Issue 546: 8 / 25 / 2014

Southwest President Announces Retirement

President Nathan L. Essex

President Nathan L. Essex

Reprinted from
August 19, 2014
Michael Sheffield

Nathan Essex, longtime president of Southwest Tennessee Community College, has announced plans to retire effective June 30, 2015.

Essex originally joined Southwest as interim president in 2000 during the merger of Shelby State Community College and State Technical Institute at Memphis. He was named president when Southwest was officially formed in 2001.

Essex cited family issues as the primary reason behind his decision to retire, but he also plans to see completion of the $18 million nursing school on the Union Avenue Campus as well as construction of a new parking garage to accommodate Downtown students. The nursing school is expected to be open by January.

The very existence of the nursing school, he said, is one of his proudest accomplishments during his tenure.

“We’ve had students that qualified for the nursing program who couldn’t enter because of space limitations. They would be in tears in my office,” Essex said. “I was told emphatically that there’s no way a community college could raise $18 million, but we were able to get it raised.”

Also underway is the renovation of a 44,000-square-foot former Kroger building on Finley Road that was acquired by Southwest in 2013, which will be the new location for Southwest’s Whitehaven Center. Other highlights for Essex were the construction of the Maxine Smith Center, expansion of the Macon Campus and the creation of the Industrial Readiness Training Program.

The IRT program was launched in January 2012 and trains students for manufacturing jobs with specialized curriculum. Essex credits John Churchill, the school’s director of corporate training, with the growth of the program.

“The IRT program will be mimicked all through the state of Tennessee,” he said. “It takes people working together to get these things accomplished.”

A search committee will be formed to find his replacement, and Essex is confident that can happen over the next few months. And while he won’t be around to see the Tennessee Promise law take effect in Fall 2015, Essex said he’s working to spread the word and help register high school students who would be eligible. The Tennessee Promise program will allow high school graduates to receive two years of college education at a state community college or college of applied technology for free. The program will be funded by the Tennessee Lottery. Registration will begin in October.

“We’re laying the groundwork for it right now,” he said. “I’ve never been concerned with recognition or credit. I just want to see things happen for the community.”

Southwest’s Student Success Center Helps to Boost Retention

Counselor Lee Teague works with ...

Counselor Lee Teague works with a student from her caseload.

Counselor Mike Boldreghine provides assistance ...

Counselor Mike Boldreghine provides assistance to a student.

"The Student Success Center program is doing an excellent job. I'm enrolled in it and I am very pleased. They have helped me during the various seminars, monthly visits, and receiving the academic reports. … Thank you for such an amazing program." − Breonnah Atkins, Southwest student.

The Student Services and Enrollment Management Division of Southwest launched the Student Success Center (SSC) at the beginning of the 2014 Spring Semester. SSC employs intrusive counseling and early intervention strategies to identify and resolve barriers for students who earn a semester grade point average (GPA) below 2.0 and who receive a financial aid warning.

The SSC hired five part-time counselors (four are retired school teachers) who were charged with contacting students and having them come into the center for counseling and intervention, including the following six workshops in February and March: *Study Skills, Note Taking, Time Management, Communication, How to be Successful in Math, and Dress for Success; along with videos.

The results have been impactful.  The semester-end statistical data denotes:

Though, not yet having reached its’ projected goal of having 70 percent of the targeted students earn a 2.5 semester GPA, the center has made a definite impact as evidenced by testimonies from faculty members like Yen Chou, who wrote, “I must say that (students name) has done an amazing job in my statistics course. He failed several exams, but made his final exam grade higher than the class final exam average! … It was evident that he has changed study habits and learning attitude. … I am certain that your help [SSC counselor] has been very important to him and has been a tremendous contribution to the success of this class."

An evaluative assessment of this pilot program resulted in some key observations, i.e., when a student meets with a counselor more than once, the likelihood of improvement increases.

With a little tweaking from the lessons learned, the center is gearing up for the 2014-15 school year with improved strategies to strengthen the program and continue to boost the college’s retention rate.

There are two SSC locations to conveniently serve students:  Union Avenue Campus, Building M-Room 110; Macon Cove Campus, Farris Building-Room 2135.  For additional information contact Director of Student Activities Nikita L Ashford-Ashworth at

*Student Attendance: (69) Union Avenue Campus, (99) Macon Cove

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Ice Cream Social Starts Chatter about TNPromise

The attendees enjoyed ice cream ...

The attendees enjoyed ice cream while receiving information about TNPromise and Southwest's educational and training opportunities.

The Recruitment Office hosted an "Ice Cream Social" on August 12 at Southwest's Macon Cove Campus. Student ambassadors Theresa Marshall, Rachel Jennings, and Ashley Shores served sweet treats – multi-flavored ice cream with toppings galore – to over 100 guests that included faculty, staff, and prospective students and their parents. The purpose of the Ice Cream Social was to increase interest in Southwest and to create awareness about and encourage participation in the Tennessee Promise (TNPromise) scholarship.

“Our target market was any prospective student interested in attending Southwest Tennessee Community College, as well as seniors graduating from a Tennessee high school in May of 2015 and their parents,” said Counselor/Recruiter Christie Rakestraw, one of the event’s organizers.

The TNPromise will provide Tennessee May 2015 high school graduates the opportunity to attend Southwest for two years free of tuition and fees, effective Fall 2015. It will provide students a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the Hope scholarship, or the Tennessee Student Assistance Award program (TSAA).

Director of Recruitment Vanessa Dowdy, Rakestraw and Recruitment Counselor Cortney Ward gave presentations about admissions and the TNPromise scholarship. Director of the Honors Academy Doug Branch represented the Honors Academy and Languages and Literature.

View the "Ice Cream Social" Photo Gallery.

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Food Preservation Workshop at Southwest

A seminar attendee measures vegetable ...

A seminar attendee measures vegetable content in canning jars.

With the rise of home gardens and interest in organic foods, more people are opting to store their homegrown gems away for a cold wintry day. For the third year, Southwest Dietary Instructor Marie Sun recently joined forces with the University of Tennessee (UT) and Tennessee State University (TSU) Extension Office to offer a Food Preservation workshop, commonly known as canning.

Shelby County Extension Director Cathy Faust, TSU Nutrition Agent Natalie Owens, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Area Specialist Rita Jackson, and Tipton County Extension Agent Priscilla Eddins facilitated the workshop. "We cover jams and jellies, pickles, salsa, green beans, and freezing," said Faust. The $45 investment covered the day-long workshop and included a canning book, freezing book, and other literature.

The vegetable selection has been the same yearly; green beans particularly, because they are a perfect selection for canning. "We like to do the green beans. For one, it's a low acid vegetable, one that's used when utilizing pressure canning. And people want to learn about water bath, which would be for [preserving] high-acid foods,” Faust explained. "An example would be jam or jelly," Owens added. They've also used Welch's Grape Juice to make jelly in the past, Owens indicated. "It's easy and requires no added sugar."

“Freezing," said Owens, "is not as labor intensive. Most of the time you're just blanching your vegetable, and then you're preparing it for the freezer in a freezer-appropriate container. It [the container] can be a freezer bag or a freezer container. But we have to be sure, because some people think that just any bag is appropriate. But it needs to say freezer bag, not storage bag," she continued.

The demand for the workshop is consistently growing. “There's a big interest because people are having community gardens. They are asking for this. There are so many farmer's markets. So if you don't have a garden, you may go to a farmer's market and buy 20 pounds of tomatoes. You can preserve tomatoes, corn, or just whatever,” said Faust.

Ava Witt and her friend, Charla Bartozzi, found out about the class on Facebook. They purchased their vegetables from the local farmer's market and came to learn about pressure canning. “We want to preserve soups and things for our families, and for our kids that are away at college, so that they can take home-cooked food with them,” said Witt. The two friends said canning is probably more expensive than purchasing food from the grocery store, "But, you know what you are eating, and it’s not processed."

View the Food Preservation Photo Gallery.

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SMARTS Program Mentee Designs Poster for Major Event

The flyer (above) was created ...

The flyer (above) was created by Herman Dickey.

Southwest's SMARTS (Southwest Mentors Advancing Retention, Teamwork, and Success) Program Mentee Herman Dickey designed a flyer for the recent "Hope for Memphis" event featuring gospel superstar and 10-time Grammy Award-Winner CeCe Winans.

“We can't be more proud of his accomplishments, which includes billboards,” said Executive Director of Retention and Graduation Cynthia Calhoun.

Dickey is employed by Agape, a ministry that provides care for children and families.

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You Don’t Know Them, but They Know You

Reprinted from Special to The Commercial Appeal
By Randy Hutchinson
President of the BBB

Are you a “Latchkey Leaser”? Or maybe a “Married Sophisticate”? You may be in one of these categories without even knowing it.

The FTC recently released a report titled “Data Brokers: A Call for Transparency and Accountability” based on an in-depth study of nine data brokers. Data brokers gather information about virtually every U.S. consumer, mostly without their knowledge, and use the data to create extensive profiles about them and assign them to categories.

For example, “Latchkey Leasers” includes consumers with an average age of 52 who are predominantly single renters living in multiple unit dwellings. “Married Sophisticates” includes thirty-something couples in the upper middle class with no children.

In releasing the study, the Chairwoman of the FTC said, “The extent of consumer profiling today means that data brokers often know as much – or even more – about us than our family and friends, including our online and in-store purchases, our political and religious affiliations, our income and socioeconomic status, and more.”

Data brokers collect and store billions of data elements gathered from government, commercial, and other publicly available sources. Commercially sourced data can include information about types of purchases – for example, high-end shoes, natural food, or items related to disabilities. Public sources might include social media and the Internet.

One of the nine data brokers has 3,000 data elements for nearly every U.S. consumer.

The data brokers sell the information to marketers who provide products and services that the FTC says benefit us. They help prevent fraud, improve product offerings, and allow businesses to be more effective with their advertising and marketing.

The agency says, however, that the industry operates largely in the dark. It’s concerned about:

The FTC made these recommendations for enacting legislation to protect consumers:

The Direct Marketing Association, which represents the industry, prefers self-regulation. It says the FTC study didn’t identify any consumer harm and that the dangers it cites are speculative.

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Southwest Student-Athletes Receive TCCAA Academic Awards, Allen Receives “Highest Honors”

Tatiana Allen

Tatiana Allen

Eighteen Southwest student-athletes have been honored by the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) for their work in the classroom, receiving the TCCAA’s Distinguished Scholar Athlete award.  To qualify for the honor, sophomores needed to achieve at least a 3.0 grade point average with 48 or more hours of college level work, while freshmen needed a 3.2 grade point average with at least 24 hours.

Sophomore Tatiana Allen received the “Highest Honors” award for achieving the highest grade point average of all TCCAA student-athletes participating in women’s basketball in 2013-14.

Women’s Basketball – Tatiana Allen, Ajee Smith
Men’s Basketball – Kevonta Black, Andre Brown
Baseball – Zack Buzzard, Justin Kemp, Sam Seaton, Logan Shemwell, Blake Witt
Softball – Kelsey Knight, Kayla Wright

Women’s Basketball – Kemahri Howard

Baseball – Caleb Armour, Evan Fantom, Conor Lindsey, Nick Smith, Brandon Wilhelm, Janathan Williams

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