GHC student balances school and family life raising three kids and maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA


Brandi Rhodes is a mother of three. But the juggle of family life and attending college as a full-time student hasn’t kept her from maintaining a perfect 4.0 GPA.

GHC chose Rhodes as its Board of Regents Academic Day representative.

One student is chosen from each college in the University System of Georgia each year to be a Board of Regents Academic Day Representative. Rhodes was chosen for GHC, due to her outstanding scholastic achievement, as well as holding the mandatory 4.0 GPA.

Rhodes stated she was “very honored” to be chosen “to represent such a great school.”

And although it has been challenging having a husband and three kids at home while taking college courses at the same time, Rhodes said her family is the main reason she strives to do as well as she does.

“Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a bit of a perfectionist. My husband and children give me a hard time about it all of the time. If I get a 96 on a test, I will become upset and they will actually laugh at me,” she said. “It is really just important to me that I am a good role model for my kids and that I show them what is possible when you give it your very best.”

Rhodes will be completing her associate degree in business and psychology soon and plans to move into GHC’s business bachelor’s in logistics and supply chain management.

“The most important thing about going to college for me is gaining my independence,” she said. “It is also so important to me to show my children that it is never too late to go back and do something you should have done a long time ago. You can always move forward and achieve your dreams if you are willing to put in the time and energy.”

Rhodes said her time at GHC has been memorable, even when she had doubts about what she was doing.

“Many times, I have looked around the classroom, at all of the younger students and asked myself what I was doing,” she said. “I would become discouraged and tell myself that I was too old for this. It was during these times that being at a place like GHC was so important. When I started getting down on myself, there was always a professor there willing to take the time to talk to me and remind me of how important my goal was and how far I had come.”

Rhodes and the other Academic Day representatives were honored during a Board of Regents meeting and luncheon at the University System Office. She will be recognized again during GHC’s Honors Night in the spring.

GHC’s food pantry earns state award at the 25th Annual Georgia College Counseling Association Conference

SSS member standing in food pantry

A few years ago, Georgia Highlands College started a project called the Charger Food Pantry to help combat the nationwide problem of food insecurity among college students.

GHC was recognized with the “Advocacy Award” at the 25th Annual Georgia College Counseling Association Conference, which brings together counselors from over 50 public and private universities across the state.

The GCCA honored GHC’s Student Support Services team with the award.

Director Angie Wheelus said the problem arose from seeing so many students her department serves have so few resources and in some cases going without food while taking classes.

“These included single moms of all ages, non-traditional and traditional-aged college students who had no family support, and more,” Wheelus said. “The problem afflicted students of all backgrounds.”

GHC’s Student Support Services team decided it was time to make a difference, so they partnered with a local non-profit, Rome Actions Ministries, to set up and stock a food pantry at GHC’s Rome location as a pilot run.

Wheelus explained that the pantry is stocked with staple items like peanut butter, tuna, spaghetti sauce and other non-perishable food items, as well as personal items.

“It helps students who have fallen on hard times,” she said. “They can stop by and collect up to 12 items once a week with no questions asked.”

Wheelus said students are given a bag after checking in with their GHC ID each visit, and since the food and toiletries are provided through donations, there is no cost to student.

But the SSS team didn’t stop there. They expanded the food pantry program to all of GHC’s locations in Rome, Cartersville, Marietta, Paulding and Douglasville.

Wheelus and her department eventually partnered with GHC’s Natural Science and Physical Education division to create a greenhouse to provide fresh produce to the food pantry.

A 160-square-foot plot of grow space split between a greenhouse and raised beds at GHC’s Cartersville location is responsible for over 350 pounds of produce for the pantry already.

Wheelus stated the pantry has officially served over 1,000 students to date, as well.

“It is an honor for me to lead such a vibrant, caring staff who will go above and beyond to care for students experiencing food insecurity,” Wheelus said. “The Student Support Services team has a front row seat not only to advocate for students in need, but also to watch as these students receive the blessing of the food and take charge of their success.”

The SSS staff includes Counselors: Angie Wheelus, Dorothy Morgan, and Tara Holdampf.  Disability Specialists: Kim Linek and Phillip Thompson; WIOA members: Megan Conner and Kyle Wheeless.

Should you wish to donate to GHC’s Charger Food Pantry, please make monetary donations at any GHC business office in Rome, Cartersville, Marietta, Paulding or Douglasville. To make non-perishable food donations, please contact Student Support Services at:

GHC saves students more than $6 million with free textbooks

GHC students sitting around laptop under tree

Georgia Highlands College has saved students over $6 million by eliminating textbook costs and providing free digital options.

GHC’s faculty have been working since fall 2015 to expand Open Education Resources (OER) courses each semester.

OER course conversions are aided by the University System of Georgia’s Affordable Learning Georgia (ALG) initiative which promotes student success by providing cost-free alternatives to expensive textbooks.

The new OERs don’t just provide free textbooks either. Students also get video resources, software, labs and an enhanced textbook experience with hyperlinks to many other resources.

Through spring 2018, GHC’s faculty has helped students save roughly $6.48 million with offerings in 25 courses across 250 classes.

Textbooks and course materials average $1,250 per student per year. Due to the higher costs of textbooks, replacing one or two with open educational resources can make an immediate impact to saving students money.

For example, in a specific course:

  • Georgia Highlands College:
    • 720 students per year in a specific course; previous book and lab manual cost $361.
    • Savings to students: almost $260,000 annually.

Vice President for Academic Affairs Renva Watterson stated it is imperative that students have access to these free OER textbook alternatives.

“There are several reasons why many college students do not buy recommended and required textbooks, but one fundamental reason is they can’t afford them,” she said. “When you have students sitting in class and they don’t have a text, which is often an essential learning tool, then you put students at academic risk.”

According to a survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 65 percent of students said they had not purchased a textbook at least once because they had found the price too high. The group surveyed 2,000 students from across 150 campuses.

GHC’s total cost savings is based on the cost of a new textbook multiplied by the total number of non-dual enrollment students enrolled in courses offering OERs. Textbooks are already included in the dual enrollment program and provided to dual enrollment students at no cost.

Since OER is open to anyone for free, students, potential students or even the public can view these resources at any time. OER textbooks can be downloaded to any smart device, phone or tablet. To view, please visit:

GHC plans to continue to offer OERs and expand into as many areas and courses as possible moving forward.

For more information on the USG’s ALG initiative, please visit:



GHC names Melanie Largin the new dean of Mathematics and Computer Science

new dean of math

Georgia Highlands College has appointed Melanie Largin as the new dean of Mathematics and Computer Science. Largin will oversee the Division of Mathematics, which includes areas of studies in mathematics, computer science, computer information systems, and more.

Largin graduated with highest honors from Georgia Tech (Georgia Institute of Technology) with a degree in industrial and systems engineering. She has worked in the computer industry designing and implementing automated manufacturing systems for printed circuit boards.

She also worked for Georgia Tech as a field engineer in their manufacturing extension program, serving manufacturers in the Northwest Georgia area by working on individual company projects to improve productivity and quality and reduce cost.

In 2002, Largin started teaching at Georgia Highlands College.

“I decided to start teaching because a lot of the work I was doing for Georgia Tech at the time was in training about quality and statistical process control,” she said. “I looked forward to those projects most of all and decided to take the plunge and pursue a career in teaching.”

Largin has worked at GHC for 16 years as an adjunct instructor, instructor, assistant professor, and associate professor.

She said she looks forward to improving her area with increased focus on student success, equipping faculty with the tools they need, making sure GHC courses continue to meet the needs of the area workforce, and maintaining a STEM-focused curriculum.

“Everything I want to accomplish can be wrapped up in one phrase,” she said, “continuous improvement.”

Largin is from Norcross, Georgia. She has two children, three grandchildren, and just celebrated her 35th wedding anniversary with her husband.

To learn more about the Division of Mathematics, please visit: Division of Mathematics 

GHC constructs mobile augmented reality sandbox for elementary school and a larger stationary unit for the college

professor demonstrates sandbox

When the teachers at Clear Creek Elementary school received a grant for $500 to build an augmented reality sandbox, they came to Georgia Highlands College for help.

Dean of Natural Sciences and Physical Education Greg Ford said the entire setup for a mobile unit would have cost closer to $2,000, so the Division of Natural Sciences and GHC’s Information Technology Services division put their heads together and got to work.

The combined team decided the best way to help Clear Creek Elementary school build their sandbox on the $500 budget was to create everything from the ground up. Natural Sciences worked on building a mobile module, while Information Technology constructed a computer to run the augmented reality program.

The end result was a fully functional, mobile augmented reality sandbox for under $500.

Augmented reality is any technology that superimposes some type of computer-generated image on a person’s or group’s view of the real world.

The sandbox allows teachers to create topography models by shaping real sand, which is augmented in real time by an elevation color map, topographic contour lines, and simulated water.

In short, if you create a pile of sand, it forms a mountain, or if you dig a deep enough hole, you’ll hit sea level and the hole will fill with water.

“You can tell the height of things by the color. The computer notices the change in heights and sends that information to the projector, which then changes color based on the height,” Ford said. “Any changes to the map or terrain cues the projector, and then it takes all that information in and spits out an image in real time.”

Teachers can use the system to teach geographic, geologic, and hydrologic concepts, including how to reach a topography map, the meaning of contour lines, watersheds, catchment areas, levees, and so on.

Clear Creek Elementary now uses the mobile unit for course exercises in multiple classes.

GHC didn’t stop there, however. The team behind the original project came together again to build a larger stationary unit for the college to use in multiple courses.

The static unit was recently finished and can be found in a new geology room on the Floyd Campus. It features a much larger projector and image, upgraded graphics card and computer, and has several additional features, including the ability to demonstrate how rain affects a terrain in real time. It is constructed in the center of the room, so students can stand around it.

“We can now show our students what science says happens over thousands and millions of years in segmented real time. We can show how you start off with a flat plane, then your plane shifts and forms a hill or mountain, then it rains, the rain pools, and an ocean is formed. We get to show all of that with augmented reality,” Ford said.

The departments are planning to bring another stationary unit to the Cartersville site in the near future with plans to possibly build additional mobile units, as well.

GHC brings acclaimed authors together for the Highlands Writers Conference

writers conference

Georgia Highlands College is bringing together a number of special guest authors for the Highlands Writers Conference, a one-day experience connecting acclaimed writers with the local writing community.

The event is scheduled for March 3rd and will take place at GHC’s Cartersville site.

Attendees can register for a full day for $55, which includes two writing workshops, a publishing panel, a lunch presentation, and a featured reading, or for a half day for $35, which includes one less writing workshop.

“This one-day program provides numerous opportunities for aspiring writers to learn about craft in a variety of genres as well as best practices for publication,” English Instructor Jessica Lindberg said. “We welcome writers who have been practicing for years as well as those who have not yet set pen to paper.”

Visiting writers include poet Kamilah Aisha Moon, who now teaches at Agnes Scott College in Decatur; mystery writer Trudy Nan Boyce, who draws on her experience as a 30-year veteran police officer for the City of Atlanta, moving from beat cop to homicide detective to senior hostage negotiator and now as a lieutenant; and screenwriter and retired Command Sergeant Major Eric L. Haney, who served in the army’s most demanding combat units as a Combat Infantryman, a Ranger, and ultimately, as a founding member of the army’s secret counter-terrorist arm: Delta Force, and is the author of “Inside Delta Force: The Story of America’s Elite Counter-terrorist Unit,” as well as a writer, producer, and technical adviser for the CBS television series based on his book called “The Unit,” which premiered in January 2006 and won the ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards in 2007 for Top TV Series.

The lunch presentation will feature GHC professor and artist Brian Barr, who will discuss his experience working as a graphic novelist for the online series “Jackdaw.”

A panel of members in the publishing industry will talk about publishing methods and how to reach both local and national audiences. Members of the panel include Director of the Georgia Writers Association Jenny Sadre-Orafai, who is also the author of “Malak;” Gregg Murray, editor of “Muse/A;” and freelance writer Nicki Harris Salcedo, author of “All Beautiful Things.”

The featured speaker is Jimmy Cajoleas, author of the Young Adult novel “Goldline.” In a starred review, Booklist writes that “’Goldeline’s’ heart-pounding race through the woods reveals a complex, magical world that will give readers much to contemplate.” Publisher’s Weekly calls the novel, recommended for readers age 10 and up, a “suspenseful tale of self-discovery.”

To learn more about the event or to register, please visit:



Breaking the language barrier with art

student standing next to painting

Xinia Smith-Camacho was born in Costa Rica. Her first language is Spanish. In 2009, her family moved to America. The only way she could communicate was through her art.

“When I first got here to America, I was 17 years old, and I couldn’t speak any English. We never had the opportunity when I was in Costa Rica for me to do art, so when we came here, that was one of the first classes
I took,” Xinia said. “My first assignment in the art class I was taking in high school was to complete this special project.”

The art teacher explained to the class that they should take several weeks to finish their piece. Xinia had a hard time understanding when the project was supposed to be complete.

“I went home and spent all night finishing it,” she said. “I came back the next day and gave it to her completed, and she was surprised.”

Xinia titled that project “Donkey.” The black and white piece of artwork depicts a donkey eating grass next to some birds. Its head is low and its back is heavy with a saddle and covers.

“‘Donkey’ to me represents the struggle I have with the English language, and how much I’ve over- come,” she said. “To me, that’s a big thing, because when I was in Costa Rica, I never even thought I would ever speak another language, and the fact that I came here and was able to do
 those things shows me how much
I’ve grown. It was my first expression in another language. It is the
best picture I have.”

“Donkey” has won numerous awards, as well as a special recognition in the Old Red Kimino, GHC’s student-run literary magazine.

Xinia said she considers art as her true second language, noting how it helped her express herself in a predominantly English- speaking culture. She was eventually able to master English, as well, but said if she had to choose a language to express herself to the fullest, it would be art.

“Art is a great representation of what my family means to me. I’m a twin sister, and there’s my big brother, and then my mother. Momma has been the biggest influence in my life. Momma does that very well. I’ll show her something and she’ll be like, ‘No, that’s not the right colors…’ She gets the best out of me.”

Xinia explained that one of her more recent pieces depicts her family dynamics. Three cheetahs are resting in a prairie. She said the smallest two are depictions of her and her twin sister. The next biggest is a depiction of her brother. And then towering in front of the rest of them, overwatching, is a depiction of her mother.

“It shows what my family means to me, but especially what my mother means to me, what she means to our family,” she said.

Xinia’s mother is also a big influence on the current piece she is working on now: an owl. Her mother raises chickens for eggs and has been collecting feathers for her daughter to use. She has two bags ready to go.

“She’s always bringing me stuff to use for my art as I’m working on it,” Xinia said. “Momma is very proud of my work.”

Xinia is a financial services accountant at Georgia Highlands College. She has worked at GHC for three years. She said she is happy to work at a place where “people admire what she does.”


GHC launches ‘Next Step Fair’ to help students make long-term plans

ghc logo box

Georgia Highlands College is introducing a “Next Step Fair,” which will bring together several colleges and universities in Georgia for a chance to meet one-on-one with college representatives. The event will take place in February and is open to students and the public.

The event is planned for February 20th from 10AM to 3PM on the Floyd Campus in the student center with an additional event on February 22nd from 10AM to 3PM at the Cartersville site near the library.

“We encourage our students to begin planning their college career from the very first day they step foot on a campus,” Academic Advisor Jillian Petro said. “The Next Step Fair is designed to help students who are undecided on where to transfer after completing their associate degree at GHC.”

Although the event is tailored for students thinking about transferring, Petro noted it is a great opportunity for college-bound students or students who may be considering going to college, as well.

“It is open to any of our students and the public,” Petro said. “Each college and university will have a table with informational brochures, applications, giveaways and a representative that can assist them.”

College and universities that will be in attendance include: Georgia Highlands College, Berry College, Chattahoochee Technical College, Columbus State University, Dalton State College, Georgia College, Georgia Gwinnett College, Georgia Southern University, Georgia Southwestern State University, Georgia State University, Kennesaw State University, Life University, Reinhardt University, Shorter University, and the University of West Georgia.











GHC continues hosting workshops to help anyone applying for federal student aid

teacher working with student

Georgia Highlands College helped hundreds of people in its series of free workshops called “First Friday FAFSA” last year. GHC will be continuing the workshops this year, as well.

The workshops are designed to educate about and promote the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Workshops are free and open to the public.

Attendees will learn more about Federal Student Aid, which is responsible for managing the student financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. These programs provide grants, loans and work-study funds to students attending college or career school.

Workshops will take place the first Friday of each month at each GHC location until the end of the year: February 2, March 2, April 6, May 4, June 1, July 6, August 3, September 7, October 5, November 2, December 7.

All events are from 9AM to 11AM.

“The purpose is to help students (potential, new, and current) and their parents complete their FAFSAs in an accurate and timely manner,” Senior Counselor Lisa Garrett said. “Anyone is welcome to attend a workshop.”

Workshop attendees will get one-on-one assistance and can learn how to secure financial aid before college payment deadlines.

“Our workshop teaches you how to set up an FSA ID for the student (and parent if applicable) and also how to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). In addition, any questions you may have will be answered at the workshop, such as what types of aid you can apply for and qualifications needed for eligibility,” Garrett said.

Although attending a workshop is not required to get aid, Garrett stated it can be strong first step for those considering going to college anywhere.

“It is beneficial to participate in a workshop as it helps the financial aid process go more smoothly and ensures that students are able to receive their financial aid in a timely manner,” Garrett said.

Those interested in the workshop can learn more about the basics of FAFSA by visiting:

Workshop attendees are encouraged to bring copies of their 1040 tax forms and W2 forms, as well as know the birthdates and social security numbers for anyone included on the FAFSA application.

If you have further questions about what to bring, you may contact GHC’s financial aid office at:

To reserve your space in one of the upcoming free FAFSA workshops, please visit: