Pellissippi State welcomes displaced Virginia College students

Pellissippi State Community College wants to help Virginia College students displaced by that institution’s closing.

Education Corporation of America campuses including Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America and Virginia College will discontinue operations in December 2018, according to the ECA website.

“We understand this can feel like an insurmountable setback to Virginia College students, and we invite them to contact us to see if one of our career programs or transfer programs are right for them,” said Leigh Anne Touzeau, assistant vice president for Enrollment Services.

Pellissippi State’s 14 career programs result in associate degrees that prepare students to enter the workforce in high-demand, competitive fields including computer information technology, electrical engineering technology, engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology and media technologies.

Pellissippi State also offers transfer programs that allow students to get started in their field of choice, earn an associate degree and then transfer seamlessly to a four-year institution.

A full list of Pellissippi State programs is available at

Virginia College students may be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, Touzeau added. This last-dollar scholarship for adults covers college tuition and mandatory fees that aren’t paid for through other state and federal financial aid.

Adult learners qualify for Tennessee Reconnect if they:

  • Do not have an associate or bachelor degree;
  • Have been a Tennessee resident since Aug. 1, 2017;
  • Complete the 2018-19 FAFSA;
  • Are designated as an “independent” on the FAFSA;
  • Attend and complete courses at least as a part-time student, taking a minimum of six credit hours per semester; and
  • Complete the TN Reconnect application at

“Our goal here at Pellissippi State is to help students start strong, stay strong and finish strong,” Touzeau said. “We know this is a scary time for Virginia College students, and we would love to help them continue their educational journey.”

The Admissions office is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, visit one of our campuses; check out, where Live Chat is available for those with questions; email or call 865.694.6400.

Feel at ‘Home for the Holidays’ at Pellissippi State’s annual holiday concert

Performance from Pellissippi State's Faculty & Staff Choir at the 2017 Holiday Spectacular.
Performance from Pellissippi State’s Faculty & Staff Choir at the 2017 Holiday Spectacular.

Three choirs and six instrumental ensembles will transport audiences “Home for the Holidays” at Pellissippi State Community College’s annual Holiday Spectacular.

There will be two performances of the hugely popular Holiday Spectacular: 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6. Both performances will be held in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

Tickets are free and available at the door on a first come, first served basis.

“This concert appeals to all ages,” said Peggy Hinkle, music program coordinator for Pellissippi State. “Even kids enjoy this fast-paced event because there are so many different instruments and styles of music.”

The Holiday Spectacular, themed “Home for the Holidays” this year, will feature religious and secular selections performed by

  • Variations, Pellissippi State’s audition choir;
  • Concert Chorale, the college’s non-audition choir;
  • Faculty/Staff Choir;
  • Jazz Band and Bluegrass Ensemble, both audition groups;
  • Brass, Guitar and Percussion Ensembles; and
  • Studio Orchestra.

“There is a lot of variety,” Hinkle said. “And, thanks to our snow machine, it always snows at the end of the show, which is a good way to get into the holiday spirit.”

Plan to arrive early to the performance of your choice to get a complimentary ticket, as seating is limited to the first 495 guests per show. While the performance is free, donations are accepted at the door for the Pellissippi State Foundation on behalf of the Music Scholarship fund.

The Holiday Spectacular is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State series. For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, visit

To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Pellissippi State closed Aug. 15 for in-service

All Pellissippi State campuses and offices will be closed on Wednesday, August 15, for In-service. They will reopen for business the next day.  We thank you for your understanding and patience. Please note that classes scheduled to meet on Aug. 15 will not be canceled.

Meanwhile, Pellissippi State has extended its hours for student services during August to serve you better. Those offices include Admissions, Records, Financial Aid and Advising. Extended hours at the Hardin Valley Campus are Saturday, Aug. 4 and 11, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. All campus offices including the Cashier will be open until 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, Aug. 13, 16, 20 and 23. Advising is by appointment only on Aug. 4; all other days are for walk-ins.

Pellissippi State names new vice president for Student Affairs

Pellissippi State Community College has named Rushton Johnson Jr. the new vice president for Student Affairs. He will oversee Admissions, Advising, Counseling, Career Services, Disability Services and Student Life, among other areas.

Dr. Rushton Johnson
Dr. Rushton Johnson

Johnson has spent more than 20 years working in higher education for a number of institutions. He replaces Rebecca Ashford, who left the college last year to serve as president of Chattanooga State Community College.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Dr. Johnson join us at Pellissippi State,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State. “He brings a great deal of experience and expertise and has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to student success. This leadership will benefit our students from the time they apply through the time they graduate.”

Most recently, Johnson served for six years as vice president of Student Affairs at Atlanta Technical College in Atlanta, Ga. He has served as executive director of Student Life at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., and dean of Student Life/assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La., as well as colleges in Mississippi and Alabama.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Birmingham-Southern College, his master’s degree in counseling from Jacksonville State University and his doctorate in higher education administration from The University of Alabama. He is currently working on a master’s in general management from Harvard University.

Pellissippi State names J. Travis Howerton Alumnus of the Year

Travis Howerton and Dr. Anthony Wise

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized J. Travis Howerton as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2018.

Howerton is the senior director for transformation at Bechtel Corporation in Oak Ridge. He graduated from Pellissippi State in 2002 with an A.A.S. degree in Computer Science Technology and went on to earn an M.S. in computer information systems from Boston University.

Howerton was recognized with the Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award at the college’s annual Alumni Luncheon. The award is given to an individual in recognition of significant professional achievement, service to the community and support of the college and the Pellissippi State Foundation.

Two Pellissippi State employees nominated Howerton for this year’s award: Computer Information Technology Professor Jerry Sherrod and Marilyn Roddy, director of Major Gift Development. According to Roddy, Howerton helped execute a significant teaming agreement with Y-12 National Security Complex in support of the federal Department of Labor TechHire Partnerships grant.

For the past 10 years, Howerton has garnered over a dozen significant awards, locally and nationally. He was honored with the Rising Star Award in 2008 at Federal Computer Week, and the awards have rolled in steadily since. Other awards include

  • 2017 Postma Young Professional Award by the East Tennessee Economic Council
  • 2015 Overall Winner by ACT-IAC
  • 2014 Fed 100 Award by Federal Computer Week
  • 2012 Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders in East Tennessee by Knoxville Business Journal
  • 2012 Secretary of Energy Management Achievement Award by Department of Energy Secretary
  • 2012 DOE Enterprise Architecture Award by the Department of Energy
  • 2012 Top Cyber Security Presentation Award by Government Technology Research Alliance
  • 2009 NNSA Linton Brooks Award Winner by the National Nuclear Security Administration

Howerton also has written some 39 articles and publications since graduating from Pellissippi State.

For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit or call 865-539-7275.

Three Pellissippi State students earn high school and college degrees in the same month

“High achieving” doesn’t begin to describe three students who will earn their associate degrees from Pellissippi State Community College during Friday’s Commencement ceremony. Unlike the other graduates walking across the stage to receive their diploma, these three have yet to graduate from high school—though they’ll accomplish that, too, later this month.

Although difficult to imagine, Andrew Jerome, Haley Folsom and Savannah Keck will earn their college degree almost simultaneously with their high school diploma. Each student has invested years of hard work, determination and self-motivation to reach this milestone.

“I’ve always been up for a challenge. I started taking classes that interested me, and before I knew it, I only had one class left to earn a college degree,” said Folsom, 17, who attends L&N STEM Academy.

“How many high school students get to say they’re graduating from college at the same time?” asked Keck, 17. “It has been an amazing experience.”

Savannah Keck
Savannah Keck

“We look forward to celebrating the success of these exceptional students at commencement,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State. “They have excelled as dual enrollment students and demonstrated they can succeed in a rigorous academic environment. I have every confidence they will do well as they transition to their chosen four-year institutions.”

These students have been able to accomplish this by taking a combination of advanced placement and dual enrollment classes alongside their regular high school courses. They also took additional classes during the summer. Taking these classes allowed them to earn college credit while still in high school. Pellissippi State offers a wide range of dual enrollment courses in both high schools and on the college’s campuses.

jerome standing with trees in the backgroun
Andrew Jerome

“I heard about dual enrollment classes at Pellissippi State and starting taking them in 9th grade,” said Jerome, 18, and a home-schooled student under the umbrella of Christian Academy of Knoxville. “In my junior year, I realized that I would soon earn a college degree.”

Jerome began taking classes at the Hardin Valley Campus when he was just 14. He started out with one Spanish class. His older brother, also a dual enrollment student, showed him where to go and what to do during that first semester.

“It was weird at first because I was younger, but I got used to it. I’ve enjoyed the experience,” said Jerome. “I don’t think many have known that I’m a dual enrollment student. Those who have found out were surprised, but they didn’t treat me any differently.”

Folsom agreed. “Age wasn’t an issue. Some of my best friends were adult learners.”

“I found dual enrollment to be a lot of fun. It’s a great opportunity to get ready for attending a college,” added Jerome.

Keck is a student at Career Magnet Academy, which is located on Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus. The two schools have a partnership in which CMA students take dual enrollment classes through Pellissippi State and then earn their associate degree after they graduate from high school. This month CMA will celebrate their first graduating class. Keck is not only a part of that class, but she is the first CMA student to complete high school and an associate degree simultaneously.

“It has been a crazy, amazing experience,” says Keck. “I love going to a high school located on a college campus. The standards are higher; it’s more challenging. And I love being taught by actual college professors. The CMA teachers work with you one-on-one. They trust us to be more responsible and give us more freedoms.”

Haley Folsom with stained glass on background
Haley Folsom

Keck even found time to participate in Pellissippi State’s student clubs and work in the summer as a New Student Orientation leader who helps new students acclimate to the college.

“Savannah Keck’s success is a great example of what we believe the partnership between Pellissippi State and Career Magnet Academy can produce. We are taking the time to celebrate the success of all the students in the school’s first graduating class and to develop new opportunities for student achievement moving forward,” said Wise.

Folsom took classes at the Hardin Valley Campus and online. She says that dual enrollment gave her more opportunities than were available at her high school. She often took classes that her high school didn’t offer, such as American Sign Language. She said that this allowed her to get used to a college environment and to meet new people.

Folsom will attend Georgia Tech in the fall and major in neuroscience. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she plans to continue her education to become a brain surgeon.

The next stop for Keck is Michigan State University where she will study criminal justice and international affairs. She will be part of James Madison College, a residential college at MSU where students and faculty examine the major political, legal, social and economic issues affecting our world.

“It’ll be a big change, but I’m looking forward to it,” she said.

Jerome will attend the University of Alabama in the fall and major in computer science. He plans to study German and participate in the college’s competitive and challenging Two Steps Ahead International German Student Exchange Program, which will allow him to spend a year studying in Germany.

All three students said that they would recommend dual enrollment classes to other high school students as a way to get ahead in their college courses and careers.

Pellissippi State’s Commencement ceremony is Friday, May 4, at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus.

Stephanie Welch to speak at Pellissippi State Commencement

Stephanie Welch headshot
Stephanie Welch

Stephanie Welch, president of Great Schools Partnership, will be the speaker at Pellissippi State Community College’s Commencement ceremony Friday, May 4.

Commencement will begin at 7 p.m. at Thompson-Boling Arena on the University of Tennessee campus. About 800 students will earn an associate degree this semester, including the first student to graduate from the Career Magnet Academy and Pellissippi State at the same time.

Welch joined Great Schools Partnership in 2013. GSP is an organization whose mission is to serve as a catalyst, think tank, incubator, start-up funder and operational partner for making Knox County Schools globally competitive. She was named president last week following the retirement of Buzz Thomas. In addition, she represents District 1 on Knoxville’s City Council.

Welch began her career in public health. She has worked at the East Tennessee Regional Health Office and at the Knox County Health Department and has chaired boards ranging from Knoxville’s Food Policy Council to the National Association of County and City Health Officials MAPP Workgroup.

Welch is a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and is the executive officer for a Medical Support Unit in Chattanooga.

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

Pellissippi State hosts Project Grad Summer Institute

project graduation student working on robotics project
Pellissippi State prepares to host a Project Grad Summer Institute for the 17th year.

Pellissippi State Community College is preparing to host 140 high school students this summer at its Project Grad Summer Institute. This is the 17th year the college has participated in the program, which provides academic and personal enrichment opportunities for students from Austin-East and Fulton high schools.

“Pellissippi State is proud to host the Summer Institute again,” said L. Anthony Wise Jr., president of Pellissippi State. “Based on our conversations with past participants, we know how important it is to be on a campus interacting with faculty and our students. We believe it is a critical component of preparing Project Grad scholars for post-secondary success.”

The Summer Institute gives students the opportunity to experience what it is like to go to college. For three weeks during the summer prior to their sophomore year, they attend classes on a variety of subjects taught by college faculty on the Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus. Students hear from guest presenters and work on special projects such as rocket building, robot design and 3-D printing. The program encourages students to realize and experience their potential for success.

Rosalyn Tillman, the director of the institute and dean of Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus, says she has seen the long-term effect Project Grad has had in the lives of the students and their families.

“Support is so necessary to the success of all students, and extremely so for our first-generation students, who in many cases do not have that at home. Students I’ve met over the years are now studying engineering, medicine, social work, business, culinary arts and finance. They are working in professional fields, taking on leadership responsibilities, involved in politics. They have graduated from prestigious institutions,” said Tillman.

Ella Ruggles is a Summer Institute faculty member and Pellissippi State’s Video Production Technology program coordinator. She agrees that the Project Grad Summer Institute makes a difference.

“Over the years, I have seen these students improve in attitude, manners, academics, self-worth and belief in themselves and others,” said Ruggles. “I have seen students become better prepared for their futures.”

The Summer Institute will be held May 30–June 20.

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

Pellissippi State speaker addresses opioid epidemic

Pellissippi State Community College’s student psychology club will address the opiate epidemic in East Tennessee with speaker Neil Morgenstern, a drug prevention coordinator for Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas. The public is invited to hear the presentation on April 25 at 1 p.m. at the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike.

Morgenstern will show the film “Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict” and then discuss its main themes. The Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI co-produced the film, which is a documentary chronicling the lives of several opiate addicts in their fight against their opiate addiction.

Morgenstern is a coordinator with HIDTA, an agency whose mission is to enhance and coordinate drug enforcement efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies within high drug areas in Appalachia. He is a former DEA agent and is part of an area task force battling this epidemic. The task force is comprised of members from the Knoxville Police Department, the DEA, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Knox County Medical Examiner’s Office and the Knox County Prosecutor’s Office.

Pellissippi State’s Counseling Services and the Criminal Justice program are co-sponsors of the event. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Pellissippi State design students showcase work

Bagwell Center at Pellissippi State Community College
The Bagwell Center for Media and Art on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus

Students in Pellissippi State Community College’s Communication Graphics Technology concentration will present their final portfolios April 19, 4-8 p.m. in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art on the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road. The CGT Student Design Showcase is free and open to the public.

Students will exhibit examples of their best work, along with self-promotional items produced specifically for the Showcase. This is their final project before graduation in May, when they will earn an Associate of Applied Science degree.

In addition to the Showcase, the best work from design students during the 2017-18 academic year will be on display April 16-27 in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery. This Media Technologies Design Exhibit will feature a variety of visual communication solutions from students in the CGT and Design for Web and Print concentrations. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The Showcase and the exhibit are part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, an annual arts series that includes music and theatre performances, lectures and fine arts exhibits. For more information about The Arts at Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865-539-7401 or email