Vol State diversity and inclusion manager headed to Wisconsin

 

By Tayla Courage

Dr. Kenny Yarbrough, manager of diversity and inclusion, is packing up his office at Volunteer State Community College after accepting a position at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.

He will be joining the Warhawk faculty as its chief equity diversity and inclusion officer.

Prepping for a move north has not been a simple task, according to Yarbrough, who is simultaneously in the process of completing his fifth academic degree.

“It’s a lot. Unpacking, packing, trying to find a house, and then I have to go home and try to work on chapter three. It’s something that nobody else can do but me, so it’s staring at the computer for days and days, and commiserating like you have got to get this done,” he said.

Having been open for just over a year, the Office of Student Life and Diversity Initiatives is a newer addition to Vol State. It is responsible for coordinating educational trainings and events aimed at identifying various diversity and inclusion issues that exist on and off campus.

He described his time at Vol State as “very educational” and “a growing process.”

“It has helped me to really determine the type of work that I want to continue to do,” said Yarbrough.

While he is unsure of who will be filling the role of manager in his absence, Yarbrough said he is hopeful that the momentum will continue with the aid of faculty members who have become “practitioners of diversity and inclusion.”

“We have wonderful faculty who really have taken an interest in this. I’m hoping that whoever they get to find as my replacement will be able to touch base with those persons and continue the work that I have started here.”

Dr. Michael Torrence, assistant vice president of academic affairs, acknowledged Yarbrough’s “exceptional” role at Vol State and congratulates him on his future endeavors.

“His willingness to connect with students and provide guidance, leadership, and a listening ear will be missed. However, he has a wonderful opportunity ahead of him, and he will be successful,” wrote Torrence.

Dr. Melva Black, chair of the communication department, furthered this sentiment with the Booker T. Washington quote: “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

He has worked tirelessly to build awareness, understanding, and compassion among people of diverse backgrounds. Dr. Yarbrough’s contributions have been thoughtful and selfless, which is essential for identifying and pursuing avenues to serve and uplift those with whom he has worked in academia and the community. 

“He leaves a poignant legacy for all to emulate,” wrote Black.

In his concluding words, Yarbrough thanked Vol State for allowing him the opportunity to interact and potentially influence students, who he defines as “the life blood of any institution.”

 

Vol State students sent false email about registration holds

 

By Lauren Whitaker

Volunteer State Community College students under the Tennessee Promise Grant were lied to about holds placed on their account to force them to meet with an adviser to register for fall classes.

Targeted students received an email in April when registration opened. This email was from Dasha Harris, the project coordinator for the Tennessee Promise Forward Grant.

The email told the student that they were receiving it because the student received a letter grade of C or below in one or more of their courses. The email further communicated to the student in bold that they would not be permitted to register for classes until they had met with an advisor.

“Vol State wanted to use their Tennessee Promise Forward Grant for a proactive advising initiative for Tennessee Promise students to have mandatory second year advising as well as advising if they don’t do well in a course,” Harris said. “The holds that were put on registration is from the Forward Grant. We actually didn’t put any holds on students’ accounts, so no one has received a hold from this grant yet.”

The email was sent out before it was decided that holds would not be put on the targeted students’ accounts.

“Two or three weeks later, I sent a follow-up email that just said, ‘Hey, just a follow-up. We would like you to meet with your advisor. It is mandatory advising. I know you don’t have a hold on your account right now,’” Harris said.

Harris then retracted her statement. “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say there was no hold on your account,” she said.

Harris decided to leave students believing there was a hold on their account because she wanted students to take advising seriously she said.

“Honestly, I had already scheduled to meet with my advisor I think a week before I got the email,” said Nick Kieser, a second semester freshman at Vol State who received the email.

Kieser was confused by what made him need to meet with his advisor.

“It caught me off guard. I thought it was biased for making an effort over one class I could possibly be doing bad in. It wasn’t a positive reinforcement,” Kieser said.

Kieser never received a follow-up email from Harris.  

Faulkner commended at county luncheon

By Lauren Whitaker

Dr. Jerry Faulkner, president of Volunteer State Community College, was commended at the State of the County Luncheon held by the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce Thursday, April 12.

Faulkner was praised by Del Phillips III, the director of Sumner County schools, during the commerce luncheon for his efforts to include and encourage adult students.

“I commend Dr. Faulkner on the progress being made at Vol State, and the advantages of dual enrollment available to students in high school now. High school students that choose, will be able to choose to graduate from high school and Vol State, at the same time,” said Phillips

Phillips also commended Faulkner on the expected attendance coming in the fall due to the Tennessee Reconnect Program.

The Tennessee Reconnect Program will allow adult students to attend college at no cost.

Phillips spoke about the many improvements Faulkner has seen at Vol State.

Parking has had to be expanded due to the number of students enrolling and attendance numbers are growing.

Library hosting finals events

 

By Presley Green

As students near the end of the semester, finals are looming like a storm cloud. Volunteer State Community College offers some small solutions to really take the edge off finals.

Pet Therapy will be in the Thigpen Library lobby April 30 and May 1, from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Tashi, the dog on flyers all over campus, will be there with her owner Debbie.

Vol State will also be hosting Feasting Toward Finals in the Thigpen Library, Tuesday, April 24 from 4-6 p.m. This event is being offered so students can take a quick break from studying for finals to enjoy free pizza, cookies and coffee, provided by Thigpen Library.

Retiring professor built college music program

 

By Ashley Perham

James Story, Volunteer State Community College music professor, is retiring after spending 40 years as a music educator on the kindergarten through college levels.

Story was born and raised in Tennessee and grew up in Greeneville, Tennessee.

He started playing piano when he was around 13. By age 15, he was playing for church.

Story also used his music skills in another way as a teenager.

“I had a little rock band when I was 16. It was a bunch of us neighborhood boys got together and we just jammed,” he said.

The band would play at sock hops at the Negro Women’s Civic Club.

“We played a lot of Motown songs and tried to do dance tunes,” he said.

“My most influential teacher would have to be Mr. Gene Proffitt. He really sparked an interest in me in the sixth grade of learning music formally,“ said Story.

Story, who went to an all-black school through his seventh grade year, remembered Proffitt coming to teach band and telling the parents that participating in band could “bridge those gaps of racial divide” students might experience once they were integrated into a white school.

“And he was definitely right,” said Story.

Proffitt made Story the first black drum major of his high school in Greeneville. The experience gave Story confidence he could use in all areas of his life.

“To put me out front, as a young black kid in a predominantly white situation, that inspired me that I could do anything as far as leadership abilities or musical abilities because he trusted that I was good enough to be the leader of a band post-integration,” said Story.

Story attended Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville, Tennessee, and received his bachelor’s degree in music education in 1977.

Story was again selected to be the drum major for the marching band at Tennessee Tech, the first African-American drum major in the university’s history.

“There were only 14 black kids on the entire campus when I went there so to have that honor of leading the Tennessee Tech marching band was a huge honor,” he said.

After graduating, Story’s first job was teaching the high school, jr. high and middle school band and choral programs in White House, Tennessee.

“I had the entire music program from the sixth grade to the high school, both band and choir,” said Story.

Story also worked at Gallatin High School with the jr. high and high school bands and choirs.

In 1986, Story received a fellowship to Austin Peay State University. He took a year off teaching to get his master’s degree in music education.

In 1997, Dr. Hal Ramer, the first president of Vol State, and Dr. Charles Lee recruited Story to come to Vol State and establish the music program.

At the time, the school had one teacher, one adjunct member, and two music majors. Story built the entire curriculum and program from where it was in 1997 to where it is today.

“I think it was my brain child because I had the opportunity to develop this program as it is today,” he said.

“I had the support of the administration to allow me to be creative in creating curriculum for the Vol State music department,” he said.

When Story started working at Vol State, there was no recording studio, so any recording projects had to be done outside the school. Eventually, the school renovated Pickel Field House for more music space and built a recording studio in the Ramer Administration Building.

“We were promised a new humanities building in 1999, and we waited this long just to get a new humanities building with a lot of space and practice rooms,” he said.

“I couldn’t retire until I saw the new building.”

Story worked in the public schools for 19 years and at Vol State for 21 years.

Story is also involved in music outside Vol State. He has conducted several community theater productions, several band and choral association events and the choir and orchestra at his church.

He also has a jazz ensemble called 2nd Story Rhythm that gets together to have fun and play for local parties.

Story mentioned Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong as some of his musical inspirations.

“They made an indelible impression on music history and they were successful before black artists were popular to be successful in the business because they had to go through racism and they had to go through their struggles going to the back door and things of that sort, prejudicial things. In spite of all the socio-economic things they had to go through, they rose to the top, and they were successful in their field,” he said.

Story said he still has a lot of hopes and dreams. His church choir has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in December. He said the honor of getting to conduct or perform on that stage would be a huge bucket list item.

He also looks forward to taking the things he’s learned about producing Vol State projects and producing some individual recording projects in the coming years.

“Retirement is pretty much a misnomer to me. A retirement from education is just me taking what I’ve learned over the last 40 years and redirecting those energies and reinventing music on a different level than K through higher ed,” he said.

“I don’t look at it as resting. I look at it as reinventing,” Story said.

Story said that seeing how students perform in live venues and the studio is what he will miss most about teaching at Vol State.

“I’ll miss that part to see students develop their natural abilities behind a microphone or to see how they perform on the stage of the shows that we’ve done. There’s just nothing better than live performances or seeing that recording process from the beginning to the end,” he said.

Appreciation for Story’s service has also come from outside Vol State. In 2015, he was nominated by the Grammy Foundation for the Music Educator Award. Out of 7,000 applicants, he ended up in the top 25.

“That was a cool recognition,” he said.

Story mentioned several student successes he has had. He had a student place in American Idol, one who sings background vocals for The Voice, students who are orchestra leaders around the world, students who are on the road as professional musicians, and students who are church musicians.

“I’ve had a lot of successes with former students being successful in the musical field,” he said.

“You know it just makes me happy,” he said.

 

LESSONS FROM STORY

Be prepared. Be prepared to inspire a generation of young people that may not know the discipline of what it takes to be a musician.

Be prepared to exert a lot of physical energy in sharing your passion.

Be prepared for endless and selfless time of selflessness on your part because it takes a lot of work to inspire and be successful in music. It takes a lot of energy.

Be prepared for failures.

Be prepared to experience the highest level of creativity when your group does the best job they can.

A lot of the teachers go into music education with all these grandiose ideals of what music teaching is and you gotta stay with it because music education is not an overnight success.It’s not an “everybody wins” type of game for music teachers.You win by hard work and stick-to-it-iveness and sharing your passion and encouraging and inspiring and sometimes those things may take 40 years.