Pellissippi State earns grant funding to study Knoxville’s Cherokee Caverns

posted in: Academics, Faculty/Staff, Grant, TBR | 0
Cherokee Caverns Anthodites
Anthodites like these are just one of the unique rock formations that Pellissippi State Community College students will study in Cherokee Caverns, thanks to a National Speleological Society grant.

Strange as it might seem, East Tennessee was once quite beachy.

Geologically speaking, this area lay on the floor of a warm, shallow sea 500-plus million years ago, and Pellissippi State Community College students will soon be studying the rock formations and mineral deposits in Knoxville’s Cherokee Caverns that point to the fact that East Tennessee once had a climate similar to that of the Bahamas.

“[Cherokee Caverns] is good exposure to the geological history of East Tennessee and a new way to see your own hometown,” said Kathleen Affholter, associate professor in Natural and Behavioral Sciences at Pellissippi State. “This cave is unique — not just in Tennessee, but in the world. It’s a great outdoor laboratory.”

Affholter and Garry Pennycuff, an associate professor in the same department, recently applied for and were awarded a $750 grant from the National Speleological Society to study the mineralogy of Cherokee Caverns, one of the most geologically unique caves in the world. The cave, despite the effects of vandalism and improper use, is still home to flower-like crystal formations called anthodites and hollow stalactite-like formations that hang from the ceiling and look like bulbous soda straws. There are only a handful of caves around the world that feature anthodites and few others reported to have the bulbous-soda-straw stalactites.

“Tennessee has more caves than any other place in the United States — more than 10,000,” Affholter said. “But Cherokee Caverns is special.”

“When we grow up in a place, we often don’t realize or don’t take advantage of the amazing resources that are around us,” Pennycuff said. “But this amazing cave is right in our students’ backyards.”

The professors say their beginning physical geology, chemistry and environmental geology students will have the opportunity to take field trips to Cherokee Caverns. In class, students will study responsibly collected research samples and have remote access to Florida International University’s scanning electron microscope to analyze those samples. Some of the grant funds will be used to pay for the use of the electron microscope.

The biggest advantage of using an electron microscope over a more common optical microscope is that the electron microscope has a higher resolution and is able to magnify an object up to two million times. Optical microscopes can only magnify up to 1,000-2,000 times.

“So many times, students think of school as one thing and the ‘real world’ as another thing,” said Pennycuff. “But this opportunity lets them conduct real-world tests, explore real-world places and make real observations. This is what science looks like.”

 “For community college students, this is a rare opportunity to have this type of field experience and to use special equipment like the scanning electron microscope,” Affholter said.

The duo hopes the hands-on science experience will teach students the importance of conservation, particularly given Cherokee Caverns’ history. (Today, the cave can be accessed only with the permission of its caretaker.) But more than that, Affholter and Pennycuff hope students take away a love of science.

“Maybe the students will learn terms like ‘anthodites,’ but what’s more important to me is that they see that science is fun,” Affholter said.

“We can’t hide our enthusiasm,” Pennycuff said. “Hopefully, it’s contagious.”

The National Speleogical Society grant funds came through the Pellissippi State Foundation. The Foundation works to provide student scholarships and emergency loans as well as to improve facilities and secure new equipment.

For more information about the Foundation, visit or call (865) 694-6528. For more information about Pellissippi State and its science and other academic offerings, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Download a copy of this press release: Cherokee Caverns Grant

Pellissippi State Announcements, Sept. 28

posted in: Events | 0

Pellissippi State Community College recognizes World Food Day with a lecture by Ron Bridges, a science professor at the college; his wife, Brenda; and Mark Tedsen, a Knoxville Permaculture Guild representative, Friday, Oct. 16. The lecture, themed “Think Global, Eat Local,” is 12:50-1:45 p.m. in the Goins Building Auditorium on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The speakers will emphasize sustainable practices for increasing food security that can be done at home. The event is free and open to the community.

Appalachian storytellers headline Pellissippi State Community College’s premier Storytelling Festival. The event is 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The festival is free and open to the community. It takes place in the Courtyard, with a rain location of the Goins Building Auditorium. Each storyteller will tell a tale lasting between 25-30 minutes. Speakers: Janice Brooks-Headrick, Rick Elliott, Susan Fulbright, Cuz Headrick, Ruthie McIntyre and Millie Sieber.

Download this press release: PSCC Announcements Sept 28

Pellissippi State, TnCIS welcome Ireland’s Brock McGuire Band

posted in: Community, Events, The Arts, TnCIS | 0
Brock McGuire Band
The Brock McGuire Band will headline a concert Oct. 7 at Pellissippi State Community College.


Named the “Instrumental Band of the Decade” by Irish American News, the Brock McGuire Band headlines a special musical performance at Pellissippi State Community College Wednesday, Oct. 7.

The concert begins at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The performance is free and the community is invited. The event is co-presented by The Arts at Pellissippi State and the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies.

The Brock McGuire Band is fronted by Paul Brock and Manus McGuire, joined by Garry O’Meara and Denis Carey. The group’s repertoire includes mostly Irish music, but sprinkles in arrangements of old-time American, bluegrass, French-Canadian and other Celtic musical traditions.

“TnCIS came to know the Brock McGuire Band on location in Dublin during the TnCIS Ireland study abroad program,” said Tracey Bradley, TnCIS executive director. “The students and faculty were so impressed and inspired by the music that we decided to bring the Brock McGuire Band to Pellissippi State so the whole college and community could experience the same taste of Irish culture.”

TnCIS, whose headquarters are at Pellissippi State, is a consortium of schools that organizes study abroad opportunities as part of its mission of boosting international experience and culture in higher education across the state. In the eight years since its founding, TnCIS has supported 2,656 students statewide in pursuing a global education. Pellissippi State worked with TnCIS to send 204 students to study abroad in 2015, setting an institutional record. For more information about TnCIS, visit or call (865) 539-7280.

The Arts at Pellissippi State brings to the community cultural activities ranging from music and theatre to international celebrations, lectures, and the fine arts.

For more information about the Arts at Pellissippi State offerings for 2015-2016, visit or call (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at (865) 539-7401 or

Download this press release: Brock McGuire Band

Pellissippi State now largest among Tennessee community colleges

posted in: Awards, TBR | 0

Pellissippi State Community College is now the largest community college in Tennessee.

According to the Tennessee Board of Regents, Pellissippi State’s governing body, the college’s fall 2015 enrollment is 10,325. The number of full-time students is 6,630. Not only is Pellissippi State’s enrollment higher than any other community college’s in the TBR system, but the college’s student enrollment is up 2.2 percent from last year.

Of the students contributing to Pellissippi State’s growth, 1,752 are Tennessee Promise students. Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship and mentoring program that covers tuition and fees for community college students across the state.

“We’re pleased that Pellissippi State is the largest community college in the state,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., the college’s president. “What’s most important, though, is that we strive to provide the best education to our students.

“At each of our five campuses, our faculty and staff are dedicated to these students — all 10,325 of them — and those faculty and staff work to make sure that our students succeed. That’s the fact that matters.”

In the past few years, Pellissippi State has set records for the number of students sent to study abroad and the number of high school students taking dual enrollment classes for high school and college credit. In 2013 and 2014, Pellissippi State set statewide records for the number of associate’s degrees awarded, with 1,286 in 2014 alone.

“We’re incredibly proud of the achievements of our students,” Wise said. “But the importance of these numbers isn’t in the actual statistics — it’s in the lives that are changed when our students earn their degrees, gain new opportunities and reach their goals.”

For more information about what the college has to offer, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Download this press release: PSCC Enrollment 2015

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