Sunday, February 23, 2020

Photos: A Blast to the 'Recent' Past

     SMYRNA -- Fall 2019 was an exciting time at Motlow Smyrna. Check out these photos from the "Spoken Word," "Famous Communicator Speakers Series" featuring Rep. Mike Sparks, "Holiday Traditions Show," and "Building 3 Dedication." An unforgettable time was had by all.

Professors Nick Bush, Tamara Jones, and Dr. William Murphy celebrate after last fall's "Spoken Word" open mic storytelling on Nov. 14. (Photo by Charles Whiting)

Tennessee State Rep. Mike Sparks answers students' questions after speaking on Nov. 12 at the "Famous Communicators Speakers Series." (Photo by Charles Whiting)

Professor Nick Bush and SEAM Club Vice President/Freshman Senator Bryna Green emcee the "Holiday Traditions Show" on Dec. 4. (Photo by Professor John Butwell)

Students and faculty perform carols at the end of the "Holiday Traditions Show" on Dec. 14. (Photo by John Butwell)

SEAM Club President Lee Bebout loads up on refreshments during the "Building 3 Dedication" on Dec. 17
(Photo by John Butwell)

Professor Debbie Stockdale attempts to cut the cake during the "Building 3 Dedication" on Dec. 17.
 (Photo by Charles Whiting)

Friday, February 21, 2020

Business & Technology Students Learn from the Pros While Earning Certifications

            SMYRNA – Motlow Smyrna Business & Technology students recently were awarded certifications for completing the INFS 1010 Computer Application course.

            According to Business & Technology Instructor Christine Summers, the students are now equipped to pursue certifications as Microsoft Office specialists. MOS courses are now offered on all four Motlow campuses.

            Receiving certifications for the completion of INFS 1010 were (below, from left) Akiaya Alexander, Charlie Jones, Daniel Fiorella, Eva Bailey, Eve Parrish, Eveline Arevalo-Najera, Isaac Fell, Jennifer Delgado, Jesus Porras Balcazar, Joshua Archer, Justin Church, Kameron Goodrich, Kirollos Ramzy, Melina McCullough, Nicholas Chantharack, Novy Vongsavankham, Patrick Hamley, Ronnie Islam, Tamara Diallo, and Tyler Sisavatdy.

            Other students receiving their certifications (below, from left) were Aaron Brown, Aerwin Kiyedi, Darrylin Williams, David Perez, Jamiyah Richardson, Jesse Dean, Kayla Pendergrast, Kevin Rains, Marian Mando, Micheala Leaver, Piper Smith, Sean Maddux, Smith Bennington, Stephanie Saucedo, and William Conrad.

            Business & Technology students had the opportunity to learn from six top business professionals during Motlow Smyrna’s “Small Business Management Speakers Series.” Giving talks were Deron Rogers of Fresh Seats, Renee Ralston of Cruizerlite Technologies, Karla Miller of America’s Small Business Development Center Tennessee at the Rutherford Chamber of Commerce, Accountant and Motlow Instructor Angela Cox, Karen Lampert of the Domestic Violence Shelter and Sexual Assault Services, and Cristin Wittwer of Waffle House Inc.

            “A huge thank you goes out to our fall speakers who generously gave their time and energy to teach us about their small businesses, how they operate, market, and navigate the legal landscape both locally and globally,” Summers said.

            Rogers’ business, Fresh Seats, sells seat covers that are designed to keep smells and stains off of car seats. He spoke on the topic of entrepreneurship from ideation to design, including global textile and talent sourcing. He emphasized the importance of selling one’s developed product in the marketplace before submitting it for a patent with the U.S. Patents and Trademarks Office. 

Deron Rogers

            Ralston’s company, Cruizerlite Technologies, designs phone covers that add personality and protection for smart phones. She spoke on the topic of small business management, emphasizing the importance of updating one’s business model to build product longevity.

Renee Ralston

            Miller provided insight on how to start a small to medium-size business enterprise. Free services include ideation, financial education, marketing, and legal functions. She is helping a Rutherford County craft beer brewing business go global.

            Professor Cox gave students an overview of accounting and finance and how they work in small business environments.

Angela Cox

            Lampert provided details about managing a non-profit organization. The Domestic Violence Shelter in Murfreesboro looks for grant opportunities and stages fundraising campaigns to support a fast-growing office offering essential community services. 

Karen Lampert

            Wittwer serves as the recruiting director for the Waffle House restaurant chain. Her presentation included an overview of the company’s history, mission and values. All three are evident in the daily practices of its employees.

Cristin Wittwer

Artist/Educator Marc Burnett to Exhibit Watercolor Paintings at Motlow Smyrna on Feb. 25

         SMYRNA -- Visual artist/educator Marc Burnett of Cookeville will visit Motlow Smyrna on Feb. 25 (Tuesday) to present an exhibition of his original watercolor paintings. 

         Burnett will present his artwork as part of the Motlow State Community College’s celebration of African-American History Month. Students, faculty, administrators and staff can meet the artist and see his paintings from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in the Building 3 community space.

         A native of Alcoa, Tennessee, and a 1977 graduate of Alcoa High School, Burnett has served as vice president for Student Affairs at Tennessee Technological University since March 1992. 
Marc Burnett (courtesy of The Crossville Chronicle)

         In the Spring of 1999, Burnett struggled to recover from a near-fatal automobile accident. That’s when two Tennessee Tech colleagues gave him his first watercolor painting set. He later asked his wife, Tamelyn, to buy postcards that were specifically designed for watercolor painting. It opened up a floodgate of creativity. He could not stop painting.
         “I started to feel less stressed, less worried, less agitated,” Burnett recently told a reporter on the popular PBS-TV program “Tennessee Crossroads.” “Agitation was the major thing. You go from doing everything to doing nothing. I just had to find another outlet.”
"Strawberries," a watercolor painting by Marc Burnett

         Burnett is the second person to hold the Student Affairs position at Tennessee Tech since its creation in 1982. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English Journalism, a master’s degree in Educational Psychology, and an Ed.S. degree in Administration & Supervision.
         He also has served as the pastor of Colonial View Baptist Church in Cookeville for the past four years. He has been married to Tamelyn for 36 years. They have two children, Mario, 34, and Bianca, 30.

Jazz-Americana Artist and Recording Engineer Bryan Cumming to Kick Off Spring 'Famous Communicator Speakers Series" on Feb. 27.

By Chuck Whiting
Motlow Buzz Editor-in-Chief

         SMYRNA -- Bryan Cumming, an acclaimed jazz-Americana artist and member of the Grammy-nominated group The WannaBeatles, will speak from 12:30-1:30 Feb. 27 (Thursday) as part of Motlow Smyrna's "Famous Communicator Speakers Series."

         The musician will share his fascinating story in SM 332 (Smyrna Building 3) with photos, videos and live music demonstrations. Admission is open to all members of the Motlow family. Other upcoming "Famous Communicator" speakers this spring are hit recording artist/speaker Joyce Rouse (March 19) and internationally acclaimed visual artist Camille Engel (April - TBA).

         Cumming, who sings and plays guitar, sax and cornet, has recorded with popular acts such as Al Jarreau and The Pointer Sisters. He has released several solo CDs. His album "Come Out Swinging" pays tribute to the classic songs and legendary jazz artists of the Silent Generation.  

         In 2009, he and three fellow members of The WannaBeatles walked the Red Carpet in Hollywood after receiving a Grammy nomination for the CD "Fab Fan Memories - The Beatles Bond." Cumming also produces and records artists at Studio 23 Nashville.

         "Come Out Swinging" celebrates the spirit of swing with a lively mix of traditional jazz classics and originals. Highlights include covers of standards written and/or performed by legendary artists such as Nat King Cole, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Fields, and Irving Berlin. The album, which was recorded at Java Jive Studio in Nashville, features Kelli Cox on keyboards, Adam Mormolstein on drums, and John Vogt on bass.

         "I grew up listening to the music my father loved, including recordings by jazz artists such as Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey, and Glen Miller," he said. "As my music career has developed, I've found myself gravitating toward swing. It has a life-affirming tempo that expresses optimism, enthusiasm and energy. I hope my new album will inspire motion, inviting dancers to sway together, bounce, and enjoy the moment, just like in my daddy's day."

         A Georgia native, Bryan Cumming grew up in a musical family playing Dixieland and classic jazz and singing harmony on Beatles songs. After serving a year in the U.S. Army playing saxophone, he toured and recorded with Martin Mull. He moved to Los Angeles in 1976, playing sax on sessions with artists such as Al Jarreau, The Pointer Sisters, Maria Muldaur, Al Hirt, and The Ohio Players. 

         He later joined Billy Vera and The Beaters, performing at the Tokyo Music Festival and on the number one single "At This Moment". He performed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as a member of the Los Angeles Jazz Choir. He toured Japan and South America with David Soul, and toured four years as the lead guitarist for ShaNaNa. 

         Among the covers on the CD are "Sunny Side of the Street," a standard recorded by Tommy Dorsey and The Sentimentalists in 1944. Other covers include "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "It Had to Be You," and "Blue Skies." 

         The album's title track, "Come Out Swinging," swings to life with the sounds and lyrical images of the '30s, '40s and '50s.

         "I wrote the song in 2008 to honor the classic swing music I learned from my parents," said Cumming. "'Come Out Swinging' is a nostalgic look at yesterday. It is presented as an imaginary epiphany, where the singer hears the phone ring and mysteriously hears the sounds of old swing tunes. He gets inspired and preaches the message 'it's time to play' to his listeners."

         Hit songwriter and author Jason Blume says the project "offers a refreshing blend of original and traditional swing tunes that are both fun and exhilarating."

         Since moving to Nashville in 1988, he has performed and/or recorded with artists such as K.T. Oslin, Cleve Francis, and the Grammy-nominated Beatles tribute band The WannaBeatles.

         For more information about Bryan Cumming and his new album, "Come Out Swinging," visit

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Former Mass Comm Student Shoots YouTube Video About Building 3 Completion

         SMYRNA – Former Mass Comm student Anthony Czeluzniak recently posted a news video at YouTube about the completion of Building 3 on the Motlow Smyrna campus.
         The video, which was shot shortly before the new building was completed, features interviews with student Zion Williamson, Tennessee State Rep. Mike Sparks, and professors Jenna Caviezel and Charles Whiting. The third building was dedicated on Dec. 17, 2019.

         Czeluzniak, who graduated with honors in 2018, currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Collage and president of PRSSA at Middle Tennessee State University.
         To watch the video, visit

Monday, February 17, 2020

Career Pathways Fair to Bring Dozens of Career Insiders to Motlow Smyrna on March 26

            SMYRNA – Students will have the opportunity to meet and learn from dozens of career insiders during the Career Pathways Fair at the Motlow Smyrna campus on March 26 and the Moore County campus on March 24.

            The event will help students “plan, prepare and discover” pathways to landing a dream job, advancing a career, and loving their work. The event will occur from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the shared event space on the first floor of Building 3. 

            Highlights will include tables and/or exhibits manned by company representatives covering fields such as aerospace/engineering, healthcare, STEM, non-profit, manufacturing/industry, insurance, finance, food service, BF retail operations, banking, IT/web design, government, and mass communications. 

            Information sessions will be held on topics such as resume writing, interviewing, leveraging social media in a job search, career assessment, and soft skills development for career success. 

            "The Career Pathways Fair is more than just a job fair," said Kathy Parker, executive director of Economic, Community and Workforce Development. "It will provide attendees with the chance to sharpen their job-seeking skills, meet industry professionals, examine possible careers, and begin developing a plan for their future." 

            Admission is free and open to students, faculty, administrators and staff. Attendees will enjoy prize giveaways and complimentary food and beverages. 

            For more information, send an email inquiry to

Vanderbilt Kennedy Center to Bring Workshop to Smyrna Campus

SMYRNA – The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders (TRIAD) will bring a disability training workshop to Motlow Smyrna on Feb. 20 (Thursday).

The “Tools for Supporting Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders” workshop will demonstrate effective communication techniques faculty members can use in the classroom. The session will occur at 10 a.m. in SM 321 of Building 3. 

Speakers from Vanderbilt University will share information about

* The characteristics of ASD and how they impact students.

*Strategies for supporting students in the classroom.

* Technology and other available resources to promote student success.

‘African-American Read-In’ to Feature Stories, Poems and Songs

         SMYRNA, Tenn. – The annual “African-American Read-In” will celebrate the African-American Experience at Motlow Smyrna on Feb. 26 (Wednesday) with stories, poems, songs, the spoken word, music, movement, and oral interpretations. 

         The event will occur from 8:15 a.m.-3:15 p.m. in the multi-purpose space on the first floor of Building 3. Students, faculty, administrators and staff are invited to sign up for 15-minute presentations. For more information or to sign up, contact Professor Phyllis Adams at

         “Your presence, your participation, your voice, and your support will truly help make this another memorable, impactful, entertaining, educational, and inclusively diverse engagement,” Adams said. “Thank you for helping us to celebrate, respect and include.”

Tennessee Aquarium Offers Half-Price 'College Days' in February 2020

            SMYRNA -- The Tennessee Aquarium is offering half-price tickets for Motlow's students, faculty, administrators and staff. The venue's "College Days" will continue through Feb. 29.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Welcome Letter to Motlow Smyrna Students

Hello Students!

I want to welcome you to what I hope to be your best semester to date!  Speaking directly from the offices of the deans and speaking on behalf of our great faculty and staff, we are excited you have chosen Motlow to be a partner in your educational pursuit.  

Smyrna Academic Dean Dr. Gregory Killough
What phenomenal growth and opportunities our Campus is experiencing.  For you returning students, you have witnessed this growth made manifest from groundbreaking to opening of Smyrna 3.  For you freshmen, you are seeing this through the enrollment of your friends and neighbors. State of the art classrooms, equipment and distant educational opportunities. A new library, new computer labs, new offices. I encourage you to avail yourself to the resources never before offered. I encourage you to seek resources not yet before you. I encourage you to create opportunities, set goals, and aspire for greatness as we walk together. Let us continue to be a campus and a community who are working together to ensure success and promote a standard of excellence.

In closing, let us master what is before us but not settle in complacency.    

Have a wonderful Semester!

Dean Killough and Assistant Dean Mitchell

The Smyrna Restaurant Scene: Homemade Ice Cream Shop Wins Three Awards

By Lucas Lanius
Motlow Buzz Contributing Writer

            SMYRNA, Tenn. -- Janarty’s Homemade Ice Cream, a little shop in the depot district of Smyrna, Tennessee, recently received three Ruthie’s awards, proving them to be one of the best ice cream shops in Rutherford County. 

            Owners Marty Schiff and Janelle Alice were thrilled to accomplish something amazing: win first place for Best Ice Cream, Best Milkshake, and Best Dessert. There haven’t been many small businesses that have won something as incredible as that, especially ones that have only been open for just over a year. 

            When asked about why Marty thought they had won, he explained that he wants to make sure everyone who comes in gets treated like family. Visitors say that’s certainly what one will get when they walk through the door. All of the staff is inviting, kind, greeting all their guests with a warm smile.

            Of course, the ice cream certainly adds to the great experience. Everyone who came through the door left with smiles, talking about how different and perfect the ice cream tasted.  Janarty’s offers the normal range of flavors, such as vanilla bean, double chocolate, candy bar blast, etc. They also try new flavors as well, such as their Chai Tea Latte flavor and Roy’s Peanut Butter. They even had a peach flavor in the summer that boasted peaches grown right here in Smyrna. 

            Janarty’s has also received the Best New Business in Rutherford County award, as well as being a finalist for Best New Business in the Ruthie’s awards. 

            Schiff explained that he used to be a musician all of his life up until 2014, when he retired. Then, he was a single father learning to cook for his children. He always had the idea to open an ice cream shop. He was already in a job that was teaching him to get into the culinary field, and that really enhanced his love for making food. 

            He explained that he was nervous at first, because even though this was his dream, he was putting everything into it. Schiff was quitting his job, selling many of his instruments and his first car, and Alice was quitting school, but it’s all been worth it to see something they can put their love into. 

            He said that he wanted to make ice cream the way nobody else makes it. He claimed that everyone else but Alice thought it was crazy, that it wasn’t possible. He laughingly recalled going to a bank to ask for money to fund their idea. The bank shot them down at first. Then, after they had opened and picked up steam, the bank offered to help them out if they wanted to expand. Customers of the ice cream shop think it’s fantastic to see a small business like this gain such a great reputation. 

            Schiff said that there is a lot of trial and error involved to make their ice cream just right. They had a lot of ice cream left over from experimenting quite often. After trying many different ways of making ice cream, they perfected their recipe that’s enjoyed by thousands of residents and travelers alike. 

            Many customers going in and out of the restaurant made comments and talked about the cleanliness of the facility, the kindness of the staff, the quality of the ice cream, and the great atmosphere that it’s all presented in. It’s not a surprise then to see that Janarty’s has a 4.9 out of five-star rating on Google Maps from 156 people and recommended by over 350 people on Facebook. 

            Schiff did say he would love to see their business grow, but he doesn’t want to expand to other locations right now. He makes the ice cream and wants the quality to be top-notch. He thinks that might suffer if they were to open other stores. He said he also really just loves the old depot district of Smyrna, and that it makes the perfect atmosphere for their shop. 

            “Janelle likes to emphasize that we do make it small batch from scratch,” Schiff said. “Where a lot of people buy the bases already mixed, and they put it in a machine and add flavoring, do their thing, we create every flavor.” 

            “And the first time it’s not always right, we have to redo it a couple times to tune it in,” he added. “Our ice cream tastes different than anybody’s I’ve ever tasted, because it is that extra effort that we put into it. It’s our own thing.” 

            The little shop is located at 111 Front St. in Smyrna. Their normal operating hours are 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, they are open until 10 p.m. They are closed on Tuesdays.

            Their average price for a double scoop of ice cream with a topping is about $4 with tax. A milkshake with four scoops of ice cream of one’s choice with cream and a topping will go for about $8 with tax. There are other little treats, such as homemade chess bars, fudge, pop tarts, or their one-of-a-kind hot chocolate, all for about $3 each. 

            To learn more about Janerty’s, visit their page on facebook @Janerty’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Never Stop Looking Ahead

By Dr. William H. Kraus
Motlow Buzz Contributing Writer

            SMYRNA – I recently asked myself, “What does the future hold? What am I looking forward to?”

            I have been most fortunate throughout my life. I’ve received a great education, served six communities with a total population of approximately 170,000 as city manager over a period of 25 years, and managed more than 20 non-profit associations in the health field and community/residential for another 20 years. I’ve also served as both adjunct and full-time professor in California and Tennessee since 1974. Related to that, I have just completed 15 years of service with Motlow State, beginning at our original Smyrna campus at the Tennessee National Guard here in Smyrna.

            I have always been a very active and enthusiastic “futurist,” welcoming the new, exciting and unpredictable events that will, without doubt, unveil in the days and months ahead. However, as I reach my current age and stage, it has come to my realization that I still see the future through the dreams, hopes and aspirations of our students here at Motlow State. Each class that I have the wonderful opportunity to be a part of has men and women who are just starting out on their individual journeys of life, with great mountains (and sometime valleys) to cross.

Dr. William H. Kraus
            Thus, my passion today is to be able to pass on the “spark of hope, optimism and dedication to excellence” to all of the students I see in class. I try to encourage them not to get bogged down in the details and the little steps that they may experience, but always keep the “eye on the prize.” 

            What better poem could I share than the following that came from the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, written by an 82-year-old man who was dying and accepting the death.

‘If I Had It to Do All Over Again’

"If I had my life to live over, I'd try to make more mistakes next time. I would relax. I would limber up. I'd be crazier than I've been on this trip. I know very few things that I would take seriously anymore. I would take more chances. I would take more trips, I would scale more mountains, I would swim more rivers, and I would watch more sunsets. I would eat more ice cream and fewer beans. I would have more actual troubles and fewer imaginary ones. 
You see, I was one of those people who lived prophylactically and sensibly and sanely, hour after hour and day after day. Oh, I've had my moments, and if I had it to do all over again, I'd have many more of them. In fact, I'd try not to have anything else… just moments, one after another, instead of living so many years ahead of my day.
I've been one of those people who never went anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a gargle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had to do it all over again, I'd travel lighter, much lighter than I have. I would start barefoot earlier in the spring, and stay that way later in the fall. I would ride more merry-go-rounds, I'd watch more sunrises, and catch more gold rings, and greet more people, and pick more flowers, and dance more often… If I had it to do over again.
But you see, I don’t

Monday, November 11, 2019

We Heard It Through the Grapevine That...

* Faculty Mentors are Needed: Tennessee Promise offers faculty members and others the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of students in Rutherford County and beyond. At last report, nearly 3,000 mentors were still needed as the Dec. 6 deadline approached. To volunteer or learn more, visit

* Three Motlow students were recently elected Smyrna Freshman SGA Officers: Marina Hana (freshman president), Bryna Green (freshman senator), and Tamara Diallo (freshman senator).

Professional counseling is now offered to Motlow students. Helpful resources and contact information are provided at

* The Thanksgiving weather outlook from the Old Farmer’s Almanac looks splendid: “Well, we have good news for those who aren’t big fans of the white stuff: According to our long-range forecasts, much of the United States will avoid receiving more snow on Thanksgiving, and will instead be graced with sunny, clear skies for the holiday. This, along with colder-than-normal temperatures (but not colder than last year’s frigid temps), will make for a pleasant yet chilly Thanksgiving Day—something to ultimately be thankful for!

* The “50 Stories/50 Stops” Reading Campaign needs readers for various school visits this fall. To express interest, contact Christy Glenn at

* A “Family Fun Day” is being considered for the Smyrna campus on April 17, 2020. Check out a similar event that occurred on the Moore County campus:  

(If you’re heard anything through the grapevine, please share it with us at or

Photo: Students Sample Foods from Seven Countries

        SMYRNA – Professor Stacy Dowd serves up Italian fare during the International Fest in the MLA Lobby on Oct. 3. Students, faculty, administrators and staff visited various tables to sample foods from France, the Netherlands, Italy, South Korea, England, Germany, and Greece. (Photo by Charles Whiting)

Photo: Getting Down to the 'Roots' of Radio

        SMYRNA – WMOT Roots Radio’s Val Hoeppner (center) hangs out with Motlow Smyrna Mass Communications students following her talk, “WMOT Public Radio Of, By and For the People.” She spoke on Oct. 30 as a participant of the autumn “Famous Communicator Speakers Series.” Receiving her advice are (from left) Ricky Engle, Sam Fuqua, Brandon Smith, Wyatt Wilkerson, and Jackson Moore.

Photo: Learning from a Communications Pro

        SMYRNA – Mass Communications students gather to ask questions after a talk by arts entrepreneur Valerie Connelly (center) on Oct. 10. Connelly kicked off the autumn “Famous Communicator Speakers Series” with the presentation, “Become an Entrepreneurial Communication Wizard.” Receiving advice from Connelly were students (from left) Hayley Allen, Kailen Fox, Trey McDonald, Jacob Stevens, Cedric McCarroll, Trevarius Johnson, and Lee Bebout. (Photo by Charles Whiting)

International Studies Program: Motlow Smyrna Student Tim Niedzielski Explores Galápagos Islands

Interview By Ramona Shelton
Motlow Buzz Faculty Managing Editor

     Motlow Smyrna biology student Tim Niedzielski recently had a life-changing experience by studying abroad with a group of fellow college students as a participant of the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies Program. Here is his story. (Photos by Tim Niedzielski)

QUESTION: What made you decide that you wanted to become involved in Motlow’s international studies program and take a trip abroad?

ANSWER: I already had thoughts about the possibility of doing study abroad early in the fall 2018 semester last year. However, I think what really sealed the deal for me was when Motlow hosted its International Festival that was sponsored by the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, or TnCIS. All it took for me was one glance at the study abroad course offerings and I found something that I was interested in right away. The possibility of me being in that foreign place studying the subject that I love began to grow on me, and soon I wasn’t able to stop thinking about it! I had to go! It was simply an opportunity that I could not pass up!

QUESTION: Had you ever been outside of the country before and if not, were you afraid to do this? How did you overcome any fears you might have had?

ANSWER: Actually, I have been out of the country before multiple times! My family has a Polish background, and we have lots of relatives on my mom’s side living in Poland. Every few years, we visit during summer and spend roughly a month there. So, because of that, international travel is nothing new to me. However, for anyone who has never been out of the country before, it can be both really exciting and nerve- racking. This was my first time going to a foreign country by myself and without anyone that I knew, and it just so happened that I chose one of the most remote locations offered. It’s one thing going to a foreign country, but to go to an isolated island region roughly 900 miles off the coast and spend a month there by yourself is an entirely different story!

As far as my fears about the trip went, I really didn’t have many. I just had faith that we would all get there safely and that the pilots/ boat captains knew what they were doing. All my luggage went there and back and I came back, a little scratched up and disappointed that the trip came to an end, but all in one piece. To anyone who is afraid of the unknown, don’t be scared to try new things. It was my first-time snorkeling, and for a guy who has glasses, can’t see 5 inches in front of him without them, and has never swum in 30-foot-deep water before, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I was literally in something over my head. I had to learn to trust the members of my group, the instructors, the guides, and myself and have faith that nothing bad would happen.

QUESTION: What was the process of getting involved in the program?

ANSWER: The process was extensive! There were times in the process where I wanted to give up or thought that the whole thing would be all for naught. You have to fill out an application, get recommendation letters, send a transcript, pay fees, and so on and so forth! Then if you wish to get the study abroad scholarship, there is another application and an interview for that yet! I say these things not to scare off anyone who is considering doing study abroad, but to have you really consider the commitment that you are about to make. If you want it badly enough, don’t let anything stop you!

QUESTION: What kind of tips/tricks can you give us that will help future travelers as they begin their own application process?

ANSWER: Start now! Get everything done as soon as you can, so that you won’t have to worry about deadlines. It’s a lengthy process, but when everything is all said and done, hopefully you will realize that it was all worth it! Make sure to pay attention to important deadlines, manage your time, and constantly check to see if all the steps have been processed.

If you happen to make it to the interview portion of the Study Abroad Scholarship process, then treat is as you would any job interview. Be as professional as possible and come in prepared! 

QUESTION: Where did you end up going, and what made you choose this particular option?

ANSWER: The place that I ended up going to was the Galápagos Islands, a small archipelago located roughly 900 miles west off the coast of Ecuador. For me, there was almost no reason not to choose to go to that place! Galápagos, also nicknamed the Enchanted Islands, is a highly coveted travel destination for any biologist or person seeking an animal-related career. It is famous for being the birthplace of Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, housing animal species that can be found living nowhere else in the world, and the famed Galápagos giant tortoise! As someone who is seeking a degree in animal-related biology, to have been given the opportunity to spend a month in the Enchanted Islands sounded like a dream come true.

QUESTION: Tell us about your trip! What kind of interesting and unique sites and adventures did you have? Would you go back again?

ANSWER: Would I go back...? Ha-ha. In a heartbeat!!! This trip was unlike any other that I have ever been on, and has radically changed my life. It’s that fantastic of a place!

Man, so much happened on this trip, it’s hard to even decide where to start. Just flying in and getting to town was an adventure! We ate great food, swam in pristine, blue water, walked along the beaches, hiked volcanoes, explored lava tunnels, and saw some of the coolest, weirdest, rarest creatures on Earth.

Some of my favorite memories are the 12-mile round trip endurance hike to the highest point of Santa Cruz Island, swimming with marine iguanas, shark pups (they mostly avoid humans, but still… keep your distance), penguins, and sea turtles, hiking to a ginormous volcano crater, finding a snake that can’t be found anywhere else on the face of the planet, and getting to see the coolest bird ever--a blue-footed boobie!

QUESTION: Did you go solo or were you a part of a group? If group, please tell us about your fellow travelers. Did they come from Motlow or from other colleges?

ANSWER: I went with a fairly decent sized group; however, I was the only student who represented Motlow. The large majority of students in my group either attended Pellissippi State or Nashville State Community College. It was scary for me to be the only one from Motlow and not know anyone else in the group. However, after attending a group information meeting about the trip and being stuck in an eight-hour flight layover, we became close rather quickly. Many of the students in my group were there for the experience or needed to complete their credits but do it in a unique setting. Only a small handful came for the same reason that I did. Over the course of the month, I managed to get to know each member of the group quite well, and we became a large family of sorts: not just having class together, but going on excursions and dining together as well. My roommate, Eric Rosenthal, was one member whom I particularly grew close to. We practically did everything together, from strolling through town to exploring the landscapes and beaches in search of wildlife and endemic snakes. He is an amateur herpetologist (someone who looks for and studies reptiles) as well as a Youtuber, gymnastics coach, and yo-yo trickster.

In all honesty though, everyone in our group was awesome. I miss them terribly and hope that a reunion can be arranged soon.

QUESTION: What parts of your trip turned out to be as good as or better than you expected? Was there anything that you regretted or turned out to be not-so-good?

ANSWER: Personally, I have very few regrets with this trip. I just wish that I could’ve done more and seen more yet, that I had brought more durable foot-wear, and that one of the captains wouldn’t have driven the boat in circles and made everyone sea sick! As far as expectations went, it was everything I had imagined and more! I was just amazed at how close the animals let you come to them. They’re not afraid of people! Also, I was underprepared for just how much wildlife there was; from teaming schools of fish, to geckos in your own hotel room! I kid you not when I say just how much of a gem the Galápagos Islands are. It’s one thing to read a book or see internet pictures of the place, but to physically be there and witness the beauty of the Enchanted Islands first-hand was something extraordinary that I’ll never forget. 

QUESTION: What is the learning environment like?

ANSWER: Although I’ve described this trip as if it were a paid vacation, yes, IT IS STILL A CLASS!!! That said it is very easy to get distracted. I personally found it a challenge trying to study in such a cool, foreign place, but I knew that if I didn’t do well the consequences would not be enjoyable. Don’t fall into the habit of getting too distracted. It’s not all fun and games! You represent your campus. You still have to do the work!

The classroom setting itself was very casual. For us it was usually at our hotel, either at an outdoor patio or on top of the roof. What was really fascinating is how whenever we went on a tour or excursion, whatever we read or learned about during class we would get to see it in real life and make those kinds of connections. For example, we would read about the effects of a certain invasive species and then as our group would be doing a tour, someone would spot that invasive specie and we would be able to have an on-site, min-lesson. I think that that is what my favorite thing about study abroad is. You’re not confined to a conventional classroom. The whole world is the classroom!

QUESTION: What do you miss the most about this place?

ANSWER: The quiet, the culture, not having to worry about crime or rough neighborhoods (It’s an island. All the locals know each other!), the food, the natural beauty, the unique wildlife, etc. Just all of it. The biggest thing for me would most likely be the sense of community. Here in the States, everything and everyone is so spaced out and individualized. Over there, we would laugh together, commute together, shares meals together, and study together. You don’t have to drive a long distance to go places, you either walk, take public transport, or sit in the back of a boat.

QUESTION: Why do you want to go back?

ANSWER: There is still so much more to see! I still haven’t seen everything on my bucket list. I want to visit more islands, go scuba diving, see a whale shark or hammerhead shark migration, and possibly come back as a field researcher!

QUESTION: What advice would you give the next Motlow student who is planning to go to the same place as you did?

ANSWER: First, come prepared! Especially weather-wise! Climate can differ slightly from island to island. One may be lush and verdant, while the other is extremely arid and almost dessert-like. Weather also differs depending on your altitude; closer to sea-level, it will be more tropical. In the highlands, rainy, wet, and overcast. You’ll need to have your raincoat just as handy as you do your sunscreen.

Second, bring good quality footwear! Along the beaches and in town, you’ll want something that can go between both land and sea and is capable of draining sand and water. For the excursions/ volcano hikes, hiking books are a must have! The entire archipelago is made up or volcanic rock, so be prepared to walk several miles over rugged terrain.

Third, bring a camera/ Gopro! Take as many photos and videos as you can! A good majority of the animals are critically endangered and disappearing fast, with many species on the islands already gone. Have something to remember them by and share to others as I have done.

Lastly, explore! Have fun and don’t be afraid of new situations or new things!