Project GRAD executive director to speak at Pellissippi State’s Commencement

Vrondelia-ChandlerProject GRAD Knoxville’s executive director, Vrondelia “Ronni” Chandler, is the keynote speaker at Pellissippi State Community College’s Spring Commencement ceremony Saturday, May 9.

Commencement begins at 4 p.m. and takes place at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena. More than 500 students will walk across the stage.

Chandler is both a former employee and an alumna of Pellissippi State. She began working at the college in 1978, just four years after the institution opened its doors at the Division Street Campus. She earned a General Technology/Interdisciplinary degree from Pellissippi State in 1994, then went on to earn a bachelor’s from Tusculum College.

Chandler has worked at Project GRAD Knoxville since 2001, serving first as a program director and now as executive director. Project GRAD Knoxville provides support for students and families, many of them from low-income areas, in 14 Heart of Knoxville schools and 80 higher education institutions. The group’s mission is to positively impact generational change through education.

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

Gov. Bill Haslam to speak at Pellissippi State Commencement

posted in: Commencement, Graduation | 0

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 or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State hosts inaugural fall Commencement Dec. 13

posted in: Graduation | 0

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 or call (865) 694-6400.

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

posted in: AHEAD, Cohorts, Graduation, Students | 0
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 or call Celeste Evans at (865) 539-7381.

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