By Evie Shaye Herndon
Lauren Milstead is an Instructor at Volunteer State Community College.
The Vol State professor had an extemporaneous experience while on her journey to becoming a professor as that was not her first job choice, said Milstead.
“When I graduated undergrad in 2004, I thought I’d go into pharmaceutical sales. I was in the process of interviewing for different companies and saw an ad posting for a full-time biology lab instructor at a community college in my hometown, Itawamba Community College. I decided to apply, mainly using the interview as experience for the pharmaceutical jobs that I was pursuing. Much to my surprise I got selected for the job and decided to take it,” said Milstead.
After working at the community college in Mississippi for seven years, Milstead and her husband decided to search for jobs in Nashville, Tennessee.
“My husband is in the music business and he was traveling weekly to Nashville, Tennessee. We decided to start looking for jobs in the Nashville, Tennessee area since we were young and didn’t have children. I interviewed at Vol State during the summer of 2011 and started working in Aug. teaching biology and anatomy and physiology,” said Milstead.
From pharmaceuticals to teaching, Milstead said that she found herself thankful for the divine intervention that took place in order for her to find her way to Vol State.
“On a whim, I interviewed for a job that I never thought I’d be doing, but quickly fell in love with,” said Milstead.
However, coming to Vol State and moving to Nashville, Tennessee, did not take place without its uncertainties, said Milstead.
“Coming to Vol State was out of my comfort zone. I didn’t have any family nearby and only knew one person that lived in Nashville, Tennessee. And at the time, I was the only female biology instructor, so it took a little bit of time for me to find my niche,” said Milstead.
But, it was Milstead’s love for teaching and her connection with the students that helped her find her place at Vol State.
“The students were the biggest factor that made me feel at home and that I was at the right place in my life,” Milstead said.
She has been a professor at Vol State for almost 10 years teaching biology, anatomy, and physiology. The professor is also a wife and mother of three.
“I’ve been married for 12 years and have three children. I have a 7-year-old daughter, a 5-year- old son, and a 1-year-old son,” said Milstead.
Being a mother and a wife has been something that has helped Milstead as a professor, she said.
“Motherhood has given me many strengths that I use during teaching and at Vol State. Just to name a few, I feel like I’m more productive, more compassionate and more understanding. So many of my students have children, full-time jobs and hurdles. I understand those more since I’m a mother,” said Milstead.
All of Milstead’s own hurdles in life have been balanced by presence, she said.
“When I’m at work, I’m all in, giving my best to my students. When I’m with my family, I do the same. It’s hard because there are distractions, but I try my best to be where I am, mentally and physically,” said Milstead.
However, at the end of the day, it is her love for teaching that makes it all worthwhile, Milstaed said.
“For me, teaching has been one of the biggest blessings in my life. I initially did not see myself in this field but have now been teaching for 16 years and still get excited butterflies at the beginning of each semester. No matter what your chosen major is, make sure you are passionate about it,” said Milstead.
Milstead teaching is not only a blessing in her own life but a blessing to others, she is known for being beloved by all her students, said Biology Faculty member and Department Chair, Maryam Farsian.
“She works hard to provide her students with the knowledge they need to succeed, and she genuinely cares about them. I’ve learned so much from her, and she’s an inspiring instructor,” said Farsian.
Not only is Milstead loved, but she has earned herself the title of, the swiss army knife of biology teachers in her office due to her ability to teach anything, said Biology Faculty member, Philip Clifford.