Former Pellissippi State president J.L. Goins, wife Martha receive TBR award for philanthropy

Martha and J.L. Goins accept the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at their Friendsville home on Dec. 11.
Martha and J.L. Goins accept the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy at their Friendsville home on Dec. 11.

J.L. and Martha Bond Goins were born to parents whose education ended with early elementary school. Neither had the financial support from home to attend college, yet they became lifelong educators who continue to support students during their retirement. 

J.L. Goinsformer president of State Technical Institute at Knoxville — now Pellissippi State Community Collegeand Martha Goins, who worked as a counselor at Oak Ridge High School until her retirement, received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy for 2020 at their Friendsville home Dec. 11. 

The award honors individuals, companies and organizations who go “above and beyond” to donate their resources, finances and personal time to a Tennessee Board of Regents institution. 

Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. nominated the Goinses as “career educators with a focused passion for career and technical education.” 

“J.L. and Martha Goins know first-hand the importance of educational access for a family and a community,” Wise said. “Their passion for career and technical education was evident in their working years and has continued to drive their commitments today.” 

J.L. Goins grew up attending Blount County schools, the middle of seven children in a poor family. 

“As a youngster, I picked and sold blackberries, hoed cantaloupes and watermelons, built fires for the school – just about anything to earn money to help the family,” he explained. “At age 15 and a sophomore at Everett High, I began washing dishes at Blount Memorial and started saving what I could for college. It took a long time at 50 cents an hour!” 

Martha Goins is from rural Campbell County and spent two years in a coal mining camp in Claiborne County. She was put in touch with a Lincoln Memorial University representative who explained she qualified for scholarships, grants and work study. She later transferred to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and was able to graduate early with honors. 

J.L. Goins chose Maryville College because he had no vehicle and could walk to school. At no point did he receive any financial aid. Despite working full time, he went on to become the college’s top graduate in Business Administration and received a $50 savings bond for that honor. 

“I promptly went out and spent $27 on a suit for graduation and job interviews, so when I graduated, I had $13 to my name,” he said. “I never had any help, but I vowed I would help others.” 

Throughout his time in education, J.L. Goins never lost sight of the need for preparation for employment.  

“I saw the need for decent jobs that would mean a decent quality of life,” he said. “Education is America’s equalizer. If you have a relevant education and a willingness to work, you have an equal opportunity for success.” 

But education doesn’t necessarily mean graduating from a four-year college or universityJ.L. Goins stressed. 

“Academia and many parents are in love with the idea that everyone needs a four-year college degree,” he said. “In fact, many jobs in America don’t require that, but need appropriate technical and other related job skills. It is classic mismatch of workforce educational needs.  

J.L. Goins set out to change that. In 1964, hbegan his career in education with Oak Ridge Schools, establishing its first marketing and cooperative education program. Less than two years later, he moved to Chattanooga Public Schools, serving as principal of the system’s adult education center and eventually developing the state’s largest adult education program.  

J.L. Goins went on to become technical education director for a cooperative effort by the Maryville, Alcoa and Blount County school systems. He was recognized by the American Vocational Association as the Southeast’s best. 

In 1981 J.L. Goins was appointed president of State Technical Institute at Knoxville, which evolved to Pellissippi State Technical Community College in 1988. As president, J.L. Goins promoted and supported a wide variety of programs such as fine arts and college transfer classes. During this period, he also oversaw the construction of the Hardin Valley Campus and expanded Pellissippi State into Blount County.  

Before J.L. Goins retired in 1993, Pellissippi State’s enrollment had more than tripled from 2,500 students when he came to State Tech to about 9,000. 

J.L. Goins spent time promoting technical programs in area high schools and making sure those classes articulated to Pellissippi State. He also worked with the University of Tennessee to help fill UT’s pipeline with Pellissippi State students who could transfer to the university as juniors. But he didn’t stop there. 

“The whole focus of my time in education was students,” J.L. Goins said. “As president, I spent as much time supporting economic development as I did supporting the college so that our students would have jobs when they graduated.”

Martha Goins made her mark in education as well. After working as a technician in the Biology Division at Oak Ridge National Lab for almost four years, she began her career in education as a junior high science teacher and later was a counselor at Oak Ridge High School, from which she retired. One of Martha Goins’ goals was to help her students become employable by being prepared for jobs that would be both satisfying and provide economic stability.  

In addition to guiding those students who chose to attend various universities, Martha Goins guided others who went straight into the workforce, those who chose the military and other options. She was recognized locally, regionally and at the state level for her innovating programs. After retiring in 1995, she volunteered for 20 years in Blount County Schools. 

In retirement, the Goinses have continued to support Pellissippi State through consistent and generous donations to the college’s Foundation. 

Pellissippi State’s plans to construct the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on our Blount County Campus fulfill J.L.‘s lifelong dream: a center where high school students, technical education students and community college students can study side-by-side, in pursuit of a credential, a job and a career that can support a family,” Wise said. 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400. 


Pellissippi State Nursing students administer COVID-19 vaccine to frontline medical workers

Pellissippi State students Megan Boyle, Keiara Tate and Yesenia Perez, from left, meet at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center on Saturday, Dec. 19, to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to hospital workers.
Pellissippi State students Megan Boyle, Keiara Tate and Yesenia Perez, from left, volunteer at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center on Saturday, Dec. 19, to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to hospital workers.

Nursing students at Pellissippi State Community College aren’t just watching history unfold as the COVID-19 pandemic continues – they’re taking action to end it. 

Pellissippi State Nursing students started administering the first rounds of a COVID-19 vaccine to frontline workers at Covenant Health hospitals on Saturday. Within five minutes of posting the sign-up sheet Wednesday night, 50 students had volunteered. 

“I immediately let all of the College administration team know what an amazing and wonderful group of young nurses we have in our program,” Nursing Dean Angela Lunsford told students in an email Thursday. “You are part of something historic that you will tell your grandchildren about. You should be very proud! 

Pellissippi State Nursing students Megan Boyle, Yesenia Perez and Keiara Tate administered the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Saturday morning at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville while Stephanie Busby, Autumn Smith and Angela Worley administered the vaccine at LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville. 

“I knew I had to volunteer to be a part of this experience because I wanted to be part of the solution to this problem that has greatly affected not only my family, but the entire world,” said Tate, 27, a former Patient Care Technician in home health care who decided to become a Registered Nurse after her daughter was born. I have had two family members who have passed due to COVID and many others who have been ill due to this virus. I am looking forward to ushering in hope and a cure. 

A vial of COVID-19 vaccine
Pellissippi State Nursing students are administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is being administered to workers at Covenant Health hospitals.

Family experiences also influenced Perez’s decision to study Nursing. 

“Growing up, my mom was always in and out of the hospital, and I saw firsthand the way nurses took care of her – the good experiences and the bad,” said Perez, 20, who works 12 hours a week as a Student Nurse Associate at Parkwest Medical Center in addition to 30 hours a week as a manager at Taco Bell. “I want to be that person who gives back to the community – and being bilingual, I can help (Spanish speaking) people who come into the hospital because I can understand them.” 

Although Pellissippi State students were prepared to draw up the vaccine themselves, Covenant Health had pharmacists on hand at the hospitals Saturday to draw up the medication, which was then put into a cooler.  

Autumn Smith, Angela Worley, & Stephanie Busby at LeConte Medical Center
Pellissippi State Nursing students Stephanie Busby, Autumn Smith and Angela Worley, from left, volunteer to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to workers at LeConte Medical Center on Saturday, Dec. 19.

“They got six syringes (of vaccine) per vial, and we had to get every dose out of the cooler,” Perez explained. “We couldn’t have multiple doses out and lined up. They had to stay a certain temperature.” 

Nursing students injected the vaccine into the deltoid muscle – upper arm – of hospital frontline workers and other staff, including those who work in the cafeteria, housekeeping and maintenance 

“It was very intimidating at first because we were giving the injections to a lot of health care workers who have been doing this for years, and we are just Nursing students,” Perez said, noting the vaccinations moved at a fast pace and they exhausted their supply by 8:15 a.m. Saturday. “But everyone was really nice, and I am amazed we even got the opportunity to help with this historical thing.” 

“The staff at LeConte said they couldn’t thank the students enough, that it would have taken double the time without them there to help,” Lunsford added. 

Pellissippi State Nursing students will continue to help administer the vaccine at Covenant Health facilities daily until Dec. 29, except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, when no vaccination clinics are scheduled. 

Pellissippi State Nursing student Yesenia Perez administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a Fort Sanders employee on Saturday, Dec. 19.
Pellissippi State Nursing student Yesenia Perez administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a Fort Sanders employee on Saturday, Dec. 19.

“The excitement for this vaccine is greater than I expected – so many frontline workers were elated and relieved to be able to get this vaccine,” Tate said. “Having to face COVID every day with just a mask and prayers has left a lot of people just feeling blessed to be here for this opportunity and to see this day. I look forward to my future career as a nurse.” 

Pellissippi State’s Nursing classes are held on the College’s Blount County, Magnolia Avenue and Strawberry Plains campuses. For more information about Pellissippi State’s Nursing program, visit, email or call 865.225.2330 


‘We crushed it!’ Pellissippi State wins statewide food drive for similarly sized community colleges

Pellissippi State volunteers pack and sort donations from Faith Promise to the Pellissippi Pantry on Nov. 20.
Pellissippi State volunteers pack and sort donations from Faith Promise to the Pellissippi Pantry on Nov. 20. This was a socially distanced outdoor event, with volunteers limited to two per hour for safety reasons.

Pellissippi State Community College crushed the (friendly) competition this semester, collecting the equivalent of 31,412 items in College System of Tennessee’s 22nd Annual Food Drive Challenge. 

Pellissippi State was the top institution in its tier during the month-long food drive that ended Dec. 8. 

Students, faculty and staff at Tennessee’s community and technical colleges collected nearly 76,000 food items, including almost $28,000 in cash donations, for food pantries on their campuses and food banks and organizations in their communities. 

This is the second year in a row that Pellissippi State has collected the most food items in its tier, but this years 31,412 items more than doubled last year’s 15,411. 

“COVID-19 obviously has been a big factor,” said Drema Bowers, director of Student Care and Advocacy for Pellissippi State. “We are home more and on social media all the time. People can’t escape seeing food lines. It’s made people more aware of food insecurity.” 

Pellissippi State was helped this year by the Pellissippi State Foundation’s Giving Tuesday campaign. Thanks to matching donors, gifts made to the Foundation and earmarked for the Pellissippi Pantry before and on Dec. 1 were doubled. Because TBR counts each $1 donation as the equivalent of two cans of food, during that time period, $1 equaled four cans of food, Bowers noted. 

“I also think that now that many of us are working from home, we don’t have the cost of our commutes and that $7 or $8 lunch some of us were buying each day,” she added. “Those of us who are still fortunate to have our jobs may have had a little more to give this season.” 

Pellissippi State was further helped by community partners including Church of the Savior, Faith Promise Hardin Valley Church of Christ and the Scarecrow Foundation. These partners not only gave monetary donations to the Pellissippi Pantry, but also contributed boxed and canned items. 

“We are very, very appreciative of all our community partners,” Bowers said. “We crushed it!” 

The Pellissippi Pantry, like other College services, had to adjust its processes this year due to COVID-19, but still has served 70 participants in fall 2020. Participants were able to pick up a five-day supply of groceries once a month during the semester, and those who were unable to come to campus for food distribution were mailed gift cards to grocery stores. 

While all the food collected by Pellissippi State stays with the college to serve Pellissippi Pantry participants, Bowers and her Student Care and Advocacy team also keep students apprised of resources in the community and teach students how to apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. 

For more information about the Pellissippi Pantry, including how you can donate, visit 


Pellissippi State highlights graduates ahead of Friday’s Virtual Commencement

We’re so excited about our Virtual Commencement ceremony this Friday! Please join us on Facebook or YouTube at 7 p.m.  Friday, Dec. 18, to recognize our summer and fall 2020 graduates. 

Well be highlighting some of our 2020 graduates on social media this week to recognize their accomplishments and celebrate their success. Keep an eye out on this page for student spotlights and help us cheer them on as they start the next part of their journeys. Way to go, graduates!  

Tuesday, Dec. 15 – Diana Drye

Diana Drye
Diana Drye didn’t just find support from faculty and staff at Pellissippi State. She also found a passion for helping other college students.

Diana Drye came to Pellissippi State after high school without any goals or direction and soon dropped out. Now, over 10 years later, she is preparing to graduate this week with strong grades and a resume full of achievements. Diana has proven she is #PellissippiStrong while serving as the president of the Student Government Association and the vice president of the National Society of Leadership and Success chapter at Pellissippi State. Not only has Diana achieved academic success, but she has made a lasting impact on countless students during her time at the College. 

The first time Diana attended Pellissippi State, she was not involved in any activities, instead just taking random classes to figure out what I like,” she remembers. When she came back to Pellissippi State the second time, Diana jumped right into student groups and activities, which she believes is the reason she achieved so much at Pellissippi State. “I joined Student Government Association because I saw the needs of the students,” Diana explains. I found that a lot of the students have opinions, but they don’t feel like they can share their needs or concerns. I realized I could be that voice for them.  As SGA president this fallDiana attended Faculty Senate meetings, where she says she felt welcomed and appreciated by every faculty member. They were open to my suggestions and wanted my feedback,” she notes. Professors want to make connections with students.” 

While attending class at the Strawberry Plains Campus, Diana discovered how much she enjoyed being a resource for other college students. “I realized I loved being that rainbow,” says Diana. “I would walk around campus and walk up to students I didn’t know and ask, ‘Hey, how are your classes going?’ And if they said they were having a hard time in math, I would walk them down the hallway and introduce them to the math tutor. I wanted to make them feel comfortable getting help. By working with the staff and faculty at the Strawberry Plains CampusDiana learned all of the resources that Pellissippi State offers so that she could “be the bridge between students and those resources. Through that experience, I’ve found that my passion is helping students get to where they want to be,” Diana says. Now I’m looking into a college resource career.”   

Diana credits her success at Pellissippi State to the support she received from faculty and staff. “They made my experience personable, instead of treating me like just another student,” Diana says. They catered to my personality and my needs. They saw my love for helping other students and pushed me to be able to help them more.”

Students: know your resources and use them,” encourages Diana. “Whether it’s other students and study groups, or reaching out to Counseling Services or Student Engagement and Leadership – all of these resources and activities will really make a huge difference. If you want something, go for it! If you need something, ask for it. If you dream of something, find it. 

Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Brandon England 

Brandon England
Brandon England felt positive energy at Pellissippi State from both his professors and his fellow students.

Brandon came to Pellissippi State because of its welcoming environment and stayed for the positive energy. “I didn’t have anything to worry about when I came to campus,” says Brandon. “Everyone at the College is very down to earth. That support system is really what Pellissippi State has been for me. From the professors to the students, the positive energy on campus is just contagious.” 

Brandon is graduating with a major in Business Administration and will be transferring to University of Tennessee Knoxville next fall. “I started to fall in love with business in high school,” shares Brandon. “I would like to work in high level management or go into commercial law after I go to UT. I’d like to work for a corporation’s law team one day.” 

Brandon found a platform to reach out to new students and make connections through Pellissippi State’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success“It’s always been a nice and loving group,” Brandon shares about the Student Engagement and Leadership team, which includes NSLS. “They are incredibly supportive. I remember during my first few days on campus, the Student Activities Board was always doing something around campus. They were there to make sure you knew where you were going, what you were doing and how to find help. It’s like a big family, and the students here make it inclusive for everybody.” 

Brandon has fond memories of his professors as well. “My favorite memory is when a professor and I decided to pull a prank on the class,” Brandon recalls. “I was given permission to order five pizzas for a review dayMy professor acted like he was mad and about to kick me out of class until he set the pizzas down in front of our classmates. That was when I realized that the professors at Pellissippi State are not just willing to guide us through difficulties, but also want to make it as enjoyable as possible.” 

Brandon experienced lots of support while at Pellissippi State, and he encourages other students to tap into the College’s resources as well. Even though everything’s online and it seems confusing, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors or the Tutoring Center or one of the other support services at Pellissippi State,” says Brandon. “They are very invested in assisting anyone in need of help. They’ll lead you in the right direction. The Tutoring Center was definitely huge for me and made a difference in my grades and success.” 

Thursday, Dec. 17 – Shayna Smith

Shayna Smith with her late brother, Chad
It was Shayna Smith’s late brother, Chad, who encouraged her to give college another shot. This is the last picture taken of them before he passed away in May 2019.

Shayna was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and knew she needed a college education to take the next step toward her career goals. “Getting a degree is a huge milestone,” she shares. “I would love to help people one day, and I know that I have to invest in myself and my education if I ever want to help others.”  

After struggling in high school, Shayna attended Pellissippi State briefly before dropping out. While she tried to figure out what to do next, Shayna moved in with her dad. “I was struggling and didn’t know what to do with my life,” recalls Shayna. “Then I lost my brother suddenly last year. Before Shayna’s brother passed away, he told her to get back into school. He said, ‘You’re a Ferrari and don’t ever forget that,’” Shayna remembers. It’s amazing how words are so powerful, and those words definitely stuck with me. Sometimes we forget our own potential and it takes someone else to remind us of that.” Shayna’s spotlight photo is her with her brother, Chad, on their last family trip together before he passed away in May 2019. 

After Shayna’s dad and brother both encouraged her to give college another shot, she decided to go back to Pellissippi State and earn a degree in Business Administration. She is now working full time as an appraiser with her dad, who runs his own real estate, construction and appraisal business. 

Shayna credits much of her college success to the support she received at Pellissippi State. “It takes a village,” shares ShaynaI love the team-like effort and community at Pellissippi State so muchI could not have done this without the scholarships and support I received.” Shayna connected with Counseling Services, TRiO and the tutoring center, where she received individualized attention and support. “love TRiO and the tutoring center! They’re actually on my Christmas card list!” says Shayna. Having that hands-on learning and somebody to take that extra time with me was exactly what I needed.”  

Although she has faced many challenges along the way, Shayna has persevered and proven that she is #PellissippiStrong. “You can do it,” encourages Shayna. “Anything you put your mind to, you can do it. But it starts with believing in yourself.” 

Friday, Dec. 18: Eustace Muriithi

Eustace in cap and gown with diploma
Eustace Muriithi has built on the diploma in electrical engineering he earned in Kenya by graduating from Pellissippi State with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology.

Eustace has known since grade school that he wanted to have a career in an electrical trade, and he had already received a diploma in electrical engineering in Kenya before coming to Pellissippi State. “I like the construction industry and I enjoy hands-on jobs, so I will eventually look for something that has both,” shares Eustace, who is graduating from Pellissippi State with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology“My goal is to do my best in whatever I do and always be ready to learn.”

During his time at Pellissippi State, Eustace found many ways to stay busy and connect with others. Not only did he hold a workstudy job every semester to pay for his tuition, he was also involved in several important initiatives at the College. Eustacspent four semesters working on the Hardin Valley Campus Garden, which grows organic produce for the Pellissippi Pantry to support those at Pellissippi State who are experiencing food insecurity. He also helped start a recycling program at the college’s Division Street Campus.

Eustace still found the time to work with New Student Orientation, welcoming students and ensuring they got off to a strong start in college, and was a proud member of the International Students Club at Pellissippi State as well. 

Eustace encourages others to stay focused on their dreams. “It doesn’t matter what situation you are currently in,” he shares. “Your persistence will help you achieve your goals.”  

Friday, Dec. 18: Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki

Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki with graduation caps
Longtime friends Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki, from left, are graduating from Pellissippi State together. The trio have been friends since eighth grade. (Photo courtesy: Katie Hannah Photo)

Shireena, Stephanie and Christa have been friends since eighth grade, and today they graduate from Pellissippi State together. Their friendship is definitely #PellissippiStrong!  

“We went through middle school and high school together, and now we’ve just completed our degrees at Pellissippi State together, too,” shares Stephanie. “We said we would be friends through high school and college, and then we all actually ended up at the same college anyway. It was kind of weird, but cool!”

Pellissippi State has been a positive experience for the friends.

“When I got to Pellissippi State, I realized I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” says Stephanie. “I’m kind of sad to be graduating.”  

All three graduates have exciting plans for after graduation, however. Shirenna earned an Associate of Arts degree and plans to further her education in the field of real estate. Stephanie, who graduated with an Associate of Science, is transferring to Tusculum University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and certification to teach grades K-5Christa earned her Associate of Science degree and is transferring to Lincoln Memorial University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 

Congratulations and best wishes to all three of you! 

Pellissippi State professor’s new novel explores race relations in rural Tennessee

Charles Dodd White
Associate Professor Charles Dodd White‘s new novel, “How Fire Runs,” is a literary thriller about what happens when white supremacists try to take over a small town in Tennessee.

Appalachian author Charles Dodd White didn’t have to search for inspiration for his fourth novel, “How Fire Runs.” When it comes to race relations in rural Southern settings, all he had to do was look around. 

“I was just paying attention to America, unfortunately,” said White, an associate professor of English at Pellissippi State Community College. 

“How Fire Runs,” published in October by Ohio University Press, is a literary thriller – a political page turner about what happens when white supremacists try to take over a small town in Tennessee. As residents grapple with their new reality, minor skirmishes escalate and dirty politics, scandals and a cataclysmic chain of violence follows. 

White, who was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame for fiction in 2018, started writing “How Fire Runs” in 2017, after the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to one death and 19 injuries when a self-identified white supremacist deliberately rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. 

White wanted to explore what might happen if white supremacists like those at the Charlottesville rally converged on a rural Tennessee community. 

“How Fire Runs” is marked by action and conflict, with characters both inside and outside of the law. Although a departure from White’s earlier works, the new novel repeats certain themes, including the importance of environment. 

“The book starts with an epigraph from Wendell Berry, noting that how we treat the environment and how we treat people are entwined,” explained White, who lives in Knoxville. “If we look at 2020’s reckoning on race, we can see our tendency to extract and exploit in this country. I am curious about whether we can do better as a people.” 

White knew “How Fire Runs” would be published shortly before the presidential election of 2020, and he believes that the book continues to be relevant. 

“Right-wing populism very clearly shares an ideology with a lot of people who seek power at any cost,” White said. “And those can be more dangerous when they’ve been repudiated or defeated.”  

“How Fire Runs” has been named a 2020 Okra Pick by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, an early spotlight on books that are likely to “go national,” according to the organization.  

To order “How Fire Runs,” visit White’s website,, which includes links to where you can purchase the book online.  


Pellissippi State math students take top honors in Southeast

Jingxing Wang
Jingxing Wang, a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School who is taking dual enrollment classes at Pellissippi State, was the top scoring individual in the Southeast in the 2019-2020 Student Mathematics League competition. (Photo courtesy Jingxing Wang)

Pellissippi State Community College not only finished first in the Southeast in the 2019-2020 Student Mathematics League competition, but also had the top individual in the region — a dual enrolled student who is still in high school. 

Jingxing Wang, a senior at Knoxville Catholic High School, finished first in the Southeast. Wang, who has completed 10 hours of college credit at Pellissippi State, is taking Calculus-Based Physics this fall and is registered for eight hours of classes this spring. 

“I like to do any type of math competitions, and this one was quite similar to the other ones I’ve taken,” said Wang, who is applying to four-year colleges now with his sights set on University of Chicago. “I don’t know what I will do when I grow up, but I really enjoy theoretical physics and cooking. I also want to write a book. 

“He is truly remarkable,” said Spencer Joy, dual enrollment specialist for Pellissippi State. 

Pellissippi State has a tradition of math excellence, having finished first in the Student Mathematics League competition in Tennessee every year since 2009 and having had two other students finish first in the region: Lily Turaski in 2016-2017 and Trevor Sharpe in 2011-2012. 

This is the first time the College has placed first in the Southeast, however. 

“We were 20th nationally, which also is the highest we have been,” said Associate Professor Robert “Bobby” Jackson, who coordinates the annual competition for Pellissippi State. 

“This speaks volumes about our professors and our students,” addeJudy Fethe, interim dean, Mathematics. 

The Student Mathematics League competition is sponsored by the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges and is comprised of two rounds: one in the fall and one in the spring. 

The competition is open to any Pellissippi State student, Jackson explained, and close to 100 students usually participate. Those who compete have one hour to answer as many of the 20 questions as they can. Questions may involve precalculus algebra, trigonometry, synthetic and analytic geometry, and probability. 

“These are very challenging questions,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to answer all 20 questions in one hour.” 

Pellissippi State held the second round of the 2019-2020 competition on March 13, the last day students were on campus due to the pandemic. They tested in the Goins Building Auditorium and another classroom so that they could adhere to social distancing guidelines, Jackson noted. 

The five highest ranking teams, as well as the team and individual champions from each of AMATYC’s eight regions, receive plaques at AMATYC’s annual conference each fall, although this year’s event was held virtually. 

Meanwhile, the 2020-2021 competition has been canceled due to the pandemic. 

With most colleges in remote operation, we do not think it is possible to run the competition,” writes Student Mathematics League Coordinator Steve Hundert in the AMATYC newsletter. “For students looking for a challenge as well as some friendly competition, we will instead be running the AMATYC Online Challenge, which will be comprised of problems from past SML contests.” 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400. 


Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus celebrates 20 years of changing lives

Students gather in the Magnolia Avenue Campus courtyard in pre-pandemic times.
Pellissippi State students gather in the Magnolia Avenue Campus courtyard in pre-pandemic times.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Avenue Campus will celebrate its 20th anniversary in a socially distanced way, in keeping with the challenges of marking milestones during a pandemic. 

The celebration will take place noon-1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, over Zoom. Those who would like to attend should RSVP to or call 865.329.3100 to receive the Zoom link for the event. 

Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman, who has served as dean since the campus opened, will oversee the celebration, which will include speakers sharing what Magnolia Avenue Campus did for them. 

“This was the only east campus (of Pellissippi State) when we opened 20 years ago, and we had the opportunity to serve this community in a way that they had not been served before,” Tillman remembered. “There was a reluctance at first to come inside a college door, but now they had a place in the neighborhood, and we tried to make them feel comfortable.” 

Among the students who have passed through the halls of Magnolia Avenue Campus over the years, one stands out in Tillman’s mind: a nail technician who came into the office 30 minutes into her first college class. Tillman recalled the student telling her, “I can’t do this. I’m too old,” but the Magnolia Avenue Campus staff encouraged her to stick with it.  

That student ended up getting her degree in education. 

That always has stayed with me because she was so devastated that day,” Tillman said. “We have been able to change people’s lives.” 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400. 


Annual holiday concert shifts online during pandemic

Dakota Loo on marimba, Jacob Mincke on bells and Jennifer Vargo on vibraphone perform in the pre-recorded Holiday Spectacular in 2020
Pellissippi State students Dakota Loo on marimba, Jacob Mincke on bells and Jennifer Vargo on vibraphone perform in the pre-recorded Holiday Spectacular concert that will premiere at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 on Facebook and YouTube.

The talented musicians and singers at Pellissippi State Community College know that “the show must go on.” That’s why the College will present its annual Holiday Spectacular concert online this year. 

“Home for the Holidays … Again!” will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, on Pellissippi State’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. 

Those who want to enjoy the concert will not need social media accounts to view the concert, as privacy will be set to “public.”  

Our annual Holiday Spectacular is one of the most well-loved events of the year, so we traditionally perform the show twice in the same night,” said Assistant Professor Meagan Humphreys, music program coordinator for Pellissippi State. “With so many of us working and learning from home this year due to the pandemic, we thought, ‘Why not bring the concert into people’s homes?’ It’s a very 2020 way to kick off the holiday season!” 

This year’s concert will feature Pellissippi State’s jazz band, studio orchestra, percussion ensemble, bluegrass ensemble, guitar ensemble and brass ensemble as well as pieces by the College’s two choirs: Concert Chorale and Variations. 

The eight songs will be a mix of sacred and secular holiday music, from “Away in a Manger” to “Jingle Bell Rock.” 

There is no cost to view the concert, which will feature more than 70 Pellissippi State students. 

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865.694.6400. 


Free webinar highlights Knoxville as major hub for production vision, talent, output

The Pellissippi State Community College Media Technologies program will continue its free webinar series titled “The Art, Science & Impact of Digital Storytelling” on Dec. 1, with a focus on “Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community.” 

The session will take place 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern over Zoom. Registration is open now for professionals, faculty, students and alumni in digital, creative and strategic communications 

“Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community” will focus on the region’s wealth of creative intellectual assets and highlight Knoxville as a major hub of production vision, talent and output.  

The session, which will be moderated by Mary Beth West of Fletcher Marketing PR, will spotlight the future direction and demand for creative and production services. Panelists including Deborah Allen of Catalina Content, Doug Lawyer of the Knoxville Chamber and Joe Richani of Jewelry Television will address how the region can best position itself to grow and adapt to workforce development needs. 

This webinar series is sponsored by The Hive, Bagwell Entertainment and Jupiter Entertainment and will conclude Jan. 22 with “The Media Technologies Workforce Pipeline & 2021 Employer Hiring Priorities.” 

For more information on the webinar series or to register for upcoming sessions, visit


Pellissippi State plans Virtual Commencement for December

Pellissippi State Community College has announced it will not hold an in-person Commencement ceremony in December due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead Pellissippi State’s summer and fall 2020 graduates are invited to participate in a Virtual Commencement, which will premiere at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, on the College’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. 

“Students, we know this has been a challenging time for you, and we are so proud of the strength and dedication you’ve shown throughout the year,” Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. said in a video announcement emailed to students and their families on Monday. “Thank you for being a prime example of what it means to be #PellissippiStrong.” 

While Pellissippi State has only had 31 reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the Tennessee Board of Regents System COVID dashboard, the College continues to conduct most classes and student services virtually out of an abundance of caution. Masks are required for any faculty, staff and students who do report to campus. 

With 303 summer 2020 graduates and 503 graduation applications for fall 2020 already received ahead of this weekend’s deadline, the College’s graduation committee decided a Virtual Commencement would be the safest option. 

To participate in Pellissippi State’s Virtual Commencement, summer 2020 graduates and those students graduating this semester should submit a photo of themselves or a 5-second video of themselves via this form by Sunday, Dec. 6. Only a single file of 100 MB or smaller can be uploaded per graduate. 

Students do not have to wear a cap and gown in their photos to participate in the Virtual Commencement, but those who want to should order their regalia as soon as possible to ensure the cap and gown arrive in time. Students who need financial assistance purchasing regalia should email Beth Correro at and put “Cap and Gown for Graduation” in the subject line. 

Any updates on Virtual Commencement will be posted on the College’s graduation webpage.