NE State debaters capture first and fourth place team awards

Northeast State debaters scored first and fourth place team finishes Oct. 7 at the Smoky Mountain Debate Tournament at Walters State Community College.

Competing in the novice division, the College faced 35 teams, including those from Berea College, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Pellissippi State Community College, and Walters State.

NE State debate team
Paige DiPirro, Dakoda Goodwin, and Cooper McCoy.

One Northeast State team consisted of Dakoda Goodwin and Cooper McCoy and the other was Paige DiPirro who debated solo. DiPirro earned the first place team award along with the second best speaker award, besting 66 other debaters. Goodwin and McCoy earned the fourth place team award with McCoy winning the fourth best speaker award for the tournament.

Dr. Rick Merritt, a Northeast State professor of Speech, helped the teams prepare their cases and judged at the tournament.

Topics included Reforming the Criminal Justice System, Climate Change, and more.  At the end of four rounds both Northeast State teams had 4 and 0 records, earning both teams a trip to the semi-finals.

Both teams faced strong teams from Berea College debating the Technology has Diminished Shared Experiences topic.  At the end of the semi-finals, Goodwin and McCoy lost a 2 to 1 decision, while DiPirro won a 2 to 1 decision and earned a trip to the finals to take on the Berea team for the third time in the tournament. The final round topic was The UN is Irrelevant.  At the end of the round, DiPirro emerged victorious with all three judges voting in her favor.

Because of You Campaign raises $50,000 for scholarships/student needs

Northeast State’s annual Because of You campaign concluded this week, raising more than $50,000 for student scholarships and needs.

The Northeast State Foundation orchestrated the campaign, which ran for one week with campus groups and organizations conducting fundraisers that included a mum sale, a fine art sale, a craft sale, a cookbook sale, various food sales, and a benefit concert by Jeff Little and Wayne Henderson. Events were staged at Northeast State’s Blountville, Elizabethton, Johnson City, and Kingsport campuses.


Student Needs check
The top fund-raising group was Students Needs with a grand total of $15,895.03. Through six Because of You campaigns, Students Needs has raised $100,000.

The majority of the funds were raised through faculty, staff, and student participation, and the Foundation matched 20 percent of all funds raised.

The top fund-raising group was Students Needs with a grand total of $15,895.03. Through six Because of You campaigns, Students Needs has raised $100,000.

“We are going to take care of our students because the heart of Northeast State is its people and our hearts are caring and compassionate,” said David Haga, volunteer leader for the Student Needs fundraiser.

Fund-raising efforts also included these groups and totals: TRIO, $5,957.85; Choral Program, $3,206.40; Honors Program, $3171.60; Veterans Affairs, $1,950.00; Business Technologies, $1,826.40; Human Resources, $1,232.66; and the Art Club, $1,039.20.

The campaign also sponsored a door decorating contest. Payroll Services, Transfer Hall, and Career Services earned best message, most school spirit, and most creative, respectively. Honorable mentions included the Art Department, Counseling Services, and Human Resources. Winners received $100 each to donate to the organization or scholarship of their choice.


TRiO Student Support Services


Choral Program
Choral Program


Honors Program
Honors Program


Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs


Business Technologies
Business Technologies


Human Resources
Human Resources


Art Club
Art Club












Northeast State hosts Annual Open House Oct. 12

Curious about college? Get the basics plus the inside scoop at Northeast State’s Annual Open House happening Oct. 12 from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the William Locke Humanities Building on the Blountville campus next to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

Sponsored by the Office of Enrollment Services, the Open House provides prospective Northeast State student with information about the College’s academic programs, student support programs, financial aid, scholarships, and applying for admission. Register online now at

Annual Open House happens Oct. 12.

Attendees can check in at 5:30 p.m. in the Humanities Building. Faculty and staff will conduct back-to-back information sessions starting at 6:00, 6:45, and 7:30 p.m. Campus tours will be offered at 5:30 pm for interested students.

Representatives from Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect will be on hand to discuss students’ responsibilities to meet the criteria and complete the required information for those scholarships. Students will have the opportunity to apply for TN Promise, Northeast State Foundation scholarships, and/or admission to the College.

Learn more about our academic programs and your potential at Open House.

The Annual Open House will also feature a Student Services Fair where attendees can learn about what services are available to help students achieve success. Reservations are recommended, but not required. For more information, contact Enrollment Services at 423.323.0243 or

Northeast State hosts College Transfer Day Oct. 4

Northeast State Community College students get a look at their next step in higher education at College Transfer Day happening Oct. 4 at the Blountville campus.

Hosted by the TRiO Student Support Services, more than 25 college and university representatives will be available to answer questions. College representatives will meet with students from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the William Locke Humanities Building (1st floor).

Students can get information about transfer opportunities, tuition, entrance requirements, articulation agreements, financial aid, scholarships, housing, internships, and more. No appointment is necessary. The event is free to attend.

Colleges and universities scheduled to attend include: Alabama A&M University, Austin Peay State University, Bethel University, Bryan College, Carson-Newman University, Cumberland University, East Tennessee State University, Emory & Henry College, King University, Lees-McRae College, Lincoln Memorial University, Lindsey Wilson College, Lipscomb University, Maryville College, Middle Tennessee State University, Milligan College, Morehead State University, Old Dominion University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Tech University, Tusculum College, University of the Cumberlands, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, and Western Governors University.

Northeast State’s university parallel associate of arts/associate of science degree programs are designed for students who intend to complete the first two years of a baccalaureate degree program at Northeast State and then transfer to a four-year college or university to complete the bachelor’s degree. Northeast State has developed course-by-course equivalency tables and articulation agreements with many four-year colleges and universities.

For more information about College Transfer Day, contact TRiO Student Support Services at 423.354.2540.

Alumni in Action – Sherri Epperson

As a Northeast State student and TRiO Club president, Sherri Epperson had a saying: “If you want your life to change, you have to change your life.”

Those words became actions as this Northeast State alumna pursued a dream of moving to Hollywood and working in the entertainment industry. While filmmaking may seem a far-off dream, Epperson made it a reality. In 2014 she moved to Los Angeles, starting working in show business, and is now a union member of the motion picture industry.

“While other kids idolized ballplayers, I idolized Steven Spielberg and Aaron Spelling,” she said. “I knew one day I was going to make movies.”

Epperson graduated from Northeast State with an associate degree in Advertising/Public Relations. She went on to graduate from East Tennessee State University getting her bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication with an advertising/public relations concentration and a minor in International Studies.

Sherri Epperson

Like many non-traditional college students, Epperson enrolled in college after high school but life changed her course before she could finish. Still, she held on to the goal of earning her college degree.

Epperson was living in Johnson City and working full-time when she opted to return to college in order to improve her career opportunities and finally get herself to Los Angeles. Encouraged by the College’s reputation she enrolled at Northeast State in 2011.

“I knew about Northeast State and had friends who had attended there,” said Epperson. “

Like most adults returning to college, college courses – particularly mathematics – presented a challenge. She talked to a classmate who told her about TRIO and the tutoring opportunities available for students. She met with program representatives Jenny Wright and Tonya Cassell to improve her mathematics work and go forward. As a first-generation college student, she was accepted as a TRiO SSS participant and TRiO Scholarship recipient.

“I just can’t say enough great things about TRIO. They helped me in so many ways…especially the personalized attention and math tutoring,” she said. “The support I received from the program was a lifesaver.”

Sherri Epperson at graduation from Northeast State in 2012.

TRiO Student Support Services program at Northeast State welcomes students in need of academic and career advisement. The support paves the way for students – both traditional and non-traditional – to find success on their terms. TRiO helps low-income, first-generation and/or students with documented disabilities to successfully persist semester-to-semester, graduate, and transfer. Northeast State’s TRiO SSS program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to serve 180 eligible students. All participants must qualify on the basis of income eligibility and/or first-generation college student status, and/or disability.

So how does an aspiring filmmaker with no great love for math wind up in accounting? A willingness to start on the ground floor. Epperson accepted an entry-level position in production accounting to get into the industry. In less than three years she’s worked her way up to Production Accountant. The job proved to be a blessing in disguise, according to Epperson.

 “It’s been very beneficial to me because I’ve learned so many things I need to know as a Producer such as creating and working with budgets of shows/movies and what each department does and what is required,” Epperson said.

Epperson with actor and colleague Gary Sinise.

Epperson said a college degree did not guarantee automatic success. As in most jobs, new hires start out in entry-level positions. College graduates of all ages should expect rejections before that right opportunity opens up for them.

She earned her first job in the entertainment industry with Warner Brothers. During the past three years, she moved on to jobs with Sony Pictures, Legendary Pictures, ABC Studios, Netflix, and Dick Clark Productions. Her tenacity opened many doors. She has worked on several television and film projects including the TV show Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders.

“The college degree gives you an advantage when working your way up, it doesn’t give you a golden ticket to step right into an advanced position,” she said. “You just have to be patient and persistent and be willing to work your way up.”

For Epperson, her personal achievement has been living her dream and accomplishing so many of her goals. When she isn’t rubbing elbows with A-listers, she continues to build her own future as a producer and filmmaker.  The competitiveness of the entertainment industry is intense, but she remains determined to succeed. She’s writing scripts on her own and with friends in the industry. She is also producing a variety of side projects to build her resume.

“Being a producer and living and working in Los Angeles is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do,” said Epperson. “As a little girl, I was always fascinated with movies and entertainment.”

 Epperson’s childhood dreams may seem ambitious. But her success boiled down to a simple fact: She refused to give up on it. Completing her college degree at Northeast State started the beginning of a new career and life.

“No matter what background you come from, you can do anything you set your mind to, you just have to believe you can,” Epperson said. “Don’t let anyone or any circumstance stop you from doing it.”