Potomac State Welcomes New Math Professor Nikki Chandler

Professor Nikki Chandler poses for a photo on campus. Photo by Zoe Sypolt.

by Zoe Sypolt

“For me, I was coming back home.” Coming back home was a priority for new professor Nikki Chandler and her family.

Chandler learned early on what Potomac State had to offer. “My first college classes were taken through PSC when I was a high school student at Petersburg High School.”

Chandler’s love of math started early. “I always loved math. In high school, I think I liked it most because I naturally excelled in the subject matter and enjoyed helping my fellow students learn,” Chandler said.

“As a math major in college, I realized it’s an incredibly deep and powerful subject matter. Odd as it may seem to ‘non-math’ people, I believe it the most interesting and most beautiful subject one can study.”

After high school graduation, she started out in college at West Virginia University before getting married to a U.S. Air Force airman. To be closer to the air force base, she then transferred to a small university, The University of Mount Olive in North Carolina.

While there, her professors inspired her to become a professor of mathematics. “There were only three math professors in the entire math department at UMO. Those three professors became my greatest mentors,” Chandler said.

Her experience at UMO led her to PSC. “Their influence led me to want to teach at a similar small institution, where the professors can get to know all the students and have the greatest impact on the entire student body.”

Chandler’s best advice for students during the busy semester is to remember that college is not a sprint but a marathon. “Just keep swimming” is what comes to her mind when you may feel like giving up. She advises students to push through the semester and just do their best.

In her spare time, Chandler enjoys spending time outdoors or playing tractors with her young son, who will be two in January. She and her family love the West Virginia mountains and are thrilled to now be “home.”

New English Professor Mia Martini Plants Roots in Keyser

Mia Martini poses with a novel by David Wong. Photo by Nicholas Gardner

by Levi Linn

Mia Martini, a new English professor at Potomac State College, has finally found where she wants to settle down.

Before coming to Keyser, Martini was raised in a small town of no more than five hundred between Pittsburgh and Eyre. She eventually moved to Philadelphia to get a taste of the big city but ended up feeling out of place.

Martini craved to return to the mountains while attending various colleges around the country.

She attended Temple University in Philadelphia, the University of Illinois in Chicago and Purdue University in Indiana. While studying at these schools, Martini achieved a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a master’s degree in English and a doctorate in Post Civil War American Literature.

Martini said she had the same difficulties in her college experience that most students struggle with. In fact, she attributes a big strain on most students to be something called “Imposter Syndrome.”

“It’s where you look around the room and think, ‘Everyone else is so much smarter than me. I don’t belong in this room’, and it’s insidious,” explained Martini. “The biggest thing is being able to look at both what you do well and what you struggle with. You’ll get those moments where you feel like you don’t belong, but you do.”

Martini said that now that she’s arrived at PSC, Keyser and the college have been very welcoming. This is her first year teaching here, and she already feels like part of the community. She is developing great professional relationships with other faculty members.

Martini said other professors have been extremely helpful to her, and they don’t act like she’s imposing on them.

“I enjoy being in an environment that fosters collaboration and not competition,” Martini said.

An important part of her work environment also includes being in the mountains. “I wouldn’t even apply for a job anywhere that didn’t have mountains,” she said. “The Keyser street signs are accurate in calling this the friendliest town in the country. Everyone has been very kind and it’s like an actual community.”

She hopes to bring that kindness into the classroom. “A lot of students are nervous about the stakes of college,” Martini said. She wants to have a place in her classroom where students can still pursue their own interests and give various things a try.

“It’s about making the students feel like a part of the class. There are goals and objectives to meet, but we can do that with topics interesting to the students and their passions.” Martini said she truly enjoys reading interesting topics with unique perspectives.

Along with reading and writing, Martini is an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy. She enjoys George R. R. Martin’s writing in “A Song of Ice & Fire.” She’s currently waiting for the last book in the series to be released before she begins watching the television adaptation, “Game of Thrones.”

In the future, Martini hopes to still be teaching at PSC. She said she has been focused on getting a job like the one she has now, and she wants to put down roots in a community where she feels at home.  It’s looking like Keyser is going to be home. “I hope I’ve found my community. Nothing has told me otherwise.”

Professor Steve Oberlechner’s Big Midterm Test: Becoming A Dad

Professor Oberlechner and his daughter Elizabeth. Photo courtesy of Oberlechner.

While most students were taking their midterms this year, professor Steve Oberlechner was preparing for the “test of his life”: becoming a father.

His wife and fellow professor, Cassandra Pritts, gave birth to their daughter on Sept. 27, 2017. On that day, Oberlechner added “proud dad” to his list of accomplishments, which includes hiking over 2,000 miles and being a published author.

Oberlechner is using his English background to pick up on ways his newborn daughter communicates. “Instead of just crying, we can hear cooing noises,” he said. “She can make some very funny faces!”

The test of fatherhood is one that Oberlechner finds exciting and terrifying. He and his wife are adjusting and learning as they go.

“No regrets, just less sleep!” he said with a chuckle. “It helps to have Cassie going through it with me. We’ll be supporting each other while we learn to support a child.”

Juggling the responsibilities of grading midterm papers and a newborn in the hospital made Oberlechner’s time dedicated to hiking the Appalachian Trail alone seem like a walk in the park.

The trail runs from Georgia to Maine, through 12 different states with hazards that include severe weather, black bears, venomous snakes, limited water and tick-borne diseases.

Oberlechner on the Appalachian Trail. Photo courtesy of Oberlechner.

“I really love it, despite the difficulty,” Oberlechner said.  He plans to keep working his way south, finishing up the last 400 miles of the trail.

The beauty of the world and the adventure in seeing it appeals to him.

“Part of what I enjoy about it is just being in nature and being alone to reflect and take in a gorgeous view.”

Oberlechner often finds inspiration on the trail, too. “There’s little to distract me,” he said.

Inspiration is the first part in Oberlechner’s long process of writing. He’s had nonfiction pieces appear in The Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner and most recently, The Cimarron Review.

His fiction work has appeared online at The Cortland Review and Connotation Press.

In his published writing, Oberlechner has written about his family and growing up in rural Pennsylvania.

He plans to write about his time spent hiking, and he is working on a collection of essays linked by people and places.

Getting his work published is something that has taken much time and attention. Oberlechner’s goal is to one day be published by the Alaska Quarterly Review, a biannual literary journal published by University of Alaska Anchorage.

“I like the idea of my work laying around in some coffee shop in Anchorage or Juneau for somebody to pick up and enjoy or suffer,” Oberlechner said.

Recently, Oberlechner received a personal note from The Alaska Quarterly Review encouraging him to send more pieces, though his submission was not published. This has driven Oberlechner to continue to perfect his work.

“I don’t send out a piece unless it’s ready, and that means it can take a long time,” Oberlechner said.

He tries to stress that message to his students. “If [being published] is something that excites you, [it] can absolutely happen, but you’ve got to submit your very best work. It requires good care and attention.”

That level of care and attention is something he will teach his new students in English 100, 101, 102, and 214 next semester.

In English 214, Creative Non-Fiction, Oberlechner places value in peer feedback and collaboration. Students ‘submit’ pieces to the class, and the works are discussed as a group with other students offering praise and suggestions in a friendly atmosphere.

Unlike composition classes, the focus is on creativity, allowing students to get concrete feedback on their concepts and ideas without a heavy focus on grammar.

“Writing is a way to represent yourself,” Oberlechner said. “I hope [students] can see the broad application of effective communication, no matter the career goal.”

West Virginia University’s 4-Year Nursing Degree Coming to Potomac State College


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One patient is bleeding out, another needs his breathing and heartbeat monitored, another needs his pulse checked quickly. It would  be easy to be intimidated, but you’re surrounded by medical equipment and armed with the knowledge to treat these patients.

You’re not in an emergency room, but in one of the newly renovated simulation labs coming to Potomac State with the new four-year nursing program.

Classes will be enriched with advanced labs and exciting equipment.

“We will have one large skills lab and two smaller high-tech simulation rooms,” the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program Chairperson April  Shapiro said.

“Some of the mannequins will blink, breathe, have a beating heart, have pulses you can feel, have bowel sounds…they are amazing!”

Patient care units and equipment in both the skills and simulation labs will look like students are in real hospital rooms.

Hands-on Learning

Shapiro believes students will have fun with the hands-on learning that captures the environment in which they will one day be working.

Students accepted in the program will enjoy small class sizes while still receiving the same education provided at West Virginia University’s Morgantown campus.

“We will be following the same curriculum, following the same student handbook, and expecting the same standards as the Morgantown campus does,” Shapiro said.

The program will be challenging but rewarding. Shapiro added that students in the program who work hard and are determined will be more than prepared to take their nurse licensure exam, provide high-quality care, or even continue their education at a graduate level.

In 2016, graduates of WVU’s BS/BA Nursing program had a 100% pass rate on the NCLEX, the standardized test for entry-level nursing practice.

High Demand

Those who earn their degree will likely have the hard work pay off in the career field. “Nursing is in such high demand right now.  Our community – our country – faces a critical nursing shortage and employers are in dire need of BSN-educated nurses to meet the complex needs of today’s patients, especially the chronic problems our aging baby boomers are facing,” Shapiro said.

Having the degree program at PSC is a win-win for students and employers.

Hampshire County Committee on Aging Executive Director Julie Linger said, “[Students] being able to complete their degree close to home will hopefully allow more dreams to become reality.”

The HCCoA places nurses in homes of the elderly with individualized plans of care. Linger added, “Businesses will benefit from having a larger pool from which to select qualified workers.”

The program is likely to be very competitive. Enrollment Services reported 149 pre-nursing students registered this fall. However, only 24 seats are available in the Fall 2018 program. Applications will be accepted Dec. 1 – Jan. 15.

Those with questions about the program should contact Shapiro at the Student Health Center on campus or at ashapiro@hsc.wvu.edu. Program information and admission requirements will continue to be updated on the Academics section of the PSC website.

CIS Professor Aims to Start Cyber Security Club

By Levi Linn

There’s a new professor on campus with fresh ideas for computer information systems (CIS) courses and activities.

Mary Beth Moore and her students are interested in forming a Cyber Security Club. With Moore as the advisor, students would be placed into groups to defend against simulated hackers and cyber attacks in online competitions, with the potential to compete against other colleges around the country.

“The Cyber Security Club would be open to all majors. Anyone who finds the idea of cyber security interesting is encouraged to join,” Moore said.

Moore originally hails from Bethel, Maine. She earned her degree in art history at Bryn Mawr College near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She then taught at several colleges including PSC.

Moore’s love of computers led her to earn her CIS degree at Frostburg State University in 2011.

“My interest in computer science can be traced to my interest in studying foreign languages,” Moore said.

She originally planned to study languages in college, later changing her major to art history. Her background with languages translated naturally to working with computers.

“When I started studying programming, I was fascinated by how we communicate in programming languages by translating our natural language into computer algorithms and use programming languages. My first love is programming.”

With her new degree under her belt, Moore returned to PSC this semester to lead the CIS program. She hopes to see the program grow and offer new computer science courses.

Moore praises her students and hopes to have an impact on their lives. “I really enjoy working with them,” Moore said, adding that she believes that a college experience like PSC is the perfect way to do that.

In the upcoming spring semester, Moore will be teaching a variety of classes for CIS majors; however, interested students of any major can sign up for Moore’s CIS 112 class, Intro to Networks & Security.

Students interested in the Cyber Security Club are encouraged to contact Moore at MMoore29@mail.wvu.edu.

Welcome New English Professor Hudgins to Campus

New English Professor Caitlin Hudgins reads Willa Cather at the Mary F. Shipper Library. Hudgins is a big fan of Western Literature.
Photo by Aaron Smith

For English Professor Caitlin Hudgins, Potomac State College may be her new home, but teaching has been her passion since age five.

“I had lined up all my stuffed animals and was teaching them,” she said with a grin, thinking about when she knew teaching was her dream job.

Her enthusiasm for learning has required much diligence. “I think half the battle was sticking it out and working through it. It took me [eight years] to get my Ph.D.”

Hudgins said that getting her degree necessitated much of her time and energy, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. “It was worth it,” she nodded and smiled, “Absolutely.”

Hudgins comes to Potomac State after earning her Ph.D. from Temple University and having previously taught at both Temple and Saint Joseph’s University.

A vigorous job search yielded a mere 20 positions at universities that Hudgins considered, and she believes the competitive market is due to colleges relying more on adjunct professors who are signed on semester-to-semester contracts. Hudgins is glad to be a full-time instructor and hopes to find herself on a tenure track in the future.

One of the things she’s been enjoying teaching at PSC so far has been the diverse range of students. “What I’ve noticed most is how big a range of students there are: where they’re from, rural or city, West Virginia or out of state. Their academic preparation. It’s such a huge range of students.”

Her teaching style is centered around making learning invigorating and engaging for all of those students, even those who don’t enjoy English.

“I do encounter a lot of students who are hesitant to embrace writing and reading as something they might want to do. So I try to relate whatever we’re doing to people’s real lives and show how this might be useful whatever career path my students are going on.”

Hudgins hopes that her classroom is a place where students enjoy learning and retain that knowledge. “I try to introduce the material in a way that’s fun, that students can recognize and get excited about. From the get-go, trying to get students engaged is my main goal.”

In the coming Spring Semester, Hudgins will be teaching English 101, 102, and American Literature.

PSC Police Say Goodbye To One Of Their Own

Former Criminal Justice Club President Alicia Loy, Officer Chad Robinette, Parking Officer Tom Burdock, Canine Handler Sgt. Mike Cannon, Officer Jon Hudson, Police Chief Brian Kerling, Former Student Government Association Vice President Jordan Twigg and pose for a photo with Aria in 2015. Photo provided by Brian Kerling

By Levi Linn

After eight years of service to Potomac State College, Police Department K-9 Aria passed away.

Since 2009, Aria had worked with two handlers: Officer Rob Andrews and Sgt. Mike Cannon.

She was a very friendly dog that attracted a lot of positive attention to the department.

In an interview with the Mineral Daily News-Tribune, Cannon said Aria interacted very well with the public and that having a K-9 helped to humanize the police.

In fact, he said they couldn’t walk through campus without someone stopping them.

“She was one of the sweetest dogs I’ve met,” said Kaitie Brown, a second-year PSC student. “A lot of students really adored Aria and felt more protected with her on campus.”

Brown elaborated how having a K-9 on campus made her and other students feel. Brown recalled rushing past Aria and her handler more often than not in the mornings on her way to class and thinking about how approachable and gifted Aria was. Brown would have stopped to greet her each morning had she not feared running late.

University Police Chief Brian Kerling said, “Having Aria was a great benefit to our department, the campus community and the surrounding community. She was a good ice breaker when talking to people.”

Despite Aria’s friendly demeanor, she was a trained K-9 officer who specialized in the detection of a variety of illegal drugs including marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy.

Cannon believed Aria’s talents were one of the main reasons the PSC Police had been so successful in sniffing out illegal drug use on campus and in the community.

Aria’s abilities were used over 300 times, leading to more than 240 filed charges. Those charges don’t extend just to the PSC campus though.

 The PSC Police would often volunteer Aria in response to other agencies requesting K-9 assistance, including the Keyser Police Department.

PSC is raising funds to purchase a new K-9 and the subsequent training for the dog and its handler. The benefit to campus security outweighs the substantial cost.

“A K-9 is a very valuable member of a department,” Kerling said.

Those interested in helping to bring a new K-9 to campus are encouraged to contact Director of Development Lucas Taylor through e-mail at lstaylor@mail.wvu.edu or by phone at (304) 788-6995. All donations made are tax deductible.