Monday, March 28, 2016

Tyndall Poetry Published

Assistant Professor of Communication, Melissa Tyndall, recently entered the Winter 2016 Sixfold poetry competition. She came in 7th out of 339 poets. Five of her poems (Postcards from the Amer River,” “Haptics,” “Film Studies,” “Aubade,” and “For Our Children, Not Yet Born, I Preserve the Images of Animals”) were published. They can be found at

Congrats to Melissa!

New Fitness Gear for Your Use

What's better than a nice walk for exercise? How about combining that walk with some basic fitness activities- such as pull-ups and sit-ups? The Vol State Fitness Trail is now equipped with several fitness stops- simple equipment you can use to boost your workout.

The Fitness Trail is a mulched walkway that runs from the Tennis Courts and along the creek on the backside of the college. It's a lovely trail  and a get away from the rush of campus. Here are the new exercise stops that you will find along the way. You can click on this image for a larger view.

Dr. Faulkner: Will a Robot Take Your Job? Part Two

I had written part one of this back in December.  On March 15, two articles appeared in USA Today regarding the South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW) in Austin, TX.  Reported sessions for the festival included “Robot Armageddon:  AI, Jobs and Inequality” and “Will AI Augment or Destroy Humanity?”  (AI = Artificial Intelligence) One of the opening day sessions was by Hiroshi Ishiguro who presented a variety of robots and a geminoid.  A geminoid, as the name implies, is a twin in that it looks like an android but lets a user manipulate it.  Ishiguro proposes that soon geminoids will take the physical place of humans while being manipulated by a brain – machine interface.  His androids are used as shopkeepers and TV hosts throughout Japan.  He predicts that, “. . . we’ll have a robot society in the very near future, in maybe three or five years.”

The second USA Today article revolved around an interview session with the developer of Siri, Dag Kittlaus.  Later this year, Kittlaus will unveil Viv, an open sourced, cloud based personal assistant that will allow humans to talk to the Internet and the Internet to talk back.  Viv uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn from each conversation and create unique search algorithms to become more responsive in the future.  Viv will be different from Siri, Cortana, or Echo by being able to reason.  He said, “Siri was chapter one, and now it’s almost like a new Internet age is coming.  Viv will be a giant brain in the sky.”  Also, during the interview he confidently predicted that supercomputers might take over for entrepreneurs using their digital brains to create things faster than humans. 

Then, just today (March 22) an article appeared in the USA Today portion of the Tennesseean titled “Next Job Skill is Adapting to Automation.”  A report from the Center for Economic Research in Tennessee reveals that “As many as 1.4 million Tennesseans are at risk of losing their jobs to automation.”  According to the report, Middle Tennessee will be particularly hard hit.  Randy Boyd, Commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development said that the people who are most at risk of losing jobs are those who don’t have post-secondary skills.  The report goes on to say, “History demonstrates that a shift toward heightened technological demands of the business community does not likely coincide with declining demand for labor.  Automation of workplace tasks will displace workers, but not replace workers.  Rather than eliminating labor, automation is likely to reshape the distribution of jobs.”

To reprise the question, “Will a robot take your job?” The answer is probably, “It depends on your skills,” but it further emphasizes how technology will change our work lives and our personal lives in ways hard to imagine.  Our students must be equipped to be lifelong learners to adjust to this Brave New World. (Nod to Aldous Huxley.)

A Healthy Honor

The Sumner County Health Committee has awarded Vol State the Community Health Leadership Award as the leading Governmental Agency.  They cited the Tobacco Free Campus, Walk Across Sumner, and Healthy Pioneers as outstanding initiatives. Congrats to all of those who have been working to make this a healthy place to work and learn. You may remember Vol State was honored last year with the Healthier Tennessee Workplace designation from the Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dr. Faulkner: Will a Robot Take Your Job? Part One

What can humans do that robots cannot?
·         -In 1997 IBM’s Deep Blue beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov.
·         -Google translates spoken, written and photographed languages.
·         -iRobot cleans your floors.
·         -Armar IIIa loads and unloads the dishwasher.
·         -Daimler tests self-driving semi-trucks in Nevada.
·         -California licenses self-driving cars.
·         -In 2011, IBM’s Watson defeats two human Jeopardy champions.
·         -UC Berkeley researchers are training a robot to identify and cut away cancerous tissues.
·         -Charles Schwab introduces Roboadvisers that manage stock portfolios.
·         -Cambridge University researchers create a “mother robot that can assemble baby robots.”

If robots can do all this and more, “How will we humans add value?”  Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers says this is “the defining economic feature of our era.”  It is the question addressed by Geoff Calvin in his recently published book, Human are Underrated (Penguin Publishing Group, 2015) and the subject of his article in the August, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine.

While we in higher education often concentrate our teaching on technical skills to prepare the next generation of robot creators, builders, and programmers, Calvin offers that we must also develop some very human skills for the future.

The article lays out that human skills will be in demand because ultimately we want a human to take responsibility and we want humans to meet us on an interpersonal level.  Even though the diagnosis may have come from a computer, we want a human doctor to communicate that to us.  We want judges to render verdicts even if an algorithm could do it better.

An Oxford Economic research firm found that “employers’ top priorities include relationship building, teaming, co-creativity, brainstorming, cultural sensitivity and ability to manage diverse employees . . . “  Oracle groups vice president Meg Bear is quoted in the article as saying, “Empathy is the critical 21st century skill.”

So as we produce graduates that are technically capable and possess appropriate professional skills, we must also cultivate their relational skills or else they are just robots.

Women in Science and Math Highlighted at Vol State Expo

There’s a nationwide push to get more women interested in math and science fields. That means getting girls involved at an early age. It will be a highlight of the 15th annual Vol State Science and Math Expo this year. There will be special sessions for girls to explore what it means to be a scientist and mathematician.

“Women in Math is an activity that recognizes distinguished women mathematicians,” said Parris Powers, assistant professor of Chemistry. “The hands-on event uses different polyhedrons and will challenge participating girls to observe geometric patterns.
From that they will be able to derive an important mathematical law.”

Girls and boys will enjoy learning with fun demonstrations that teach basic scientific principles. The Science and Math Expo will have more than fifty hands-on activities for kids and parents. There will be demonstrations covering a wide range of subjects from biology to physics. Those activities will include LEGO engineering and astronomical viewing in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Planetarium. The Expo is designed for kids from kindergarten through middle school. Many of the activities are put together by Vol State math and science students, who gain a new perspective on science and math education.  This year education students joined in the projects.

“I’m excited to watch two classes of students from different disciplines collaborate, each bringing their own level of expertise to discover and create a math or science experiment,” said Dr. Penelope Duncan,  assistant professor of Early Childhood Education. “The organic chemistry students demonstrate knowledge in science inquiry and education students incorporate the instructional methods and create lesson plans- truly a team approach.”

The Vol State Science and Math Expo will be held on Thursday, April 7 from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. It will take place in and around the Wallace Health Sciences Building- North on the Vol State campus at 1480 Nashville Pike in Gallatin. The event is free and open to everyone. For more information call 615-230-3261.

Photo Display at Vol State for Tennessee’s Fallen Soldiers

“Remembering Our Fallen” is a stark reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by fallen military members from the state of Tennessee, killed while wearing our country’s uniform in a war zone.  The photo memorial, which includes military and personal photos of each of Tennessee’s Fallen, is traveling throughout the state and will be coming to Volunteer State Community College. The sponsor of the memorial is Vol State Student Veterans of America.

This memorial, and 17 other state memorials representing half of our country’s Fallen since 9/11/01, have been created by Patriotic Productions, a non-profit organization headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.  The goal is to complete a memorial for every state.

 “Remembering Our Fallen” will be on display from March 28th at 2:00 PM to April 1st at noon at the Wood Campus Building at 1480 Nashville Pike in Gallatin. For more information visit 

Family Day

Michael Hitzelberger captured this moment at the Family Day and Easter Egg event this weekend.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Dr. Faulkner: Why Won’t They Come to My Office?

For many of my years in the classroom, I lamented the fact that students in trouble in my classes refused to come during office hours for help and advice.  I did all but beg them to come and still it was “crickets.”  Finally a wise and experienced faculty member offered some insight.  My colleague reminded me that for 12 years of the students’ academic experience, there was only one reason to go to someone’s office.  They were in trouble!  Consciously or unconsciously students associated going to the office with being sent to the Principal.

Now I learn there is even more to the story.  Dr. Courtney N. Wright is an Associate Professor in the College of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee.  (Go Big Orange!)  Her research interests are in relational communication, conflict management, and instructional communication.  In regard to the classroom she says, “I subscribe to the perspective of teaching as an interpersonal relationship.  And a positive relationship helps provide a foundation for dealing with inevitable difficult dialogues in the classroom . . .”  In a paper titled, “Examining the silence of academic disappointment”, (Journal of Scholarship of Teaching andLearning. Vol 13, No 5. Dec. 2013 pp 46 – 60)   Dr. Wright offers that, “. . . a failure to discuss disappointing grades is a failure of education in some respects.”

In this study involving 257 undergraduates Dr. Wright found students’ reasons for not discussing disappointing grades with instructors fell into categories exemplified by the following quotes:
·         I didn’t think I would gain anything from it.
·         I felt that it was mostly my own fault for not studying well enough.
·         I understood where my failing were.
·         It was the first test and I was getting to know her style of exam.
·         He (the instructor) is extremely intimidating.
·         I was not convinced that she could adequately explain it to anyone else but herself.
·         While the grade was less than I expected, it still wasn’t terrible.
·         I deserved the grade.
·         Primarily the grade wasn’t that important to me.
·         I was not comfortable enough to go up and explain my stance whether I’m right or not.
·         The lines were always very long.
·         I don’t know why I didn’t talk to the instructor.

Situations like this are why proactive advising is so important.  Students’ misunderstandings and reluctance are an opportunity to teach them skills that will benefit them throughout life.

Things we can do to help students are to:
·         Be aware of immediacy – the perceived physical or psychological distance between communicators.
·         Use positive non-verbal communication – open body position, smiling, vocal variety.
·         Be aware of verbal communication.  Incorporate self-disclosure, positive recognition, use of humor.
·         Provide objective feedback directly focused on the assessment.

As one of our core values says, “We are all educators,” and our opportunities to educate extend beyond the subjects covered in the classroom.

Third Annual Vol State Cycling Classic May 14

Warmer weather is bringing out the bike riders. Volunteer State Community College has a fun ride for a good cause coming up. The third annual Vol State Cycling Classic, organized by the Vol State College Foundation, will be held on Saturday, May 14 and features three different rides, depending on ability and interest. The routes travel through scenic roads across Sumner County.

There will be a 15 mile Fitness Tour; a 33 mile Half Metric Century Tour; and a 63 mile Metric Century Tour. The tours will start and finish on the Vol State campus in Gallatin. There will be rest stops along the way for food, hydration, first aid and restrooms. The Metric Century Tour will leave at 8 a.m. The Half Metric will depart at 8:15 a.m. and the Fitness Tour will get underway at 8:30 a.m.

When riders finish, the college will have an event with barbecue, beverages and live music. Changing facilities and showers will also be available.

“The after ride party is maybe the best part.  We have great food and our students and faculty groups provide wonderful musical entertainment,” said Vol State president, Dr. Jerry Faulkner.

The ride cost is $40 in advance registration and $45 on May 13 or 14 at the site. Riders will get a t-shirt and a goody bag. Only riders who sign up by April 22 are guaranteed to receive a shirt in their size of preference. Route maps for each tour and a link to the registration page can be found at

Sponsors for the ride thus far include Business Credit Reports, Christian Brothers Automotive, Bluegrass Beverages, Biker’s Choice, and Road ID. There are still opportunities for sponsorships. For more information about the ride and sponsorships contact the Vol State College Foundation at 615-230-3526 or email

KEY Lifelong Learning Lecture Series Returns to Vol State

Music, art, literature and war are on tap as subjects for an exploration of the early 1900’s in the KEY Lifelong Learning Program at Volunteer State Community College starting in August. There are several lectures scheduled and each has multiple meeting days. The fee to enroll in one or all of the lectures in the series is $49. The lectures start the week of August 3. Everyone is welcome to register to attend. The topics include: “The Harlem Renaissance;” ”Popular Music and Art: World War I Era;” and “World War I – The War to End All Wars.” If the discussion of war makes students tense, they can also study “Mindfulness-Based Stress Relief.”

KEY stands for “Keep Educating Yourself.” The classes will be held at the Wood Campus Center on the Vol State campus at 1480 Nashville Pike in Gallatin. People can register by calling Vol State Continuing Education at 615-230-3358 or visiting in person at the 300 Building, room 106, on the east side of the Vol State campus. For a complete list of lecture series dates and descriptions visit

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Bluegrass Jamboree April 9

Gary Jenkins at Educate a Woman Luncheon

Entertainer Gary Jenkins will bring his blend of music, comedy and celebrity impersonations to the Educate a Woman luncheon on April 22. The event raises money for scholarships for women at Vol State.  Tickets are not required, but there is a suggested minimum donation of $40 requested at the door. Last year the event raised more than $34,000. This year Educate a Woman will be held at the Long Hollow Baptist Church Worship Center at 3031 Long Hollow Pike in Hendersonville. Registration starts at 11 a.m. and the lunch and program at 11:30 a.m. The Summa Cum Laude sponsors for Educate a Woman 2016 are Ms. Sue’s Medspa and Carpenter Cancer Center at Sumner Station. To register and for a list of sponsor opportunities visit