Break the silence

By: Riley Holcraft 

Suicide is no new phenomenon and the public has become virtually desensitized to its effects with a surge of TV shows, celebrity attempts and news reports.

Stories like this come and go but rarely do people stop to think about those affected. Volunteer State Community College partnered with The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network by hosting its first annual Break the Silence event dedicated to lives touched by suicide.

On Sept. 20, at the Humanities Plaza, a small group gathered to discuss suicide within the community. The ceremony opened with a song performed by Vol State Students, Kendahl Oakley, and Cole Harper.

Quilts with pictures of suicide victims in Tennessee and pinwheels with names of suicide victims connected to Vol State students were on display. Many of the pinwheels had repeating names.

Oliver Graves, Vol State Student and Spectrum club leader explained the meaning behind the repetition, “When someone commits suicide, not just one person is affected,” said Graves.

Graves had personal experience with a suicide attempt six months after coming out as gay.

“forty percent of LGBT youth have either attempted or contemplated suicide. It is not a joke,” said Graves.

Oftentimes, suicide is overlooked as “selfish” or “overrated.”

However, TSPN Volunteer, Teresa Culbreath explained, “No one is immune.”

The effects of suicide spread to a wide community of individuals, and suicide attempters often have no refuge.

Culbreath lost a brother and husband to suicide, so her personal experience has inspired her to bring awareness to others.

“Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network has three main goals when it comes to dealing with suicide: intervention, prevention, and postvention,” said Culbreath.

The best way to implement these goals is by making others aware of available assistance and educating the public of warning signs.

“I have had personal, lasting effects from suicide after my sister attempted. If I could let the student body know one think about suicide, it would be: learn the signs,” said Vol State student, Crystal Hutchins.

Warning signs include: talking about death, withdrawal from social activities, behavior changes, giving away prized possessions, and drug abuse.

The most important thing to do when encountering these warning signs is to approach the affected person with compassion and notify someone of greater authority. It is important to never belittle the feelings of someone who feels hopeless.

Samantha Nadler, a devoted wife, and mother, also shared her personal experience with suicide. She had made several attempts throughout her lifetime and is now an advocate dedicated to helping those that struggle with suicide.

Nadler explained that along with knowing warning signs the most important aspect of suicide prevention is a community. “Community matters. Connections with other people matter,” she said.

Most suicide attempts are related to ending a lifelong pain, emotional or physical. A community typically serves as a buffer between the pain and the thoughts of death. Nadler explained how her community of suicide preventionists “ended up saving my life.”

The event closed with a reflection time. All attendees were offered a small container of bubbles that read “Break the Silence.” Each person thought of a person who is currently affected by or struggling with suicide and blew the bubbles in their honor.

September is Suicide Awareness Month. Students, you are urged to take notice of what is happening around you. Be aware, be compassionate.

In 2016, Tennessee lost 1,110 people to suicide and the number continues to rise. It is happening in your state. It is happening in your community. It is happening in your school.

Help is offered on the school website; students can also be connected with an experienced counselor on campus. If you are in immediate need of help, call the suicide prevention hotline: 1-800-273-8255.


Voter Registration

By: Gloria Cortes 

The Volunteer State Community College’s Student Government Association is hosting a Meet and Greet with a Treat: Grab a Float and Register to Vote on Sept. 25.  

If one would like to vote SGA will have a register to vote table Sept. 25. from 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. in the Carpeted Dining Room. We have registration forms available and it is quick, easy, and your information is secure. You can also visit,” wrote SGA Vice President Mary Dobbs in an email.

This event allows students to interact with the SGA and other faculty members while raising awareness for voter registration.

SGA Meet and Greet with a Treat is an event hosted by The Student Government Association that allows SGA, the student body, and staff to engage with one another. Grab a Float and Register to Vote is the September event because September is National Voter Registration Month. September 25th is National Voter Registration Day,” wrote Dobbs.

The SGA has set up voter registration booths earlier in the fall semester.

“We have 23 people who have registered to vote thus far,” wrote Vol State Coordinator of Student Activities Tabitha Sherrell.

To register to vote, eligible students must be 18 or older, a U.S. citizen, a Tennessee resident, and must not be a felon; however, some felons may vote if they have had their voting rights restored according to

Eligible students who plan to register need to bring one of the following acceptable types of identification: their Tennessee driver’s license or their Tennessee Department of Safety, and Homeland Security ID, according to

The voter registration deadline for the upcoming general election in Tennessee is Oct. 9.

“The elections that we are helping people get registered for is for the Federal and State general elections. Tennessee will be voting for a new Governor, House of Representative members, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. This is a big election because the people elected will be in office for 2-4 years depending on their position,” wrote Dobbs.

Banned book week preview

By: Jim Hayes 

The Thigpen Library and Volunteer State Community College English Department will celebrate Banned Books Week with open mic readings from 12:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Sept. 26 in Steinhauer-Rogan-Black room 150.

“Any student who wishes to volunteer can read,” said Librarian Laura Sheets who is overseeing the readings.

“Students wishing to ensure that they get to read can talk to a librarian,” said Sheets

The Banned Book Week has been observed since 1982.  Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the 10 most challenged books.

“It is a time to promote awareness about intellectual freedom,” said Sheets.

“Most books are challenged by parents who are concerned about the content in those books and they are concerned about having their children exposed to things they aren’t comfortable with,” said Sheets.

First generation student experience

By: Jim Hayes 

Dr. Frank Dobson, Associate Dean of Students for Social Justice and Identity at Vanderbilt University, and faculty will discuss “The First-Generation Student Experience” from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Rochelle Center on Thursday, Sept. 27.

“He’s just going to be talking about his experience as a first generation student,” said, Jeff King.

“He will compare some of the obstacles faced by students today with what he faced. He will engage them about what issues they are having. Sometimes you had to make a choice between buying books or buying food,” said King.

“Dobson will talk about at one point living in his car before his academic career took off and he became an author. Lots of us have similar stories,” said King.

“My older siblings did not go to college, and I felt a lot of expectations on my shoulders because they sacrificed so that I could go,” said Dobson

Dobson received his bachelor of arts degree from the University at Buffalo in English, Literature, Black Studies and Education in 1973.

He earned his masters in English and literary Studies in 1976 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

His doctoral degree was earned at Bowling Green State University in literature and writing in 1985.

Dobson’s first novel, “The Race is Not Given was published in 1999.  His second, “Rendered Invisible, was released in 2010.

He has been at Vanderbilt for 14-years.

Dr. Faulkner goes undercover

By: Nick Kieser 

Dr. Faulkner casual outside

Vol State President Dr. Jerry Faulkner

The Volunteer State Community College President, Dr. Jerry Faulkner, has made an appearance acting as a student for a day and attended classes.

Faulkner credits his idea from the San Diego State President Adela de la Torre.

He was incognito on Aug. 30, during the regular school hours and posed as a student.

“I got rid of my coat and tie. I tried to look more casual so I would not stand out. I don’t know that I did anything outstandingly different, but I did go online and complete the application form.

I wanted to see if there were any impediments,” said Faulkner.

Undergoing a full day as an undercover student is something not common for a college university president to do.

“I sent out an email only to faculty that asked for volunteers to let me sit in on their classes. The response was overwhelming, and I got dozens of invitations to be in people’s classes,” said Faulkner.

The build-up of the secret event broke when the faculty got the notification that he was looking for willing teachers.

“I announced two Fridays ago at convocation that I was going to do that. I went to four classes. I was originally signed up for five. I did all four classes continuously,” said Faulkner.

He also added that while he was walking through the Woods Campus Center that he stopped to get the free food offered since it was the same day as the campus kickoff.

“He was just hanging out and seeing what it was like. He wanted the full student experience,” said English Department Chair, Deborah Moore.

Moore had the experience of having Faulkner in her Modern World Literature class.

“I think it’s great that he put that much interest into finding out more about the students and how it feels to be a student at Vol State,” said student Hollee Mattei.

The president was viewed seriously after he had revealed himself to Moore’s class.

“None of the students had much to say at the end, and I just made announcements about SGA and Coffee with the President. I did not park differently. I confess I did use my reserved parking place,” said Faulkner.

With the attire and no parking change, Faulkner still considered himself a student that day

One of the announcements that Faulkner made was in regard to how the students of Vol State could interact with him.

That event is known as Coffee With the President.

“We started that I would say about three years ago. Kenny Yarbrough was Director of Student Life and Diversity, and it was his idea to do Coffee with the President,” said Faulkner.

The Steinhauer Rogan-Black-Building was where Coffee with the President took place, and Faulkner said that he planned on doing that again.

“I certainly hope that this will result in more students feeling like they can approach me and talk with me about the things they have on their mind,” said Faulkner.


Vol State Garden


Professor Jeff Kent in Vol States garden

By: Gloria Cortes 

Beside the Wallace Health Sciences Complex building’s parking lot lies the Volunteer State College Community Garden.

Master Gardeners maintain the garden with the help of professors Jeff Kent and Kelly Ormsby.

This community garden is open to all Vol State students and faculty, whether they would like to pick fresh produce or to take a break between classes.

“There’s something about seeing a plant grow that’s really nice, that’s really unique… . It’s just something about seeing something grow, and seeing fruit on raspberry vines or blackberry vines, and being able to pick it and eat it.” said biology professor Dr. Kent.

After the destructive tornado that struck Vol State in 2006, it was created to help the campus have a more peaceful place to go to.

“To promote something positive on campus, we started that community garden,” said Kent.

While the garden is a place for rest and relaxation, it is also a product of Master Gardeners and other Vol State gardeners’ work.

Students are also encouraged to plant in the garden, but they must contact Master Gardener Joanne Brown first.

“Students are welcome to participate but need to do so through the Master Gardeners who manage the project (a Hold Harmless waiver is required). Joanne Brown is the project leader. She is on campus every Monday morning (usually beginning at 7 a.m.). Volunteer Days are the third Saturday of each month from 7:30-11:30 a.m.,” wrote Kelly Ormsby in an email.

Ormsby is also involved with the campus garden.

Volunteer gardening can help fulfill students’ Tennessee Promise volunteer requirements since students would be providing a service to the campus community.

Through Ormsby’s Adopt-A-Bed program, groups can adopt a raised garden bed, and some produce from the garden will go to The Feed.

“Groups/clubs, classes, offices/departments can complete an application outlining their project idea through Sept. 28. Applications will be available at the garden gate, where they will also be collected. Applicants will: select a bed from the garden map provided (both empty and pre-planted beds are available), create a design (this may include a theme, information for visitors, additional plants, etc.), and complete the project submission form (outlining the idea, who will assist with maintenance, including weeding in and around the bed, helping to harvest as applicable for the Feed, our VSCC student food bank).” wrote Ormsby.

The garden was created as a communal place of peace and productivity.  Students are always welcome.

“I think the garden will help kids who don’t have the sufficient funds or the availability of food at home.  I think it’s very compassionate that Vol State has provided children that can’t eat at home with food. I think it’s also because student hunger and poverty levels being at such a high rate in America today and because of lack of resources and lower-income families that the garden offers kids that live in those situations food away from home.” said student Chelsei Copeland

“I know I would use the garden… . I am living in my own apartments, so there are times where I have to choose between gas or food. So, it’s definitely something I think I’d use as a young adult trying to live on their own, having to budget money in different ways,” said Copeland

The Vol State Community Garden provides positivity and fresh produce to those in need of it, and it encourages students to participate in the campus community.


SGA Voter Registration

By: Jim Hayes 

The Volunteer State Community College Student Government Association will host a variety of events to encourage students to register to vote during Sept.

Voter registration tables will be available in the tiled dining room of the Woods Campus Center on Sept. 11-13, and 19 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m..

Other events also taking place in the Woods Campus Center is SGA Meet-n-Greet With A Treat and CAB Cafe: The Arcade on Sept. 25 from 12:45 p.m. until 1:45 p.m.

This event will consist of games, prizes, floats and the opportunity to register to vote.

Vol State is also in a social media contest with other schools in the state, according to SGA Student President Haly Brazel.

“We have partnered with the board of regents and the other colleges to do a social media contest where we have to use hashtags whenever you register,” said Brazel.

“There is a statewide hashtag, #GovoteTn, and the Vol State hashtag is #pioneerpoll,” she said.

The SGA Meet -n-Greet With A Treat came about because, “we have all these people who play card games and we want to do something for them,” said Brazel.


Disability Services Office Moved to Ramer 176

By: Nick Kieser

 The Volunteer State Community College has moved the Disability Services office to the Ramer Administrative Building.

Previously the disability office was located on the bottom floor of the Woods Campus Center. In its place now is the math and science offices.

“It was Dr. Faulkner’s vision. It was my idea that he wanted a one-stop shop,” said Manager of Disability Services, Leslie Smith.

Spending one year already in the basement of the Woods building Smith and her staff have changed the scenery to be neighbors with the other on-campus student services.

“If we walk a student over to the advising center it is one door over. It is more convenient now than it was,” said Smith.

The other homebodies in the Ramer building are the admissions office, advising office, financial aid, public relations, human resources, and the president’s office.

Although leaving the Woods building there are pros and cons for this move as a whole. Smith does give one disadvantage of leaving the Woods building altogether.

“It was quiet and confidential. In that respect, people did appreciate it.”

An advantage besides being convenient and around other services there’s another pleasant side too.

“They wanted to have a place where students could get a lot of the services they needed in one building,” said Smith.

Considering the other renovations going on at Vol-State putting most of the services in the same building will be of help to the students who are new and even for returning students as well.  

“It is better because it is right where everything else is and will probably be easier to find. Ramer is not my favorite because I am mainly there for financial aid, but I do think it is just fine for me,” said student Alex Winkler.

From a student point of view, it is a decent place to go for having the convenience, but that does not mean every college student will like to go into a building to take care of business.

“I think it will amp up a little bit. Students will come in more now and ask about it,” said receptionist Erin Tickle.

Along with the expectation Tickle had she did have a regard to how she feels about it now telling students in how to get to the disability service center.

“I do not think students will be upset with everything being in one building. I wish that when I was a student here it would’ve been easier to navigate.”

The other take away from having the offices now in one building except the student life center is that the employees who occupy these offices are affected as well.

“It is much easier to direct students and they feel more connected that way,” said advising receptionist, Pamela Lockhart.

“They used to be one building off and now they are so close. You go down the hallway and they are on the left. It is way easier to say and for the disabled much easier,” said admissions receptionist, Beverly Bragg.

The campus services are all now prepared to be close and according to Bragg she can now put the names to faces and know whom they are rather than just hearing about them.

“We are all about access. Everything about disability services is about making sure that everything on campus is accessible for everyone. Hopefully, students come back because we are in a convenient location and remember we are here,” said Smith.


Cafeteria Project

By: Nick Kieser

Renovations are being made at the Volunteer State Community College. One of the prominent changes is starting to take place in the cafeteria. The booths that were previously attached the wall in the cafeteria have been removed and scraped.

“The booths tend to fall apart and we did not want to try and put something up to only come back and have the same issue taking them out,” said Senior Director of Plant Operations, Will Newman.

The removal of the booths will be part of a constant updating process that Newman will be responsible for and plans to do one project at a time.

“We just gotta maintain cleanliness and let us just say folks were not as clean as they should be. We can only clean so much and so we decided to pull those away from the wall and do wall repairs as well. They fell apart as we pulled them away,” said Newman.

Part of what Newman said was a 30-year-year-old building all you can do is paint it, but along with other projects that is not the plan.

“Right now it looks like a middle school or high school cafeteria. We need to get away from that. This is the entry part of the project to get that project moving it is almost a million dollars.

Along with what is taking place outside of The Feed there are other projects going on simultaneously. The Warf building is under renovation and the building is expected to have an added part to it facing Nashville Pike when it is complete. Crosswalks are also in the works as well to cross main street.

“We have to think how the rest of campus will be impacted. Not too many projects going on at the same time,” said Newman.

Students have also been impacted by the removal of the booths as well. In previous years the booths have been a congregation ground for the Vol-State students.

“I think that the renovation of the cafeteria has potential to make the space better, but I know that many people who regularly used them are probably missing them,” said Student, Ryan Beals.

“They were very spacious and it was a space to nap and get things done. I do not think they only rely on the booths,” said student, Avery Etherington.

Aside from just the activity Etherington did using the booths herself she did have a request to have one new thing in the cafeteria as part of the project.

“I do wish there was better lighting. That room seems very dim to me and I wish it was brighter.”

“We will need a designer to come aboard. We want to utilize every part of that space and update it,” said Newman.

With this help of a designer Newmans plans of having a nearly million-dollar cafeteria can come full circle to make it what students will come to love and congregate in again. There is currently no timetable for when the cafeteria project will be completely finished.


Faculty Art Show on Display

By: Riley Holcraft

The new school year at Volunteer State Community College is in full swing, and the first art exhibition is open to the public.

The professional gallery is located on the first floor of the Humanities Building. Everyone is encouraged to view the artwork and share personal thoughts in the Guest Book.

The Art Faculty Exhibition will run from Aug. 27 to Sept. 20, featuring artwork by Vol State faculty members: Sue Mulcahy, Abigail Felber, Patrick Green, Nate Smyth, Claire Hampton, Siri Nadler, Carlton Wilkinson, Jake Wells, and Rob Matthews.

The gallery contains a diverse variety of art, ranging from ceramics to photography to printmaking and more.

Sue Mulcahy, adjunct art faculty, is the gallery manager for the exhibition. “We are artists, as well as teachers, and this is an opportunity for our students to see what we do. It is also a chance to share our talents with the community,” said Mulcahy.

Students in current or future art classes can form a deeper perspective of their professors by examining their art.

Graphic Design Professor, Siri Nadler, stated, “It is important to show the students and the public what sort of work we do when we are not in the classroom.”

The faculty has a broad scope of talent, so viewers are exposed to multiple art forms.

Art is a tool that can be inserted into almost all subject matters. It can express psychology, literature, history, and anything the artist desires.

“Art is a great excuse to learn about things that you didn’t know about before,” said Rob Matthews, adjunct art faculty.

Matthews is featured in the gallery using graphite on paper. His pieces express the “massive global issue of refugees fleeing dangerous parts in the world.”

His work provides an educational resource for a controversial topic that can be discussed in multiple different departments.

“The drawings are part of a larger series of work of African refugees that have left their countries and attempted to travel by boat across the Mediterranean to Europe,” explained Matthews.

The Art Faculty Exhibition reminds people of the importance of art in education and introduces the public to the minds that are shaping future artists at Vol State.

Many works in the gallery are for sale; visit for more information. The hours are Monday-Thursday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday 8 a.m. – 4:30 pm. and Saturday 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.