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Bales-Sherrod named Rising Star by national marketing organization

  • Awards

Lesli Bales-Sherrod, public relations specialist for Pellissippi State Community College, has received the Rising Star award from National Council for Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR) and was celebrated this week at NCMPR’s regional conference in Savannah, Georgia.

The Rising Star award is presented in each of NCMPR’s seven districts to an innovative and progressive professional who has demonstrated special creativity and ability in marketing and public relations and shows evidence of a promising future in the field.

Bales-Sherrod has worked at Pellissippi State and been a member of NCMPR since August 2018. During her three years at Pellissippi State, she has managed not one, but two major crises. The first was handling communications throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, when Pellissippi State closed its campuses and moved all its classes and student services online. She simultaneously found herself in an interim leadership role when her executive director was struck by a car and spent two months in recovery. Bales-Sherrod stepped up, taking part in senior leadership meetings and making recommendations to the college president and Emergency Management Team.

“Lesli does a great job of conveying critical information and telling important stories about Pellissippi State and its community,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “She has quickly become an important part of the Marketing and Communications team and demonstrated an ability to step in and step up in the most challenging of circumstances. We are proud of her and fortunate to have her as an employee.”

Pellissippi State is Bales-Sherrod’s first job in academia. Bales-Sherrod started working for her hometown newspaper, The Standard Banner in Jefferson City, at 16 years old and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in news-editorial journalism from Middle Tennessee State University and her master’s degree in journalism and public affairs from American University in Washington, D.C.

Bales-Sherrod worked as a reporter for 13 years for East Tennessee newspapers including the Knoxville News Sentinel and The Daily Times in Maryville. She also lived in Washington, D.C., for seven years and worked in communications for the federal government, including four years with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement.

“Interviewing people and telling their stories is a privilege, and I’m never short of story ideas at Pellissippi State,” Bales-Sherrod said. “As a first-generation college student myself, I am dedicated to letting people know how higher education can change their lives and how Pellissippi State can help them achieve their dreams. I’m always excited to share the good work our faculty, staff and students are doing.”

Bales-Sherrod was nominated by both Julia Wood, executive director of Marketing and Communications at Pellissippi State, and Carrie Mills, social media and web specialist.

“Lesli’s dedication, leadership and accomplishments have benefited our entire college community, from our students, faculty and staff who read her daily COVID-19 updates to our Marketing and Communications office who relied on her for leadership and direction during a critical time,” wrote Mills in her nomination. “We all have Lesli to thank for creating and fostering an informed and engaged community at a time it was most needed!”

As the district’s winner, Bales-Sherrod is automatically a finalist for the national Rising Star of the Year Award, which will be presented in March 2022 at NCMPR’s national conference in Denver, Colorado.

NCMPR represents marketing and public relations professionals at community and technical colleges, with more than 1,500 members from nearly 550 colleges across the United States and Canada. NCMPR’s district 2 includes community and technical colleges in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and The Bahamas.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit