Issue 543: 7 / 15 / 2014

U. S. Secretary of Commerce Coming to Memphis

U.S. Secretary of Commerce ...

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker
Justine Coyne

Reprinted from
July 14, 2014
Michael Sheffield

Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, will be the keynote speaker during the Delta Regional Authority’s “Made in Rural America” regional forum, which will be held at Southwest Tennessee Community College July 17.

Pritzker will join Chris Masingill, co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority, for a “keynote armchair discussion” during lunch of the all day event. The regional forum will include small business owners, industry representatives, business support organizations, and local, state and federal leaders to discuss ways to help grow rural businesses around the region.

According to recent statistics, Exports have driven nearly one-third of U.S. economic growth since 2009. U.S. exports reached an all-time high of $2.3 billion in 2013 -- $700 billion more than in 2009 -- and now support 11.3 million jobs in communities across the country.

“Boosting export capacity for rural businesses provides a critical opportunity for economic growth in the Delta region,” Masingill said. “We are excited to have Secretary Pritzker supporting DRA’s efforts and contributing to the conversation at our Made in Rural America forum.”

The event is free to attend, but attendees must register at

"Bridges Out of Poverty" – The Next Step

Tucker discusses "Understanding and Engaging ...

Tucker discusses "Understanding and Engaging Under-Resourced College Students."

One of the main attractions of Southwest’s recently held 2014 Summer Institute was the Bridges Out of Poverty – The Next Step session, presented by Dr. Bethanie H. Tucker. Her goal was to take the Bridges Out of Poverty foundation presented earlier by her co-consultant, Jodi Pfarr, to the next level – the college-level. “What does that mean in the college setting,” Tucker stated in her introduction.

Tucker is a faculty member at Averett University in Danville, Virginia. She has worked with Ruby Payne, an author of Bridges Out of Poverty, for as many as 15 years, and is also a developer of the Tucker Signing Strategies for Reading, which helps individuals learn to read by blending sounds and interpreting words.

During the intensely inner-active workshop, Tucker stressed that poverty and wealth can be measured in terms of the extent to which an individual does without resources. “When we talk about students in poverty, we’re talking about students who are living in the territory of the moment; who will have to worry about how to get to class tomorrow, or how to get the work done, and take care of their families at the same time,” she stated.

To recap the session, Tucker provided detailed responses to the following questions:

What was the take-away message?

Survival and achievement requires resources. Students who have access to the resources they need in order to achieve have the potential to be successful. Those who do not will struggle.

Poverty drains resources. In fact, Payne (2013) measures poverty as the extent to which one does without resources. The financial resource, while important for purchasing goods and services, is less important in some circumstances than the emotional, physical, language, cognitive or spiritual resource. Support systems, relationships of mutual respect, motivation, integrity and trust, and knowledge of hidden rules are equally important resources, depending on each student's current needs.

Why are educational institutions missing it?

Educational institutions historically have served adequately resourced students. This population is changing, however. Educational institutions have taken the first step toward insuring success for all students when they take a realistic look at the changing critical mass on their campuses, and think about retention in terms of how to build resources rather than deficient or needy students.

Upon exposure to the "Bridges out of Property" concepts, how long does it take for an institution to execute change?

Retention takes place a day at a time, and change begins the moment a faculty or staff member or administrator looks at students through the lens of strengths and resources rather than "ready or not." Through this lens every student looks unique. One could potentially realize success with a deeper understanding of formal and casual register. Another simply needs an adult advocate. Another, emotional strength or a greater awareness of hidden rules of college.  At the moment  these resources are built for these students, change has begun. Institutional change, however, requires consistent buy-in and support from all campus leaders, creating a culture of scaffolding and support. Sustainability requires community-wide support, from perspective employers to health providers to many additional individuals who impact the lives of students. When these students are brave enough to venture away from their comfort zones into a new world where relationships and expectations will change, this is when true change has been realized.  

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Exercising a Passion for Education

Robert Miller

Robert Miller

Reprinted from the Memphis Business Journal
July 11, 2014
Michael Sheffield

If you’ve been to Southwest Tennessee Community College in the last few years and happened to watch ABC or NBC in the mid-70s, you might recognize Robert Miller, the school’s executive director of the Communications and Marketing Department.

Miller, who was born and raised in Chicago, started his career in the ’70s as a news writer for the CBS affiliate in Chicago after completing his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Northwestern University. During his time at Northwestern, he also played basketball for a year before stepping away to focus on his studies.

“Since I was on academic scholarship and not an athletic scholarship, I had to maintain an extremely high GPA,” he says. “But I played a year of Big 10 basketball.”

Miller wasn’t able to break through and get on television in Chicago, but he got his break with an NBC affiliate in Cincinnati, which then led to an award-winning stint with WWL-TV, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans. The New Orleans spot led to him being discovered by ABC News, which hired him as a national correspondent and stationed him in New York. Miller spent most of the 1970s on airplanes, a schedule that had him “eating in upscale restaurants to eating out of a paper bag.”

The stories he covered spanned the gamut, but his biggest interview was with Mother Teresa in Philadelphia.

Miller’s television career came to an end when he got married and opted for a more sedentary lifestyle so he could raise his family. After a stint with PBS in Dallas, Miller settled in New Orleans where he worked at Dillard University and then Southern University. At the same time, he launched the “New Orleans East World,” a magazine that was highly successful until 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. Miller was wrapping up what would turn out to be the magazine’s final issue when he evacuated for Houston, where his family stayed for two years.

“We saw the neighborhoods around us that were inundated with water,” Miller says. “There was nine feet of water in our house for three weeks. We lost our home and the business because our advertisers went out of business.”

Miller came to Southwest in July 2007 with the intent of helping grow the school’s brand through a variety of multimedia strategies. Even with his television background, Miller’s passion lies in education.

“I sincerely believe education is the pathway to achieve success,” he says. “Everybody isn’t college material, but everyone should get the opportunity to get a skill. There has to be an opportunity for you to become self-sufficient and contribute to society.”

Despite its status as one of the largest community colleges in the state, Miller considered Southwest a “hidden gem” because of its lack of brand awareness at the time. While Miller attributes the school’s overall changes to the vision of its administrators, particularly Nathan Essex, the school’s president, he’s aware of the role he plays in getting the school’s message to potential students and supporters.

“It starts at the top. When you’ve got that level of leadership and very good resources, you can accomplish a lot,” he says. “It’s not just a job, it’s a mission.”

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The TSBDC at Southwest Wins a 2014 BENNY Award

Executive Director of the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) at Southwest Rory Thomas recently left the 2014 BENNY (Black Entrepreneurship and Networking Needs You) Awards early for another engagement to receive an e-mail later that the center was honored with the Benny Award for "Most Outstanding Business Development."

“Our efforts in serving in the community continue to be acknowledged! I left the Black Business Association's luncheon early to get on the White House Rural Council conference call and how great and surprising it is to see an e-mail like this!” Thomas enthusiastically stated.

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Smith Signs With Murray State

Ajee Smith

Ajee Smith

Ajee Smith, a 5’3” guard who played her sophomore season with the Southwest women’s basketball team in 2013-14, has signed with Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, to continue her education and basketball career.

Smith, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, averaged 12.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season for the Lady Saluqis.  She ranked second on the team and placed among conference leaders in both scoring and assists. Smith scored in double-figures in 15 games including four games of at least 20 points.  She posted season-highs of 26 points against Dyersburg State and 10 assists and nine rebounds against Jackson State Community College.

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