Vol State will host SACS committee

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) will be at Volunteer State Community College Oct. 7-10 to evaluate the college’s academic standards in order to accredit it.

Vol State is due for a reaffirmation by the accrediting agency, SACS, which will evaluate the school to ensure it is meeting its academic standards and giving students the education they need.

According to the website College and Degrees, “Accreditation is a process in which outside agencies evaluate a school’s programs to ensure that they meet applicable academic standards.”

Jessica Lewis, Vol State’s Special Assistant for Strategic Initiatives/QEP Director, said, “The accreditation process is every 10 years. We have to go up for reaffirmation, and that just means that they’re going to come in, and they’re going to look and make sure that we’re doing everything we’re supposed to be doing so that students are getting the education that they’re supposed to be getting.”

The accrediting agency that evaluates Vol State is SACS, the Southern Association of Colleges ans Schools. According to SACS website they cover the southern states of Texas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Florida, Virginia and Tennessee.

“They’re kind of our accountability,” said Lewis, “They keep us accountable for making sure that we’re actually doing what we’re saying that we’re doing, so that we are providing students with the best education possible and giving them all of the opportunities they need to be able to be successful and for their credits to mean something.”

The importance of accreditation, said Lewis, is that it allows the college to give students financial aid and makes for easier transfer to different schools. “You would want to attend a college that’s regionally accredited because a regionally accredited institution is going to be able to make your classes more easily transferable. You’ll be able to receive financial aid there.”

According to College and Degrees, accreditation also matters to employers, since while hiring, they will check to make sure the institution from which the degree was received is accredited.

Being unaccredited means the college will not be allowed to give students financial aid and may make it more difficult to transfer to another institution said Lewis.

“One of the biggest pieces is that we are able to award students financial aid. If we were not regionally accredited we would not be able to provide students with financial aid. So being regionally accredited is something that’s really important. When you are looking at schools, if you’re looking at transferring somewhere, you want to see what their accreditation is.”

According to Lewis there are different types of accreditation. “You have the regional accreditation which is for the entire school and then a lot of times you have program accreditation. Most of our health science programs for example nursing or anything like that will also have additional accreditation steps that they have to take. Any time we start a new program, we open a new site, anytime we do anything new, we have to submit information to SACS to say, ‘hey, we’re doing this new thing,’ so we’re constantly in communication with them, but they do this big review every 10 years,” said Lewis.

In the process of evaluating Vol State to determine if it will be accredited, Lewis said, “They’ll look at everything.”

Lewis said a committee composed of around 7 people in SACS will go to Vol State’s different campuses before heading to the main Gallatin campus.

“They will go to some of our off site campuses. They’ll go to Highland Crest, then go to Livingston, and then they’ll go to a couple of our EMT sites. They’ll talk to some people there. They’ll see how everything is at those other locations, and then the next two days they’ll be here on campus. They’ll meet with students, faculty, and staff. They will hear a presentation about our Quality Enhancement Plan. They’ll get to ask questions. They’ll do all of these things and then on Thursday the 10th, they’ll give us any recommendations that they have,” said Lewis.

The committee of SACS, when visiting in October, will meet with select students from different student organizations, but may also stop and ask students on campus of their experience at Vol State said Lewis. “They might randomly stop a student and say, ‘Hey, we just want to hear about your experience, or do you know what the QEP is,’ and so those are those things that could happen over the through the 8th 9th and 10th,” said Lewis. “They want to make sure that students are getting the education that they should be getting, that we are doing what we say we’re going to be doing,” said Lewis.

“There are several principles of accreditation for SACS,” stated Lewis.

One of initial steps of the process is the college summing up a report over the span of several years said Lewis. This report contains all of the accrediting standards the school has to meet, such as annual reviewing of faculty and staff and a Quality Enhancement Plan. The report goes to an off-site committee where they will review it and let the college know what can be done better according to Lewis. One of the aspects of that report is the QEP, the Quality Enhancement Plan.

“QEP is a five-year project that we have to do that will increase student success in some way shape or form. Our Quality Enhancement Plan is the First Year Experience. So we have designed a first-year experience and are starting to implement the different pieces that over the next year. That includes I revised and revamped Campus Connect and new student orientation. There’ll be a new student convocation which will happen the week before classes start,” said Lewis.

This QEP will include two First Year Experience classes for freshmen, First Year Experience 1 and First Year Experience 2, according to Lewis. The first course, FYEX 1030, “will focus more on academic success, helping students understand the importance of studying, the importance of your mindset, helping you understand how to be a self-advocate, things like that,” said Lewis. The second course, FYEX 1040, “is going to be focused more on career success. So career development, career research, resume writing, interview skills. All of the stuff that students need access to to be successful beyond their time here at Vol State,” said Lewis.

This QEP, said Lewis, is not just a part of the accreditation process but the college’s goal to ensure it is meeting the education students need to be successful.

“What we found is that we have a lot of students who from spring to fall who stay here. So, if you started in the fall, you’ll usually come back in the spring, but we have a lot of students who

don’t come back the following fall. And so what we’re doing with the First Year Experience is we’re trying to build more opportunities for connection and belonging. So that students feel like hey, ‘I belong at Vol State. I’m not going to drop out or stop out. I’m going to complete my degree,’ because that’s really what the main point of this is. To help students understand that we’re here to support them, and we want them to be successful,” said Lewis.

New skills taught in Mechatronics lab

By Wade Browne

There is a new program at Volunteer State Community College offering an AAS in Mechatronics Engineering. What is Mechatronics? According to the Vol State website for this program, “Mechatronics is the blending of engineering fields including mechanical, controls, electronic and computer engineering to automate manufacturing, distribution, and complex services through multiple industries.”

This is only the beginning; having only two branches in operation so far. The Cookeville campus is where the Chairman of this program, Tim Dean, has his office; and the Gallatin Campus Branch is located in the Warf Building in suite 125. The instructor is Patrick Kiely, Assistant Professor of Mechatronics, Math and Science Division. If Professor Kiely’s excitement when describing his work and his interactions with willing minds is any indication of the program’s direction and success; it would seem to be on course.

Matching the intense growth in and around Gallatin is the equally intense rise in the manufacture and movement of goods and services. Words from Professor Kiely reflected that idea when asked about the need for personnel to meet the rising need in this field. He said, “There aren’t enough people going into that field to fill the void.” This void, it seems, was created by the sudden influx of people to Middle Tennessee which could only produce the above stated rise in the need and therefore production and movement of these items. This class is an attempt to efficiently fill that void with quality workers in a learning environment that stresses both the electronic and the mechanical sides of the now largely automated industry. The program is also represented by a Facebook page entitled Mechatronics at Vol State.

On their Facebook page, Mechatronics at Vol State, an individual interested in what goes on in and out of class can find the information they need with the click of a mouse. Here a student, or potential student, can find calendars for notices of the events, class times, field trips, etc. One can also find instructional videos and interesting information regarding the advancement of technology in the field. These extras are provided to the student; who can only benefit when comes time to enter the classroom and actually encounter the different aspects of what can only be described as a syncretism of the many different , though relative, fields involved in the gambit that is mass production.

In the classroom, which is located within the Mechatronics Laboratory; the instruction is formatted similarly to most classrooms. The instructor speaks from the front of the class; and the students, at desks, take notes. Outside in the laboratory; there are robot arms and computers connected to complex equipment. Students move between these stations as the instructor monitors all. Where before a simple training period sufficed to prepare the average worker for the average manufacturing job; today’s hi-tech machinery and the complex systems required to mass produce in ever greater quantities means more intense training and, in many cases, a college degree. This is such a program.

In short, this is a degree that combines the teaching of many combined fields into one block of learning that will give its graduates skills that make them ready for an ever more competitive industry.

TRIO coordinator enjoys helping Vol State students meet educational goals

By Velma Crochet

Jean Colello is the program coordinator for Volunteer State Community College TRIO, student support services.TRIO is a federally funded program through the U.S. Department of Education that offers college planning, retention, graduation and four-year transfer. First-generation college students, pell eligible students and students with a disability may all apply for service at TRIO. She has been working at VSCC for 10 years, four as a part-time TRIO academic retention specialist and the last six in her current position as program coordinator.

Colello’s favorite part of her job is assisting students to reach their academic goals. Whether their goal is to transfer to a four-year school or go out into the workforce after graduation. She is ready to help students find a tutor, check out a laptop, transfer plans or just being there to celebrate a good grade on an exam.

Ayoub Abdulla has been a TRIO student working with Colello for two semesters.”Helping me get registered each semester and linking me to the right people I need to get help from is how Jean has helped me,” said Abdulla. He also said how Colello reaches out to other students to inform them of the services at TRIO and try to help as many students as she can reach.

Lisa Jacobs, administrator assistant at TRIO has worked with Colello, for almost a year. She said the passion Colello, has for helping the students at TRIO really stands out to her.” She is devoted to her students,” Jacobs said.

Colello grew up in Long Island, New York, and went to school at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York. She moved to the Nashville area about 11 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio, for her husband’s job. “I have really enjoyed seeing Nashville grow and develop. When you have lived near big cities most of your life, New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, you like being able to spend the day in the city,” said Colello.

She has been married to her husband Michael Colello, for 33 years and they have two grown children Michael and Julia, with one very spoiled dog named Jack. Michael is from a big Italian family so they enjoy a big traditional Christmas Eve and Day celebration. It is all about the family preparing the meal and going to church.

Now that her children are grown they enjoy going downtown Nashville to a different restaurant each time. “One of our favorites so far is, The Chef and I,” said Colello

Domestic violence seminar set for Oct. 1

By Fay Kabasu

Homesafe is hosting a seminar about domestic violence called “In Their Shoes”. It will be held on Oct. 1, 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m., in the Mary Cole Nichols Dining Room B in the Wood Campus Center.

Homesafe is a non-profit organization that provides help for domestic and sexual violence related victims. The company focuses on healing and empowering survivors while making a safe space for them to feel protected in the community. Homesafe has three offices in middle Tennessee: Sumner County, Robertson County, and Wilson County.

“HomeSafe provides free and confidential services to people impacted by domestic and sexual abuse in Sumner, Robertson, and Wilson Counties. We serve victims/survivors and their children, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, or immigration status. Our services are client-centered and trauma-informed. We believe that survivors are the experts in their own lives, and our advocates partner with each survivor in addressing risks, needs, and goals that are most important to that individual. We offer individualized support, information, and assistance so that each survivor can choose their own path toward safety, healing, and empowerment,” is stated as the Homesafe philosophy on their website homesafe.org.

Tiffany Zwart, Volunteer State Community College’s Coordinator of Student Support, said, “This is an interactive activity where we can “walk” in the steps of those who have experienced domestic violence.” The exercise will inform the audience of the reality of abuse in order to gain knowledge on how to help someone who is in trouble. Lunch will be served to those who join and RSVP with Zwart, who can be reached at tiffany.zwart@volstate.edu

Food insecurity talk slated

By Velma Crochet
Volunteer State Community College student engagement will host Chris Whitney, a founder of One Generation Away at “Let’s talk about food insecurities on Sept. 19, 11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. in
the Mary Cole Nichols Dining Room B at Volunteer State Community College. Llunch will be provided while supplies last.
Students will learn how widely this affects our student community, 15 percent of the students are food insecure Tiffany Zwart, Coordinator of student support said.
Whitney, alongside his wife Elaine founded One Generation Away in 2013. Within the first year they distributed 400,000 pounds of food from the backseat of their car, according to their
website www.onegenaway.com.
One Generation Away has a mobile pantry that delivers food throughout middle Tennessee in a semi truck.Whitney is making healthy food available to everyone. The person is given a shopping
cart to be able to choose healthy food for their family at the mobile pantry. He will speak about his food ministry and the fact that some people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.
Kennedy Kemp , student at VSCC did not know about “The Feed,” (Vol State’s on-campus food pantry) or “Let’s Talk About Food Insecurities.” She is fortunate to have a job and family
support while attending VSCC to ensure her next meal.
At her previous campus, away from home, she often wondered where her next meal would come from.
“ I am glad you informed me on “The Feed.” I wish we had had something like this year’s ago I wouldn’t have been stressed out,” said Kemp.