Student Affairs employees participate in annual Day of Service

Volunteers at Dream CenterPulling weeds, delivering and serving meals, sorting clothing, cleaning and painting — these are just a few of the tasks employees from the Student Affairs division completed over spring break as part of their annual Day of Service.

“It was a reset button,” said Becky Milam, director of New Student Orientation programs. Milam delivered meals to those in need through Mobile Meals.

“It makes you realize there are people in the community who are elderly or disabled who are unable to leave their home easily, who are living in meager circumstances,” Milam said. “This is often their only meal of the day, and you might be the only person they speak to that week.”

She recounted how meal recipients often wanted to speak to her about their past accomplishments and circumstances. Some said they wished they had pursued higher education in order to make themselves more financially prepared.

“They almost want you to understand that their lives were not always like this,” Milam said. “It was a reminder to me to be appreciative; any of us could be in that position.”

This is the second year that the Student Affairs division has spent a day in service to the community over spring break.

“It’s a good thing to do for those in need, it’s good for the college to be a good community partner and it’s good for team building within Student Affairs,” said Rebecca Ashford, vice president of Student Affairs. “But most importantly, it’s not just the organization or the person in need that gets help. Volunteer work changes the volunteer.”

Volunteers from Student Affairs worked at the following agencies: the Gentle Barn, CAC Beardsley Community Farm, the Center for Urban Agriculture at the Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, the Muse Knoxville, Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding, Sunshine Industries-Beta Home, Knoxville Dream Center, Mobile Meals, Knoxville Zoo and Mane Support.

Service-Learning conference will feature national education expert

On Feb. 22, Pellissippi State will host a day-long conference about service-learning and other high-impact education practices. The conference is open to any Pellissippi State employee.

The keynote speaker is Caryn McTighe Musil, who is senior scholar and director of civic learning and democracy initiatives for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Musil is the author of “A Crucible Moment: Civic Learning and Democracy’s Future,” a 2012 national report that advocates for more civic learning and democratic engagement in traditional learning situations. Tennessee Board of Regents is now highly encouraging all faculty to use high-impact practices like service-learning in their courses.

On Feb. 22, Musil will lead the day’s discussion about high-impact practices and their connection to democracy.

More than 2,500 students at Pellissippi State annually report volunteering in the community, either in conjunction with Service-Learning in their courses or as tnAchieves or Tennessee Promise scholarship recipients.

The Feb. 22 professional development conference will also include speakers from tnAchieves, Tennessee Campus Compact (who sponsors the conference along with Volunteer Tennessee) and Tennessee Board of Regents, plus panels of community college faculty from across Tennessee and of Tennessee Promise students.

If you’re interested in attending the free conference, please contact Annie Gray,, by Feb. 12.

Service-Learning hosts Civic Engagement Week

Thursday kicks off a week of celebrations across all five campuses for Civic Engagement Week. Civic Engagement Week 2015, which is celebrated on campuses around the country, launches a year of community service opportunities. The Pellissippi State activities are hosted by the Service-Learning program, and the theme is “Wellness and Sustainable Living in Appalachia.”

The College’s Civic Engagement Week connects with the book chosen for this academic year’s Common Academic Experience, Jeff Biggers’ “The United States of Appalachia.” The week focuses on encouraging East Tennesseans to take good care of themselves and of the environment.

Event locations, dates and times:

Hardin Valley Campus

  • Call2Service — 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10, in the Goins Building College Center and Courtyard. Community partners come to campus to share how students can volunteer throughout the year.
  • 9/11 Day of Remembrance — 9-10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 11, in the Courtyard. The event features a short talk by John Ruppe, a veteran and Pellissippi State security supervisor. The rain location is the College Center.
  • “Boatlift” — 10:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Friday, Sept. 11, in the College Center. A screening of this 9/11 short film, narrated by Tom Hanks, will be shown.
  • “One Year Down the Drain: Turkey Creek” — 11:50 a.m.-12:50 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, in the Goins Building Auditorium. This event features Jason Scott, AmeriCorps project director, of the Knoxville Community Action Committee discussing an exclusive volunteer opportunity to clean waterways in Farragut and create found-objects artwork. Refreshments will be provided.
  • “The Gentle Barn: Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other, and the Planet” — 12:25-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, Goins Building Cafeteria Annex. Refreshments will be provided.
  • Lecture — 2-3 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, College Center
  • Constitution Day, “Freedom Isn’t Free: How Congress Really Works” — 2-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, in the Auditorium. Professor Jake Hamric delivers this faculty lecture. Refreshments and pocket copies of the Constitution will be provided.

Division Street Campus

  • Sustainability Kiosk — 11 a.m.-1 p.m.Thursday, Sept. 10 and 2-4 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, front lobby
  • KAT “Smart Trips” — 8:30-10:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 14, in the front lobby. KAT representatives will discuss “green” transportation options.
  • Call2Service — 8:30-11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the Educational Resources Center
  • Constitution Day — free pocket Constitutions available all day Thursday, Sept. 17, front lobby

Magnolia Avenue Campus

  • Call2Service — 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, in rooms 100 and 109
  • “Community Health Care in Appalachian East Tennessee” — 9:40-10:35 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16. Featuring Rich Connelly and Larry A. Stanifer of Rural Medical Services, Inc., this event is a co-curricular activity of Civic Engagement Week and the Common Academic Experience. 

Strawberry Plains Campus

  • Voter Registration Drive — 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, and noon-2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17, in the Lobby

Contact the site directly to learn about Civic Engagement Week events being offered at the Blount County Campus.

College-hosted VISTA volunteers work to improve community

Pellissippi State has been host to five AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteers this past academic year, and those volunteers have spent months reaching out to community partners in support of food access, environmental stewardship, and community schools. Here’s a little bit about each VISTA volunteer’s service experience:

Nicole Lewis, Great Schools Partnership

“I’ve spent the past few months building bridges between community partners and Pellissippi State students seeking volunteer opportunities,” Lewis said. As part of Great Schools Partnership, Lewis does a good deal of work with community schools, or schools in the Knox County Schools system with an integrated focus on academics, supportive health and social services, and community development to improve learning and strengthen families.

Originally from Virginia, she fell in love with community service while a student at George Mason University.

“I became involved with the campus Habitat for Humanity. It opened my world and I found out that I wanted to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector.” When her year as a VISTA ends in August, Lewis will continue working for the Great Schools Partnership.

Caley Hyatt, Knoxville Permaculture Guild

“At the Knoxville Permaculture Guild,” said Hyatt, “I’ve been planning workshops in the Park Ridge community, where there’s a community garden. We’re helping people there integrate permaculture principles into their neighborhood. We hope it will wake people up to the possibilities of permaculture by focusing our efforts on one community.” Permaculture is an approach to sustainability that has as its core principles care for the earth, care for people and a return of surplus into the ecosystem.

Hyatt, who hails from Bristol, has been in Knoxville since 2011. She’s an RN and has worked at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, but she entered Pellissippi State’s AmeriCorps VISTA program to pursue her passion for community health and food access.

“So many people lack basic access to things like healthy food. I’m really passionate about that. After this year as a VISTA is over, I’d like to go back to school in student ecology, perhaps teach and continue working in the community.”

Elias Attea, University Assisted Community School at Pond Gap Elementary School

“Since the community garden here was founded in 2013,” Attea said, “we’ve strived to integrate the garden with the school’s culture. It’s a lot of work to communicate with school staff, develop programming, recruit and manage volunteers, remember every child’s name, and meet with parents, plus take care of a close-to-a-third-of-an-acre garden. But at the end of the day, I’m excited about what I do.”

This year, Attea has overseen a new initiative in “therapeutic horticulture.” He works with Pond Gap’s school counselor to offer children behavioral opportunities in the garden, providing them a place to recalibrate from the stresses of school.

Attea hopes to stay on at Pond Gap long enough to get the next Pellissippi State VISTA acclimated, then return to his home in the Southwest. He says he might pursue a career in teaching or in horticultural therapy.

Jennifer Hurst, Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee

“I work as a rural liaison, helping expand Second Harvest’s capacity in rural communities to improve emergency food assistance,” said Hurst. “I try to plug in Pellissippi State Service-Learning student volunteers to help with this goal, particularly in a new program called Healthy Harvest, which will distribute produce from Second Harvest’s garden and from local farmers’ markets.”

Hurst has a family tradition of community service: her grandmother served in both AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps, and her mother encouraged Hurst to attend political volunteer events.

“When I was looking for a change in my life, it was only natural to look to AmeriCorps.” Hurst’s plan when her volunteer stint is over? “When my VISTA year is up, I’ll probably go to Disneyland.”

Charlotte Rodina, The Center for Urban Agriculture at Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum

“I’ve spent time organizing volunteer days at the Knoxville Botanical Garden to get healthy food to nearby residents,” Rodina said. “We are located in a food desert, so the gardens are really concerned about food access and being able to get healthy food. Having access to fresh and healthy food is a human right, so I love working with people to help them to grow their own.”

Rodina also will spend time in the coming months at the Hardin Valley Campus establishing a community garden. That vegetable garden will be run by volunteers and will be open to classroom use. Food from the garden will be served in the Cafeteria and also donated.

The Virginia native is a newcomer to Knoxville and formerly worked as a journalist.

The VISTA volunteers are sponsored by Pellissippi State’s Service-Learning program,

Student Affairs spends day in community service


The entire staff of Student Affairs took a day during Spring Break to learn more about Service-Learning at Pellissippi State and to give back to the community.

The division’s 70-plus employees spent March 11 at eight different sites around Knox, Blount and Loudon counties doing community service.

“Because of the expected influx of Tennessee Promise students and as more and more of our other students participate in Service-Learning, I wanted the Student Affairs staff to understand what Service-Learning was and how students go through the program,” said Rebecca Ashford, vice president of Student Affairs.

“I wanted everyone who works in Student Affairs not only to have the chance to give back to the community and spend time with each other, but to understand what the students who come to them for help are going through.”

The group worked at the Blount County Animal Shelter, Knoxville Botanical Garden and Arboretum, Knoxville Zoo, Mobile Meals, SAFTA/Firefly Farms, Second Harvest Food Bank, Shangri-La Therapeutic Academy of Riding (aka STAR), and Volunteer Ministry Center.

“We did everything from pulling weeds to cleaning horse stalls to delivering meals,” Ashford said. “It was a great day.”

Lisa Matthews from Counseling Services spent a rainy morning helping landscapers and working in the greenhouses at the Knoxville Zoo, where she repotted tropical ferns.

“I wasn’t aware how much the Knoxville Zoo relies on volunteers,” she said. “They have a small staff, but they really rely on volunteers to help keep the Zoo running.

“We had a good time. After we finished our work, we were able to go behind the scenes and tour the Turtle House, where we saw a hatchling turtle just emerging from its shell, poking out its little head.”

Matthews says she appreciated the chance to spend time in service to the community. “When I was in undergrad at Lee University, service-learning was very important to me. It was a wonderful new perspective of service now that I’m a staff member at a college.”

Gayle Wood of Access and Diversity spent time with clients of Volunteer Ministry Center and met a former Pellissippi State student there.

“It was awesome to interact with all of the clients of the Volunteer Ministry Center, but especially to meet a former student,” Wood said. “We invited him to come by Pellissippi State to work out his financial needs. We were able to talk to him about financial aid, counseling, academic and career services, and support for adult students. We have a great support system for students just like him.”

As part of Pellissippi State’s 40th anniversary celebrations, all faculty and staff members are encouraged to spend time in community service through the “4 for 40” service opportunities. Visit or for more information.