Monday, September 30, 2013

Learn About Unique Cultures through VISA

No matter where you are from, fitting in at college can be tough.

I know many times that I have been the type to cling to people that are similar to me. Fortunately, through different clubs and organizations that Vol State has to offer, I have met many interesting people.

One club, Vol State's VISA International Club gives students the opportunities to branch out of the norm and meet students that are from other cultures.

VISA is a club that anyone can join. You can meet international students that are on campus. Vol State has students from countries such as India,Egypt, Guatemala, and even China.

The club meets once a month. During the meetings they usually have discussions about the different customs in the countries that members are from.

Faculty Advisor Kay Grossberg leads the meeting
Kay Grossberg, the club's faculty advisor and also French instructor, provided in more detail what the type of topics were discussed.

"One week last year we had a discussion about dating customs within our members' countries," said Grossberg.
"Do people date or do parents have arranged dating? How do you show that you are interested in someone?"

In the past, the club has participated in service learning projects that have allowed them to help countries in time of need.

Countries such as Japan has received relief from students here at Vol State. When the Tsunami devastated Japan in 2011, students that were studying here from Japan, collected donations through making traditional origami and calligraphy.

 The group puts their creativity together and plans events like the upcoming Fall Fiesta or Movie Night.
VISA has a diverse group of members.

"Through events and activities such as service learning and Fall Fiesta, students get to experience new things that they probably would not have back home," said Kendra Jimenez, a student from Guatemala.

Sometimes for international students the challenge for making friends can be even greater than it is for American students.

Language and culture barriers sometimes keeps international and American students from interacting with each other.

I think that the VISA club is a great way to tear down those walls that limit students from getting to know each other, and may even help someone to make a new friend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vol State Events Calendar for October

October Events

OCT. 1- Nov. 5 Stacey Irvin Art Exhibit Thigpen Gallery 7am-9pm Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday

5 Fall Carnival at Highland Crest in Springfield, campus grounds, 10am to 2pm

7 ACE Salsa dancing, Nichols Dining Room, 12:30pm

9 ACE Hispanic Heritage Quiz Bowl, Cafeteria, 12:30pm

14, 15 Fall Break-No Classes

15 Highland Crest Job Fair in Springfield, 9am-2pm

16 Professional Development Day- No Classes

17 Coffee with the Prez, Cafeteria, 10-11am

19 Hispanic Fiesta, Center Campus, 10am-4pm

22 Vol State Book Club meeting, “Ballad of Frankie Silver”, Nichols Dining Room, 12:45pm

22 Caring for Aging Parents, financial presentation, Caudill Hall room 102, 6:30pm

23 Comedy: Mission IMPROVable, Cafeteria, 12:30pm

23 Perspectives in Cultural Geography, lecture by Keith Bell, Nichols Dining Room, 12:20pm

24 Photographer Stacey Irvin discussion, Thigpen Library, 1pm

24 Sharyn McCrumb, author of “The Ballad of Frankie Silver”, reading and discussion for One Book, One Community, Thigpen Library, 7pm

25 Movie Night: Monster’s University, Library Lawn or if rain in the Pickel Field House, dusk

26 Household Hazardous Waste Collection,
Wood Campus Center Parking Lot, 9am-2pm

30 Joss Whedon’s Pop Culture Genius by Dr. David Lavery, Honors Lecture Series, Nichols Dining Room, 12:20pm

30 Fall Festival, Pickel Field House, 12pm-6pm

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Irish Band Performs at Vol State

Brock McGuire Band(left to right) Garry O'Meara, Manus McGuire, Paul Brock, and Denis Carey
Vol State went a little Irish yesterday when Brock McGuire, a traditional Irish Band visited our campus from Ireland. The group performed a showcase allowing the audience to experience mostly Irish Music but a touch of Bluegrass. The workshop was sponsored by the Vol State International Education program.

The group has performed at the Grand Ole Opry and has even recorded music in neighboring Hendersonville, allowing them to work with local Grammy Award winner, Ricky Skaggs. 
Garry O'Meara, started playing music at age 9.

Brock McGuire performed traditional Irish music with a Bluegrass and Celtic Sound         
I loved how the group combined bluegrass music with their traditional Irish Sound. It made me feel as if I was in an Irish Pub in Dublin.The band allowed time in between sets for audience members to ask questions from origination of their music to tips on strumming the banjo.

Accordian Player Paul Brock answers questions from Music professor, James Story.

Garry O'Meara demonstrates hand movement when playing banjo.

After the performance, audience members could purchase music of the band and receive autographs.

 If you were unable to attend yesterday's showcase click on the video below to hear the sound of Brock McGuire.


You can log on to their website to learn more about the band  as well as find links to hear more of their music.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

An Inside Look of the Gaming Club

Gaming is not only limited to video games, but table top games as well.

I can go ahead and put away any assumptions that I have had about gaming, whether it be table top games like Magic:The Gathering, computer games such as World Of Warcraft, or video games from Final Fantasy to Dark Souls II.

I have never thought of gaming as anything but a childish hobby. So, when I was introduced to the idea of doing a story that was outside of my comfort zone, I decided to go in with an open mind.

I was welcomed by the President of the Gaming club to attend a meeting, and see what Vol State's Gaming Club was all about.

The Gaming Club has a great presence here on campus and their meetings have the proof.

I was able to sit down with the core leaders of this club and receive some one-on-one time with them to get a more in-depth look of the club.

The President of the Gaming Club, Tyler Duncan was happy to pass on information on why he thinks the Gaming Club is a positive organization to have on campus.
Tyler Duncan, Gaming Club President

"Most people regardless of clique, interest, or whatever; most people enjoy having fun," said Duncan .
"It's a really easy way to get people of different ideas and beliefs to come together, talk to each other and be friends."

Kera "Steve" Malone continued, "We like the idea that we are bringing different people of different varieties and different backgrounds together, doing what they all enjoy."

" The point of our club is to help people transition, to make people feel more comfortable with themselves and people around them,"said Kera.

One of the Gaming Club's missions is that they hope that everyone knows that when they come to the meetings, that every person at the meeting feels accepted.

(Back)LtoR: Tyler Duncan-President, Dante Schuckman- Officer of Public Relations
(Front)LtoR:Kera "Steve" Malone-Vice President, Samantha Lane- Events Manager
They welcome everyone to come to a meeting and see what they are all about. The members of the club want everyone to know that there are many people that come from different backgrounds that enjoy gaming. Whether you are into sports or politics, but enjoy gaming you can come to a meeting and feel as an equal.

The group has many events planned in the near future. From a Cosplay event at Fall Fest or "Nerdy November" that will be held during homecoming.

If you would like to find out more about these events or would like to attend a meeting, you can contact the group through email at or you can connect with them through Facebook.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Get Free Help With Your Papers

There have been many times that I have had to write a paper for a class and could not develop a topic. How many of you have gotten back a paper painted with red ink because of grammar and punctuation errors?

Language Center Tutor, Steve Koch
The Language Center (LC, located in the Ramer Building in Room 157) can help you with generating ideas for a paper, assist in the organization and punctuation of your paper, and simply provide one-on-one feedback.

The Language Center collaborates with faculty to provide students with support and assistance in a friendly, relaxed environment.You'll get attention from one of the professional tutors, many of whom are faculty members here on campus, or even a student tutor that has succeeded in an English or writing course.

Steve Koch, a tutor in the Language Center, was preparing for his day when I visited.

"We work with everyone who comes in here that is looking for guidance or just someone to be an audience," he said.

The Language Center collaborates with faculty to provide students with support and assistance in a friendly, relaxed environment. You can count on receiving 100% of attention from one of the professional tutors, many of whom are faculty members here on campus, or even a peer tutor that has succeeded in an English or writing course.

I went to the Language Center to get help with my English research paper. The tutors were very helpful with editing my paper. They listened when I read my material to them and even gave me advice on adding additional material. It's nice just getting a second or sometimes a third opinion on your paper.

Shala Curtis puts the final touches on her paper.
While I was there I met Shala Curtis, she was polishing her history paper, so I decided to get her opinion on the Center.

"They really help students that come in here, you can receive a different view point on your paper."

"You do not lose anything by coming here, you can only benefit yourself. I recommend anyone to stop by if they just want a second opinion, there is always someone willing to help," said Curtis. "I am writing a paper for history, so when I come in here they have went over my paper and proof- read it to help me come up with better ideas."

Suzanne Previte, the director of the Language Center, is clearly excited about writing.

Eddy Rivera edits an article for the school's newspaper.
"For students who come to the Language Center they  are more successful in the classroom," said Previte. "When students come and meet tutors in the Language Center that are friendly and helpful, they are more comfortable continuing their program and working toward success."

Last summer, they began piloting a Language Center program that was accessible through a student's D2L online. It was offered online for every class during the summer semester. She hopes to open up online sessions to all students, in all classes, in the future.

It's important to note that the Language Center is not only for English classes but all subjects, including everything from history and to sociology.

For more information about the Language Center, including the hours visit:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How You Can Help Homeless Veterans

Combat zones exist in many different places. They can be found in the most obvious places like Iraq or Afghanistan, or unfortunately for too many veterans, here at home. For these homeless warriors, the battlefield is a lone soldier living in his truck in the wake of a home foreclosure, or a veteran sleeping in a dark, deafening homeless encampment secreted under a freeway. Many men and women not only do not have a constant place to go to for shelter, but are also lacking basic items like socks, t-shirts, and underwear. Vol State students are working to make a difference.

A student donates items to a bin located in the bookstore.
The Physical Therapy Program (PTA) has partnered with Operation Stand Down, a non-profit organization that provides employment readiness training and the support items needed for employment, including placement assistance, transitional housing, mail service, clothing and much more.

The PTA students have a Service Learning Project this semester. One part of it is the collection of clothing that may seem like a small thing, but can be a big deal to those on the streets: new socks,underwear, and t-shirts. They request that all items remain in the original packaging, and need items for both men and women.

There will be donation bins set up around campus for anyone to drop off their items. They will be placed at the Library, Bookstore, and Building 100 and there will even be one in Livingston.

PTA Student Donald Brack, a retired service member of the Army, is leading the effort. It's more than just the clothing drive. They will be working at the annual Operation Stand Down event in Nashville in October.

Donald Brack created the idea to donate items.
"We are going to be providing services that are physical therapy oriented.We will be checking veteran's feet and legs for anything that looks off, as well as things like repairing crutches, assisting devices such as walkers, crutches and wheelchairs."
I asked him why this service learning project was important to the PTA program.

"It gives us a chance to give back to the community and, most importantly, to our veterans.  Unfortunately, some of these veterans are living hard lives and need to be taken care of. It also gives us a chance to put our skills to work."

The bins are going to be collected on October 11, so everyone is encouraged to donate now.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Supplemental Instruction Can Help You Get a Better Grade

I am sure that everyone has enrolled in a course or two that completely knocked you off of your feet; sometimes making you feel as if the entire text book was written in a foreign language. But there is help available.

I have taken a few courses such as Anatomy and Physiology I and Chemistry that completely intimidated me. Unfortunately, I had to take A and P over again because I gave up too early. I felt as if there was no way that I was going to understand the material.

Luckily my second time around, I was enrolled in a course that had Supplemental Instruction. I had no idea what it was but from the description I thought: Here is my chance to pass this class.

Supplemental Instruction, also called SI, is basically extra study sessions taught by a leader who has already done well in the class. It's all students, not instructors. My first meeting was awesome. I was with like-minded peers that all had the same issue: We needed to pass. My SI leader knew what to expect in each chapter.

We, as a group, went over notes, different ways of memorization, and exam preparation. It was mind blowing to me that I was making the course a lot harder than it should have been. With a new perspective, I realized it didn't have to be that hard.

SI Leader Jamie DeWilde
Supplemental Instruction (SI) takes a unique approach to academic support. Rather than targeting students who are at risk, the program identifies high risk courses, often those taken by beginning students. The key to the whole thing is peer-to-peer interaction.

The goal is to help students master course content while they develop and integrate learning and study strategies. Generally, students who participate in SI sessions earn higher course grades and stay with courses at a higher rate than non-SI participants.

I was lucky enough to catch up with Jamie DeWilde right before she was heading to her first class where she is an SI Leader. She's a busy woman.

"It is great to get a better understanding of the class that you are in," DeWilde said. "A great benefit to SI is that it is peer to peer not student to teacher, you are just more comfortable."

James Davis gave me a vision of what goes on during his SI sessions.
James Davis says he wants to make SI fun.

"I begin each session with limitless motivation and relaxation. I like to use interactive media such as uploading a graph or an animation. We play Jeopardy and Family Feud to keep it interesting," said Davis.

Jamie and James both brought up a new tool that is being used. It's called WebEX, an online chat room that a student is invited to join. They can participate in an SI session, without having to be in the room.

Not every class offers SI. But for those that do offer SI, anyone in the class who wants the extra help, can get it. A student does not necessarily have to be failing or doing poorly to participate. Sometimes it is just nice being in the same room with peers who are hitting the same obstacles as you are.

SI is available not only in A and P but also history, business, and even chemistry.

You can contact the SI leader in your classroom or your professor. If you are unable to find an SI leader, contact Toni Murad, Supplemental Instruction Coordinator at 615-230-4757.

Also check out the link to the Supplemental Instruction page

Friday, September 6, 2013

Meet an Ambassador

Vol State President's Ambassadors represent the college in public functions and by giving tours. It's part of a very competitive scholarship program. Let's meet one of your Vol State Ambassadors for this year, Lucas Stewart:

When a high school senior thinks of college, they think of the big universities, glitz and glamor; a huge campus you could get lost on, full of thousands of people you do not know, and most likely never will.  When a new high school graduate thinks of community college the same things do not appear; the perception of community colleges is not so glamorous in up and coming students. After graduation, I had dreams of attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; community college had not even crossed my mind. I believed I was ready to conquer the world as a young, know-it-all eighteen year-old. I could not have been more wrong. 

The summer continued to fly by, and eventually I made it through UTC's weekend orientation. Orientation was fantastic. I saw many of my friends from high school, loved the campus, the clubs, and all of the activities they had to offer. Orientation also led me to ponder if UTC was the best choice. I began to realize that for the first time in my life, I would be entirely on my own; paying for my own things, cooking my own meals, struggling to manage time between friends, going out, school, and church. Suddenly I felt overwhelmed. There were numerous issues that could hinder me from doing my absolute best. I voiced my worries to my mother, who started her college education at a community college. She mentioned the possibility of staying at home and attending Vol State, at least for a semester. Community college, having to live at home while all my friends were wild and free, did not seem like it would be the most fun. Financially it made sense, though, and I knew staying home would only give me more time to mature. 

I applied to Vol State in June (much to the surprise of my friends in Chattanooga). I attended new student orientation and registration in July, and was ready for classes to begin in August. Shortly before classes began, I got a job at the UPS hub in Nashville. Staying home gave me the opportunity to attend school, work, and also grow more self-sufficient. As classes began, and I learned more about Vol State, my whole perception of the community college system changed. Vol State has tremendous professors, the administration is easy going and extremely helpful, and the school offers a wide variety of clubs activities, degrees, certificates, and travel study. These are things that the majority of my friends believed you could only find at large universities. I joined the Honors Program and attended several student events throughout the year. I knew I had made the correct choice. The college experience is not found exclusively at a university. Vol State has so much to offer to their students, and deciding to attend Vol State has prepared me not only for transfer to university but for my professional career after school. 

-Lucas Stewart 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Check Out What's Cooking At The Vol State Grill

Cashier, Nacole Richard helps a student with her transaction
Ahhh…the school cafeteria, a bane of college student life. In the past, this term conjured up images of stale pizza, mystery meat stews and the wilted salad bars. Today, campus dining halls offer everything from premium burgers to vegetarian meal options. Haven’t been to our school’s cafeteria lately? Well, stop by and check it out. You may soon find that a campus meal plan is not only more affordable, but more delicious and healthy as well.

For those of you that visit, the Vol State Grill may be a regular stop in your campus routine. But others may not even know that we have a restaurant on campus. Paul and Abby Fields own the Grill and they say they're constantly working to revamp the menu to meet student needs.

Paul and his team want you to have a dining experience that is fun, relaxing, and enjoyable. Menus will include fresh whole fruit, salad bars with a variety of toppings, home-baked items, deli bar, and a wide selection of entrees at each meal

The Grill is open for breakfast starting at 7:30 a.m. They have a breakfast bar filled with scrambled eggs,bacon, sausage, and even pancakes. Or you could grab a bagel and some fruit to start your day.

Students can receive "cook to order" options
If you're health conscious, you don't have to dive into all those carbs. Also, a fresh salad bar that has a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are available. They have products like Muscle Milk and a wide variety of protein and energy bars, such as the Clif Bar.

"Our food is cooked fresh daily," Fields says. "From the hot bar to the salad bar everything is prepared fresh and even perhaps a more healthier version of any drive-thru."

For the student that is in a hurry, the grab-n-go section has items such as corn dogs, pizza, and onion rings ready for your enjoyment.

They even have fresh subs. Partner that with the condiment bar, that allows you to be your own sandwich artist.

"One thing I started doing last year is the turkey that is on the subs sandwiches are fresh. They are seasoned and prepared here in our kitchen", Fields said.

If you are looking for a home -style type meal, you can receive a meat and three type of lunch. Items such as grilled chicken, country fried steak, and lasagna are prepared daily.

The manager lunch special is offered daily for $6.25. A meat, partnered with two vegetables, including a drink and a roll.

Charles Payne enjoying a quick bite before class
I met second year student, Charles Payne in the dining area and asked him how he likes the food and service.

"I like that it has a restaurant type of feel to it, I can order pretty much whatever I want."

"The prices are very reasonable and they have great choices. I mix up my meals every time I am in here."

I asked Payne if he had a favorite item and he responded with a big smile." I love everything here but if I had to choose, I'd choose the Philly cheese steak."

Located in the Wood Campus Center, there is an entrance across the hall from Student Services. The Vol State Grill is open Monday-Friday 7:30am until 4:00pm.