A Man of Culture

How running out of money made one CSCC the man he is today.

One semester into his education at Middle Tennessee State University, Robert D. Bob Burris, Sr. ran out of money. So he packed his bags, returned home to Cleveland and went to work. Four years later, when Cleveland State Community College was opening in 1967, Bob saw an open door to continue his education. He walked right through it.

“In the 1960s, the people who went to college were always the people who were financially secure—and I wasn’t,” Bob says. “Getting that degree was an opportunity to better myself and achieve a personal goal.”

Early Days

The inaugural year of CSCC’s existence, registration was in the old John Miller home on Broad Street, and classes were held at North Cleveland Baptist Church. Having previously attended North Cleveland Baptist, heading to the church felt like a homecoming for Bob.

Since Bob was working a full-time job, that homecoming initially involved night classes. When he switched to working nights, he started taking his classes during the day. Eventually, he earned his degree from CSCC and went on to get his bachelor’s from Lee College.

With these degrees in hand, Bob went on to a full life. He worked for Farm Bureau for Tennessee for thirty years, raised a family and did his part to better the community.

“I always felt like having a college degree made me a first-class citizen,” Bob says. “My degree from Cleveland State and later from Lee afforded me more than just a business opportunity. It helped me appreciate more things culturally.”

Bob’s cultural appreciation shows itself in the realms of music, public speaking and writing. And through the years, this cultural appreciation hasn’t been relegated to textbooks or conversations with friends. He’s putting it to use. Bob has an immense love for music—even though he “can hardly play the radio,” he cowrote The Hank Snow Story—an autobiography of the influential country music artist from the 1950s and ‘60s and used the skills he learned in John Bradley’s public speaking class at Cleveland State to win a seat on the Bradley County Commission in 1986.

Looking Ahead

With a grandson attending Walker Valley High School, Bob is hoping yet another generation can soon call CSCC his alma mater. To that end, Bob has encouraged his grandson to dual enroll at Cleveland State when the time arrives. And while he may not hold an official political office at the time, Bob has something to say to those who do.

“I feel that community colleges are neglected by the states, and I think they need more funding,” Bob says. “Cleveland State’s graduates are good citizens who need the boost that the college provides. Without sufficient funding, however, it is getting harder for good people to get the solid start they need.”

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An unlikely combination for an exceptional success story.

As the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Tourism Development, Melissa Alley Woody gets paid to market her hometown. It’s a task that is easier to perform for those coming from outside Cleveland’s borders.

“We tend to take for granted what’s in our own backyard,” Melissa says. “With my job, I see people do that every day with the mountains and the Cherokee National Forest.”

Same Story

Melissa also sees people do it with Cleveland State Community College. Because it’s been here for fifty years, Melissa feels people don’t realize the great resource the college is. She certainly does. And she did when she was in the midst of earning her general transfer degree from the college, which prepared her for her four-year degree at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Feeling that staying close to home was a better option, Melissa attended classes and worked on the CSCC campus. She worked for Steve Longley in CSCC’s athletic department and Bob Taylor, who was an activities-relations professional for the college and later became Director of Bradley County Schools. Melissa fondly remembers the day when her position with Coach Longley gave her the opportunity to announce a basketball game over the intercom system.

Exciting as this day was, it pales in comparison to something many students also take for granted: an entrance exam offered by the Cleveland State counseling office.

“When I took that entrance exam, I scored very high in public relations and private investigation,” Melissa says. Though she didn’t understand how the two meshed together, she now sees that both play a role in her job, as she must do lots of research and questioning—investigation—to perform her PR-centric job.

Exciting Growth

Like many CSCC alumni, Melissa continues to keep up with the college since her 1989 graduation. She is impressed with the ever-growing class offerings and sees the community offerings as a particular benefit. In fact, she reaped the benefit of one community class herself by participating in a Cleveland State yoga class.

“Cleveland State is a real jewel in our community,” she says. “The people there are great, the campus is beautiful—it’s just a great place. My wish is that the campus would continue to thrive, the students would more clearly see the value of what’s offered there, and the community would realize what a great institution we have right here in our community and continue to support its current and future growth.”

Posted by admin in Alumni, Profiles

How CSCC Molded Angela Mathis

Capturing a precious moment in time.

When she came to Cleveland State after graduating from Bradley Central High School, Angela Mathis didn’t just dip her toes in the CSCC culture. She jumped in headfirst.

“I get emotional sometimes thinking about the time I spent here,” the 1993 public relations graduate says. “It was like you had a clean slate. It didn’t matter who you were in the schools before you came here. Here, you got to be who you wanted to be.”

Getting Involved

The person she wanted to be was an involved individual. Her first week at the college, Angela signed up for Student Government Association (SGA), Circle K, and any other club or organization she could find.

“At the time,” Angela says, “I didn’t realize that the things I was doing—organizing the homecoming dance or planning ice cream socials for students—would lead to what I do now for a living.”

Following CSCC, Angela earned her BS from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Today, Angela is a Senior Committee Manager for the American Cancer Society. In this role, Angela plans fundraising activities such as basketball and softball tournaments and Relay for Life events in McMinn, Monroe, Meigs, Polk and Rhea counties.

Her organization wasn’t confined to events. As an SGA member, Angela worked to make significant changes at the college. While serving as SGA President, she pushed her fellow SGA members to find issues on campus and write up bills to president to the college’s President for consideration. The CSCC campus sign was a bill, as was the bathroom hand dryers and a short-lived line-dance class. All were pushed through by her administration.

Unearthing Memories

One bill, however, has particular significance to Angela. Before coming to CSCC, Angela helped create a time capsule at Bradley Central. When the idea of a time capsule was pitched by the Cleveland State SGA, Angela was hooked. She wrote the bill, got it approved by the college President, built by maintenance, and then buried. On April 10, 2017, twenty-five years after burying the time capsule, it will be unearthed at 11 a.m. outside the Student Center. Angela hopes many in the community will come—particularly those who participated in the creation of the time capsule, such as her SGA Vice President that year, Tammy Porter.

Married to Barry Mathis for twelve years and having two stepchildren, life has changed personally for Angela since her graduating. In unearthing the time capsule, Angela and others will be reminded of how culture and the college have changed. Angela will also be reminded of one thing that hasn’t changed through the years: her appreciation for CSCC.

“Cleveland State gave me the two years I needed to grow and find myself and become a confident person,” she says. “I owe Cleveland State for everything I am today and my career. It had everything I needed.”

Posted by admin in Alumni, Profiles

Life Advice

Want to avoid using a bankruptcy attorney’s services? Better head to Cleveland State.

A 2001 Cleveland State graduate, Andrew Morgan, founder of Andrew B. Morgan, Attorney at Law, took a unique path to earn his general transfer degree from CSCC.

“I was the first student to ever complete my associate degree before receiving my high school diploma,” he says.

How’d he do it? Dual-enrollment. A mere week after his CSCC graduation, Andrew donned a cap and gown for the second time to walk across the stage at Bradley Central High School’s graduation.

Student with Services

And he didn’t stop there. Two years later, he earned his bachelor’s in political science from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. He then went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from the University of Memphis in 2007. Just five years after graduating from high school and CSCC, Andrew was prepared to enter the law profession. And it all started at Cleveland State.

“All of the programs at Cleveland State were very good,” Andrew says. “I had amazing instructors—even the adjust professors. The staff was great, and the size of the campus was perfect. It has such a hometown feel, and I didn’t get that when I went on to further my education.”

Andrew had such an appreciation for his time at CSCC that he stayed in touch with many of the faculty and staff members after leaving. One of them, the late Alexander Delk, who was Andrew’s speech professor, even hired Andrew for legal services.

A Family Foundation

For Andrew, Cleveland State is a family affair. His mother earned her associate’s from the college in the 70s and is now a small business owner. His sister, a forester in Alabama, also graduated from CSCC. And his wife, Dr. Brittany Morgan, attended the college before transferring to Lee University.

Because Andrew has such an appreciation for the foundation Cleveland State laid, he recommends all local high school graduates choose CSCC for the convenient, cost-effective, quality education available. He tells potential CSCC Cougars how he took classes, held a job, interacted with the college’s President and Board of Trustees—all while preparing for a future that included opening his own firm in early 2016.

“If I had to do it all over again today, I’d still choose Cleveland State,” Andrew says. “Why would you go off to college and spend one-hundred thousand dollars on a four-year degree when you can spend a fraction of that for two years of it? As a bankruptcy attorney, CSCC just makes more financial sense.”

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50 Years of SGA

Proof that while many things change, so many stay the same.

Before graduating from high school in 1967, Walter Presswood was on his way to Tennessee Technological University. He’d been accepted at the college and didn’t have any doubts—until Dr. George Mathis, Dean of Students for the area’s new community college, caught Walter’s ear.

“Dr. Mathis was a super salesman. He was full of enthusiasm and energy,” Walter says. “I started thinking, ‘I like this man, I like what he’s saying and it really is a great opportunity to get in on ground floor of something that’s going to turn into something big.’”

Walter’s interest piqued, Dr. David Adkisson, Cleveland State’s first President, gave the commencement address at Polk County High School. Donning his cap and gown, Walter was impressed once again that CSCC may be a solid choice. The final straw was Professor Lloyd Lilliard, who had always been in Walter’s life. He was going to work at CSCC and encouraged Walter to join him there as a student.

Mr. President

With pressure from every side, Walter caved, becoming a member of the college’s first graduating class of 1969. During his time at CSCC, Walter had another first, serving as the college’s inaugural Student Government Association President.

“We had a lot to do,” Walter says. “We didn’t have a constitution for student government, and we didn’t have a student handbook. So we wrote them.”

Walter’s SGA also organized dances, brought public speakers on campus and planned other events. Thanks to a dedicated SGA and willing staff and faculty, event after event was a smashing success.

Following CSCC graduation, Walter earned his bachelor’s in English journalism from Tennessee Tech and went on to perform a graduate internship at West Virginia University. Though he had no teaching experience, this internship required Walter to teach freshman journalism. Soon, he got the call he’d been hoping to receive.

“The head of Cleveland State’s humanities department, Elizabeth Wooten, said they were thinking of offering journalism courses,” Walter says. “She asked if I would be interested in coming back to teach them. I always thought I’d come back to this area to work, but I didn’t know I’d get back so quickly. Of course, I said yes.”

Since then, Walter has worked at CSCC, served on the Bradley County Board of Education, been an antique dealer and done many other things. Fifty years after starting out at CSCC, his work on CSCC’s first-ever SGA lives on. And now, that legacy is being carried by Haley Hodgson, the newest President of the SGA (now named Student Senate), who is the granddaughter of Walter’s late best friend, Neil Samples.

A New Era

“Tennessee Promise opened me up to the idea of community college,” Haley says, “and Cleveland State opened the door for me to continue playing softball with a great program.”

Her first year at Cleveland State, Haley juggled being on the softball team and attending classes with being a member of the honor society Pi Beta Kappa and the Ambassadors Program. As a CSCC Ambassador, Haley volunteered at many events at the college, which helped her be involved in many things she otherwise wouldn’t.

With her first-year experience under her belt, Haley decided to add another responsibility to her plate as Student Senate President. Her main goal? Student involvement.

“One of the biggest issues facing students is student involvement,” Haley says. “Some students just want to get in and get out, but it’s been proven that people who are involved on the campus earn better grades.”

With a passion for increasing student involvement, Haley will organizing social and educational events, just as Walter did fifty years earlier. And while the need for community has remained the same at Cleveland State, many things have changed. One of the most obvious is how far technology has come and how it has been adapted into the classroom.

Today, it’s possible to take a class without ever meeting the professor. Through online classes, students do their schoolwork online and participate in Internet-based discussions at designated times. But technology at Cleveland State goes beyond online courses. Nearly everything regarding a student’s classes, homework assignments, academic standing and more are stored online at the college’s website, CougarNet.

According to Haley, if you don’t use CougarNet, it’s almost impossible to pass a class. Likewise, if you don’t pay attention during your time at Cleveland State, it’s impossible to get a full college experience.

“I want to make people appreciate coming to college and to find something they enjoy that makes their time here enjoyable,” Haley says. “We’re the fiftieth class to graduate, and that’s important. We’re part of a new era.”

Posted by admin in Alumni, Profiles, Student