Three-time Pellissippi State student finds promise in new degrees

Brenda Hale

Brenda Hale has probably experienced a heavier dose of work-world reality than most of Pellissippi State Community College’s 10,000-plus students.

The 54-year-old single mother is attending the college for the third time in nearly four decades, with a firsthand understanding of the fickleness of the economy and of employers’ needs for well-rounded, well-educated employees.

“I’ve been downsized and I’ve been laid off, but I know I can come back to Pellissippi State and update my education if I need to,” Hale said. “Pellissippi State reflects real life.”

Hale first graduated from Pellissippi State in 1980, only four years after the institution opened as State Technical Institute at Knoxville. She graduated with a degree in Construction Engineering Technology and was immediately hired by TVA. She went to work on construction at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, but when that phase of work was completed, TVA laid off the construction team.

So Hale returned to Pellissippi State. She earned a second degree, this time in Computer Integrated Drafting and Design, in 1990. She worked for businesses around East Tennessee using that degree for nearly 20 years — until her position was downsized during the recession in 2008.

“I took some time off then to spend with my son, who was young,” Hale said, “and I went back to work part time. But now my son is older, and I’m looking for full-time work again. Since the recession, the CAD [computer-aided drafting] workers that businesses needed before now need to know new programs, like SolidWorks.”

So Hale once again enrolled at Pellissippi State.

“Pellissippi State is familiar and it’s convenient, and I know that the education I receive here is going to be what employers are looking for. They need people who know how to use SolidWorks, so that’s what Pellissippi State is offering now.”

Hale is now in the Engineering Technology/Mechanical Engineering degree program. She’s also studying additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, while she’s here.

“I love what I do — I love drafting,” Hale said. “I’ve always been interested in houses and building things, and I’ve never been tired of this job. It’s wonderful to see what was manufactured from my drawings. Things like 3D printing are the new iterations of what I do.”

“Technology is pulling everything forward,” said Pat Riddle, program coordinator of Engineering Technology/Mechanical Engineering at Pellissippi State. “Continuing education or training on the job is going to be necessary in many fields in the future, as employees find they have to keep up with changing programs and knowledge.”

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

Single mother returns to school at Pellissippi State to study horticulture

April-Ellis

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 www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

April 18 open house at Pellissippi State for adult learners

posted in: Adult Education, Students | 0

Pellissippi State Community College hosts a special open house for adult learners 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, April 18.

The open house is free and takes place in the College Center of the Goins Administration Building on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. Adult students (those age 24 or older) are invited.

RSVP to attend the open house at www.pstcc.edu/adult.

Participants may bring copies of their transcripts for an informal evaluation of potential college credit. The event also will include information sessions throughout the day:

  • 10:15-11 a.m. and 12:15-1 p.m.—“Affording College as an Adult Learner, Prior Learning Assessment, and Transferring In and Transferring Out”
  • 11:15-noon—Programming for Adult Student Support, a program that supports degree attainment for nontraditional students at Pellissippi State

Additional information about academic departments, services, workforce development, veterans’ services, and access and diversity will be presented as well.

Pellissippi State Community College makes going back to school easier for adult learners by providing unique pathways and services for nontraditional students. The college offers many scholarships and grants for adult students, and additional financial aid is available to students who are eligible. With prior learning assessment, adult learners can receive college credit for experiences ranging from career and military training to volunteer work.

Adult students can take classes at their convenience through online learning and alternative scheduling. Some programs also are offered as cohorts, in which groups of students progress through a degree program together. Created with busy parents and working students in mind, accelerated pathway cohorts allow students go to school part time, yet earn a degree more quickly, thanks to shorter-length courses.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources at (865) 694-6607 or humanresources@pstcc.edu.

Pellissippi State pilot program to target adult learners

posted in: Adult Education, Registration | 0

Adult learners at Pellissippi State Community College will have the opportunity to take part in a pilot mentoring  project designed to enhance student engagement and increase retention rates, thanks to a $40,000 grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents. TBR is the college’s governing body.

The Student Engagement, Retention and Success grant funds a mentoring program for 50 students. The participants will be able to work closely with Pellissippi State faculty and staff to complete an academic plan, attend workshops for personal and academic development, and participate in unique social gatherings. Each participating student also will be paired with a mentor at the college.

“This project will help close the achievement gaps among underrepresented minority, adult and low-income students at Pellissippi State,” said Gayle Wood, director of Access and Diversity.

“It also will help increase the number of adult students currently without a degree that will find there are resources and people available to help them attain a degree, starting with community colleges.”

The program kicks off for students registering for the fall 2014 semester. Registration is going on now.

Each student who takes part in the program and meets federal financial aid guidelines receives a $500 scholarship per academic year. If the pilot is successful, the adult student learner program, Programming for Adult Student Support, will be expanded.

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

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