Monday, July 17, 2017

Meet the New Faces of Vol State

Photographer Richard Suter goes to great lengths to get his shots.
Sarahi Villaseñor
They may not be supermodels, but the President’s Ambassadors at Vol State sometimes have to work like them. These students are given the task of making Vol State look good, whether they’re giving campus tours, or attending events and photo shoots. While it might seem like an easy gig, the President’s Ambassadors have to work hard to gain the position and even harder to keep it. After all, the Ambassador program is a competitive scholarship that can pay for a student’s full tuition for the rest of their time at Vol State.

Joshua Thompson
Recently, I attended a photo shoot for these new faces. It felt surreal taking pictures of a photographer while he shots pictures of students in a classroom setting. Afterwards, I had a chance to interview a couple of these students. A point they stressed was how difficult it was to become a President’s Ambassador. “It’s very challenging,” said Sarahi Villaseñor, “they kept saying how hard it would be and that one wrong word could take you out of it.”  It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, as I asked them how it felt to have accomplished this goal. “I feel very blessed. Like I’ve accomplished a very big goal and I’m now one of the faces of Vol State,” said Joshua Thompson. I also asked if they had any advice for students looking to become President’s Ambassadors. “You have to be dedicated and have the heart to help and give back because they’re giving to you,” replied Joshua.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Free Math Help for Freshmen This Summer

Daniel Walker (second from the left) helps a group of Vol State students with their math assignments.
Let’s face it: math isn’t a good subject for a lot of students. That said you don’t have to struggle. The Learning Commons, located in the Thigpen Library, is open to all incoming freshmen looking for free help with their math courses before the semester begins.

The Learning Commons is an area that hosts different classes, but it also has instructional assistants that can help you improve your math skills before the semester even begins. “College readiness is an area that we shine in,” says Kay Dayton, director of the Learning Commons. If you don’t know what to brush up on, they offer a pre-assessment test that can pinpoint your weaknesses. “We give a student what that student needs. It’s a flexible program; it’s flexible to meet every student’s needs,” says Daniel Walker, one of the Learning Commons’ instructional assistants. Want to know more? You can contact the Learning Commons at 615-230-3676

Monday, July 3, 2017

A New Space for Student Veterans

For those veterans who may not know it yet, there is a place for you on campus. The Office of Veteran Affairs has recently moved into the Ramer Administration Building, Room 150. I had a chance to sit down Ken Hanson, manager of the office, and ask him about the move, what it means for the veterans, and how it feels to help them out.

Tell me a little about the move to a larger office.

It’s given us so much extra space. We’ve got room for the veterans, we’ve got room for the adults that are going to be coming in here, and we’ve got space for everyone that’s working in this office. We’re all in one location, so in that respect, it’s awesome. We’ve already gotten some good compliments from our veterans that have come in here and hung out.

What kind of new services do you offer being in this larger office?

Really, the services aren’t changing any. It’s just consolidating everything. We already work with, of course, the veterans and the GI Bill for the veterans. We have the vet center itself so they’ve got a place to work on the computers, work on their classes, and hang out if they need to. A lot of times it’s really great for building-up comradery with other veterans that are coming through here. We also have a spot where the Associate of Vietnam Veterans of America donated some food, coffee, and different things for our veterans. This is now in one spot so we can keep track of it and they can come grab a snack if they want to, grab a cup of coffee in between classes, and those sorts of things.

How does it feel to help veterans?

It’s always a great thing because a lot of times it’s a difficult transition from military to civilian. You come from an environment where everything is so structured and you’re told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Quite a few of them have been into warzones, and it’s really challenging to go from that environment to a college environment. It’s really great to be able to sit down with that veteran and say, “Hey, we’ll help you get through your education. We’ll guide you along the way. We’ve got services that can help you out, whether it’s internal to the school or external, like with the VFW or the Sumner County Vets Council.” We can find resources for these guys. It feels good when you can watch a veteran graduate after about two/two-and-a-half years because you know you’ve helped guide them along their way.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gallatin Mechatronics Open House July 13

Volunteer State Community College is holding an open house event for people interested in the expanding job field of Mechatronics. Attendees can see the program equipment in action and ask questions of instructors. Mechatronics is the blending of engineering fields including mechanical, controls, electronic and computer engineering, to automate manufacturing, distribution and complex services through multiple industries. Mechatronics professionals are the experts who design, program, repair, and maintain state-of-the-art robotics and computer-aided equipment in today’s fastest growing industries. The Vol State program launches in Gallatin this fall, with a two-year associate of applied science (A.A.S) degree. Applications to the college are being accepted now. Each step of the degree program also prepares students to test for Siemens Certifications. Siemens Certifications are internationally-recognized Mechatronics industry designations that are important to employers. Job prospects for students with Mechatronics degrees are much higher than average in Tennessee and the positions have a national median salary of $55,610 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The open house will be held on July 13 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Gallatin campus at 1480 Nashville Pike. The Mechatronics Lab is located in the back of the campus and can be reached best by using the Greenlea/Enterprise Drive entrance. Registration is not required.
The Mechatronics-2-Jobs LEAP 2.0 Grant Project expands the Mechatronics A.A.S. program targeting potential students in Macon, Robertson, Sumner, Trousdale, and Wilson counties. The grant helped purchase equipment for the new Mechatronics classes in Gallatin and eventually the Highland Crest Campus in Springfield. Mechatronics classes are also available from Vol State at the Cookeville Higher Education Campus (CHEC).
For more information on a career in Mechatronics visit the web page at People interested in learning more can call 1-931-372-5546. By email:
Pictured: Mechatronics students work with robotics, hydraulics, machine programming, and assembly line automation. They are shown here at the Cookeville campus.

Vol State Announces Eclipse Event Activities for Families August 21

The August 21 total solar eclipse will be a moment for families to share together. Volunteer State Community College has a free and educational eclipse watching event planed that day for kids and parents. Everyone, from everywhere, is invited, but advance registration is required. The total eclipse will only be seen in a narrow path across the United States. Gallatin will be one of the best spots in the country to view the total eclipse, with totality lasting two minutes and forty seconds. Educational presentations at Vol State will include an examination of the eclipse event in human history and culture and how viewing the sun can cause eye damage, if you’re not safe. There will be discussions with amateur astronomers who are traveling to Vol State from across North America to view the eclipse. Science activities for kids will include a scale model of the solar system; construction of pinhole cameras to view the eclipse; making a sun dial; and constructing a solar hot dog cooker for a contest. There will even be astronomically themed face painting. A science instructor from Mississippi will be doing fun eclipse presentations for younger kids that will include music and demonstrations. There will be a live narration during the totality and free viewing glasses for attendees. The activities will be held both outside on the Thigpen Library lawn and in air-conditioned buildings.
The Vol State event will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eclipse viewing in the area will be from noon to 3 p.m. Totality will occur at 1:27 p.m. Viewing will be dependent on the weather. Attendees are encouraged to pack for a picnic, as seating will be on the lawn. Food and drinks will be available for sale at the event. There will be no smoking or alcohol allowed on campus. Attendance will be capped at 3500. While a ticket is not needed, registration is required. Click here to register. One person can enter one form for a group attending the event. Traffic in Gallatin is expected to be heavy on that day. Attendees are encouraged to car pool and arrive early. Registrations are already approaching 2000, so people should register soon. For details visit People with questions can also email or call 615-230-3570.
Parking and entry
Campus officially opens at 8 a.m. Parking will be limited. We encourage carpools.
Caudill Hall Wemyss Auditorium
9:30 a.m. Auditorium Welcome by Vol State President, Dr. Jerry Faulkner
Eclipse viewing suggestions and warnings
9:45 a.m. “Image and Understanding: Overcoming Error through Observation and Reason" by Dr. Jeremy Shipley, Vol State Philosophy
10:45 a.m. “Eclipses in History and Culture” by Dr. Joe Douglas, Vol State History
11:45 a.m. Jonathan Pettus, Associate Director of the NASA – George C. Marshall Space Flight Center

12:45 p.m.-1 p.m. Eclipse video feeds from other parts of country
Pickel Field House Gym
7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Athletic Department Concessions open for breakfast and lunch
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Kid and parent activities by Vol State faculty and staff volunteers
“Solar System Scale Model” -a gym sized model to explore
“Construct a Pinhole Camera” -use it to watch the eclipse
“Make a sun dial and see it in action” -take it outside to track the sun
“Astronomical and Earth Science Face Painting”
10 a.m., 11 a.m. and Noon  Kid and family presentation and songs about eclipse phases and viewing an eclipse- Bob Swanson, Instructor of Physical Sciences / Geography, Itawamba Community College- Tupelo, MS
Thigpen Library Lawn
9 a.m. Day kick-off with light, fun, family Yoga and discussion of how astronomical events are used in Yoga- by Joanna Blauw, Vol State Health and Fitness
10:30 a.m. Lawn Welcome by Vol State President, Dr. Jerry Faulkner, and eclipse viewing suggestions and warnings
11 a.m. “Build a Solar Cooker Contest” -kids build sun powered cookers out of material we provide. It’s a race to cook hot dogs the quickest! Parents please attend with your child to participate.
11:15 a.m. What does it take to get good pictures of an eclipse? We talk to a Montgomery County Community College assistant professor of Physics, visiting from Pennsylvania. Kelli Corrado Spangler explains the Coronado Solar telescope.
11:30 a.m. Why travel for a total eclipse? A conversation with Starr Livingstone, amateur astronomer from Ontario, Canada and member of the Royal Astronomy Society of Canada.  
11:45 a.m.  “How the eclipse may or may not affect natural background radiation” by the Vol State Radiologic Technology Program
Noon Direct solar viewing can cause serious eye damage. There are some surprising people in history who damaged their eyes by looking directly at the Sun. We chat with Alisha Cornish, Director of the Vol State Ophthalmic Technology Program
12:30 p.m. Solar Cooker Contest winners announced
1 p.m. – 2 p.m. Eclipse Narration before and after totality, Bob Swanson, Itawamba Community College- Tupelo, MS
Wood Campus Center – Nichols Dining Rooms
7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Vol State Café open for breakfast and lunch
9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Eclipse themed art work on display in the Nichols Dining Room
11 a.m. Eclipse and astronomy themed poetry, story-telling and music
The Eclipse Watch event will end at 3 p.m.

The Vol State campus will close to the public at 6 p.m.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Campus Connect Experiences

One of the most exciting things about becoming a Vol State student is attending Campus Connect, an event where the faculty and staff of Vol State welcome new students to the campus. I can remember when I went to Campus Connect with my aunt, who was there to make sure I stayed focused and didn't become a nervous wreck. Not only did they give us valuable information needed to succeed as a Vol State student (things such as who to contact in an emergency, how many days we needed to attend and why, and how to access the online features available from Vol State), they also gave us a free lunch which is always a good reason to attend many events as a college student.

A College Success Fair was held inside the SRB Building. Vol State representatives were on hand to give incoming freshmen information on valuable resources, such as the Library and Language Center.
Now that I'm almost done with my studies here at Vol State, I can say it's been interesting to see things from the other side during Campus Connect. I saw freshmen followed by, or led by, their parents as they took their first steps onto campus. I got a chance to hear what people were going to school for and whether they had everything planned out or not. There was plenty of hard work put in by the faculty and staff, and they carried on despite the heavy rain. By the end of the day, the uncertainty that the students felt when they first set foot on campus had been washed away, replaced with excitement for the upcoming semester.

A new addition to Campus Connect is the Color War, a competition where students choose to represent either the Blue Team or the Red Team. Which team do you support?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Vol State Professors on Freshman Success

Believe it or not, your professors were once students too; they survived college and lived to teach about it. I interviewed a few of them, asking them about their time as freshmen and what advice they had for you. Here’s what the professors at Vol State had to say:

What was it like being a freshman, and how does that affect what you’re doing now?

Professor Leslie LaChance:I felt empowered by getting to choose my own classes and create my own schedule. I really liked how all the different classes created an intellectual synergy. I loved being in classes with a diverse group of students and faculty who challenged me to think for myself, to connect my own dots, and to synthesize what I was learning. That experience affects me now as a lifelong learner who is interested in interdisciplinary studies and as a teacher who wants her students to think for themselves and be empowered by their learning. Also, as an advisor, I like to encourage students to challenge themselves by taking classes on a wide range of subjects.

Professor Douglas Williams: “I had a lot of fun [laughs]. It was a fun experience and it taught me how to manage my time.”

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?
Professor LaChance: I think the most important thing to understand is that once you get into college, you are in charge of and responsible for your own learning. Also it’s important to be an active learner. That means you’ll need to put away your distractions in  class (I see you Snapchatting over there!) and participate in discussions, take notes on lectures, do the in-class exercises and group work.”
Professor Williams: “Enjoy the college experience, but don’t lose focus of the learning aspect. That’s why you’re here.”
What is the most important habit a new student should pick up?

Professor LaChance:  “The best habit is to cultivate curiosity and imagination, to challenge yourself each day to learn something surprising, difficult, fun. Think of yourself not just as a college student, but as a lifelong learner.”

Professor Williams: “Use the library! I don’t want to just say ‘study’. Use the library and all available resources.”

What habits should a new student avoid?

Professor LaChance: “Avoid a negative and fixed mindset. If something goes wrong, for instance, if you fail a test or do poorly on a project or essay, don’t dwell on the negativity of that experience. It’s fine to feel angry or embarrassed, but don’t stay angry or embarrassed.  Move beyond that, and ask yourself what you can learn from the experience, how you can do better the next time.”
Professor Douglas: “Staying out late [laughs]. That was one my son who takes classes here had to avoid. More specifically, avoid staying out late on weekdays. Weekends are fine, but you’ll want to get in bed on weekdays.”

Professor Leslie LaChance is a member of the English faculty and director of Sigma Kappa Phi, the English Honors Society.

Professor Douglas Williams is a member of the Natural Sciences faculty.