Category Archives: Graduation

Gov. Bill Haslam to speak at Pellissippi State Commencement

Portrait of male in suitGov. Bill Haslam is the keynote speaker at Pellissippi State Community College’s Spring Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 10.

Spring Commencement begins at 7 p.m. at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena. More than 500 students will walk across the stage.

“It’s a great honor to have Gov. Haslam attend and speak at our Commencement ceremony,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise.

“Gov. Haslam has made higher education opportunities in Tennessee a priority and has special interest in the unique and much-needed opportunities available at community colleges like Pellissippi State. We look forward to his message to our students, many of whom are looking toward achieving their next measure of success as they enter the workforce.”

“I look forward to having an opportunity to personally congratulate the graduates on their significant achievement and to encourage them to be part of a bigger story that is happening in our state,” Haslam said.

“We’ve set a goal to be the No. 1 state in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, and these graduates are key to making that goal a reality. We need their brainpower, their energy and their commitment to make Tennessee a healthy, thriving state.”

Haslam was elected governor in 2010, after serving two terms as mayor of Knoxville. He has championed and promoted higher education in Tennessee through his “Drive to 55” campaign. The campaign strives to bring the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees or certifications to 55 percent by the year 2025.

A signature piece of Drive to 55 is the Tennessee Promise scholarship. The scholarship aims to give all high school graduates in the state the opportunity to attend a community college or Tennessee College of Applied Technology free of tuition and fees. As part of the Tennessee Promise, students agree to being provided with a mentor to guide them and help ensure their success.

For more information about Pellissippi State and its many programs and services, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State hosts inaugural fall Commencement Dec. 13

Pellissippi State Community College will host its first fall graduation ceremony at 7 p.m. this Friday, Dec. 13, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The ceremony will include graduates for the summer and fall of 2013. There are 238 graduates for the summer and 444 for the fall, and the college anticipates between 200 and 300 will participate in the event.

As the number of degrees awarded to Pellissippi State students has increased, the college’s Commencement ceremonies have grown larger. A total of 514 graduates walked the stage at Pellissippi State’s spring graduation. That’s when the administration determined that two ceremonies were needed.

“We’ve never had more than one graduation ceremony in an academic year,” said Rebecca Ashford, vice president of Student Affairs, “but at this past spring’s graduation ceremony, we had so many students and guests that we found we’d grown too big for our venue and realized the ceremony has become less intimate.

“The addition of this graduation ceremony will enable us to recognize our fall graduates when they finish their degrees, rather than several months after they complete them.”

Pellissippi State awarded 1,262 associate’s degrees in the 2012-2013 school year, more than any other two-year college in the state, according to the school’s governing body, the Tennessee Board of Regents. The college also awarded 935 certificates, the second highest in Tennessee.

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

Pellissippi State graduates earn degree on accelerated path, as a group

A row of people standing in front of buildings and trees.
Front row, left to right: Lee Blackburn, Rick Stogsdill, Heather Hatfield, David Carr, Diane Mannis, Brandi Dockins, Amber Slaterbeck, Amy Proctor, Harmonie Wallace and Denise Reed. Second row, left to right: Jim Wolfenbarger, Walter Radny, Philip Woods, Bobby Snodderly, Elizabeth Donaldson, Sevaughn Green, John Carter and Joe Junemann. (Bridget Webb is not pictured.) Photograph by Austin Webb.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Accelerated Higher Education Associate’s Degree program gives working adults the chance to earn a two-year degree in 16 months—an option that has grown more popular, and in some cases essential, for students.

At Pellissippi State’s 2013 Commencement Ceremony on May 10, AHEAD marked its sixth year with the graduation of its Management cohort, the first cohort the program offered when it was launched. Students in the cohort earned an associate’s degree in Business Administration with a Management concentration.

In a cohort, a group of students follows the same schedule and progresses through the program together.

“Getting to work with a team that you stay with through the whole thing was appealing to me. I knew I would have a good support system,” said David Carr, a new AHEAD Management graduate.

“You know everybody’s strengths and weaknesses, and who you can depend on to do what. It’s not like a regular class where you’re on a different team, with different people. You form more of a bond and do better work.”

AHEAD is a full-time program, and many students balance school with full-time jobs and family.

“It’s fun, it’s challenging, it’s worth the struggle,” said Lee Blackburn, a 2013 graduate in the Management cohort who worked as a construction subcontractor while a Pellissippi State student. “Juggling work and school and home, it’s tough. But it’s worth it.”

AHEAD faculty member Denise Reed agrees. “You have to have such a determination that you’re going to succeed and do this,” said Reed, “and I’m just so proud of them for all they accomplish in such a short amount of time.” Reed  has taught classes in AHEAD’s Management cohort from the beginning.

AHEAD provides two ways for students to accelerate their studies: credit for prior learning and shorter-length courses.

“I do work full time, so this was the best, quick way to do it,” said Heather Hatfield, who also graduated with the cohort. “You need to be dedicated and focused in order to finish. It is not a traditional class, for sure. It is for those who are committed and wanting that degree.”

Pellissippi State offers several AHEAD programs in the cohort-style format: Computer Accounting, Culinary Arts, and Management, all in the Business Administration major; Industrial Maintenance, in Engineering Technology; the Associate of Science in Teaching; and the A.S. 41-Hour General Education Certificate.

To learn more about AHEAD and other cohort programs, visit www.pstcc.edu/cohorts or call Celeste Evans at (865) 539-7381.

May 10 Pellissippi State graduates began college as high-schoolers

Portrait of a male with buzz cut hair, glasses, and wearing a white polo shirt.As graduates cross the stage May 10 at Pellissippi State Community College’s Commencement ceremony, some of them will have begun classes at the college while they were still high school students.

Jonathan Caylor began taking college classes through Pellissippi State’s Fast Forward Dual Enrollment program as a junior at Hardin Valley Academy.

“Dual enrollment let me get a head start into something I really enjoyed. I could test the waters and see how things were before I fully committed,” he said. “It was really valuable.”

Caylor became a full-time Pellissippi State student in 2010. He graduates with an associate’s degree in Media Technologies, concentrating in Communication Graphics Technology. He also takes away three certificates: Web Design Tools, Accessible Web Design and Mobile Web Design.

Spencer Joy, the college’s Dual Enrollment specialist, said Fast Forward provides many Knox and Blount county high school students the opportunity for an inexpensive jump-start on a postsecondary education.

“It is a huge savings to students,” Joy said. Students can take a dual enrollment class at Pellissippi State for less than $60. Eligible students also may qualify for the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation Dual Enrollment Grant.

“Students who complete dual enrollment courses enter college ahead of others who didn’t start early,” said Joy. “It is also a transitional experience—students get acquainted with registration and what life is like on a college campus. Although still in high school, the vast majority of them succeed as college students, earning A’s and B’s.”

“The high school experience is nothing like the college experience,” said Caylor. “In high school, your hands are held, everything is planned, and everything is sort of in order. College is not exactly that way.

“Getting to do dual enrollment, even just a single class per high school semester, was a taste of college. I could experience the high school classes I had and merge over to this new college lifestyle.”

Following graduation, Caylor plans to seek employment in graphic design, perhaps eventually pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Kelsea Smith started in dual enrollment at Pellissippi State as a way to graduate early from Maryville High School. After graduating from high school, she elected to continue on at Pellissippi State.

“It’s the lowest price around, and it’s a really good college,” she said. “I like the professors and I like the environment: small classes where you get individual help, versus the larger universities and colleges.”

Smith graduates tomorrow with an Associate of Science in Teaching, with an Elementary Education option. Through a partnership between Pellissippi State and Tennessee Technological University, she plans to begin working toward a four-year degree in the fall.

For more information about the Dual Enrollment program, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.

May 2013 graduates invited to celebration breakfast

All Pellissippi State students who are set to graduate next month are invited to celebrate their accomplishments by attending a Graduates’ Breakfast With the President.

Join other graduates and Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. for breakfast refreshments. All breakfasts are 9-10 a.m., and you can choose from the following dates and campus locations:

Wednesday, April 24, Magnolia Avenue Campus, Community Room

Tuesday, April 30, Hardin Valley Campus, Goins Building College Center

Wednesday, May 1, Blount County Campus, Dining Room

Friday, May 3, Division Street Campus, Dining Room

Graduates’ Breakfast With the President is sponsored by the Pellissippi State Alumni Association.

R.S.V.P. to Brooke Pannell, Alumni Relations coordinator, at (865) 539-7275 or alumni@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State to confer record number of degrees at May 10 Commencement

Pellissippi State Community College will once again confer a record number of associate’s degrees when this year’s Commencement program takes place May 10 at the Knoxville Civic Coliseum.

The two-year institution will confer 1,393 associate’s degrees during the ceremony. Approximately 938 students also completed certificates during the academic year. In 2012, another graduation record was broken when 1,166 students were awarded associate’s degrees.

Pellissippi State’s Commencement begins at 7 p.m. The Knoxville Civic Coliseum is located at 500 Howard Baker Jr. Ave.

For additional information regarding the ceremony or Pellissippi State, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State earns top spot in Community College Week’s Top 100 edition

Pellissippi State Community College produced the second largest number of graduates nationally in “Communication Technologies/Technicians and Support Services” in 2010-11, according to Community College Week. The magazine announced the new rankings in June in its annual “Top 100 Associate Degree Producers 2012” edition. The analysis was based on U.S. Department of Education data.

Pellissippi State saw an increase of 29 percent in the number of associate’s degrees awarded in the category between 2009-10 and 2010-11. The college’s communication technologies program is Media Technologies. The college bestowed 81 degrees in Media Technologies in 2010-11, up from 63 the previous academic year.

The Media Technologies degree program offers four cross-disciplinary concentrations: Communication Graphics Technology, Photography, Video Production Technology and Web Technology.

Pellissippi State has five campuses in Knox and Blount counties, including the newest at Strawberry Plains. Fall classes began Aug. 25.

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

First Pellissippi State Culinary Arts class graduates May 4

Kyndall Leach

Lee Garrand, a Pellissippi State Community College Culinary Arts student who is scheduled to graduate this Friday, May 4, has just landed a culinary job at the prestigious Blackberry Farm. The position wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter—he earned it, through hard work and an intense but successful hands-on “interview.”

The 30-year-old student is one of 28 in the first graduating class of Culinary Arts, a collaborative venture between Pellissippi State and the University of Tennessee’s Culinary Arts Institute.

Garrand says he had some stiff competition when he vied for the position at Blackberry Farm. Some applicants came from other states and two had gone to the most prestigious culinary schools in the country, he says. Yet, it was the student from Pellissippi State who apparently impressed those conducting the interview most.

“I had a ‘working interview’ with Josh Feathers, the corporate chef at Blackberry Farm,” Garrand said. The 4,200-acre luxury resort in the Smokies attracts visitors from around the world.

Garrand was tasked with designing an entrée that would appeal to the eye and wow the discriminating palate of Feathers and sous chef Steve Ledbetter.

“There was a time limit, just like the show ‘Chopped,’” Garrand said. “It was 8:40 in the morning, and [Feathers] said he wanted to see a platter by 9:30.”

So the former Marine and law enforcement officer foraged through the restaurant’s walk-in cooler for available ingredients.

“I made a pepper-spiced wild rice and a bone-in poussin [baby chicken] breast with blanched asparagus and a raspberry cream beurre rouge [red butter sauce],” Garrand said. “He loved it.”

Garrand has been at Blackerry Farm since March.

“It’s very busy,” he said. “It’s of the highest quality and highest standards one could expect from a professional five-star restaurant.”

The soon-to-be graduate speaks highly of what he learned at Pellissippi State: “The Culinary Arts program is a great technical experience. It’s extremely informative and absolutely hands-on in preparing you for the professional culinary field.”

Garrand and his classmates spent the last two years sharpening both their kitchen and their business administration skills. Culinary Arts has a “cohort”-style format, so the students went through all the courses together, start to finish. They learned everything from ice carving to pastry, and they each interned at local restaurants and bakeries.

The class graduates with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Culinary Arts. The ceremony is at 7 p.m. at UT’s Thompson-Boling Arena.

Garrand, Kyndall Leach and Tammy Jo Johnson were named the top students.

Leach was a 16-year-old home-schooled high school graduate when she started in Culinary Arts. Now 18, she graduates Friday with a concentration in not only Culinary Arts but also Hospitality. Similar to the joint effort by classmates and sisters Tiffany Haynes and Stephanie Criswell, who just opened Emma Lou Bakery in Oak Ridge, Leach wants to open her own catering business, she hopes with a couple of her fellow students.

“I loved working in the kitchen,” Leach said of her experience. “It was always loud—that’s for sure. We had a good time. It’s like doing something with your friends that everybody loves, creating something together.”

Johnson, 46, already has a position as a hot appetizer chef at The Orangery, an upscale restaurant in Knoxville.

Students who enter Culinary Arts pursue their classroom instruction at the Pellissippi State’s Division Street Campus. Tom Gaddis coordinates Culinary Arts (as well as Hospitality). A two-time graduate of UT’s Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism program, he has a doctorate in human ecology with a concentration in hotel and restaurant administration.

Gaddis received the Tennessee Hospitality Association Award in 2003 and 2008 and the Greater Knoxville Tourism Alliance’s Pauly Award in 2008. He recently was awarded the national Exemplary Leadership in Higher Education Award from the Chair Academy.

Students also spend four hours a day, three days a week, honing their skills in the state-of-the-art laboratory kitchen at UT’s Culinary Institute on Neyland Drive, just two miles away. They are taught by local chefs with American Culinary Federation certifications.

Graduates are certified through the National Restaurant Association in food production and sanitation and can apply to the ACF for certification as Certified Culinarians, the first step toward professional chef certification.

For additional information on Culinary Arts, contact Gaddis at (865) 971-5246 or tfgaddis@pstcc.edu.

Registration is now under way for fall semester. To learn more, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu.

Mother of houseful to graduate with honors from Pellissippi State

Pellissippi State student Brandy Robinson will graduate with honors when she receives an associate’s degree in Teacher Education in May. She takes a moment to pose with her husband, Daniel, and the children. Front row (l-r): Samantha, William, Jacob, D.J. and Emma. Back row: Eli, Brandy, Daniel and Nick.

Two years ago, when Brandy Robinson made up her mind to enroll at Pellissippi State Community College, she knew she would have her work cut out for her.

Certainly, pursuing an education would require late-night studying, test-taking and plenty of focus and perseverance. But those weren’t the half of her concern: at the time, she had two children in elementary school, plus five younger ones who were at home with her every day.

Yet enroll Robinson did. And on May 4, when she walks across the stage at Pellissippi State’s Commencement ceremony, she’ll take away an associate’s degree in Teacher Education and cum laude honors for earning a 3.6 cumulative grade point average.

“I want my kids to know they can do anything they set their minds to,” said Robinson. “If I can do this—go back to school and even be on the dean’s list—then anybody can do it.”

Attending the graduation ceremony will be Robinson’s husband, Daniel, and children Nick, 12; Eli, 8; Samantha, 6; Emma, 3; and quadruplets D.J., Will, and Jake, 5. (The fourth of the quadruplets, Gabriel Noah, died in utero at 20 weeks.)

Robinson, who previously had had an unsatisfactory experience with college, says that as her children grew, so too did her desire to return to school.

Initially, she took online courses at Pellissippi State. Later, she attended classes at the Hardin Valley and Blount County campuses.

“I began classes as my younger children started into preschool and were getting close to school age,” she said. “I tried to time it so that when I finished all the online classes I could, most of my kids would be in school.

“I did most of my studying at night. I learned that sleep was way overrated and coffee was my best friend!”

Robinson recalls how she made the decision of what career she wanted to pursue.

“I didn’t want to just ‘find a job,’” she said. “I wanted a career I could start into and hopefully retire from. I love kids, and being a schoolteacher seems to be the perfect fit for me and my family, especially considering the kids’ schedules.”

Robinson took an education class her very first semester at Pellissippi State, then got real-life experience in a third-grade classroom the beginning of her second year. Of course, that wasn’t her entree into an elementary school classroom—she already had put in scores of hours as a volunteer in her own children’s classes.

“I’ve always been a firm believer that parents should be involved in their kids’ educations,” she said. “By becoming a teacher, I hope to remain active in my own children’s educations and encourage other parents to be involved in their children’s, to enrich the lives of their kids as well as their own lives. After all, learning is a lifelong process.”

This fall Robinson plans to begin working toward a bachelor’s degree in education. The children are older now, but, she says, the juggling hasn’t gotten a whole lot easier: “We are on the go year-round, since the oldest six kids rotate through football, cheerleading, basketball, baseball and softball.”

Making her journey toward a four-year degree a lot easier is a partnership between Pellissippi State and Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. The agreement allows education students to earn a bachelor’s from TTU, yet remain at Pellissippi State’s campus to attend classes.

“I have loved being back in school,” Robinson said. “I feel like I’ve really connected with my professors and peers at Pellissippi State. It seems as though my professors really want all of their students to succeed, and one of my best friends is someone I met last semester in chemistry.”

For more information about Pellissippi State’s Teacher Education program, call (865) 694-6400 or visit www.pstcc.edu. This year’s Commencement ceremony is at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena, beginning at 7 p.m.

Pellissippi State’s Nursing program graduates first class

Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise, at left, congratulates Kelly Nelson, recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Award in Nursing. Nelson is one of 29 members of the college's first Nursing class graduating May 4.

Commencement is just days away for Pellissippi State Community College’s first class of Nursing students.

Since the start of the program in fall 2010, students have balanced lectures, labs and clinical rotations each semester while preparing for the rigorous test that licenses and enables registered nurses to practice: the NCLEX-RN exam.

The students’ growth has impressed Pellissippi State’s dean of Nursing, Larry Goins.

“To see the confidence as they grow in this nursing program is just wonderful,” said Goins, a nursing educator of 20 years.

Most of the upcoming graduates are “non-traditional”—they range in age from 21-56. Theirs is a diverse group overall, says Goins. Most are parents, and one is a grandparent. Three students have bachelor’s degrees, one has a master’s, and several have other health-care certifications or licensures. Career changers are not uncommon in this group.

A trend is under way in the nursing profession: an increasing number of men are committed to working in the demanding profession. Of the 29 students in the college’s first graduating class, seven are male.

Kelly Nelson is the premier recipient of Pellissippi State’s Outstanding Graduate in Nursing Award.

Nelson, a 55-year-old retired firefighter and paramedic, started taking classes part time at the Hardin Valley Campus about four years ago. He moved to Vonore from Tucson, Ariz., after a 30-year career with the Tucson Fire Department.

A lifelong learner, Nelson already has associate’s degrees in fire science, paramedicine and liberal arts from Pima Community College. He also taught fire science as an adjunct faculty member for 15 years at Pima. He likes math and science, so he enrolled first in anatomy and physiology at Pellissippi State.

“After I took classes for probably a couple of semesters,” he said, “it just seemed like I was taking all the prerequisite courses for the Nursing program, and that was right up my alley because of my medical background in the fire department.

“It seemed like a good fit. My wife is a nurse, and I’ve got a daughter-in-law who is a nurse.”

When Pellissippi State announced the approval of the program in September 2009, Nelson decided to apply. There are nine nursing schools in the Knoxville area, but he applied only to Pellissippi State and says it has worked out great.

“I would have to say, as a group, I was concerned that I was going to be the oldest. I’m certainly one of the oldest,” he said. “The group is an older group, a lot of life experience and different careers and backgrounds.

“There are a couple of young people, but I think mostly it’s more experienced people—a diverse group, I would say, a very capable group, an enjoyable group of people.”

There are two sites for the Nursing program at Pellissippi State: the Magnolia Avenue Campus and the Blount County Campus. Both have state-of-the-art simulation laboratories. Every semester, students combine classroom lectures, lab work and clinical rotations.

The Nursing program arranged clinical rotations at 22 sites in eight counties for the first class. The variety gives students experience in a number of settings, with patients in rural and urban areas. Striking that balance prepares them to meet a range of needs and improves the students’ prospects for employment.

Pellissippi State admitted a group of 40 students for the first class. Twenty-nine are anticipated to take part in a private pinning ceremony at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 3, at the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the Hardin Valley Campus and in the Commencement ceremony at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena the next day at 7 p.m.

“That gives us a 73 percent rate of retention, which is really good for nursing,” said Goins. “Usually it’s about 50 percent for a nursing class.”

The next class begins fall semester, and it will be larger. Goins anticipates an incoming class of 60 students.

Learn more about Pellissippi State Community College’s Nursing program at www.pstcc.edu/departments/nursing or (865) 694-6400.