Pellissippi State: Industrial Maintenance cohort helps returning students succeed

Portrait of bald male outside wearing a white shirt with the Alcoa building behind himIf Jay Easter had been required to go through registration each semester, thereby facing the possibility of not getting into a required class, he says he would never have graduated from college. He likely would not have even enrolled.

Fortunately, Easter enrolled in the Industrial Maintenance cohort at Pellissippi State Community College. He earned his degree in 2011 and was promoted by his long-time employer last year.

Enrolling in an area that uses the cohort approach—in which students who enter college start and finish together as one dynamic group—gives students the opportunity to take the worry out of planning their college career. Cohort students have a set of classes already mapped out for them. They do not have to be concerned that a required class will be full and, therefore, unavailable.

Once enrolled, students find a lot more to like about being in a cohort. It’s the group component that Easter found particularly beneficial. He says he and fellow students in Industrial Maintenance, one of the concentrations in the Engineering Technology degree program, became a team. They assisted each other with subject matter, study skills and, most important, motivation.

“If I hadn’t gone back to college with a group of like-minded people, I wouldn’t have been able to do it,” he said. “We were so similar—full-time jobs, family concerns, time struggles.

“The few times I thought I couldn’t finish, I kept on going. We didn’t want to let each other down. Being with the same people made getting my degree actually enjoyable. I think I laughed as much in those two years as I did in the past 10.”

Employed by Alcoa, Inc. since 1999, Easter knew that in order to advance further within the management structure, he would have to obtain a degree. He found out about Pellissippi State’s Industrial Maintenance cohort from a coworker.

Easter told his wife that he was going to Pellissippi State to get more information before making any decision, but, to his own surprise, he ended up enrolling on the spot.

“I called my wife and told her, ‘Honey, I think I just enrolled in college,’” he said, laughing. “Pat Riddle [an associate professor and the Industrial Maintenance program coordinator] made it so much easier.

“I had been afraid of going back to school, but the cohort model was appealing. I don’t know if I would have made it through the stresses of a traditional program.” Easter was also the recipient of a scholarship for his studies at Pellissippi State.

Students in the Industrial Maintenance concentration learn about multicraft, industrial machinery maintenance and repair technology. Courses emphasize safety, teamwork, efficient work practices and communication skills, all of which are sought by employers in the industry.

Designed for working professionals, the accelerated Industrial Maintenance cohort classes meet two evenings each week over the course of six semesters. Class size is limited to allow for more in-depth individual and group instruction.

Another of the concentration’s cohorts begins this August, with graduation slated for spring 2015. Upon successful completion, students earn an Associate of Applied Science degree. They are then eligible, if they choose, to transfer to any state university as a junior.

Additional cohorts are also available at Pellissippi State: Associate of Science General Education Certificate, Associate of Science in Teaching, Communication Studies and Culinary Arts. All of these cohorts are now enrolling students for fall 2013. Cohorts available for spring 2014 are Computer Accounting, Culinary Arts and Management.

Pellissippi State’s fall 2013 application deadline is Aug. 14. Classes begin on Aug. 24.

For additional information, visit www.pstcc.edu or call (865) 694-6400.

View a video of Jay Easter’s speech recorded by a friend during the 2011 Cohort Family Night event at Pellissippi State: http://youtu.be/65NbAeIzOcA

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