Pellissippi State graduate teaches new Welding for Artists class this summer

Liz Headrick welds an artwork
Liz Headrick, owner of Fabuliz Fabrication and Welding, will teach a one-day Welding for Artists noncredit course twice this month at Pellissippi State Community College.

Pellissippi State Business and Community Services is offering a new Welding for Artists class this summer, taught by a graduate who used her Welding Technology degree to start a creative business. 

Liz Headrick, Class of 2017, is teaching the noncredit Welding for Artists twice this summer: 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, July 18, and Saturday, July 25, at Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, Knoxville. 

As a lifelong learning class, Welding for Artists iopen to the public, though some welding knowledge and beginner experience is recommended. The cost is $89. 

“I hope people taking the class will get a cool experience and the opportunity to create something they never would have thought about previously or never had the equipment to make,” Headrick said. “Everyone will get to create a one-of-a-kind piece they can take home and show off.” 

Headrick discovered her interest in welding at just the right time. Shortly after taking a welding class at a community college in California, Headrick moved to Knoxville and enrolled in the newly formed Welding Technology program at Pellissippi State. 

“My husband bought me a welder as a graduation present,” Headrick noted. “At first, I didn’t have anything that needed welding, so I just took random nuts and bolts lying around the garage as an excuse to do something with it, and it stuck.” 

When Headrick began posting photos of her work on Facebook and Instagram three years ago, people started to reach out to her, wanting her to make custom pieces for them. That’s when Headrick’s businessFabuliz Fabrication and Welding, took off. 

“It’s almost to the point now where my full-time job gets in the way of being at home making creative pieces,” she joked. 

Artwork by Liz Headrick
Pellissippi State Welding Technology graduate Liz Headrick makes art from repurposed materials.

Using recycled scrap metal has always been a part of Headrick’s work. She repurposes materials — nuts and bolts, old saw blades, chains, spark plugs and more — to create one-of-a-kind metal art and décor. 

“I like finding materials that people were throwing away or are considered as junk and using those materials to make something interesting or something you wouldn’t have thought to use it for,” Headrick said. “People throw away so much! I’m able to find a lot of materials from yard sales and eBay.” 

To register for Welding for Artists or any other Pellissippi State lifelong learning classes this summer, contact the Business and Community Services office at 865.539.7167 or visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs 

Lifelong learning classes are following new safety precautions in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Masks or face coverings must be worn by all instructors and students for the duration of the class. Classes also are being held in larger classrooms to ensure that participants can maintain 6 feet of distance between each other. 

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Pellissippi State names Curt Maxey its distinguished alumnus of the year

Portrait of Curt Maxey
Curt Maxey, Class of 1979, is Pellissippi State’s distinguished alumnus of the year.

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Curt Maxey of Curt Maxey Technologies as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2020. 

The award, sponsored this year by FirstBank, 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. 

FirstBank also is the presenting sponsor for the college’s 2020 Alumni Program. 

“We’re happy to be partnering with Pellissippi State to support the great work this school is doing in our community,” said FirstBank Knoxville Market President Brent Ball, who announced the award in a video. “As a longtime resident of East Tennessee, I know how important Pellissippi State is to residents of this area, and we’re proud to contribute to their alumni and students’ success.” 

Maxey, who retired from Oak Ridge National Laboratory in 2015, was the first in his family to go to college. Maxey worked his way through school, first as a janitor for restaurants and later as an electronics technician, graduating with his Associate of Engineering Technology in 1979. 

“When I stepped onto Pellissippi State’s ‘State Tech’ campus on Liberty Street in 1976, I was a fun-loving young man fresh out of high school with a life-long passion for science, but little sense of academic direction,” Maxey said. “I could not have foreseen what that education would enable me to achieve as I worked with industry, joined a National Laboratory, completed my engineering degree and worked on programs of international significance. 

“At this stage of my life and career, I am pleased to be a very ordinary man who has been privileged to make some extraordinary contributions,” he added. “There is no question that I am where I am in 2020 because Pellissippi State was where it was in 1976.” 

Maxey started his career at Philips Consumer Electronics, where he met his wife, Helene, before moving on to ORNL while finishing his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. As a longtime research and development staff engineer, Maxey was awarded 15 patents and earned multiple awards of national and international significance, including three R&D100 awards, DOE’s Outstanding Mentor Award, ORNL’s Inventor of The Year and multiple technology transfer awards. Maxey also served as the lead technical consultant for the West Tennessee Solar Farm near Memphis. 

Since his retirement, Maxey has started a consulting business, where he works with clients in the chemical processing, nuclear power, automotive, advanced materials and textiles industries.  

Curt and Helene Maxey with scholarship recipient Tabitha Wyrick
2020 Distinguished Alumni Award winner Curt Maxey, right, and his wife, Helene, left, visit with Curt and Helene Maxey Scholarship recipient Tabitha Wyrick at the 2019 Donor and Scholars reception at Pellissippi State.

Despite his lengthy list of professional accolades, Maxey insists that his greatest achievement of his career was the opportunity to mentor students. 

I have 15 patents, but would be hard pressed to name three; by contrast, I can tell you the name of every student I trained and, for most, I can to this day tell you where they are geographically and within their careers,” Maxey said. 

Recognizing the important role Pellissippi State has played in their lives, Mr. and Mrs. Maxey set up a scholarship at Pellissippi State in 2018 to help others realize their dreams as well. The Curt and Helene Maxey Scholarship recognizes that, regardless of grade point average, there are many students who will go on to accomplish great things if they are given encouragement and assistance. 

“The Foundation is pleased to support the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor presented to an alumnus of the college,” said Britney Sink, director of Alumni and Donor Engagement. “Curt Maxey is a perfect example of a Pellissippi State graduate making significant contributions to his profession, community and the lives of others. 

For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit www.pstcc.edu/alumni or call 865.539.7275. 

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FirstBank partners with Pellissippi State to supplement food pantry during coronavirus, pledges $50,000 to build new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science and $10,000 to celebrate alumni

Officer places grocery bags in open hatch of vehicle
Corporal Richard Brintnall of the Pellissippi State Campus Police loads groceries from the Pellissippi Pantry into a recipient’s car earlier this month.

Employees and friends of FirstBank in Knoxville recently raised $3,000 to help Pellissippi State Community College supplement the food in its Pellissippi Pantry during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Pellissippi Pantry provides access to healthy foods for members of the Pellissippi State family who may be experiencing food insecurity. Every other week, participants may pick up orders that include prepackaged food and fresh organically grown produce from the Hardin Valley Campus Garden. 

With the coronavirus pandemic causing shortages at local grocery stores, FirstBank employees stepped up and helped Pellissippi State supplement the food the college had on hand to distribute to more than 75 Pellissippi Pantry recipients the first week of April. 

“The work of Pellissippi State’s food pantry is vitally important to supporting the student community, and we’re happy to see our FirstBank family rally around a cause that helps people build a better future,” said FirstBank Knoxville Market President Nathan Hunter. 

Pellissippi State set up distribution tents on three of its campuses – Blount County, Hardin Valley and Magnolia Avenue – and announced times during which Pellissippi Pantry recipients could pick up their food. Volunteers from the college placed the boxes and bags of food in each recipient’s vehicle for a contact-less delivery. 

This was just the latest way FirstBank, the third largest bank headquartered in Tennessee, has partnered with Pellissippi State in 2020. 

In MarchHunter presented Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. with a $60,000 donation — $50,000 to help build the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus and $10,000 to sponsor Pellissippi State’s annual Alumni and Friends Luncheon, which celebrates accomplishments of past Pellissippi State graduates. 

“We’re happy to be partnering with Pellissippi State to support the great work this school is doing in our community,” Hunter said. “As a longtime resident of East Tennessee, I know how important Pellissippi State is to residents of this area, and we’re proud to contribute to their alumni and students’ success.” 

FirstBank’s $50,000 gift to the Pellissippi State Foundation will help the college complete its new 82,000-square-foot Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the Hardin Valley Campus, which is now under construction and expected to open for classes in fall 2021.  

The new building will help Pellissippi State, the largest community college in Tennessee, meet demands for classrooms and lab spaces that have increased due to Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect, last-dollar scholarships that provide two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college in Tennessee. 

FirstBank employees present ceremonial check to Pellissippi State
FirstBank presents Pellissippi State with a donation to help build the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science and to sponsor the annual Annual Alumni and Friends. From left are Robert Baird and Nathan Hunter of FirstBank, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Chris Parrott of FirstBank, Pellissippi State Foundation Executive Director Aneisa Rolen and Rusty Harmon of FirstBank.

The Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science will include 18 classrooms, six computer labs and nine science labs, as well as a teacher education center for the college’s Early Childhood Development and Teacher Education programs. An Adjunct Faculty Suite in the building will be named in honor of FirstBank’s generous contribution. 

“Each contribution we receive for the new Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science allows us to offer greater access to required labs in the sciences,” Wise said. “This new building will also include much needed classroom space for mathematics and teacher education as well as spaces for faculty and student collaboration. We appreciate our partners at FirstBank seeing the value of what we’ve proposed here and contributing to that vision.” 

FirstBank also will contribute $10,000 to Pellissippi State’s annual Alumni and Friends Lunch, which was scheduled for April 8 at the Foundry on the Fair Site but has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winners of the college’s Distinguished Alumni Award and the Peggy Wilson Alumni Volunteer Award, both selected by members of the Alumni Steering Committee, will be honored at the lunch. 

Those award winners have not been announced. 

For more information on Pellissippi State, visit  www.pstcc.eduor call 865-694-6400. 

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About FirstBank 

Nashville-based FirstBank, a wholly owned subsidiary of FB Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK), is the third largest Tennessee-headquartered bank, with 73 full-service bank branches across Tennessee, 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 $6.2 billion in total assets, has the resources to provide a comprehensive variety of financial services and products. 

For More Information 

Jeanie Rittenberry or Roger Shirley 

FirstBank MP&F Strategic Communications 

jrittenberry@firstbankonline.com 

rshirley@mpf.com 

(615) 313-8328 

(615) 259-4000 

Pellissippi State celebrates 45 years of serving the community with 45 Days of Giving

1974 faculty and staff of Pellissippi State in front of Division Street building
Pellissippi State Community College opened for classes at what is now the college’s Division Street Campus on Sept. 23, 1974. The college was named State Technical Institute at Knoxville,and it offered three associate degree programs, all in Engineering Technology.

It’s been 45 years since Pellissippi State Community College opened as State Technical Institute at Knoxville, with 45,000 square feet of floor space, to an inaugural headcount of 45 students.

Now the largest community college in Tennessee, with five campuses and 10,694 students, Pellissippi State is celebrating its 45th anniversary with 45 Days of Giving, a push to finish out Pellissippi State’s campaign to build two new buildings, expand its Media Technologies programs and support students financially.

“There will never be forests in the future if we don’t plant the seeds today,” said Ronni Chandler, a Pellissippi State alumna who serves on the college Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “This campaign is about doing our part to ensure that current and future students have the facilities and resources they need to be prepared to succeed and to lead.”

Pellissippi State launched the campaign Feb. 1, outlining a lofty goal of raising $10 million. So far the Foundation has reached 99% of that goal, and construction of the Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus is underway.

The college expects to break ground on the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the Blount County Campus in spring 2020.

“Every part of this campaign — from the new buildings to the Student Opportunity Fund — will benefit our students,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr.

For example, the new 82,000-square-foot Bill Haslam Center for Math and Science will help Pellissippi State meet demands for classrooms and lab spaces that have increased due to the Tennessee Promise and Tennessee Reconnect scholarships while the new 53,000-square-foot Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center will be used by Pellissippi State and Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville to help fill the area’s need for highly skilled, college-educated employees.

Pellissippi State’s Student Opportunity Fund also will benefit from the campaign. Created in 2018 to help break down the barriers that keep students from staying in school, the Student Opportunity Fund has provided a total of $55,115 in assistance to 153 students since its inception last year.

“Many people believe the cost of an education at Pellissippi State is now paid for by the state,” explained Campaign Chair Tom Ballard, who established the Student Opportunity Fund with his wife Diane and support from Marty Adler-Jasny and Norm and Ann Naylor. “That is true for things like tuition, but it doesn’t pay for incidentals or unexpected expenses for a student whose car breaks down or computer dies. Those are expenses that many of Pellissippi State’s students cannot absorb.”

To complete the campaign before the end of the calendar year, Pellissippi State is celebrating 45 Days of Giving. 45 Days of Giving will continue until Dec. 31 and will include Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3.

During these 45 days, Pellissippi State faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community are encouraged to donate to Pellissippi State at https://giving.pstcc.edu.

Five alumni champions – one for each decade the college has existed – are challenging their fellow alumni to see which decade’s alumni can raise the most for the campaign. Champions include Curt Maxey, Class of 1979; Randy Merritt, Class of 1989; Ronni Chandler, Class of 1994; J. Travis Howerton, Class of 2002; and Candace Viox, Class of 2013.

“After being out of the workforce for 13 years and college for 20 years, I enrolled in the culinary program at Pellissippi State,” said Viox, owner of Water into Wine Bistro and Lounge. “My experience and the many supporters I gained there led to the conception, and ultimately the success, of my restaurant in Farragut.”

Even those donors who didn’t graduate from Pellissippi State are welcome to indicate which decade they want their gift to join. The winning decade will be the theme of the campaign celebration.

To keep up with 45 Days of Giving and the friendly competition between the decades, be sure to follow Pellissippi State, Pellissippi State Foundation and Pellissippi State Alumni and Friends on Facebook. Facebook profile frames to support the campaign are available here.

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

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Pellissippi State alum reprises theatre role on New York City stage two weeks after graduation

Cast of "Soft Animals" in New York City
Pellissippi State graduate Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky, in red shirt, poses with her fellow cast members of “Soft Animals” in New York City, as well as playwright Erin Mallon, far left; Pellissippi State director Grechen Lynne Wingerter, fifth from left; and Farm Theater Artistic Director Padraic Lillis, second from right.

A recent Pellissippi State Community College graduate was the only student invited to participate in a staged reading of an original play in New York City.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky, who graduated Summa Cum Laude in May with her Associate of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts – Performance, reprised her role as Emily in “Soft Animals” in the May 20 reading. The reading with professional actors, a form of theatre without sets or full costumes, was the culmination of Pellissippi State’s 2018-19 collaboration with The Farm Theater in New York.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been offered the opportunity to share the stage with talented people who are currently living out my dream of leading successful lives in the New York theatre scene,” said Wilcox-Chelimsky, a native of Knoxville. “This being my first professionally produced show, I made sure to observe what I could about the interactions between the cast and artistic staff as well as processes and methods everyone used to bring the characters to life and pull the reading together in such a limited amount of time.”

“Kat was really holding her own with the New York City actors,” said Associate Professor Grechen Lynne Wingerter, who directed the world premiere of “Soft Animals” at Pellissippi State in November. “If you didn’t know she was a student, you wouldn’t know she was a student. She was great.”

As part of its College Collaboration Project, the Farm Theater commissioned playwright Erin Mallon to write “Soft Animals” for Pellissippi State. Based on those initial performances last fall, Mallon tweaked the play, a comedy that explores the perceptions we have about physical appearances and our relationship with our bodies, for the production of “Soft Animals” at Arkansas State University in the spring. She completed additional rewrites of the script before the public reading in New York City.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky rehearses "Soft Animals" in New York City
Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky, in red shirt, rehearses “Soft Animals” in New York City in May, the lone student among professional actors.

“Overall, the story didn’t change, as far as the plot, but there were character clarifications and relationship clarifications,” Wingerter explained. “With one character in particular, her connection to the story became much clearer. She was so much on the outside it was hard to have sympathy for her before, but we knew that we should. Her arc is stronger now.”

Wingerter and Wilcox-Chelimsky traveled to New York City for two days of rehearsal with the professional actors before the public reading, which was held in a small studio theatre near downtown. The reading, which was directed by Farm Theater Artistic Director Padraic Lillis, was followed by a post-show discussion with the playwright and the cast.

“Erin says it’s still not finished,” Wingerter said. “Some playwrights say a play is never finished. Who knows where it will go next? But this was the end of the road for us.”

And what a road it was.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky in costume in "Soft Animals" at Pellissippi State
Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky performs the role of Emily in “Soft Animals” at Pellissippi State in November 2018.

“This is unique for our students, to be the very first to bring a play to life,” Wingerter said before the November performances at Pellissippi State. “When you do the classics – say, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Death of a Salesman’ – there are preconceived notions of how those plays are supposed to be done, and there always will be comparisons. With a new play, our actors are allowed to experiment, to explore character development, and they’re focusing on applying what they’re learning in the classroom to the stage.”

“Soft Animals” also was unique, Wingerter added after the New York City reading, because Mallon wrote the play with college students in mind.

“They were not asked to play 50 year olds, so they felt a little more ownership,” she explained. “This gave them the chance to develop their roles, and one of the reasons Kat was chosen is how she brought that character to life.”

Wilcox-Chelimsky said she felt an immediate connection with the character of Emily when she received the script last year.

“She has an innocence and this sense of naive bravery that reminds me of how I was feeling as I graduated high school and went on this brave new adventure that was college,” Wilcox-Chelimsky said. “An acting choice that I made in rehearsal ended up in the stage directions of the final draft we worked with in New York. The thought that that decision I made on Pellissippi State’s stage could potentially end up in a published script one day and maybe even influence future performances of this character just completely blows my mind.”

As a director, Wingerter also learned from Pellissippi State’s participation in the College Collaboration Project.

Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky in "Soft Animals" at Pellissippi State
Katharine Wilcox-Chelimsky originates the role of Emily in the world premiere of the play “Soft Animals” at Pellissippi State.

“I went to see the Arkansas State production, and I’ve never done that before – directed a play and then went to see it somewhere else,” she said. “It was interesting to see the different interpretations, but it’s still the same story. And that validates the story of the play and helps the playwright figure out, ‘Is this the story I want to tell?’ because if all these different people get it, she’s on the right track.”

For more information about the degrees Pellissippi State offers in Theatre Arts, visit www.pstcc.edu/theatre/course.

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Pellissippi State names Kevin Fillers Alumnus of the Year

Kevin Fillers
Kevin Fillers

Pellissippi State Community College has recognized Kevin Fillers as its Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2019.

Fillers, Business Manager at Innovative Design Inc., graduated from Pellissippi State in 2011 with an Associate of Science degree in Management. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Tennessee in 2013.

College wasn’t always Fillers’ plan, however.

“I decided when I was 13 years old that it was going to be my dream to become a professional paintball player,” Fillers told Pellissippi State Alumni for a #WhereAreTheyNowWednesday post on social media. “When I graduated high school, I told my parents I wasn’t going to college and put all my energy into pursuing a paintball career, where I ended up going pro.”

It took Fillers only a couple of years on the paintball circuit, however, to realize professional paintball was not going to be a sustainable future, he said. Fillers started taking classes part time at Pellissippi State in 2006, when he was 21 years old.

Going to school part time didn’t deter Fillers from giving it his all. In fact, Fillers was the recipient of multiple academic awards at Pellissippi State, including the 2011 ACBSP Student Leadership Award, which is given to the top business graduate each year.

After graduating from Pellissippi State, Fillers continued to receive academic recognition at UT, where he was named the Haslam College of Business’ Top Graduate in 2013 after completing his degree with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Innovative Design Inc. CEO Cindy Hollander noted this in nominating Fillers for Pellissippi State’s Distinguished Alumni Award this year.

“I think Kevin’s unconventional journey to get where he is today would be an excellent motivator for current students while clearly illustrating the transformative power of education, regardless of the path you took to get there or how long it takes you to finish,” Hollander wrote in her nomination of Fillers.

Fillers 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.

On top of his job at Innovative Design Inc., Fillers has spent the last seven years helping local businesses through his firm, Fillers Consulting, which specializes in business process consulting and fractional chief financial officer services. Although he keeps a busy work schedule, Fillers still has found the time to serve as a tnAchieves mentor, a member of Pellissippi State’s Alumni Steering Committee, a guest speaker and judge for UT’s Vol Court Entrepreneurship Competition, and a Knoxville Chamber Ambassador.

Fillers also has spearheaded the development of Innovative Design Inc.’s outreach programs, including creating a partnership with Knox County Schools to develop a computer-aided design and 3D printing curriculum that will be rolled out across the county next year, as well as a STEM enrichment program specifically for Green Magnet Academy. Innovative Design Inc.’s other major outreach program focuses on Knoxville’s entrepreneurship community, with the firm donating engineering and design services for startup companies.

“Receiving this award has been an extremely humbling moment for me because I look back at Pellissippi State as the place that really changed the trajectory of my adult life,” Fillers said. “The education and support I received from the faculty gave me the foundation and confidence I needed to advance my academic and professional careers. Making the decision to take that first class at Pellissippi State is a decision I would make 100 out of 100 times again.”

For more information about Pellissippi State Alumni, visit www.pstcc.edu/alumni or call 865-539-7275.

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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 www.pstcc.edu/records/datafaq.

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 www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865.539.7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu.

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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 www.pstcc.edu/arts.

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 Excellence.gov 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 www.pstcc.edu/alumni or call 865-539-7275.