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April 01, 2013

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President Conquers Kilimanjaro

President Conquers Kilimanjaro

Regular readers of the National News know that our students and graduates provide daily examples of ordinary people who have accomplished extraordinary things.  It’s an important part of National College and American National University’s missions to prepare students for a full life, in which one is constantly expanding his or her horizons.  President Frank Longaker, who began his “climb” at National College 41 years ago as an instructor, proved the point in spectacular fashion earlier this year, when at the age of 66 he completed an eight-day trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

At 19,342 feet, Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak on the African continent.  Accompanied by 69-year-old Patrick Kennard, director of institutional planning for National College, President Longaker traveled to the East African nation of Tanzania to accomplish his feat.  A lifelong athlete who has competed in triathlons, adventure races, and other endurance sports, President Longaker felt inspired to complete the ascent.  By no means a mountain climber, President Longaker was enticed by the climb’s difficulty, which, while strenuous, did not require technical climbing skills.

The climb itself took eight days—six days up, two down—and the group was comprised of 14 people, mostly from the United States, plus about 35 Tanzanian porters and guides.  One of the biggest challenges of the climb was the lack of oxygen at high altitudes.  The first few days of the climb saw the group gradually ascend to 15,000 feet above sea level, where they spent several days traversing the mountain to different camps on the route to the summit. “At that altitude, we were not carrying oxygen, so everyone was vulnerable to altitude sickness,” President Longaker stated.  The group learned breathing techniques suited for high altitude activities and took pains to avoid over-exertion.

On the day of the summit climb, the group had a light supper and early turn-in, to awake at 11 PM local time.  “We climbed all night,” related President Longaker.  “We used headlamps, and just went one foot in front of the other.”  The last 4,000 feet, while steep, was largely a zig-zag route of switchback trails.

As the group neared the summit, the sun began to rise in the eastern sky, giving them a dramatic view of the surrounding countryside.  “You almost want to stop and watch the sunrise, but you’re torn by a desire to finish the last few hundred feet to the top,” admitted President Longaker.

After about two hours at the peak, where the group rested, snacked, and took photos, the group descended 4,000 feet back to the base camp they had left the night before, arriving early in the afternoon, local time. Due to the limited availability of water and supplies, they couldn’t stay at this base camp for long. After about an hour’s rest, they continued down the mountain until nightfall. A final day brought them the remainder of the way down the mountain to waiting transportation.

Afterward, the group took a jeep safari through a game preserve on the Serengeti Plain and saw a variety of wildlife—“lions and a wide variety of their prey” as President Longaker put it.  Aside from the unusual wildlife, President Longaker remarked upon several aspects of life in Africa.  “It was a very different standard of living from what we are used to in the United States,” he explained.  Stores and shopping centers were few; street vendors were the norm.  Agriculture appeared to dominate the economy, with livestock brought out to pasture during the day and returning to the protection of villages overnight.  “The local Maasai people in the villages outside of the cities [whose warriors are mythically renowned lion hunters] are no longer allowed to kill lions, except to protect their livestock,” said President Longaker.  “However, it is still a mark of distinction for a young Maasai warrior to kill a lion protecting his flock.”

A concluding point made by President Longaker was of the reception his group received from the local populace.  “In all of the parts of Africa where we engaged, whether it was going through customs, in the cities, in the hotel, in the villages, or the people on the street, I never found anyone who had an unpleasant attitude toward visitors,” he expressed.  “There was complete friendliness.”

When people think of college and university presidents and their achievements, one typically thinks of contributions they make to education.  President Longaker—who last year received the Imagine America Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his 40 years of service to the career college sector—has certainly made his mark on the lives of thousands of graduates.  It is not every day, however, that you see college presidents—much less at the age of 66—scaling 19,000-foot mountain peaks.  Yet for President Longaker, this sort of accomplishment is routine.  It is this ability to make extraordinary things look routine, in whatever you set out to pursue, that sets National apart.

“Our students and graduate show the world time and time again that challenges can be overcome, regardless of one’s age or circumstances,” said President Longaker.  “I don’t see myself as anything other than an ordinary person, just like them.”

Kilimanjaro climb photos

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Memphis Campus Holds Grand Opening Ceremony and Ribbon Cutting

Memphis Campus Holds Grand Opening Ceremony and Ribbon Cutting

On Tuesday, March 19th, a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony was held for the new Memphis Campus located at 2576 Thousand Oaks Cove. Approximately $5 million dollars were invested in the new campus, which features smart board technology in the lecture rooms, a simulated operating room, medical labs, computer labs, a library, student pavilion, and administrative offices. The new campus will be able to accommodate up to 800 students.

“This shows National College of Business and Technology’s commitment to Memphis, to our students and to our faculty and staff,” said campus director Noel Denney, who presided over the ceremony.

Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich was the guest speaker for the ceremony.  District Attorney Weirich shared that she felt that the lack of education was the root of most crimes.  “Are you ready?” she asked.  “To whom much has been given, great things are expected.  This city and this community needs every one of you at this beautiful school to be ready every day.  Whether you are a student, whether you are a teacher, we never stop learning and we never stop reaching back and teaching those behind us…we always have to step up and be mentors,” she said.  She encouraged the students to stay in the Memphis area following graduation to help better the community.

Noel also presented a check for a donation of $500 to representatives from the local chapter of the Disabled American Veterans organization during the ceremony.

a) Memphis Campus director Noel Denney is pictured with National College staff cutting the ribbon at the campus’s grand opening celebration.
b) Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich is pictured addressing the crowd at the grand opening ceremony

Vietnamese Student Finds Better English Preparation at ANU

Vietnamese Student Finds Better English Preparation at ANU

Chi Nguyen was a university student in Vietnam when her aunt and uncle, who live near Roanoke, told her about American National University’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program and encouraged her and her cousin to come live with them and enroll in the program. They applied for their visas at the embassy in Vietnam, but only Chi was able to pass the interviewing process and receive her visa. “It is very difficult,” she says. “A lot of people fail the interview.”

It has been Chi’s dream to come to the U.S. to study because of the good education available here. “America has high standards in education and in society,” she says. She had learned English as a subject in school since she was a child but says it was very different when she actually came to the U.S. “Everything is different here from Vietnam. I was very surprised the first day I came here,” Chi says. “The way teachers teach is different. In Vietnam, teachers speak English, but it’s not exactly pronounced right. When I got here, I could not understand the teachers at first.”

She is now in level five of the six-level program, and upon completion plans to transfer to a nursing program at another American college. Chi hopes to someday work at the national hospital back home in Vietnam. “Since I was child, I’ve liked helping people,” she says.

Of her experience in the ESL program, Chi says her favorite thing is being able to communicate with people from other countries. She likes the opportunities available to practice English. “Speaking with teachers and friends is good,” she says. “I can improve my listening skills.”

Campus Acknowledges Local Medical Office for their Support of Career Education

Campus Acknowledges Local Medical Office for their Support of Career Education

Valley Nephrology, a medical office in Roanoke that specializes in kidney disease, has supported American National University for over ten years through the externship program. Many students in the medical assisting degree program have been able to put their book knowledge to use in a real medical office through these externships. Many students that have completed externships at Valley Nephrology were also hired as members of their medical staff.

Because of this invaluable partnership, the Roanoke Valley Campus recently recognized the medical office as a Distinguished Community Employer. The University appreciates Valley Nephrology for assisting students in their education and acknowledging the academic achievements of its graduates.

Career center director Kristal Bushong (right) and director of health care education MJ Williams (2nd from right) are pictured presenting a Distinguished Community Employer award to Valley Nephrology employees and American National graduates (l to r) Dana Bova, Amanda Williams, and Tracie Lotts.

Autopsy Helps Students Get a Good Understanding of Anatomy

Autopsy Helps Students Get a Good Understanding of Anatomy

On February 21st, Beth Laurenz, director of health care education for the Columbus Campus, organized a unique field trip for students to gain a better understanding of the human anatomy. They visited the Franklin County Coroner’s office to observe an autopsy.

“Seeing and studying anatomy made all the things [I’ve] learned make more sense,” said student Irene Cruz, who was one of three medical assisting students to participate in this visual anatomy lesson. 

“We learned what healthy organs look like,” said student Allison Deehr, referring to when the pathologist showed them internal organs taken from the cadaver and compared them to how healthy organs would look.
Beth has taken previous medical assisting students  on a field trip to observe an autopsy and she has observed that they tend to have a better understanding of anatomy and physiology.

Pictured are medical assisting students and autopsy observers (l to r) Alyssa Long, Joan Martinez, Allison Deehr, and Irene Cruz.

Local Doctor Supports National College Medical Assisting Program

Local Doctor Supports National College Medical Assisting Program

The Pikeville Campus recently recognized Dr. Soma as a Distinguished Community Employer for his support of American National University students and career education.

Dr. Soma has provided externships for American National University students in the medical assisting program and currently has four graduates working in his office. Six years ago, graduate Rebecca Gibson completed her externship there and has been working there ever since. “I love working here,” she said as she explained that she especially enjoys working with her co-workers Jessica Horton, Stephanie Belcher, and Amy Parker – who are all National graduates.

Dr. Soma practices Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine at Williamson ARH in South Williamson, Kentucky.

Pikeville campus’s career center director Paula Bailey is pictured on the right presenting a plaque of appreciation to Dr. Soma and his employees (l to r) Rebecca Gibson, Jessica Horton, Stephanie Belcher, and Amy Parker.

Student Overcomes Obstacles – with National’s Help

Student Overcomes Obstacles – with National’s Help

Sometimes it takes real determination to make a dream come true. It can take finding a balance in your life, juggling many priorities, and never giving up.  Melissa Slayton knew she wanted a career in the medical field since most of her family had established their careers in health care.  When she looked into the programs that the Lynchburg Campus offered, she knew medical assisting would provide her with the education and training to do something that she always wanted to do.  As a newlywed already working full-time in the restaurant business, she realized that there would be some challenges.

“One of the best things about National College,” said Melissa,  “was the fact that I could go to school around my work schedule.”

Melissa worked hard in her classes and was able to balance her family life, full-time job, and education.  Half way through her medical assisting program, she and her husband celebrated the birth of their son.

“This life changing event made me work twice as hard to finish school so that I could better provide for my family,” shares Melissa.

Sue Coleman, director of health care education, adds, “Melissa was a great student. She always had a smile on her face when she came into the classroom. She worked hard, overcame obstacles, kept a positive attitude and made her dream come true.”

Indeed, she did work hard.  She completed her externship at Central Virginia Family Physicians and really had her heart set on working at one of their offices. Her success story continued as she passed her Registered Medical Assistant exam and successfully completed her program and is set to receive her associate’s degree at the May graduation ceremony. 

“I have received an amazing job with Central Virginia Family Physicians. I couldn’t be happier,” Melissa said.  “I feel like I have accomplished a huge goal in my life and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my husband and the amazing teachers at National College.  I recommend for people who want a life changing experience to attend National.  It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  I thank each and every teacher for their hands on help and inspiration.”

a) Melissa (sitting) is pictured letting fellow student Brittany Goff practice checking for a blood pressure.
b) Melissa is pictured (2nd from right) celebrating their accomplishments with fellow students and director of health care education Sue Coleman (center).

Dr. Ihsan Safi Recognized for 15-Year Relationship with National

Dr. Ihsan Safi Recognized for 15-Year Relationship with National

The Princeton Campus recently named Dr. Ihsan Safi of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology as a Distinguished Community Employer. Dr. Safi has been practicing medicine in the Bluefield area for about 20 years and he has turned to National College to find employees for his office the last 15 years.

Dr. Safi and his staff also welcome students in the medical assisting degree program as externs. The externship offers students a chance to practice the skills they learned in the classroom  and to put their knowledge to use in a real medical setting.

Dr. Safi and his office manager Tonya Boyd, who is also a National College graduate, are pictured accepting the plaque of appreciation delivered by career center director Elaine Owens.

New Medical Office Specialist Found the Encouragement She Needed at National

New Medical Office Specialist Found the Encouragement She Needed at National

Richmond Campus graduate Charlotte Azbill’s days are busy as she works in the office of Richmond Pain Management Center. During her work day, she schedules patients, calls in prescriptions, and performs many administrative duties. She is enjoying the stability and fulfillment that her career in health care has brought to her life. She said that it wouldn’t have been possible without the personal attention, encouragement, and support that she received during her medical office specialist diploma program at American National University.

Charlotte heard about National on TV, and through friends, and thought that the college sounded like a good fit for her. She almost lost her nerve to return to school, after being out for many years, but her admissions representative’s encouragement convinced her that she could succeed.  “I had almost backed out and she called me and talked me through it,” she recalled. “She gave me the courage to go ahead and go for it.”

During her program at National, Charlotte was placed as a community work-study student on loan to the Office of Employment and Training. Since she had previously only worked in food service, the experience performing clerical and administrative work in the office was invaluable to her, and it was a great addition to her resume.

Charlotte (pictured) said that she enjoyed everything about her experience at National. “It gave me courage. It gave me confidence.  It gave me…wings,” she said with a smile.

HR Professional Offers Tips and Encourages Students as they Prepare to Enter the Workforce

HR Professional Offers Tips and Encourages Students as they Prepare to Enter the Workforce

On Friday, March 15th, Ms. Shaun Spencer of Trimen Solutions, LLC visited the Louisville Campus and spoke to students about finding success in their new careers. Trimen Solutions is a human resources firm that works with small businesses.

Ms. Spencer talked about professionalism, teamwork, and customer service. “Professionalism…should start from the time you apply for a position all the way through.” She also stressed the importance of wearing professional attire and showing up on time when interviewing for a position.
Regarding the workplace, Ms. Spencer explained that customers may be unreasonable, aggressive, and/ or rude. Although customers may present a challenge at times, she urged students to maintain their composure and professionalism. “You cannot let customers get to you.”

Ms. Spencer’s presentation concluded with a question and answer session, which generated enthusiastic participation. Regardless of their field of study, the students gained valuable insight about employers’ expectations, which will be useful as they prepare for their future careers.

Guest Shaun Spencer of Trimen Solutions, LLC is pictured (seated) talking to students at the Louisville Campus about preparing for their job search.

Student Shares Learning Experience with Fellow Students

Student Shares Learning Experience with Fellow Students

Krista Lillpop, a medical assisting student at the Florence Campus, recently offered a demonstration to fellow students about how she is using the skills she has learned in her communications class.

As a firefighter, Krista discussed how good communication with other firefighters is essential, and could be a matter of life or death. She talked about structure fires and how it is necessary to wear a Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA) which keeps firefighters from breathing harmful chemicals that are released during combustion. However, in terms of communication, one of the unfortunate disadvantages of wearing the face mask was that it was extremely difficult to hear what other firefighters were saying. She explained that with technological advances in the field of communications, voice boxes are now available that attach to the mask to amplify the voice.

With both the technological advances in the field of firefighting and her application of what she has learned in class, Krista can safely and effectively communicate with her fellow firefighters.

Krista Lillpop is pictured as she demonstrated the communications she has learned.

Robinette Cotton-- Difference Maker at the Stark County, Akron Area, and Youngstown Campuses

Robinette Cotton-- Difference Maker at the Stark County, Akron Area, and Youngstown Campuses

Robinette Cotton at the Stark County, Akron Area, and Youngstown Campuses


  • Instructor of information systems engineering, Microsoft Office, keyboarding, and math courses
  • Works in desktop publishing, website design, and computer repair


  • American National University instructor since 2009
  • Has been a teacher of math and technology to both children and adults for over 10 years 

Received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Youngstown State University and a master’s in education with a focus on instructional technology from Kent State University

I appreciate the willingness of American National University students to learn in spite of life’s oppositions.

I enjoy making students think and apply what they learn instantly.

The best thing about being part of the American National University faculty is being part of a team with one goal in mind:  to educate and prepare students for their next move in life.

Graduate Finds Education a Fulfilling Career

Graduate Finds Education a Fulfilling Career

Kristie Jones, a 2011 graduate of the Danville, Virginia Campus in computer applications technology, was recently named Employee of the Week for the Pittsylvania County School system.  Kristie is an instructional aide to the Regional Alternative Schools.  Kristie also serves as a substitute for the school system and has done so since her graduation from National.  In addition, Kristie is continuing her education by pursuing a degree in elementary education.  She is keeping herself extraordinarily busy these days by working full time to gain additional experience in a school environment, continuing her education, and being a full time mom.

An article that accompanied the recognition as Employee of the Week stated, “Even when she gets off work her job is never done.”   The article also said, “She enjoys not only her job but also the different kids she meets.” 

Kristie told Career Center Director Jim Gillispie that she has been extremely happy working with the school system and attributes a large degree of her success to National College and her own perseverance.

The National News is a biweekly publication designed to share the success and academic accomplishments of students and graduates from American National University and National College. For more information, contact the Communications Department.

In accordance with the regulations of the Tennessee Higher Education Council, all references to "American National University" refer to "National College" in the state of Tennessee.