Nancy Morris, dean of the Math and Science division, has announced her retirement from Volunteer State Community College, after 35 years of service to the school. Her official last day is July, 31 of this year.
Morris said she started at Vol State when she was recruited from teaching in Sumner County.
“I was in White House Junior High and I felt like I had more to share, in content, with students at a higher level. I came to Vol state in 1980 and I’ve always been a member of the faculty but in a series of changing roles. Coordinator of Biology and then Science department chair, and then dean,” said Morris.
Before she arrived at Vol State, Morris said that she did her undergraduate degree of chemistry at Austin Peay State University, before doing her graduate program at Vanderbilt where she became interested in teaching.
“I found the research in my graduate program of study, at Vanderbilt, so interesting that I really felt compelled to share that interest and insight with other folks,” said Morris. “Once you learn to teach yourself, then every discipline is available to you. You can become a scholar in almost any area that you choose. … We begin learning isolated skill sets and you realize, at my age, that little job or that little experience that you had way back when, in college, pays off with this kind of mind set.”
Morris said that the diversity of opportunity is what she has enjoyed the most at Vol State.
Morris also said that she admires her fellow staff members.
“Vol State’s greatest resource here, is its human resource. This is an amazing compilation of educators and professional staff and administrators. You know we often don’t realize what we have until we lose it or we are gone, “ said Morris. “What I quickly realized is that beyond teaching content, we are really teaching human beings. You are changing someone’s life and shaping insights in the context of a given course.”
Dr. Jeffery Kent, professor of Biology, said he that thinks Morris has done an outstanding job.
“Sometimes [being a] dean is a thankless job, because nobody is going to agree entirely with what is being done, but I think she has handled the job with enthusiasm. She has relished trying to move our division forward with new initiatives to try and improve what we do, especially in sciences, as well in Math,” said Kent.
Dr. Robert Carter, Science department chair, also said he thinks Morris has done fantastic job in her role as a dean.
“She has improved the quality of the education, the motivation of the faculty, new invitations in what we do, new types of science that we do, new types of math. We’ve had a lot of challenges. Redesigning our math program, dealing with developmental studies and learning support. These are very, very, challenging types of things, particularly for a dean to juggle from all those different angles,” said Carter. “A great part of my success is due to her. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be as good of an instructor, I wouldn’t be as good of a chair, as I am. So I rely on her for basically every aspect of what I do, be it everything from encouragement to actual, her getting on the phone and making sure I get what I need.”
Morris said that education should continue to be practiced and celebrated.
“Realizing the difference that education makes in your life is sort of a review mirror realization. You don’t know how important it is until you have done it. I think we, as a public, as a society, have to do whatever it takes to support folks in their academic journey so that education is not the thing that prevents anyone from reaching their full potential and achieving all they can be and being the most productive and healthy individuals and citizens. We need to be an educated and literate society,” said Morris.
When asked what she considered her greatest achievement in her time at Vol State, Morris said it is difficult to focus on a certain one.
“I wouldn’t say that there is any great personal achievement. I would say there are many small personal contributions to the greater good. It’s been my privilege to help identify and recommend some exceptional faculty who have joined this community. It’s been my great privilege to help design new science labs that were constructed on this campus. It has been my great privilege to work with my peers in creating this phenomenal undergraduate research program [and] redesigning the math curriculum,” said Morris.
As for what she plans to do after retirement, Morris said that she plans to travel.
“I will be going to France in September and ill be going to Guatemala in January of 2016. I have some remodeling projects already scheduled in my home, and there are some opportunities that I will pursue in Kentucky, in my hometown. I have family there so I am there often.”
Dr. Kimberly Caldwell, mathematics department chair, said her thoughts on Morris, and how she thinks Morris has benefited the college.
“Dean Nancy Morris has dedicated her life’s work to VSCC in her roles as faculty member, advisor, mentor and administrator. She is a true academician.
“For 35 years, she has gone above and beyond in giving of her time, talents and energies to the college. Nancy has worked tirelessly, leading the Math and Science Division into the national spotlight.
“She has mentored students and colleagues alike, guiding them toward academic excellence. She has touched our lives in many ways both personally and professionally.
“She has been a champion on many fronts; promoting women in higher education; undergraduate research, National Science Foundation grants and programs devoted to promoting girls in math and science.
“She leaves a giant footprint at the college. Her legacy and contributions to VSCC will endure for many years to come,” said Caldwell.