Monthly Archives: February 2019

Amin Abraham-Quiles: I grew, I learned, I got wiser

Amin Abraham-Quiles lost his grandfather his freshman year of high school. Before he died, he told Amin to “always keep a smile on your face,” a quote that would shape the way he lived. Amin Abraham-Quiles, or “AQ the Singer,” is known throughout the Piedmont College campus for his fresh rhymes, great attitude and infectious smile. “I just want to keep everyone around me in good moods. I love seeing people with a smile on their face and I want everyone to be positive,” says Abraham-Quiles.

“Being motivating– that’s kind of my core message that I like to portray with my peers.”After completing his bachelor’s degree in Arts Administration, Abraham-Quiles returned to Piedmont to attain his master’s degree in business. He’s taken a job as the graduate assistant in the Mass Communication department.

“Amin is a firm yet understanding and chill. He’s always willing to work with people’s schedules and help them out,” says Olivia Morley, a senior mass communication major and student worker. “I feel like he’s made the mcom department more relaxed, especially among the student workers.”

He records “Friday Motivation,” a series of short videos via The Roar Instagram each week to inspire those around him, specifically the Mass Communication majors he helps every day in his job.

But his talent and motivation aren’t limited to  Swanson Center office 109. For Abraham-Quiles’ capstone, he released the album “Life of the Afro Kid.” This album reflects on his life, his family, and the messages he wants to share. He began singing when he was just two years old, and his grandfather began to teach him musical skills at this young age.

“I grew up around a lot of Carribean island people, so family was very important there. Family is everywhere. You have to love family, respect family, and learn from them. They’re wise– they have wisdom they can share with you.”

He comes from a Puerto Rican-Haitian background, where the music and family have influenced his life and sound. “I was really inspired by my family and my family’s culture. I really wanted to demonstrate that culture in my album.”

The process of creating “Life of Afro Kid” was unlike any other album. The entire album was recorded in Abraham-Quiles’ Ipswitch dorm, where he’d send his creations to his uncle in New Jersey for mixing. He says that the album was essentially produced through the Internet. This isn’t the only thing that sets the album apart from the average.“Whenever I record something I do it through freestyling… I make it up from my brain, I don’t write it down.” he says. “I just re-record and re-record until I hear the core message that I want to bring to the song.”  

His album is full of different musical influences that make up who he is. “It was a very fusion-esque album that has all different things. It’s not just one genre.” He says. “You can listen to one song and think ‘oh, this is very pop-sounding,’ or another and think it’s very R&B sounding.” He says he wants his listeners to know his work is his when they hear it. “This is very Amin… You’re going to know. I’m introducing myself. It’s this journey that I’m putting you on.”

He decided to donate the album’s proceeds to the Alliance for African American Music in Northeast Georgia, the organization that funds the Lachicotte-Strickland Minority Scholarship. He calls the scholarship “a blessing,” it helped him pay for school in a way he didn’t see coming. “I decided that this album is going to give back to them.”

His charity doesn’t surprise Joe Dennis, chair of the mass communications department and Abraham-Quiles’ supervisor. “There’s a genuine good person behind that smile,” Dennis said. “I wish there were more Amins in the world.”

Throw the Distance

Piedmont College track and field program hopes new “mad scientist” track coach can use his original inventions to help lead the team to victory.

“Champions will always do two things.” said assistant track and field coach Brian Gawne. “Find a way to perform, and always come back against the odds.

Loading up his beloved mini-van– affectionately called The Blue Bomber– Gawne started his journey down the east coast towards little ol’ Demorest, Georgia with a single mission in mind: to turn a small group of division three throwers into champions. Though Piedmont College is a big change-of-pace for Gawne, it is far from his first time coaching.

“I’ve coached football, soccer, wrestling, and volleyball, as well as every track and field event,” he said.

Extensive coaching experience, passion for the sport, and creativity became the building blocks on which many of Gawne’s inventions were born. The throws coach is known for creating his own equipment and tools to help him instruct more effectively.

For example, the “turtle” is a wheeled machine attached to an adjustable cord which Gawne invented as a way to help train his athletes in track events such as the weighted and hammer throws. This invention also has the added bonus of eliminating potential head injuries, which come as an occupational hazard of training beginners to throw heavy metal objects.

“Coach Gawne is a damn good coach,” said junior thrower Mitchell Mershon. “He is very knowledgeable about every event, and can change how he coaches based on the athlete he is working with.”

Gawne aims to coach to the strengths of each of his athletes as individuals. His students have received his coaching efforts well thus far.

“Coach Gawne is a phenomenal coach,” said Giahnni Fernandez, a sophomore track and field athlete. “He takes his time to understand us.”

Gawne’s coaching efforts have paid off thus far going into Piedmont’s track and field indoor season. Fernandez herself broke the school’s record for the weighted throw and placed top 10 in the region. Several other athletes training under Gawne have either broken personal or school records.

“I came down here because I wanted a change of pace,” said Gawne. “But mostly, I wanted to try and give back and do something good for young athletes.”

Why Yellow

Entering the office of professor Brian Hitselberger, arrange of paintings and other artworks fill the bright, yellow walls. Being an unusual color for a room and a huge turnoff to most people, there is a bit of curiosity as to why the room is painted the way it is.

As young boys in attempt to keep themselves entertained, Hitselberger and his two brothers would make their own playing cards and board games to play with. In that time – though not being very good – they also learned how to make their own clothes. Hitselberger loves to work with his hands and throughout high school, he loved playing the piano, thinking he would go to a music school for college.

With dreams of creating music for television and film, Hitselberger found himself at a liberal arts college. With everyone at the college required to take either a music class, a theater class, or an art history class, Hitselberger didn’t feel the need to take a music class because he already spent so many years playing the piano. Instead, Hitselberger decided to take an art class. He thought it would be fun and a nice change of pace.

“It was just appealing to me that you could take a class in college at school where you were making a thing, as opposed to writing a paper or just reading a piece,” he said.

Burnt out from writing papers and wanting more from his college experience, Hitselberger decided to take a painting class and enjoyed every aspect about it. Art was different and he loved it. Working in the studio excited him. Having two to three hours to work in the studio and at the end of that time he could see what he had done. “What I liked about art class is that it was all there. You know, it was like visual. I mean, if you did the work you could see it, and if you didn’t it wasn’t there. There was no hiding.”

When Hitselberger had his class critiques, he could see everyone’s work and he could clearly see how his work didn’t quite match up to the others, but he didn’t let that stop him. Instead of getting down, it would motivate him to get better. Being a musician for so long, Hitselberger was used to the concept of practice. Practicing was familiar to him, although the making of art was not.

“You could either do it or not,” he said. “It was like a skill that you could learn, and I was really interested in learning.”

Making art was a skill that he strived to learn. He got into it and was very studious. He started being a visual artist in college.

Ever since graduating college, he has found ways in his life to make art an activity and to do art in everything he does. “If I take this job, is it going to allow me to take time to create art?”

“And teaching was really awesome because it was the job that I found that really elevated the art making and the doing the job were not two separate things…they were much more connected,” he said.

Yellow is such a happy and positive color and since his time teaching at Piedmont College, Hitselberger makes an effort to create a positive work atmosphere for his students.

“He teaches in a way that could help anyone understand and learn by the way he connects with the students,” said Mariana Leon, a current student of Hitselberger’s Painting 3 class.

Being very attentive of his students lives, Hitselberger makes sure they are doing well in their other classes, as well as knowing how his students feel they are growing in their skills.

“He’s very supportive and willing to help students”, said Kristen Odem, current student of Hitselberger’s Drawing 2 class.

Hitselberger always looks for ways to help his students and help them to improve on their skills. By creating a positive work space, students are able to feel comfortable to be themselves and ask questions and be unafraid to push their preconceived artistic boundaries.

By painting the walls of his office yellow, Hitselberger is reminded of the strive to make every work day and everyday filled with positivity and light.

“It would be hard to be in a bad mood in this room,” said professor Hitselberger.

Ty Thomaswick Profile

When students need help navigating the financial aid process, Ty Thomaswick is there for them. She is the first face they see when they enter, and the last voice they hear as they leave.  

Ty Thomaswick was born in Piqua, Ohio. “What could I say about Piqua? Well… it’s a very small town with mostly farmland. I liked it though. It was home.” 

Thomaswick has long been involved with her town church, and when her church moved down to Georgia in the summer before her senior year of high school, she decided to follow along at the young age of 17. Looking for colleges in the state, she became interested in Piedmont College, later becoming a Resident Assistant of GB and Swanson. “Piedmont was such a great environment for me, and I loved my classes and teachers. The education here is very special.” After graduating, she was looking for places to work, and figured that her alma mater would be the best for her, as Thomaswick loves helping young people and was ready to transition into this workplace. She was hired as a financial aid assistant in 2018, “… one of my majors is in business, so I knew when the opportunity came up it was something I could do,” she said. “I’ve always loved helping students with whatever comes up.” 

When she’s not crunching numbers or filling out files, Ty Thomaswick loves to do crafts, music, cooking, hiking and playing board games with her husband, to whom she has been married for two years now. She is also still in her church choir, in which she sings and plays instruments such as the piano, violin, guitar and standard keyboard.  

Thomaswick encourages students to take advantage of their time at Piedmont. “… get involved on campus and take advantage of every opportunity you can get your hands on,” she said. “This is only four years, so make every second count.” 

The Life of Justin White

From crossing the Grand Teton Mountains in a Kia Soul to zip lining with supermodels Justin White continues to “send it.”

“You just have to push it, you have to think about it and you have to see what is surrounding you,” he said, “you can’t just sit there and accept the circumstances.”

Adventuring has always been in Justin’s DNA, and his journey has since led him to be the assistant director of student activities and wellness at Piedmont College. The way he got here was not planned but “by chance.” He said, “Life is kinda like a road, you just gotta pick one and just go.”

Life is all about seeking discomfort and stepping out of your comfort zone and making that leap of faith. White has fully embodied this mindset throughout his adventures in life.

“All right, here we go!”
Teton National park is one of the most majestic mountain ranges here in the U.S. But when Justin White takes it on he goes to different lengths to trek through it. When asked by one of his friends if he wanted to go camping in the Tetons, he was quick to accept the offer. But there would be no normalcy to it, driving through the back country of Teton National Park, White had all of his belongings in his 2012 Kia Soul as he was moving at the time and decided to take on this treacherous adventure. While encountering a few Bison crossings and enjoying the Midwest scenery, they soon came across a river and had to make a decision to cross. He simply said, “All right, here we go!”

“He always encourages me to do the absolute most.” “Always give it 100 percent, and just ‘full send it’ as he says” Said Noah Wood, an employee of White’s at the Piedmont rock wall.

Just “sending it” is a major part of Justin’s life and he makes sure to let everyone know that if they are hesitating with something in life, to just “Send it.”

A friend of White, said he is always encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone. Close friend Cordell Jones said, “By always pushing folks, whether it be in the form of random excursions or just having new experiences.”

From being a thrill seeker to connecting with students at Piedmont, White said it is important to keep an open mind.

“Say you are sitting down and you have a plate of food and everyone else has a plate of food, you just can’t sit there and eat your food and be content with it. You have to try a little but from each one. You just have to travel out and see what is out there and experience the differences in the world.”

Jared Broughton profile

Jared Broughton was an athletic kid growing up, playing just about every sport, so it’s no surprise his career path took him to coaching. “I fell in love with sports at an early age and I am still in love with them today, said Broughton.”

Broughton is from Indianapolis, Indiana. He played baseball, basketball, football and tennis in high school. After high school, Broughton attended Vincennes University, a junior college located in southeast Indiana. He played one year of baseball there then transferred to the University of Dayton, in Ohio, to play his final three seasons of baseball. During his college years, he found himself eager to be a baseball coach when his playing career ended.

Broughton got into college coaching after graduation at Earlham College, a small Division III liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana. After a few years coaching there, he found himself in Demorest, Georgia, where he would become the associate head coach of the Piedmont College Lions.

“I have a very aggressive coaching style,” he said. “We want to have a team that’s hard to play against, steals a lot of bases, and puts pressure on the other team.” “Coach Broughton’s coaching style is a perfect fit for me. Having a good relationship with him allows me to feel comfortable coming to him for help. The best part of it is that I feel like I don’t have to be scared of making a mistake. He always reminds us that if we make a mistake, we should just forget it, move on and get ready for the next play,” said senior first baseman Andrew Burden. “My favorite part about coaching would be the relationships that I get to make with the players,” said Broughton.

Broughton is considered the big brother of the coaching staff and wants to build relationships with every player on the team. Broughton hopes to help the team improve their offensive production, steal more bases, and eventually help the Lions win the the USA South conference championship. “This team has a lot of talent and I feel like these guys could do some very special things this season,” says Broughton.

JP Kircher Interview

The bags are packed, the car is started and the friends are waiting.  An exciting adventure awaits one collegiate golfer and his acquaintances as they leave the comforts of their hometown.

“I caddied all summer and made a bunch of money so I could spend it all across the country,” says JP Kircher, now head golf coach at Piedmont College. “We left Rochester, N.Y and started our two-week adventure.” 

Kircher graduated from Huntingdon College in 2011, where he played on the men’s golf team, winning two All-American titles.  After graduation, Kircher got news that his buddy, Mike Short, was going for his Ph.D at Stanford, and the idea for a journey unfolds.  A road trip in the fall of 2011 from their home of Rochester, New York across America to Stanford, California begins.  Their first stop…Chicago. 

“There’s no cooler way to see the city than from the water,” says Kircher.  “We did a boat tour and learned about Chicago’s unique architecture.”

Kircher and Short head for Vail, Colorado, driving through open plains that seem endless, seeing the flat part of the country.  Until arriving in Vail where the mountains are now endless and everywhere you look is a scene of towering peaks. 

A trek through the mountains followed Vail, as the two companions drive to Phoenix, Arizona.  Adding another passenger on the trip, the two picked up Troop, a friend of Short’s.

“Troop is always up for an adventure,” says Short.  “He was fun to have along for the ride.” 

Arizona provided many different experiences.  Rafting down a river in a tube, surrounded by canyons and cliffs, is something he will remember. 

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  This tagline describes the friend’s next stop, Las Vegas.  A city known for its nightclubs and gambling, it is a recent college graduate’s paradise. These three travelers enjoyed the experience and lived in the moment here.

“Vegas was a mess, we didn’t do much productive stuff in Vegas,” Kircher says. 

Driving from Las Vegas to Monterey, California involves a lot of adventure.  Riding along the Pacific Coast Highway, twists and turns take breaths away as the car rides along steep edges of cliffs dropping into the Pacific Ocean.  Before heading to San Francisco, Monterey provided new looks at the country.

“We kayaked in the Monterey Bay and saw so much marine life,”  says Kircher.  “The restaurants were so unique and the food was incredible.”

Wrapping up the trip, Kircher, Troop and Short drove through San Francisco where they toured the big city and said there last goodbyes as Short got dropped off at Stanford shortly after. 

“I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else on that trip, and it was an amazing journey across the country with my boys,” says Short.

Kircher reminisced on the trip and talks of the good times he had with some great friends, spending all $4,000 he made caddying the summer before.

“I encourage people to travel and experience other areas of the country,” says Kircher.  “It was probably the coolest memory I’ve had in my life.”  

A Passion for Piedmont: Dr. Stephen Whited Profile Story By Keaton Benfield

In the philosophy of Dr. Stephen Whited, Piedmont College offers students a unique learning opportunity, the community aspect of a small college, that is crucial to creating and fostering an environment for exceptional learning.

“My hope is that people will realize that this is an awesome opportunity to dig in and be independent and take control of your education,” said Dr. Stephen Whited, a professor of English at Piedmont College. “You’re surrounded by people who help you with this and you’re not doing this alone.”

Whited found his way to Piedmont College 25 years ago, but before he became the English professor that he is today, he really didn’t expect to have such a passion for English as a major.

“It never occurred to me to be one,” Whited said. “Once I was in it, I loved it.”

“Some of it was just kind of following an instinct, it really wasn’t a plan,” Whited said. “It was an instinct that worked out.”

After receiving his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in English and poetry from Georgia State College, Whited went on to receive his doctorate in English from the University of Kentucky. He began to harness his appreciation for English through teaching experience.

“At the University of Kentucky I liked it,” Whited said. “I was kind of getting the hang of this thing of asking people questions and pestering them to think a little bit.”

In 1993, after teaching at another small college near Lake Michigan, Whited decided to move south and he finally discovered Piedmont College.

“It’ll be 26 years in August,” Whited said. “It’s been a good run, and I’ve had a lot of fun.”

While teaching at Piedmont, Whited integrated a game into some of his courses. This game gives his students a direct approach to the subjects discussed, as well as an appreciation for the history the games represent.

“It’s kind of a hyper setup of a debate,” Whited said. “All of them are arranged around some historical moment. By playing the game you not only have to know the history, you argue it out to see what would happen, and you learn that history sounds like a roll of the dice. It’s life!”

Allyson McCollum, a 21-year-old junior English major, had the opportunity to experience two classes involving these games.

“People were invested in their roles,” McCollum said. “The ones in ‘Nature Writers’ were more difficult because they were newer, but they were still kind of enjoyable.”

Alongside teaching, Whited also took over the reins of the Piedmont chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, known as Alpha Delta Phi, an international English Honor Society.

“I was in Sigma Tau Delta when I was an undergraduate, and it started here right after I got here,” Whited said. “It’s a club for people who like to read. It tends to be English majors, but we do have people from other humanities and departments, and I would like for it to be a bigger blend of that.”

Emily Pierce, a 21-year-old senior English major and social justice minor, is the current president of Sigma Tau Delta at Piedmont College. Looking to the future, she hopes the club continues to grow and prosper.

“We tend to go to the Shakespeare Tavern every semester and many of our members go to conferences,” Pierce said. “I’ve had hopes for the club that haven’t panned out, but I haven’t given up on them, either.”

Whited encourages students to explore their interests, adding that he does not regret any of his college experiences. He only wishes that he knew about Piedmont College during his undergraduate years.

“If I were an undergraduate right now, I would do this in a heartbeat,” Whited said, referring to Piedmont College. “I just think it’s a great little school.”

Whited’s enthusiasm for inspiring students to achieve their goals shines through his teaching and he wants students to appreciate the time they get to spend at Piedmont.

“I just hope people realize that this is a great little place, and a great opportunity to learn,” Whited said. “You’ll never have it again.”

Spiegel by Day, John by Knight

Piedmont theater professor John Spiegel directs students by day and knights on the battle field by night.

John has always loved the renaissance era. He has studied many of the aspects of such a lifestyle and learned many of the skill people used then. “I’ve always been intrigued by the deep sense of becoming one with nature,” he said. “I know it sounds crazy but somehow it always comes back to living that simple life.”

Spiegel’s current life as a theater professor at Piedmont has kept him busy – not able to spend as much time as he would like in what he refers to as the “simple life.” His days are mixed with show preparation, class structuring and performance evaluations – hardly a free moment for simplicity.

Spiegel makes time for simple life through his annual trips around the country to Pennsic – an event based on the medieval era. Visitors show up with tents, weapons and enough food to get through a week.

“When I go to Pennsic, I get to be who I always dreamed I would be: the knight – in beat up armor,” he said.

Students recognize the knight-like qualities of their professor. “John is the real deal. He truly is royalty – and it shows in his fighting.” said Mike Adams – Junior.

“Yes it is true. My brother is an actual count,” Spiegel said. “Maybe that’s why I love to dress up in armor so much.”

John practices his fighting skills weekly with the Medieval and Renaissance Society club on campus. The group straps on real plate armor and trains as a unit with swords and shields. They participate in arts and science studies from the era as well as heraldry.

“At the end of the day, I am the knight.” he said. “It doesn’t get much simpler than that.”

Professor Jackson interview

Professor Melissa Jackson 706-778-8500 ext. 1196

From thinking still photography was for her, to news, documentaries and production. She’s done it all and now professor Melissa Jackson hopes to bring decades of field experience to the classrooms here at  Piedmont College.

“I decided I could either tell more stories or I could help the new generation tell stories,” said Jackson, “I wanted to bring all my experiences that I had had and help this generation tell the stories now. I think there are plenty of students out there that want to learn and go out there and make a change. I think that video and film is one of the ways that they can do that.”

Before joining Piedmont College’s Mass Communications program in the 2018-2019 school year, Jackson had her big start in news with two different internships in college: one her junior year and another her senior year. The second internship led to a job two weeks after her college graduation. This brought her into the world of news, documentary videoing across the world along with working for an Atlanta based news, weather, traffic and sports station, WSB-TV.

“I worked in what they called a special projects unit and was a field producer. I put together pieces for the anchors you see,” she said. “Everyone from Dr. Randy Martin, Clark Howard, Monica Pearson John Pruitt, Jovita Moore.”

Jackson was a main part on the WSB-TV team behind the scenes. She covered all areas of stories for the team, and sometimes be in the midst of the action for a breaking story. Jackson worked with the main anchors at WSB-TV and was requested to come back and help with their farewell material. Once she ended with her field work, she headed back to the classroom to get her master’s degree from University of Georgia and to then give back in the classroom.

“It’s really cool to have a professor that is coming straight back to the classroom setting from the real world,” sophomore sports communication major Davis Barlow said. “It adds to her credibility as a professor since she knows exactly what she needs to teach us.”

Barlow believes professor Jackson is here to better Piedmont students and also help them get prepared for what jobs are available after graduation.

Mattie Keaton, senior mass communications major said, “I think she helps students because she gives them assignments that allow them to get out into the field and really get comfortable with the different equipment.”

Professor Jackson says she has high hopes and big dreams for Piedmont Colleges mass communications program.

“I’ve been blessed to work in every part of this,” she said. “The movies, film, documentaries, production, cooperate, news. That’s what I want to bring here.”