Department of Education awards $1.9 million grant to Pellissippi State

posted in: Faculty and Staff, Grants, TBR | 0

The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Pellissippi State Community College a five-year, $1.9 million grant to support student success and engagement through providing comprehensive professional development for faculty.

“Faculty development is often fragmented,” said Kellie Toon, Pellissippi State’s Quality Enhancement Program director and the grant lead. “But a comprehensive professional development program will strengthen our faculty, which will in turn strengthen our students — and that’s what it’s all about.”

The grant will fund a center for teaching excellence that will include pedagogical training programs and other professional development opportunities to teach faculty members the newest and best-practice methods of teaching in meaningful, engaging ways.

“Professional development opportunities through a center for teaching excellence will give faculty the ability to lead change through academics,” Toon said. “Through improved academic quality and teaching, we can strengthen student learning and retention.”

Pellissippi State’s Quality Enhancement Program, “Strong to the Core,” focuses on improving student learning in targeted academic courses, including writing, oral communication and mathematics. Pellissippi State’s QEP was first developed as part of the college’s accreditation renewal process in 2012 through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The QEP continues to support student success and engagement through promoting active learning techniques to faculty members — from a new faculty academy to online training and beyond.

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


Download this press release: Teaching Excellence Grant

Pellissippi State receives Tennessee Promise Forward grant

posted in: Grants, TBR, Tennessee Promise | 0

The Tennessee Higher Education Commission has granted Pellissippi State Community College $144,460 as part of its Tennessee Promise Forward program.

This is the second year Pellissippi State has received a Tennessee Promise Forward grant.

Tennessee Promise Forward began in 2015 with the goal of increasing retention rates among community college students, or the number of students who complete their college education once they’re enrolled. The grants are tied to retention-based services for Tennessee Promise students.

Pellissippi State will use its Tennessee Promise Forward funding to continue an “intrusive advising” model that was piloted last year at the college’s Blount County, Division Street and Hardin Valley campuses.

In an “intrusive advising” model, advisors are in continual communication with students and respond proactively when students are considered at-risk — for example, if their midterm grades are low, or if they miss a certain number of classes. As part of the constant contact model, the Advising Center uses a two-way text messaging platform to reach students in their preferred mode of communication.

“While this text advising portion of this program can be used to provide information and set up appointment times, its greatest advantage is giving students access to someone at their fingertips who can answer college-related questions whenever they arise,” said Rachael Cragle, Pellissippi State’s director of Advising.

“What’s most important is that we’re emphasizing ongoing communication with students throughout the semester, when they need it,” she added.

This year, the text advising program will be expanded to include all of Pellissippi State’s campuses.

During the pilot program last year, Pellissippi State saw more than 50 percent engagement among students through the text messaging program. More than 90 percent of the students who had three or more contacts from their advisor were retained from the fall to spring semester.

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


Download this press release: TN Promise Forward Grant

Alcoa, DENSO grant funds for equipment at Pellissippi State

Alcoa and DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee have awarded Pellissippi State Community College a combined $150,000 for the purchase of new equipment for Engineering Technology students.

Alcoa’s grant of $100,000 will be used to purchase textbooks and advanced programmable logic controllers, which are computers used for industrial automation processes. The $50,000 grant from DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee will be used to purchase Elvis boards and multimeters, which are types of testing and learning equipment for electrical and electronic engineering technology.

The new equipment will be used by students enrolled in the Automated Industrial Systems and Industrial Maintenance Technology concentrations at Pellissippi State. AIS trains students to operate automated manufacturing equipment — including programmable logic controller training systems, robotics and motor training equipment — which are now the industry standard in manufacturing settings. IMT teaches students how to maintain and operate advanced manufacturing equipment.

Funding for these grants goes through the Pellissippi State Foundation. The Foundation also provides scholarships and emergency loans to students, improves facilities and secures new equipment for the college.

For more information about the Foundation, visit or call 865-694-6528. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.


Download this press release: AIS Equipment Grants

Pellissippi State to participate in total solar eclipse experiment in 2017

posted in: Academics, Grants, Students, TBR | 0

Pellissippi State Community College is one of 55 educational institutions across the United States that will participate in a high-altitude ballooning experiment — sponsored by NASA — during next year’s total solar eclipse.

The total solar eclipse will move from the West Coast to the East Coast throughout the day of Aug. 21. The moon’s shadow will come between earth and the sun at approximately 2 p.m. in East Tennessee. It’s the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in the U.S. since 1918.

Pellissippi State will launch a high altitude balloon to gather data and conduct experiments during the two-minute window of the total eclipse. Video from the balloon of the eclipse will be streamed live to NASA’s website.

“This is an amazing learning opportunity,” said Lynn Klett, instructor in Engineering and Media Technologies, and a faculty advisor to Pellissippi State’s high altitude ballooning team. “The last total solar eclipse was years ago, so we have the opportunity to learn a lot about what happens during an eclipse. But high altitude ballooning has its own challenges that require critical thinking and problem-solving, whether you’re flying during a solar eclipse or not.”

As an example of those challenges, Pellissippi State’s balloon must be within the proper altitude range — 60,000 to 100,000 feet — precisely during the two-minute window of the total eclipse. The scientific equipment within the payload must be able to withstand temperatures of -60 degrees Celsius and survive a controlled fall from approximately 100,000 feet in space.

And that’s just the beginning.

Jerry Sherrod, associate professor in Business and Computer Technology, and this project’s other faculty advisor, is working with predictive software to determine where the payload is likely to land.

“East Tennessee has geographic challenges when it comes to predicting where a 12-pound payload on a small parachute will land,” Sherrod said. “We don’t want the equipment to land in a lake or in the national park where it may be impossible to retrieve, or where the scientific equipment will be lost or damaged.”

Klett and Sherrod will be working with the students on the high altitude ballooning team — as well as students in their classes — not only to discuss the project, but to design experiments, improve the payload structure and create predictive algorithms for the device’s retrieval.

“This is an accessible project to the STEM field,” student Sarah Graham said. “Everyone can understand a solar eclipse because it’s a real, visible phenomenon. It’s a great way to learn about physics and engineering in a less intimidating way.”

Pellissippi State’s high-altitude ballooning team will spend the next year improving the payload structure and conducting test launches, as well as working with predictive software to improve retrieval. The team also has the chance to create additional experiments, so long as they add less than two pounds to the payload, to include in the launch next year.

The high altitude ballooning effort is being funded through the NASA Science Mission Directorate and the Tennessee Space Grant Consortium. Pellissippi State is one of only three colleges in Tennessee that are participating in the NASA-sponsored effort.

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


Download this press release: Solar Eclipse Experiment

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