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.


VHCC Engineering Student Heading to MIT

Richard Moyer joins Engineering Instructor Tom Tidwell in telling young students about the engineering profession during a recent career fair.
Richard Moyer joins Engineering Instructor Tom Tidwell in telling young students about the engineering profession during Educational Talent Search’s recent Career Carnival.

He’s often seen walking across the VHCC campus barefoot, sometimes giving the impression that he takes a laidback approach to college life. That is until Richard Moyer pulls a stack of carefully solved differential equations from his backpack and casually mentions his recent acceptance to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s engineering program.

He’s planning a visit to the MIT campus sometime in mid-April and will become one of about 3,000 students in the nation’s top engineering program in September. Until then, he’s committed to finishing his associate’s degree – and grateful for his sister’s offer to milk the cows on their 70-acre farm each morning so he can concentrate on academics.

Richard’s education has taken a different path than most. When his family purchased a farm in rural Russell County about six years ago, he took some time off from his homeschool routine to help with major constructions projects, gardening, and tending to the animals. While preforming routine agricultural tasks, he discovered a natural inclination for developing methods to make farm life easier.

“I created a method for cleaning pepper seed that just involves a plastic bucket, a hose and water,” he said. “It’s a new method for cleaning the seed. A lot of people on farms are extremely creative about coming up with new methods to do something.”

His talent for creating things led to an interest in engineering. When he discovered that VHCC offers a two-year engineering program, he decided to enroll. First, however, he needed to catch up on the school work he had missed while working on the farm.

So he buckled down between February and August of 2013, teaching himself the advanced math skills he needed to become an engineering student. Then he drove to VHCC, took the Placement Test, and enrolled in his first semester of classes. Calculus with Analytical Geometry and Linear Algebra kept him busy that first semester, then he moved on to Intro to Engineering and Engineering Mechanics.

His recent acceptance to MIT is proof that Richard has done well at VHCC. He’s juggled heavy class loads each semester, sneaking just enough time away from his books to take the SAT subject tests required by the nation’s top universities. And when it came time to apply to colleges, he choose just two – MIT and Virginia Tech.

When Pi Day – an event that celebrates the mathematical constant pi – arrived, Richard logged on to the MIT website for a decision about his future. His mother was with him, he said, and was “somewhat excited” to learn he’d been accepted.

Somewhat excited? Well, Richard explained, his parents are high achievers themselves. His father holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry and his mother has a master’s degree in nuclear engineering. Apparently they’ve always expected Richard to do well.

There’s no doubt Richard will do well at MIT, but he admits he’s a little worried about the work required to keep pace in a sea of engineering students who love equations every bit as much as he does.

“The workload is going to be interesting,” he said. “I’m ready for the challenge.”

Vietnam Veterans to Visit VHCC

vietnam veteran speakers group

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war in Vietnam, a group of local veterans will visit VHCC next week to share their wartime experiences and answer questions about life back in the states.

The event is being sponsored by the VHCC Student Veterans Association and will include Vietnam veterans from various branches of the U.S. military. Members of the group travel throughout the region to discuss their views on the war, the impact the war had on them and their families, and their reaction to protesting in America. Photos, videos and military memorabilia will be used to illustrate their talk.

The event is set for Thursday, March 19, at 2 p.m. in Keyser-Aday Theatre and open to all community members. For additional information, please contact Veterans Officer Debbie Barrett at (276) 739-2460.

Spelling Bee Was ‘Nerve-Racking,’ Winner Says

009 The words weren’t as difficult as Jamie Brown feared they might be, but the experience of competing in VHCC’s first annual Spelling Bee still was “nerve-racking” because all eyes in the Keyser-Aday Theatre were focused on her while she was at the microphone.

“I don’t even remember the word I won with,” she said. “That’s how nervous I was.”

Jamie was among several dozen students who participated in the VHCC Spelling Bee on January 29 in the hopes of winning bragging rights and a share of the cash that was available for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners.  She ended the afternoon $250 dollars richer and glad she convinced a co-worker to fill in for her at Cracker Barrel.

“I found out about it through an email that was sent out,” she said. “I was supposed to work, but I got a friend to cover my shift. I figured I had the chance to make more money than I would at work that day.”

A resident of Sugar Grove, Jamie started a family soon after graduating from Marion High School. A few years ago while working at a job she didn’t like, she made the decision to enroll at VHCC. It was something she always wanted to do, she explained, but kept putting off.  She’ll graduate in May with an Associate of Arts & Sciences Degree in Education – Teacher Preparation, then it’s on to Radford University to complete her teaching degree.

“I really love the teachers here,” she said. “Every teacher here really cares. I hope that doesn’t change when I get to Radford.”

In addition to her full-time class load, Jamie works full time and is a single mother to a 12-year-old daughter and 11-year-old twins.

“My kids have seen me work really hard to find time for everything,” she said. “I think they’ve learned a few things from that. I bet they go to college right after high school.”

Rhonda Hubbard won $150 for her 2nd-place finish in the Spelling Bee, and Heather Jeffreys won $100 for finishing in 3rd place.