Wednesday, May 27, 2020

James Story Survives COVID-19

James Story, recently retired music professor from Vol State, is due to be released from a rehab hospital this week after 71 days in three hospitals. He is a survivor of COVID-19. Many at Vol State, and in Sumner County, have been following his condition. At one point it was rather grave. James has been doing physical therapy to be able to walk again. He is very excited about going home and thanks all of the health care workers who have worked to save his life. He promises to write about his experience and share it with us here in the Insider, when he is home and has more energy. In the meantime, it is wonderful to see his joyous posts to social media as he celebrates recovery.

New Medical Assisting Program

Classes in the new Medical Assisting program at Vol State will start in August. Students in the program will train to work in a doctor’s office or a healthcare clinic. That can eventually lead to a career in management and administration. Duties of the medical assistant include, but are not limited to: recording case histories, taking vital signs, giving injections, EKG work, help with lab testing, and assisting the doctor in the setup and performance of minor office surgeries. Vol State offers a two-year associate of applied science degree that prepares students for entry level work in healthcare.  Visit for details.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Vol State in the News

Vol State Campus Police Officer Mike Phillips lost his 13-year-old daughter, Bridgett, during the March 3rd tornadoes in Cookeville. This month he and his family were featured in the publication Three-Eight-Five Magazine for their cover story

The Hendersonville Standard and the Gallatin News carried stories about our virtual graduation.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Faculty Reviewing the Spring Semester

Now that the spring semester is at a close faculty members are trying to figure out what worked and what didn't work when it comes to online education. The IOTA end of course evaluation scores are one way to get feedback from students. Those results are now available to Vol State faculty members on eLearn. One instructor in Wisconsin saw the possibilities for study back before his campus shut down. He put together a before and after survey of his spring students that has some interesting insights. It is here in the publication Inside Higher Education.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Virtual Graduation Ceremony

It was a different type of graduation ceremony on Saturday. However, in many ways it kept the spirit of the event alive. It was a celebration of accomplishments. Students took their own photos, many of which were also quite artistic in execution, and made their own videos. That, combined with quotes, made from an even more personal ceremony than usual. Kudos to the Records staff and the Graduation Committee for pulling it off and Media Services for putting much of it together. The company Stage Clip provided the backbone of the student participation part of the ceremony. If you haven't had a chance to view it yet, it's well worth it. The recording is at You can view some of the photos on the college Facebook page at

Saluting EMS Professionals

We salute our Emergency Medical Services professionals during National EMS Week, May 17-23. Many of our students and faculty also work in the field on the front lines of healthcare response. Thanks for what you do for the community. If you know someone who wants to make a difference with EMS training have them visit:

Monday, May 11, 2020

Students Use Zoom to Show Research Projects

Poster sessions are a visual way for science students to share what they have learned in a class project. Students put their research together in a poster format and then talk to attendees about their project. So, what do you do when no one is allowed on campus? Jerrod Shipman and Chrysa Malosh turned to Zoom, which has the ability to do breakout rooms. That allows participants to visit various small groups. I recently had the opportunity to do a virtual poster session for their ISCI 1030, Science, Society and Sustainability classes. It was remarkably comfortable and fun.

These were the research project topics:
Breakout Room 1: Elements of Green Architecture.  
Breakout Room 3: National Parks System
Breakout Room 4: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Electric Cars for Transportation and Energy Usage.
Breakout Room 6: The Effects of Meat Production on the Environment
Breakout Room 7: Doomsday Clock
Breakout Room 8: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Breakout Room 9: Hydraulic Fracturing
Breakout Room 10: Eretmochelys Imbricata (Hawksbill Sea Turtle)

Lauren Nutter said of her research on the National Parks System: “I didn’t realize how much government oversight there was keeping things running smoothly.” She and partner Kayleen Cardle showed how the various parks impact CO2 levels in their geographic area.

One project took a look at how a grass roof can save energy and help the environment in other ways. Another explored the impact of meat production on the environment.

Anna Pease and William Seiling explored Hydraulic Fracturing. At one point in their explanation one of Anna’s kids came in the room. It’s just another one of those fun Zoom moments that have made life more interesting lately. Anna handled it with ease.

I could fill pages with the interesting things that I learned. Kudos to the instructors and students for great projects and an imaginative way of presenting them. It’s a testament to all that we are learning about online education these days.

Graduate Profile: Deidre Miller

Deidre Miller is a nurse. It’s a profession that has become even more challenging recently. Miller isn’t put off by challenges. She gets to the heart of things.
“It’s a rewarding job. You get to take care of people,” she said. “The best part is seeing patients come around and know that you were a part of their recovery.”
The twenty-nine year-old from Gainesboro is an LPN surgical nurse at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. The major disruptions to the medical system recently led to a furlough for her. She just went back to work last week. “I don’t ever stop. When I was furloughed, I was going crazy, because I have to be doing something 24/7.”
But she is keeping busy doing something she would not have imagined. “I’ve been home schooling a 14 year-old and that’s been challenging. My aunt passed away in 2014 and I have her 23-year-old and 14-year-old kids living with me.”
The tragedy is a family rallying point. “My grandpa helped me set up a home we could live in. It’s very rewarding to be able to be a role model to them. I can never fill her shoes, but I can help them. I have had to grow up very fast. We’re neighbors with all my family. I have a really good support system.”
Caring for kids while going to school is difficult, but especially so for a 23-year-old without experience as a parent. “I’ve learned I needed them as much as they needed me and I didn’t realize it.”
And there was still the issue of school and her career. She took classes at Vol State in Livingston and Cookeville while caring for the children. Her goal was to become a Registered Nurse. “I’ve been an LPN for ten years. I was going to Vol State and trying to decide which nursing school to attend. So, when I found out that Vol State was starting an RN Nursing program, I immediately applied.”
Miller is not only in the first class of Vol State nursing students, she is the class president. And all of that during a crazy semester of change due to COVID-19. “I have taken every concern to our faculty and staff and they have responded. It’s been tough with the COVID-19 issues. Everything switched to online. Nursing is very difficult to understand and it’s hard if you can’t easily ask questions. They have amazing faculty and staff in that program. They have been there through it all. We’re going to be done in August and I am going to take the RN exam as soon as I can. I’m ready to get it under my belt.”
In the meantime, she is helping 14 year-old Kiara finish the school year. Twenty-three year old Haley is also a Vol State student, taking classes through Livingston and Cookeville.”
The medical world is likely to continue to be challenging for quite some time. Deidre says she just wants to be where the action is. “I would like to be a float nurse or work in the emergency department. You never know what you are going to get.”

Saluting Our Recent Retirees

Usually there is plenty of time to say farewell to retirees. We stop by their office to wish them well. We see them in the hallway and stop and chat. Not so this year. Just as our graduates have missed out on the in-person ceremony, so to did the recent Vol State retirees miss out on the opportunities to share the moment with colleagues. So, please consider taking a moment to do so virtually. We think this poem by Cindy Wyatt, a soon-to-be retiree, captures the moment. We have included a list of the recent retirees below.

Out of Office

The first brand new office I ever had,
in a striking three-story dedicated to light cures –
sweeping walls of glass, bright classrooms –
any sunny day felt like bliss.
Next to my office -- old friends,
each in spaces personalized –
one cluttered desk and floor,
one immaculately dignified,
one a dark caffeinated cave.
We had to clear it out in one day.
When we were done, eight Glad trash bags
slumped heavily down the hall,
full of handouts from twenty years back,
folders named fallacy quiz, Maslow’s Hierarchy,
notebooks from senseless meetings,
a decade of week-at-a-glance spirals, hoarded pads --
and what did we box up to bring home? Books,
cupfuls of pens and pencils (all pets),
one lovely lamp brought long ago
from my mother’s house, and all the bits
of whimsy – a tiny two-wheeler, clay turtles
in a bowl. I manned the chair, rode the keyboard,
put up pictures, watered flowers. Students came in
and smiled.
There I belonged. enjoyed well-being, Maslow’s recipe.
I’ll never leave. I’m already haunting it.
Someone will think it’s theirs, but chance
appearances will give them pause -- a yogurt spoon,
a water bottle, the scent of lemon. I’ll still be there.

-Cynthia Wyatt

Berry Robert Associate Professor
Cliburn Sherry Assistant Dir Financial Aid
Dayton Kay Manager Learning Commons
Espravnik Howard Associate Professor
Hall Mickey Professor
Harlan Carolyn Math Specialist
Weaver Joan Associate Professor
Wyatt Cynthia Associate Professor

Vol State in the News

We shared a Jazz Ensemble video recently on Facebook. They used an App called Acapella to play and record themselves as a group. It shows the new ways we are using technology for instruction. The Tennessean talked to Music Chair Ben Graves about the project and how COVID-19 has brought about changes in online education.

Fox 17 came to the Gallatin campus to cover graduates picking up their caps and gowns. The virtual ceremony will be at 10am on May 16.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Vol State Graduate Describes Working with COVID-19 Patients

Vol State graduates are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle. Respiratory Care professionals are especially important. Kim Christmon, Director of the Vol State Respiratory Care program, recently had an opportunity to talk to one of her graduates, Evan Blair, about her work with COVID-19 patients in a local hospital. 

How has your role been beneficial in-patient care?
I am a part of a team that works in the isolation critical care team at my facility. Many of these patients that we see in our unit have trouble breathing, which makes my role as the respiratory therapist vital. My role consists of placing these patients on oxygen, giving breathing treatments if needed, having the patient lie on their stomach to help them oxygenate better, and in more serious cases, I am there to assist with placing a breathing tube and putting them on a ventilator. To treat patients that need mechanical ventilation requires specific knowledge of the ventilator settings and how these settings affect the lungs. 

What does it feel to be on the front lines of the COVID-19 response? How have your days been different than before? 

To be honest, it’s hot and it’s frightening. There is now only one entrance/exit to the hospital and everyone has to check in and get their temperature recorded. I go to work in different clothes than I work in, and then I change into hospital scrubs. In our negative-pressure isolation unit, I am the only Respiratory Therapist during my shift; and while I know my co-workers are just a phone call way, and despite the amazing nurses and physicians on my team, I feel alone. Upon entering the unit, I am in the yellow zone, I put on a mask and a first pair of gloves that would be my ‘hands. I put on a white suit to cover my clothes and shoes as well as a hair cover. I wear all these things all day, except when eating or using the bathroom. Upon entering the patient care area, the red zone, I also wear a face shield and second pair of gloves that I change between patient visits. It has been difficult to adapt to all the PPE that is required to keep me safe, and my hair is soaked from sweat by the end of every shift. This virus makes me fearful because I see firsthand how quickly some of these patients deteriorate. It isn’t just the elderly, but people of all ages. I am fearful that I may unknowingly bring it home to my family. 

How has it affected you mentally? 

My anxiety is at an all-time high, and I am physically and mentally exhausted by the end of each shift. I don’t rest well anymore, as these are some of the sickest patients I have ever worked with. I find myself reliving my shifts in my dreams, waking up anxious and soaked in sweat, trying to figure out what more I can do to help these patients. 

Do you believe your education equipped you to be able to help the patients? 

Absolutely! I wouldn’t be able to do my job without my knowledge from the Respiratory Program at Vol State. When going through school five years ago, I couldn’t imagine standing where I am now in this isolation unit, but it is because of my instructors that I can maneuver through each situation. 

Do you feel like the hospital has given you all the equipment and safety precautions you need to keep you safe? 

I feel like our facility has gone above and beyond to make sure we have the equipment and PPE that is needed. Our administrative team had a plan in place well before Tennessee had any COVID-19 cases. They were prepared to have certain areas of the hospital set up as negative pressure units so that the air would not cross-contaminate other areas of the facility. Having a plan early allowed us to be prepared for any potential scenarios 

Do you feel like the staff work in teams, and does that help you care for these very sick patients? 

Our staff has always worked well as a team, but over the last two months everyone has taken teamwork to the next level. Everyone does things that aren’t necessarily in their typical daily duties, and that makes it easier to care for these patients, knowing you have these people to lean on when you need help.  

Do you feel that your role is appreciated? 

I 100% feel that my role is appreciated. I have worked with some of the nurses and doctors for years, but never as closely as I do now. I feel like my opinion matters when it comes to what we do and how we treat these patients. They help me where they can, and I help them - we are one cohesive unit.