Friday, October 31, 2014

Remembering Debbie: Students, Instructors Pay Tribute to Student

Debbie Miller
Upbeat. Bubbly. Unwaveringly supportive.

Those are just a few of the descriptors Debbie Miller's classmates and instructors used to describe her personality.

Miller, a paramedic student at Vol State, was killed early Tuesday morning following a motorcycle crash in Lebanon. She is survived by her three children, Tasha Nichole Miller, Morgan Lea Miller, and John Thomas Miller; significant other Lisa Gibson; sister Brenda Evans; niece Savanna Evans; and nephew Joseph Evans.

A registered nurse since the mid-90s, Miller became a part of the Vol State family in 2013 after becoming interested in the school's Emergency Medical Technician program. She graduated from the EMT certificate program in the fall of 2013, and was working her way through the 2014-2015 paramedic cohort.

"The way Debbie lived her life, there was no halfway. When she came in here, she wasn't going to stop at EMT, so that's why she brought a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of experience to the program," director of EMS education Robert Davis said.

Miller spent a large part of her nursing career at the Alvin C. York Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Murfreesboro. Her experience in the emergency room brought a different level of learning to the classes she was taking at Vol State, and her thirst for knowledge helped keep her peers on their feet.

"I remember on the first day of class when we all introduced ourselves, that was her big thing. She kept saying she was back to learn. She was rather adventurous and a grab-life-by-the-horns type of person," paramedic student Rachel Cotter said.

Fellow students, such as Emily Weeks, said Miller's impossibly upbeat personality kept everyone laughing even when things became stressful, plus Weeks always appreciated the things she could learn from someone with Miller's experience in the emergency room.

"It was awesome, because she had a lot of different insight because the EMS world is a little different than the emergency room, and a lot of us don't get to see that side of it. She was able to share a lot of experiences, so it was really neat to learn that aspect of the emergency medical services," Weeks said.

In memory of Miller, Weeks and her fellow students are getting a patch made for their uniforms, which they will wear throughout the remainder of their time in the program. The patch features Miller's name wrapped in a black ribbon around the Star of Life.
The Debbie Miller memorial patch.
The patch will be a reminder of Miller's legacy as she and the rest of her class work towards their goal of graduating from the program.

"We know that as much as she wanted to finish, she would want all of us to finish and get through, so we're going to try and carry her through that way," Cotter said.

As with any tragic loss, Miller's death hasn't truly sunk in with the school yet, and EMS instructor Art Bratcher said she is going to be missed dearly.

"Everybody is still in such a state of disbelief that we really haven't processed that she's not here anymore. It's a hit to all of us. She was already a professional, so people looked up to her. There was a lot to learn from her experience," he said.

Funeral services for Miller will be provided by Woodfin Chapel in Murfreesboro. Services will be conducted Sunday, with visitation beginning at 1 p.m., followed by a memorial service at 3 p.m. Online condolences can be sent to the family at

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Honors Program Gearing Up for Next Semester

Want to take your learning to the next level? Look no further than than the Volunteer State Community College Honors Program.

The program is designed to go above and beyond what is offered in the normal classroom, according to instructor of history and program director Dr. Merritt McKinney. In the program, students are given two ways to enhance their academics by taking on additional assignments.

"We have two different ways in which we can challenge honors students. We have some classes that are just for honors students, and the other is taking an honors course by contract," McKinney said.

The specific honors courses are designed to be similar to a normal course, but the level of discussion, critical thinking, and assignments are higher. By taking a course under an honors contract, a student enrolls in a normal class, but they sign an agreement with their professor to do extra assignments, which can range from doing research papers to class presentations.

One of the main areas in which the program helps students is offering a significant level of challenge they might not be finding in their normal class. McKinney said this extra push often gives students more motivation to strive for better performance.

"I actually had a student who joined this semester who didn't feel challenged in his classes, so he wasn't doing well. The fact that he's actually doing extra work now has motivated him to do well. It's really for students who have a real love of learning," he said.

In order to apply for the Honors Program, students must have a composite score of 26 on the ACT, a 3.5 or higher GPA, or two letters of recommendation from instructors. The program has about 50 active honors students who are either under an honors contract or taking an honors class.

McKinney said there are two main benefits a student will see after going through the program. The first is the fact that having honors courses listed on a transcript will look more attractive than just the bare minimum of required classes if a student is looking to transfer to a four-year college or university. The other benefit is the level of challenge and academic discipline a student can receive if they undertake an honors course.

Classes that will be offered in the spring include a combined U.S. History 2010/Literature 2110 course, Honors Psychology, Honors Science Society and Sustainability, Honors Macroeconomics, and Honors Speech Communication. With priority registration for the spring semester scheduled to begin Nov. 10, McKinney said students who are interested in enrolling for honors classes should contact him as soon as possible.

Additionally, the Honors Program also sponsors a lecture series that meets four times a semester. The last lecture of the fall semester will take place Wednesday, Oct. 29, with assistant professor of economics David Fuqua leading a talk on the impact of technology on the workforce. The lecture will begin at 12:20 p.m. in the Rochelle Center of the Thigpen Library.

Click here to find out more about the Honors Program, or contact McKinney at 615-230-3236 or

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Vol State Events for November and December

All events are free, unless specified

Ongoing to Nov. 26 Nick Satinover art exhibit, Thigpen Gallery, 8am to 4:30pm, Mon.-Sat. 

Nov. 1 Brock McGuire Band, Irish music, master class at 1:30pm and public concert at 7pm, Caudill Hall, open to everyone

Nov. 2 Pet Picture Palooza, fundraiser for Vet Tech Program, $10 per picture, discount for Vol State, Tractor Supply, 670 Nashville Pike, 1pm-4pm

Nov. 3 Free cell phone wrap for students, Nichols Dining Room, 1:30-7:30pm

Nov. 3 Gathering dinner for students, Wood Campus Center, 5:30pm

Nov. 4 Homecoming Bingo, Cafeteria, 12:30pm

Nov. 5 Jay Mattioli, magician, Cafeteria, 12:30pm

Nov. 6 Nick Satinover Gallery Talk, Thigpen Library, 1pm

Nov. 8 Homecoming Basketball Games, Pickel Field House, 2pm and 4pm, all basketball games are free with Vol State ID

Nov. 10 Lecture: “Created Equal”, by Carole Bucy, Thigpen Library, 12:20pm

Nov. 11 Veterans Recognition, Nichols Dining Room, 12:30pm

Nov. 12 Music Club Open Mic, sign up at the event, Cafeteria, Noon

Nov. 12 Lecture: “Manuel M. Ponce: Classical Music from Mexico”, by Jaime Sanchez, Mattox 104, 12:20pm

Nov. 13 Lecture: “Hear the Color and See the Rhythm”, by Sue Mulcahy and Nancy Slaughter, Mattox 104, 12:20pm

Nov. 14 Movie Night: “Frozen”, Pickel Field House, 7pm

Nov. 15 Community Garden work day, in fair weather only, 9am-noon

Nov. 17 International Week- Beverage Day, Cafeteria, 12:30-1:30pm

Nov. 18 International Week- Union (wedding) Ceremonies display, and Henna tattoos, Nichols Dining Room, 11am to 2pm

Nov. 19 Honors Lecture: “Cornucopians and Cassandras”, by Phillip Clifford, Thigpen Library, 12:20pm

Nov. 19 Music Department Recitals, Pickel 130, 12:30pm

Nov. 20 Coffee with the Prez, Cafeteria, 10am-11am

Nov. 26,27,28,29  Thanksgiving Break, No Classes, Offices Closed 27-29

Dec. 3 Festival of Lights, Cafeteria, 12:30pm

Dec. 5, 6 Christmas Concert, Caudill Hall, 7:30pm each night, $5 donation and free with Vol State ID, also holiday CD release

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SGA Vice President Hopes for More Student Involvement

It's important to get involved in college, and SGA vice president Adam Parks wants to make sure students at Vol State are getting the most out of their college experience.

"I went to a couple of events last year and saw that hardly any students showed up. It just seems like a lot of times students don't care about the campus here, so I wanted to join SGA to help get other students involved and make events better," he said.

Parks was elected last spring, and he said it's his goal to help other students see the benefits of doing more than just commuting to and from the campus. Together with the other members of the cabinet, Parks said they hope to provide more opportunities to tie the college and the greater community together, giving students a better way of connecting to local businesses and organizations.

Parks said he hopes a greater connection to the community will make Vol State more attractive to future students.

"I just think it works better for everyone if the campus is more appealing, because a lot of times people look down on community college students. I saw Vol State as a great place to come and get an education. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to get involved with SGA. I wanted to help make this campus more appealing to people coming in so they see it as a good college choice," he said.

While being a part of SGA might be hard work, Parks said he enjoys getting a chance to meet other students and help plan the types of events that will draw more students into the Vol State family.

"I definitely love getting to see all of the students we have here and seeing how diverse of a campus we have. This is a melting pot of a Tennessee college. We have people from everywhere, and I like seeing the smiling faces on faculty every day, showing that they're excited about their job," he said.

The SGA is hosting the fall festival today from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. There will be free food, games, and prizes. A presidential forum with Dr. Jerry Faulkner also will be hosted on Monday, Oct. 27, in the cafeteria.

For more information on SGA and how to get involved with one of Vol State's clubs, email or visit their office in room 213A in the Wood Campus Center.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Family Affair: Mother and Son Learning to be EMTs

Going through college can be stressful, but when you have family by your side, navigating the ups and downs of college life is a bit more manageable.

Tishia and Asa Tucker are a mother and son who are working their way through Vol State's Emergency Medical Technician program. They attend classes at the Springfield campus.

The Tuckers decided to go into the EMT program at Vol State after a family emergency involving Tishia's husband. Knowing what people in that field go through on a daily basis will help the family in the future.

"A couple of years ago, I had decided to go into the EMT program and something happened and I couldn't do it. My husband is disabled, and I decided to go ahead and take that opportunity and start the program, so here we are," she said.

Asa joined his mom after graduating from high school last December after seeing how EMTs worked with his family. Initially, Asa and his mom never thought they'd be going to college together.

"It never crossed my mind before. It wasn't something that was on my bucket list," Tishia said.

Asa agreed.

"It's one thing for your mom to drop you off at school, but it's another when she goes into class with you," he said.

Despite the inherit awkwardness of going to class with his mom, Asa said it does have its benefits. For one, they are able to help one another with studying since they are both going through the same program. Not every student is able to have that kind of support system, but Tishia said it's a good thing to have as they continue to work through the program.

"We actually have each other to depend on and kind of lean on a little bit," she said.

Of course, going through the same program together also fuels their competitiveness, which makes the Tuckers work harder.

"In a way, it makes it more fun, but it also makes it more stressful sometimes," Asa said.

When the Tuckers graduate together in May, they'll be able to share a story not many in college can — the fact that they completed the program as mother and son.

"It's going to be good memories to have. Not many moms can say they graduated with their son from college," Tishia said.

For more on the Tuckers, and life as an EMT student, check out the video below.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Vol State Events this Week

Oct. 21            Lecture: Emerson and Transcendentalism, Shannon Lynch and Deb Moore, Mattox 104, 11:10am
Oct. 21            Highland  Commit to Completion, signing event, Phi Theta Kappa, 11am-1pm
Oct. 22            Student Life Fall Festival, Duffer Plaza, 10am to 2pm
Oct. 22            Tennessee State University representative, Wood Campus Center, 9:00am—11:00am.

Oct. 25            Household Hazardous Waste Collection, outside of Wood Campus Center, 9am to 2pm

Overcoming Serious Challenges: Gabrielle's Road to Vol State

No matter what kind of obstacles are placed in front of you, it's never too late to get started on receiving an education. That's a lesson first-year student Gabrielle Staton knows all too well. She's overcome life threatening situations on her path to Vol State.

Staton, who is originally from Charlotte, N.C., dropped out of high school during the last semester of her junior year. She was initially supposed to graduate from high school in 2008, but family circumstances forced her to make a tough decision.

"It was a matter of survival for me. You either work and live, or you go to school and know you're going to have it pretty rough. I didn't have a whole lot of support from my family other than my grandmother, but she was supporting me and 10 of my other cousins," she said.

Instead of finishing school right away, Staton focused on work and becoming a mother — she had her first son in 2009. Juggling both a full-time job and her family made going back to school even more difficult. But she never let anything get in the way of wanting to complete high school.

"I really felt like I had to finish school, because I knew eventually my options would be limited, and I didn't want to end up years from now not being able to take advantage of the opportunities put in front of me because of the limitations of my education," she said.

Staton took advantage of an adult education program in North Carolina and on her third attempt through the program, she finally graduated in 2011. Working in retail management, Staton was able to have a steady job, which helped her along the way.

All that changed in 2012 when she was robbed at gunpoint. While the experience was traumatic, it was an event that fueled her desire to go to college.

"Sometimes it takes trauma to push us into the path to prosper," Staton said.

Staton, who was about to have her second son, started a catering business and after it became fairly prosperous, she decided it was time to sign up for classes with the intent to study international business in order to create a non-profit business that would teach ethics to nurses before they go out into the field.

Before classes were to begin in August, Staton was the victim of domestic violence and came close to death. Not one to let things stop her, Staton once again overcame the adversity that stood in her way. In a very short timespan, she left North Carolina for Nashville with her children and enrolled at Vol State.

"No matter what is placed in front of you, there's no reason why you can't do anything you want to. There's nothing that should ever stop you," she said.

Arriving at Vol State was a blessing, because Staton felt like she was welcomed into the community and she became heavily involved with some of the school's clubs and organizations. If anyone takes away anything from her story, Staton said she wants make sure people realize that setting a goal and sticking to it is important to success.

"I never thought I would have the opportunity to go to school this late. Now, I feel like I actually have a chance. I can make it here, and I can make it anywhere," she said. "It doesn't matter how long it takes you to get to that goal as long as you're constantly working at it. That's the important part."