Last updated on November 16, 2020
By Evie Shaye Herndon
The Volunteer State Community College President is Dr. Jerry Faulkner.
“I was born and raised in Corryton, Tennessee, which is a rural community near Knoxville,” Faulkner said.
He managed to stay in-state for his higher education as his bachelor’s degree in secondary education – biology is from Tennessee Temple University, which he received in 1983. His master’s degree, which he received in 1987 and his doctorate, which he received in 1993, are both from the University of Tennessee in botany and ecology. The Tennessee native has stayed true to the state through all his education.
Faulkner’s advanced education did not come without its difficulty as it was during his second attempt at college that he received his bachelor’s degree. The Doctor of Botany and Ecology was originally a college drop out.
“I went straight to college after high school as most do. I did fairly well the first year, my freshman year that is, and then I just developed some bad habits like not going to class. There is a direct correlation between getting good grades and going to class, so my grades were pretty lousy. I was put on academic probation and I was facing suspension, so I just dropped out and worked for two years,” said Faulkner.
After about 10 years of working a variety of jobs, he realized all he was getting out of life was a paycheck and an ulcer and the way for him to improve his life was to complete his education, Faulkner said. Thus, at 30 years of age, Faulkner found himself sitting in his very first college classroom after 10 years out of school.
However, after graduating from Tennessee Temple University with his bachelor’s degree, Faulkner did not leave the school completely. It was at Tennessee Temple where Faulkner found his first job as a lab preparation tech.
After working at the university, Faulkner went to Chattanooga State Community College as a faculty member. He later became Biology Department Chair and Teacher Education coordinator. From Chatt State he went to Cleveland State as Vice President for Academic Affairs where he served four years before becoming President of Vol State in May of 2012, Faulkner said.
During his time as president, Faulkner said he feels he has made a difference at Vol State by instilling a strong sense of community within the faculty and adopting a set of core values.
“I love being at Vol State. It has been exhilarating to be part of the growth and evolution of the college over the last eight years,” Faulkner said.
Not only has Faulkner found witnessing the growth of Vol State to be one of the perks of his job, but he has also enjoyed helping with the expansion of the school, Faulkner said.
According to the Miracle Podcast in 2019, Faulkner was able to share some of the hard work he has been doing to open the new Wilson County campus for Vol State with interviewer John Haggard.
During the 2019 podcast, Faulkner said, “We’re working very hard to have a campus in Wilson County. We hope within the next 30 days by certainly before the end of 2019 that will close on the purchase of 10 acres of property in Wilson County and begin the work of having a site in Wilson County.”
Since then the school has purchased the land. This project is yet another thing Faulkner said that he feels passionately about at Vol State, and a lot of his focus is placed on the project.
“We have almost 9,000 students at Vol State. Each has a unique story of how they arrived at this place and time and each has a unique goal for their future. I am motivated by realizing that I can play a small part in helping them achieve that goal,” Faulkner said.
With all the work the Vol State President is doing in the academic world to help the college, students, and faculty, he still feels a strong appreciation for his “rural Tennessee roots” and would describe himself as a “cosmic possum,” Faulkner said.
According to the poem, “A Cosmic Possum” by Jane Hicks, the possum is someone from the applicants who has moved on to be educated and successful but still feels a strong connection to their rural roots.
Faulkner appreciates the upbringing he had as well as the academic life he now possesses and encourages students, especially during this wild year, to continue pushing towards their goals.
“With changes comes discomfort and struggle. But don’t give up when things are tough. Take advantage of any and all resources that are there to support you and hang in there till your reach your goal,” Faulkner said.