JSCC RADT lab named for pioneering program director

The state-of-the-art radiologic technology lab at Jackson State Community College was officially dedicated as the Neta McKnight Radiologic Technology (RADT) Laboratory on Wednesday, October 23.

Dr. Walter Nelms, JSCC’s first academic dean and second president, often refers to Mrs. McKnight as a pioneer in the area of education for the field of radiology. The program, when first established in 1970, was the third college-based program in the country and the first one east of the Mississippi River. Prior to this, training for radiologic¬†technologists was done in hospitals.

Neta McKnight served 37 years as the director for the program before her retirement in 2007. She continues to serve as a board member of the JSCC Foundation, establishing her as the longest-serving member with more than 40 years of service.

During her tenure as director of and faculty member for the RADT program, Mrs. McKnight helped to train hundreds of radiologic technologists in West Tennessee. Her passion for teaching and for the profession also led her to secure funding for scholarships that have met the needs of students for decades. McKnight successfully established nine endowed radiology scholarships that total approximately $185,000. These endowments provide approximately $5,000 to $7,000 per year in scholarships for students to successfully complete the program.

Current program director Kim Benson credits McKnight with a philanthropic vision to provide RAD Tech students with scholarships. “It is a blessing that Mrs. McKnight had the foresight to prepare a way for student needs for so many years,” said Benson. “She saw and understood the financial need in RAD Tech students nearly 40 years ago and her work continues to provide for students still today.”

Benson says that the naming of the RADT lab in McKnight’s honor is a way to preserve and highlight her dedication and vision and for students to always be aware and acknowledge her immense contribution.

Taylor Moore takes lead role for Green Jays Softball

South Gibson four-sport athlete and Medina native Taylor Moore is now the head coach for the Jackson State Community College Green Jays Softball team. Tuesday, October 29 was her first day on the job.

“We are extremely happy for the addition of Taylor to the Green Jays’ coaching staff at Jackson State,” said JSCC Athletic Director Steve Cornelison. “Taylor is an exemplary athlete with a passion for the game of softball. We look forward to the excitement and energy she will bring to the program.”

Graduating her 2012 South Gibson class as salutatorian, Taylor was a Wendy’s High School Heisman nominee as a senior after lettering in softball, basketball, soccer and running cross-country. She was honored as All-District 15-A all four years in high school, All-Tournament Team 2010-2012, All-State Team Honorable Mention in 2010, Jackson Sun Second Team All-West Tennessee in 2010 and All-State Second Team in 2012. She was the West Tennessee All-Star Game MVP in 2012. Moore was also a part of the 2010 ASA National Championship team with Impact Fastpitch.

Moore was an All-District selection for 2010-2012 for both soccer and basketball, and All-Tournament Team selection in 2012 for basketball. She was honored on the All-State Teams as an Honorable Mention in 2011, and Second Team in 2012 as a soccer standout.

In addition to her involvement with South Gibson athletics, Moore was a Student Ambassador and the Homecoming Queen and also participated in Beta Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Future Farmers of America, and Future Business Leaders of America.

After high school, Moore was a student-athlete at Dyersburg State Community College. She graduated with an A.A. in Science in 2014. During her time at DSCC, she was a career .365 hitter for DSCC with 57 total hits, 15 doubles, one triple, five home runs, and 56 RBI. She was nominated Most Valuable Player in 2013-14 season, and All-Conference First Team in 2014.

Upon graduating DSCC, Moore continued to play at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, TN. At Martin Methodist, Moore was a heavily regarded defensive player for the RedHawks and spent two seasons as starting third baseman. She was a career .301 hitter for MMC with 97 total hits, 14 doubles, four triples, five home runs, and 53 RBI. She served as the President of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Biology Club. Moore graduated with a B.S. in Biology with a minor in Chemistry in 2017.

While finishing up her B.S. degree, Moore stayed involved in the softball program as the student-assistant. After graduation, she was hired as a full-time assistant for the softball program and was in that role for the last two years. Moore graduated in May of 2019 with her Master of Business Administration from Martin Methodist College and is a member of Sigma Beta Delta.

PTA and OTA information sessions to be held at JSCC

The Physical Therapist Assistant and Occupational Therapy Assistant programs at Jackson State Community College will host two information sessions for those interested in learning more about the programs. There will be two sessions on Monday, November 11 from noon to 1 p.m. and again from 5 to 6 p.m. Both sessions will meet in conference room 224 of the Jim and Janet Ayers Center for Health Sciences.

Both programs are designed for students who intend to begin careers in their respective fields upon graduation. Graduates of Jackson State’s PTA and OTA programs are eligible to apply for licensure in any state and, if approved by that state, sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination or the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Additional information about the PTA and OTA programs at JSCC can be found at www.jscc.edu/pta or www.jscc.edu/ota, respectively. For more information regarding the information sessions, contact Jane David, PTA program director, at 731-424-3520 ext. 50214 or jdavid@jscc.edu, or Julie Bezold, OTA program director, at 731-424-3520 ext. 50755 or jbezold@jscc.edu.

Tennessee Board of Regents schedules conference call meeting Oct. 31 to consider criteria for next president of Jackson State Community College

The Tennessee Board of Regents will meet by telephone conference call Oct. 31 to consider approving the criteria and job description for the next president of Jackson State Community College, the first step in the presidential search process.

At its Sept. 20 quarterly meeting, the Board of Regents appointed Jackson State President Allana Hamilton as vice chancellor for academic affairs for the College System of Tennessee, which the Board governs. Hamilton assumed her new duties Oct. 16, creating a vacancy at the West Tennessee college. TBR Chancellor Flora W. Tydings appointed Dr. Jeff Sisk to serve as interim president until the search process is completed and the next president takes office. Sisk is president of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Jackson and Whiteville, and continues those duties while serving as interim chief executive officer at Jackson State.

The Regents’ teleconference meeting is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. CT, Oct. 31. The call is open to the public and anyone wishing to listen can request call-in information by contacting Board Secretary Sonja Mason at sonja.mason@tbr.edu or 615-366-3927.

Regent Barbara Prescott will chair the Jackson State Presidential Search Advisory Committee, whose members are in the process of being selected. The committee will include representatives of Jackson State’s faculty, staff, students, alumni and the broader West Tennessee community served by the college. When the committee is fully selected and appointed, its membership, date of first meeting and details of the search process – including candidate application and nomination information and a timeline – will be announced and posted on the TBR website at¬†https://www.tbr.edu/hr/executivesearches.

The criteria for the next president will also be posted on the website above when approved by the Board. The proposed criteria the Board will consider include but are not limited to: an earned doctorate from an accredited institution (preferred); a distinguished record of teaching and experience in public higher education (preferred); a minimum of five years successful campus administrative experience at a level with significant decision-making responsibilities affecting an entire campus or as head of a major academic or administrative unit in an academic environment (preferred); a distinguished record of extensive senior-level administrative experience in a complex business, industry or government enterprise.

FAFSA workshops to be held at JSCC

The time to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2020-2021 academic year has arrived. Jackson State Community College is hosting a series of workshops to assist students and their parents in completing the application. The workshops will begin on October 28 with the last one being held on January 30.

Completion of the FAFSA is an essential requirement to access financial aid for attending college. This requirement extends to all of those who have applied for or receive the last-dollar scholarships known as Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect.

John Brandt, Director of Financial Aid, encourages everyone to attend the free workshops at JSCC. “This is a great opportunity to take care of this detail that is essential for receiving financial assistance of any kind,” said Brandt. “With a small amount of preparation, this task can be completed in approximately 30 minutes, and we are more than happy to help.”

The documentation needed at the workshop includes tax returns, W2 forms, amounts for child support paid or received, and any other relevant financial documents for the 2018 tax year. Students who are claimed as dependents are asked to bring a parent with them.

For a complete listing of dates and times, visit www.jscc.edu/fafsa. Call 731-425-2605 for any other questions.

Dr. Jeff Sisk to serve as interim president of Jackson State Community College

Dr. Jeff Sisk, Jackson State Community College alum and president of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Jackson and Whiteville, begins his tenure as interim president of Jackson State today, Oct. 16.

He was appointed interim president by Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora W. Tydings after Jackson State President Dr. Allana Hamilton accepted a job with the Board of Regents. Her last day at Jackson State was Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Sisk, who said he will not be a candidate for president of Jackson State, will serve until a search for the next president is concluded and the new president takes office.

“I am honored that Chancellor Tydings asked me to serve as interim president during the search,” Sisk said. “Jackson State has a special place in my family’s heart. I’m an alum, my wife Stephanie is an alum, and my son Mitch is a freshman baseball player here.”

Hamilton was appointed vice president of academic affairs for the Board of Regents and chief academic officer of the College System of Tennessee. She was president of Jackson State for nearly three years.

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

Sisk will remain president of the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Jackson and Whiteville and keep his office at the TCAT Jackson campus.

“TCAT Jackson and JSCC both have great leadership teams in place,” Sisk said. “Also, technical college and community college presidents in Tennessee attend many of the same statewide meetings. Those factors will make my schedule manageable.”

Sisk has also served as an Assistant Director, Student Services Counselor and Instructor of Computer Information Technology on various campuses in the technical college system. For the past 22 years, his career has focused on helping students learn the skills necessary to be successful in the workplace.

He earned both a doctorate in higher and adult education and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Memphis. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Lambuth University and an associate degree from Jackson State.

“Jackson State was where I restarted my academic pursuits – a few years after not succeeding at a local four-year institution,” Sisk said. “It was exactly what I needed at the time. My experience at JSCC jumpstarted my career and is a major reason I am where I am today.” He said Jackson State faculty members when he was there in the late 1980s and early 1990s were personally invested in his success and made a huge impact on his career.

JSCC graduate finds niche with criminal justice and art

Lindsay Kilburn, who graduated Jackson State with a criminal justice degree in 2014, said she loves her job at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office where she’s the area’s only composite artist.

“It’s very, very rewarding,” she said. “I love that it’s very unique. I love being able to help law enforcement by using art. It’s very cool to do. There aren’t a lot of composite artists out there, and I love being able to help with a tool that helps lead to an arrest.”

She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in art in 2016. Then she was hired by the sheriff’s office in 2017.

Her main role is as an assistant with Crime Stoppers. She relays anonymous information to investigators, and she helps create awareness and raise funds – the program pays up to $1,000 for tips leading to an arrest.

Her superiors supported her as she completed 160 hours of training and earned her certification as a composite artist in April 2018. She is also certified in facial reconstruction and unknown remains.

As a composite artist, she works with witnesses to develop an image of a suspect, which includes image modification from surveillance videos, age progression, and sketches. The process takes two and a half to three hours.

She begins by asking a witness to walk her through what happened, and she develops a rough sketch. Then she introduces reference photos – sheets with different eyes, noses and facial features – as she fine-tunes the artwork.

“I keep working on it and working on it until they say, ‘that’s the guy,'” Kilburn said.

And because she’s the only composite artist around, she lends her talents to other law enforcement agencies on the hunt for suspects. “If they request it and if they need it, it’s a really useful tool.”

For Kilburn, it all began at Jackson State. Her professors, she said, were passionate about her future and helped motivate her to go for her bachelor’s degree.

“Everyone was extremely helpful in guiding me and directing me and helping me create a passion for the criminal justice field,” she said. “I really loved that the professors were always available to answer my questions. They made themselves very available and very accessible and helped steer me to UT Martin. It really helped me get prepared.”

It was a springboard to earning a four-year degree and provided the foundation for her rewarding career in law enforcement. “I truly enjoy getting up and going to work every day.”

Former JSCC president has lifelong commitment to students, faculty, and staff

Dr. Walter Nelms would never pass up the opportunity to talk about Jackson State Community College – the institution he helped to found and has been his life’s work.

“I love to talk about Jackson State,” he said. “It’s my baby.”

In fact, he was a part of the college even before it opened in August 1967. Jackson State’s first president, F.E. Wright, hired him in June 1967 as the Academic Dean so he could help get the college off the ground.

“It’s hard to imagine the real joy of giving birth to an institution,” said Dr. Nelms, who became the college’s president in 1976 and held that position until he retired in 1997. Since then, the college has continued to be a big part of his life. He attends graduations and is a frequent sight at college events.


The arrival of community colleges

Dr. Nelms was just starting his career in education when the momentum to open community colleges arrived in Tennessee. First known as junior colleges, the two-year institutions started in California, Mississippi and Michigan and then spread across the country, he explained. Tennessee’s first was Columbia State Community College in Middle Tennessee. Jackson State was the second to open.

Dr. Nelms was teaching a course on the administration of junior and community colleges at Memphis State. “I was selling them on a community college career,” he said. “I kept telling them what a good opportunity it was to be at a community college. One day after teaching that class, I was getting a haircut. I remember sitting in the chair and thinking that working at a community college was a good opportunity for me, too.”

Dr. Nelms already knew Jackson. His father worked for the Illinois Central Railroad and Nelms spent part of his growing up in Jackson. He graduated from Jackson Central High School. He left Jackson to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Harding University in Arkansas. He then taught two years in Arkansas, joined the U.S. Marines for another two years, and earned his doctorate in education from the University of Mississippi.

He met his wife, Peggy, in high school and married when he was 19. They have three children: Brenda, a lawyer; Walter Jr., who owns a heating and cooling business; and Lee, a pilot for Delta Airlines. They also have nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

In the weeks before Jackson State opened in 1967, the first staff members worked out of a house on Airways Boulevard. As Jackson State’s first academic dean, Dr. Nelms and his secretary, Anne Crossnoe, developed courses and a curriculum, hired faculty, bought textbooks and created an academic class schedule.

The college opened with 640 registered students that fall, he said.


A quality education for $55 a quarter

At $55 a quarter for full-time students, the new college made a post-secondary education affordable and opened opportunities to many in West Tennessee. “Community colleges are absolutely the best bargain in education,” Dr. Nelms said.

The early curriculum was mainly general courses students needed to get an associate degree, but already technical courses were available. Old Hickory Mall had just opened, and Dr. Nelms remembers a one-week course that taught how to operate an electronic cash register.

It wasn’t long before business and medical-related programs were in the curriculum. At the time, Dr. Nelms said, business and technical courses were reserved for vocational schools, but now students could get two-year degrees in these fields and enter the job market. Early medical courses included courses in radiology and inhalation therapy.

Outside of the college, Dr. Nelms has been involved in the community. He is a member of Rotary Club and has been an elder at the Campbell Street Church of Christ for 40 years. He also rides and shows walking horses, loves to play golf and has his private pilot’s license.


An integrated faculty and student body

One accomplishment, of which he is quite proud, was the opening of the Ned R. McWherter Center for Advanced Industrial Technologies. The college had a state-of-the-art building for the courses it offered to meet the needs of area industry.

While many institutions were still segregated in the late 1960s, Jackson State was not, said Dr. Nelms. From the beginning, African-American students were welcome, and Dr. Nelms sought out minority teachers. “By the second year, our faculty was integrated.”

In 1968, when racial tensions exploded elsewhere, Nelms worked to keep Jackson State out of the fray. “We had a significant number of minority students. When Martin Luther King was killed in Memphis, we lowered the flag the next day. We’ve never had racial problems at Jackson State.”


The impact of Jackson State

One of the hardest parts of his job, he said, was getting people to accept the value of a community college. “The impact of Jackson State is immeasurable.”

Industries locate here because of Jackson State, he said. The medical community could not have grown as it has without Jackson State feeding it with people skilled in the medical field.

The college offered remedial courses to help students catch up and then succeed at the college level. “I can’t think of turning away a student for academic reasons. We take them from where they are to where they want to be.”

He has stories of many students who arrived unprepared. They would not have gotten the attention they needed at many other colleges, he said. “We cared about them, gave them help along the way and the foundation they needed. That’s what a community college is all about.”

“We offer a quality education. I will maintain that the average student coming out of high school in Madison County is more likely to earn a four-year bachelor’s degree if he or she spends the first two years at Jackson State.”


“My greatest pride” – faculty and staff

Of everything Jackson State offers, Dr. Nelms is most proud of its faculty and staff. “My greatest pride in this institution has always been the faculty and staff. No institution is any better than its faculty. I’ll put the quality of Jackson State’s programs up against any other program.”

Dr. Nelms likes to point out that the Jackson State faculty is hired to teach, not to do research. “The faculty really put their hearts and souls into teaching. That’s critical for a community college.”

Finally, Dr. Nelms is proud of the difference Jackson State has made in people’s lives: the bank president, the politician, the hospital administrator and the many others who started their college educations at Jackson State. The nurses, the therapists, the office workers and industry technicians who got their first jobs with associate degrees and technical training from Jackson State. “The pride of the people who worked here and who attended here is strong,” he said.

Jackson State is as proud of Dr. Nelms as he is of the institution. The Walter L. Nelms Classroom Building is named for him; a tree is planted in his name.

“Eternally,” he said, “I am going to be here. My heart and soul are here. They always have been. I’m just proud of Jackson State.”