NASA speaker explores outer, inner space at Pellissippi State

A special guest from NASA will help kick off the school year at Pellissippi State Community College on Sept. 6 – and the community is invited.

Johnny F. Stephenson Jr., director of the Office of Strategic Analysis & Communications at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., will speak on “The Journey of Exploration: From Outer Space to Inner Space” as part of Pellissippi State’s annual Convocation ceremony.

The presentation will be held 12:30-1:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 6, in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The event is free to attend.

Stephenson’s NASA career began in 1986, when he joined the student co-op program, working as a systems engineer in Marshall’s Engineering Directorate. After earning a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Alabama in Huntsville in 1987, Stephenson went to work for NASA full time.

Over his career at NASA, Stephenson has served in several capacities at both Marshall and at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C. NASA has bestowed numerous awards on Stephenson, including the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award bestowed by the agency, for excellence in his leadership of the One NASA effort.

Stephenson now leads an organization of 160 civil service and contractor personnel in providing the strategic planning, objective analysis and comprehensive communications to support the policy, program and budget decisions for Marshall Space Flight Center, a field center with an annual budget of approximately $2.4 billion.

Stephenson’s presentation fits perfectly into Pellissippi State’s Common Academic Experience theme of “Inner Space | Outer Space,” which was inspired by the total solar eclipse in August 2017. The Common Academic Experience is a two-year discussion of issues, both in and out of class, around this theme.

Stephenson also is a first-generation college student, which Common Academic Experience co-chairs Will Buck and Allison Scripa felt would resonate with many Pellissippi State students.

“We hope students will be inspired by Johnny’s story and get fired up for the new academic year, while faculty and staff will be reminded of our common purpose to help our students get to where they’re going,” Scripa said. “We may have a future NASA director among our students, and we are an integral part of helping them get situated on that path.”

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or