Student Stories


Beth Ross earns pretigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

Northeast State Community College graduate Elizabeth “Beth” Ross, has won the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship for 2013.

“It is a huge honor to receive this scholarship,” says Ross, of Blountville. “I am truly grateful to be recognized by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.”

Ross was chosen as one of only 73 scholarship recipients from more than 750 applications submitted to the Foundation from two-year colleges around the country. She is only the second Northeast State student to win this coveted scholarship.

The scholarship’s value is for up to $30,000 annually.  The award covers a significant share of a student’s educational expenses including tuition, living expenses, books, and required fees for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree.

Ross distinguished herself by earning a 4.0 grade point average while pursuing her associate’s degree in Speech Communication.  She is the Vice President of Scholarship for the Alpha Iota Chi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, a member of the President’s All-Academic Team, and Chief of Staff to the Governor for the Tennessee Intercollegiate State Legislature.  Even more impressive is how Ross balanced college life while being a full-time mother to her son and daughter.

While at Northeast State, Ross seized the opportunities to grow personally and professionally. She enrolled in the Honors Program, joined Toastmasters, and served as student advisor to the 2012-2013 Northeast State Debate Team.

More impressive is how much Ross accomplished while battling a severe health problem – now in remission – that sapped not only her health but her self-confidence, too.  She said returning to school seemed overwhelming when she first enrolled.

Ross credited professors Dr. Rick Merritt, Dr. Ruth Livingston, and Jane Honeycutt with helping develop her academic potential.  Honeycutt, who also serves as Alpha Iota Chi chapter advisor, first met Ross two years ago after she enrolled in her Women’s Studies class.

“I had been out of college a long time when I came to Northeast State,” said Ross. “Jane really believed in my long enough for me to believe in myself.”

Honeycutt said Ross possessed all the academic and leadership tools to succeed. The only thing she needed was a boost of confidence.

“I just wanted to give her some confidence back,” said Honeycutt. “She has the determination to do well at so many things; it has been a pleasure to see her find herself.”

Honeycutt said Ross raised the chapter’s profile with her leadership at the regional and national level. The chapter won several awards and Ross won 1st place as top officer in the state at Phi Theta Kappa’s Regional Convention held in April. Regional Phi Theta Kappa officials were so impressed with Ross that they named her a regional vice president at-large purely on her leadership abilities for her chapter.

“Honestly, she’s taught me a lot,” said Honeycutt of Ross. “A great deal of the regional and national success the chapter had this year resulted from her leadership.”

Ross also served as president of the student organizations A Toast to Education and the Argumentation and Debate Society.  She graduated summa cum laude this spring.

Ross has applied to several four-year institutions including Columbia University. She plans on pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Human Rights. Ross also works part-time with the Northeast State Foundation where she serves as the Coordinator of Alumni Affairs and helps with fundraising.

“I love Foundation work so much,” Ross said. “I especially like working with our Executive Director, Dr. Heather Cook, who has been a mentor to me. She has a heart for service and has been a great example for me to follow.”


Scholars honor Tait White, reach $10,000 goal

The Northeast State Scholars Foundation student club formally established a scholarship in the name of a late Northeast State alumnus and met their goal to raise $10,000 for student scholarships.

The Scholars Foundation announced the creation of the Tait Obadiah White Memorial Book Scholarship available for the upcoming fall semester during the Student Leadership Luncheon held earlier this month. White graduated magna cum laude from Northeast State in summer 2011. He passed away during the fall of 2012 while enrolled at East Tennessee State University.

“Tait embodied the leadership we expect in our student leaders,” said Greg Walters, dean of Student Development who worked closely with White. “We could not do what we do without our student leaders.”

The Scholars Foundation sought to create a scholarship in White’s name in November of 2012.  Fundraising projects earned more than $2,400 with faculty and staff donations adding more than $300. The Scholars were able to fund the scholarship for at least nine semesters thus far.

The book scholarship will benefit a second-year Foreign Language, Political Science, or Psychology major with a grade point average of 2.75. The first award will be made during the 2013 fall semester. The monetary value of the scholarship to the recipient will be $300 per semester for two semesters. A plaque commemorating White and recognizing each scholarship recipient will be displayed in the office of Scholarship Programs on the main campus.

White was an Honors Program student and served as the first president of the Scholars Foundation and president of Psi Beta, the psychology honors society. He also helped develop the Scholars’ constitution and create a logo. A teenage missionary who traveled to Panama and Peru, he served as a counselor as well as a laborer at Doe River Gorge Christian camp.

Tait’s father, Mark White, attended the luncheon and praised his son’s friends and classmates for their efforts to establish a scholarship to honor his legacy. He also presented the college with a plaque that includes a photo of Tait and one of his original poems for display.

“He wasn’t the kind of person who bragged about what he did,” White said. “He gave whatever he did his all, and I believe that made him so successful.”

The Scholars Foundation supports the efforts of the Northeast State Community College Foundation through student-driven initiatives to promote private giving and service learning. Membership is composed of students receiving Northeast State scholarships, Honors Program students, or members of other campus honor societies.

The Scholars club also celebrated surpassing the $10,000 mark this year in funds raised for Foundation Scholarships. The Scholars Foundation becomes eligible for membership the College’s President’s Trust which recognizes donors exceeding $10,000 of giving.

“It was very exhilarating considering all the work we put in,” said Rachel Lawson, student president of the Scholars Foundation.  “Seeing it grow from zero to $10,000 made it very satisfying.”


PTK scores major awards at national conference 

The accolades continue to pile up for Northeast State Community College’s Alpha Iota Chi chapter.

The College’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society scored major awards at the PTK Annual Convention held recently in San Jose, Calif. Out of 1,400 Phi Theta Kappa chapters worldwide, Alpha Iota Chi was recognized among the top 100 chapters based on the judging scores received on their College Project and Honors in Action Project award applications.

“These students exemplify leadership and pursuit of excellence,” said Jane Honeycutt, advisor for the chapter and Northeast State associate professor of English and Women’s Studies.  “They set high standards for themselves and the chapter and worked diligently to develop and implement meaningful projects.”

Alpha Iota Chi’s college project, The President’s Student Leadership Academy, was chosen among the top 30 projects submitted for consideration.  The Academy formed last fall bringing together students nominated for their leadership potential by faculty and staff.  Students spent the fall and spring semesters involved in group dynamics and breakout sessions to learn more about themselves and each other.

The chapter’s vice president of Scholarship, Elizabeth Ross, was recognized as one of the top 30 Phi Theta Kappa officers in the nation.  Ross won 1st Place as Most Distinguished Chapter Officer in the state at the regional convention in February.  Her colleague and vice president of Communication, James Wagner, took 4th Place in the same category.

Honeycutt was also named as one of the top 30 Phi Theta Kappa Advisors in the nation.  As chapter advisor and director of the Northeast State Honors Program, Honeycutt works with Alpha Iota Chi and Honors Program students on a variety of projects. The Alpha Iota Chi chapter and student members have been consistently recognized for their achievements under Honeycutt’s guidance.

Northeast State President Dr. Janice Gilliam received the Shirley B. Gordon Award of Distinction.  President Gilliam was one of only 30 college presidents recognized with the Gordon Award, ranking her among Phi Theta Kappa’s most distinguished college presidents.

At the Tennessee Regional Convention held in February, Alpha Iota Chi won 1st Place as Most Distinguished Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa in the state and 1st Place for the Most Distinguished College Project for The President’s Student Leadership Academy. Honeycutt also received the 1st Place award as Most Distinguished Faculty Advisor in the state.

Honeycutt attributed the chapter’s year-long success to student leadership provided by Anne Rowell, chapter president; Ross; Hope Nunn, vice-president of Leadership; Wagner; Sharon Woods, secretary; and Heather Blair, treasurer.

“Phi Theta Kappa offers students a unique opportunity to grow leadership skills and become competitive for generous transfer scholarships to both public and private universities,” said Honeycutt.

Alpha Iota Chi members engage in research projects each year as part of their independent study.  An Alpha Iota Chi member must maintain a minimum grade point average of 3.5 and demonstrate leadership and community service consistent with Phi Theta Kappa principles.

Phi Theta Kappa has recognized academic excellence in the two-year college with more than two million students inducted since the society’s founding in 1918.  The society is composed of more than 1,200 chapters at community, technical and junior colleges in all 50 states and several foreign countries.


Judges name Echoes & Images winners

Judges have made their selections from the excellent work of student art, photography, and literature submitted to the 2012-2013 Echoes & Images Literary and Visual Art Contest.

In the fiction category, Peter Olsen claimed first prize for his story “Parts Run.” Second place went to Tia Campbell for “Notice Me.”  “Silent Tears” written by Brittany McCullough received the third place award. Authors receiving Honorable Mention for their work were Andrew Christian for “Tourney Match” and Cassandra Walls for “One Starry Night.”

In the non-fiction category, Elizabeth Saulsbury won first place for “The Haircut.” Scott Royston took second place for “The Unwanted” while the third place award went to Keith Seal for his non-fiction work “The Ugliest Walleye Ever Caught.” Honorable Mention went to Mista Egnor for “The Battle Lost” and Michael Devereaux for “A Grandfather’s Promise.”

The Poetry category had several excellent poems submitted. Andrew Christian won first place for “Beside the Timber Creek.”  Second place went to Kevin Carrier for “Suburbia at Midnight.” Tucker Forster won third place with his poem “Forgotten.”

Other poetry entries receiving Honorable Mention were: “Macy’s Rocking Horse” and “Open for All to See” by Kevin Carrier; “Girl 1″ by Tucker Foster; “The Trail” by Lilliana Ascenscio; “Set Me Free” by Patricia Mazzonni; “The Spider’s Tale” by Garrett Wilt; “Man to Man” by Nikki Futch; “Hillside Drive” by Joe Gaus; “Twilight Song” by Elizabeth Saulsbury; and “A Shelter Dog” by Morgan Keaton.

The Visual Arts category saw Caitlin Meadows win two of the top three awards. Meadows’ work The Simple Guy of graphite on paper won first place in the category. She also received third place for Her True Colors, a painting of acrylic on canvas.  Jacob Estepp captured the category’s second place award with Tomatoes, a digital photograph. Honorable Mention went to Tia Campbell for Waiting, a digital illustration, and to Kelly Tolley for Sleeping Tiger, an oil painting on canvas.

Other Visual Art finalists were: Blindspots by Caitlin Meadows, acrylic on canvas; Bristol by Daniel Neubrander, graphite on Vellum; Abstract Violin, acrylic on canvas (2 canvases) and Abstract Hummingbird acrylic and salt on canvas by Kimberly A. Smith; Black Grass, by Rose Potter, ink and ink wash on Paper; Lost Time of Fun by Rebecca Fowler, black & white photography; The Light and Life by Ashley Ward, black & white photography.

First-, second-, and third-place winners in all categories will be published this spring in the 23rd edition of the Echoes and Images student literary magazine. If space permits, other winning entries will also be published. Visual art winners may pick up their entries at the end of the semester. Other artwork can be picked up this week in Dr. Christal Hensley’s office, H120.


Debate team competes at UT-Knoxville 

The Northeast State Debate Team recently participated in the Volunteer Classic Debate Tournament at the  University of Tennessee-Knoxville , competing against 30 speakers from 15 teams.

Debaters Britny Fox, Rocky Graybeal, Nicole Neilson, and Anne Rowell represented Northeast State, competing in four rounds that included topics ranging from domestic infrastructure funding to firearm and ammunition regulation.  In addition, Beth Ross assisted in helping the teams set up their cases and judged at the tournament.  

Fox and Neilson faced opponents from Valdosta State University, East Tennessee State University, and Peidmont College. Fox earned the second-rank speaker in two of her three rounds, while Neilson earned a third-rank speaker in the second round. 

Graybeal and Rowell debated teams from Walters State, Morehouse College, Arkansas State University, and East Tennessee State University. Rowell earned first-rank speaker in the third round and Graybeal was named the first-rank speaker in the fourth round. 

Graybeal and Rowell earned a place in the elimination round of 8 and they won their first elimination round before falling in the second. Overall, they earned fourth place for the tournament and Rowell was named the seventh best speaker for the tournament.


The cure for the common classroom? More myelinization!

A Friday morning in the TRiO Student Support Services lab find four groups of Anatomy and Physiology students studying and working together with a tutor.  Northeast State faculty members Dr. Brent Lockhart and Dale Ledford circle the classroom giving their time assisting tutors and furthering discussions.

But the session belongs to the students.

“To learn it is better to say something than to read it,” explains Theron Booher, a Northeast State student and tutor who volunteers his time every Friday morning this fall to help fellow A&P students. “This method teaches students how to study and learn outside of class.”

Tutors lead groups of three to four students on a variety of anatomy and physiology topics.   The tutors explain anatomy while connecting the subject to a visual cue such as moving their arms or legs to demonstrate the aspects of anatomy.  Each student gets a turn in the role of professor guiding his or her group.

Given the sheer amount of information students must learn, Anatomy and Physiology ranks as the most challenging subject health-related professions majors face during the first year of college.  The subject is divided into two semester long sections and is required for all health-related professions majors.

The TRiO hosts the Anatomy and Physiology tutoring session at the TRiO Lab in the General Studies Building. TRiO Director Teressa Dobbs suggested moving the A & P tutoring sessions to the TRiO Lab earlier this year.  The thought helps TRiO students enrolled in health-related majors and give A & P students a set time and place to get tutoring assistance.

“We volunteer our time, TRiO allows us to use their lab, and the students get a place to increase their knowledge through each other,” explained Lockhart.

Booher referred to the tutoring process as “more myelinization”.  Defined in Dorland’s Medical Dictionary, myelinization is the act of adding myelin sheath around nerve fiber.  The result is a faster, cleaner movement of information across the nerves synapses – a good analogy of how group tutoring shares information with peers and develops a student’s understanding of a subject.

April Hodges, a TRiO student taking part in the tutoring sessions, said the group learning environment not only gave her a more intense understanding of anatomy definitions but how they worked as a system.  As the first member of her family poised to earn a college degree, Hodges also praised TRiO for helping her adjust to college life.

“The group setting gives you the back and forth communication that helps look at the subject and understand how everyone else learns it,” said Hodges, a Nursing major.

Lockhart added the rotating roles meant every student became a pseudo-professor for the group.

“What we are doing here is stimulating the student’s brain,” explained Lockhart, professor of biology at Northeast State.  “One student acts as the professor with the other students learning from them.  The role of professor then moves on to another student who must take on the role of teacher.”

Rita Muller heard about the tutoring opportunities in Dr. Lockhart’s A&P I class.  She jumped at the chance to improve her knowledge of the subject.

“The tutoring has been really helpful,” said Muller, a Surgical Technology major. “One thing I really like is learning the information in a different way and understanding how everyone’s style of learning differs and how we all learn from each other.”

The TRiO Student Support Services program is a federally funded grant program designed to provide an array of free services to limited number of eligible students each academic year.  Lockhart said the program’s willingness to lend their space and time was instrumental to his department’s work with students.

“If you want to know something, teach it,” he said. “This is what we are doing, and TRiO is making that possible.”


Long-term goals and Short-time sacrifices

An easy smile spreads across Teddy Gibson’s face as he talks about his love of cars. It’s apparent he wants to know everything about vehicles from the paint on the surface to what’s deep in the engine block.

“If I could afford it, I’d spend a million dollars going to school and learn everything I can,” said Teddy, who’s enrolled in Northeast State Auto Body Service Technology program. “It’s very motivating when I see my instructors and professors answer every question that’s asked of them - it’s just amazing to me and makes me want to know everything they know.”

There’s no doubt Teddy is motivated. He works each day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at A&E Frame and Body in Johnson City and then heads to the Pal Barger Regional Center for Automotive Programs where he’s in class from 5:40 p.m. to 10:40 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“I want to keep motivated to enter the workforce vs. going home, watching some TV, and enjoying some doughnuts – that’s completely opposite of where I’m trying to go,” Teddy said. “It’s a small sacrifice now for a greater gain later.”

A recent David Crockett High School graduate, Teddy considered moving to Nashville to study collision repair, but decided on Northeast State after hearing about the College’s auto body program from a Northeast State recruiter.

“I’m glad I didn’t have to go to Nashville. With this program, I’m able to live at home with my parents, save money, and go to school at the same time,” Teddy said. “It’ll definitely help me to get ahead faster and make it easier on myself in the long run.”

Teddy said he has always been interested in how to fix and paint cars. He said much of his inspiration comes from an older brother who paints for a Georgia body shop.

“I’m just fascinated by the type of work that he puts out and the way paint can be manipulated and customized. He recently sold a Chevy S10 that he customized for $55,000,” Teddy said. Every day is different for him – a challenge. That’s the situation I want - work isn’t work if it’s what you love to do.”

Teddy worked for a while after graduation for a local furniture refinisher. When that business was sold, he managed to get his foot in the door A&E where he started out sweeping floors, changing trash liners, and cleaning up. When an opening appeared to prep vehicles for painting, Teddy took it and hasn’t looked back.

“It’s the best of both worlds, being able to be in the real world throughout the day and come to school at night,” Teddy said. “In the real world, you get job experience being behind the doors of where the work is done. At school, you can take the time to stop, listen, talk, or pick somebody’s brain about why things are done a certain way.”

Teddy said his ultimate goal is to someday own a body shop. Right now, he’s looking to learn all he can and hone his craft so he can soon turn out quality work that will turn heads.

‘I’d like to run a shop’s paint department and see those cars roll out with my trigger pulling on them. Right now, I look at customized cars rolling down the road and think ‘Wow, I wish I could do that.’ Someday, I hope to say ‘Hey, I’m the one that did that.’”

After he finishes the auto body program, Teddy plans on taking some automotive service classes on the Blountville campus to learn more about repairing frames, axles, and wheels. With Teddy, it’s a knowledge-is-power thing.

“The better you know each step of the process the better you are at doing your step of the process,” Teddy said. “If you know how something works or how it can be fixed, then it’ll help you out when it’s time to do your part of the job.”

Artist Richard Curtis invigorates Northeast State Theatre

Northeast State student Richard Curtis has created a slew of artistic gems for the Northeast State Theater program while pursuing his associate degree in art. A Kingsport resident, Curtis enrolled at Northeast State in 2009 as an art major.

“I’m an artist first,” said Curtis, of Kingsport. “I’ve created art my entire life, and theater has given me the opportunity to create art in a new medium.”

Curtis work earned the Region IV National Allied Design Technology Award for his design of the character masks of Oedipus Rex staged by the theater department last fall. 

Curtis won a Barbizon Scenic Design award for his design of the character masks used in Oedipus. The detailed masks framed each character from Oedipus and Jocasta. Curtis used great detail to create each individual mask used to portray the plague-ravaged supplicants of Thebes. A few gasps were heard from the audience on opening night when the characters revealed themselves on stage.

The Kennedy Center Theater Festival recognizes the best theater work in Region IV representing colleges throughout the Southeast. Northeast State was one of only two community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system nominated to attend the festival.

“The judges were really tough,” said Curtis. “But when they came to my display and I gave my overview, and they just lit up.”

He went on to compete in the national United States Institute for Technical Theater competition in California where his work with designers from the entire entertainment industry. Although he didn’t win an award, he did get a scholarship offer and a job offer at the event. 

Curtis found a formula online to create the masks using a combination of joint compound, boiled linseed oil, tissue paper, flour, and glue. The result yields sturdy, flexible masks that hold paint and absorb light. The structure held up through five performances with only one mask requiring a small repair during the performance run.

“I looked at the classic designs and developed a look we wanted,” says Curtis. “I took the concept and put a modern spin on the masks.”

In the tradition of Greek theater, each character wears a mask. The twist comes through the stage effects of lighting and sound that amplify the dramatic tension and gives the audience a surround-sound feel of a character’s emotional state. 

Curtis brought his design skills to recent Northeast State productions of The Wizard of Oz, Dracula, and Godspell. His artistic talent will be on display again when the Theater Department produces a stage version of the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead this fall.

Northeast State Theater Director Elizabeth Sloan and Technical Director Brad McKenzie gave Curtis considerable creative license with each production. Her trust in his vision resulted in the most memorable stage designs the department has seen.

“We have one of the best technical departments of any college theater program in this region,” says Sloan. “I am delighted and amazed at the imagination and quality student like Richard bring to our productions.”


Rep. Matthew Hill to deliver Alumni Lecture Series address

Matthew Hill measures his success as a state representative by the way people greet him at places such as football games, breakfasts, yard sales, and Wal-Mart. If he hears “Hi, Matthew” or “Hello, Matthew,” he counts it as a badge of honor.

Hill likes to relate a story of a politician he watched years ago work an event. The lawmaker received formal greeting after formal greeting as he moved through the crowd. To Hill, the salutations rang false.

“It was apparent they did not view him as one of them,” said Hill, a 2001 Northeast State graduate. “That’s why I like it when I hear “Hey, Matthew” because if someone feels comfortable calling me by my first name, they’re willing to call me up when they have a problem.”

Hill, a four-term representative for Tennessee’s 7th District, will present this year’s Alumni Lecture Series address Sept. 25 at 9 a.m. in the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts. The lecture is entitled: “Getting Involved and Making a Difference.”

In addition to his lawmaking duties, Hill is vice president of operations of the Information Communications Corp., having begun working with ICC and its radio stations while in high school. Presently he is the host of the nationally syndicated "Matthew Hill Show" on the IRN/USA Radio Network and is heard as Mr. Matthew on the children's program "Bible Buddies" on WHCB 91.5 FM. He also graduated from East Tennessee State University with a bachelor of science degree.

Hill said his radio career has been the perfect preparation for politics, teaching him the value of communication and the importance of knowing his audience.

“You don’t talk at people, but with them,” Hill said. “Even more important is listening  you can learn so much just by listening.”

In fact, Hill loves to relate small stories about his constituents and the problems and concerns they’ve brought to him. He said he isn’t always able to solve every problem, but he makes sure he does everything possible to get results  regardless of politics.

“It’s their government and I represent every one of the 64,000 people in my district,” Hill said “I’m not here to occupy space or take up time - I’m here to make a difference now while staying true to what I believe. My job is to remove the barriers so people can get access to their government.”

Hill, the College’s commencement speaker for 2012, fondly recalls his time at Northeast State, mentioning the old library in the Pierce Building and the long-gone gravel parking lots where the library and humanities buildings now stand.

“Most of all, I remember the personal nature and feeling of acceptance by the faculty and staff,” Hill said. “They really cared and took the time to listen – that pervasive attitude of service is why Northeast State excelled then and why it does now.”

Hill said he urges everyone – no matter their station of life – to pursue an education and map out goals. For most successful people, education was the catalyst for their achievements, Hill said.

“Education is a process, but for it to work it has to start,” Hill said. “When I started at Northeast State would I have known I would be a four-term state representative, have a radio career, and a beautiful family? No, and I certainly wouldn’t have all those things if I hadn’t started the process.  The important thing is to complete your education and don’t quit – no matter how hard it gets.”

In addition to his lecture, Hill will also visit several classes and talk with students. For more information about the Alumni Lecture Series, contact Rayma Gibbs at 279.7637 or

The Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts is located on the Blountville campus, 2425 Highway 75, adjacent to Tri-Cities Regional Airport.


Shane Roberts makes it in America

If you don't think anything's still made in America, drop in on RMI in Blountville and ask for Shane Roberts.

Don't be surprised when he emerges from the group of lathes and milling machines that are rocking the nondescript metal building just off Muddy Creek Road in Blountville. 
Looking younger than his 29 years and dressed in a t-shirt and shorts, he's often mistaken for an employee, but once he starts talking, you'll know you've found your man.

Shane, a former Northeast State student, fixes you with a focused gaze and launches into a rapid history of his machining/manufacturing business that is gaining a reputation for innovative CAD design and quality parts. RMI's list of clients includes Eastman Chemical Co., Wysong Enterprises, End Point Industries, and Google. Yes, Google.

"We've been really lucky," Shane said. "Most of our business comes from word of mouth. I usually just go in to companies and introduce myself and tell them what RMI has to offer. Invariably, someone will think of some work that need to be done or problem that needs to be solved and show it to me. Usually that results in work."

Shane said RMI's genesis came about eight years ago when he was racing cars and working as a server at Cheddar's. He was looking for a way to subsidize his racing interest, which was experiencing fits and starts.

"You win some races and you have money. Then you lose some and you're broke or you crash your car and you're really broke," Shane said.

Previously, he had worked part-time at a machine shop after racking up some CAD classes at Northeast State. Remembering the equipment he'd worked on at Northeast State, Shane decided to buy a similar machine to make car parts that he could sell to other racers and use himself.

"I got on eBay – everything's on eBay – and there was a machine just like Northeast State's," Shane said. "I knew if I bought the machine I could get solid training on it at Northeast State. So with some help from my father and mother I bought it I and signed up for a class."

Shane worked for a while producing parts for cars, motorcycles, and go-karts, eventually moving on the commercial jobs for local companies such as Allied Metals in Johnson City, ADpma in Piney Flats, and Wysong Enterprises in Blountille. ADpma, for example, produces parts for commercial airliners.

He also found that his CAD design skills were gaining demand.

"When we were doing car parts, people would have ideas and I would complete the design for the real part," Shane said. "That's just continued as we've gained new customers. Everyone has ideas of what they want, but it is wide open as to how it gets solved – so we make that happen."

By now, the business was expanding, adding employees, and doing pretty well, according to Shane. And then, RMI caught a huge break.

"I was playing music in a band with this guy and his brother was a software engineer for End Point, a New York company doing contract work for Google," Shane said. "Google hired them to start doing system installations of something called a Liquid Galaxy (a complex HD video display). They needed a supplier for all the mechanical parts to these systems that they were going to install for Google."

At the time, it was too complex for RMI, so Shane outsourced the work and then hitched a trailer to his mother's car and hauled the project to Google's Manhattan offices.

Shane said he felt the initial system had some design flaws and that it could be consolidated into a much more compact system. He told this to Google and the company was open to his suggestions. He designed one for free and Google liked the work an ordered one system. Since then, RMI has built more than a dozen of the systems for Google.

"They ship straight to Germany or to other places in Europe and get installed in offices over there," Shane said. "We continue to redesign them as well."

About a year ago, RMI became an official Google vendor when the company was hired to work on a research and development project. While Shane can't talk about the project because of its proprietary nature, RMI initially developed one prototype and then produced seven of the mechanical systems. Shane said RMI then redesigned the system and has 17 more in production.

Shane currently has four employees and he said expects to add more when he can find time to expand RMI's currently facility. He might even put a sign on the building, which is now anonymous except for the steady hum of people making things in the U.S.A.


Brittany Thomas earns All-USA academic honors

Northeast State' Brittany Thomas is one of 20 outstanding students named to the All-USA Community College Academic Team. She was chosen from more than 1,700 applicants representing 800 community colleges across the nation. She is the first Northeast State student to receive the honor.

The American Association of Community Colleges, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, USA Today, and the Follett Higher Education Group collaborate on the annual honor, focusing on students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement and community and college involvement.

Thomas received a $2,500 award and a medallion at a ceremony today in Orlando, Fla. USA Today featured the team in its April 23 edition.

In addition, to the All-USA Academic Team honor Thomas was named the New Century Scholar from Tennessee for receiving the state' highest All-USA Academic Team application score. For this honor, she will receive an additional $2,000 stipend from the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation and Coca Cola Refreshments.

"I never imagined I would be on this level with other people in the country," Thomas said. "I feel proud of myself for accomplishing more than I ever thought I could. Getting national recognition makes me feel like I can do everything I want to and be the best possible person I can be."

Thomas, a graduate of Hampton High School, is a nursing major and plans to transfer to either East Tennessee State University or Lipscomb University. From there, she plans to sign on for a U.S. Air Force tour and pursue a master' degree. She eventually hopes to become a nurse practitioner.

"I really love helping people. I know that sounds like a cliché, but I really look forward to those types of situations," Thomas said.

Thomas is president of Northeast State' Alpha Iota Chi of Phi Theta Kappa chapter, coordinator of Foundation programs for the Scholar' Foundation, and a Volunteer State Northeast member. She also served on the Foundation' Because of You Campaign and Scholarship committees.

Thomas said her Phi Theta Kappa experiences have served her well academically and helped her learn more about leadership and service.

"Phi Theta Kappa has built me up and made me a better person," Thomas said. "It' prepared me to take the next step in college and given me so many opportunities and experiences." 

Phi Theta Kappa recognizes academic excellence in the two-year college with more than 2.5 million students inducted since the society' founding in 1918. The society is comprised of more than 1,200 chapters at community, technical, and junior colleges in all 50 states and several foreign countries.

Theatre students earn Kennedy Center nominations

When the curtain went up last fall on the Northeast State Community College Theater Department’s production of Oedipus Rex, the cast and crew wowed audiences with a display of light and sound that gave ancient Greek drama a postmodern panache.

But did the students’ efforts translate the director’s vision to the stage?

“It didn’t meet my expectations, it exceeded them,” said Oedipus director Brad McKenzie. “Everyone was really surprised that a theater department at the community college level pulled this production off.”

As the play’s director and technical director, McKenzie’s vision came to life with the students’ creative talents and technical capabilities.  Their work impressed theater patrons and professionals alike.

The production earned several students nominations for their work in the Region IV Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival competition that opens this week at Daytona State College in Daytona Beach, Fla.  Those students will be competing against theater programs – most representing four-year institutions – from across the Southeast.

Student Adam Honeycutt’s creations of chorus whispers and foreboding sounds earned him a nomination for Sound Design.  Honeycutt used a digital recorder to capture sounds used in Oedipus.   The audio clips came from both cast members and random effects which were converted into sound effects.  The dark and sometimes nightmarish tracks added considerable depth to the production.

“I put a lot work into it, and it is gratifying to know someone else sees that,” said Honeycutt, a double major in Theater and Secondary Education.  “The competition lets us be immersed in theater for seven days.  It is going to be awesome.”

Fellow student Richard Curtis earned a Barbizon Scenic Design nomination for his design of the character masks used in Oedipus.  The detailed masks framed each character from Oedipus and Jocasta to the plague-ravaged supplicants of Thebes. A few gasps were heard from the audience on opening night when the characters revealed themselves on stage.

“Honestly, I felt relief,” said Curtis upon seeing his creations on opening night.  “I put so much work into it I was relieved because the production’s parts worked together so well.”

Make-up artist Derek Smithpeters earned two nominations: an Alcone Makeup Design nod and an Irene Ryan acting nomination for his role as Choragos. 

A proctor from Region IV took in a performance of Oedipus during its fall run. The production’s quality was graded and then considered for nominations to the regional competition. The festival gives each nominee display space to exhibit his or her work. Judges review the nominee’s work as it fits in the overall production.

McKenzie and theater program director Elizabeth Sloan spent several days preparing student nominees for the competition.  Each nominee can go through up to three rounds of judging.  The number of judges grows exponentially for each round of the competition. 

“I’ve been touched by the support from our campus,” said Sloan. “I feel very blessed that we work at a school where everyone recognizes what a big deal this is for the students and our department.”

A Northeast State alumnus and adjunct faculty member, McKenzie knows the festival well. He won the Region IV Barbizon Lighting Design award in 2010 and went on to compete in the national Kennedy Center Theater festival. 

“Brad’s a master designer, and he expects you to bring a sense of creativity in what you bring to your job in technical work,” said Honeycutt.

The Northeast State Foundation provided funds for the students to travel to the festival.  McKenzie said he’s more anxious and excited for his students than when his work was being judged.

“I can’t sing their praises enough, and I think Northeast State is going to have a really strong first showing at the regional competition,” said McKenzie.  “It has helped set a very high standard for the future.” 


Merissa Williams earns Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship 

Northeast State student, Merissa Williams, recently earned the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. The Sullivan North High School graduate is one of only 60 scholars nationally selected this year to receive the scholarship award. She was chosen from an applicant pool of 785 nominees. 

The scholarship’s dollar value is up to $30,000 each year. The award covers a significant share of the student’s educational expenses – including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees – for the final two to three years necessary to achieve a bachelor’s degree.

Merissa developed and led two student leadership workshops as Council for Leadership, Advocacy, and Student Success (CLASS) Chair of Leadership Development. In addition to serving on CLASS, she also served on the President’s Student Advisory Council for Northeast State, Disability Awareness Week planning team, Academic Affairs Committee, the Alpha Iota Chi chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society and the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers. 

What is more amazing is her resiliency. Williams survived a car accident with a traumatic brain injury during her junior year in high school. She spent one month as an in-patient during her recovery in an Atlanta hospital, determined to return to high school for her senior year. Williams did return to high school, maintained a 4.0 grade point average, and graduated as valedictorian.

Williams graduated May 2011 with a 3.87 grade point average in Industrial Drafting Design. She plans to attend East Tennessee State University and major in construction project management.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is a private, independent foundation established by Jack Kent Cooke to help exceptionally promising students reach their full potential through education.