Pellissippi State: Faculty lecture explores Mary Poppins, Maleficent approaches to teaching

headshot of female“Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, in a most delightful way!”

Unlike the heroine of the 1964 movie, Pellissippi State Community College’s Anne Pharr doesn’t blow into her classroom with an umbrella, but in her early years of teaching English, the assistant professor says she did make use of what she now calls the “Mary Poppins model” to engage students.

Pharr addresses the effectiveness of different teaching styles in an upcoming lecture at the college, “From Mary Poppins to Maleficent: Professorial Persona and Student Perception.” The event is at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.
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“In an attempt to engage my students,” said Pharr, who has been teaching for two decades, “I added a spoonful of sugar to any task that might seem the least bit medicinal (or unpleasant) to my students. After a few years, I began to wonder if this approach to student engagement—putting all the responsibility on the teacher—set students up for long-term success.

“No one wants to be viewed as a Maleficent. But in my lecture, I hope faculty and students can consider this possibility: if an educator’s goal is to truly engage students, not merely entertain them, then temporary discomfort may well be worth it.”

The presentation by Pharr, the first of the 2014-15 Faculty Lecture Series, is free and open to the community.
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The Faculty Lecture Series is one of the many events that make up Pellissippi State’s arts series, The Arts at Pellissippi State. The series brings to the community cultural activities ranging from music and theatre to international celebrations, lectures, and the fine arts. Throughout the next year, the Arts series commemorates Pellissippi State’s 40th anniversary.

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

Pellissippi State students named to summer 2014 dean’s list

posted in: Awards, Dean's List, Students | 0

Pellissippi State Community College has named 39 top students to the summer dean’s list. Students are eligible for inclusion upon completing 12 college-level hours in a semester with a 3.5-4.0 GPA. Pellissippi State honorees:

Julia Allison
Leea Butler
Joan Chamberlain
Dylan Chun
Ryan Clapp
Montana Coward
Jennifer DeFoe
Kelsey Dotson
Kelsey Elam
Morgan Everett
Angela Fields
Gregory Flynn
Sophie Fourniquet
Caroline Gowin
Hannah Hicks
Jessica Hughes
Jean Jamison
Jillian Jeffcoat
Marjorie Kennedy
Viola Kriston
Maddie Kulpa
Abigail Lane
Ahmad Mahmaud
Tim Marcum
Katilyn Mitchell
Robert Neel
Lynsey O’Barr
Dylan Powell
Cody Ricker
Mary Robinson
Joshua Roy
Yvette Satchel
Stephanie Shipp
Katharina Snyder
Edward Warren
Joshua Wilson
Brian Withrow
Kaylee Worsham
Courtney Young

For more information, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State ranks high nationwide in number of communication graduates

posted in: Academics, Awards, TBR | 0

Pellissippi State Community College ranks second in the U.S. among two-year colleges in the number of students who graduated from the institution in 2013 in the communications field.

The rankings are published in the Aug. 18 issue of Community College Week, and the college places high in the category of Top 50 Associate Degrees: Communication Technologies/Technicians and Support Services.

Pellissippi State was the only community college in Tennessee recognized in the category. The college’s ranking rose 9 percent from 2012.
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The institution awarded 93 associate’s degrees in communication/media technologies in the 2012-2013 academic year, only 10 fewer than the top two-year school, the Institute of Production and Recording in Minnesota.

“We are honored to receive this national recognition for the number of graduates we have in this program,” said Ted Lewis, vice president of Academic Affairs. “Our faculty are deeply committed to helping students achieve their academic goals, and I am very proud of the excellent work they do in preparing students for successful careers in media technologies.”

The college offers a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Media Technologies. Students can choose from four concentrations: Communication Graphics Technology, Photography, Video Production Technology and Web Technology.
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Pellissippi State was one of only three Tennessee two- and four-year schools recognized in the Community College Week issue, which records the top 100 associate’s degree producers in 2013 across a variety of disciplines and categories.

Community College Week is published biweekly. It covers community college news and features, analyses of academic trends and issues, statistics, and technology updates.

For more information, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

Pellissippi State faculty members spend summer researching Icelandic geology

posted in: Faculty/Staff, TnCIS | 0
Female with water and island behind.
Kathleen Affholter, a Pellissippi State Community College associate professor of geology, traveled to Iceland over the summer to study the island’s unique geology, including collecting soil and rock samples such as zeolite minerals.

Iceland, a sparsely populated island of glaciers, geysers and volcanoes, is again making international news, with the world waiting to see if the Bárdarbunga volcano will spew more than just lava from its latest eruption. In 2010, an ash cloud from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano closed much of Europe’s air space for nearly a week.
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Iceland’s unique geology drew two Pellissippi State Community College faculty members to the Northern European country for a two-week research trip this summer. The visit was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Kathleen Affholter, an associate professor of geology, traveled throughout Iceland with a research team, collecting soil and rock samples for DNA analysis from an archaeological site, glaciers, and volcanic mountains.

Affholter was joined on the trip by Pete Lemiszki, an adjunct faculty member who also teaches geology. The two traveled to Iceland at the invitation of a computer science professor at Earlham College, Charles Peck, who secured the grants and awards for the trip.

hands holding several rocks

“Geologically speaking, Iceland is very young,” said Affholter. “To paraphrase volcanologist Thor Thordarson, if the Earth is a year old, Iceland was born less than two days ago. The ice caps covered Iceland five hours ago, and they melted only a minute ago.”

According to Affholter, “Iceland is the only place in the world where you can stand on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a ‘divergent plate boundary’—a place where two tectonic plates are separating.” The country, which lies between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans, straddles the ridge.
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The divergent plate boundary, she says, creates volcanic systems, geysers and geothermal energy in the stark, stunning landscape. Iceland is growing, because the shifting of the plates causes molten rock, or magma, to erupt and the new rock that forms pushes the older rock toward the coastlines.

The group of researchers pulled together by Peck included not only Affholter and Lemiszki but also students from Earlham College and the University of California, San Diego. The American team was aided by researchers from the University of Iceland.

The group gathered rocks of varying ages from different locations around the island. Older and newer rocks may differ in a number of ways—in the amounts or types of bacteria they contain, for example—and the group used a university lab in Akureyri to extract DNA from the samples for further study back in the U.S.

While in Iceland, Affholter and one of the students also wrote a brochure about the zeolite minerals found there. The crystals form in holes caused by trapped gas in the country’s basalt rock. Zeolite crystals are unique, in that they can hydrate and dehydrate. Among their other applications, they are used to eliminate odors in diapers.
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The fact that magma is, literally, the bedrock of Iceland presents a unique opportunity for geologic study, and the island is consequently a popular place to visit for geologists as well as other scientists, says Affholter.

“The students and professors on this trip were biologists, geologists and computer scientists,” she said. “It’s important to see how science is no longer compartmentalized. All of our disciplines are needed to do our research.”
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This summer isn’t the first time Affholter has traveled to Iceland. She instructed the geology students on a Tennessee Consortium for International Studies trip there in 2013. TnCIS, which is headquartered at Pellissippi State, coordinates study abroad as part of its mission of boosting international experience and culture in higher education across the state.

For more information about Affholter’s trip, visit her blog, For more information about Pellissippi State and its programs, visit or call (865) 694-6400.

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