Pellissippi State offers free GED prep amid increasing state standards

Pellissippi State Community College’s Adult Education program offers free classes for the General Educational Development exam, a test adults might want to take sooner rather than later.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Adult Education division is preparing for major changes to the GED test to take effect in 2014.

“We encourage eligible Tennesseans who have not earned their GED to do so now,” said Commissioner Karla Davis. “Beginning January 1, 2014, the GED test will cost more, must be taken on a computer and will contain significant content changes.”

Pellissippi State’s free program offers small class sizes, individualized tutoring and computer tutorials.

“Our program will work with you toward a brighter future—whether it is to become employed, find a better job, or enroll in a training program or postsecondary education,” said Joan Newman, director of Academic Testing and Adult Education at Pellissippi State.

The GED test is undergoing its biggest overhaul since the credentialing test began in 1942. The revised test will measure knowledge and core skills that more closely reflect common core state standards, which is the body of information young people are expected to learn in school and need for success in college and the workforce.

The 2014 test will be more rigorous in general and requires higher-level math proficiency. As before, the new GED test covers these subject areas: writing, reading, science, social studies and math.

Pellissippi State’s GED preparation is available both day and evening hours at several locations throughout Knoxville. Enrollment is open to everyone, and classes are taught by small-group or one-on-one instruction.

Pellissippi State also offers a free practice test that, according to Newman, provides a reliable predictor of actual GED scores.

To find out more or to sign up, call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State named Military Friendly School by G.I. Jobs magazine

Pellissippi State Community College serves one of the largest veteran populations of any Tennessee community college, and the institution does it with distinction, according to G.I. Jobs magazine.

The publishers of G.I. Jobs selected Pellissippi State for inclusion on the 2012 list of Military Friendly Schools in the fall. The list honors the 20 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools that are doing the most to embrace the country’s service members and veterans as students.

“I was very pleased with the recognition from G.I. Jobs magazine, in part because of the work and the support systems that we had put into place for these students,” said Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise.

“I think part of it is just being intentional, understanding that this particular population of students does have specific needs and concerns, and making sure, as an institution, we’ve found a means of addressing those.”

The 1,518 colleges, universities and trade schools on the list prioritize the recruitment of students with military experience. The schools offer scholarships and discounts, veterans’ clubs, full-time staff, military credit, and other support for those who served.

Pellissippi State’s recent initiatives to improve veterans’ services took shape out of a working group that began three years ago. Rebecca Ashford, vice president of Student Affairs, leads the group.

Ashford says the group’s first step was to create a brochure for veterans attending or considering attending Pellissippi State. The brochure lists services such as admissions, financial aid, advising, and veterans’ assistance, as well as disability and personal and career counseling. There are phone numbers and email addresses for staff in each department. Having points of contact was important for veterans, the group learned from a survey of Pellissippi State students.

The college offers an assortment of educational assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Last year, 512 students received VA benefits, says Sharon Shastid, a financial aid coordinator and the college’s VA certifying official. That number represents 5 percent of the institution’s student population and includes veterans, service members, and their dependents.

Applying for benefits can be a lengthy process, so the college initiated early advising to ensure that veterans’ tuition funds arrived in time for the start of classes. At Pellissippi State’s Student Assistance Center, staff members Rachael Cragle and Ben Sugg give priority access to service members, veterans, and their dependents.

That approach eased National Guard member Mohammed Amran’s transition into school. Amran, a member of the 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Knoxville, began taking classes at Pellissippi State when he transferred from another National Guard unit.

“When I registered, they worked with me because I’d just moved to Tennessee due to the change of station,” said Amran, an accounting student. “They were able to work with me on in-state tuition because of that, so I thought that was nice. Of course, you have a veteran representative there, Sharon Shastid—she’s wonderful—and Ben Sugg.

“They have been very helpful throughout. I see them every semester and they’ve been very on top of everything.”

Amran says his teachers, too, have been supportive.

“The teachers, there are times when I had [National Guard] training that went over on Monday or started on Friday; they were very accommodating,” he said.

Those kinds of support are why Pellissippi State made the “military-friendly” list.

“I think it’s also the attitude,” said Kathy Douthat, a Pellissippi State counselor. “It’s being willing to go the extra mile for people who have put themselves on the line for us.”

Beyond supportive faculty and staff, Pellissippi State also provides its service members and veterans with recognition through special events—the “Conflict Zone” photography exhibit in conjunction with Memorial Day, the Remembrance Day Roll Call on Nov. 11—as well as with organizations like the Student Veterans Association. In addition, staff, faculty and the administration are offered training through webinars and conferences about veterans’ issues.

Learn more about the veterans’ assistance at Pellissippi State by visiting or calling (865) 694-6405.

Pellissippi State hosts French sports exchange students for 14th year

Pellissippi State exchange students experience water based sports on the beaches of France.

One of the things 23-year-old Marie Laure Lesigne loved most this spring was getting the opportunity to experience wakeboarding on Fort Loudon Lake. Lesigne is one of 10 French students who traveled to Pellissippi State Community College in April to get a taste of American life.

This year marked the 14th time Pellissippi State has hosted the Sports Exchange program with the Institut Universitaire de Technologie, a two-year technical school in Cherbourg, on the northwest coast of France.

The French students spent 10 days getting to know the area and the people. They stayed in the homes of Pellissippi State students and participated alongside them in a variety of sports: golf, rowing, racquetball, karate, fencing, archery, tennis, volleyball, weight lifting. Besides wakeboarding on the lake, the guests took in the Dixie Stampede, rappelled at Look Rock, whitewater rafted on the Ocoee River and danced at Cotton Eyed Joe.

“One of the main goals was for them to interact with our students and see American life firsthand, not just what they see in the movies,” said Cathy Clay. Clay is an associate professor of Physical Education at Pellissippi State and coordinator of the student exchange.

“The French students have done a lot of things they’ve never gotten to do before. We’re the same way when we go to France—getting to do things at the beach that we don’t normally do, like sailing three different sizes of boats, surfing and scuba diving, and other water and land activities.”

The exchange program between the two colleges was started by Allen Edwards, former Pellissippi State president, and the tradition continues with the support of the current president, L. Anthony Wise Jr.

Over time, the mission has remained the same, as has much of the program, but many of the French students who visited this year were older than in years past, according to Clay.

“They came with more life experience behind them, and we had 100 percent participation in every activity,” she said.

On May 4, just a couple of weeks after the visitors returned to France, the “exchange” part of the program took place. Pellissippi State students flew to Paris and took a train to Cherbourg, where they were greeted at the station by their French counterparts.

Like their French guests, the American students stayed in the homes of their Cherbourg “amis,” except during a visit to Paris. In addition to trying new outdoor activities, they visited Mont Saint-Michel and the beaches where the Allied invasion occurred in World War II in Normandy, as well as most of the major tourist attractions in Paris.

The Pellissippi State students earn 3 credit hours in Physical Education on successful completion of the exchange, and the credit transfers to most colleges as a special topics course, Clay says.

To find out more about the Sports Exchange program or Pellissippi State, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State educator honored with state teaching award

Nancy Pevey, associate professor of Mathematics at Pellissippi State, is the recipient of the Teaching Excellence Award, presented by the Tennessee Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges.

Nancy Pevey still uses a document camera in her classroom. She admits to telling some “pretty corny” math jokes. She makes errors while working sample math problems for her students—usually on purpose.

Pevey, an associate professor of Mathematics at Pellissippi State Community College, has a stockpile of low-tech tricks stashed up her sleeve, all of them used to make math easier for her students to learn. Those techniques are some of the reasons she recently was recognized with a statewide education honor: the Teaching Excellence Award, presented by the Tennessee Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges.

Pevey, originally from Starkville, Miss., has been teaching math full time at Pellissippi State since 2000. She also has taught middle- and high-schoolers, and she was a teacher at Bearden and Northwest junior high schools before the Knoxville–Knox County system consolidated.

For the veteran faculty member, making math easier for her students to learn is all about interaction. That’s why Pevey chooses to work math problems by hand on the document camera, a modernized overhead projector. Though she certainly has access to newer tools such as PowerPoint presentations, she believes they just can’t replace the give-and-take of talking through a math solution with her students.

“Writing out the math problems on the document camera makes it fresh every time,” said Pevey. “I like to do more than just hit the ‘go’ button. If I happen to think of a better example that addresses a student’s question, I can write it out as soon as I think of it.

“I’d call my classes ‘interactive lectures.’ Students solve the math problems as we talk together about what’s going on.”

But why introduce mistakes?

“I make them to help show the students how they might have easily gotten a wrong answer,” Pevey said. “Of course, every so often I make a mistake by mistake. We can all learn from that, too.”

Telling math jokes, she says, is a tool she uses to help her students more readily remember math formulas and rules.

“A corny joke or story gives students a memory hook,” said Pevey. “Math concepts are easier to remember with a story.”

The TMATYC Teaching Excellence Award is bestowed every two years. This year’s TMATYC conference took place in Chattanooga, with 24 faculty attending from Pellissippi State.

For additional information about the college, call (865) 694-6400 or visit

Pellissippi State Foundation: Local business executive, wife donate $1 million for Strawberry Plains campus

Randy Boyd, president and CEO of PetSafe, and his wife, Jenny, have donated $1 million to the Foundation of Pellissippi State Community College toward the purchase of the college’s new Strawberry Plains Campus. The facility, located just off of I-40 and Strawberry Plains Pike, is set to begin offering classes this fall.

Randy Boyd, who served as the two-year institution’s 2011 Commencement speaker, says he and Jenny made the contribution to the East Knox County site because they saw the potential to re-purpose a long-unused facility and to improve access to educational opportunities for thousands of students.

“Through my involvement with tnAchieves [a college-access scholarship program], we learned what an incredible asset Pellissippi State is to our community,” he said.

“By expanding the college’s facilities and making access to higher education more convenient to those in East Knoxville, we should be able to make college more likely for tnAchieves students, and for people of all ages, in that area.”

The Boyds say their hope is that the donation will not only allow more students to further their education but also encourage others in the community to support the expansion of educational opportunities.

Pellissippi State acquired the former Philips Consumer Electronics’ East Tennessee headquarters earlier this year in order to broaden access to the college’s many programs and to work toward the fulfillment of the goals of the Complete College Tennessee Act.

A Tennessee state program that funded community college capital projects contributed $8.5 million toward the $10 million purchase price. The Pellissippi State Foundation, which raises money to benefit students, paid the remainder using the contributions of the Boyds and other private donors.

The donation from Randy and Jenny Boyd plays a major role in Pellissippi State’s ability to increase its reach throughout the area. L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State, expressed gratitude for the couple’s contribution on behalf of the entire college.

“Supporters like Randy and Jenny make it possible to expand access to our programs in East Knox County, as we work toward increasing success at the college as a whole,” said Wise. “The number of potential collaborative opportunities with business and industry and other educational institutions has increased significantly with this new campus.”

The Strawberry Plains Campus is located on 32.6 acres and boasts a 223,000-square-foot facility. Philips constructed the building in 1980, a project that took two years, then completed a major renovation and remodel in 2002.

The facility, which has been vacant since 2006 when Philips moved out, has open office space, gathering areas, private offices, a full-service cafeteria and kitchen, a theater-style presentation room, a warehouse area with loading dock, and a design wing once used by company engineers.

PetSafe, whose headquarters are in Knoxville, develops pet behavior, containment, lifestyle product solutions and services.

The purchase of the Strawberry Plains Campus, located at 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, gives Pellissippi State a total of five locations. The Hardin Valley Campus is located in West Knox County. The Division Street and Magnolia Avenue campuses are located in Knoxville as well. The Blount County Campus is at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Pkwy. (U.S. 321).

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

Pellissippi State schedules orientation sessions for new students

If you’ll be a new student at Pellissippi State Community College when fall semester begins August 25, mark your calendar to attend one of the college’s free New Student Orientation sessions.

Attendance is required of all first-time degree-seeking freshmen, and it is recommended for transfer students and those who have been out of school for a while.

New students may choose from one of 27 sessions, the first of which is June 8. Orientation is offered at different times and dates at each of the college’s five campuses: Blount County, Division Street, Hardin Valley, Magnolia Avenue and Strawberry Plains. Special sessions are scheduled for tnAchieves students (first-generation college-goers participating in the tnAchieves program), for nontraditional students (25 years and older), and for parents and family members of students.

This year’s theme for New Student Orientation is “Determination, Participation and Graduation.”

“We’re focusing on graduation as an outcome,” said Becky Milam, NSO director. “We know that students are more focused when they get involved. And people need to be determined to set goals and maintain balance while in school. NSO can help with all of those areas.”

Orientation gives new students the opportunity to meet Pellissippi State students, faculty, and staff; learn strategies for college success; explore degree, major, and transfer options; and discover campus services and resources such as financial aid.

The college urges accepted students to reserve their place in an orientation session as soon as possible.

Visit or call (865) 694-6400 to make your reservation. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

Pellissippi State marks Memorial Day with rare photographic exhibit

Two years ago some of the world’s most celebrated combat photographers decided to pool their work for “Conflict Zone,” a collection of images from the front lines of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pellissippi State Community College hosts this acclaimed exhibit May 23-31 in recognition of Memorial Day, which is May 28. The photographs will be on display in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art gallery, and there is no charge.

“Conflict Zone” is a project of the Independence Fund, founded by Steve Danyluk, a U.S. combat veteran and Marine. The all-volunteer Independence Fund is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “provide the tools, therapies and guidance that those severely injured in the War on Terror were otherwise not receiving.” The exhibit first opened at the Chicago Cultural Center on May 7, 2011.

“Conflict Zone” was inspired by Joao Silva, a New York Times photographer who lost both legs after stepping on a land mine in October 2010 in Afghanistan. The images he took in the seconds after stepping on the mine are included in the collection.

The display is dedicated to Chris Hondros, a Getty Images photographer who died on assignment in Libya in April 2011. Hondros’ iconic image of a 5-year-old girl at an Iraqi checkpoint after her parents were shot by U.S. soldiers is included in “Conflict Zone,” along with Ayman Oghanna’s photograph of the girl six years later, done for The New York Times and published in May 2011.

The Bagwell Center is on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. Exhibit hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays or by appointment.

For additional information, call (865) 694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action at (865) 694-6607 or

For photos and multimedia of this exhibit please visit:

Pellissippi State’s Hospitality coordinator receives international leadership award

Tom Gaddis, who coordinates Hospitality at Pellissippi State, was recently bestowed the Idahlynn Karre International Exemplary Leadership Award.

Tom Gaddis, who coordinates the Hospitality concentration at Pellissippi State Community College, has been named a 2012 recipient of the Idahlynn Karre International Exemplary Leadership Award.

The award, presented by the Chair Academy, recognizes leaders in post-secondary institutions worldwide who have modeled “best practices” in advancing academic and administrative leadership development.

Gaddis, who has served in his current role at Pellissippi State since 1997, is highly regarded within the hospitality industry. He was recognized in 2003 and 2008 as the Hospitality Educator of the Year by the Tennessee Hotel and Lodging Association as part of their Stars of the Industry award program.

Also a professor at the college, Gaddis has been instrumental in the development and implementation of Pellissippi State’s concentration in Culinary Arts. Like Hospitality, Culinary Arts culminates in an Associate of Applied Science in the Business Administration degree program.

The Culinary Arts concentration was first offered at Pellissippi State in 2010 and represents a collaboration with the Culinary Institute at the University of Tennessee. Students enrolled in the culinary classes learn hands-on skills in a state-of-the-art laboratory/kitchen at UT’s Culinary Institute on Neyland Drive. They take classroom courses at Pellissippi State’s Division Street Campus, two miles away.

Gaddis joins educational professionals from around the world as a recipient of the Chair Academy’s Idahlynn Karre International Exemplary Leadership Award. The Chair Academy, founded in 1992, offers leadership development for college and university leaders. This year’s award recipients were honored during the organization’s 21st Annual International Conference, which took place in March in Atlanta.

For more information about the Hospitality and Culinary Arts concentrations at Pellissippi State, call (865) 694-6400 or visit

Registration is currently under way for the fall semester. Classes begin August 25.

Pellissippi State names head of Division Street Campus

Esther Dyer has been chosen to be the new assistant dean of the Division Street Campus of Pellissippi State Community College.

“She brings experience to the position in both education and business,” said Pellissippi State President Anthony Wise. “We are fortunate to have someone of her caliber to lead the Division Street Campus.”

Dyer was most recently the associate dean of Knoxville’s ITT Technical Institute. A native of Morgan County, she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Tennessee and a master’s in organization development from Central Washington University.

Her experience as an educator includes teaching at virtually every academic level, elementary through college, as well as managing day-to-day operations in a postsecondary school setting. From the business perspective, she has significant experience in process improvement facilitation, conflict resolution, management coaching, strategic planning and team skills training.

Dyer says she looks forward to working with the employees of the Division Street Campus.

“I find the faculty and staff at Division Street to be family- and team-oriented and, specifically, focused on caring for and supporting the students in their various endeavors,” she said. “I want to be an integral part of maintaining that learning atmosphere and contributing to the ongoing growth at the campus.”

The Division Street Campus was home to 1,700 students fall 2011 semester. Pellissippi State also has four other campuses: Hardin Valley, Blount County, Magnolia Avenue and Strawberry Plains.

Learn more about Pellissippi State by visiting or calling (865) 694-6400.

Engineering Tech students install Pellissippi State’s first solar panel array

Pellissippi State Engineering Technology students Jeff Station (left) and Anthony Hudson install solar panels on the Hardin Valley Campus’ McWherter Building as a class project earlier this semester.

As Ken Swayne’s students tightened the screws on the new solar panels, they also strengthened Pellissippi State Community College’s investment in alternative energy education.

Swayne, a professor of Electrical Engineering in the Engineering Technology degree program, pooled the talents of two of his classes this semester in order to install the first-ever solar panel array at Pellissippi State.

His Applied Electricity class wired the six panels to an inverter located in a classroom in the McWherter Building on the Hardin Valley Campus. Then the Photovoltaics Alternative Energy class installed brackets and the solar panels on the roof of the building. The panels are expected to produce 324 watts of electrical energy under peak sun conditions.

Both classes then worked in a frigid wind on the rooftop to put the finishing touches on installing the solar panel array.

“The system will be a great learning tool for our technology students,” said Swayne. “I am very grateful to the college for supporting this project. I believe any contribution toward green energy production and training is a plus for Pellissippi State and the Knoxville community.”

Last year the college installed electric vehicle charging stations on its Hardin Valley and Blount County campuses. Pellissippi State earned the 2010 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award for its collegewide sustainability and environmental efforts.

William Draney, a 28-year-old Electrical Engineering student at Pellissippi State, says he was first drawn to the idea of solar energy during Swayne’s campuswide lecture on photovoltaics last year.

“I wanted to know how to put solar panels on my own house,” he said. “Plus, I had been an electrician for five years and wanted to see if solar panel installation would be a good thing to get into on the side.”

Pellissippi State offers many green courses, both in the classroom and online. Among them are Photovoltaic System Design and Installation, Green Building for Contractors, and classes for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.

For more information, contact the college’s Business and Community Services Division at (865) 539-7167. To learn more about Pellissippi State’s Engineering Technology programs, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State Community College, Knoxville, TN