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.