Chanceton Lindsey takes a little ‘Time Off’
What did you do to pass the time when the pandemic first hit two years ago, when the entire world seemed to shut down and people were forced to quarantine?
Maybe you brought a puppy or kitten into your life. Perhaps you binge-watched one or two or 10 TV series.
Or perhaps you, like Chanceton Lindsey, at the time a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, went above and beyond to break out of your comfort zone.
A communication major with a focus in radio, TV and film, Lindsey spent his early pandemic time teaching himself to play different musical instruments by watching YouTube video tutorials.
He watched as many movies as he could, figuring out post-production and different special effects.
Most importantly, he mentally logged all of his pandemic achievements and turned his quarantine time into an idea for a screenwriting class.
What began as Lindsey’s capstone project evolved into a short film, “Time Off.”
Journey from the past: Serretta Malaikham’s look back brings her forward
Serretta Malaikham remembers sitting in the backseat of a car. She remembers “yelling and bodies falling.”
That’s all she remembers about the day her father shot her mother and uncle just outside the car, killing them both. He later took his own life.
“I think my brain has really tried to push a lot of that out. I think I grew accustomed to hating talking about it,” said Malaikham, who was three years old when the incident occurred.
A May 2022 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication from UTC, Malaikham has started talking about it—a decision that began with a project she completed for Rising Rock, the storytelling class that features pieces written, photographed, videotaped and broadcast by UTC students.
In her project, “Journey to Freedom,” she documented the dangerous and terrifying journey her grandparents— Manichanh and Khampoon Sonexayarath—made when they fled their home in the Southeastern Asian country of Laos during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong were killing anyone they said was disobeying their orders or they thought might be collaborating with the U.S.
“I thought I was going to die. I didn’t think I was going to become a person. They were killing everyone from left to right,” Manichanh said in “Journey to Freedom.”
Eye opener: Gary Wilkerson’s sports injury research expands into virtual reality
On the athletic field, injuries happen.
Some injuries are unavoidable thanks to the circumstances: Think of a football quarterback taking a hit from the blind side. He never saw it coming.
Collision sports such as football, soccer, rugby, hockey and lacrosse constantly have athletes making contact with one another, frequently at high rates of speed.
But many injuries are preventable, Dr. Gary Wilkerson said, and it all starts at the top.
Wilkerson, a UTC professor in graduate-level athletic training and a researcher in the field for more than 30 years, said he started trying to understand the connection between the brain and injuries 12 to 15 years ago.
“We began to see more knee and ankle injuries occurring after concussions compared to people who’d never had one,” he said, “and then the question becomes, ‘Why is having a concussion causing more knee and ankle injuries?’ That’s where we began to try to understand it.”
It’s all about the reaction time.
Megan Wolfe sees her cancer as ‘kind of a blessing and a curse’
A few weeks before graduating from high school in 2016, Megan Wolfe was diagnosed with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
While going through chemo to fight the cancer, a device used to deliver the medication caused her heart to rocket to about 280 beats per minute. Normal rhythm is 60 to 100. Doctors had to stop her heart—twice—to keep her from dying.
In December 2016, to stop the breakneck heartbeats, doctors ran a catheter through an artery in her leg and into her heart to burn off cells causing its breakneck, deadly pace.
“And then in January, I started at UTC,” she said with a laugh.
On May 7, five years after her first college class, Wolfe will walk across the McKenzie Arena stage to receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.
A ‘safe space’ for conversations and camaraderie turns 10
In 2012, UTC business majors Keenan McLean and Nate Harlan thought Black male students on campus needed a unifying group beyond the formal structure of fraternities.
“We felt there was an unmet need for minority males on campus as far as leadership and retention opportunities,” McLean recalled.
Harlan said the University needed a place for men of color to have the type of conversations in which “This person right here is my brother. I trust him to hold what it is that I share in this space.”
Ten years later, the student-led organization they brought to UTC, Brother 2 Brother, is still at the forefront of helping men of color find success and camaraderie during their college years, while never losing sight of the importance of education and earning a degree.
The Brother 2 Brother program is a national student organization that promotes successful retention and college completion among African American and Hispanic/Latino males. The group encourages its members to embrace leadership by serving as positive role models for one another through a solid commitment to academic achievement, brotherhood and community service.
“I have been around this organization since it first started on this campus and I’ve seen firsthand the impact of what it has done to impact male retention here at UTC,” said Chris Stokes, assistant director of the UTC Office of Multicultural Affairs and the campus advisor to Brother 2 Brother.
“When those young men are together, there’s a level of transparency, comfort and familiarity,” he said. “It’s men from all different backgrounds, typically African American, some Hispanic, biracial, multiracial, young men of color. They get to share their experiences and commonalities in a space where they can just be comfortable.”
Using her voice to share a ‘journey to recovery’
There aren’t many former international opera singers working at UTC. Cassandra Riddle can claim that distinction.
There aren’t many 55-year-olds on campus pursuing master’s degrees, either, but Riddle can lay claim to that, too.
Her personal resume, which she refers to as a lifelong journey of self-discovery, includes rock climber, fitness guru, runner, former choir teacher at Chattanooga’s Girls Preparatory School, and former gym owner and personal trainer.
Her story, too, includes recovery from alcohol misuse.
“My hook is my own story, that I’m able to connect with people,” Riddle said, “and I have been in recovery for many years.”
Keilan Rickard, director of the UTC Counseling Center, said Riddle’s personal story resonates and makes it easier for others to share their stories.
Not long ago, Riddle—the collegiate recovery program coordinator and substance misuse educator in the UTC Center for Wellbeing—was visiting with a sorority. At first, she couldn’t get the audience to participate.
“Once she opened up and started telling her own story, suddenly everybody talked,” Rickard explained. “It is because Cassandra is willing to share her own story that other students are following suit.”
And what a story it is.
‘Duty’ Calls: UTC gamer brings national attention to esports team
“Right, right, right!”
The words are barked out as the team of four soldiers maneuver through the small village. Enemy soldiers are everywhere, and they’re all trying to kill the team. In some cases, they succeed.
The World War II skirmish is taking place in the virtual world of “Call of Duty.” Deaths are temporary, but the four-man team led by Ryan “Slim” Johnson takes the game seriously. Each is a student at the UTC, so the esports honor of the school is at stake.
Johnson, a rising senior majoring in finance, was named one of the country’s Top 10 Returning College “Call of Duty” players by eFuse, a website that follows collegiate esports teams. Before the 17-game season began in January, the UTC team was ranked 22nd in the Top 25 picked by the National Association of Collegiate Esports, the largest collegiate esports league in North America.
In both cases, Johnson was credited.
“The reason I find his presence so impactful is because he single-handedly carried this team to multiple wins. I’ve watched this team compete and they have great potential,” wrote eFuse columnist Houssam “Sam” A. I Pali, assistant esports coach at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
Johnson, who said he’s been playing video games since about 2007—“Oh, wow,” he murmurs after figuring out the timeline—shrugs at the honor, saying it’s a team effort.
Hooks and jabs: UTC occupational therapy students helping fight Parkinson’s
Nick Honerkamp said he literally saw the writing on the wall.
Honerkamp, a UTC Department of Anthropology professor emeritus, retired from teaching duties in December 2019 after spending 39 years at the University. Several years before he stopped teaching, though, he was starting to see signs that something was wrong.
“There were clear signals for me. I just couldn’t write or read very well,” he said, “and I saw it in my chalk writing.
“I didn’t even know what Parkinson’s was when I was diagnosed, and like most folks that get this disease, I tried to think of it as temporary. Believe me, I’ve learned that it goes in one direction—and I understand which direction it goes.”
April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and nearly 1 million people in the U.S. and more than 10 million worldwide have the disease—a neurological ailment that primarily affects dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called the substantia nigra.
While symptoms usually appear gradually over time, the progression of symptoms varies greatly from one person to the next due to the complexity of the disease.
But there are groups in Chattanooga working to stem the tide, including UTC occupational therapy program members.
Veterans complete intense week of entrepreneurship ‘Boot Camp’
Dori Ansah-Walker had spent more than 20 years as a teacher for special-needs students, so she knew her idea to help them was a good one.
Low-income students from 2 years old to third graders who need special attention sometimes get lost in the education shuffle and don’t get the proper instruction and foundational tools they need to succeed, she explained.
Ansah-Walker wanted to create a nonprofit to fill those gaps, but she wasn’t sure how to go about it. Then she attended the Veteran Entrepreneurship Program Boot Camp at the UTC.
“That confidence that started at 100%, it’s now 300%,” said Ansah-Walker, an Air Force veteran who lives in New York City. “I knew that idea was a good one to begin with, but now I do feel more confident about getting funding for it and doing it on a large scale, which is where I wanted to go.”
Established at the Gary W. Rollins College of Business in 2012, the VEP program has just celebrated its 10th birthday, a decade of helping veterans flesh out their business ideas through courses, workshops and one-on-one conversations with local business owners. Its weeklong boot camp attracted 16 veterans this year.
The program focuses on the challenges veterans face when starting and maintaining a business. Although veterans often have faced harrowing and dangerous circumstances that can change from moment to moment, the world of entrepreneurship has its own set of problems that can crop up at any time despite the best-laid plans.
To address those potential pitfalls, the boot camp is an intense blast of information on such subjects as cash flow, human resources, marketing, government regulations and product pricing.
Community of success: UTC provided Ruona Uwusiaba a village of support
Ruona Uwusiaba was running a bit late for the interview.
At the time a UTC civil engineering senior, Uwusiaba was on overload. Carrying a GPA of nearly 3.8, she was balancing a course load of 19 credit hours (15 is a full load), including two evening classes, plus working 18 hours each week in an engineering internship at TVA.
Before injuries prematurely derailed her playing career, Uwusiaba—who appeared in 38 games for the Mocs women’s basketball team the previous two years—also would have been dealing with the rigorous time demands of athletics.
But it wasn’t classwork or the internship or basketball that had her scrambling. She was late because she needed to pick up Doro, her 3-year-old son.
“I wanted to bring him with me,” she explained. “He just woke up from a nap, and I haven’t seen him all afternoon.”
Such is the life of a multi-tasking single mom/college student.
Pipes smokin’: Chris Johnson plays traditional Scottish instrument
When the weather is warm—or at least not freezing cold—Chris Johnson spends his lunch hour as often as he can in the large cemetery on East Fifth Street.
He stands alone under an enormous oak tree with branches that hang almost to the ground, virtually cloaking him from sight. He may not be seen, but he’s certainly heard.
Bagpipes are not shy.
Most people don’t know because most people don’t hang out around bagpipes, but they’re loud. Very loud. A single instrument can hit 111 decibels outdoors, slightly louder than a pneumatic drill.
“Somebody said they were loud enough to wake the dead, so maybe I’m not safe playing over there,” Johnson joked as he strolls toward the cemetery one afternoon, his bagpipes tucked away in a pack carried over his shoulder.
Once at the oak tree, Johnson, a senior instructional developer at the UTC, unpacks the instrument, assembles and tunes it, then begins to run through a series of musical pieces. He starts with what’s known as a “quick march medley,” three songs strung together without breaks—”Kilworth Hills,” “The Piper of Longueval” and “The High Road to Gairloch.”
Four decades of inspiration: Richard Jackson retires after 46 years at UTC
The students did it.
They kept Richard Jackson at the UTC for 46 years.
Oh, they didn’t lock him in a cage or tie him to a chair or anything. They used their minds. To impress him.
“I think they’re more inquisitive in a lot of ways. You’d tell ’em something and they’d say, ‘Oh yeah,’ and want more,” said Jackson, a professor of English and creative writing who—after more than four decades at UTC, retired following the 2021-2022 academic year.
He wants to travel more with his wife, Terri, before it’s too difficult due to pain from hip and knee injuries during his days in football, hockey and track and field.
In past years, trips have included 45 states, most of the countries in Europe, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Israel, Hong Kong and India, among others, to give lectures and readings of his work. He has published about 35 books, 15 of them poetry collections. No. 16, “The Heart as Framed,” was published earlier this year.
He also has had significant influence on his students. Forty-six of them are published authors, ranging from fiction, nonfiction, poetry, even TV screenplays. Some are teachers; some are freelance writers.
Doing quick math using the number of students multiplied by the number of classes multiplied by the number of years, he taught around 9,000 students.