Thacker, Oxendine-Woodby named to 40 Under Forty class of 2017

Two Northeast State leaders were recognized among the region’s next generation of movers and shakers in The Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty class of 2017.

Jennifer Thacker and Mary Beth Oxendine-Woodby were selected as 40 Under Forty recipients recognizing the region’s professionals for noteworthy career and civic accomplishments. The entire 40 Under Forty class was featured in the Journal’s December issue.

As Northeast State’s director of the Kingsport Center for Higher Education (KCHE), Thacker provides leadership and management for operations for administrative and support staff. She works in coordination with other departments, Kingsport campus buildings, staff, city and state officials, and other stakeholders.

Jennifer Thacker

Thacker received a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from East Tennessee State University (ETSU), a Master of Education from Milligan College, and is entering the dissertation phase of her Ph.D. in Education – Cultural Studies from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  She began her career in education as a high school English teacher then transitioned to post-secondary education. She joined Northeast State as site coordinator for the Gray campus in 2010 and later took on the role of cohort and academic support specialist. In addition to reestablishing and directing the College’s cohort-based programs, she served as director of Northeast State at Bristol prior to moving to her current role as director of KCHE in November 2015.

Mary Beth Oxendine-Woodby

Oxendine-Woodby has built a career around strengthening the region’s workforce. As career development coordinator for Northeast State, she works closely with area employers to ensure that they have access to highly-skilled job candidates. She has been working at Northeast State since 2011. Oxendine-Woodby works closely with individuals, school systems, and community agencies to promote training opportunities and job skills. She has also been an active volunteer with the United Way of Greater Kingsport since 2012, serving on councils in both leadership and member roles.  Oxendine-Woodby has served as a tnAchieves mentor since 2014 to help Tennessee Promise students adjust to college.

“I am honored and humbled to be selected as a 40 Under Forty recipient this year,” said Oxendine-Woodby. “Being recognized alongside such a talented group of professionals is truly inspiring.”

Oxendine-Woodby earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from ETSU and a Master’s Degree in Human Resource Development from Tusculum College. She holds credentials as a Global Career Development Facilitator and a Certified Professional Resume Writer. Prior to joining Northeast State, Oxendine-Woodby worked in the Tennessee Department of Labor Career Centers, providing training and pre-employment services through the Alliance for Business & Training.

Award nominees are 39 years old or younger as of October 2017, live and work in East Tennessee or Southwest Virginia, are involved in their communities and show the potential to be a leader in the business community during the next decade.

According to the Journal, this year’s 40 Under Forty honorees inducted the 1,000th member since the class began in 1993. The Journal promotes young talent through this program — one that has become the top honor for the region’s businesspeople under the age of 40.

Faculty Focus – Prof. Nona Shepherd

Faculty Focus, Prof. Nona Shepherd
English Professor & Fantasy Literature guru.
Clinch Valley College (University of Virgina’s College at Wise) Bachelor’s degree.
East Tennessee State University. Master’s degree.
She’s Morgan le Fay in another realm.

Has Southern Appalachia always been home to you?
My family moved to Wise, Va., from Baltimore when I was 12 years old. So my formative years were spent in Southwest Virginia. I graduated from Clinch Valley College (now University of Virginia’s College at Wise) where I was an English major with a concentration in Communications. I was also a dorm director for three years. My director of residence life told me I needed to move on to graduate school.

What prompted your decision to return to graduate school?
Initially, when I was going to graduate school I applied to get a degree in counseling. It was the loss of my dad and my friends’ discussion of their passion for layout design that nudged me back towards literature. That experience brought me back to language, stories, and the people telling them. I thought, ‘You’ve loved this your whole life.’ That is when I realized what I’m most passionate about. So I was accepted into the graduate program at East Tennessee State University where I earned my Master’s degree in English. After I earned my Master’s degree, I worked as a community educator for six-and-a-half years at the Sexual Assault Response Center.

Prof. Nona Shepherd

How did you find your way to Northeast State?
Someone told me that I should go talk to this guy (Humanities division Dean William) Wilson about becoming an adjunct instructor at Northeast State. So he gave me a few classes to teach. I was also teaching adjunct at ETSU. I applied for a full-time faculty position that year but didn’t get the job! But I applied again the next year and was hired as a full-time instructor. So I’ve been here 12 years full-time and 14 years overall. I never imagined being able to teach in college as a profession.

In an increasingly visually driven world of communication, why are English and literature critical to how we express ourselves?
I think you communicate the complexities of life through language. The use of written language handles the true depth of human communication whereas visual images give you a moment. Words are the most natural expressions of ourselves. Literature helps us understand each other because it is the story of others. Literature tells the story of humanity.

What is the biggest challenge for students to improve their writing?
Their confidence level. Students tell me, ‘I know what is in my head but I can’t get it down on paper.’ They don’t have the confidence in their ability to communicate well in their writing. So we develop that confidence through writing and practicing writing what we want to express.

What appeals to you about Northeast State?
Because we invest in students. I don’t know how many students I’ve had say, ‘I wish I could come back’ and ‘I hated to leave.’ I feel like we give them a foundation to do what they want to do and move forward to their next step in life. It feels more like a graduate school experience where the classes are more intimate and the relationships between the faculty and students are personal. We are in this together. We are a team. That camaraderie among everyone has carried us through a lot.

Be a mentor & be a hero – sign up before Oct. 31

Returning Northeast State students can leverage their academic achievements into leadership experience as an EDUC 1030 peer mentor for the upcoming spring semester.

The EDUC 1030 Peer Mentoring Program needs returning students to help transition new students into the college environment. A peer mentor is a second-year student who leads a maximum of five (5) students enrolled in EDUC 1030 classes throughout the 2018 spring semester.

College can be a climb. Peer mentors can help.

An eligible peer mentor candidate is a second-year student with a grade point average of 3.0 or above. Training will take place during the latter half of the current fall semester. Students selected to serve as peer mentors are compensated with meals during training and will receive a $250.00 stipend upon completion of assigned duties and responsibilities.

If interested, please complete the Peer Mentoring Application Form no later than October 31, 2017.

For questions and details, please contact Jane Honeycutt at jbhoneycutt@northeaststate.edu or Dr. Teressa Dobbs at tadobbs@northeaststate.edu.

Faculty Focus – Dr. Miriam Bryant

Faculty Focus, Dr. Miriam Bryant
Professor & Communications expert.
East Tennessee State University. Bachelor’s, Master’s, Doctorate.
United States Navy veteran.
International marketer.
Coalfields native.

How did you find your way to Northeast State?
I am from Pound, Virginia. My father was a coal miner. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. The best way I felt to get to college was to join the Navy and served on active duty for five years until 2003. So I went to college and initially wanted to be a lawyer because I loved political science. I did my Master’s degree in communications with an emphasis in Business Management. I did international marketing for a number of years while I was teaching communications part-time as an adjunct. I started to feel that I was happier with my part-time job than with my full-time job. So I applied for communications faculty jobs. Those are really hard to get, but I was fortunate a position opened here at Northeast State.

What is the appeal of communications as a major and career?
Speech is an amazing major because it provides students a basis to all the behavioral science degrees. You will be seen as a more competent communicator than others. When people realize, ‘Oh, I can have a conversation with you’, you become a much stronger candidate in your field. I tell students it is all about how you market yourself.

Why does public speaking terrify people?
Most are terrified of it because they are striving for perfection. We think a speech has to be memorized and rehearsed perfectly. You memorize the entire speech and never deviate from it in a serious tone. That is the worst kind of speech. I want them to understand that they can take a breath and realize it is the extension of a conversation.

Dr. Miriam Bryant

How do you want students to see communications and the messages they encounter?
That we consume a great deal of media messages that shape who we are and how we see ourselves and others in the world. News and entertainment media are products. The person who created the message you see is seeking to sell more of their product. I want them to understand what they are seeing. They need to understand behind all these media messages they receive is the desire to make a profit. Even if it is heartfelt and has a great cause behind it, there is a profit motivation there.

With all the diverse methods of communications especially social media, have people become better or worse communicators?
Everyone is more conflict avoidant today. It has become harder to communicate because no one wants to have a negative interaction. I try to teach students that everybody is not going to agree with you. I teach them that you have to be able to communicate face to face. You have to handle conflict constructively wherever you work.

What appeals to you about Northeast State?
As a division department, I feel like I have gained a new family. It is really nice to know you can rely on that. We celebrate each other successes. Whatever challenges that arise, I know faculty remains focused on our students. My experience with them has strengthened my loyalty to the college.

As a Navy veteran, what advice do you give to a military veteran or any non-traditional student seeking to start anew by seeking his or her college degree?
It is never too late to start over. I didn’t start college until I was 24 years old. If you aren’t happy, make a change. For the traditional students that is usually easier to accept than the non-traditional student. But it is true. Your situation doesn’t make you, you make your situation!

Faculty Focus: Lisa Poole

Northeast State shines the spotlight on current faculty members making a difference in the lives of students. Associate Professor Lisa L. Poole teaches in the Psychology program at Northeast State. She earned bachelor’s degrees in English and Mass Communications at Carson-Newman University. She earned her master’s of Education degree from East Tennessee State University.

Why did teaching appeal to you as a career?

Well, teaching runs in my family starting with my great-grandfather who taught in a one-room schoolhouse. My dad was a coach, principal, and Director of Secondary Education. However, I majored in English and Mass Communication in college. I was going to be the next Barbara Walters! I actually was offered a job at a television station out of college, but I could not afford, based on the starting salary, to move to that city, so I started reviewing my career options. My mother taught psychology and my brother taught psychology so that discipline became a strong influence on my career path.

How did you come to join the faculty at Northeast State?

While I was getting my master’s at ETSU, I applied for and was hired as a part-time tutor coordinator in Student Services. After receiving my master’s degree, I was hired, by Dr. Chris Lefler, as a counselor in Developmental Studies.  After deciding to start a family, I left full-time work here but continued as an adjunct instructor. After my youngest son started school, a full-time psychology instructor position opened so I applied and got the job. I also had experience as an elementary school guidance counselor, but once I taught my first college class I was hooked.

Lisa Poole
Lisa Poole

What should college students hope to gain if they are considering a Psychology major or taking psychology classes?

Understanding psychology help can enhance their life experiences. I teach General Psychology, Social Psychology, and Lifespan Psychology. We engage in several social experiments ranging from the “elevator experiment” where students face the back of the elevator and measure the reactions of people when the doors open. The idea is getting the student into a learning experience to better understand behavior.

How do psychology classes benefit overall learning?

In anything you do, as well as a career, you need an understanding of people and human behavior. There are lots of disciplines, beyond the area of just psychology, that would benefit having an understanding of behavior and mental processes.  Part of my job is helping students develop critical thinking skills and prioritize their information they are studying.

How does the study of Psychology program help students transition from the classroom to the “real world”?

There are several excellent classes we offer to help students studying business, social work, education. I think it is a valuable tool for everyone to have. Every program at Northeast State wants the student to succeed. Student success is what we are striving to achieve and not only in the classroom. We want them to think about the world and understand how to make sound decisions as students and in life.