VMS Students Get Their Hands Dirty

Thanks to VHCC Greenhouse Manager Ben Casteel, students at Virginia Middle School now know that horticulture is both an art and science, that the last frost in our region occurs around May 10, and that organic gardening techniques are making a comeback.

Ben shared this information with participants in the VMS Afterschool Academy, a grant- funded program that has allowed VHCC to provide a series of hands-on career information designed to motivate students to begin planning for college. Thursday’s participants were encouraged to ask questions and even learned a thing or two about mycorrhizae. Then they were given the chance to put their hands in the dirt and plant a flower or vegetable to take home.

Students could choose between peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, basil or petunias. After learning how to plant the tiny specimens in a cup, Ben gave them tips for taking care of their plants until time to put them in the ground.

“You need to water it a few times a week,” he said. “If it feels kind of heavy, it probably doesn’t need water. If it’s real light and the soil is a light color, you probably need to water it a little.”

Criss Golden has worked closely with VMS teachers to coordinate activities for participating students. In addition to the horticulture activity, he arranged for students to visit campus, participate in a Reality Store program, and learn about biology and engineering from faculty members Kevin Hamed and Tom Tidwell.



Coastal Critters the Focus of Spring Break Study

photo2If your idea of a perfect Spring Break at the beach includes sun, sand, boat-tailed grackle and Yabby shrimp, you’re probably one of 14 students and three faculty members taking part in VHCC’s 2014 Coastal Ecology Course.

Jessica Cox described the experience nicely.

“I came on this trip expecting to learn about the marine environment, however it has become much more than that,” she said. “It has opened my eyes to how many different opportunities you have in life and the many different paths you can take. Seeing the dolphins following us on the boat and playing was amazing. Also catching frogs to identify them was out of this world. This has truly been the opportunity and trip of a lifetime.”

While others are taking a well-deserved break from class, this group of ambitious science enthusiasts is spending the week at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory for a week filled with hands-on exploration. They’re combing the beaches and woods, searching for sea creatures, coastal bird species, and plants that can’t be observed in the woods and mountains close to home.

“Just within the past few days I have learned and experienced more on this trip about different factors that shape an environment than I have ever learned in any classroom,” said student Austin Compton. “I will take what I learn on this trip everywhere I go. I am so glad I had the opportunity to be with critters over spring break!”

Coastal Ecology is offered at VHCC every other year and has been led for many years by Assistant Professor of Biology Kevin Hamed and Assistant Professor of Chemistry Sandy Davis. Dr. Hara Charlier, vice president of Instruction and Student Services, is also participating this year.

If you’d like to learn more, check out this cool video including more quotes and photos from participating student.


photoStudents Dakota Hughes, Emma Buchanan, and Austin Compton joined VHCC President Ron Proffitt for a recent trip to Richmond to visit the Southwest Virginia legislative delegation. During their travels, students got the opportunity to meet Sen. Bill Carrico (center) and other legislators from the region. The trip was organized as part of “Every Day is Community College Day,” an annual initiative of Virginia’s Community Colleges. A second group of students is scheduled to travel to Richmond on Feb. 12-13.

Four-by-Three Opens Tonight

PLAYWRIGHTSVHCC students and community members will showcase their talents tonight and throughout the weekend when Four-by-Three, a series of four short plays by three major American playwrights, hits the VHCC stage.

The evening begins at 7:30 p.m. when Alesha Russell and Austin Puckett take the stage in This Property is Condemned, a play by Tennessee Williams. This will be followed by a monologue from Williams’ Portrait of a Madonna performed by Kelly Hayden. And, finishing the first act, is I’m Herbert, a play by Robert Anderson that stars Mark Stewart as Herbert and Hope Dingus as Muriel.

Coffee will be served at Wolf Grounds Coffee Shop during the 15-minute intermission, then Joseph Harmon and Ronnie Whitaker will perform The Zoo Story by Edward Albee.

The play is directed and designed by Gary Aday, with Jaime Graves as assistant director. Jennifer Mullins and Kelly Hayden are in charge of hair, costumes and makeup, with lighting and sound by Katie Tucker and Jonathan Blake. Students Katie Tucker, Duane Holliday, Bracken Caldwell, Kaitlyn Meade, Jennifer Mullins, Hope Dingus, Alesha Russell and Austin Puckett were responsible for building and painting the set.

Those involved in the play get together nightly for rehearsals and then meet the week prior to the show for “tech week,” during which all actors must have their lines memorized and stage blocking mastered.

Alesha Russell explained that the production is a lot of work, but added that close friendships are formed during practice. “When it’s time for the show, it never fails that we get the jitters before the curtain opens,” she said. “But without stage jitters, I really don’t think it would be much fun.”

The play begins at the Keyser-Aday Theatre on the VHCC Campus tonight, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are free for VHCC students, faculty and staff with a valid campus ID and $5 for community members.

Geospatial Technology Being Used in Biology Courses

Biology students at Virginia Highlands Community College are using geospatial technology to map tree species on campus and to document reptile and VHCC Assistant Professor Kevin Hamed recently participated in an extensive one-week Regional Geospatial Institute that provided training using geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), and remote sensing. He is now incorporating the technology into his biology courses.

Students enrolled in Plant Life of Virginia this fall are using GPS technology to map all the trees on the VHCC campus that are native species. The exercise is giving students experience using technology and identifying species, Hamed said, adding that the finished product will be a valuable tool for updating the VHCC Master Landscape Plan.

The new technology will also be used by General Biology students next spring to create a mobile app that will track reptile and amphibian life throughout the region, Hamed said. Community members can download the app on their smartphones and use it to take photos of turtles, snakes, frogs, lizards and salamanders they see. The app will record the exact location the animal was spotted and, once the information is compiled, students will have a valuable database of reptile and amphibian life in our region.

Hamed said he also plans to use the technology in March when Coastal Ecology students travel to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Laboratory for a one-week study of marine life.

Nineteen community college faculty and three high school teachers participated in the training provided through the Expanding Geospatial Technician Education(GeoTEd) project. GeoTEd is coordinated by the Virginia Space Grant Consortium. Partners include the Virginia Community College System (VCCS), Virginia Western Community College, Thomas Nelson Community College, Southwest Virginia Community College, J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College, and the Virginia Geospatial Extension Program in the College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech. The National Science Foundation provided funding through its Advanced Technological Education program.

Old shoeboxes that are taking up precious closet space and  items needed by U.S. military personnel are currently being collected by the VHCC Student Government Association as part of Operation Shoebox, a nation-wide effort to provide holiday care packages to the troops.

The goal is to fill 150 shoeboxes on November 12 when the packages are assembled.

Items needed include:

  • sunflower seeds
  • rice crispy treats
  • trail mix
  • Slim Jims
  • gum
  • ground coffee
  • hard candy
  • drink flavoring
  • Ramen Noodles
  • tuna
  • nuts
  • hot chocolate mix
  • salt & pepper shakers
  •  word puzzle books
  • travel size games
  • playing cards
  • bar soap with fragrance
  • deodorant
  • pens & paper
  • sanitation wipes
  • baby wipes.

Items that cannot be sent include decorations, chips, chocolate, and liquid soap.

Monetary donations are also being sought and will be used to purchase needed items and to cover shipping costs.  Items can be dropped off at the VHCC Career and Transfer Center located in the Instruction & Student Center (ISC). For additional information, please contact the SGA at VHSGA@vhcc.edu or Kim Morton at kmorton@vhcc.edu.

Shoeboxes and Slim Jims Needed

VHCC to Honor American Veterans

veteransMembers of the campus community are encouraged to celebrate American heroes this Veterans Day by submitting the story of their own military service or sharing the story of a friend or family member who served in the U.S. armed forces.

The effort is being sponsored by the VHCC Student Veterans Association and all information and images submitted will be displayed in the VHCC Wolves’ Den. Multiple stories can be submitted.

A basic outline to help compile the information is available online at here. Participants may complete the sheet and submit it using the online form or submit your stories and pictures to Debbie Barrett or Jessica Seymour in the Admissions Office, ISC 133. Those who do not have access to a scanner, may bring their photos to Debbie or Jessica.  Forms will also be available in the Wolves’ Den.

Please help us honor those who have served or are currently serving in the military.  Land of the free because of the brave!

For additional information, please contact Debbie Barrett at (276) 739-2460.