Monday, June 30, 2014

The Talents of Our Student Veterans

I had the pleasure of sitting down with a group of Vol State student veterans last week. The experience reminded me of the incredible talents that student veterans bring to the college...talents that may go unnoticed, unless you take the time to engage in a conversation about their service. I chatted with a nuclear power specialist from an attack sub, a helicopter mechanic and a recruiter. They have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and many points across the globe. It gives them a global perspective that most of us don't have, and that's a real asset to the college. Their reasons for coming to Vol State, and what they hope to do with their degrees, are also interesting.  We'll be telling their stories over the coming months. Today, we share with you the story of Laura Freeman.

After tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne, you would figure that Laura Freeman of Nashville would be ready for anything. But arriving at college provided some anxiety for the Army mechanic.

“I was worried. I thought that everyone would be so much younger than me,” she said. “It was not as bad as I thought. Ken was a huge help. He made things a lot easier. Having been in the military himself, he had a good understanding.”

Ken Hanson is the Veteran Affairs coordinator at Vol State. He works with student veterans to help them through the VA benefits process and their college career.

Laura fractured her hip in Iraq. No matter how she tried, the ailment only got worse. She eventually had a medical retirement. Vol State offers a range of academic options for students, but many veterans know exactly what they want to do.

“I’m going to try to transfer to Cornell or Tufts,” Freeman said. “I’m going to eventually become a veterinarian.”

Those are two of the top veterinary programs in the nation. Laura knows from her Army career that learning is something she can do well.

“I was in the first graduating class of the Eagle Language Training Center. I speak Pashtun. It’s one of the dominant languages used in Eastern Afghanistan.”

Laura is taking biology, chemistry and many of the other pre-medical foundation courses that also apply to pre-veterinary students. She stresses that while college is different, there are some things similar to the military.

“It was comforting, actually, being back in the swing of things with a set schedule. It reminds me of being in the Army.”

For more information about Veterans Affairs at Vol State visit

Friday, June 27, 2014

2014-2015 Catalog Now Available

The Vol State Catalog shows the academic programs we offer and the classes required for those programs. It also has the most up to date information about all sorts of academic issues. The new version for 2014-2015 is now available online.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Fond Farewell to Betty

Friends and family gathered in the Ramer Building on Tuesday to wish Betty Gibson well, as she heads into retirement. This is Betty's last week at the college. Did you notice that I didn't say colleagues earlier? There's a reason for that. The people that work here value her as a dedicated Vol State employee and a woman who helped to run the college in some respects, while serving three different presidents. But we also consider Betty to be a friend. To work with such passion and precision and still have so many friends is a testament to her character. As Dr. Faulkner mentioned in his speech at Betty's party, we are her legacy, as we carry out work serving students and the institution. 

The finale of the event was the presentation of a picture of Betty and Dr. Ramer together. And then Betty spoke, reciting the theme from the "Golden Girls" TV show: "Thank-you for being a friend."

Pictures tell the story best. But if you are not aware of her career here, we have a brief biography. Some of these words can be found in the state proclamation honoring Betty that was presented to her by State Rep. William Lamberth.

Betty Gibson began working at Volunteer State Community College on July 1, 1972 as secretary in the Planning, Federal Programs and Institutional Research Office, just a few months after the Gallatin campus officially opened.  She began working for the founding president of Vol State, Dr. Hal R. Ramer in 1976. 

She was promoted to Administrative Assistant to the President on July 1, 1981. She worked with Dr. Ramer for 27 years. Dr. Ramer named a building after her before he retired. Betty Gibson Hall is located on the east side of campus.  She went on to serve two more presidents, Dr. Warren Nichols and Dr. Jerry Faulkner, in her 42 years of service to the college. She received the Outstanding Professional Staff Award in 2003.

Gibson has been with the college through a time of great expansion and change. The first class at Vol State had just 581 students. In the fall semester of 2013, the college had 8,153 students enrolled. Gibson was a student herself at Vol State, graduating in 1983 with an Associate of Science degree in General Business Administration.

Betty Gibson was born in Lebanon, Tennessee on October 22, 1941. Her father was Cleveland Stewart and her mother is Lois Stewart. She graduated from Lebanon High School in 1959.  She married Steve Gibson in 1960 and moved to Gallatin. She has a daughter, Jenny and a son, Randall. She has three grandchildren, Cole, Cody and Bayleigh.

Betty Gibson has served the students, faculty and staff at Vol State with dedication and enthusiasm. Her depth of knowledge about the institution has proven to be invaluable over the years. No matter what challenges the college has faced, Betty Gibson could be relied upon as a steadying influence and a shining example of the Vol State spirit of service to students and the community.

Ophthalmic Students Provide the Gift of Sight in Guatemala

Vol State Ophthalmic students and faculty members are back from another successful mission of hope and vision. For the last eight years, students and faculty have have been traveling to Guatemala each spring to conduct eye tests and fit donated glasses for kids and adults. It's part of a medical mission trip organized by the Hendersonville Rotary and Dr. David Black. This year, the ophthalmic folks saw over 500 people and examined at least 200 children. For some of the children and adults, the gift of eye tests and glasses allow them to clearly see for the first time in their lives. 

The trip is also an incredible learning opportunity for the students, those who make the trip and even those who work here at home. It takes months to test the hundreds of donated glasses here in Gallatin and get them ready for fitting. Kudos to the Ophthalmic program for another amazing Service Learning project.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Register for Fall - Commit to Getting Your Degree

You have a much, much better chance of getting a college degree if you keep going. Statistics show that taking a semester off, and lengthening the time it takes to complete a college degree, often leads to the end of a college career, without a degree. If you're a current Vol State student, it's time to get registered for fall. If you have been out for the while, it's time to make a commitment to return. It only take a few minutes to fill out a readmit application on the Admissions web page. We want to see you succeed!

Here are some more sobering stats. Most community college students take several classes that they don't need for their degree. That also increases the rate of students dropping out of college, because of time and money wasted. It's important to have a clear path through college. That means setting up a degree plan with your advisor and sticking to that plan. We have tools that can help. Check out DegreeWorks on your My Vol State page under academics. It can show you exactly what classes you need to take for your particular degree. But don't use it alone- be sure to see your academic advisor each semester to make sure you are on track.