Monday, February 27, 2012

Why be a President's Ambassador?

The Vol State President's Ambassador program is one of the most prestigious academic scholarship programs at the College. It does a lot more than just provide financial support, it's a way to build your leadership skills. Vol State President's Ambassadors are among the most involved and respected students on campus. They have stringent requirements for the program. If you're academically eligible you will be receiving a letter in the mail. We thought this blog from current Ambassador Brandon Shaw would give you a reason or two to apply.

Many people have asked me how I’ve benefited from being a Vol State President’s Ambassador. Sometimes I find it hard to adequately answer this question, since being an Ambassador has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. If I were to put it simply, I would say that it has been amazing, but the effects it has had on my life go so much deeper than that. As a President’s Ambassador, I have seen myself grow far beyond any expectation I had set for myself, and I have done things that I never thought I was capable of doing. These last two semesters as an Ambassador have truly opened my eyes not only to my potential as a student, but also to all the possibilities that now lay before me.

I wasn’t always as high-reaching as I am now, however. When I came to Vol State, it was in the Fall of 2010, and I was coming straight out of high school. Like most newly-graduated students, I was somewhat intimidated by the idea of going to college. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of spending another portion of my life stuck in a classroom either. I have to admit, I didn’t think I was capable of doing well academically, let alone serve as an Ambassador. I knew that I had a great life in store for me, filled with all the hopes and dreams I had made for myself, but in the way stood a high mountain known as “college.” This mountain can be difficult to climb and take a long time for some, and even longer for others. Some people attempt to make the ascent and change their mind, while others return to climb the mountain after trying once before. Some people don’t ever make it all the way over the mountain, while others do make it over and even go on to climb more mountains. I knew that I had to decide if I was up to the challenge or not. Looking back, I can still remember my very first day of class when I found myself standing in the quad, watching all the other students around me. In that moment, I realized that I was surrounded by college students, and that I was one of them. The realization that I was actually in college set in, and from that moment forward, I determined that I was going to make it all the way up this mountain, no matter how difficult the climb.

Since then, I have met challenge after challenge, and taken advantage of opportunity after opportunity, all the while continuing on my journey to the peak. With each new experience, I recognize even more the amount of growth I have undergone as both a student and a person. Where previously there was lack of direction, now there is purpose. Where there was inadequacy, now there is capability. And where there was fear of failure, now there is determination to try. So when someone asks me, “what has being a President’s Ambassador done for you?” I tell them, “it’s given me courage to climb the mountain.”

-Brandon Shaw
Vol State President's Ambassador

Volunteer State Community College

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Vol State Graduate Makes a Difference Using Her Degree

What will you do once your formal education is over?  Sometimes, I think I know exactly what my future holds, but more often I wonder if my schooling will pay-off.  Are the daily challenges and the skills I am learning worth it? During these insecure moments, I want to hear about students that are using their degrees to make a difference.  This is the case with Vol State graduate, Shannon White.

Trying to find a balance between life, work, and family was tough, but it did not stop her. “I started by taking just one class in communications,” said White.  “I loved it!  I realized how much I missed school, so I enrolled and got a part-time job.  I was interested Asian studies, but had no idea how that worked.  So, while taking my general requirements, I heard about international business and global studies, this got me interested in learning Chinese.  Since, Vol State only had a couple of foreign languages, I chose the University of Memphis to finish my degree.  They are one of the top 3 schools in the country for Asian studies.”
White searched out Tennessee companies that were interested in doing business in Asia.  She made such an impression on the state ambassador responsible for China, that she was invited to organize a meeting between a group of Chinese high school students to meet the governor.  The students were visiting as part of a Future Entrepreneurs Leadership Group.  She enjoys teaching people from China about southern culture, and equally wants to educate Tennessee companies about the Chinese business culture.  Her goal is to be an international business developer for the state of Tennessee.  
Associate Professor George Wilson uses White as a reference in his Transportation course.  She has shared, “her experiences as owner of Rush Delivery, which began as a Nashville-based bike messenger service and grew into a national trucking, warehousing, and logistics company,” said Wilson.  “Each semester, several of my online Students post comments saying how much they are inspired by Shannon’s online presentation. After graduating from Volunteer State in December 2009, Shannon earned her Bachelor Degree in Asian Culture and International Trade from The University of Memphis, graduating magna cum laude in December 2011. Shannon has recently founded her own business--Global Girl Business Services-- and does work for the Tennessee Economic Council for Women.”

White encourages students to get involved with campus activities.  “I just got into those groups and started mentoring. I became the President of National Society of Leadership which was a big success for me,” she said.  “I got a couple of awards and a USA scholarship.  I didn’t have a lot of money so I needed the scholarship. I also got a scholarship for TnCIS through the business division, and I took ethnics in Greece in 2009. It completely changed my perspective, and when I got back I was focus driven. Nothing felt too unattainable.”
For more information on Asian studies you can email White or contact her through her blog and Facebook.
Volunteer State Community College

Friday, February 17, 2012

Traveling for Spring Break? We Have Some Tips

Vol State spring break is coming up from March 5-10. Some students will be traveling to other countries for spring break and the U.S. State Department has some tips and suggestions for students.

Spring Break is fast approaching and many students are preparing to travel abroad for a well-deserved vacation. Smart trip-planning involves more than getting a new travel guide and backpack. That’s where the State Department can help: We have resources for students and their parents to prepare for safe, enjoyable trips.

Be Smart. Students are not invincible when they go abroad. Every year, there are incidents of travelers being arrested, injured, sexually assaulted, and even killed. For Spring Breakers, many incidents have been linked to alcohol and drug use. These and other specific issues for students are highlighted on our website to raise their awareness. The site serves as a one-stop shop with useful safety and travel information, and should be the first place students visit when considering a trip abroad.

Be Safe. The State Department also encourages students to stay connected while they travel. All U.S. citizens traveling or living abroad may sign up online for our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. STEP enrollment makes it possible for the State Department to contact the student traveler in the case of a family emergency in the United States, or in the event of a crisis in a foreign country. Safety and security updates are automatically sent to the enrolled citizen so they can make informed trip-planning decisions. It’s free and takes less than five minutes to register online.

Our priority is to ensure that students return home safely, and we believe that a well-informed traveler is a safer traveler.

For further travel information contact:

Bureau of Consular Affairs

Public inquiries: (888) 407-4747

Download the Smart Traveler iPhone app.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Vol State Drama Team Invites You to Oz this Weekend

What are you doing this weekend?  The Vol State theater class invites you out this Friday and Saturday, February 17 and 18 at 7:30 pm to watch “Dorothy Meets Alice or The Wizard of Wonderland.”  The entire play will be performed, directed, and coordinated by students through the Delta Psi Omega Theatre Program.  It is directed by students Cody Hartman and Joanna Myers and will be held at the Wemyss Auditorium in Caudill Hall.  Refreshments will be served before and after each performance.  General admission is $7.00 and students and children are $5.00.  For more information you can call: 230-3226
Volunteer State Community College

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dr. Ruff Reflects on Decades in the College Classroom

A Bob Ruff class is something you remember. Many students recall his classes as a challenge and not just for the academic rigor. Ruff courses, like all of the best Vol State classes, ask students to think in new ways and view the world with a fresh perspective.

Dr. Ruff is a professor of History. He will be retiring at the end of the spring semester. He will be remembered for teaching some of the toughest classes on campus and also for inspiring students to go beyond expectations.

Some of his students havedropped out due to the work load. The ones who stay, often end up taking several classes with him.

Years later, students will return. Some even want to sit in on a class or two for old times sake. Others remark about how Dr. Ruff has changed their lives.

“I got into Vol State as a communications major, but I had a class with Dr. Ruff and five days after that class I changed my major and decided to go into history,” said former student Paul Love. Love turned that passion for history into a Fulbright Scholarship research project in Cairo.

“Dr. Ruff allowed me to do unorthodox study of the Middle East, with a lot of freedom to explore,” said Love.

“History doesn’t turn out to be most students’ favorite class. What I try to do is find out what the students are interested in,” said Dr. Ruff. “What I argue in class is that whatever a student is interested in- is in this class, history. The idea is to discover your strengths.”

In Dr. Ruff’s World History class, budding scholars learn to speak out and ask tough questions of their classmates. They sit in a circle, shooting ideas back and forth around the group. Dr. Ruff has one big requirement for the discussion: opinions need to be supported by fact.

“Almost without exception the students who come through that class are amazing,” Dr. Ruff said. “Now, they don’t always start out that way.”

Ruff began his teaching career as a graduate student at Auburn University.

“I remember walking into that first class and thinking- I don’t know if I can do this.”

His hand was shaking as he took the class roll and students noticed.

“They started laughing and I started laughing and it’s been great ever since.”

Ruff says that his graduate work taught him about another version of world history.

“History is tulmultous, it’s chaotic, it’s controversial and yet quite often they (textbooks and lecturers) don’t include that dynamism.”

“Most of my students are not going to graduate school, so they won’t find out about the spicy, challenging underside of history. So, I brought that information into the classroom.”

Others may argue that community college students should be getting just the basic facts of a subject.

“What facts? Ruff said. “The facts someone selects? Factual information is not neuteral. I think we’re not giving students credit for what they can handle and what they can do. When students are taught differently, more often than not, they will rise to the challenge.”

Dr. Ruff remembers a student who took the same course five times, always dropping out after a few weeks. On the sixth try Ruff says the student not only stayed through the entire semester but made an A.

Ruff is well-known for his dedication to student activities, such as the Student Government Association. His tenure as the sponsor of the Cheerleading Sqad was a bit of a stretch for the professor. He spent 10 years coaching and mentoring the squad, as what he calls the “Cheer Daddy.”

“I was demanding in the classroom, but when students saw that you were the Cheer Daddy outside of class, it humanized you.”

When asked if the students were less intimidated then, he provides a quick smile and a succint answer.


Dr. Ruff taught year-round for 35 years, finally taking summers off at the request of his wife just a few years ago. He says he has no big plans for retirement. When asked if he will miss teaching he gives an honest answer.

“I’ve never been retired before. I don’t know what it will be like.”

It’s clear though that his thoughts will be returning again and again to his students. It’s also clear that they will continue to write and call and check-in, even after 25 years or more.

“I have had so many outstanding students that it boggles my mind.”

Volunteer State Community College

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Get on Board the Soul Food Luncheon Train

A sampling of the Soul Food last year
Each February, America celebrates Black History Month.  The African American Student Union (AASU) is preparing for the annual Vol State Soul Food Luncheon.  The purpose is to acknowledge the contributions of African Americans to U.S. History.  The members of the AASU, will share a presentation titled We Are the Dream.

As President of the AASU, Chanel Alford is busy putting the finishing touches in place.  “Students, faculty, and staff will be there and basically everyone is welcome," said Alford.  "We are really looking forward to this and want it to go well, since it is our first year without our founder, Dr. Monique Wright.  We have a cool presentation about Don Cornelius.  He not only contributed to black music, but also to music in general.  Soul Train came out way before MTV and VH1."
The presentation and luncheon will be held on Wednesday, February 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM in the Wood Campus Center in the Carpeted Dining Room.  If you would like to donate a dish or volunteer to serve please contact Alford at  Feel free to visit the Vol State AASU Facebook page.

Vol State Community College

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Vol State Coach in Beech Hall of Fame

If you love sports, you are not alone.  Vol State’s Head Softball Coach, Johnny Lynn has participated as far back as he can remember.  He showed exceptional skill at basketball at a young age, and in 1980 his parents moved to the Beech High School district, specifically for him play in the districts program. He was a star at the high school, leaving a number of school records that still stand. Lynn was recently honored for his contributions. Last month he was recognized in the Beech Athletic Hall of Fame.
“I lived it, loved it, ate it, and played every day no matter what the weather was,” said Lynn. “My dad was a football player, and when I wanted to play basketball it kind of crushed him, but he was very supportive of everything me and my two sisters did anyway.  I played at an elementary level, junior pro, middle school, high school, and went on to play at college.” 
He shared some of the events that shaped his coaching style.  “As a young teenager I went to all the Vanderbilt football games,” said Lynn.  “One time Auburn beat Vandy really bad, and I will never forget how the Auburn players were the nicest players I had ever seen.  As a little kid I was always asking for things—‘give me a towel, sweatband, a chin strap or something’—and they did it. Onetime a quarterback even took me down onto the field, and when I left that game I knew what I wanted to do.  It was a good life lesson.  Later, when a lot of schools were recruiting me I remembered this and knew where I wanted to go.”
Lynn also gives credit to Coach “Sonny” Smith from Auburn University, and Coach “Boots” Scott from Beech High School as inspirations for his success.  “Without their guidance I wouldn’t have been the player I was,” said Lynn.  “It takes a lot of time to be good, and a player has got to be dedicated.  I tell my team, ‘If you want to play summer ball, do it, but don’t get burned out.’ It’s important for each player to make that decision on his or her own; mama and daddy can’t make that decision for you.”
This kind of dedication took Auburn to the top.  “We won SEC one year.  We went to the NCAA every year; went to the second round every year, played Sweet-Sixteen twice, and the Elite Eight once, and we were just two minutes away from the Final Four,” exclaimed Lynn.  “The main thing as a coach is you always want to be fair. Which is not necessarily playing time, but it’s treating everyone equal. I had a bad knee, and studied marketing and economics for two more years to get a teaching degree, making my mama proud.”
As a coach, one of his most rewarding experiences was seeing the look on the faces of the 2011 Magic Softball Team last year when they won the state championship and went on to play in the Nationals.
Volunteer State Community College