Loquerisne linguam latinam?

latin picDo you speak Latin?

John Walker does and he’s sharing his knowledge with students enrolled in the VHCC Upward Bound summer program. In fact, he’s teaching them to speak Latin and a great deal about the Greco-Roman culture. It’s doubtful, of course, that students will begin having conversations in Latin, but they are gaining some valuable insights from the class.

“I’m planning to go into the medical field, so knowing Latin words is important,” said Alice Becker, an Upward Bound participant from Patrick Henry High School. “It’s kind of cool to learn a new language.”

Latin is the focus of World Culture this year, an annual component of the summer program.  Students are busy now learning Latin words and phrases, reading about the Greek and Roman empires, and exploring archetypal stories first told in ancient days. When the program wraps up on July 9, they’ll enjoy a banquet of Mediterranean food to cap off their weeks of study.

Behind every great summer program is a great teacher who exhibits passion, and Mr. Walker is a perfect example.

He teaches Latin at Patrick Henry High School during the school year and perfects his skills each summer by attending Conventiculum Latinum – also known as the Annual Convention for Spoken Latin to those who haven’t quite mastered the Latin language – at the University of Kentucky. He’s joined there by Latin enthusiasts from around the world, who spend several days communicating entirely in Latin.

And while Mr. Walker doesn’t expect to see any of his students there, he does hope the Latin they’ve learned will provide them with a more diverse vocabulary and a greater understanding of how ancient times have impacted the modern world.

And while the students are having a lot of fun, they’re also working really hard to glean some useful tidbits of information from their lessons. After all, like Lucretius used to say, “ex nihilo nihil fit.” (Nothing comes from nothing.)


Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs Visits VHCC

VETERANSMay2015Calling Virginia’s 23 community colleges the “crown jewel” of the Commonwealth, Virginia Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs John C. Harvey on Tuesday asked veterans at Virginia Highlands Community College to help him promote the educational benefits and training programs offered on the VHCC campus.

“This is where so many of you come to find a pathway to employability, “’ he said. “As I’ve visited community colleges across Virginia, I’ve discovered they have a common mission to help you get to work in some productive way. You’re getting real value here in exchange for your benefits. ”

A retired four-star admiral, Harvey was appointed to Governor Terry McAuliffe’s cabinet in January 2014. Since that time, he has visited 15 community colleges across Virginia to learn what obstacles veterans face as they make the transition from military to civilian life.  He plans to meet with veterans at Mountain Empire Community College on Wednesday.

Harvey said he became an advocate for community colleges after learning that for-profit educational institutions have launched aggressive marketing campaigns in an attempt to recruit those eligible for Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Unfortunately, he said, the average success rate at these institutions is about 10 percent.

“We need to do more to let veterans know about the opportunities available at community colleges,” he said. “I need you to help me spread the word.”

Student Tony Mitchell, who served in the U.S. Army and the Tennessee National Guard, suggested a training program to help faculty and staff better understand issues unique to veterans. Many on campus are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries as a result of their time in combat, Mitchell said.

Harvey agreed that colleges could benefit from these programs, adding that he is working hard across Virginia to change the perception many have of veterans. Stress is a normal part of war, he said, but many veterans are still able to lead productive lives and become valuable members of the workforce.

In fact, Harvey delivered good news to Kelly Richardson, co-owner of Richardson Ambulance Service in Marion. He said Richardson and other small business owners in Virginia will soon receive a $1,000 tax credit for each veteran employed and retained on a full-time basis for at least a year.  Richardson attended Tuesday’s meeting with her employee, Ryan Clark, a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne who graduated last week with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Emergency Medical Technology.

To help veterans feel more comfortable on campus, Harvey pledged state funding next year for a veterans’ center on each community college campus. Each center will be unique, he said, to meet the needs of the state’s diverse mix of students.

“We’ll provide the money, but you will decide what you need,” he said.

And, he added, he is seeing what can be done to ensure those who have earned educational benefits are not penalized when they enroll in online classes, courses offered on a compressed timetable, or in non-credit workforce training programs. The Veterans Administration needs to adjust its rules, he said, to meet the needs of students in today’s learning environments.


T-Shirts Created to Make Phil Better


YWCA Pays Tribute to Dr. Beth Page

BethPageDr. Beth Page was recently chosen to receive the YWCA of Bristol’s Tribute to Women Award in the education category. Receipents are chosen for their leadership qualities, positive impact on community, and demonstrated growth and achievement. Below is an abbreviated version of the nomination form submitted by VHCC President Gene Couch.

Dr. Beth Page has devoted her life to helping those most at risk of becoming just another statistic. She began her career as a crisis counselor for children and families in our region, then shifted her focus to education. Since joining the federal TRIO programs at Virginia Highlands Community College in 1999, she has helped thousands of students set and achieve ambitious goals, earn college degrees, and create a better life for themselves and their families.

Dr. Page came to VHCC as Director of Upward Bound, a U.S. Department of Education program dedicated to assisting high school students from low-income families in which neither parent holds a four-year degree. The ultimate goal is to help these young people complete high school and, ultimately, earn a bachelor’s degree or higher.

She tackled this challenging task by developing an innovative series of after-school classes and summer workshops that enable students to polish their academic skills while completing fun projects.  Through Aquaculture, for example, students often become so engaged in raising fish that they are completely unaware that they’re also developing science, math, and marketing skills. Music Makers allows students to build their own guitars and study songwriting, pushing them to become better writers and to think creatively.  A cultural component is also included each year to ensure students are exposed to diverse languages and people they may never encounter in their corner of Southwest Virginia.  And, they travel to historic sites and visit college campuses, all the while expanding their horizons and developing a deep appreciation for what is possible through education.

Dr. Page’s success with the Upward Bound Program was noticed by campus administrators, who asked her in 2006 to also lead the VHCC Educational Talent Search Program. This federal program, which has a similar purpose for both middle and high school students, challenges young people to begin preparing for college at a much younger age. Although Dr. Page continued to focus on delivering academic and support services through both programs, she also made a concerted effort to examine the wellbeing of each student she served. Her background in crisis counseling enabled her to recognize personal issues that could impede success and to refer students to agencies equipped to help.

Today Dr. Page leads The Excel Center at VHCC, the TRIO program that assists students once they enroll in college. She continues to serve those most at risk of dropping out by provide tutoring, advising, personal counseling, study skills workshops, transfer assistance, and a long list of other services that enable them to complete an Associate’s Degree and transition to a four-year institution. Her door is always open, and she is always ready with a warm smile.

Soon after earning a bachelor’s degree in Human Services & Spanish from Carson Newman College, Dr. Page continued her educatio­­­n at East Tennessee State University. She earned a master’s degree in Marriage & Family Counseling in 1988, then returned to ETSU to earn a Doctor of Education in 2009. She uses her own educational experiences as an example to the students she counsels, explaining that she came from a similar background and achieved her goals through perseverance and hard work.

Additionally, she remains well versed in employment laws and serves VHCC as its Equal Opportunity Employer/Affirmative Action Officer. In this role, she works closely with hiring committees to ensure candidates for each position are treated fairly and that consideration is given to those who can bring new perspectives to campus. She stays abreast of all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and oversees services for students with disabilities. She recently took on the role of Title IX Coordinator, too, and now is responsible for leading campus efforts to combat sexual violence and harassment.

Additionally, Dr. Page teaches courses in Psychology and  Student Development on an adjunct basis, and remains the go-to person on campus for students and employees who are facing personal crises. Her caring nature and professional expertise have earned her the trust and respect of the entire campus community.

Dr. Page has been asked to step into a variety of roles on the VHCC campus and throughout the community because of her educational background and personal commitment to eliminate racism and empower women. These values led her to the YWCA of Bristol. Through her membership on the YWCA Board, she has championed efforts to assist pregnant teens and low-income parents, provide an affordable fitness facility for women, and promote racial justice through a series of community programs.

She has been an advocate for many of these same causes at VHCC, helping the entire campus community to see that the world is a better place when we celebrate our differences and embrace diversity.

Dr. Page has given a warm heart to VHCC’s federal TRIO programs. Although her job requires her to manage budgets and track statistics, she is far more concerned with the immediate needs of the at-risk students who have been entrusted to her care. She is always quick with a friendly smile, a warm welcome, and a helping hand. Our region is a better place to live, to work, and to learn as a result.

Biology Students Trained to Use GPS/GNSS Technology


Biology students at Virginia Highlands Community College recently received hands-on training using geospatial technology to gather scientific data at TVA’s South Holston Weir Dam.

The training session was scheduled as part of Expanding Geospatial Technician Education Through Virginia’s Community Colleges (GeoTEd), an initiative coordinated by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. GeoTEd’s goal is to introduce students and faculty to geospatial technology and enhance the use of the technology in the workforce.

Project partners include the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), Virginia Western Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech. The National Science Foundation provided funding for the project through its Advanced Technological Education program.

VHCC students participating in the salamander research project, which is led by Professor Kevin Hamed, met at the weir dam to learn how to use hand-held devices equipped with external antennas. The devices use both global positioning system (GPS) and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) technology to track salamanders that were tagged with transponders during an earlier phase of their research.

The technology will allow students to record the exact location of salamanders, log their favorite nesting sites, and document seasonal data. The ongoing research is providing valuable clues about nesting and migration habits that can help TVA make land-management decisions. Students were trained to use the GPS/GNSS devices by David Webb of Virginia Western Community College, Cherie Aukland of Thomas Nelson Community College, and Sandy Stephenson of Southwest Virginia Community College.

VHCC previously used GPS/GNSS technology to map campus trees and create a campus navigation app.

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Career Development Center Prepares Students for Workplace


(Left) Students used Jenga blocks to explore the importance of teamwork and a well-developed plan before beginning a project. (Right) An etiquette luncheon allowed students to practice skills needed during a professional lunch meeting.

A five-part series designed to prepare students for life after college continued Wednesday with an etiquette luncheon that included a four-course meal and a lesson on proper table manners.

“Always pass to the right,” Career Development Center Coordinator Mark Wildman reminded students.”Wait until everyone has been served before you begin eating.”

The series – entitled “Understanding the Possibilities: An Employability Series”  –  began in February and has included sessions to sharpen skills needed for effective critical thinking, communication, management and teamwork. The series will end on April 21 with “How to Survive the Future,” a 2 p.m. session dedicated to helping participants understand the economic and business world we live in.

For additional information about the Employability Series and other services offered by the Career Development Center, please contact Mark Wildman at 739-2579 or mwildman@vhcc.edu

Acclaimed Hiker Shares Lessons Learned on the Appalachian Trail

Despite a record-setting hike that brought her national acclaim, Jennifer Pharr Davis insists it was her first step on the Appalachian Trail that forever changed her life.

“I had only spent two nights in the woods my entire life and I started by myself in Georgia with my brother’s old Boy Scout gear,” she said. “And I guess in my 21-year-old brain, I realized that hiking was just walking, so how hard could it be?”

The comments came March 31 as Pharr Davis shared lessons learned during her first hike on the Appalachian Trail with community members and students at Virginia Highlands Community College. Later that evening, she highlighted a 2011 record-setting hike before a crowd at Heartwood: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway.

A North Carolina native, Pharr Davis began her first hike in 2005 soon after graduating from college. She returned in 2008, setting the women’s speed record by completing the entire 2,185-mile hike in 51 days, then set the overall record in 2011 by finishing the entire journey in just 46 days. This fastest-ever finish required her to hike an average of 47 miles per day.

Looking back, she said those first few steps on a chilly morning on Springer Mountain, Georgia, were the most important for her.

She traveled through 14 states in rain, fog and snow during that initial five-month hike. Along the way, she was struck by lightning, attracted an unwanted hiking partner, and stumbled upon a suicide victim. She walked through swarms of black flies and mosquitoes and stayed hungry for days on end. More importantly, however, she developed deep friendships and gained a sense of self-worth that has remained with her in the decade since.

“After five months, I got to the end of the trail and when I got there, I was a completely different person,” she said. “I started to see myself in a whole new way.”

Rather than let the trail quash her enthusiasm for hiking, she used each obstacle to develop a new perspective on life.

The fog of the Smokey Mountains made her realize the importance of having vision and direction, she said, while her unsuccessful attempts to shake the uninvited hiking partner taught her the value of expressing her true feelings. And although she was often dirty and smelly, she learned to appreciate her own beauty.

“I felt beautiful on the trail,” she said. “Growing up, I had always thought that nature was beautiful, but I had never seen myself as part of nature. I had never seen myself as a part of all that beauty. After walking over 2,000 miles, after coming through 14 states, you better believe that I placed my self-worth a whole lot less on how I looked and a whole lot more on what I could do.”

To date, Pharr Davis has hiked more than 12,000 miles on 6 continents, yet said the Appalachian Trail remains her favorite. She is the owner of Blue Ridge Hiking Company and the author of several hiking guides and memoirs that chronicle her time on the trail. She lives in Asheville with her husband, Brew, and their daughter, Charley.