Two students invited to ATE Principal Investigators conference

Two Northeast State students have been invited to attend the national Advanced Technical Education (ATE) Principal Investigators Conference this month.

Megan Buckles and Abigail Rasnick received two of a limited number of invitations sent to community college students nationwide to attend the conference held in Washington, D.C., Oct. 26-28. The annual conference is being held by the American Association of Community Colleges with the support of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The two students are majors in the College’s computer science program. Rasnick had not decided on a major when she enrolled in Northeast State. After taking a few computer science courses she found her niche in cyber defense. She plans to graduate with an associate of applied science degree next spring.

Abigail Rasnick

“I’ve always liked technology,” said Rasnick, a second-year student at Northeast State. “I had taken a few courses in computer science when I learned about the cyber defense program, and I decided that sounded pretty cool.”

The NSF created the ATE program to improve educational opportunities for technicians in the technologically-driven STEM fields of the U.S. economy. The conference brings together more than 800 people from higher education, business and industry, as well as research and development centers to focus on the critical issues related to advanced technological education.

“This field has one of the greatest growing needs for professionals,” said Buckles, also a second-year student at Northeast State. “It is a field that not a lot of women go into so I saw a great opportunity to do it.”

A Tennessee Reconnect student, Buckles is pursuing associate of applied science degrees in both the cyber defense and networking programs. Buckles majored in graphic design at a four-year institution before enrolling at Northeast State. She said her creative background gave her an edge in picking up the cyber defense skill set.

Megan Buckles

“Cyber defense offers a great challenge to creative thinkers capable of filling the gaps that open in cyber networks,” said Buckles. “You need to come into this discipline with an open mind.”

The Computer Science department offers a cyber defense program focused on topics in cybersecurity and digital forensics. Students learn how to fortify computer networks to halt security breaches and how to recover digital data and evidence. A cyber defense professional can earn numerous certifications to expand his or her expertise in cybersecurity.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment opportunities for cyber defense analysts to grow 18 percent through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. For professionals working in computer systems design and related services, employment is predicted to grow by 36 percent.

“It is a great career for women and minorities,” said Buckles. “Companies are looking to become more diverse and need a great diversity of thought in how they secure their networks.”

The changing landscape of technology and communication makes cyber defense a necessity for businesses and individuals. Cyber defense students understand the demands and expectations of their future profession. But as Rasnick said, the profession’s edginess also was quite appealing.

“You feel cool,” said Rasnick. “You feel like you are hacking into the system in some ways.”

Northeast State awarded Veteran Reconnect Grant through THEC

Northeast State Community College is one of 14 colleges and universities in Tennessee to be awarded funding from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) through the Veteran Reconnect Grant for 2018-19. The College will receive $80,000 from the grant totaling $889,277 divided among the institutions.

The Veteran Reconnect grant focuses on improving the assessment of prior learning for student veterans by awarding academic credit, when applicable, based on their military training. The Northeast State Office of Veterans Affairs plans to use the grant to hire a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Credentials Coordinator. This person will work with academic deans and student affairs to identify academic credit markers for a student veteran’s military experience.

“With the addition of the Military PLA Credentials Coordinator we plan to improve our process for awarding and managing prior learning assessment credit for our service members and veterans,” said Jessica Kelso, director of Veterans Affairs for Northeast State. “By doing this we can potentially shorten students’ track to graduation.”

The full Veteran Reconnect Grant supports programs and services for student veterans at campuses across the state. THEC also provide technical assistance to Veteran Reconnect campuses around prior learning assessment for veterans. Veteran Reconnect is part of Governor Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative to increase educational attainment in the state to 55 percent by the year 2025.

“Many veterans in Tennessee put their education on hold to serve our nation in the armed forces, and as a state, we have an obligation to support them in completing their education,” Governor Haslam said. “Through the Drive to 55, we can connect veterans with the postsecondary credentials that will help them further stand out in the workforce. Veteran Reconnect is one more way that Tennessee is investing in veterans and their future.”

Prior learning assessment at colleges and universities examines a veteran’s earned military qualifications. Veterans are granted equivalent college credit for those skills attained during service.

Northeast State currently awards some specific academic credit with the remainder being applied as a military elective credit. Office of Veterans Affairs specialist John Adcox, himself a United States Army veteran, said the grant puts a student veteran on a fast track to complete a technical certificate or degree. He also noted the PLA eased the challenge veterans faced when all their military training did not translate into academic credit.

“Our goal is to have a uniform system in place to streamline the process of transferring training into college credit,” said Adcox. “The training that veterans have should count for something.”

The Northeast State Office of Veterans Affairs operates veterans centers on the Blountville, Johnson City, and Kingsport campuses, provides a dedicated student advisor, and hosts veterans-specific orientations. The office also sponsors professional development opportunities for faculty and staff. A chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA) organization was established in 2013.

“This grant is an important step forward in making Northeast State one of the nation’s leading community colleges for supporting our veterans,” said Northeast State President James King.

Northeast State served 179 student veterans who completed the fall 2017 semester. Kelso expects the office to serve an equal if not greater number of veterans for the upcoming fall semester. Northeast State was named a Top Ten Award Winner in the small community college category of the Military Friendly Schools ® list for 2018. The College is certified as a Veterans Education Transition Support campus by THEC.

“Earning college credit for military training can be the difference between a student applying to a school, or moving on to the next opportunity,” said THEC Executive Director Mike Krause. “When a veteran is able to use credit for their military training towards their college degree, they are more likely to persist and finish their program of study.”

Northeast State pins newest Nursing program graduates

Northeast State recognized the summer graduating class of its Nursing program students at a Pinning Ceremony held on Friday at the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Kingsport.

The College’s Director of Nursing, Johanna Neubrander, presented attending program graduates with a nursing pin. The Nursing graduates recognized are Jessica Coffman; Lacosta Ellis; Kayla Hawkins; Stacy Hunnicutt; Jennifer Judy; Mercedes Lampley; Krista Miller; Brooke Oliver; Sarah Phillips; and Jennifer Woods.

A new group of nurses has graduated from the NE Nursing program.

The nurse pinning ceremony celebrates the transition from the role of student to the role of nurse – a rite of passage into the nursing profession. It is also a symbol of care and devotion.

The Nursing students honored on Friday fulfilled their degree requirements this summer. The graduates received the associate of applied science degree in Nursing from the College.

The Northeast State Nursing program marks its 10-year anniversary in 2018. Check out a few photos from today’s event at our Smug Mug webpage:

Congratulations, new nurses!


Helping the adult learner navigate college

(This is the second in a series of columns from Northeast State’s Dr. J. Michael Ramey, Evening Coordinator at the Kingsport Center for Higher Education).

The first post in this series examined factors that affect self-efficacy. In the second, we will explore adult learner traits and match them with elements of the learning environment. While primarily addressed to college teachers, it will also provide helpful background information for anyone who works with adult learners.

I had not cracked open a math textbook in almost 10 years when I enrolled at Northeast State. Feeling anxious, I called up my instructor before the semester started and expressed my concerns. He was very reassuring, and once the course began, I soon realized that the instructor had created a setting where adult learners felt as equally at home as students who had graduated from high school just a few months before.

In order to pay forward this positive experience, I would like to uncover those key elements that compose an adult learner-friendly environment. As a preliminary step, however, we need to create a backdrop consisting of traits that are common to adult learners. While this list of traits does not perfectly represent each individual student, it will serve as a general template for distinguishing adult learners from the traditional undergraduate population. There are four traits, in particular, that merit our attention, and I have selected a keyword to represent each trait: respect, relevance, resistance, and responsibilities.

First, adult learners need for you to respect their real-world experience and wisdom gained in the ‘school of hard knocks.’ They have been working, raising kids, and dealing with the daily hassles of life over the course of many years and have thereby accumulated knowledge of how things work in practice, not just in the pages of an assigned text. In a similar vein, they also may need you to appreciate why they have negative feelings about previous learning experiences.

Second, adult learners need to know the relevance of course content in terms of their lives and goals. If traditional students are likely to think, “When am I going to use this in real life?” then adult learners are even more so inclined. Specifically, adult learners will be thinking about how the material applies to their career path.

The road to college and a degree does not have to be scary for adult learners.

Third, adult learners may resist new ways of looking at or doing things. Commonly, this resistance arises in connection with new technologies. For example, the student may have done all previous schoolwork with pencil, paper, and maybe a simple calculator. In addition, these students may openly resist instruction that does not line up with ‘what they had always been taught’ or information that seems to clash with their worldviews.

Fourth, adult learners have to manage multiple levels of life responsibilities. With work, family, and other obligations demanding their time, adult learners must fit learning into the spare moments they can scrape together. Moreover, given such thin margins of time, a minor emergency in another area of life can seriously disrupt their ability to meet course deadlines.

In light of these common traits, then, we can begin to construct an environment that will feel welcoming to adult learners. First, we need to make sure that our adult learners feel respected. Invite them to share their perspectives and experiences at opportune moments. Also, acknowledge any negative learning experiences they may share from days gone by and assure them that the old has passed away and a new day has dawned.

To the fullest extent possible, you will also want to draw connections between course content and real-world applications. This may prove to be the most challenging aspect of the learning environment to construct, but opportunities for life application can often appear in the unlikeliest of places if we take the time to reflect. Every subject of study can supply the ingredients to produce better thinkers, decision-makers, and citizens, even if it does not directly connect with a specific job.

Next, provide opportunities for your adult learners to get comfortable with new ways of thinking and completing assignments. This may take the form of brief sessions in which students familiarize themselves with digital learning tools, but this may also involve training for your students on how to grapple with new ideas in productive ways. Let them know up front you are not trying to overthrow their beliefs, but to help them appreciate and respect alternate viewpoints, just as you appreciate and respect their perspectives.

Finally, as much as possible, be flexible with deadlines and spread points over several assignments. For those who are juggling multiple responsibilities, crises are inevitable. I would, therefore, encourage you to err on the side of grace instead of clinging to the letter of the law.

While adult learners enter the classroom with a different set of challenges, they also add a richness that comes from a variety of life experiences and viewpoints. By observing the preceding recommendations you can create an environment of success for them and traditional undergraduates, alike.

The NE Honors Program wants you!

Check your student email for a special invitation. You just might be eligible to join the Northeast State Honors Program. Students with an overall ACT exam score of 25 or higher OR a grade point average of 3.25 are eligible for the Honors Program.

The Northeast State Honors Program wants to hear from eligible students.

Honors classes are smaller—usually no more than 20 students—allowing for close interaction between students and faculty.  All honors courses are noted as such on student transcripts. Northeast State students completing more than 18 hours of honors coursework receive an honors diploma. Why is this important? Because an honors diploma makes you highly competitive for transfer scholarships to four-year institutions. If you would like to take honors classes, complete the Fall 2018 Honors Course Registration Form here:

Honors program-eligible students are invited to attend one of two Student Orientation/Information Sessions on the following dates: Aug. 8, from 10:00-11:30 and on Aug. 9, from 1:00-2:30. Both sessions will be held in Room L226 of Basler Library on the Blountville campus.

Please complete the Honors Eligible Orientation Session Form to indicate which session you plan to attend. For more information contact Dr. Jane Honeycutt at 423.354.2596 or