Thursday, August 29, 2019

Renovations Give Warf a Complete Makeover

I speak from experience when I say the old Warf Math and Science Building on the Gallatin campus was narrower, dingier, and there were no real areas for students to relax.  The new Warf, after a year of renovations, is much more welcoming.
Freshman Danny Dean

The first thing you notice about the renovations are the aesthetic changes, like added student lounges, updated safety functions and a new, modern look.  “The renovations make [Vol State] look more modern, more up-to-date… not like you’re in prison,” said freshman Danny Dean.

Before renovations, Warf was a little cramped for students and faculty.  The renovations opened up the hallways, created more spaces for students to relax.  
Sophomore Harley Keene
“It’s all new, so everything is clean and fresh,” said sophomore Harley Keene, “The design is nice!  I think it definitely gives everyone a lot more room.  I think the faculty is definitely happy to have new offices and that the students aren’t as spread out.”

Warf is the oldest building on campus, as it was originally constructed in the 1970s.  The 2018-2019 renovations included necessary updates designed to benefit students and faculty.  “We’ve put a lot of thought into the way things ought to be, rather than the way an architect back in the 70s designed the building,” said Tom Ekman, dean of Math and Science. 

Sophomore Haley Cook in one of Warf's student lounges.
A few of the most notable renovations included new office spaces for faculty, a 6,000 square-foot Mechatronics wing, modernized laboratories, and more rooms like classrooms and labs. 

Dean of Math and Science Tom Ekman
“We’ve got more space, the space we had is more functional than it used to be.  Everybody is very, very pleased with the new environment….  Faculty were crammed into very small office spaces, and several folks were in two or three-person offices, which does not get the kind of privacy you want when advising or focusing on grading.  Many of the laboratories were very old, in terms of the furniture that was in there, and almost all of that has been replaced,” said Ekman.

-Gloria Cortes

Students: Three Things to Do Now

We're launched into the semester. If you do these three things you'll be off to a great start!

-Buy all of your required textbooks. If you are waiting on a refund you can read textbooks at the library in the meantime. Ask at the library front desk. Don't get behind on readings.

-Keep a master calendar of all of your big assignments and keep checking the course schedule for each class.
-Work ahead on the bigger assignments, especially research projects. Visit the Thigpen Library for help starting research.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Commit to Completion

We have Commit to Completion flags up on our campuses for the start of the semester. They're intended to set a tone for the coming school-year and remind you why you are here. Committing to Completion means that you will earn your degree or certificate. It's most important to remember that commitment when times get tough, as they inevitably will. We'll have posters on all of the campuses over the next two weeks that you can sign to show your commitment.
Here are a few ideas to help you do well in your classes:
-Attend all of your class meetings. College courses move quickly and skipping classes will cause you to fall behind.
-Keep looking ahead on the course schedule for each class you take. Work ahead on assignments if you can.
-Talk to your instructor if you don't understand something or if you need help. They're not here to give you extensions or allow you to get out of work. They are here to help you learn and succeed. Don't be embarrassed about not understanding something....that's why you're here and that's why we're here.
-Get extra help. We have a number of free academic support services available to all students. Those services will really help you as the semester piles up with assignments and papers. We've collected the services in one list that we call the "College Success Zone." You can view the list of free services here:
You can do this. We will help. Commit to college completion.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Vol State Events this Week

August 26            Classes Start
August 26            Ongoing: CHEC Art Exhibit: Barbara Martorello, Lobby Hall, All Semester
August 26            ART Gallery: Heather and Jeffrey Jones, SRB First Floor, through Sept. 19
Aug. 26-29           Free Coffee and Donuts, Diversity and Inclusion, Wood Center 217, 8am-10:30am
August 27            Coffee with the Prez, free coffee with Vol State President, SRB 2nd Floor Hallway, 7:45am-9:45am
August 27            SGA Ice Cream Social, free ice cream and soda, Nichols Dining B, 12:45pm-1:45pm
August 27            CHEC SGA Ice Cream Social, free ice cream and soda, Cody Hall, 12:30-1:30pm
August 28            CAB Café at CHEC: Board Games Day, Atrium, 10am-2pm
August 28            Meet the Teach Concert, faculty perform, SRB 151, 3pm-4:30pm
August 28            Evening Grab and Go, dinner for evening students, Wood Campus Hallway, 5-6pm
August 29            CAB Café: The Arcade, old school arcade games and free lunch, Nichols Dining B 11:30am-1pm
Sept. 2                  Labor Day: No Classes, All campus locations closed

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Parking Tips and New Sidewalks

Half the battle of getting through the first couple weeks of school is finding the best, most efficient parking places and ways to get to class.  By 7:45 a.m., it seems like every parking spot is taken, and by the time you finally find a parking spot, you’re almost running late to class.  However, recent renovations to the back entrance area can help you get to class quicker, safer, and easier.

Last semester, there was sidewalk construction and other renovations taking place near the back campus entrance.  Now, there’s a new sidewalk that stretches from parking lot K, between lots D and E, and leading to the SRB area.  The spots closest to the main buildings are always filled first, so try to park in the back entrance lots off of Enterprise Drive (Greenlea Blvd.) and walk a little bit further to class if you’re in a rush or if it seems like most of the closer lots are filled.  Using the back entrance makes it easier to get to the parking lots than using the main entrance on Nashville Pike.

There is a gravel lot across from the Fox Maintenance Building that’s used as an overflow parking area.  Make sure you’re parking in a valid parking spot, or campus police might give you a ticket!  Be sure to not park in the gravel lot closest to the back entrance, because it’s not used for overflow parking.  Before you start classes, make sure that you have your parking pass located in the lower left-hand corner of your car’s back windshield.  If you still don’t have it, you can find information for parking registration at 

While knowing where to park always helps, getting to campus early and giving yourself enough time to calmly find a spot and get class will help transitioning into the fall semester less stressful. 

-Gloria Cortes

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Tips for New Students

Welcome to Vol State! Classes start the week of August 26. The start of fall classes is an exciting time, but also a really busy time. Here are a few tips for those first few days of classes:

1. Print up your schedule at home so you have it ready to go, before you get to campus. If you have a class scheduled for Livingston, CHEC, Cookeville, Springfield or Highland- those are different campuses, in different cities, not buildings. If you still don’t have a room assignment for a class, make sure it is not an online section unless that is what you intended. Online courses have a C in the course number. Contact the Division Office for that class if you have a question about location.
2. Print up a Gallatin campus map to help you get around those first few days.
The other campuses are in one building. If you have questions, ask at the front desk.
3. Give yourself extra time for traffic and parking. It may seem a bit crazy the first couple of weeks; don't worry- parking and traffic both calm down later in the semester.
4. Give yourself extra time to find classes.
5. Ask for directions or help. The faculty and staff will be happy to assist.
6. Attend all of your classes. Missing a class can put you behind. If you do have to miss a class, be sure to let the instructor know, check the course schedule, and do the assignments. Attendance during the first week is mandatory for you to receive financial aid. You won’t get a financial aid refund unless your attendance is taken.
7. Have fun and enjoy college! We have many campus events planned this year, so stay tuned to social media and the calendar on the front page of our website for details:

TRIO Start to Finish

Many Vol State students need guidance during college- not just class advising, but resources, mentors and support systems as well.  There’s a college program to help meet your needs: TRIO.

TRIO is a program federally funded by the U.S. Department of Education that provides student support services to students who are:
·         Low-income
·         Disabled
·         First-generation college students

The program’s goal is to help students graduate or transfer to universities.  Not only do they provide academic advising and tutoring, they offer culturally-enriching field trips, class tools and equipment, financial literacy, career opportunities, and much more.

“They make the transfer path really seamless for students,” said alumna Rachel Keyes, “I’ve sat down with [TRIO program coordinator] Jean Colello for hours, just looking at specific courses, researching scholarship opportunities and grants, and other ways to maximize my university experience.”  TRIO is also concerned about their students’ holistic college experience, which includes community involvement and communicating with faculty.  “[TRIO] has been my solid support system through everything.  They really encouraged and motivated me to keep moving forward when I wanted to give up.  I’ve gone to them for some of the most difficult challenges in my personal life, and they really opened my eyes to the possibilities I have as a student when I limited myself in my own thinking…. Whether it be for academic or personal stuff, they’ve been my family [at Vol State].”

Program applications are accepted throughout the year, but there are limited openings, so students may be put on a waiting list.  Interested students should stop by the TRIO Student Support Services in the Wood Campus Center, call them at (615) 230-3732, or visit for more information. 

-Gloria Cortes

Monday, August 19, 2019

3 Tips for Incoming Freshmen

Welcome to Volunteer State Community College, freshmen!  Does the thought of entering this new chapter of your life make you feel slightly anxious?  To help calm your nerves, here are some sophomore tips to get you through your first year of college:

1    1.) Stay focused on success, and come to class prepared and ready to learn. 

Try to get the most out of your classes, even the required ones that don’t really interest you- make sure you regularly go to class!  As the saying goes, “Knowledge is power,” so having a “bare minimum” mindset only puts yourself at a disadvantage.  The number-one beneficiary of getting an education is you, so why wouldn’t you want the best for yourself when it’s so achievable?

2    2.) Establish good connections with your teachers. 

Needless to say, use good manners when communicating with your teachers, and don’t be afraid to ask them for help or to actively participate in class.  This shows that you actually care about your work in that class, and teachers always appreciate that quality in students.  Speaking from my personal teaching experiences, watching your students grow and care about what they’re learning is such a gratifying aspect of the job.  Also, some faculty have participation grades in their classes, so if you don’t want to talk for the connection itself, at least do it for a good grade.

3    3.) Get involved at Volunteer State Community College!

Everyone appreciates having friends and good college experiences.  There are plenty of ways to make friends and memories at Vol State.  Visit the office of Student Engagement and Support for information about clubs to join or events to attend.  There’s almost always something going on, and you can find out more by checking out, following Vol State’s social media, and reading The Settler, Vol State’s student newspaper.  Whether it be simply talking to your classmates or going to an event, make your college experiences something worth reminiscing about later on down the road. 

Remember, college is all about making mistakes and growing because of them.  Take a deep breath.  You can do this.

-Gloria Cortes

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Wesley Bray

Vol State alumnus Wesley Bray's passion for people and law recently earned him the title of criminal court judge to the 13th Judicial District of Tennessee.

“That means that I am the trial level judge for seven counties in the 13th Judicial District. It’s the largest geographic district in the state and there’s never a shortage of things to do,” he said.
Wesley got the phone call from Governor Bill Lee the morning of July 8th. By that afternoon, he was sworn in. The next day he was in the judge’s office working.
“I really enjoy the job. I promised everyone that if I got the appointment I’d be ready to go on day one and I held true to that. That’s what the governor appointed me to do and that’s what the people expect of their judge. So that’s what I’m here doing.”

Wesley worked as a private attorney for over fourteen years before stepping into his new role. He’s currently in the process of closing down his law practice.
“It’s been a really good thing so far. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s a different pace, it’s different than private practice. I’m just looking to help people of the 13th district.”

Backtracking a bit, he began his college experience in 1993 as a senior in high school through Vol State's Interactive TV Program, which allowed him to take virtual classes. He transferred to Tennessee Tech University to study psychology and eventually went on to the Nashville School of Law.

“[Law] was something I had always been interested in and I wanted a job where I could be my own boss, where I could help people with their problems, and law is just where I fell … I’ve always been a people person. I’ve always been interested in people and I’ve always been interested in politics.”

Wesley recognized Vol State’s Livingston Center Director, Mike Powell, for initially putting him “on a good path” in his education. “I really appreciate the work that Mike Powell has done for years for the people of this area,” he said.

Wesley shared his current plans for his future: “I plan to settle into my role as a criminal court judge and continue to raise my family and be involved in the Upper Cumberland community where we have lived our entire lives.”

-By Rachel Keyes

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Meet Vol State's New Social Media Writer

Hello, Volunteer State Community College!  I’m Gloria Cortes, Vol State’s new social media writer and a sophomore majoring in mass communications. 

Reading and writing are two of my favorite pastimes, so for the last two semesters, I worked at Vol State’s student newspaper, The Settler.  When I’m not going to class or working as a writer, I teach high school marching band percussion.  I thought this new writing position would combine things I enjoy with a new environment that would challenge and cultivate my skills.  As most people have experienced, working with others can sometimes be stressful and dreadful, but through my experiences as a writer, teacher and student, I found a passion for helping people.  The purpose of this blog is to inform and entertain viewers about Vol State, so don’t be afraid to comment your opinions, suggestions, or experiences.  As an online voice for Vol State, any feedback from members of its community would be greatly appreciated.  You can send any story ideas to

With the help and guidance of my teachers and those who believed in me, I’ve matured as a writer and young adult, but like any other college student, I still make mistakes and have room to improve.  I’m looking forward to writing about and growing with you, Vol State.  Good luck with the upcoming school year, and go Pioneers!- Gloria Cortes

Vol State Professor Shares Passion for Mathematics

Imagine having the ability to mentally calculate the gravitational force of a falling rock at six years old. To Vol State math professor Jonathan Kenigson, this is just how he spent his typical childhood afternoons.

“It was just evident that I’d be a mathematician, there was no question about it. I always knew I wanted to teach math. I’d make my parents sit through after dinner lectures that I’d construct, and they’d get worksheets and stuff. They’d have to watch the lecture and fill in notes and things,” he said.

Both Jonathan and his twin sister Jessica were homeschooled and excelled in their studies from a young age. They entered Vol State as students at thirteen years old and quickly became tutors in New Skills, the predecessor of the Learning Commons.

“That’s where I learned how to teach, it’s the best training you could get,” Jonathan said. After attaining their associate’s degrees at sixteen years old, the twins went on to the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Jonathan designed his own undergraduate degree, specializing in Mathematics and Comparative Religion. Additionally, Jonathan was also fascinated with cosmology, the science of the origin and development of the universe.

“Math opens the door to understanding the cosmos. I always wanted to understand how the cosmos functions. And so I said, ‘I need enough math to be able to understand the best currently existing theories of the world of the universe.’”

From UTK, Jonathan went on to graduate school at the 
University of Sofia in Bulgaria, attaining a dual master's in Mathematics and Philosophy. Most recently, he has completed his Ph.D. online through Sofia with two concentrations: Philosophy of Mathematics and Philosophy of Cosmology.

“A fairly large piece of my dissertation is a mathematical journey through f(R) gravity’s predictions of what a black hole would be like. My dissertation is called Mathematics and Mathesis. I try to determine that mathematics ultimately has an empirical foundation, that mathematics is based in practice. Now I’m just looking for post-docs, probably in Ukraine. Nothing has changed, I’ll never stop.”

Jonathan has been affiliated with Vol State for over twenty years now. Since becoming a professor in 2017, he’s formulated a black hole research group for students, which he hopes to make more formal and documented in the near future.

“The reason I do this is because so many people hate math. I want to teach them that it
s perfectly possible to do well in math and to have a great mathematical understanding even as an average guy. There’s this idea that math is somehow for this elect remnant of people and I think that’s a big lie. I think anybody can do math if they’re taught with compassion and conviction and if they really try. I think that the average person has enormous mathematical potential that they just can’t see. It’s my job to open that up for them.”

Teaching math just seems to be encoded in his DNA. Since he’ll be able to complete his post-doc research online, Jonathan plans to continue teaching at Vol State for the long haul.

-By Rachel Keyes

Monday, August 12, 2019

Alumni Spotlight: Jo Boileau

From Vol State student to Purdue University's student body president, Jo Boileau sums up his success in one word: Grind. That's the singular word I use to describe being where I am,” he said. “I took a path I wasn't expecting to take, was humbled greatly, and when I got to this world-class institution, I knew I wasn't about to let the opportunities here pass me by.”        Since becoming student body president, his primary role has been to serve as a conduit between students and the administration. “Most importantly I would say, it’s our job to communicate our vision as students with the students,” he said. Jo majors in Political Science with an emphasis on International Relations and minors in Environmental Global Politics. He graduated Vol State in December 2017 and began at Purdue the following January. “At Vol State, I declared as [a] Political Science [major]. I’ve always had an interest in government. For a long time, I wasn’t sure where that interest was going to take me.”

Prior to becoming student body president in April 2019, Jo completed a summer internship in New York City for the United Nations with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a small Pacific country that is on the verge of disappearing as a result of climate change. The Marshall Islands have been near and dear to his heart since he first represented them in high school with Model United Nations, an educational simulation of the UN where students learn about diplomacy, international relations, and the UN as a whole.

At the UN I was an environmental policy and climate initiative intern ... I was helping them work on sustainability pathway documents that were up for a midterm review last year, which was super cool.”
Jo seems to have a solid passion for making the world a better place. My passion for solving problems comes from a burning desire to leave things better off than I found them. As cliché as that sounds, it's true. I realized a long time ago that I'm fortunate to be able to get an education, and to be in the positions I'm in, so I better use them to uplift the people around me who otherwise don't have those opportunities or equitable access to the means to achieve their dreams.”
Jo has traveled to Columbia with Purdue’s Model UN team and recently returned from a stint in Poland with General Electric this past July. There he worked with GE and the Polish government to study sustainable energy practices of Eastern Europe. I owe so much to my professors at Vol State for helping get me in the right headspace, and for helping to fuel my drive when I didn't even know which gear to be in. Professors Scott McMillan, Carole Bucy, and David Fuqua had incredibly profound impacts on me, and I credit them so much for getting me where I am today.”
Jo continues to carve his own path through this world. Who knows where your own path will lead you. -By Rachel Keyes