Pellissippi State responds to cybersecurity incident

Pellissippi State Community College has notified 222 current and former students that their personally identifiable information may have been compromised when an unauthorized user accessed a college email address Jan. 9.

“The incident was limited to one general institutional email account and to a small population of individuals who had sent information to that account,” said Audrey Williams, Pellissippi State’s vice president for Information Services. “Pellissippi State believes this is an isolated incident, and it does not appear that any data have been disseminated to other people or sources.”

An investigation showed that of 1,800 emails in the account that was accessed by an unauthorized user, 222 contained sensitive information such as first name, last name, Pellissippi State username, student identification number, date of birth, driver’s license number and/or partial or full social security number.

“While we cannot confirm that data was viewed or copied from the account, we wanted to let you know about this incident out of an abundance of caution,” Williams wrote in the letter that was mailed to affected current and former students.

Although Pellissippi State immediately made changes to safeguard the email account that was compromised, the college is going a step further by offering the affected individuals credit monitoring and identity protection services for 12 months at no cost to them.

Pellissippi State recommends those affected place a fraud alert on their credit files and check their credit reports every three months for the next year, even if they do not find any signs of fraud on their reports.

“At Pellissippi State, we value everyone’s privacy,” Williams said. “We take this event, and the security of our information, very seriously. We are reviewing our policies and procedures to better protect against an event like this happening again in the future.”

The Tennessee Board of Regents, the State of Tennessee Department of Treasury and the United States Department of Education all have been notified, she added, and Pellissippi State continues to monitor the college’s network and accounts.

Those with additional questions should visit

2018 Alumnus of the Year to speak at Pellissippi State Commencement

Photo of Travis Howerton
J. Travis Howerton, winner of Pellissippi State’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, will speak at Commencement on Dec. 14.

Pellissippi State Community College’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner J. Travis Howerton will speak at the college’s fall Commencement ceremony Friday, Dec. 14, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Commencement begins at 7 p.m. Approximately 513 students will graduate this fall.

Howerton, who earned his Associate of Applied Science in Computer Systems Technology in 2002, now serves as Global Director for Strategic Programs for the Bechtel Corporation in Reston, Va. He previously served as Senior Director for Transformation for Bechtel in Oak Ridge.

During his career in information technology and cyber security, Howerton garnered more than a dozen significant local and national awards, including the East Tennessee Economic Council’s prestigious Postma Young Professional Medal, which honors those who have led top priority transformation projects and have demonstrated innovation. Howerton created the Pegasus Information Management System used by Y-12 National Security Administration, and he served as the first chief technology officer for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

In nominating Howerton for the Distinguished Alumni Award, one professor called Howerton “the most outstanding student we have ever had graduate from Pellissippi State’s Computer Science department” and noted he has supported the college by recommending and employing at least 10 Pellissippi State graduates in computer science and networking/communications.

“I’m very proud to be an alumnus at Pellissippi State,” Howerton said at the college’s annual Alumni Luncheon. “I worked my way through school, and classes at Pellissippi State were amenable to my schedule. The facilities and the curriculum were great. I took advantage of the library – up and beyond what was required of the course. I had good professors all around.

“I feel fortunate that Pellissippi State helped me find a career where I have a life-long passion for my work,” he added.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865.539.7401 or email


Pellissippi State alumna celebrates cosplay in photography exhibit

A cosplayer dressed as Sakura Kinomoto from the anime series "Cardcaptor Sakura"
Sakura Kinomoto from the anime series “Cardcaptor Sakura” is among the characters brought to life by cosplayers in the upcoming “Amanda Swanson Photography” exhibit at Pellissippi State Community College.

The colorful world of cosplay is coming to Pellissippi State Community College this fall with a photography exhibit celebrating the custom costumes, props and make-up that bring fictional characters to life.

“Amanda Swanson Photography” will be on display in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery on the Hardin Valley Campus Oct. 29-Nov. 16, with an opening reception with the artist scheduled for 4-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29.

The exhibit, the latest installment in The Arts at Pellissippi State, is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Cosplay — short for costume play — is a social activity in which fans dress up like characters from works of fiction such as comic books, video games or television shows. Cosplaying is the practice of constructing or wearing these types of costumes.

Swanson, a professional photographer who graduated from Pellissippi State in 2015, enjoys cosplaying and has been photographing cosplayers for five years, both at conventions and on location. She sees cosplay as both art form and self-expression.

“What we’re doing is portraying the characters we love,” said Swanson, who started photographing cosplayers to show off their hard work and talent with costumes and makeup. “I love the cosplay community because it’s fun to find others also dressed from the same series you are cosplaying from or even as the same character that you are cosplaying as. You get to have that instant connection with all these people you just met.”

While Swanson describes herself as having “a huge passion” for taking portraits of children, dogs and families, as well as for photographing weddings, she decided it would be fun to focus on cosplay portraiture for her first exhibit at Pellissippi State.

“Cosplay is colorful, vibrant and interesting,” she said. “There wasn’t a cosplay club when I went to college here, but I have a lot of friends who are in it now, and I get to hear about it from them.”

“Amanda’s work embodies the kind of professionalism we like to see from our graduates, while also bringing a level of fun that is rare and sure to be appreciated by the Pellissippi State community,” said Associate Professor Kurt Eslick, who recommended Swanson for The Arts at Pellissippi State series.

Swanson’s favorite cosplay photo shoots include a Batman group at a convention in Atlanta and a recent portrait of a cosplayer dressed as Violet Evergarden, the title character from a Japanese light novel series that was adapted into an anime television series now on Netflix.

“I was able to recreate a scene (in “Violet Evergarden”) I was super excited about, a scene that brought me to tears. So being able to recreate that was very special for me,” said Swanson, who highly recommends watching the heartfelt series.

Swanson’s goal for her exhibit at Pellissippi State is to represent as many different characters as possible through the 17×22-inch prints hanging in the gallery and 4×6-inch prints displayed on a kiosk.

“Some characters will be familiar ones that you know and love from comic books and video games, while others will come from movies with princesses and princes, or lands like Rivendell from ‘Lord of the Rings,’” she said. “I love how no matter what size, race, age or gender you are, you’re able to cosplay whatever character you feel inspires you.”

Regardless of which character she’s shooting, Swanson’s aim is the same: to capture special memories and laughter, as well as to give clients a sense of happiness with themselves.

“My style has been described as bubbly, bright, vibrant and magical, but I personally like to describe my work as happy,” she said.

For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, as well the Faculty Lecture Series, at Pellissippi State, visit

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.

Cantrell’s photos of South Korea on exhibit at Pellissippi State

South Korea Photograph
Photograph by Bradley Cantrell

Pellissippi State Community College alumnus Bradley Cantrell will showcase photography from South Korea at his upcoming exhibit Nov. 20 through Dec. 8.

A reception to meet the artist begins at 4 p.m., Nov. 20.

Cantrell is a founding member of the Knoxville Community Darkroom, and he often shoots with film cameras.

The exhibit is free to attend. The Bagwell Center for Media and Art gallery is located at 10915 Hardin Valley Road and is open 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Monday-Friday.

The Bradley Cantrell exhibit is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, an annual arts series that includes music and theatre performances, cultural celebrations, 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 for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Mother inspires daughter by earning college degree

Ruth Crippen and Family
Ruth Crippen, center, at the Nursing pinning ceremony for her daughter, Maggie Pierce, far left, along with her other children, from left, Stephanie, James and Sara.

Maggie Pierce grew up in a household that valued education and encouraged her to earn good grades. But when she and her sisters earned college degrees, they were progressing down a path their parents had not trod.

That changes on May 5, when Maggie’s mother, Ruth Crippen, will cross the stage and earn her Business degree from Pellissippi State Community College.

“Neither of my parents had completed college,” Pierce said. “But they always expected our best when it came to education. We were encouraged to make straight A’s and study hard.”

That childhood emphasis seemed to have worked: Pierce and her two sisters have seven degrees among them. Pierce earned a Nursing degree from Pellissippi State in 2014, after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee in a career field she decided wasn’t for her after all. Today, she works at Parkwest Medical Center.

Two years ago, her mother, Crippen, went through a divorce and then a lay-off. After a time of unsuccessful job searching, she decided it was time to earn a degree herself.

“This started out as a way for me to get a decent job to provide for my family,” Crippen said. “But now it’s a way for me to say, ‘I did this.’ I tell people it’s my 39-year-path to a degree. I get emotional talking about it.”

Crippen enrolled in an accelerated cohort program at Pellissippi State — which condenses classes into five-week terms, allowing a part-time student to still complete an associate degree in two years.

“I have had to work so hard and take this one semester at a time. I never would have been able to get this done without my daughters’ help,” Crippen said.

“We all respect my mother and her decision to go back to school, so much,” Pierce said. “But she’ll tell you that she’s just doing what she expected us to do. Seeing her succeed is priceless to us.”

Pierce and her siblings will be in the audience, cheering, as Crippen crosses the stage at Pellissippi State’s Commencement ceremony, 7 p.m., May 5, in Thompson-Boling Arena.

“I had the opportunity to go to college as a young person,” Crippen said. “But I announced I was getting married at the ripe old age of 19. At that time, I didn’t realize it was a mistake. But my whole life, I’ve tried to instill in my kids that they did not want to be like their dad and me. The priority was for them to make good grades.

“I never applied myself when I was young. This has a been a long, hard road, but I’m so proud. I’m so proud that I’ve kept a full-time job and done this cohort, and that I will graduate with a 3.4 GPA.”

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 Announcements: College hosts ‘Just Plane’ networking for alumni

Pellissippi State Community College will host a free “Just Plane” networking for alumni and community members from 5:30-7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18, at Knoxville’s Downtown Island Airport, 2701 Spence Place. Enjoy an evening of networking, food and wine and a presentation on social media and networking by Mary Beth West of Mary Beth West Communications LLC. The event is sponsored by Pellissippi State’s Alumni Association. Although the event is free, please RSVP to Angela Pugh, 865-539-7275 or To request accommodations for a disability at this event, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or For more information about this event, visit


Download this press release: Briefs Alumni Plane NW

Pellissippi State graduate earns double degree

Fred Williams Photograph
Fred Williams, a Pellissippi State Community College graduate, earned a degree from Pellissippi State and from Austin Peay State University on the same day.

On the morning of May 6, Fred Williams rushed from his commencement ceremony at Austin Peay State University to another at Pellissippi State Community College — but his path to a degree hasn’t been quite so fast.

Williams first stepped through the doors of Pellissippi State in 1988.

He continued with school, off and on, while working full time until 2000, when he earned an associate’s degree in Electrical Engineering Technology. But Williams didn’t stop there. He stayed enrolled at Pellissippi State until 2006, when he and his wife adopted their son. He decided to take time off from school to help raise him.

“When he started going to kindergarten, I started back to school too,” Williams said. “I wanted my son to see me graduate. That’s a memory I always wanted him to have.”

Williams came back to Pellissippi State in 2010, and in 2013 entered the Austin Peay 2+2 program, which allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree in Engineering Technology at Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus.

He completed the 2+2 program this spring, earning a general associate’s degree from Pellissippi State and a Manufacturing Engineering Technology degree from Austin Peay. On May 6, Williams walked the stage at both Pellissippi State and Austin Peay’s commencements. He rushed from Clarksville to Knoxville in order to take part in both ceremonies.

“As I walked across the stage to shake Dr. Wise’s hand, I leaned in to say, ‘You know I walked the stage at Austin Peay this morning, don’t you?’” Williams said. “He got a chuckle out of that, and after the ceremony came to track me down.”

“I thought it was an accomplishment to graduate twice in one day, so I knew I wanted to be in both ceremonies,” said Williams, who is a senior electrical designer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source.

This fall, Williams plans to return to college. He lacks only six courses to earn a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology, another 2+2 program offered by Pellissippi State and Austin Peay. He hopes the additional degrees will allow him to continue to improve and grow his career at ORNL.

“I like Pellissippi State. It’s helped me out a lot over the years.”

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


Download this press release: Profile Fred Williams

Pellissippi State names Ronni Chandler Alumna of the Year

Ronni Chandler
Ronni Chandler

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Vrondelia “Ronni” Chandler as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2016.

Chandler is the executive director and CEO of Project GRAD, which focuses on increasing academic achievement, high school graduation rates and college-going and success rates for students from 14 of Knoxville’s urban schools.

Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni 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.

Chandler is both a graduate and former employee of Pellissippi State.

She began working at Pellissippi State in 1978, just four years after the College opened its doors at Division Street as State Technical Institute at Knoxville.

“I served in a number of different positions while at Pellissippi State. I was administrative assistant to the president, then admissions coordinator, then minority student affairs coordinator and finally the director of community outreach and engagement at the Magnolia Avenue Campus,” Chandler said.

She went back to school at Pellissippi State in the early 1990s.

“My degree was unfinished business,” Chandler said. “I went to UT the year after I graduated from high school, but my mom got sick and I withdrew. I always wanted to complete my college education.”

Chandler graduated from Pellissippi State in 1994, earning a general associate’s degree before transferring to Tusculum College, where she earned her bachelor’s in business and organizational management.

“The time I had the opportunity to be at Pellissippi State laid a great foundation for me and has had a great influence on me as a leader,” Chandler said. “I’ll forever be part of the Pellissippi State family.”

She has worked at Project GRAD Knoxville since its inception in 2001, first as a program director and now as executive director. Pellissippi State partners with Project GRAD each summer to host a Summer Institute for students from Austin-East and Fulton high schools; more than 2,000 students have gone through the program.

 “I’ve always had a love of leadership and coaching others, helping them to grow. I get that opportunity at Project GRAD. Who we are is in our name: Graduation Really Achieves Dreams,” Chandler said.

Since Project GRAD was founded in 2001, the graduation rate at Fulton and Austin-East high schools increased from about 50 percent to more than 80 percent. Approximately 57 percent of those students now go on to postsecondary education, and the completion rate for those students in higher education is 46 percent — far higher than the national average of 10 percent for students from low-income circumstances.

Chandler will speak at Pellissippi State’s December Commencement ceremony as the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award winner.

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


Download this press release: Distinguished Alum Ronni Chandler

Pellissippi State Announcements: Alumni Award

Pellissippi State Community College seeks nominations for its annual Distinguished Alumni Award at Anyone can nominate a Pellissippi State alumnus. The deadline to nominate a winner is March 1. The Distinguished Alumni 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. For more information, contact Angela Pugh at 865-539-7275 or
Download this press release: PSCC Alumni Award