Pellissippi State holds presentation and discussion on U.S. national debt

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Find out how the national debt affects us now and in the future during a presentation by economic educator Millicent Taylor. “Our Deficit, Our National Debt and the Consequences for all of Us” will be held April 4 at 7 p.m. in the Goins Building Auditorium on Pellissippi State Community College’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The event is free and open to the public.

Taylor, who earned her doctorate at the University of Tennessee, is currently an adjunct at Pellissippi State. She has worked as an international economist in Washington D.C. and has held faculty positions in the School of Business at Carson-Newman University and Colorado State University.

Taylor will talk about the U.S. budget and its differences from the U.S. national debt. She will also cover how the U.S. Treasury borrows money, the size of the debt and whom we owe, how the debt affects other government agencies and how a high national debt threatens our society, economy and government.

The presentation will deal with facts and commonly accepted financial and economic principles. Discussion will be limited to non-partisan topics.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400. To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Pellissippi State hosts presentations on universal design in education

Headshot of Sheryl Burgstahler
Sheryl Burgstahler

Pellissippi State Community College’s Universal Pathways to Employment Project will host two presentations for those who work with or teach individuals with disabilities. Sheryl Burgstahler, the founder of two renowned centers that promote access and technology, will speak Friday, March 2, on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus.

Burgstahler will give two presentations: “How to Create an Inclusive Campus” at 10 a.m. and “How to Make Your Course Welcoming and Accessible to all Students” at 11:15 a.m.

Both events are free and open to the community and will be held in the Clayton Performing Arts Center, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

Burgstahler is an affiliate professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington in Seattle. She holds degrees in mathematics, education and administration of higher education. She founded and directs the DO-IT (Disabilities, opportunities, internetworking and Technology) Center and the Access Technology Center. These two centers promote the use of assistive technology and other interventions to support the success of students with disabilities in education and careers. They also promote the development of facilities, computer labs, software, websites, multimedia, and distance learning programs that are welcoming and accessible to individuals with disabilities.

To request accommodations for a disability at one of these classes, call 865-539-7401 or email UPEP is funded by a grant from the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Department of Labor.

Pellissippi State honors innovation, dedication among employees

Employee Award Winners
The Innovations Award winning team. Alphabetically, Brenda Ammons, Kristy Conger, Stephanie Gillespie, Angela Lunsford, Martha Merrill, Deanne Michaelson, Paul Ramp, Trish Roller, Allison Stein and Kellie Toon.

Pellissippi State Community College honored innovation and dedication among its faculty and staff at a ceremony in April.

Judy Sichler
Judith Sichler

Judith Sichler, an assistant professor teaching anthropology, won the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Pellissippi State alumna and Sichler’s former student, Heather Woods, praised her in a nomination letter. Woods is currently a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Tennessee.

“I chose to take a human origins class at Pellissippi to fill an elective requirement … I enjoyed her [Sichler’s] teaching so much that first day that I immediately added myself to her prehistoric archaeology class,” said Woods.

Woods, a first-generation college student who returned to college as an adult, working mother, had a goal of becoming an English teacher. But she was so inspired by Sichler’s teaching that she eventually changed her major to anthropology.

“More than 20 years of dreaming and planning for an English degree ended up in second place to anthropology,” Woods said. “Dr. Sichler literally made such an impact in my education and life that I am following in her academic footsteps. Any college would be hard-pressed to find even one professor with her skills, heart and dedication.”

Annie Gray
Annie Gray

Annie Gray, English professor and Service-Learning coordinator, is the Gene Joyce Visionary Award winner for her creation and management of Pellissippi State’s Service-Learning program, which combines community service and civic responsibility with traditional classroom learning. Last year, 2,677 student volunteers served more than 37,000 service hours in the community, for an estimated impact of around $887,759.

“People thrive when connected to causes bigger than themselves,” Gray said.

Gray has been recognized across the state and the nation for her work. The Tennessee Board of Regents, Pellissippi State’s governing body, has encouraged all its institutions to adopt Service-Learning programs because of her program’s success. Tennessee Campus Compact recognized Gray with the Tennessee Treasure Award in 2014, and the Service-Learning program was named a President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll winner in 2015.

This year is Gray’s last as Service-Learning coordinator. She is returning to the classroom, and a full-time director will manage the Service-Learning program. Gray donated the monetary portion of the Gene Joyce Visionary Award to the Pellissippi Pantry, a food pantry for students in need at Pellissippi State.

A team of faculty and staff representing each department in the college won the Innovations Award for their creation of a training program for faculty on best practices for using online teaching platforms. Online courses are becoming a more popular option for students. The training helps faculty learn to better use online platforms to create more meaningful experiences for students. All faculty members at Pellissippi State have completed at least level one of the training, which introduces faculty to Pellissippi State’s online learning platform, D2L — which is used in many classes, not just those that are online. The level two training is required for faculty members who teach any hybrid or online courses.

The Innovations Award team includes Brenda Ammons, Kristy Conger, Stephanie Gillespie, Angela Lunsford, Martha Merrill, Deanne Michaelson, Paul Ramp, Trish Roller, Allison Stein and Kellie Toon.

Pellissippi State Foundation board members select the recipients of the Excellence in Teaching, Innovation and Gene Joyce Visionary awards based on nominations. Recipients also receive a monetary award provided by the Foundation.

Additional college awards for employees recognize excellence among faculty and staff:

  • Outstanding Contract Worker: Amy Satkowiak
  • Outstanding Adjunct Faculty: Gabe Crowell
  • Outstanding Full-time Faculty: Alex Fitzner
  • Outstanding Administrator: Kathy Byrd
  • Outstanding Support Professional: Aneshia Brown
  • Outstanding Technical/Service/Maintenance: Scott Bell

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

Christie Cunningham to speak as Pellissippi State Commencement speaker

Christie Cunningham
Christie Cunningham

Award-winning faculty member Christie Cunningham will join hundreds of Pellissippi State Community College graduates as the speaker at the college’s Commencement ceremony Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Cunningham, an assistant professor in Natural and Behavioral Sciences, is this year’s Excellence in Teaching Award winner at Pellissippi State, as well as a 2016 winner of a national John and Suanne Roueche Excellence award.

“I’m planning to speak to students about what to do when life throws something unexpected your way,” Cunningham said. In spring, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and is currently undergoing treatment.

“When life knocks you down, when people tell you no, when doors close in your face, you have to continue. You have to put one foot in front of the other and keep working toward your goal. It’s during these times that your character is built,” Cunningham said. “It’s been a difficult road, but I try to take one day at a time, put aside my problems and provide the best learning experience possible for my students.”

Cunningham has been recognized this year for her innovative teaching techniques and the positive impact they’ve had on her students. She has integrated technology, hands-on activities, group projects and other learning methods to increase student engagement in her psychology courses.

“Learning should be engaging and active, and if you can make it fun, that’s even better,” Cunningham said.

One of the ways she encourages her students to proactively study throughout the semester is to play “Jeopardy” using questions and answers that the students compile over the course of the semester.

“Something like ‘Jeopardy’ is a way to comprehensively study for a final exam, but it’s competitive and fun and doesn’t feel as worrisome as studying for a cumulative test,” Cunningham said. “And I see through test scores that techniques like this help with long-term retention.”

Other techniques she uses are role-playing — for instance, role-playing what it might be like to have a mental or physical disability — and hands-on activities like using household items to discuss the physical functionality of the human eyeball or the brain’s neural pathways.

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

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