Matlock recognized as Advanced Level Instructor

Lisa Matlock, an Associate Professor of Computer Information Technology at Jackson State, is recognized as an Advanced Level Instructor this year through our course instructing partner, Cisco Networking Academy. This global award is reserved for instructors who receive the highest student evaluations in their classes throughout the year, and she is one of only 200 recipients for the year.

Matlock has worked at Jackson State for almost 27 years, beginning her career in OIT (Office of Information Technology) before transitioning to teaching. She did not expect this award, but says she is glad to be on the right track with her students. “It really lets me know that the classroom is my happy place and appreciate that maybe I can and am making a difference.”

JSCC’s career & job fair opens to Jackson community for third year

It is once again time for the Jackson State Community College Career & Job Fair, an annual event for students and community members to meet with potential employers, fill out job applications, and make great networking contacts for the future. The event will be held on Wednesday, April 11 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the gymnasium on the college’s main campus at 2046 North Parkway.

Annette Deaton, Coordinator of Placement and Career Services, says this is the third year the fair will be open to the public. She says, “We want our students as well as members of the community to learn about some of the different employment and career options that are available.”

This year there are more than 70 booths expected from employers in and around the Jackson community as well as several recruiters from various higher education institutions. According to Deaton, “the goal is for attendees to leave with some positive connections for their future, which may include finding a job, continuing their education, or changing career paths.”

The Mobile American Job Center, a mobile service complete with computers and specialists, will also be onsite to assist with online employment applications.

Deaton says the Career & Job Fair will be a professional event and appropriate attire and resumes are highly recommended.

For more information about this event, contact Annette Deaton at 731-424-3520 ext. 50315 or by email at

Duo Guitiano set for 10th performance at JSCC

Now a standing tradition at Jackson State Community College, the musical duo of Dr. Amanda Virelles and Dr. Carlos Castilla are set to return for their tenth performance at the college. They will perform at the main campus in Ayers Auditorium Tuesday, April 3 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The International Education program of JSCC is hosting Virelles and Castilla. They are classically trained musicians who have been performing together for many years. While their repertoire is very broad with many styles of music, their performance is typically tailored to consist primarily of Spanish and Latin music.

The term Duo Guitiano is used to describe the instrumental combination of guitar and piano. Dr. Virelles plays piano and Dr. Castilla plays classic Latin American guitar. Both Virelles and Castilla have studied music in world-renowned universities and have performed in numerous orchestras and music ensembles.

Amanda Virelles is known as a versatile musician, who has played for audiences around the world. Her performances have been described as sensible, profound and energetic. She has performed as a soloist as well as collaborative artist throughout the United States, France, Russia, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Cuba. Currently, Dr. Virelles is assistant professor of Piano at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.

Colombian-American guitarist, Carlos Castilla, has been featured as a soloist with orchestras and chamber ensembles, as well as in solo recitals in different cities of Latin America and the United States. He has worked as a collaborative artist with orchestras featuring stars such as Placido Domingo, James Galway, and Bernadette Peters. Carlos is the co-founder of Duo Guitiano, along with Cuban-American pianist Amanda Virelles, and is known for his innovative technique, clear sound, and soulful interpretations. Carlos currently teaches guitar courses at Coastal Carolina Community College, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina State and runs his private studio.

Mary Wadley, coordinator for this event, says, “This is an annual tradition and a gift to the community.” She continues, “This and other such events are hosted by the International Education committee at Jackson State. An emphasis on international education at the college is relatively new and this is a great way to communicate this to the community.”

Each year, Jackson State sponsors several students to study abroad through the program. As Wadley notes, “This is an opportunity most people do not associate with community colleges.”

For more information, please contact Mary Wadley, at or by calling (731) 424-3520 ext. 50252.

Community Remembrance Ceremony Promotes Reconciliation, Healing

In a moving ceremony marked by sadness, disbelief and other emotions, the Jackson community remembered the lives and tragic deaths of Madison County’s three documented lynching victims: Eliza Woods, John Brown and Frank Ballard.

They were among more than 4,000 documented mob lynchings of African Americans between 1877 and 1950.

The event was hosted by Jackson State Community College in its Ayers Auditorium and sponsored by the Equal Justice Initiative, Jackson State Honors Program, Jackson-Madison County Branch of the NAACP and the Lane College Chapter of the NAACP.

The purpose of the event was to remember the three lynching victims and dedicate a jar of soil taken from their lynching sites that will become part of a national memorial in Montgomery, Ala.

“We are here to own this history and honor these three victims,” said Bob Raines, a Jackson State professor who organized the event after attending a similar one for lynching victims in Crockett County.

“We are here – less we forget,” said the Rev. Daryll Coleman, pastor of Mother Liberty CME Church, in his powerful voice. “I come to dedicate the soil in the name of Eliza Woods – less we forget. I come to dedicate the soil in the name of John Brown – less we forget. I come to dedicate the soil in the name of Frank Ballard – less we forget.”

Little is known about what led to the deaths of John Brown and Frank Ballard, who were lynched in Madison County in 1891 and 1894, respectively. The lynching of Eliza Woods in 1886, however, was vividly documented in the West Tennessee Whig on Aug. 21, 1886, three days after she died.

Woods, a cook, was accused by her employer of poisoning and killing his wife. At an agreed-upon time, a mob of men rushed the jail and pulled her into the court yard. She continued to declare her innocence. A rope was put around her neck, her clothes were stripped off and she was hung from an elm tree near the north door of the courthouse.

“The mob grew impatient,” the newspaper reported. “The cry to hang her was renewed while others contended that she should be burned. … The rope was thrown over a limb and she was swung into eternity with a least a thousand spectators looking on.”

In 1899, the husband admitted that he poisoned his wife, said Ameera Graves, Lane College historian, as she spoke about Woods’ lynching.

Lynchings across the country, documented by the Equal Justice Initiative, were often more violent with victims being tortured before large crowds of onlookers. The violence and ensuing terror helped suppress black people. It was also one of the reasons why many moved from the south to northern cities and to the west coast in what has been called the great migration.

The Equal Justice Initiative is helping people to finally declare war on racism and bigotry, said Mary Anne Poe, Dean of the School of Social Work at Union University. “It has taken much too long. “I cannot know the terror, but I can try to understand.”

Others on the program were …

  • Kiara Boone, deputy program manager of the Equal Justice Initiative, who talked about the victims of “racial terror lynchings,” and explained how the soil collection project will help spread awareness of what happened. “The silence has been so loud,” she said.
  • Jackson State Professor James Mayo played his original composition, “Elegy for Five,” on the guitar. He wrote in the program, “How is one to compose a piece of music offered in tribute to victims of one of the most inhumane methods of murder humankind has invented?”
  • Local poet James Cherry read aloud a poem he wrote in memory of Woods. It begins, “Most nights, you can find Eliza Wood(s) downtown, sitting on the base of the monument to the Confederate Dead, digging into the dirt under the moonlight, excavating the earth for a relic of justice.”
  • Harrell Carter, president of the local NAACP Chapter, saw the event as an opportunity to recognize the issues of the past “so we can move forward.”
  • Lane College student Ericka Webster talked about Ida B. Wells, a Memphis journalist and activist who started two newspapers and campaigned against lynchings across the country.
  • Jody Pickens, state Attorney General for the 26th Judicial District, told the group that “the stain of lynching” repudiates the right of a fair trial as set forth in the U.S. Constitution. Some people would say that talking about the lynchings is living in the past, he said. “But I would say to them, you never move past something until you first acknowledge it.”
  • Attorney Richard Donnell emphasized the importance of remembering the victims by all parts of the community.
  • Shannon Johnson, a Jackson State graduate and Lane student, gave an emotional reading of “Strange Fruit,” a song written by Abel Meeropol and made famous by singer Billie Holiday.
  • State Rep. Johnnie Turner from Memphis talked about efforts in the state legislature to create a special commission that will investigate unsolved civil rights crimes.
  • Jackson State’s Innovation Vocal Ensemble, led by Esther Gray Lemus, performed at the event.

“We are all burdened by this history,” said Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. “Lynching reinforced a legacy of racial inequality that has never been adequately addressed in America. You can’t have reconciliation without empathy, and you can’t have empathy unless people learn, know and understand the past pain that informs our present and hobbles our future.”

For more information about the Equal Justice Initiative, visit

Adult learners attend Jackson State through Tennessee Reconnect

Randy Smith will be in his mid-40s when he finishes his physical therapist assistant degree at Jackson State Community College in May 2019. Inspired by the physical therapists who worked with his young daughter, Smith decided to go to college and get a degree. He had not been in a classroom since he graduated high school.

Smith is one of many Tennessee adult learners who are benefitting from Tennessee Reconnect, a statewide program that encourages adults to get a post-secondary college degree or certification. The program pays the tuition for qualifying adults who attend a state community college or state college of applied technology and a portion of the expenses at four-year universities.

Depending on their majors, most Tennessee Reconnect students at Jackson State have only the cost of books and fees. “I love it,” Smith said about Tennessee Reconnect. “I’ve got friends I’m pushing to look into it.”

Jackson State is a good choice for Tennessee Reconnect students, said Dr. Tom Pigg, Jackson State’s Dean of Computer Information Technology and Health Sciences. “JSCC offers a wide variety of certificate programs and two-year associate degrees that lead to jobs. Our college has gained a great reputation in the West Tennessee area that provides a level of confidence in the quality of our graduates.”

Most jobs, he explained, require employees to have at least an applied associate degree. “Many of our selective healthcare programs require completion of an AAS degree in order to be licensed. Students who complete these programs are considered job ready.”

The many two-year degree programs at Jackson State include nursing, radiography, EMT, respiratory care, medical lab technician, computer networking, computer programming and cyber defense, physical therapist assistant, occupational therapy assistant, criminal justice, business, advanced manufacturing and fire science.

“You can find a lot of becauses and reasons why you can’t go back to college,” Smith said. “Tennessee Reconnect takes away 95 percent of them.”

MOU brings more opportunities, benefits to JSCC students

The University of Memphis Lambuth and Jackson State Community College signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday, March 3. The agreement reinforced the plan defined in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway initiative, including the Reverse Transfer option, to increase educational opportunities for students in all traditional transfer programs.

Aiming to increase the relationship between both schools further, the initiative increases transferability from degree programs not historically considered transfer programs in order to better meet workforce needs of West Tennessee.

“This is a great day for us because the University of Memphis is one of the top five schools our students transfer to,” said JSCC President Dr. Allana Hamilton. “So we wanted to make sure schools we enter into agreements like this with are ones that will benefit our students.”

This is the third agreement like this JSCC has entered into this school year after announcing MOUs with UT Martin and Middle Tennessee State University in the fall of 2017.

The agreement will allow students to transfer to Memphis’ campus in the city of Memphis as well as the Lambuth campus in Jackson.

Memphis-Lambuth Vice Provost Dr. Niles Reddick said being able to help make the process simpler for students helps both schools.

“We want to do our part to make sure Jackson State graduates are able to come to our campus or the one in Memphis and continue their education and make that as easy as possible, and it makes sense to do that,” Reddick said.

Reddick also stated that administrators are working to adjust the housing and meal plan system to accommodate JSCC students. This would enable out-of-town students to live and eat on campus just like Memphis-Lambuth students.

JSCC students will be allowed to participate in academically sponsored activities and events at the UofM Lambuth such as University-sponsored art shows, River City Writers Series and UofM Lambuth music entertainment concerts.

“We are always looking for ways to enhance our institution and the partnership between the University of Memphis Lambuth and Jackson State Community College is a wonderful opportunity for both,” said UofM Provost Karen Weddle-West. “Not only will students be confident in transferring to the UofM Lambuth, but they also will have the ability to participate in student activities as well as live in campus housing.”

The Tennessee Transfer Pathway is fully available online at