Pellissippi State hosts award-winning author Nikki Giovanni

Nikki GiovanniOne of the world’s most well-known African American poets, Nikki Giovanni, will speak at Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Avenue Campus on Thursday, March 17.

Giovanni is the recipient of an unprecedented seven NAACP Image awards and a Grammy nomination, and is a New York Times bestselling author and finalist for the National Book Award. She will be on campus from 6-7:30 p.m. to speak about her work “On My Journey Now: Looking at African-American History Through the Spirituals,” which studies the heritage of music as a means to escape the injustice and harshness of slavery.

Following her presentation, Giovanni will be available for a book signing and reception. The event is free and the community is invited. The Magnolia Avenue Campus is located at 1610 E. Magnolia Avenue.

Giovanni’s presentation is sponsored by Magnolia Avenue Campus’ Beyond the Common Book Club and is a Common Academic Experience event. Pellissippi State’s Common Book unites all Pellissippi State freshmen students in a shared reading experience, which becomes the basis of a year-long discussion of issues related to the book. This year’s Common Book is “The United States of Appalachia” by Jeff Biggers, and events in this series continue the conversation about the multifaceted history of Appalachia. Giovanni is featured in “The United States of Appalachia.”

Giovanni was born in Knoxville in 1943. Her first published volumes of poetry, “Black Feeling, Black Talk,” and “Black Judgment” grew out of her response to the assassinations of figures like Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Sen. Robert Kennedy. Since then, she has published dozens of works. Today, Giovanni is a distinguished professor at Virginia Tech.

Additional support at the March 17 event will be provided by Pellissippi State’s Access & Diversity Office and the University of Tennessee’s Black Alumni Council.

For more information about attending this event, visit or call the Magnolia Avenue Campus at 865-329-3100. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or 


Download this press release: PSCC Nikki Giovanni

Pellissippi State hosts workshops for high school students with disabilities

Pellissippi State Community College invites local high school students with disabilities and their parents to attend college career readiness workshops.

The one-hour workshop will inform students and parents about how to take and request accommodations for the ACT test, including when to take the ACT, general testing tips, and the types of accommodations you can request. The workshop is totally free, but participants must register. Reserve a spot at

The workshops are provided by the college’s Universal Pathways to Employment Project. Dates, times and locations:

  • Blount County Campus — 6-7 p.m., Feb. 4, 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, room 147
  • Division Street Campus — 6-7 p.m., Feb. 1, 3435 Division Street, room 100
  • Magnolia Avenue Campus — 6-7 p.m., Feb. 2, 1610 E. Magnolia Avenue, room 100
  • Strawberry Plains Campus — 6-7 p.m., Feb. 1, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, room 2053

Pellissippi State’s Universal Pathways to Employment Project is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

Download this press release: PSCC UPEP Workshop

Pellissippi State pilot retention program to focus on black male students

Pellissippi State Community College has received a $10,000 grant to improve the retention rates for black male students at the Magnolia Avenue Campus.

The Student Engagement, Retention and Success grant, awarded by the Tennessee Board of Regents, Pellissippi State’s governing body, begins this fall. The pilot retention program will serve up to 50 students.

“Nationally, African-American male students have the lowest college completion rate—32.8 percent—among both genders and among all racial and ethnic groups in higher education,” said Rosalyn Tillman, dean of the Magnolia Avenue Campus.

The program’s objective is to provide assistance and encouragement for black male students to persist through college and graduate.

“The project is designed to provide empathetic advising sessions, workshops and a mentoring component to help our African-American male students in their pursuit of higher education,” said Tillman.

Specifically, the pilot program combines New Student Orientation sessions, success workshops, monthly developmental seminars and learning sessions, advising and academic tutoring, and mentorship to provide social and emotional support.

“Research often shows that African-American men struggle with barriers to academic success,” said Tillman. “They’re juggling jobs, managing finances, trying to meet family commitments, and they often combat other barriers like the absence of role models, low self-esteem, social exclusion or even the fear of success.

“All students need one-on-one support, but that’s often true for minority students. And sometimes that’s just having someone to talk to.”

For more information about the programs and resources offered by Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Single mother returns to school at Pellissippi State to study horticulture


On days with good weather, April Ellis rides her bicycle to school.

Ellis, a Pellissippi State Community College student, doesn’t consider her transportation options to be a limitation, though. She simply rides her bicycle or takes the bus to the Magnolia Avenue Campus, where she’s pursuing an associate’s degree with the plan of going on for a bachelor’s in public horticulture.

A single mother who didn’t complete high school, Ellis enrolled full time at Pellissippi State last spring. Like many nontraditional students, the 29-year-old has to balance returning to school with a multitude of other responsibilities: working a full-time job, fulfilling a work-study commitment and raising a child.

“It’s been so crazy, but you make it work,” she said.

Ellis is taking courses to earn a general studies degree, and once she graduates, she plans to transfer to the University of Tennessee.

“Public horticulture has a wide variety of job opportunities, anything that integrates gardens and people,” she said. “Specifically, I’m interested in horticulture therapy.

“People go into gardens and feel better, and horticulture therapy brings that recreational therapy aspect into gardening. You can take a person who needs to work on an injury and say, ‘Let’s work with your weak hand grip by pruning these roses.’”

Ellis was a stay-at-home mother and housewife during her son’s growing-up years. When she began going through a divorce, she realized she needed and wanted a fulfilling job that could provide for her family.

“At that time, I didn’t even have a GED or any kind of formal education,” she said, “and I wanted to be someone that my son could look up to.”

She first attended classes at the Knox County Career Center, where she earned her GED, and two months later, in spring 2014, she began classes at Pellissippi State.

“Here, I’m not the odd person out,” Ellis said. “A lot of students here are nontraditional, so I’m not alone in those struggles about being in college and having a job and a family.

“And professors understand that, too, that you have homework and a family. Having that kind of nurturing, supportive environment has been crucial. People here have gone above and beyond to make sure I get more than just good grades.”

Pellissippi State supports its population of nontraditional students with a host of services, among them, alternative scheduling; cohort programs, in which students start and finish their coursework as a group; tutoring; workforce development; and career placement. The college even offers nontraditional students credit for previous military and work experience through what’s called “prior learning assessment.”

For more information about Pellissippi State and its programs and resources, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

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