Pellissippi State Community College invites the community to welcome two new campus deans who have weathered both a pandemic and a ransomware attack since their start dates.
The college will hold a Meet and Greet with Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Stella Bridgeman at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 18, on the Magnolia Avenue Campus, 1610 Magnolia Ave., Knoxville. RSVP by Friday, Feb. 11, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The college will hold a Meet and Greet with Blount County Campus Dean Priscilla Duenkel at 9 a.m. Friday, Feb. 25, on the Blount County Campus, 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Friendsville. RSVP by Friday, Feb. 18, to email@example.com.
Both Meet and Greet events will be followed by short programs at 9:30 a.m.
“I am very excited to welcome Deans Bridgeman and Duenkel to Pellissippi State,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Rushton Johnson. “Their experience and professional backgrounds are a good fit for the college, and I am confident that they will make significant and meaningful contributions to the strategic work of Pellissippi State in student success for years to come.”
Bridgeman joined Pellissippi State on Dec. 1, 2021. A native of Roane County and three-time graduate of Tennessee Tech University, Bridgeman’s 20-year career in higher education includes being an academic advisor in the College of Education at Tennessee Tech, assistant director of the Student Success Center at the University of Tennessee and, most recently, director of First-Year Programs at the University of Tennessee.
“Being a campus dean, we cross several lines: academic affairs, student affairs. We have to be knowledgeable about everything from recruitment to retention and graduation and everything in between while putting that all together for our campus’ students,” Bridgeman said. “Student success is important to me, and being a campus dean allows me to compile everything I’ve done in my career in higher education, at both Tennessee Tech and UT, and use all those different skill sets in one position, and that’s exciting.”
Bridgeman already felt she had “a whole little family” at Pellissippi State, she added, having worked with Pellissippi State leaders, including Division Street Campus Dean Esther Dyer, on a joint program with UT. She was only on board five days before Pellissippi State experienced a ransomware attack during finals week.
“I was able to learn a lot about Pellissippi State in a short amount of time because I jumped in to work Virtual Student Services in the aftermath of the cyberattack,” Bridgeman noted. “The best part was talking with students.
“I particularly enjoy working with first-year students, especially those who don’t have a major in mind because their minds are wide open to all the possibilities,” she added. “I was a first-generation college student, and what I realize is that you don’t know what you don’t know. I like helping students understand their strengths so that they can explore different avenues. I want them to feel comfortable coming in and talking with me. I know that having support provides the space to make great things happen.”
Bridgeman’s goals for Magnolia Avenue Campus include growing enrollment, providing resources for students and continuing to bolster community connections. She already forged a new partnership with Knoxville Utilities Board, which held a two-day career fair on the Magnolia Avenue Campus in January.
Duenkel joined Pellissippi State on Sept. 1, 2020, when the college was still primarily working and learning from home due to the pandemic. A native of Sweetwater and a graduate of Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., and McKendree University in Illinois, Duenkel most recently served as assistant director for Student Success at Roane State Community College, where she was accountable for the supervision and performance of 15 success coaches as well as advised students in academic course selection, financial aid and career counseling. She previously worked at Tennessee Tech and King University.
“I have a passion for first-generation students,” said Duenkel, who found her calling in higher education while working as a resident chaplain at Lee University. “That’s why I wanted to transition to community colleges.”
Duenkel’s goals as Blount County Campus dean include fostering community on campus, making sure all the resources provided to students on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus also are available to students who attend classes on the Blount County Campus and increasing diversity.
“I want to create an environment here so that students want to be on campus and spend time here, not just come here for their classes and leave,” she said.
Despite starting her new job during a pandemic when most of her interaction with colleagues and students was virtual, Duenkel said her transition to Pellissippi State has been a good one.
“I worked across the street from the Hardin Valley Campus for six years when I was with King University, and I did a lot during that time with King’s Admissions team,” she noted. “I knew Pellissippi State was an inviting community.”
With most students back on campus now, Duenkel is busy looking toward the future.
“This is an exciting time for the Blount County Campus, with our new workforce development center opening this year,” she said. “That building will bring lots of opportunities and resources not only to our students, but also to the community – everything from workforce development to our Culinary Arts program.”
For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.