Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Time for Tea in China

Vol State student Gary Bickle is in China for a travel study trip. Here is his latest entry:

Ni Hao [Hello] again from Shanghai!
We journeyed to the home of green tea, Mei Jia Wu village. There, about 500 families harvest some of the world's best, and most expensive, green tea. Emperor tea can only be harvested in one picking in early April. Spring tea can be picked for one week only. Summer tea is then picked for about one month. After a short demonstration, I realized that Americans are probably not brewing and drinking it correctly. (But that is a subject for another day!)

We also visited the Lihue, or Six Harmonies, Pagoda. Built in 970 a.d., it has 14 levels, with the steps being especially steep and treacherous. Once at the top, however, the view is quite spectacular. The Buddhist Pagoda was built in an attempt to quell the nearby Qiantang River, one of the few in the world that rises and falls with the tides.

Well, I’m off to "The Market", Xia Wu Hao !!
Gary Bickle
Volunteer State Community College

Dr. Nichols Blogs about Denmark and the Netherlands

Vol State President Dr. Nichols has been traveling in Europe to build partnerships for the International Education program. He has visited Ireland and Denmark and in this latest blog entry talks about his trip to Denmark and the Netherlands:


Began Thursday with an early morning meeting with Toger Kyvsgaard, International coordinator and staff manager for KTC, Kopenhagen Technical College. We visited two campuses, meeting faculty, staff, and students from programs which included web design, sign making, printing, media production, photography, film, theater, animation, graphic design, and TV production.

They are very interested in forming partnerships, beginning with faculty visits. We also had positive discussions regarding how our faculty could work together on shared student projects by way of Skype and other devices.

Later that evening, six members of the two campuses took us to dinner at Tivoli Gardens, the first amusement park in the world. This park was created in 1843 and is beautiful. We met at 6 p.m., walked around the gardens, and began our three course dinner around 7. Three hours later we finished dinner and walked around again to see the gardens at night. Since it was only around 10 p.m., it was still more daylight than night.

Since we had an early flight out the next morning, we called it an early night and finally got to bed around midnight. Up at 5:15 a.m., then off to the airport for our flight to Amsterdam.

Have the weekend off to look at the city, with all day and evening meetings beginning Monday.


Arrived in Amsterdam from Copenhagen on Friday. Took a taxi to the hotel, NH Amsterdam Central, and then explored the city. Since we have many hours of daylight in Amsterdam, it was no trouble to learn the rail and bus system. By purchasing a "city card" good for 48 hours, we could take any tram or bus for free. This city card also allowed us free entry into most of the museums in the city.

Chris and I also took a tour of the city by way of the canals. This canal tour was also included in the purchase of the city card. The canal tour lasted for 75 minutes and pointed out interesting parts of the city.

Later that evening, we just walked and walked trying to take in the sites. I was amazed at the number of people in the city, even past midnight. Thousands of people walking, riding bicycles, and taking the buses from one tourist part of the town to the next.

Saturday morning we went to a local eatery for pancakes. You could tell they were pancakes, because they were flat and round. After that, no resemblance in texture, ingredients, or taste.

After breakfast, we toured the Van Gogh museum. The museum also had a special showing of the work of Picasso. I kept wishing our art faculty and art students could have been with us on this tour.

We then walked to the house of Anne Frank which is now on the museum tour circuit. Two hours later, we left with a better understanding of the plight of the Jews in the Netherlands during the German occupation during World War II.

Later that afternoon we visited the house of Rembrandt. It is truly amazing to realize that you are in the house where great art was created.

After much more walking and sightseeing, we found a supermarket, purchased sandwiches, chips, and more Dr. Pepper and went back to the hotel and had our dinner.

I don't know how it happens, but as hard as I tried to go to bed early, it was after 1 a.m. before we finally went to bed.

Up early Sunday morning to check out of the hotel and meet Anita and Nicco Haaijer. Anita was one of the faculty who came to our college two years ago on an exchange visit. She and her husband invited us to spend Sunday and Monday night at their home so we could experience true Dutch cooking and see how they live.

Before we left for their house, they gave us a walking tour of sites in Amsterdam that most tourists never see. Interesting homes directly on the canal have been turned into museums, reflecting history from the 1600's.

On the way to their home, approximately 90 miles away, they took the scenic route which led us to the beach where we stopped and had hot chocolate and Dutch treats. Then off to see the famous windmills before finally reaching their home around 9 p.m. A very good vegetable soup, potatoes, and ice cream were served around 10. We then visited until turning in around 1:30 a.m.

Monday morning, up early to begin my visits with several colleges. Anita took me to the train station where I began a quick 35 minute ride to ROC Nijegen. Johan Neijenhuis, International Coordinator for Health Care, picked me up at the train station and gave me a tour of their campus. After this tour, back on the train to Hertogenbosh where I was picked up by Anita and Chris. Short drive to ROC Nijegen for another tour and discussion concerning faculty and student exchanges.

I should not fail to mention the success of the college brochures we created in both Danish and Dutch. While all educators in both countries told us it was not necessary, since most faculty and students read and speak English, they did remark on how impressed they were that we made the effort. They would then take the brochures and show them to others, commenting on how it was in their respective language. On numerous occasions, they commented that no other college had ever gone to this trouble before. I promise you it makes a very favorable impression.

A short drive later found us at a German concentration camp where they housed Jews, homosexuals, criminals and dissidents. The tour was deeply troubling considering how many people were executed. The tour included seeing a dissection table and gas ovens used for cremations.

We are now back at Anita and Nicco's home and preparing dinner. Tomorrow I am off by train to visit a college in Utrecht and then on to Zwolle.

Obviously they don't celebrate Memorial Day in Holland, but my heart and thoughts are still with our veterans and their families on this sacred day.

-Warren Nichols

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Visiting with College Students in Denmark

Dr. Nichols has been traveling in Europe to build partnerships for the Vol State International Education program. Here is his latest blog entry from Denmark:

Started off Monday morning with a visit to the Basic Health Care College - Fredericia Campus. All students at this college (and over the entire country of Denmark) attend for free and are in fact given a salary while attending school. In spite of this, their retention rate is less than desired. So they are creating many initiatives for increasing retention and success, such as early alert notifications, phone calls to students, and a open learning lab. Their student counselors do both academic advising and crisis intervention counseling. Much like at Vol State.

As soon as we entered the college, we were met in front of the President's office by four students who have been selected to visit our college in October. After visiting with these four, we took a tour of the campus. By the time we returned to our beginning point, all 7 of the students coming to our campus wanted to see us. All 7 students speak English very well and are looking forward to their visit.

Since I had expressed an interest in attending a Rotary while in Denmark, the president of the Rotary in Fredericia (Torsten Leonhard) came to the college and picked us up. We were taken to his home where Chris and I had coffee and Danish with him and his wife. Upon our return to the college, we returned to our hotel around 5 and at 5:30 we went downstairs in the hotel conference room and attended the Horsens Rotary. We were greeted very warmly and then they proceeded with the meeting, in Danish.

Before the meeting we had told them that we had a dinner meeting so we would have to leave the Rotary meeting before it was finished. Considering the entire meeting was in Danish, we didn't really miss much.

Picked up at the hotel at 6:15 for a short ride to the marina where we had dinner with the President of the College, the Chairman of the Board, and several members of the college.

Did I mention dinner? How about a 5 course traditional Danish meal complete with a different wine for each course. The Chef came to our table to describe each course and why that particular wine was selected to match the cuisine. I wish I could tell you what each course consisted of, but honestly, other than a lot of fish and seafood, none of it was identifiable. Except for asparagus. We had a different type of asparagus with each course, including desert. In case you are wondering, this "typical" Danish dinner began at 6:30 and we left at 10:30 p.m. And yes, it was still daylight outside.

Tuesday morning Chris slept in while I visited the Basic Health Care College Horsens campus. Coffee and Tea reception followed the tour and I was then introduced to their exchange program in Europe. Picked up Chris at the hotel and headed for lunch and a tour of Learnmark, Business and Technical College of Horsens.

Then off to visit the town hall and a meeting with the city mayor, Jan Troejborg. He may be joining the 7 students, along with the President Hanna Helleshoj when they visit Vol State in October.

Returned to the hotel for dinner and packing for an early morning train to Copenhagen. Have several meetings there on Thursday, including another possible Rotary meeting.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

International Education for Vol State Students

Participants with our international education program are sending in reports weekly. Today Eljay Elia shares some of her experiences in Europe.

A small group of us from Volunteer State Community College were fortunate to have been able to visit Brussels, Belgium from May 9 – 16, 2011, as a part of a scholarship project to collect information on how residents and visitors to Brussels view the European Union. We conducted interviews of over seventy people from Belgium, and many other countries. Most of those interviewed were members of the EU. The responses were varied and ranged from satisfaction with the EU and the Euro, to concerns about the economy, education, immigration and member state sovereignty. The results of the surveys are being compiled into data for sampling of opinion, and the video taped interviews are being put together into a finished work which will be available for Vol State students.

In addition to our interviews regarding the EU, we visited the European Parliament buildings and many of the affiliated offices clustered around the EU headquarters. Unfortunately, during our visit, the EU Parliament was in meetings in Strasbourg so we were unable to visit them in session.

Brussels is a thriving international city with many museums, art galleries, historic monuments, and churches. You never know what amazing sight you will find around the corner; it could be a building from centuries before with an amazing history! We spent a lot of time near the Grand Place, which was an excellent location for conducting interviews, and also a good place to find cuisine from around the world nestled in the nearby streets. Our “hop-on, hop off” bus tour took us to many of the key sites including the Palais de la Nation, home of the Belgian Parliament, the Palais Royal, Palais des Academies, the Palais de Justice, the Theatre Royal de la Monnane, the Cathedrale Sts. Michel et Gudule and the Atomium, which was built for the 1958 World’s Fair. A beautiful gothic church the Eglise St. Nicholas,
was located near the Grand Place offering refuge to us from the crowded streets. It is the oldest church in Brussels, built in the 12th century and offers mass in English to accommodate visitors.

A visit to the Musee Royaux des Beaux-Arts and Musee d’Art Moderne at the Place Royale found much of the museum closed for construction, but the Musee Magritte was a delight. Also, of note as a uniquely Brussels’ experience, was the Comic Strip Art Museum. This museum has a fun collection of Herge, creator of the comic strip Tin Tin, Peyo, creator of the Smurfs and Willy Vandersteen, who created Suskee en Wiske (in the USA, known as Willy and Wanda). We were also very fortunate to be able to view a huge collection of Joan Miro at the Espace Cuturel ING.

The Chocolate Tour took us on a walking tour with a very knowledgeable guide to some of the major chocolate shops in Brussels such as Chocopolis, Neuhaus, Pierre Ledent, Wittnamer and Pure. A highlight of our experience was the actual making of chocolate in the kitchen at Chocopolis. We were able to bring home our own chocolate!

An unexpected celebration called the Pink Party, erupted during the end of our trip. This event was attended by about 4,500 people including visitors from many countries outside of Brussels to commemorate gay, lesbian and transgender people as well as bringing attention to prevention of hate crimes and bullying. As our group passed the stage, a moment of silence was held in honor of those who were victims, followed by rock music and rainbow colors everywhere.

A couple of our group took a retreat from the urban pace of the big city to catch the train to the lovely medieval town of Brugges. During our canal boat ride, we were able to relax and view the major sights of the town, while hearing of the history. The cobblestone streets were full of shops with lace and chocolate, and an open-air antique market on the canal offered some good deals as well as hot waffles. Horse drawn carriages clopped along past medieval narrow houses with window boxes of colorful flowers, while swans glided by gracefully on the water. We climbed the Belfry to capture breathtaking views of Brugges, and the Nepal festival below in the Market, and spent a long while in the magnificent Cathedral; the Church of our Lady. This church is well-known around the world for its Baroque splendor and for Michelangelo’s statue of the Madonna and Child. This beautiful sculpture is the only one Michelangelo allowed to leave Italy during his lifetime.

Another surprising gem we found in Bruges was an art exhibit from a private collection, unseen anywhere else in the world, of Pablo Picasso. Included in the exhibit were works by Joan Miro, Henri Matisse, sculpture by Auguste Rodin, and some works of Salvador Dali.

We are hoping that the resulting surveys of the EU, the video taped interviews and the art and architecture we documented from this experience will be of benefit to students and teachers at the college. Thank you for this amazing trip, the learning opportunities and the memories we will keep forever.

Dr. Nichols in Ireland and Denmark

Dr. Nichols has been traveling to Ireland and Denmark building new partnerships for the International Education program. Here are the latest installments from his blogging about the trip:


Over the past day or so, we visited with administrators at two colleges, Limerick and Tipperary. We also watched our students perform their last two sets.

Yesterday morning we went with our students to the Garda College. This is the national police force training college. The Garda (police) are the only law enforcement agency in the entire country. The training takes 2 years and when completed the cadet is awarded his badge and a four year Bachelor degree in Police Science.

All Garda are unarmed and don't even take a firearms course during their training. Only after serving in the regular force for a minimum of three years are they able to request a transfer into detectives, traffic, SWAT, or some other branch of service. Only a select few are ever trained in how to use a firearm.

This morning we took a train to Kilkenny to see a 15th century castle. While very impressive, the castle had been rennovated in the 18 and 19th century, so it really did not resemble what we hoped to see.

On the train both to Kilkenney and then back to Dublin, we were moved by the beautiful scenery. It truly is green. Instead of pastures divided by fences, most all were separated by hedges. From the train we saw rolling hills, green pastures, mountains in the distance. Reminded me a lot of Tennessee.

Every one here keeps talking about the Queen's visit which ends tomorrow and President Obama's visit which begins Monday. While most of the country is appreciative of the Queen's visit, everyone is excited about Obama's visit. He is well respected in this country along with Kennedy and Clinton.

The weather has mostly been overcast, windy, and cool. They keep apologizing for the weather, saying we should have been here last month.

I am writing this from the dining room at our hotel (Trinity Hotel) where Chris and I just had dinner. After spending almost a week in Ireland, we finally had what I guess is Irish food. Chris had Chicken and Leek Pie served with home cut potato wedges and side salad. I had the Braised Lamb Shank served with mashed potato, fine green beans, and red wine.

Not surprising, but EVERY meal comes with some form of potato.

We are taking it slow tomorrow, finally seeing the sites of Dublin on a Hop-on, Hop-off double-decker bus. We will depart for Denmark Sunday morning


Last day in Dublin was very interesting. Everyone getting ready for President Obama's arrival on Monday. Buses and taxi's are having difficulty routing around all the closed streets, yet everyone we spoke with was very excited about his visit.

Flew to Denmark this morning and for the first time it truly felt like we were in a foreign country. Flying in on Cimber Air, nothing in English. Arrival at the airport in Billund, definitely not catering to Americans.

We were picked up at the airport by Lone Brinch, assistant to President Hanne Helleshoj. She dropped us off at Hotel Danica in Horsens and she will pick us up tomorrow for a day of meetings.

The 40 mile drive in from the airport was very scenic and this part of the country is very rural. The city itself has approximately 80 thousand people. Once we checked in to the hotel, we walked the streets and found a place to grab a quick bite to eat.

Back in the room, did a little ironing while watching Danish television. Should have taken more time to learn Danish. I believe only two channels are in English, and just like at home, nothing good to watch.

Tomorrow I meet with the president of the Basic Health Care College, Frederica Campus. After a tour of their campus and a visit with their faculty and students, I will do a presentation on our international exchange program. We will return to the hotel to freshen up, and then have dinner at Horsens Sdjklub. Looking forward to seeing what the locals eat in Denmark.

As I mentioned earlier, arrived in Horsens, Denmark but nothing good on TV. Really, that might not be correct, but since most everything is in Danish, same difference.

We decided to go to the local cinema, only about a five minute walk from the hotel. Decided to see something really Danish, so we saw Pirates of the Caribbean. Eighteen dollars per ticket later, we are sitting in assigned seats listening in English with Danish subtitles.

As we walk back to the hotel at 10:45 p.m., it was still light outside. I either need to do more walking and less eating, or I am going to need to find another ATM machine.

Monday, May 23, 2011

TnCIS Allows Students to Explore Ancient Medicine and Learn About Tai Chi

Vol State student Gary Bickle is participating in the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies (TnCIS) in China. He has been contributing as a guest writer for the Volunteer State Community College student blog. These are some of the details from his latest adventures.

Another week has gone by, and we have done so many things, with what seems so little time to compose our thoughts and organize pictures. Yesterday we went to the Shanghai Museum of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Their history dates back to 1,700,000b.c. Ancient drawings tell stories of medicine men who used plants, animals, and the surrounding environment, including sun, water and earth, to heal.

After lunch we ventured to the Chinese Wushu (kung-fu) University and Museum. This is where children come starting at age 7-8 to train to become masters in the ancient arts. Some students have gone on to become world champions. They train in many styles of Tai Chi, Kung-Fu, and various hand-to-hand combat styles using lances, swords and other weapons. I was privileged to have my picture taken with a champion of Tai Chi, and after watching her perform, I am quite sure she can take care of herself in any situation!

Gary Bickle

Volunteer State Community College

Friday, May 20, 2011

State Champions Eliminated from National Tournament

The Lady Pioneers were eliminated from the National Tournament with a final score of 3-1 against Blinn College. Photos and updates from our State Champions will be posted next week when they return. This is the first time in the history of the program that the Vol State women’s softball has competed in the National Championship Tournament. Statistics and archived games will be available on the NJACC website.

Volunteer State Community College

Second Game in the National Tournament Starts Today

The Vol State women's softball team is preparing to finish their second game in the National Tournament today, May 20th. Yesterday, they lost the first game against Northeastern Oklahoma A&M 13-2. Last night they started he second game was interrupted due to rain, and will resume today at 10 AM central. You can see the play-by-play information from last night’s game at the following link. Tune into the NJACC website at 10 AM central to hear the latest information.

Volunteer State Community College

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How the Vol State Softball Team Took Tragedy to Triumph

This softball season the Vol State team started out with a fantastic group. However, they hit some serious challenges soon after they got rolling. Right fielder Allyson Grooms, who is affectionately called Lil’ Bit by friends, was a solid player across the board and held an important position on the hitting lineup. She was injured running to first base playing a game against Chattanooga.

“I tore my ACL the First game we played Chat at home,” said Grooms. “We won 9-8 at home, I made it to base and then somebody had to finish running for me, and my run scored and we won.”

The rest of the team had to change the way they played. “We leaned on her a lot,” said Freshman Whitney Ford. “She was in the second hole and batting really good and when she got hurt I had to move up into her spot. It put a lot of pressure on me and I had to really step up my game.”

But instead of throwing in the towel the veteran player settled into a leadership role from the dugout.

“Lil’ Bit is still in the dugout providing the team with her leadership skills," said Athletic Director Bobby Hudson. "She is a quality individual and has been a tremendous help. To make it to the Nationals, all the pieces have got to fall into place. We are excited and can’t wait till they play these games.”

When asked what made the team different this year Grooms responded, “We have more speed and we have come together. Basically each individual has their own unique style that adds to the magic of this team. I am excited but it kills me that I can’t be there for them. I take it day by day, but I am really here for moral support.”

You can see these girls rally around each other. Katie Pfost is has been playing softball since she was eight years old.

“I was actually was taking a maymester class and I dropped and rescheduled it because I was so stressed out. I really want to focus on one thing and to me this to me was most important.” Pfost said, “I love coach Lynn. He is the best thing that ever happened to me. He gives a lot of good quotes to encourage us.”

Erica Malone as the secretary over the athletic division has been busy making travel arrangements and is going with the team to make sure everything runs smoothly.

"They are good girls! I have been here since 1987, and this is the first time a team has pulled together like this. They do stuff together like a little family.” Malone smiled as she added, “I walked in one morning, and they had the whole locker room decorated, and had gifts for all the seniors. As long as I have been here I have never seen that done before. I think our chances in the Nationals are great. I hope they get out there and play hard like they did here. They played to the point of exhaustion last week and showed they can do it.”

Head Coach Johnny Lynn has been looking forward to this opportunity for eighteen years. “This is good because we have got so many freshmen. We have great leadership and Katie Pfost is one of the best pitchers in America and she is a great hitter too.” Lynn also said, “You got to be a close team to be able to do what we did last week, and that should give them confidence going into the national tournament.”

The Vol State softball team plays their first game of the National Championship tournament on Thursday at 3pm Vol State time. We'll have an update on the blog on Friday. Meanwhile, if you want to watch or listen live you can visit this web page.

To keep up with the schedule and track scores visit the NJCAA page.

Photographs by Stacy Womelduff

Volunteer State Community College

Walking the Great Wall of China for Travel-Study

Vol State students are spanning the globe this month for travel-study trips. Gary Bickle checks in from China:

Hello all from Shanghai!

A few pics from China. I made it to the top of the Great Wall. It is not all steps, there were stone slopes to conquer, also. High winds and the ever-present smog made viewing afar difficult, but most of us made it. The long-range photo shows the height, and I wasn't even at the top (yet).

Gary Bickle
Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Vol State

Volunteer State Community College

Vol State Students Perform in Ireland

Vol State President Dr. Nichols has been traveling in Ireland to build new partnerships for our International Education program. He has also had the opportunity to see our students in a travel-study experience. This picture shows Music Department Chair James Story performing in a pub with Vol State students. Here is Dr. Nichols latest blog entry:

Ireland-Day Three continued:

Just left the De Burca pub (1 a.m.) where we socialized with the local Rotarians and listened to Irish music. Our students, along with James Story and Dr. John Espey were still the life of the party.

Earlier today we attended the performance of the Vol State Singers at the Source. 250 plus students from the all girls school were in the audience, The place was standing room only and the girls were loud and enthusiastic in their cheers and appreciation of our students. While all our performers were well appreciated, you can only imagine the ear splitting screams and applause received by our young, male students. At the end of the performance, the girls stormed the stage by the hundreds to get a personal glimpse or perhaps a touch from the performers.

Tomorrow (actually later today) our students will have two performances. The first at 1:30 will see another 250 plus students from an all girl school in attendance. Later that evening, our students will perform for the general public.

John and I visited Father Tom earlier in the day and explained in more detail exactly what TnCIS and Vol State have to offer in terms of international study abroad. We have scheduled an additional meeting with the faculty of St. Patrick's for Thursday afternoon.

I will meet John and Ann-Marie at 8:30 this morning to walk approximately 2 miles to our next meeting. We will meet with several administrators from Tipperary Institute to develop partnerships. Later in the day we will meet with other local leaders over dinner and then attend a musical performance at another Pub known locally as "The Monks".

-Dr. Nichols

Volunteer State Community College

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Vol State Softball Team Plays Thursday in Championship Tourney

Get ready for Vol State Softball National Championship play in Utah! Vol State is the No. 11 seed and opens play in the 16-team, double-elimination event against sixth-seeded Northeastern Oklahoma A & M College on Thursday afternoon at 1 p.m. mountain time. For the latest scores and information visit the Division One Championship web site: http://www.sgcity.org/recreation/njcaa/

Dr. Nichols Builds Travel-Study Partnerships in Ireland

Vol State President Dr. Nichols has been visiting Ireland and will soon travel to Denmark and the Netherlands. The trip is part of the effort to build relationships and new partnerships for the Vol State International Education program. It's also an opportunity for Dr. Nichols to see international travel-study in action. He has met up with a group of Vol State students in Ireland, traveling with Music Department Chair James Story and International Education Director John Espey. The students are performing in venues across Ireland this month. 

Dr. Nichols has been blogging about his experiences and shares the first three days with us:

Ireland-Day One

Arrived in Dublin after an 7 hour overnight flight. Of course, never really slept but watched several movies. Once in Dublin, took a taxi to the hotel. Interesting that we passed a McDonald's, Burger King, and a Subway on the way to the hotel.

Although we are in Ireland, everything is written in English and most everyone we passed on the street walking to the hotel was speaking English. The Trinity Capital Hotel is old but nice and about 15 minutes walking from the rail station.

Chris and I walked to the rail station on a practice run so we would know how to get there tomorrow when we leave for Thurles. I plan to attend a Rotary meeting in Thurles tomorrow.

Ireland-Day Two

After spending last night in Dublin, went to the Rail station this morning and caught the train to Thurles. We will spend 4 nights here before heading to Denmark. Met with John Espey, Ann-Marie, and the female students at 5 for dinner at St. Patrick's. The women are staying there and dinner is provided. After dinner, Chris and I went to the Thurles Rotary meeting which started at 7:30. This Rotary club has a membership of 14 with 6 in attendance. Spent most of the meeting discussing differences between the States and Ireland. They were very interested in our take on the "Obama Health Care" program. They could not understand why it was such an issue. Here in Ireland, this type of health care is the norm.

After dinner with Rotary, we walked to the local Pub, De Burca, where James Story and many of his students were singing and entertaining the locals. The place is very small but we probably had over 40 to 50 in attendance. We took pictures and will send them soon.

Just got back to our room (1:15 a.m.) and have a busy day tomorrow. We meet with Father Tom from St. Patrick's and then watch James and the singers perform at 1:30.

Ireland-Day Three

Began the morning with breakfast in the hotel. Normal fare, including eggs, toast, fruit, cereals and such. Keep expecting to be exposed to traditional "Irish" food, but perhaps my expectations are not valid.

I continue to be surprised by the prevalence of the English language in Ireland. We went to the local bank to exchange currency and everything was in English. All the printed materials detailing interest rates, promotional items, everything was in English. Many of the sidebar conversations I overheard by the locals were primarily Gaelic with English words common.

While we are staying on the Northern outskirts of town at the Anner Hotel, we are only 20 minutes walking distance from the center of town. Fifteen minutes gets you where the majority of our meetings and events occur.

Met with Dr. John Espey and Father Tom at St. Patrick's this morning to discuss articulations, partnerships, and faculty, staff, and student exchanges. We have been invited back to discuss this in more detail with the faculty on Thursday afternoon.

James Story and his music class will be performing at The Source Arts Center today at 1:30 and we are looking forward to hearing the talents of our students. Their performance has been advertised locally and I am told there should be many locals in the audience.

I mentioned in my last report that Chris and I attended the local Rotary meeting. After this dinner meeting ended we met again at Deburca Pub to watch James Story and his students perform. We will be going back to the same Pub this evening, (starting around 9:30) to watch the locals, including several from the Rotary, perform traditional Irish music.

Many of you know that Chris and I don't really drink or smoke, so the thought of going to a local Pub was tinged with apprehension. Not to worry, Chris actually found Dr. Pepper in one of the local stores, so we drank Dr. Pepper and enjoyed the music and companionship of students and community members. No smoking in the Pub, so that made the time even more enjoyable.

One interesting item after another during our Rotary meeting. Two of the members gave their occupation as "auctioneers". I found that rather interesting that in such a small town they would have that many auctioneers. They were also discussing a fund raiser around something called a "car boot". I should have asked what that was but since we had already monopolized so much of their hour meeting, I remained silent.

Later at Deburca's Pub, I inquired what a "car boot" was. I had wondered how something that you placed on a car's tire to prevent it from leaving (used when the driver has unpaid parking tickets) could be used as a fund raiser. Turns out a car boot is actually a description of bringing items you wish to sell to what we would consider a "flea market" or a "garage sale". The car boot is the car trunk. It also turns out that an "auctioneer" is what we call a real estate agent.

Volunteer State Community College

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Vol State's Magic Softball Team

Victory! This word sums up the back-to-back insanity that the Vol State women’s softball team felt on Wednesday afternoon as they won the final game of the TCCAA Region Seven Tournament. Three games in a row left the team exhausted and thrilled at the same time. “This is the first time in the history of our softball program we have won the state championship,” said Head Coach Johnny Lynn.

This particular team seems to have a special magic about them. Shortstop, Whitney Ford, has been playing softball in Adams, Tennessee since she was a child.

“I started playing baseball when I was five and then they made me move over to softball when I turned eight. I didn’t want to at first,” she said. "Mr. Lynn has been a really good coach. At first he made me mad, but I think it was because he knew what we were capable of and he would really push me. Now it makes me happy that I have a coach that cares about me and wants to see me succeed and go far.”

Director of the Athletic program Bobby Hudson said that “yesterday was one of the gutsiest efforts I have ever seen from a team.”

Sophomore Jordan Runions is the catcher. “Our chemistry was crazy-good. Throughout the whole year we have had our ups and downs but we have focused on staying together and playing as one. The difference is there is a passion and excitement at the heart of each player.”

The team is headed off to St. George, Utah for the National Championships which start Thursday, May 19. Ford went on to say, “We leave on Sunday and I have never been on an airplane, so this my first time. “I am nervous but excited. I think it will be a great experience and be really fun.”

Since we are all waiting to see what happens you can expect more information in the days ahead. Hopefully this team’s magic will take them all the way to the top.

Photographs by Stacy Womelduff

Volunteer State Community College

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lifting a Cup of Yerba Maté to our Argentinian Visitors

Vol State has been hosting a group of three students, and one faculty member from South America. This is part of the International Education program to develop a student and faculty cultural exchange with institutions in Argentina. During a recent party to welcome them, the group was sharing a special gourd of yerba maté, an Argentinean cultural drink. It is a unique herbal tea that is shared from the same cup, bolstering old friendships and often used to initiate new friends into the group.

Gustavo Solanas is an economics instructor from the state of Entre Rios, about 4 hours north of Buenos Aries. He chose to visit Tennessee because the economy is similar to his home. He is interested in our business practices. It has been over ten years since his last visit to the United States.

One of his goals was to, “find out more about the organization of [US] colleges; observing different classes; meeting the teachers and talking to the students,” he said. “It’s interesting to compare the cultural differences with music, food and jobs.”

Dean and Director of International Education, Dr. John Espey, pointed out the importance of developing multi-cultural diversity on our campus. “International education is now involved with a shrinking globe,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for me to be in e-mail contact with Ireland, Argentina, Mongolia, China, Denmark, and Australia all in the same day.”

The students were busy immersing themselves in classes, community functions, and socializing. Student Elena Martin was especially interested in a social media presentation. “I would like to see this presentation given in my country,” she said.

Not being familiar with the social custom I was hesitant to participate in the yerba maté drinking. I soon overcame my hestitancy and I have since bought my own yerba maté. It's an earthy green tea that just smells healthy. It wasn't bad, but I can see developing a taste for it. Of course, the social side of the experience is the best part. I will be ready next time I visit with my friends from Argentina.

Volunteer State Community College

European Union Project for Travel Study

Volunteer State Community College students Stephanie Wilson, Thaxton Armbruster and Eljay Elia with Professor Calvert hit the ground running in Brussels this week by starting their surveys to collect data on the European Union. The data, pictures, and video will be used for Business Law, International Law, and Political Science classes. Photo taken by Norberto Roman by Grand Place a tourist hot spot.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Teaching Children in India

Vol State students John Clark and Jaime Blurton will be taking a course in human geography during Maymester through TnCIS. This course will be different from others they have taken; this one will occur in India. Moreover, this one will involve service learning. John and Jamie took their free time to make maps of America and India on bed sheets. These maps will help them teach geography to the children of TAABAR and SHRESTHA. They’ll use index cards to help kids label states and cities on both maps, and the simplicity of the bed sheet maps will allow all sorts of different learning to occur. John and Jamie will also use inflatable globes to play a game with the kids while they teach them that 70 percent of the Earth is covered by water. But John and Jamie will learn from those children as well. Culture is indeed a two-way street. They’ll learn that life is sometimes difficult when you are a child of the street (as were the children of TAABAR) or when you call a slum home (as do the children of SHRESTHA). Both groups will definitely learn and grow from cultural exchange.

Keith Bell

Associate Professor of Geography

Volunteer State Community College

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pioneer Student Magazine Captures Another Award!

The Pioneer, the Vol State student magazine, has been selected the National Finalist (runner-up) in the “Best Magazine” category of the 2010 Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Awards. The Fall 2010 issue of The Pioneer was named the national runner-up in the two-year school division, behind El Sol magazine of Southwestern College of Chula Vista, Calif.

The magazine advanced to the national competition competition, after winning the 2010 SPJ Region 12 (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee) Mark of Excellence “Best Magazine” award in the two-year school division,

Samantha Hearn was the editor of the Fall 2010 issue of The Pioneer. The magazine highlighted diversity, travel and technology.

This is the first time that The Pioneer has advanced to the national competition. However, this is the fourth year in the magazine’s eight-year history that it has been honored by the SPJ. The previous three honors were second place finishes in 2004, 2006, 2007, behind Louisiana State University, before SPJ created two- and four-year college divisions.

The Pioneer is produced by students during the spring and fall semesters. The magazine is a 32-page full-color, general interest magazine composed of articles and photographs relating to Vol State and its students. The entire magazine, from the conception of story ideas to design, is done by students.

Volunteer State Community College