changing. The State of Tennessee will now be using a new test. In response we'll be using the phrase "high school equivalency" more often going forward. The folks in our High School Equivalency and EL/Civics office wanted to let you know of the changes. Here is a news release from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development:

Beginning January 2, 2014, out-of-school youth and adults who are pursuing a high-school equivalency credential will have another test option to improve their earnings potential.

Tennesseans will have a choice of taking either the new 2014 GED® test or an alternative high school equivalency test designed by Educational Testing Services called HiSET™.

Tennessee is one of several states that are adopting the new test due to changes in the GED Exam. Beginning in January of 2014, the new GED test will only be offered via computer. The HiSET alternative test will allow for either computer or paper-based testing. Passing either test will lead to a high school equivalency diploma issued by the State of Tennessee and accepted nationally.

“We are pleased that the alternative test, which has been approved by the General Assembly and the State Board of Education, will continue to offer paper-based testing as an option in addition to computer-based,” said Adult Education Administrator Marva Doremus. “We want as much accessibility as possible for those who lack a high school diploma since attaining this credential enhances their employment opportunities.”

Like the GED, the HiSET exam will measure a student’s knowledge and skills in reading, writing, math, science, and social studies and will be significantly aligned to Common Core State Standards. 

Tennesseans who have passed some but not all parts of the GED have only the remainder of 2013 to earn their high school credential under the current test structure. All partial scores will no longer be valid after January 1, 2014.  

Last year, 10,142 Tennesseans earned GED diplomas, but Tennessee still has more than 930,000 adults without a high school diploma or its equivalent. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those who have a high school credential earn $181 more weekly than those without. Additionally, those with a high school credential have an unemployment rate of 8.3% compared with 12.4% of those who do not.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Walking for Health

You may see a lot more walking on campus these days. We caught up with this contingent last Tuesday as they started a group walk. The College is once again participating in the Walk Across Sumner campaign.  This is a four-week event to encourage people to walk on a regular basis.  The goal is to walk 34.5 miles (the diagonal distance across Sumner County) between Sept. 7 and Oct. 5. Organizers point out that if you walk just 30 minutes each day, 6 days a week you can meet the goal.

There is a bit of friendly competition this year. We have three teams, two in Gallatin and one in Livingston, competing for bragging rights. The Captain of the “Walkie Talkies” is Tami Wallace.  The Captain of the “Witness the Fitness” team is Beth Cooksey. Group walks will be each Tuesday and Thursday at 4:45 p.m., weather permitting. All walking sessions can be counted, not just the group walks on campus.

For more healthy events visit:

Vol State in the News

The annual Foundation fund raiser, the Harvest Moon Soiree, brought in more than $30,000 for student scholarships this year. The Gallatin Newspaper has the story.

Dan Arena, associate professor in the Business and Technology Division, was interviewed by Channel 2 for a couple of stories this week on social media. You may remember that Dan has the popular mobile app design class. In this story News 2 talks to Dan about the downside to Facebook and other social sites.

There a special emphasis on career advice for veterans at the Fall Job/Career Fair coming up on September 25. The Gallatin News Examiner has this story about a special discussion for job seeking vets that will be held just before the Job/Career Fair starts.

We have a group of Argentine students visiting campus for the next couple of weeks. We'll have more on their visit in the Insider. We thought you might be interested in this story from the Argentine perspective about the visit. Just click the translate and English button at the bottom of the story for the translation.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Vol State Number 25 in Nation on Student Ranking Site

Ah, the wonders of the Internet age. Love it or hate it, faculty ranking sites are now part of college culture. While we know there are many more important and better designed measures that tell us we have a fantastic faculty and a welcoming campus, it's always fun when we hear about another, especially when it comes from the students themselves. So, we thought you would enjoy seeing this bit of news from the folks at MTV. They run and have announced that we placed 25th in the nation for community colleges in a recent ranking report of instructors and campus life. It's one of the more robust sites out there, in terms of the number of student ratings, the number of instructors rated and the number of campuses ranked.

There are parts of the survey that many faculty and staff do not like, primarily whether an instructor is an easy grader and whether they are hot (and by that we mean attractive, not warm). However, it's important to note these two survey items are not reflected in the overall faculty rating or campus ranking. We're going to send a short news release later today. By the way, when we talked to Dr. Faulkner about this report he mentioned that his only problem with his faculty rating was that students didn't think he was hot.

Here is the news release and a link to the site:

Vol State Number 25 in Nation on Student Ranking Site

College students enjoy sharing information about instructors and their campus. Internet ranking sites have made that easier. has announced that Volunteer State Community College placed number 25 in the nation in terms of student satisfaction for community and junior colleges. The measurement combines faculty ratings with campus ratings. More than 8,000 colleges and universities are listed on the site.

MTV runs the popular website that has more than 15 million ratings. It asks students to rate professors in terms of how helpful they are and how clear they are. Those categories are used to determine an overall quality score. The overall campus score is judged in several categories, including reputation, internet access, food, library, clubs, social life and overall happiness. Vol State scored four out of five for the campus and 3.82 out of five for the average faculty score.

“Social media can provide useful feedback for college instructors,” said Vol State President, Dr. Jerry Faulkner. “These sites are fun. But ultimately our measure of accomplishment as an institution comes in student success. When they do well in class, graduate and go on to successful careers, and four-year degrees, that is our benchmark.”

The complete rankings can be found at

Friday, September 13, 2013

Developing Priorities at Vol State

You're going to be hearing plenty about prioritization at Vol State over the next year or so. Hopefully, you are already well-acquainted with the process and how Vol State will be setting priorities. Dr. Faulkner held information sessions recently to inform faculty and staff. The process of prioritization comes down to determining:

-What is our purpose at Vol State?

-What is important at Vol State?

-Where do we put our resources moving forward?

That can be a scary idea. No one wants to be on the wrong side of prioritization. But as Dr. Faulkner discussed- it's not just something that we want to do, but something essential that must be done and done quickly. There is simply too much change in higher education to sit back and rely on what we have done in the past. We must prepare for future opportunities. We must meet critical challenges now.

Many people attended the sessions, so if all of this is new to you please see more in depth info below. As far as the sessions go, the feedback was understandably concerned. Those concerns included whether the process being used by the college, as outlined in the Robert Dickeson book "Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services," is the best for community colleges. Dr. Faulkner pointed out that many colleges and universities have used this process, including several community colleges. Another person asked if this would provide a tug-of-war for resources. Dr. Faulkner agreed that that was a possibility and said it's essential that we keep the process from becoming political.

Task Force groups will be formed to look at specific areas for prioritization, such as academics, administration etc. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Research, Planning and Assessment will compile the data used by the Task Force groups to make decision. That data will clearly be an important part of the process. Dr. Faulkner said that the data would be provided on the web for accuracy checks by interested parties. Dr. Faulkner says that transparency is essential to the process.

If you missed the emails, here is the summary of the prioritization process from Tami Wallace:

Volunteer State Community College’s mission focuses on improving individual lives and enhancing economic and community development in middle Tennessee through engaged learning opportunities in our academic programs, strengthening community and workforce partnerships, promoting diversity and cultural and economic development; inspiring lifelong learning, and preparing students for successful careers, university transfer, and meaningful civic participation in a global society.  To sharpen our focus on our mission, Vol State will begin a campus-wide prioritization process over the next seven months to assess the quality, productivity and centrality of all our programs and activities, with the goal of better aligning our resources with strategic priorities and opportunities. 

The prioritization process will allow us to make best use of our existing resources to serve our students and to assure the growth, vitality and excellence of  Vol State.  We are undertaking this initiative not under the imminent threat of looming budget cuts, but rather with a resolve to take a proactive and long-term view of how we can invest in distinctive programs and student success initiatives for the future. Simultaneously, it is undeniable that budget constraints, declining federal and state funding, and limits on future tuition increases, as well as broader changes within the landscape of higher education, have affected our operation as an institution. Prioritization will ensure that we have the capability to be responsive during challenging times. We will be successful as we work together and transcend our own divisional perspectives to take a broad perspective of our college as a whole. This process will ensure that the college is functioning to its highest capacity at all levels.    

It must be emphasized that the prioritization process is not being undertaken with predetermined goals involving elimination or changes to any particular number of programs or with any specific financial goals.  This process is designed to rely on consistent and comprehensive data-driven conclusions, with the integration of qualitative and quantitative data that is available that can be assessed reliably, according to selected parameters. 

Our overall goals include the discovery of:

•Investment in programs that will advance Vol State’s vision and programs with a high potential for success;
•Identification of successful programs that should continue their current course;
•Increasing the effectiveness or efficiency in programs that may lack focus in offerings or current structure;
•Developing collaborative programs within the college or with external partners;
•Phasing out some programs and reinvesting resources in those programs that offer more promise with respect to our core values and mission. We recognize that if programs are discontinued it will take time to honor our commitments to students already enrolled in the program as well as to seek alternate assignments for staff or tenured faculty members.

A web presence for the prioritization process will be established.  Here, faculty, staff and students will be invited to provide feedback throughout the process, via email, feedback forms on the prioritization website, open forums and other means. Information about the criteria, process, timeline, and data sources will be posted on the web site.  We hope that throughout the process and going forward we can preserve the collegial culture of Vol State and provide the transparency that this process demands.  While not all may agree with the recommendations at the conclusion of this process, we hope that all members of the campus community will feel that the process was fair, open and transparent.

Vol State in the News

Vol State students will benefit from a farm-to-table dinner being put together by local farmers. The Gallatin News Examiner has the story.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Vol State Middle College Proposal

Vol State and Sumner County Schools have teamed up to propose a new High School Middle College for Sumner County. It would be held on the Vol State campus, and part of our regular classes. Dr. Faulkner envisions the program as reaching out to high school juniors who are unlikely to attend college. They would earn a high school diploma and an associate degree at the same time. Middle College has been around for some time now, at schools across the country. Chattanooga State has a popular program that now includes 250 students.

The Hendersonville Star News has an article about the proposal that Dr. Faulkner and Sumner County Schools Director Del Phillips recently made to the school board. The Middle College would have administrators here on campus and keep track of student attendance. Similar programs around the country have shown great success with student achievement.Typical middle college graduates achieve 100 percent proficiency on high school benchmark exams. On average, 90 percent of middle college graduates transfer to a four-year college or university.

Vol State faculty and staff will likely have many questions about the program. We put a few of them to Dr. Faulkner.

Will targeting academically challenged high school juniors make it tougher for faculty members to teach classes?  We are not targeting academically challenged students.  In fact, just the opposite.  We are seeking students that have demonstrated the capability to excel academically but have “checked out” of the high school scene and are at risk.  Also, we are seeking students that again are academically gifted but may not have the resources to attend college.

What kinds of extra support will we provide for these students?  There will be a Sumner County School principal on our campus.  There will also be a secretary / advisor and a part-time guidance counselor.

Will the high school students be mature enough for a college campus?  There is an extensive application process for potential students.  In addition to the paper application, potential students will need references from their current principal and guidance counselor.  Also each student will go through an interview process that will include a representative from Vol State. I was at Chattanooga State when a middle college was initiated there.  It was a resounding success and they now have an enrollment around 250.

The Sumner School Board is due to take up the proposal again next week.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Laura Black and Dr. Who

Dr. Who conference participants with a Dalek (they're the bad guys, or robots that is...)
Do you know Dr. Who? Laura Black, associate professor of English, certainly does. Dr. Who is a long-running British science-fiction TV show that has loyal fans from all over the world. Those fans gather at conferences to talk about “The Doctor” in his many incarnations. Recently, Laura had the opportunity to present an academic paper in England on the subject. Here is Laura’s blog post about her experience:
Today concluded the Doctor Who: Walking in Eternity Conference, an international interdisciplinary conference celebrating 50 years in time and space, the 50th anniversary year for the longest, continuous sci-fi television show in history at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, England.  

I was fortunate to have presented a paper for the conference, “Unraveling the Complex Narrative of Doctor Who Series Six: Revealing the Shape of Time and the Importance of Memory,” on Wednesday, September 4, representing Volunteer State Community College. 

The conference was a great mix of scholars from various academic disciplines from across the globe, including the US, England, Whales, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France.  Presenters came from universities such as Warrick, Reading, Brunel, Cardiff, Cambridge, Grinell, the University of Paris, and Middle Tennessee State University.  Panels included discussion on Production and Distribution, Audiences and Exhibitions, Sound and Music, Fandom and Social Media, Globalism and Diversity, and Time, History, and Memory.

The three-day conference also included guest presentations from Mat Irvine, technical consultant and visual effects designer from the BBC’s Doctor Who during the 1970s, who brought an authentic remote control K-9 used in the series. 

The concluding keynote was presented by David Lavery, “Why America Needs Who: Two Countries United by One Doctor.”  Lavery, an American TV scholar and founder of Whedon Studies, will present at Vol State’s main campus on October 30 to discuss his new book Joss Whedon: A Creative Portrait for the Honors Lecture Series:

-Laura Black

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Congrats to Social Science and Education!

Advising is a critical part of student success, and advising at Vol State has undergone some big changes in recent years. At the front end of the college career, orientation and those very first advising sessions provide a path for new students to navigate college. This summer, the campus moved to a new orientation/advising system called Campus Connect. All of the Divisions participated, holding division-specific advising sessions. Everyone did well, but Director of Retention Support Services, Heather Harper, says that the Social Science and Education Division really hit it out of the park. Or as Heather put it- "They rocked the house." Rocking the house apparently included a special computer lab for students set up by Grady Eades and particular attention to students led by Interim Dean George Pimentel. As a fun way to congratulate everyone in Social Science and Education, they were recently presented with the "Red Solo Cup Award." 

Don't get hung up on the name of the award or the incredibly expensive nature of the trophy itself. It comes down to one thing: helping our new students succeed. Kudos to everyone in Social Science and Education.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dr. Faulkner: Doing More

Gayle DeSalles, Secretary in the Math and Science Division, recently shared with me this quote from William Arthur Ward.  In a day and time where it often seems the emphasis is on just getting by, I found it very timely and well worth sharing.

I will do more than belong - I will participate.

I will do more than care - I will help.

I will do more than believe - I will practice.

I will do more than be fair - I will be kind.

I will do more than forgive - I will forget.

I will do more than dream - I will work.

I will do more than teach - I will inspire.

I will do more than earn - I will enrich.

I will do more than give - I will serve.

I will do more than live - I will grow.

I will do more than suffer - I will triumph.

Thanks for sharing Gayle.

-Dr. Jerry Faulkner