State and local legislators saw firsthand Friday the kind of experiential learning that is preparing Pellissippi State Community College students to enter the workforce.
“Students are supplementing what they’re learning in the classroom through doing,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., as Business/Hospitality Management and Culinary Arts students hosted Friday morning’s Legislative Breakfast on the Blount County Campus. “Culinary Arts has 100% career placement for students who graduate from the program.”
The event showcased the significance of Pellissippi State’s partnerships with industry. Chef Trevor Stockton, executive chef at RT Lodge in Maryville, helped students duplicate and execute a dish he taught them to make earlier in the semester.
Representatives from Oak Ridge National Laboratory were on hand to commend the new Chemical Radiation Technology pathway that launched in fall 2023. Wise pointed to the work the college has done to create a pipeline of workers with the skills necessary to work in these rapidly growing programs.
“Dr. Kane Barker took the framework of our General Technology degree and made a pathway that meets the needs of our partners at ORNL,” Wise said. “This is truly a partnership, with ORNL providing instructors for the classes where we don’t have faculty in that expertise.”
Fifteen students have declared the Chemical Radiation Technology pathway as their major at Pellissippi State, Barker said, with five students in other pathways also taking the courses in preparation to transfer to four-year universities.
Jon Rowland, on track to become one of the Chemical Radiation Technology pathway’s first graduates in fall 2024, said he has enjoyed the classes taught by ORNL scientists.
“I’ve had tons of support from my teachers, and I can tell they really want us to be successful,” he said.
Clarice Phelps, a nuclear chemist in ORNL’s Isotope Science and Engineering Directorate, praised her teaching opportunity at Pellissippi State and said she’s working to secure student internships at the national lab.
“Experiential learning is about creating real connections for students like Jon and providing opportunities like this for them while they’re at Pellissippi State,” Wise said.
Other highlights Wise shared with legislators Friday include:
- The creation of eight career communities for first-time, full-time freshmen in fall 2023, all of whom also were assigned success coaches, advisors and career mentors as part of Pellissippi State’s Reimagining Community Colleges grant from the Tennessee Board of Regents;
- The successful launch of Pellissippi State Athletics in fall 2023 and the addition of four new sports to the existing lineup in fall 2024; and
- The upcoming 50th anniversary of the college, which opened in September 1974, with some 15 staff and 45 students, many of whom were Vietnam veterans on the GI Bill.
State legislators who attended Friday’s Legislative Breakfast include senators Richard Briggs, Becky Massey and Art Swann and representatives Elaine Davis, Jerome Moon and Bryan Richey. Several of those who serve in Alcoa, Maryville, Blount County and Knox County governments were on hand too, as were representatives from the Tennessee Board of Regents and Tennessee Higher Education Commission.