JSCC’s RADT program achieves excellence through student success

One hundred percent of the students in Jackson State’s Radiologic Technology Program passed their national certification exam on the first attempt for the fourth year in a row.

Jackson State has now graduated 77 students from the program in 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. All of them passed the certification exam offered by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART) on their first try.

“It’s a collaborative effort between the students and faculty and the clinical instructors and staff at the hospitals,” said Kim Benson, Program Director and Associate Professor for Radiologic Technology. “We put in so many hours to make sure the students are provided with every opportunity to succeed. It’s the hard work and dedication of the students, and it’s the effort by their support team.”

Since 2009, 239 Radiologic Technology Program students at Jackson State sat for their national certification exam. Of that number, 234 passed on their first attempt, which is 98 percent overall. During eight of the past 11 years, students had 100 percent pass rates on their first attempt.

“We strive for 100 percent every year,” Benson said. “It says to a prospective student that the program is doing what it is designed to do. It is teaching you the skills you need to become an entry-level radiographer.”

In addition to the credentialing exam pass rates, other benchmarks that indicate program and graduate success are program completion and job placement rates. The five-year completion rate is 97 percent, and the five-year job-placement rate within six months of program completion is 98 percent.

“This level of success can be attributed to the hard work, dedication, resilience, and determination of the students,” Benson said. “They make many sacrifices in order to maintain high grades throughout a program that is six consecutive semesters in length with more than 1,700 hours of clinical education – the highest number of clinical education hours required of any of the nursing and health sciences programs at Jackson State.”

Another reason for this success is the effort of Jackson State faculty and the clinical instructors and support staff from affiliate hospitals, Benson said.

“We invest a large amount of time into our students’ education, but even more than that, we invest a part of ourselves,” Benson said. “Our students recognize we are not perfect, but we are providing them with the opportunity to achieve a level of success that is unlimited. Our relationship with students lasts well into their professional careers and doesn’t end when they graduate.”

When Jackson State’s Radiologic Technology Program began in 1969, it was the first college-based associate degree radiography program in Tennessee and the third in the United States. It is one of the original health sciences programs initiated when the college was established more than 50 years ago, and it began with one clinical affiliate – Jackson-Madison County General Hospital – and five students.

Since those humble beginnings, the program continues to partner with JMCGH and has expanded to include clinical affiliations with West Tennessee Healthcare in Dyersburg, Henry County Medical Center in Paris, and Baptist Memorial Hospital in Union City.

Today, Jackson State is one of six community colleges to offer an associate degree in Radiologic Technology in Tennessee and currently has some of the highest numbers of credentialing exam pass rates.

“Our faculty is very pleased with the efforts of all RADT students, especially those who just completed in August,” Benson said. “The students had a long summer term of review, and that dedication paid off in their 100 percent pass rate this year. They are to be congratulated and commended. These graduates now join the history of a program of success.”

TBR approves appointment of Hamilton as chief academic officer

The Tennessee Board of Regents today approved the appointment of Dr. Allana R. Hamilton as the board’s new vice chancellor for academic affairs. She has been president of Jackson State Community College for nearly three years and has a total of 28 years of experience as a faculty member and academic officer.

The vice chancellor leads the Office of Academic Affairs at the TBR system office and is the chief academic officer for the College System of Tennessee, working with the presidents, faculty and academic officers of the 13 community colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology governed by the board.

Hamilton began her career as an adjunct professor of biology in 1991 at Northeast State Community College, where she became a full-time faculty member the following year and rose through the ranks to become the college’s vice president of academic affairs in 2008. She served in that role to January 2017 when the Board of Regents appointed her president of Jackson State.

She will assume her new role as vice chancellor Oct. 16, succeeding Dr. Randy Schulte who retired in August.

TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings appointed Dr. Jeff Sisk to serve as interim president of Jackson State until a search for the next president is concluded and the new president takes office. Sisk is president of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Jackson and Whiteville.

The Board of Regents will appoint a search committee soon, to be chaired by Regent Barbara Prescott. The committee will include some members of the board and representatives of the Jackson State faculty, students, staff, alumni and the broader community served by the college.

Hamilton was recommended for the vice chancellorship by a search committee that included college presidents and system staff.

Tydings cited Hamilton’s depth of experience in delivering the recommendation to the board. “Her experience is quite extensive and she is very qualified for this position. We’re excited that Dr. Hamilton will be leading our efforts to ensure that our programs are high quality and working with our student success staff to help our students achieve their goals,” the chancellor said.

“I am honored and humbled to have this opportunity,” Hamilton said. “In 1991, I began my career as an adjunct faculty member teaching biology at Northeast State Community College. Student success has been my passion for 28 years. I am looking forward to working with the board, the presidents, faculty and system staff to help our students succeed, which paves the way for better lives for themselves and their families.

“I also want to thank the Jackson State faculty, staff, administration and students. They have made the Jackson community my home for almost three years.”

Hamilton earned her Bachelor of Science degree in biology at Tusculum University, her Master of Science in biological sciences at East Tennessee State University and her Doctor of Education in educational leadership and policy analysis at ETSU.

During her time as a faculty member at Northeast State from 1991 to 2008, she served as Biology Department curriculum coordinator from 1997 to 2001 and academic division chair and dean from 2001 to 2008 when she was appointed the college’s vice president for academic affairs.

JSCC director shares journey of struggles and hope in new book

In Monica Ray’s darkest moments, she watched her mother and newborn daughter fight for their lives in separate hospitals at the same time.

Her mother did not survive. Her daughter survived but has faced chronic illness most of her life. After 23 years of watching her daughter struggle and dealing with her own feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, and guilt, Ray, Jackson State’s Director of Nursing Program Admissions, has honed her message.

“Embrace or splash in the life you’ve been given and do your very best to find purpose in it,” she said. “We all have tremendous struggles. We all have tremendous challenges. But through God’s providence, He is going to give you what you need to get through it, one day at a time.”

She details her message of growth and hope in her new book, “Learning to Splash, Conquering the Life You Have Been Given,” which chronicles her life’s journey and the lessons she’s learned in battling personal turmoil. She will celebrate the book’s launch from noon to 3 p.m. on Sept. 21 at Vance Fellowship Hall, 1461 East Chester St. During the event, she will read from the book and sign copies for readers.

Ray’s journey at Jackson State began 34 years ago before her life changed so dramatically. She started as an admissions recruiter. She later served as Admissions Director for nearly 10 years, and she has been Director of Nursing Program Admissions for 10 years.

Her husband of 36 years, Lee, has supported her as she’s managed a career and the needs of their daughter, who has grown from an infant in neonatal intensive care to a vibrant young woman. She’s also had support from the school, which she said is a remarkable environment where she feels like she is part of a family.

“It’s turned out to be a really good fit for me,” said Ray, who has a bachelor’s degree from Murray State and a master’s degree from the University of Memphis.

Her career has been spent helping students gain access and getting students off to the right start. She’s worked with students from 17 years old to 60 as the college has developed programs to serve people from all walks of life.

“We are even more in tune with what’s needed in the West Tennessee area,” she said. “It’s a very unique and wonderful niche we are working to fill.”

As the Nursing Program has progressed, Ray said students are learning that they need to be prepared. “It’s very doable, but I tell them that they are going to have to work extremely hard. From a personal perspective, I call nurses ‘my angels on earth’ whose expertise and compassionate care changed my family’s life.”

Her message of hope is uniquely poignant for a community college, where students are beginning their professional lives, entering second careers, or coming back to school for additional education to advance. And many are doing it while supporting a family at home.

“All around us we have ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and I think we need to celebrate that more,” she said. “We think our lives are small, but they’re really huge and illuminating.”

And if you’re feeling overwhelmed? “You are not alone,” she said. “There is always hope and help.”

The book is available at Amazon.com as well as at thebestyou.site where you can learn more about Ray’s journey.

Duo Guitiano set for 11th 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 eleventh performance at the college. They will perform at the main campus in Ayers Auditorium Thursday, October 3 at 7 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.

Duo Guitiano’s performance this year has added significance. The International Education program at JSCC is sponsoring a spring-break study-abroad opportunity to Cuba for the Cuban Literacies and Histories experience. Dr. Virelles is native to Cuba and will bring her personal perspective to students regarding this unique opportunity.

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 a collaborative artist throughout the United States, France, Russia, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Cuba. Currently, Dr. Virelles is an 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.

Virelles and Castilla have recently founded the Fayetteville School of Music. Responsibilities for this venture have been added to their teaching duties for Fayetteville State University.

Mary Wadley, the 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 mwadley@jscc.edu or by calling (731) 424-3520 ext. 50252.

JSCC’s Hamilton selected for Complete Tennessee Leadership Institute

The State Collaborative on Reforming Education (SCORE) has selected 28 leaders from higher education, K-12 education, government, business and industry, and nonprofits for the next cohort of the Complete Tennessee Leadership Institute (CTLI). Among those selected is Jackson State Community College’s Dr. Allana Hamilton.

“The Complete Tennessee Leadership Institute is focused on educating and engaging Tennessee leaders about education opportunities and challenges in Tennessee postsecondary education,” SCORE President and CEO David Mansouri said. “SCORE is excited to build on the program’s foundation and explore with the new cohort how we can push for quality and equity in education so all Tennessee students are able to earn the postsecondary credentials and degrees needed for successful careers.”

The leaders in the fourth cohort represent their regions, communities, and industries while learning from national and statewide experts and developing a richer understanding of higher education access, persistence, and success and the effect on the Tennessee workforce. Over the course of the program, they will explore higher education and economic issues at the local level, witness best practices and policies to tackle real challenges, and build professional relationships with a group of strong leaders advocating for change across Tennessee.

Hamilton says that she is honored to have been selected for CTLI and to represent Jackson State Community College. “I am also looking forwarding in connecting and collaborating with my cohort colleagues as we learn and develop together,” Hamilton said.

“I expect to gain a better understanding of topics such as higher education access, attainment, retention, and completion as well as information as to solutions for increasing the number of students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential,” Hamilton said. “Since this is a statewide program, I will also gain a better understanding of higher education and economic issues within the State of Tennessee.”

The fourth cohort will begin November 4 in Nashville and end June 16 in Greenville. The cohort will meet a total of four times during this 7-month period.

JSCC’s OTA program has 100% pass rate on national boards

Every student in Jackson State’s 2019 Occupational Therapist Assistant program passed the recent national board exam required for certification, licensure, and employment.

“The 100% pass rate on the national boards reflects the strength of our program,” said Julie Bezold, Jackson State’s Occupational Therapy Assistant Program Director. “It also shows current and prospective students that we provide them with the education they need to succeed in this field.”

The exam is administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, and it is taken by students after they graduate.

Occupational therapy assistants work with occupational therapists to help patients at all stages of life develop or improve the skills needed to participate in everyday activities to enjoy independent and productive lives. Their patients are often living with an injury, illness or disability.

The two-year Occupational Therapist Assistant program, which is housed in the new 40,000-square-foot Health Sciences Building, combines academic and fieldwork training to prepare students for a career in occupational therapy. The program was developed to help fill a shortage in the region, as many medical facilities have difficulty finding occupational therapy assistants to hire.

“There is a huge need for this program,” Bezold said. “The demand for occupational therapy assistants continues to grow, in part because of the aging elderly population.”

Jackson State’s program is relatively new. It was certified by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education in 2016 after an extensive process that began in 2013. The first class started in August 2015 and graduated in May 2017.

Each cohort has 12 students. Altogether, 33 students in three graduating classes have taken the national exam, and 94% have passed.

The Occupational Therapy Assistant program joins other programs with successful pass rates at Jackson State. The school’s Radiologic Technology program routinely earns 100% pass rates. And in 2017, every student who graduated from the school’s Nursing program passed the National Council Licensure Examination on his or her first attempt.