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.

Vol State in the News

The $6.2 Million Warf Renovation groundbreaking event received coverage on Channel 5 and in the Tennessean. We appreciate the help of Vol State Math and Science students and faculty for making it a fun celebration of science.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

EYH Science Program for Girls Has Great Success

A hundred girls recently attended what has become one of Vol State's largest K-12 learning events. EYH stands for Expanding Your Horizons. The third edition was held last weekend here on the Gallatin campus. Girls in 5th through 9th grades attended a panel discussion featuring successful women in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math) sharing their life and career experiences. The kids also participated in workshops involving chemistry, biology, math, health science, animal science, and computer programming. Congrats to all of the organizers and volunteers! Lingli Ni shares her excitement in a poem:

Was It A Dream? Or Was It Not?
By Lingli Ni

One hundred girls registered,
For Vol State EYH,
At its third annual conference!
It is the record number,
That we have been seeking.
Now it is in front our eyes,
Was it a dream? Or was it not?

That ordinary dining room,
Was transformed into a colorful conference room!
Filled with beautiful, young ladies,
And lots of volunteers.
Presentations and interviews,
Questions and Answers,
Eye-catching door prizes,
Music and drum rolls.
Fancy EYH photo booth with a skeleton,
Science lab equipments and funny eye props.
Now the room is empty and quiet.
Was it a dream? Or was it not?

All workshop sessions were fully staffed,
With experienced and dedicated leaders.
We even had extra workshop leaders,
Prepared to help fill in for others.
Professionals from colleges and companies,
Provided quality workshops!

At this third annual EYH,
We had several new things.
We had our first keynote speaker,
We had our first ever essay competition.
We had a group picture taken,
We even had a few emergencies.
But everything worked out perfectly,
Make me wonder whether it was reality?

Over a hundred Vol State students volunteered,
And EYH girls loved them!
They are big brothers and sisters,
And they are college students and role models.
When those little legs got tired from walking,
A piggy back ride service is standing by,
Our volunteers worked so hard,
And they ate every slice of pizza.

A big crowd gathered at Vol State,
On that beautiful, sunny day.
Something strange happened at EYH,
The little girls asked big questions!
The first Saturday of October will be reserved,
Vol State EYH is going to happen annually!
One father said it was the best event his daughter attended,
That comment put me on cloud nine right away.
Was it a dream? Or was it not?
Maybe it is a dream,

A wonderful dream came true at the magic third conference!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Vol State Professors View American Culture Through the TV Show Mad Men

You may think that your professors just come to class, teach, and then go home to their families, yet a lot of our Vol State professors do some pretty interesting work in their off time.  As fanatics of the American TV show Mad Men, married Professors Scott McMillan and Jennifer James have been analyzing the TV show and the constant theme of “work” within American culture. Their work has turned into a research paper titled “Revisiting Mad Men: The Nature of Work in American Culture.” They will present some of their research and ideas at The Popular/American Culture Association in the South Conference in New Orleans during the weekend of October 4th, 2018.

“Part of our culture, from our very early history, is this American work ethic,” said McMillan. “We’ve always been about work, work, work. It’s at the heart of who we are, it drives us as a nation, and Mad Men symbolizes this. It’s not just a good TV show, its great American literature. Ultimately it’s just Americans working just like we all are… It transcends just being set in the 1960’s, it deals with the struggles we all face in any workplace, regardless of the era.” 

“We’re moving away from that sort of Ford economy, of assembly line production, into creative work," said James. “We see their focus of work (in Mad Men) while the country is falling apart around them, it’s this very tumultuous time in the U.S. and we see these main characters go through that time. We see them working, but they also focus on other work, the psychoanalytical work, the work of overcoming alcoholism, the work of becoming a better person, the spiritual work of meditation, it’s a beautiful series, and every time you watch it, a different theme emerges.” 

They soon realized the themes provided an opportunity for scholarly exploration.

“In the paper, we focus on this idea of work, and what work means to identity. Boomers live to work, Xers work to live. Does the job become our identity? Where do we stop and the job start, where does the job stop and we start? The American ideal is that we are workers, we are the job. We work more than any culture on the planet, constantly trying to find identity in work,” explained James.

McMillan said that he often ties pop-culture, including TV shows, into his Political Science curriculum to get the students engaged. 

“We not only teach the stuff, we’re also thinking about it, exploring ideas, presenting them and to a hopefully receptive audience, that will allow other people to think about things in a different way. I think it’s an important part of what we do as professors, that we stay active in this larger academic world… and it’s always nice to carry the Vol State flag into these kinds of things,” McMillan added.

For more information on The Popular/American Culture Association in the South Conference in New Orleans, please visit: 
-By Rachel Keyes

QEP Focus Groups

 The Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) is part of our SACSCOC accreditation process. The focus is the First Year Experience, plans for helping freshmen be successful college students. Ideas include a new College Success class. The QEP Development Committee has been working since May to research best practices and develop a plan. They presented those findings in focus groups last week on the Gallatin campus. These are some pictures from one of those meetings. The 30 minute sessions provided an opportunity for a quick overview of the plan and input from group participants.  
The next step will be to take those focus group ideas and form a QEP Implementation Committee to decide how to carry out the plan.

If you have an opportunity to participate in future focus groups, please do so. Everyone from the college community is welcome to attend and participate. Cookeville and Livingston focus groups will be scheduled soon.

Vet Tech Hosts Scenting Trial

Vol State Veterinary Technology hosted Performance Scenting Dogs (PSD) scenting trial this past weekend. PSD held a silent auction in the week before the trial and raised enough money to award a second year Vet Tech student the funds to pay her national board examination fee once she has graduated. The winner was Holli Ann Hill. PSD will be at the Vet Tech Pinning Ceremony in May of 2019 to award the prize. Pictures courtesy Heather Coiner Photography.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Vol State in the News

Our story about the Hawkins family and their tornado connection to Vol State was picked up by the Brentwood Home Page.

There are plenty of Vol State events coming up in October. The Lebanon Democrat has stories about the Fiesta and the upcoming children's play featuring the popular character Junie B. Jones.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Meet the New Vice President

Nicholas Bishop has been hired as vice president for Economic and Community Development at Volunteer State Community College. Bishop comes most recently from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development where he was director of Compliance and Policy in the Workforce Services Division. Bishop is the first person to hold the newly created vice president position at Vol State.

“I’ll be working on economic development initiatives. That includes reaching out to employers for workforce development,” Bishop said. “We want to make sure employers have the workforce they need and that students are being trained for the jobs of the future. I hope I can bridge some gaps and strengthen partnerships.”

Previous to his work for the State of Tennessee, Bishop served on the Morgan County Commission. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from U-T Knoxville, and a J.D. from the Nashville School of Law.

Jennifer Brezina Promoted to Assistant Vice President

Jennifer Brezina has been promoted to the position of assistant vice president for Academic Affairs at Volunteer State Community College. She has served for two and a half years as the dean of Humanities, the largest academic division at the college. In her new role Brezina will coordinate with all of the Vol State academic divisions.

“I’m excited about working with people from across the college and at all of our campuses. I’m looking forward to more involvement with Distributed Education for online classes. My experience as a faculty member and in the classroom helps with this position.”

Brezina previously served at the College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, California, where she was dean of Humanities and interim project director in the office of Academic Affairs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from U.C.L.A; a Master of Arts degree in English from San Diego State University; and a Ph.D. in English from the University of California, Riverside.

The New Assistant Chief of Campus Police

Tim Anschuetz has joined Vol State Campus Police as assistant chief. He comes from the Gallatin Police Department where he was serving as sergeant in the Vice/Narcotics Unit. Anschuetz began his law enforcement career with Gallatin PD in 1999, first in Patrol, and then with the Traffic Division, continuing on as a motorcycle office. He tested and became a detective, and eventually moved up to the rank of corporal, and then sergeant.

When asked about his move to Vol State the assistant chief talked about opportunities.
“It’s a natural progression for someone in law enforcement to better themselves and progress in their career,” Anschuetz said. “The opportunity to take my base of knowledge and use it to help younger officers is one reason I took the job.”

The assistant chief said he’s enjoying working on a college campus.

“Here we’re dealing with safety and we want the environment to be such that students can succeed. We want them to feel safe here.”

He also considered the larger responsibilities of the position.

“The police here at Vol State have a unique opportunity. We can walk around and interact with younger people and show them that we really care. This is a prime place for a police officer to create change that can effect society. If we can all get along here, on campus, we can show students that police are not bad, and are here to help them.”

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Stewart and Nordeman Exhibit at Vol State in October

The Volunteer State Community College Art Gallery is showcasing the work of two female artists, both working with feminine imagery in a variety of materials, including textiles.  Gallery coordinator, Sue Mulcahy, said that Monica Stewart and Erinn Nordeman challenge the traditional roles of women, and invite the viewer to question the identity and expectations of women today.

Stewart is a multimedia artist working primarily with paper. She received her B.F.A with an emphasis painting from Murray State University and is currently pursuing her M.F.A at the University of Louisville. 

“In my recent work, I explore the relationships between narrative and object,” Stewart said. “I often draw on object imagery from fairytales to allude to dysfunctional familial relationships, female agency, as well as the magical and grotesque. By cutting, rearranging, and embellishing both traditional and nontraditional materials, I create new works that enter the realm of objects.”

Erinn Nordeman is a printmaker, photographer, video, and textile artist. She received her B.F.A from Millersville University and her M.F.A at the University of Arizona. She is interested in shifting traditional materials into contemporary questions of sexuality, identity, and female gender expectations.

“This collection of work is expressing a nostalgia for the younger version of myself; a version that was much more confident and in touch with herself,” Nordeman said. “The fabrics I chose, along with the self-portraits, embody that little girl, and all of her female role models on television and movies.”

The show runs from October 1 to November 1. The exhibit is free and open to the public. The Vol State Art Gallery is located on the first floor of the Steinhauer-Rogan-Black (SRB) Humanities Building on the Gallatin campus at 1480 Nashville Pike. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information call 615-230-3202.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Vol State in the News

The appointment of a new VP was picked up by the Tennessean.

The Wilson Post helped us to celebrate the new class of President's Ambassadors.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Vol State and Hawkins Family Renew a Tornado Connection

Many kids want to be firefighters. They may play rescue with their friends or push around toy fire engines. Jair Hawkins took it to a whole different level. “Every Halloween Jair dressed up as a firefighter,” said his dad, Jerrod Hawkins. “Every year. When he was ten-years-old he would ask me questions when I got home from work. How many calls did you get? How long did it take you to get out of the bay? Really specific questions.”

Jerrod has enjoyed a 20 year career as an EMT with the Brentwood Fire Department. He watched his son go from imagining fire scene responses as a child, to actively serving with a department.

“I begged him to let me be a volunteer firefighter. Finally, at age 15, he let me,” said Jair.

Jair is now a student in the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Basic program at Volunteer State Community College. It’s his first semester at the school. And it’s here that the story takes on a new meaning. The family has a stormy connection with Vol State that goes back 12 years.

“I don’t remember a whole lot from that day,” Jair said. “We went down to the basement and the next thing I knew the whole house is coming in on me.”

“I was working that day and I gave my wife a call to let her know about the storms,” Jerrod said. “I was talking to Amy on the phone and she said ‘I know it’s here’ and I lost the call. Ten minutes later I got a phone call from my neighbor. He said the boys were okay and were going to the hospital, but Amy was really hurt.”

That was April 7, 2006. An F-3 tornado ripped across Middle Tennessee and blasted into the Hawkins family home in Hendersonville. Amy covered up the kids with her body. She was found beneath bricks and rubble from the wreckage of the house. Amy survived, but with major injuries.

“I just remember her being gone a long time, two or three months,” said Jair. Amy had many surgeries and went through extensive rehabilitation. She was left paralyzed from the waist down.

The Sumner County community rallied around the Hawkins family. They were even stars on the ABC TV show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” The episode is often referred to as an audience favorite by the producers. The family received a brand new house during the show, a home especially designed for Amy and her wheelchair.

Former Vol State president, Warren Nichols, understood the devastation of that tornado. He was on campus when the twister moved north and hit Vol State that day, tearing up buildings, and causing seven million dollars in damage. That connection with the Hawkins family moved him to set up Vol State scholarships for the two boys, Jair and Cole, in 2006. Twelve years later, Jair is walking the Vol State campus as a new student this fall. While he didn’t need the tuition part of the scholarship, thanks to the TN Promise program, he did receive a book scholarship worth $1000 each year.

“I didn’t know how it would work after so long,” Jerrod said. “So, I contacted Karen Mitchell in the College Foundation and she was wonderful.”

Dad says that his son Cole will also be using the Vol State scholarship in a few years. “Right now he wants to go into the Airforce and be a pilot. He wants to do two years at Vol State and then transfer to MTSU for their Aviation program.”

Amy is doing well, but still has pain from her injuries. Jair thinks back to that tragic day and said his mom did something special. “If she didn’t do what she did, I wouldn’t be here right now.” And Jair adds that there are other ties from the past to the present. “A few of my buddies at the station where I volunteer have dads that worked at the station that day, and responded to help us.”

Amy and the family recently took a vacation in Florida. It was the first time she had been in the ocean since the tornado. Jair wants to graduate, continue with Advanced EMT, and then complete the Paramedic program. He has already applied for paid positions at fire departments, including Portland and Murfreesboro. His goal is to eventually be a fire captain.

“I’ve known since he was two that Jair would be a fireman,” Amy said. And as for how the tornado has changed their lives, she replied: “I look at challenges as a positive thing. We lived through this. It’s a celebration of life we do each year.”

For more information about the Vol State EMS program visit

Pictured above: Jair and Jerrod Hawkins on the Vol State campus in Gallatin.

Pictured above: Amy and Jair Hawkins celebrate his graduation from Portland High School last spring.
Pictured above: The boys are presented with the scholarships in 2006 by the Vol State College Foundation. Left to right: Warren Nichols, Buddy Shaw, Amy, Jerrod, Jair, Cole, Ed Mayberry and Stan Cole.

Vol State in the News

Student Engagement and Support is holding a series of events this month for suicide awareness and prevention. The Tennessean covered the kick-off event and had this story.

The Tennessean covered the news of our record enrollment. It also appeared on area news web sites and WPLN, NPR radio.

The website Campaign for Free College Tuition has an article highlighting TN Promise through the story of CHEC student Emily Buckner. She is now enrolled at TTU.

Vol State art students have been working with high school students and using French Impressionism to dress up a recycling container. Jen Todd with the Tennessean has the follow-up.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Record Student Enrollment

Congrats everyone...we officially have a new all-time record enrollment: 9156. That might not necessarily be a comfortable thing if we hadn't been growing in so many other ways. Here is the news release to explain:

Student enrollment at Vol State has reached an all-time record for the school, with 9156 students attending this fall semester. The previous record was 8989, set in fall of 2010. The current headcount is up 3.5 percent over fall of last year. Much of the increase is attributed to the popular TN Reconnect program. It provides tuition-free education for adults who do not already have a college degree. This fall 1039 new students using TN Reconnect are enrolled in classes at Vol State. There are also 460 continuing students using the program.

“We are excited to have attained this record enrollment,” said Vol State president, Jerry Faulkner. “It is gratifying to see more citizens of our service area taking advantage of the opportunity to advance their education. Vol State is fulfilling our mission to prepare students for successful career, university transfer, and meaningful civic participation in a global society.”

Vol State has been planning for increased enrollment. Two new buildings have been added to the Gallatin campus in recent years. The Livingston campus was enlarged. The Highland Crest campus in Springfield was built. In Cookeville, Vol State began offering classes at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC), setting enrollment records there, as well.

The number of online classes has also expanded, allowing for even more growth. In the fall of 2010 there were 195 course sections and this fall 356.  There are many more faculty and staff working at the college, from 769 in 2010 to 854 employees today.

“Our great team at the college has worked really hard to prepare for this year and for continued growth in enrollment,” Faulkner said. “Our next project is a renovation of our Warf science building. We will gain two science labs, a classroom, a computer lab, and a new six thousand square foot wing to house our Mechatronics program.” 

Full-Time Equivalency (FTE) is a unit that measures the number of credit hours students are taking. That FTE number is also a record this fall at 6206, versus 5758 in 2010. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Relay for Life at Vol State September 29

Many of us have had our lives changed by cancer, whether it be as a survivor, a caregiver or as a loved one. Relay for Life is the primary fund raising event for the American Cancer Society. It is held in thousands of communities in 27 different countries. The goal is to raise money for cancer research, support, and awareness activities. The Southern Sumner County Relay for Life is coming up on Saturday, September 29 here on the Vol State campus in Gallatin. Organizers are looking for individuals and teams to walk and raise funds. There will be an opening ceremony, a survivor/caregiver walk, and a luminaria ceremony that will light up campus. If you are interested in participating, please visit the website for details and a sign-up form. If you have additional questions you can contact Jenny Goslin at 615-341-7328.

Dr. Faulkner: My Time as an Undercover Student

This past Thursday I gave up my coat and tie for a casual shirt, blue jeans, walking shoes and a cap.  I spent almost the whole day as a student attending class and doing other things a student would do.  Thanks to Carol Bucy, Deb Moore, Carol Topping, and Theresa Johnson for letting me be incognito in their classes.

Here are some observations from an undercover student:

The online application to Vol State is easily completed.

I only saw one student using a cell phone during class.  This was in a math class so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that she was using the calculator on her phone.

Desks are no longer contoured to my contours.

On what should have been the second day of class there were a number of students without books, even when there were reading assignments due.

Our faculty are making good use of eLearn.

There was more give and take between the students and the faculty than I remember happening in my classes more than 10 years ago.

I can still eat a whole hamburger while walking from Wood to Thigpen. (Thanks to Campus Kickoff event for the burger.)

Four back to back classes is a pretty brutal schedule.  (I did have five classes scheduled but an important appointment became available and like a student I cut class.  But I did notify my instructor.)

There was more emphasis on understanding the “”why” and less about memorizing facts.

Students don’t talk to you unless you make the first connection.

Almost no students recognized me until I introduced myself at the end of the period.

Lots of interdisciplinary connections were being made.  In world literature we spent a great deal of time looking at maps of the world and exploring how maps can distort our view of the earth.

Students were engaged, involved and polite.

I learned something new in every class.

We have the greatest faculty in the world!

This was a great experience and something I will definitely do again.

Vol State in the News

The Ledger newspaper is primarily focused on the west side of Nashville. However, it does have sister publications statewide. They recently featured our Sonography and PTA programs in separate articles. Thanks to all of the program folks for help with these interviews.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Meet the New President's Ambassadors

Vol State has a new group of President’s Ambassadors for 2018-2019. The Ambassadors represent the college at events, conduct campus tours and help with public relations. Students selected for the President’s Ambassadors scholarship program go through a rigorous vetting and interview process. Congrats to all!
Left to right. Back row: Cole Harper, Mt. Juliet; Katelynn Roberts, Cross Plains; Rachel Keyes. Nashville; Kaylen Whisnant, Cookeville; Samantha Lang, Tampa, FL; and Alix Stone, Mt. Juliet. Front Row: Melody Montgomery, Livingston; Amber Kittrell, Smyrna; Callie Swallows, Livingston; Robert Kirby, Cookeville; Brianna Hogan, Centerville; Anedra Moore, Nashville; and Megen Roberts, Lebanon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Vol State Music Faculty Members Release CD

Vol State music faculty have gigs all over Middle Tennessee in solo and group performances. Longtime faculty member Tiger Ftizhugh has a new group with Vol State adjunct instructor, Ron de la Vega. The third member of the group is Richard Adams, a faculty member at MTSU. The band is called Amity 3 and they have just released their first CD. Check them out here.

Friday, August 24, 2018

New Graphics for Pickel Field House

PR and Athletics have been discussing ways to dress-up the Pickel Field House for several years now. The projects are nearly complete. The first project consisted of new graphics in the gym. We replaced the old painted Vol State logo with an updated version. There are also signs on the other end of the gym that feature a more sports-y look, and the college mascot. In the Pickel lobby, there are four large graphics representing each of our four sports. Here are some pictures, but you really need to see them in person to get the full effect. We have one final project to complete this week - versions of the lobby graphics will be going up in the gym. Considering the last graphic work lasted for 25 years - we have planned this set to last as least as long.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Vol State in the News

TN Reconnect is the big story this fall. The national publication, Inside Higher Ed, talked to the Bare family for their TN Reconnect story Four members of the family, all adults, are attending Vol State while using TN Reconnect this fall. The piece does a nice job of highlighting the experience they have had working with Vol State faculty and staff thus far. We'll be highlighting more TN Reconnect students in the coming week on Vol State social media and throughout the semester.

WPLN, NPR radio in Nashville, ran this report on TN Reconnect, focusing on Vol State.

Fox17 talked to the Bare family, four adults all taking classes at Vol State this fall via Reconnect.

Ms. Cheap with the Tennessean took a moment to highlight the KEY lifelong learning lecture series, which kicks off in September. We have several Vol State faculty member doing those seminars.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Congrats to Social Science and Education

The Social Science and Education Division was honored at Convocation with the Red Solo Cup Award. The Office of Student Engagement gives the red plastic trophy to the division that went above and beyond the call of duty with advising for Campus Connect. This makes four out of five years that Social Science and Education has won the award, perhaps making them the Boston Celtics or New York Yankees of divisions (James might prefer L.A. Lakers of divisions). In reality, of course, all of the academic divisions did an amazing job in a very busy summer advising season. Congrats to everyone who worked so hard to get students off on the right foot.

Weight Watchers Success Story

Sherry Watts in Plant Operations has been involved in the Vol State Weight Watchers at Work program for just over 14 months and thus far she has lost 60 lbs. She was on blood pressure medication, but the weight loss means she no longer needs that medication. She has met her goal with Weight Watchers and now needs to do six weeks of maintenance for eligibility as a Lifetime Member.

We had a couple of questions for Sherry:

How does it feel to have lost the weight? “I have so much more energy. I feel healthy and I’m proud of myself. Not to mention a new wardrobe! LOL.”

What would you say to people who are considering a weight loss program? “You need to look for a program that provides support. I have tried many different programs in the past, but never received the help and encouragement that I did with this program. I found that meetings, co-worker support and the on-line tools helped with my success. Also, you have a lot of freedom with the program to continue to eat with your family, go out to dinners and enjoy your favorites. It’s all about tracking and planning and it works!”

“I know now that I can live a healthy life style.”

You can start a healthy lifestyle with a visit to the next Weight Watchers meeting on campus, coming up Wednesday, August 29, 2018 @ 12:30pm in the Rochelle Center. For more information, please contact Tammy Swindle via email or by phone at 615-230-3472.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Middle College Students are Back on Campus

Sumner County Middle College High School students are back on campus. It's the largest group yet: 66 students. They began work on the Gallatin campus on August 6th, which is the day all Sumner County students started. They begin days at 8:00 AM with sessions by co-principals Betsy Hunter and Brad Schreiner on how to be successful college students. After those sessions, the students take INFS 1010 or Personal Finance. Students can be seen around campus in Rochelle, Mattox, and the Learning Commons until class start. Say hello if you see them on campus.