Monday, April 29, 2019

Graduate Profile: Isaac Ramirez

Isaac Ramirez is one motivated college student. “I’ve been pushing myself more and more every semester,” he said. He has a love for learning and a passion for science. His family is a big part of the reason he seeks out challenges.

“My parents came from Mexico when I was one-year-old,” he said. “My dad worked at a plant in Portland. He liked it and decided to stay. He started as an engineer and now he’s a supervising engineer.”

Life in a new country was difficult for the Ramirez family. “My parents struggled with learning English. I picked up Spanish from home and English at school. My dad never had the opportunity to do much in higher education. He was educated through his work. When we came here, their goal was to give us a better life through education. Everything they do involves getting me and my sisters into college.”

And so Isaac came to college; not out of high school, but rather as a high school junior. He’s a Sumner County Middle College High School student. His classes for the last two years have been at the Vol State campus in Gallatin. He will graduate in May with a Vol State associate’s degree and his high school diploma.

“I’ve been able to find classes I never would have been able to take at high school. The one that stands out the most is microbiology. I absolutely love it.”

His science classes at Vol State have been a launching pad for his dream to be a medical researcher.

“I want to go into pharmaceutical research. My main goal is to do research into superbugs and bacteriophages. That’s a form of virus that infects bacteria. They’re trying to use that to provide a way to fight bacteria without raising the chance that it becomes resistant to treatment.”

His next step is the University of Alabama at Huntsville, where he has received a full-tuition scholarship and a seat in the Honors College. He plans to pursue a dual degree in biology and chemistry. His Vol State classes have provided a jump start on his bachelor’s degree. “I should be able to finish in two and a half to three years.”

His parents will be watching closely. “They’re checking-up on every single step. They’re super-excited for me to go out into the world and find a way to do what I love doing.”

Graduate Profile: Brianna Hogan

Riding in a cop car can be a life changing experience. So it was for Criminal Justice major, Brianna Hogan. During her final year of high school, Brianna accompanied a police officer on a ride-along to see what the job was all about. Initially the ride-along was simply intended to check the proverbial box to fulfill her job-shadowing requirement for TN Promise. Little did she know it would become her future career path.

“He went on his daily rounds, he showed me everything he has to do, I think there was like two or three calls we went on. We did a couple of traffic stops, it was just, like, exciting. I was like, oh this is definitely what I think I wanna go into,” she said. “I want something that challenges me on a daily basis, so I thought that it would be a good field to go into because you don’t know what’s gonna happen in a day, it could quickly change.”

Her eventual goal is to join the FBI. After Vol State, she plans on pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Austin Peay State University. There she intends to double major in Criminal Justice and Foreign Language with an emphasis in either Spanish or Chinese, both of which she currently studies at Vol State.

“TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) has a position for foreign language translators, so I could pair the two that I want to do, that’s my goal right now … I guess I’d like to work my way up either to an ATF agent or a U.S. Marshal or something like that.”

Brianna has been a Vol State President’s Ambassador this year. She said she’s going to miss the familiarity of the college, but she’s excited to move on and continue her education.

-Rachel Keyes

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Vol State in the News

Vol State students did great in the SkillsUSA state tournament recently. The Overton County news has the story.

A recent exam pass rate in the Mechatronics program has received attention. Here is a story in the Lebanon Democrat.

The push is on for summer class registration. The Hendersonville Standard has this piece.

Vol State faculty members work hard in organizing community academic events, such as the annual Tennessee Math Teachers Association math contest. Here is a story about the latest competition.

Monday, April 22, 2019

MLT Students Win at Conference

Congrats to students in the Medical Laboratory Technology program. They participated in the Tennessee Annual Laboratory Conference recently. The conference took place at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Students attended a variety of educational lectures on current laboratory topics. The Vol State program had three teams participate in the Student Bowl competition. One of our teams won in the MLT category, and only fell behind 10 points in the end from winning against the MLS category winners. Thanks to MLT Director Kimberly Helton for the leadership to get them there!

Graduate Profile: Bobbijo Andrews

Bobbijo Andrews of Cookeville is a Gold Medalist in Extemporaneous Speaking and you may think that means she has the gift of gab, but that isn’t the case at all.

“I was recruited for the SkillsUSA competition,” she said. “Public speaking is not my thing, but I’m getting better at it. It was very much out of my comfort zone to speak in public and compete, but I think I needed it to boost my confidence.”

That’s a common theme for Andrews, who was home schooled and worked for 12 years before deciding to take the plunge into college.

“I never gave myself enough credit. I was living paycheck to paycheck and I was tired of it. I’ve been eager to learn and participate. If you go into school with that outlook, you will do well.”

She attended classes at the Vol State Livingston campus and the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC). “Both campuses are so welcoming. You’re like family.” She plans to major in Audiology and Speech Therapy at university in the fall.

“I have worked with mentally disabled adults and they sometimes need speech therapy. They are such grateful individuals and the work is really important to their lives. That’s why my heart is in it.”

While at Vol State, Andrews participated in the Sign Language Club, a new offering at CHEC, and also in the Green Team, responsible for environmental activities, such as CHEC Earth Day. She will also be speaking publicly again- participating in the national competition for SkillsUSA in June.

Her next step after that will be Middle Tennessee State University and while she admits the size of the school is a bit scary, it’s clear that she is ready to overcome that as well. “I am a nervous wreck. I’m a small town girl. But I’m excited.”

Vol State in the News

Nice story in the Tennessean about the long-running Hendersonville Rotary mission trips to Guatemala, led Dr. Bill Taylor, and the involvement of our Ophthalmic Program in that work.

The new Nursing program application deadline is coming up on May 1. The Herald Citizen and other media have been promoting meetings designed to answer student questions.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Graduate Profile: Zachary Houtman

There was recently a milestone announcement in the science community: the first picture of a black hole. The achievement is more than just another news story for Zachary Houtman- it is inspiration. He is feeding his love of science by pursuing a career in engineering or physics.

“If I could see humanity expand from Earth in my lifetime that would be great to see,” he said.

And Zachary doesn’t want to be on the sidelines of space exploration- he intends to be part of the scientific process that takes humans to the far reaches of our solar system. To do that, the Middle College High School student will need a top-notch education. His acceptance and full-ride scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) is just the latest step for him. RPI is one of the top science research universities in the nation.

“I spend a lot of my free time looking at topics like relativity,” he said. “I’d like to be a researcher at NASA. There’s one topic I’m really interested in right now called the Alcubierre Drive.” He’s speaking about an idea in theoretical physics that is based on the equations of Albert Einstein in general relativity. It speculates that humans could achieve faster-than-light travel by creating a spacecraft that could contract space in front of it and expand space behind it.

“You create a gravitational anomaly,” he said. The sparkle in his eyes when discussing the idea gives you just a hint of how much he enjoys science. He was able to explore more of math and science through the Sumner County Middle College High School program. He transferred from Portland High School after his junior year.

“The biggest thing with Middle College was the opportunities. I’ve taken nine math classes in my high school career. Being in an environment where everyone is motivated to do better is refreshing.”

Zachary will graduate with his high school diploma and an associate degree in May, a unique opportunity for students in Middle College. He plans an advanced education after completing his bachelor’s degree at RPI, perhaps even a PhD. He is already considering thesis topics.

“If I had to choose my thesis right now it would be relativity. The large scale of the universe is amazing.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

Welcome Kyle Barron

Kyle Barron is the new assistant vice president for Student Services. He comes most recently from Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College in Bowling Green, KY, where he held the position of director of Student Life and Engagement.

"Being from Bowling Green, I knew about Vol State and the reputation it has in the community,” Barron said. “The students-first philosophy aligns well with my personal beliefs about student success.”

Barron is a first-generation college student and community college graduate. He said that perspective helps when considering what community college students need to succeed.

“Retention of students, in many different areas, will be a big focus for me. That can come in the area of career. It helps when students know about job possibilities and how they can get there. I want to look at tailoring events to better engage students, so they stay with college and walk across that stage someday to get their diploma.”

Barron has an associate of arts degree from Richland College, a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree from the University of North Texas, and a Master of Education: Higher Education degree, also from the University of North Texas. He has completed his work for an EdD degree from the University of Kentucky. His dissertation title is “It’s Not the Program, It’s the People: Building Human Levers of Retention in Community Colleges.” He expects to receive the degree in May.

Farewell to these Retirees

A group of amazing people are retiring this year and last week we had an opportunity to celebrate their careers. It was a lovely ceremony with fun stories and, of course, some tears. We wish the best of luck to the group. Here are photos of the attendees receiving their retirement honors.

Robert L.
Mark John
Glenda B.
Paul M.
Larry D.
Peter J.
Leslie M.
Debra L.
Jane M.
Judy L.
Robert Lewis
Rebecca S.
Louise M.
Betty C.

Vol State Students Win in Statewide Job Skills Competition

College academic work can lead to job skills. Volunteer State Community College students had an opportunity recently to show off those skills at the statewide SkillsUSA competition in Chattanooga. Vol State students scored top honors in four categories and placed in several others. SkillsUSA is an organization that provides educational events, competitions, and programs that support technical and career education across America.  The competition also connected students with businesses that need skilled workers.

“Several of our students made contacts that could lead to careers upon graduation,” said Vol State Mechatronics faculty member, Tim Dean. “I had more than one employer comment to me that they were quite impressed with not only the technical skills of the students, but also the professionalism that they demonstrated.”

“We are excited that our students have such a broad spectrum of areas of expertise,” said assistant professor of Communication, Cindy Thrasher. “They competed not only in technical areas, but also in Leadership areas like Public Speaking and Interviewing.”

The Gold medalists will go on to compete in the national SkillsUSA competition in Louisville in June.
Pictured: The Vol State competitors, left to right. Front row:  Jarissa Woolbright, Cookeville, Gold Medal, Restaurant Service; Preston Carr, Cookeville, Gold Medal, Culinary Arts; Hannah Foley, Cookeville, Gold Medal, Commercial Baking; and Delenn Strong of Gainsboro.

2nd row:  Tim Dean, Mechatronics program director; BobbiJo Andrews, Cookeville, Gold Medal, Extemporaneous Speech; Melody Montgomery, Livingston, Bronze Medal, Prepared Speech; Pam Davis, Cookeville; Jarrett Talbott, Cookeville, Bronze Medal, Motorcycle Repair; Nicholas Drake, Cookeville; and Cindy Thrasher, assistant professor of Communication.

3rd row:  Josiah Watson, Celina; Miguel Ortiz, Baxter, Silver Medal, Technical Computer Applications; Tallen Gooch, Sparta, Bronze Medal, Team Mechatronics; and Samuel Griffin, Sparta, Bronze Medal, Team Mechatronics.

Friday, April 5, 2019

A Big Win for Respiratory Care Students

Vol State’s Respiratory Care 2019 Cohort attended the Tennessee Society for Respiratory Care Conference in Gatlinburg recently. The students competed in an event called the “Sputum Bowl”. It consists of a panel of students from each institution competing against each other to answer respiratory related questions. There were 4 rounds of timed questions the teams competed in. The Sputum Bowl consisted of 6 teams from around the state of Tennessee from various respiratory care programs. Our Vol State Respiratory Care students won the Sputum Bowl event!

Vol State in the News

A WPLN Nashville radio story that aired a few months ago went national yesterday, appearing on National Public Radio (NPR) and on the front page of their website today. It focuses on the opportunities and challenges with the TN Reconnect program. Emily Siner from WPLN did the reporting. Thanks to all of the students and staff who participated.

The recent statewide honor for faculty member Girija Shinde was featured in the Overton County News.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Honors for Sue Pedigo

Outgoing Financial Aid Director, Sue Pedigo, was recently presented with the Special Milestone Award from the Tennessee Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (TASFAA). The award honors her many years of service to the profession of Financial Aid. The financial aid director at MTSU, Stephen White, made the presentation at the 51st. Spring TASFAA Conference. Sue was selected out of all the financial aid professionals in Tennessee.

Sue will soon be leaving Vol State for retirement. This recognition is just one example of the impact she has had, not only on Vol State, but on higher education in Tennessee.

Vol State in the News

Math and Science faculty member Erin Bloom has been exploring crayfish, including a unique species now named the "Screaming Eagle Crayfish." WPLN radio explains.

WVCP Vol State radio recently celebrated 40 years on the air. The Hendersonville Standard has the story.