Pellissippi State plans outdoor in-person Commencement ceremonies

Eustace in cap and gown with diploma
Eustace Muriithi built on the diploma in electrical engineering he earned in Kenya by graduating from Pellissippi State with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology in December 2020.

Pellissippi State Community College will celebrate its 2020 and 2021 graduates in a series of smaller, outdoor Commencement ceremonies this May. 

The college has not held an in-person Commencement since December 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Eight separate ceremonies, capped at 85 graduates and two guests per graduate, are planned for Thursday-Saturday, May 13-15. Each ceremony will take place in the Hardin Valley Campus Courtyard, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. 

All Commencement ceremonies will be livestreamed to allow family and friends who cannot attend in person to celebrate with graduates.   

Students who graduated at any point during 2020 are welcome to join ceremonies at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13. 

Those Pellissippi State students graduating in spring 2021 with Associate of Arts, Associate of Fine Arts, Associate of Science or Associate of Science in Teaching degrees – typically those students who transfer to four-year institutions – may choose to participate in ceremonies at 1, 4 or 7 p.m. on Friday, May 14. 

Those Pellissippi State students graduating in spring 2021 with Associate of Applied Science degrees – the two-year career programs to prepare students to enter the workforce – will be celebrated on Saturday, May 15, with Nursing students at 10 a.m., Engineering and Media Technology students at 1 p.m. and Business and Computer Technology students at 4 p.m. 

“It is well understood that students may not be able to attend the ceremony for which they are scheduled due to personal or family obligations,” said Dean of Students Travis Loveday. “In that case, 2021 graduates may attend any ceremony that has openings. 

Registration for all ceremonies opened at 8 a.m. Friday, April 16, on Eventbrite, and registration is not only for those graduating. Faculty, staff and guests should register for the ceremony they plan to attend, as all seats are reserved on a first come, first served basis: 

In the event of inclement weather, ceremonies and graduates will move inside to the Clayton Performing Arts Center. While social distancing guidelines would prevent guests from joining graduates in the CPAC, guests would be able to view a live stream of the ceremonies from the Goins Administration Building. 

For more information about when to check in for the ceremonies, where to enter campus and park, and what graduates and guests will need to do to follow Pellissippi State’s COVID-19 safety protocols, visit www.pstcc.edu/graduation 

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Pellissippi State to reopen vaccination clinic Friday, April 23

A young man receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Pellissippi State's Blount County Campus
A young man receives a COVID-19 vaccine on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus on Friday, April 9, the first day the drive-thru vaccination clinic was open.

Pellissippi State Community College will reopen its drive-thru vaccination clinic on its Blount County Campus Friday, April 23, with the Moderna vaccine instead of Janssen/Johnson & Johnson. 

The clinic will be closed this weekend as the College prepares for the shift to a different vaccine. Those who had appointments scheduled for Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17, are being notified by Pellissippi State staff. 

Pellissippi State staff waited to cancel this weekend’s vaccination clinic appointments until after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which provides guidance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, met Wednesday afternoon to discuss data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  

The committee delayed a decision Wednesday, continuing the hold on the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine for at least 10 more days to allow further review. 

Because the Moderna vaccine requires two shots spaced four weeks apart, Pellissippi State is retooling its appointment software to allow for this changeFor more information about the College’s vaccination clinic, including a link to register when the software is updated, visit www.pstcc.edu/vaccine. 

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Pellissippi State moves annual student art exhibition online, faculty featured in downtown gallery 

Charcoal drawing of skeleton
Pellissippi State student Rebeca Ortiz‘s charcoal drawing Macabre Royalty is Best in Show at this year’s Juried Student Art Exhibition.

Those who never have made it out to Pellissippi State Community College for an art exhibition have a unique opportunity to view a variety of works from the comfort of their own home this year. 

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Pellissippi State is offering its Annual Juried Student Art Exhibition online through May 3. This is the first time the exhibition has been held virtually. 

Art Professor Jennifer Brickey built the exhibition in Microsoft Sway, which allows viewers to see the student works as a slideshow, with the ability to choose whether the works stay on screen anywhere between 3 and 60 seconds. Viewers also can take the exhibit off loop and click through the works manually. 

The options are visible to viewers by moving the computer’s cursor or mouse to the lower righthand corner of the screen. 

“This annual exhibition exemplifies the hard work of both the students and the Art faculty,” Brickey said. “This exhibition is even more unique because it demonstrates the hard work and perseverance of both our Art faculty and students during one of the most trying years. I am very proud of this exhibition. It is truly a testament to the strength of the Art department. 

Any Pellissippi State student who had an Art class during the last two years was welcome to apply for the exhibition. The works were chosen this year by Pellissippi State’s Art faculty: Professor Brickey, Professor Jeff Lockett, Associate Professor Caroline Covington and Professor Herb Rieth. 

Thirty-one works were selected for this year’s exhibition. Rebeca Ortiz was awarded Best in Show and $500 for her charcoal drawing Macabre Royalty. As is the tradition, the winning artwork was purchased by Pellissippi State for its permanent collection that is displayed on campus. 

While Pellissippi State Art students have their works displayed online this year, all four Pellissippi State Art faculty have works on exhibit at the UT Downtown Gallery through April 30. 

Lockett, Covington, Rieth and Brickey are featured in Community of Eight with full-time Art faculty from Roane State and Walters State community colleges. 

“Pellissippi State and University of Tennessee Art faculty have always had a strong partnership, and both institutions play a significant role in cultivating the next generation of artists in our region,” said Covington, who serves as the Art program coordinator for Pellissippi State. “The Community of Eight exhibition demonstrates that we’re not just faculty — we’re also working artists. The skills we teach are integral to our own artistic practices, and I am so grateful to be a part of a show that showcases all of those skills in one place.” 

The UT Downtown Gallery is a contemporary art gallery exhibiting professional work through funding and support from the University of Tennessee. The gallery is located at 106 S. Gay Street, and all events are free and open to the public. Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. 

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Pellissippi State honors 2021 Distinguished Alumni this Friday 

Headshot of Vivian Underwood Shipe
Join Pellissippi State and presenting sponsor FirstBank this Friday in honoring Vivian Underwood Shipe as the College’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award winner.

Coming off the most challenging year Pellissippi State Community College has faced in its 47-year history, who better to recognize than an alumna who is helping educate and vaccinate at-risk populations during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Vivian Underwood Shipe, class of 1991, will be honored Friday by the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation at Pellissippi Strong: A Virtual Celebration. The free event, 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. online, is open to the public and includes door prizes, networking and an exclusive Q&A with Allison Page, president of Magnolia Network, the joint venture between Discovery Inc. and Chip and Joanna Gaines’ home and lifestyle brand. 

Presenting sponsor FirstBank will present Shipe with Pellissippi State’s 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award, which highlights an outstanding graduate in recognition of significant professional achievement and service to the community. 

“FirstBank is happy to partner with Pellissippi State to support the great work this school is doing in our community,” said Brent Ball, Knoxville market president for FirstBank. “As a longtime resident of East Tennessee, I know how important Pellissippi State is to the residents of this area, and we are proud to support their alumni and students’ success.” 

Shipe, who earned her associate degree in Marketing from Pellissippi State at 41, has stayed active in the community since retiring from the U.S. Postal Service in 2018 after 35 years of service. She is founder and chief executive officer of I AM the Voice of the Voiceless, a nonprofit dedicated to providing education and resources for vulnerable populations, as well as a founding member of Faith Leaders Health Initiative and the state’s pre-arrest diversion task force. 

Shipe also serves on the boards of the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee, Elder Abuse Task Force of Knoxville/Knox County, Knoxville Community Health Fair and many other community organizations. 

“Vivian Shipe is a strong advocate and champion for people often marginalized,” writes Vrondelia (Ronni) Chandler, executive director of Project GRAD Knoxville, in nominating Shipe for the award. “Vivian firmly believes we are only as great as the least of us. She lives by two scriptures: Proverbs 19:17 and Matthew 25:40, ‘The King will say to them, I assure you that to the extent you did it for the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for Me.’” 

Shipe is most proud of four recent projects: 

  • her collaborative work with other organizations in the development of a Safety Center as a jail alternative for the mentally ill,  
  • the successful passing of a $15 million state budget addition for prearrest diversion for the mentally ill,  
  • the shutdown of a nursing home charged with elder abuse and  
  • her ongoing work with the Faith Leaders initiative in the fight to educate and vaccinate during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I believe in building relationships and communicating,” Shipe said. I try to bring out the best in everyone I meet and help them to develop or use their talents to help others. 

Whether helping create warming centers in area businesses and churches to protect the homeless in frigid temperatures to working with A21 to fight human trafficking, Shipe is a champion for Knoxville. 

As an advocate I speak at the local and state level for the most vulnerable, voiceless and those who fear retaliation,” Shipe said. I work to bring together those who need with those who have. 

Join Pellissippi State and presenting sponsor FirstBank on Friday in celebrating Shipe and her many contributions to the community. Register here for the virtual event, which will begin with networking at 11:45 a.m. and will wrap up by 12:45 p.m. 

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Nashville-based FirstBank, a wholly owned subsidiary of FB Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK), is the third largest Tennessee-headquartered bank, with 81 full-service bank branches across Tennessee, South Central Kentucky, North Alabama and North Georgia, and a national mortgage business with offices across the Southeast. The bank serves five of the major metropolitan markets in Tennessee and, with approximately $11.2 billion in total assets, has the resources to provide a comprehensive variety of financial services and products. 

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Pellissippi State pauses vaccination clinic while Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine on hold

Pellissippi State Community College is pausing operations at its Blount County Campus drive-thru vaccination clinic because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have recommended a hold on the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine for now. 

College staff will be contacting those who have made appointments to receive their vaccinations this Friday and Saturday. 

Pellissippi State is in contact with the Tennessee Department of Health and is awaiting further guidance as the CDC and FDA review data involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. 

In the meantime, College staff is exploring alternate solutions to moving forward with operating the drive-thru vaccination clinic that opened April 9. Pellissippi State vaccinated 190 individuals on Friday and 179 on Saturday. 

Pellissippi State presents play ‘Love and Information,’ streaming online this weekend

A graphic promoting Love and Information, a streaming play
Fifteen Pellissippi State students will portray more than 100 characters in “Love and Information” online this weekend. The play will be streaming April 16-18 on the College’s YouTube channel.

See Pellissippi State Community College Theatre students stretch themselves to new lengths this weekend, as a cast of 15 actors plays more than 100 different characters in Caryl Churchill‘s “Love and Information.” 

The play will be streamed on Pellissippi State’s YouTube channel Friday-Sunday, April 16-18. 

Although the play is free to enjoy, you must obtain a ticket on this website to receive a link via email. 

Love and Information” is a play of many moments — fragments — of peoples’ lives as they pursue the desire for love and the subsequent need for information often connected to that love.  

In a series of seven segments of seven scenes, plus more than a score of random moments, we see characters searching to make sense of the world and their place in it. They struggle with what they know, what they wish they knew, what they don’t know and what they wish they didn’t know.  

“Love and Information” takes the audience on a nonlinear journey of the fears, hopes and desires we experience as we go about our daily lives in this crazy world. 

“Love and Information” is directed by Associate Professor Grechen Lynne Wingerter and stage managed by Katie Campbell DollarEthan Turbyfill is assistant director while Savannah Avignone, Christian Perryman and Lindsey Strange are assistant stage managers. 

Cast members include Catherine Blevins, Tony Cedeño, Tarrin Chambers, Ariana Dotson, Aaron Fuchs, Tonya Fulmer, Steven McBride, Darien McKee, Rylee Norling, Daniel Rickman, Sidney Scarlett, Hannah Sloas, Derrick Washington Jr., Wingerter and Derrik Wright. 

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President of Discovery’s new Magnolia Network headlines Pellissippi State celebration

Headshot of Allison Page
Allison Page, president of Discovery Inc.’s new Magnolia Network, will headline Pellissippi Strong: A Virtual Celebration on April 16.

Join Pellissippi State Community College for a free virtual event featuring a Q&A with the president of Magnolia Network, the joint venture between Discovery Inc. and Chip and Joanna Gaines’ home and lifestyle brand. 

Pellissippi Strong: A Virtual Celebration will be held 11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Friday, April 16, and also will feature door prizes, networking and the college’s annual alumni awards. Registration is free and open to the public. 

The virtual celebration represents a transition from our former Alumni & Friends luncheon to a new event encompassing all individuals in the community that have a vested interest in the success of the college and its students,” said Aneisa Rolen, executive director of the Pellissippi State Community College Foundation. We are focused on sharing the stories that bring our Pellissippi State mantra start strong, stay strong and finish strong to life. Next year, we hope to fully launch the redesigned event in person. 

The celebration, presented by FirstBank, will be held on Lunchpool, which allows participants to video chat around virtual tables for face-to-face networking if they choose. Participants also may choose to keep their cameras off, if they prefer. 

At noon, media sponsor WATE-TV’s Tearsa Smith will kick off the event with a Q&A with Allison Page of the Magnolia Network. The former president of HGTV and Food Network, Page joined Food Network in 2001 and spent many years developing primetime series for Rachael Ray, Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri. Her efforts were key to Food Network’s record-breaking, double-digit, ratings growth and instrumental in the successful launch of Cooking Channel in 2010. 

She later served as general manager of HGTV, DIY Network, Great American Country and Travel Channel. Under her leadership, series such as Fixer Upper, Flip or Flop and Brother vs. Brother garnered record ratings for HGTV.  

Allison Page’s story of launching a new network during a pandemic is the perfect way to kick-off a conversation about how you start strong,’” Rolen said. Overcoming adversity takes determination and a clear vision of success. I look forward to hearing more about Allison’s leadership and lessons learned during this challenging time. 

Following the Q&A, Pellissippi State will present the College’s annual alumni awards. The Distinguished Alumni Award, announced by FirstBank, highlights an outstanding graduate in recognition of significant professional achievement and service to the community, while the Peggy Wilson Volunteer Alumni Award, sponsored and announced by Discovery Inc., highlights an outstanding graduate in recognition of extraordinary service to the Pellissippi State community. 

For more information about the event, including sponsorship opportunities, visit https://sites.pstcc.edu/foundation/pellissippistrong 

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Pellissippi State professor honored for eLearning experience

Sociology Professor Margaret Choka has been recognized for her years of experience teaching online classes for Pellissippi State Community College.
Sociology Professor Margaret Choka has been recognized for her 20 years of experience teaching distance education classes for Pellissippi State Community College and the Tennessee Board of Regents’ TN cCampus.

A Pellissippi State Community College professor who was an early adopter of technology in the classroom recently was named a 2020 Distinguished eLearning Educator by the Instructional Technology Council. 

Professor Margaret Chokawho has been a full-time sociology professor at Pellissippi State since 1988, was one of only nine distance educators nationwide honored at the council’s annual conference March 24. 

“I started teaching online with a dial-up modem,” said Choka, who has been teaching distance education since 2001. “We have come a long way!” 

As a sociologist, Choka realized early on that distance education is a tool that can be used to reach the older coal mining and farming communities in Tennessee. In 1999, Choka began educating herself on the principles of distance education, computer technology and the then-emerging World Wide Web. She read journals, attended conferences and sought advice from the college’s information technology staff. She explored how technology could be used to supplement sociology classes and help students master their learning objectives. 

“Dr. Choka is an extraordinary educator who cares about equal access to quality higher education, particularly for the underserved nontraditional working students of Knoxville and surrounding rural counties of Appalachia,” Adjunct Instructor Marion Orrick writes in nominating Choka for the award. 

Choka started with a complimentary webpage for her courses. She worked tirelessly with textbook publishers to access free, online supplemental materials and fought for instructor resources in the classroom as well as student use of computer labs. She mastered learning management systems, designed courses, trained other instructors, created student skills assessments and online training videos, collaborated with other departments and linked students with tutors and librarians. 

Choka now has served as both the lead course developer for Pellissippi State and for the Tennessee Board of Regents’ TN eCampus since 2001. 

“As more students have begun to rely on smartphone technology to access online coursework, Dr. Choka continues to educate herself on how best to meet student needs in higher education, ensuring that the newest and most effective design techniques are incorporated into the online courses,” Orrick writes. We are fortunate to have an outstanding eLearning instructor like Dr. Choka who, over the course of 20 years, conquered the technology of the 21st century and used it to improve higher education rates in Tennessee. 

Choka lists many things she likes about teaching online – from designing dynamic courses to providing an atmosphere of collaboration and socialization for studentsfrom creating engaging activities using current “hot topics” to encouraging students to use “sociological imagination” to see a bigger picture of the society they’re studying. 

Underpinning it all, she says, is a strong compassion for students’ success and well-being. 

“Dr. Choka is an outstanding faculty member, and I’m glad she’s being recognized for her dedication to supporting student learning,” said Kane Barker, dean of Natural and Behavioral Sciences at Pellissippi State. 

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Pellissippi State hosts vaccination clinic on Blount County Campus

Drivers should enter and exit Pellissippi State's Blount County Campus via South Old Grey Ridge Road for their COVID-19 vaccinations.
This map shows how those who make appointments to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at Pellissippi State Community College will enter and exit the Blount County Campus via S. Old Grey Ridge Road.

Pellissippi State Community College is excited to announce that the college’s Blount County Campus will host a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for the community starting April 9. 

The clinic will be open for appointments 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays until the end of July, with the possibility of adding Tuesdays as well after spring 2021 classes end in May.  

Pellissippi State will offer the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is one dose only. There is no charge for the vaccine, but you must be 18 years old to receive this vaccine.  

Visit www.pstcc.edu/vaccine to make an appointment to receive the vaccine at Pellissippi StateTo speed up your appointment, please fill out and print the screening form in advance. Paper copies also will be available onsite 

Your total time on campus will be around 30 minutes to allow for check-in, vaccination administration and a 15-minute observation time following the shot. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible to help keep wait times to a minimum. 

Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus is located at 2731 W. Alexander Parkway, Friendsville. For more information, including a map of how the clinic will be set up in the campus’ parking lot, visit www.pstcc.edu/vaccine. 

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Engage little ones with activities led by Pellissippi State Early Childhood Education students

Pellissippi State Early Childhood Education student surrounded by children
Pellissippi State’s Early Childhood Education faculty and students are spearheading a week of activities April 12-16, celebrating the the Week of the Young Child.

Pellissippi State Community College Early Childhood Education faculty and students invite those who care for young children – whether at home or at a place of business – to participate in activities April 12-16 in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Week of the Young Child. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most activities will be offered virtually this year. 

“This is community based,” said Associate Professor Hope Denny, program coordinator for Early Childhood Education. “We will be sending out our lesson plans to local child care facilities, but they also are open to anyone who wants to participate.” 

Each day has a theme, explained Assistant Professor Elizabeth Kelly: 

  • Music Monday, April 12: Pellissippi State’s Early Childhood Education students will demonstrate via video how to create handmade musical instruments with materials that are easy to find around your house; children are invited to join a “virtual band performance” with their handmade musical instruments at 10 a.m. on Zoom; 
  • Tasty Tuesday, April 13: Students will demonstrate via video healthy snack recipes to make with children while Knox Association for Children’s Early Education representatives will share nutritional information; 
  • Work Together Wednesday, April 14: Pellissippi State’s Early Childhood Education faculty will create a storytelling chain on Facebook while KACEE will teach how to pull together a “prop box” with items to encourage imaginative play; 
  • Artsy Thursday, April 15: Pellissippi State will display murals made by children throughout the area for a drive-through art show on the College’s Hardin Valley Campus; those who come by may choose to contribute to a large chalk art mural on site and/or stay and picnic with their families by the pond in circles that will be marked to maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing; and 
  • Family Friday, April 16: Families will have two opportunities to participate in virtual scavenger hunts with their children, searching for items in their house that fulfill instructions such as, “Find me something that is red” and “Find me something that you might eat with.”  

“This gives us an opportunity to take our activities outside the classroom to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Week of the Young Child,” Denny said, noting events are being programmed by Pellissippi State students in Early Childhood Curriculum, Safe and Healthy Learning Environments, and Family Dynamics and Community Involvement classes. “Our goal is to get the word out about our Early Childhood Education program while also engaging the larger community. We want to have a presence in leading early childhood education efforts locally.” 

Those who would like to participate in the Week of the Young Child activities should follow Pellissippi State’s Early Childhood Education on Facebook or Instagram or email eced@pstcc.edu. 

For more information about Pellissippi State’s Early Childhood Education program, one of the programs that will move this fall into the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the Hardin Valley Campus, visit www.pstcc.edu/eced. 

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