Graduate spotlight: Twins earn Electrical Engineering Technology degrees, ORNL internships

Matthew, left, and Austin Allison beside a tree
Fraternal twins Matthew, left, and Austin Allison have completed the same degree at Pellissippi State, will intern at ORNL together this summer and will transfer to UT this fall.

As fraternal twins pursuing the same degree, Austin and Matthew Allison have a built-in study buddy. Even though they have each other, they also attribute their success at Pellissippi State to building good relationships with their teachers, finding a support system with other students and some good, old-fashioned hard work.

“Going to school with my brother has been incredible,” says Matthew. “We’ve also been able to connect with a lot of other students who have the same work ethic we do. It’s been great having each other, and it’s also been great getting to connect with the other students we’ve met.” 

Both Austin and Matthew are graduating with a 4.0 GPA from Pellissippi State this month with their A.A.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology and will transfer to the University of Tennessee in the fall to complete their bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering. They were also accepted into a summer internship at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the Robotics and Intelligence Systems group.

“At ORNL, we’ll be working on robotics and additive manufacturing, a form of 3D printing,” explains Austin. “We’d really like to get into robotics as a career, because it combines the best parts of electrical engineering, programming and mechanical engineering.” 

Austin and Matthew chose Pellissippi State because they wanted a more personal experience with their professors.

“My dad encouraged us to go to Pellissippi State because the classes are small and you get more interaction with the professors,” says Austin. “We’ve had an awesome experience at Pellissippi State, and all the professors have been great to work with. We can tell that they really have our best interest in mind and they want to see us succeed.”

The brothers are grateful for the relationships they built with their teachers at Pellissippi State.

“We still stay in touch with a lot of our professors and have a good relationship with them,” shares Matthew. “I think that community orientation is a lot different from what you’d get at a bigger school, and that’s one of the reasons I’m really glad we started at Pellissippi State.”  

The brothers are no strangers to hard work and perseverance. While going to Pellissippi State, both Austin and Matthew also worked for their family’s landscaping business.

“We’ve had to do so much behind the scenes on top of college classes,” shares Matthew. “In the summers, we would work 60-80 hours a week landscaping while also taking classes. In our first semester at Pellissippi State, we had a crew mowing 40-50 yards a week. The other two guys working with us quit right before our finals started, so we were working three days a week to mow all those yards and then going to school three days a week for finals. But we just did what we had to do and we got it done.”  

“Regardless of your background or what you think you know, going into college with an optimistic mentality and putting in the hard work can take you far,” says Austin. “There were some classes that were really hard, but we put in the hard work and made an A. I’ve learned to work hard and not be afraid to ask questions. And, finding that group of people with your same values and work ethic can really help motivate you and keep you on track.” 

While going to college with your twin may be fun – and yes, they did try switching seats in class a few times – Austin and Matthew have learned the value of hard work and the importance of building relationships that will last far beyond their years at Pellissippi State.

“I’m so much better as a student and a person because of my experiences at Pellissippi State,” says Matthew. “These are things that will stay with me the rest of my life.” 

Graduate spotlight: Mother and son from the Philippines graduate together

Maydette and Ralph tossing their graduation caps in the air on Hardin Valley Campus
Maydette Ziatdinov and her son, Ralph Panganiban, celebrate their upcoming graduation from Pellissippi State. The two will participate in the college’s Commencement ceremony at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 15.

Meriam Panganiban has her alarm set so that she can be wide awake and glued to the computer at 6 a.m. Sunday, May 16. 

She may be more than 9,000 miles away in Sydney, Australia, but she wouldn’t miss watching her daughter and grandson graduate from Pellissippi State Community College together! 

“My mom is very, very emotional because I promised her I would finish school,” said Maydette Ziatdinov43, who previously worked as a kindergarten teacher in Japan. “I had a lot of fear because this is a new country for me, but I knew something was missing. This is for my husband, my son and my mom – but it’s also for myself, this accomplishment.” 

Maydette, a native of the Philippines, will graduate at 4 p.m. Saturday, May 15, with her associate degree in Business, with a concentration in Management. Her only son, Ralph Panganiban, will graduate during the same Commencement ceremony with his associate degree in Computer Information Technology, with a concentration in Programming. 

Ralph, 22, started Pellissippi State in 2017 after graduating from Bearden High School. He had to take English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes before he could start his core curriculum, having only moved to the United States in 2015, when his stepfather, a scientist, took a job at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

“When I went to high school, most of my friends suggested I go here because they have good courses,” Ralph said. “What really impressed me is that all of the services here are free: computer labs, libraries, tutoring center. That was really amazing to me.” 

“The tutoring center is like family to me because I would spend all day at school studying,” Maydette shared. “It’s like my second home.” 

Maydette started her educational journey at Pellissippi State two years after her son, much to his chagrin. 

“My friends would say, ‘Is that your sister?’ and I’d say, ‘No, that’s my mom!” Ralph said, cringing good-naturedly at the memory. 

For me, it was a compliment!” Maydette said, laughing. “I love it!” 

Ralph joked that he “just wanted to run away” when he would see his mom on campus, but then admitted that going to college with a parent had its perks. 

“If I saw her in the cafeteria, she would pay for me!” he said. 

Even though Maydette and Ralph often would carpool to Pellissippi State together, they never were in the same class – although they had some of the same professors. 

“We both loved Dr. Shaquille Marsh’s class and his way of teaching,” Maydette said of Public Speaking. “English is our second language, and we felt nervous about speaking in front of our classmates, but he gave us pointers. He has been one of our best mentors.” 

Maydette and Ralph pose in caps and gowns
Maydette Ziatdinov and her son, Ralph Panganiban, are ready to graduate from Pellissippi State, where they both were involved in organizations such as the International Club.

Both also joined Pellissippi State’s International Club, where Ralph served as president and Maydette handled public relations. The two had a really good time planning the International Culture Festival in fall 2019, where they highlighted the fashion, food and music of Pellissippi State’s international students’ home countries. 

“That was a really big deal for me because I never had been president of a club before,” Ralph said, thanking his mom for her help. 

More recently, Maydette has been interning with Pellissippi State’s Human Resources office and has chosen HR as her next career. 

“I have eight years of good memories as a kindergarten teacher, but I wanted to do something more flexible at this age,” she explained. “I like helping people – that’s just me – and even if it’s a small company, someone has to do the administrative work.” 

Even though the duo now has earned their associate degrees, they plan to stick around Pellissippi State a little while longer to take more classes – Maydette in preparation to transfer to King University for a bachelor’s degree, and Ralph to add a second Computer Information Technology degree, this time with a concentration in Systems Administration and Management.  

“I never complain about the teachers here, but it’s not just them,” Ralph noted. “Everyone from the security guards to the cafeteria workers to Facilities staff – they’ve all been so nice and helpful.” 

His mother agrees, listing Associate Professor Amy Caponetti, Professor Lisa FallInternational Club advisor Patricia Higgins and Access and Diversity Director Gayle Wood among those who have been part of an amazing support system at Pellissippi State. 

“We don’t have a family here in Tennessee, so Pellissippi State is our goto family,” Maydette said. “If I had a picture of myself on my first day of school until now, you would see a totally different Maydette.” 

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Graduate spotlight: 10 high schoolers graduate from Pellissippi State this week

CMA seniors who are graduating from Pellissippi State around a painted rock on their high school campus
A pandemic didn’t deter these Career Magnet Academy seniors from finishing their associate degrees while earning their high school diplomas. From left are Arwen Roach, Kynlea Waldrop, Sophie Trent, Eli Elgin, Forrest Hamilton, Dylan West, Nathan Parker and Rondhea Martin. Not pictured are Josie Maynard and Jessamine Reckard.

Ten Knox County high school students will don their caps and gowns three weeks before their classmatesas they graduate from Pellissippi State Community College with their associate degrees before they earn their high school diplomas. 

This is the fourth and, by far, largest class of dual enrollment students to earn their associate degrees at Pellissippi State while completing high school at Career Magnet Academy, a public high school located on the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus. No students are zoned for CMA, and any Knox County student who wants to make significant progress toward an associate degree, at little to no cost to their families, may apply. 

“I knew CMA was a good fit for me because I knew (Advanced Placement) classes would stress me out and I wanted something more tangible as an end result,” said Sophie Trent of south Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and is transferring to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville to study biology. “Also, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, and this is a really big head start on that.” 

Rondhea Martin of east Knoxville also said he chose CMA because he already knew what career path he wanted to pursue. 

I came for business-related purposes and got to take my first college-level business class my junior year,” said Martin, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and is transferring to Middle Tennessee State University to study public relations. 

Most of the 10 CMA students who are graduating from Pellissippi State together grew up in different parts of town and went to different elementary and middle schools – but at CMA, they say they found their people. 

“Here everybody fits in,” said Kynlea Waldrop of west Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and plans to double major in marketing and recording industry, music business at MTSU. “You can come from anywhere and make friends.” 

Having only 53 students in their senior class contributes to that “tightknit” “family” feeling the teenagers describe – but the 10 students who have earned their associate degrees have also formed a bond through the unique experience of finishing community college and high school at the same time. 

CMA grad Josie Maynard
Josie Maynard is one of 10 Career Magnet Academy seniors who has earned her associate degree while completing high school.

“It has certainly been difficult,” said Josie Maynard of south Knoxville, who has earned her Associate of Science degree and plans to work as a licensed certified nurse assistant until she transfers to the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga in August. “I personally have not had a summer break in three years! It is a lot of work, but it is worth it.” 

Eli Elgin and Forrest Hamilton agreed. The two students from northeast Knoxville have been friends since third grade, and both have earned their Associate of Applied Science degrees in Welding Technology. 

“I’ve been taking six classes for the last few semesters, and it’s tiring,” said Hamilton, who is transferring to Ferris State University in Michigan to study welding engineering technology. “Trying to keep on track with things while also having a life outside of school could be difficult.” 

Elgin recalled one semester that the two friends were on campus 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. two days a week, due to the timing of their high school and college classes. 

“I go to school four days a week, and then spend two or three days a weekend working in landscaping,” he added. “But now I’m ready to go straight into the workforce, and that was the point.” 

Meanwhile, unlike a lot of students coming straight from high school, the CMA graduates who are continuing their education at four-year universities will know what they’re in for. 

“Traditional public school is very rigid and structured,” said Dylan West of Farragut, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and is transferring to the Colorado School of Mines to major in petroleum engineering. “When we started our Pellissippi State classes, there was a period of transition from having teachers stay on you about assignments to being self-reliant.” 

Arwen Roach, who lives near Knoxville Center Mall and has earned her Associate of Arts degree, found that her greatest challenge was her own shyness – and taking Pellissippi State classes helped her conquer her fears. 

“It was really just my timidity being around adults,” said Roach, who is transferring to UT to study psychology and neuroscience. “But once I got over that, it was great. 

Her classmates agreed. 

“I really enjoyed having classes with adult students, actually, because I found them more interesting to talk to,” said Nathan Parker of Old North Knox, who has earned his Associate of Science degree and also is transferring to UT to study psychology. 

CMA senior Jessamine Reckard in front of Sunsphere
Jessamine Reckard of Career Magnet Academy will graduate from Pellissippi State on Friday with seven of her high school classmates. Two will graduate Saturday in a ceremony for Welding Technology students.

Jessamine Reckard, who lives near Johnson University, said the Pellissippi State class that touched her the most was American Sign Language. 

“I have cochlear implants – I’m hard of hearing – so to be immersed in that class and get to learn the language was amazing,” said Reckard, who has earned her Associate of Arts degree and is transferring to Lipscomb University to study mechanical engineering. “Going to Tennessee School for the Deaf and getting to work with deaf kids is one of the most surreal and best experiences of my life.” 

While most of the CMA seniors took their Pellissippi State classes on the Strawberry Plains Campus, some had the opportunity to take in-person classes at the Hardin Valley Campus as well. Once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, however, most Pellissippi State classes moved online. 

That didn’t stop the CMA seniors, who overwhelmingly said they loved asynchronous classes that they could take on their own time. 

“We could work more to save money so that we can transfer to a university,” Waldrop noted. 

The CMA students also raved about Pellissippi State’s tutoring center on the Strawberry Plains Campus. 

“These children are so amazing, and their perseverance is incredible,” said Ann Orpurt, the CMA guidance counselor who helped the students choose their classes. “They had to take extra classes in the mornings, in the evenings and in the summer to make this happen.” 

A majority of CMA students graduate with between 24 and 45 college credit hours, which is no small feat, she added. 

“Kids typically want to take as many classes as they qualify for,” Orpurt explained, noting CMA students no longer are confined to choosing a particular pathway but can take any Pellissippi State class offered. “These children did extra, but the other children at CMA are just as amazing.” 

Eight of the 10 CMA seniors will walk at the 7 p.m. Friday, May 14, Commencement ceremony on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus while Elgin and Hamilton will walk at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 15, with their fellow Welding Technology graduates. CMA will hold its graduation on June 5. 

“This is a monumental moment for these 10 remarkable students and for those at Pellissippi State and in Knox County Schools who have worked so hard to make Career Magnet Academy an option for students,” said Spencer Joy, dual enrollment specialist at Pellissippi State. 

Eight Career Magnet Academy seniors who are graduating from Pellissippi State
Eight of the 10 Career Magnet Academy seniors who will graduate from Pellissippi State with their associate degrees this week include (front row, from left) Rondhea Martin, Dylan West, Eli Elgin, Nathan Parker and Forrest Hamilton; and (second row, from left) Arwen Roach, Kynlea Waldrop and Sophie Trent. Not pictured are Josie Maynard and Jessamine Reckard.

The 10 friends may be heading in mostly different directions – two are transferring to MTSU and three to UT – but they won’t forget where they got their start. Waldrop summed it up for the group: 

“I tell everyone I know to come to CMA!” 

CMA can accept 125 freshmen each year, and there are still 60 slots open for fall 2021. The school accepts older students as space is available. Those interested in attending CMA can apply now at https://transapp.knoxschools.orgThe application deadline is July 2. 

For more information about CMA, contact CMA Magnet Facilitator Cameron Molchan at 865-622-3800 or cameron.molchan@knoxschools.org. 

For more information about other dual enrollment opportunities at Pellissippi State, visiwww.pstcc.edu/admissions/dual. 

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Graduate spotlight: Debbie Bonds achieves lifelong dream of college degree at 70

Debbie Bonds headshot
Debbie Bonds finally had the opportunity to start college at 68 years old, after her parents made her drop out of high school at 16. She graduates from Pellissippi State this week at 70!

When Debbie Bonds parents made her drop out of high school at the age of 16, she thought her dreams of going to college and becoming a teacher were over. Debbie went on to get married, work a full career and raise her children as a single mom for many years 

When she re-married in 2013Debbie’s new husband asked her if there was anything that she’d always dreamed of doing but never gotten to. Debbie told her husband she wanted to go to college. Debbie started Pellissippi State in 2018 and will graduate this month, at age 70, with her general Associate of Science degree 

“College changed me,” Debbie says. “It opened up a whole new life for me at 68 years old, and I really would love to see every adult experience it.” 

When she started considering how to go to college as an adult learner, Debbie discovered Tennessee Reconnect, for which she says she is wholeheartedly grateful.  

I really want to see more adult learners take advantage of what’s available to them,” she says. The first time my tuition was paid for by Tennessee Reconnect, I was beside myself! I think about all the adult learners that it could make a difference for. If they don’t do this, they’re missing the boat. If I had done this when I was 30 years old, it would have changed the whole trajectory of my life. Everything would have been different.”  

Debbie jumped right into college life and got involved in the National Society of Leadership and Success as well as the Student Government Association at Pellissippi State.  

“I’ve enjoyed my time in those organizations a lot,” shares Debbie. “I chose the organizations that I wanted to be a part of because I knew I couldn’t do everything. There are many great student organizations at Pellissippi State, and I advise every student to become a part of at least one organization. It’s part of that college life that everyone needs to experience. 

It’s never too late to gain an education,” Debbie adds. Every little bit of knowledge can never be taken away from you. Even if you have to do it part time, if you have to do it one class at a time, do it. However you have to do it, do it! 

Debbie, congratulations on achieving your dream of graduating from college! You are #PellissippiStrong! #PSCCgrad21 

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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 highlights graduates ahead of Friday’s Virtual Commencement

We’re so excited about our Virtual Commencement ceremony this Friday! Please join us on Facebook or YouTube at 7 p.m.  Friday, Dec. 18, to recognize our summer and fall 2020 graduates. 

Well be highlighting some of our 2020 graduates on social media this week to recognize their accomplishments and celebrate their success. Keep an eye out on this page for student spotlights and help us cheer them on as they start the next part of their journeys. Way to go, graduates!  

Tuesday, Dec. 15 – Diana Drye

Diana Drye
Diana Drye didn’t just find support from faculty and staff at Pellissippi State. She also found a passion for helping other college students.

Diana Drye came to Pellissippi State after high school without any goals or direction and soon dropped out. Now, over 10 years later, she is preparing to graduate this week with strong grades and a resume full of achievements. Diana has proven she is #PellissippiStrong while serving as the president of the Student Government Association and the vice president of the National Society of Leadership and Success chapter at Pellissippi State. Not only has Diana achieved academic success, but she has made a lasting impact on countless students during her time at the College. 

The first time Diana attended Pellissippi State, she was not involved in any activities, instead just taking random classes to figure out what I like,” she remembers. When she came back to Pellissippi State the second time, Diana jumped right into student groups and activities, which she believes is the reason she achieved so much at Pellissippi State. “I joined Student Government Association because I saw the needs of the students,” Diana explains. I found that a lot of the students have opinions, but they don’t feel like they can share their needs or concerns. I realized I could be that voice for them.  As SGA president this fallDiana attended Faculty Senate meetings, where she says she felt welcomed and appreciated by every faculty member. They were open to my suggestions and wanted my feedback,” she notes. Professors want to make connections with students.” 

While attending class at the Strawberry Plains Campus, Diana discovered how much she enjoyed being a resource for other college students. “I realized I loved being that rainbow,” says Diana. “I would walk around campus and walk up to students I didn’t know and ask, ‘Hey, how are your classes going?’ And if they said they were having a hard time in math, I would walk them down the hallway and introduce them to the math tutor. I wanted to make them feel comfortable getting help. By working with the staff and faculty at the Strawberry Plains CampusDiana learned all of the resources that Pellissippi State offers so that she could “be the bridge between students and those resources. Through that experience, I’ve found that my passion is helping students get to where they want to be,” Diana says. Now I’m looking into a college resource career.”   

Diana credits her success at Pellissippi State to the support she received from faculty and staff. “They made my experience personable, instead of treating me like just another student,” Diana says. They catered to my personality and my needs. They saw my love for helping other students and pushed me to be able to help them more.”

Students: know your resources and use them,” encourages Diana. “Whether it’s other students and study groups, or reaching out to Counseling Services or Student Engagement and Leadership – all of these resources and activities will really make a huge difference. If you want something, go for it! If you need something, ask for it. If you dream of something, find it. 

Wednesday, Dec. 16 – Brandon England 

Brandon England
Brandon England felt positive energy at Pellissippi State from both his professors and his fellow students.

Brandon came to Pellissippi State because of its welcoming environment and stayed for the positive energy. “I didn’t have anything to worry about when I came to campus,” says Brandon. “Everyone at the College is very down to earth. That support system is really what Pellissippi State has been for me. From the professors to the students, the positive energy on campus is just contagious.” 

Brandon is graduating with a major in Business Administration and will be transferring to University of Tennessee Knoxville next fall. “I started to fall in love with business in high school,” shares Brandon. “I would like to work in high level management or go into commercial law after I go to UT. I’d like to work for a corporation’s law team one day.” 

Brandon found a platform to reach out to new students and make connections through Pellissippi State’s chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success“It’s always been a nice and loving group,” Brandon shares about the Student Engagement and Leadership team, which includes NSLS. “They are incredibly supportive. I remember during my first few days on campus, the Student Activities Board was always doing something around campus. They were there to make sure you knew where you were going, what you were doing and how to find help. It’s like a big family, and the students here make it inclusive for everybody.” 

Brandon has fond memories of his professors as well. “My favorite memory is when a professor and I decided to pull a prank on the class,” Brandon recalls. “I was given permission to order five pizzas for a review dayMy professor acted like he was mad and about to kick me out of class until he set the pizzas down in front of our classmates. That was when I realized that the professors at Pellissippi State are not just willing to guide us through difficulties, but also want to make it as enjoyable as possible.” 

Brandon experienced lots of support while at Pellissippi State, and he encourages other students to tap into the College’s resources as well. Even though everything’s online and it seems confusing, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors or the Tutoring Center or one of the other support services at Pellissippi State,” says Brandon. “They are very invested in assisting anyone in need of help. They’ll lead you in the right direction. The Tutoring Center was definitely huge for me and made a difference in my grades and success.” 

Thursday, Dec. 17 – Shayna Smith

Shayna Smith with her late brother, Chad
It was Shayna Smith’s late brother, Chad, who encouraged her to give college another shot. This is the last picture taken of them before he passed away in May 2019.

Shayna was tired of living paycheck to paycheck and knew she needed a college education to take the next step toward her career goals. “Getting a degree is a huge milestone,” she shares. “I would love to help people one day, and I know that I have to invest in myself and my education if I ever want to help others.”  

After struggling in high school, Shayna attended Pellissippi State briefly before dropping out. While she tried to figure out what to do next, Shayna moved in with her dad. “I was struggling and didn’t know what to do with my life,” recalls Shayna. “Then I lost my brother suddenly last year. Before Shayna’s brother passed away, he told her to get back into school. He said, ‘You’re a Ferrari and don’t ever forget that,’” Shayna remembers. It’s amazing how words are so powerful, and those words definitely stuck with me. Sometimes we forget our own potential and it takes someone else to remind us of that.” Shayna’s spotlight photo is her with her brother, Chad, on their last family trip together before he passed away in May 2019. 

After Shayna’s dad and brother both encouraged her to give college another shot, she decided to go back to Pellissippi State and earn a degree in Business Administration. She is now working full time as an appraiser with her dad, who runs his own real estate, construction and appraisal business. 

Shayna credits much of her college success to the support she received at Pellissippi State. “It takes a village,” shares ShaynaI love the team-like effort and community at Pellissippi State so muchI could not have done this without the scholarships and support I received.” Shayna connected with Counseling Services, TRiO and the tutoring center, where she received individualized attention and support. “love TRiO and the tutoring center! They’re actually on my Christmas card list!” says Shayna. Having that hands-on learning and somebody to take that extra time with me was exactly what I needed.”  

Although she has faced many challenges along the way, Shayna has persevered and proven that she is #PellissippiStrong. “You can do it,” encourages Shayna. “Anything you put your mind to, you can do it. But it starts with believing in yourself.” 

Friday, Dec. 18: Eustace Muriithi

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

Eustace has known since grade school that he wanted to have a career in an electrical trade, and he had already received a diploma in electrical engineering in Kenya before coming to Pellissippi State. “I like the construction industry and I enjoy hands-on jobs, so I will eventually look for something that has both,” shares Eustace, who is graduating from Pellissippi State with a degree in Electrical Engineering Technology“My goal is to do my best in whatever I do and always be ready to learn.”

During his time at Pellissippi State, Eustace found many ways to stay busy and connect with others. Not only did he hold a workstudy job every semester to pay for his tuition, he was also involved in several important initiatives at the College. Eustacspent four semesters working on the Hardin Valley Campus Garden, which grows organic produce for the Pellissippi Pantry to support those at Pellissippi State who are experiencing food insecurity. He also helped start a recycling program at the college’s Division Street Campus.

Eustace still found the time to work with New Student Orientation, welcoming students and ensuring they got off to a strong start in college, and was a proud member of the International Students Club at Pellissippi State as well. 

Eustace encourages others to stay focused on their dreams. “It doesn’t matter what situation you are currently in,” he shares. “Your persistence will help you achieve your goals.”  

Friday, Dec. 18: Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki

Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki with graduation caps
Longtime friends Shireena Joy Harris, Stephanie Hurst and Christa Moscicki, from left, are graduating from Pellissippi State together. The trio have been friends since eighth grade. (Photo courtesy: Katie Hannah Photo)

Shireena, Stephanie and Christa have been friends since eighth grade, and today they graduate from Pellissippi State together. Their friendship is definitely #PellissippiStrong!  

“We went through middle school and high school together, and now we’ve just completed our degrees at Pellissippi State together, too,” shares Stephanie. “We said we would be friends through high school and college, and then we all actually ended up at the same college anyway. It was kind of weird, but cool!”

Pellissippi State has been a positive experience for the friends.

“When I got to Pellissippi State, I realized I didn’t want to go anywhere else,” says Stephanie. “I’m kind of sad to be graduating.”  

All three graduates have exciting plans for after graduation, however. Shirenna earned an Associate of Arts degree and plans to further her education in the field of real estate. Stephanie, who graduated with an Associate of Science, is transferring to Tusculum University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and certification to teach grades K-5Christa earned her Associate of Science degree and is transferring to Lincoln Memorial University to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. 

Congratulations and best wishes to all three of you! 

Pellissippi State plans Virtual Commencement for December

Pellissippi State Community College has announced it will not hold an in-person Commencement ceremony in December due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead Pellissippi State’s summer and fall 2020 graduates are invited to participate in a Virtual Commencement, which will premiere at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, on the College’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. 

“Students, we know this has been a challenging time for you, and we are so proud of the strength and dedication you’ve shown throughout the year,” Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. said in a video announcement emailed to students and their families on Monday. “Thank you for being a prime example of what it means to be #PellissippiStrong.” 

While Pellissippi State has only had 31 reported cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the Tennessee Board of Regents System COVID dashboard, the College continues to conduct most classes and student services virtually out of an abundance of caution. Masks are required for any faculty, staff and students who do report to campus. 

With 303 summer 2020 graduates and 503 graduation applications for fall 2020 already received ahead of this weekend’s deadline, the College’s graduation committee decided a Virtual Commencement would be the safest option. 

To participate in Pellissippi State’s Virtual Commencement, summer 2020 graduates and those students graduating this semester should submit a photo of themselves or a 5-second video of themselves via this form by Sunday, Dec. 6. Only a single file of 100 MB or smaller can be uploaded per graduate. 

Students do not have to wear a cap and gown in their photos to participate in the Virtual Commencement, but those who want to should order their regalia as soon as possible to ensure the cap and gown arrive in time. Students who need financial assistance purchasing regalia should email Beth Correro at mbcorrero@pstcc.edu and put “Cap and Gown for Graduation” in the subject line. 

Any updates on Virtual Commencement will be posted on the College’s graduation webpage. 

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Pellissippi State cancels August Commencement ceremony

Pellissippi State Community College has decided it will not hold an in-person Commencement ceremony this August for its spring and summer graduates as was hoped. With the increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, the college decided it was not safe to move forward with the specially scheduled ceremony. 

“When we postponed our May Commencement, was hopeful that we would be able to hold the ceremony in August,” said President L. Anthony Wise Jr. 

The Knox County Health Department reported 91 new positive COVID-19 cases Thursday. Federal officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other agencies visited Knoxville last week after declaring the area a hotspot for the coronavirus. 

Pellissippi State’s summer graduates will be notified by postcard when their diplomas are available for pick up, and the college also will offer all 2020 graduates photo opportunities on campus when it is safe to do so, Wise said. 

Spring and summer graduates will be allowed to walk in the college’s next Commencement ceremony as well. 

“We are so proud of the diligence and resilience our 2020 graduates have shown, completing their associate degrees under what have been the most unusual and stressful circumstances in the 46-year history of our college,” Wise said. “Pellissippi State is a family, and we want to celebrate with our graduates who have worked so hard to reach this milestone. But, like with our individual familiesthe health and safety of our Pellissippi State community is our top priority.” 

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Pellissippi State moves online for rest of semester, postpones commencement

Pellissippi State sign at entrance to Hardin Valley Campus
Pellissippi State is moving its classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester.

President L. Anthony Wise Jr. announced Thursday that it is in the best interest of Pellissippi State Community College faculty, staff and students to move classes and student services online for the remainder of the spring semester, with very few exceptions. 

This serious decision was made after the White House and the Centers for Disease Control revised their guidance that social gatherings should be limited to 10 or fewer people, a challenge for any institution. 

To that end, all college events through May 11 have been canceled, effective immediately. Spring commencement and the Nursing pinning ceremony, originally planned for May 10, will be postponed until a later date, but will be held in person when it is safe to do so. 

We know this is not the semester you imagined. It is not the semester we imagined. But we will get through this together,” Wise said in an email to faculty, staff and students. “We have a dedicated group of employees working every day to ensure we cover all our bases so we can finish the semester Pellissippi Strong. This includes everything from offering advising and tutoring online or by phone to making sure our work-study students and part-time employees get paid, even if their jobs change to duties they can do remotely. 

Although classes are moving to an online format for the rest of the semester, at least one computer lab on each campus will continue to operate its normal hours. However, there will be a reservation system put in place after the college’s extended spring break ends March 29 to ensure that there are no more than 10 people in a lab at one time. The same is true for classes that need to hold labs on campus to complete the semester. Instructors may meet with nine or fewer students in a lab while practicing social distancing measures of leaving at least 6 feet between individuals. 

As Pellissippi State transitions to an online learning environment, students can submit questions and concerns about technology, coursework, and support services to our new PantherHelp team at this link. Pellissippi State will continue to update its website – www.pstcc.edu/coronavirus – with frequently asked questions, as well as new pages of resources for faculty, staff and students.  The college also will communicate with faculty, staff and students via their Pellissippi State email and Pellissippi State’s social media accounts. 

Meanwhile, Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services has suspended all non-credit classes until further notice as well and is working with those instructors to discuss rescheduling options. Those with questions about non-credit classes should call 865.539.7167 or email bcs@pstcc.edu. 

“Although these are challenging circumstances, I look forward to the day when we can gather in community on campus once again,” Wise said. 

View Wise’s video message to faculty, staff and students today at www.pstcc.edu 

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Pellissippi State boasts record number of graduates this fall

Four spring 2019 grads at Pellissippi State commencement
Four spring 2019 Pellissippi State graduates take time to pose for a photo before Commencement.

Pellissippi State Community College will graduate a record number of students this month, with 580 graduates and at least 450 expected to walk in the Dec. 13 Commencement ceremony at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The number of December graduates has grown by more than 100, noted Manager of Records Terri L. Strader. Pellissippi State graduated 477 students in December 2018.

“We have summer graduates participating in December’s Commencement as well, and we had a record number of summer graduates, too,” Strader added. “In summer 2018, we had 217 graduates, and this summer we had 262.”

Commencement will begin at 7 p.m. Thompson-Boling adheres to a strict bag policy that everyone attending the ceremony should read before heading to the ceremony.

Assistant Professor Tracy Rees, winner of the Roger Crowe Excellence in Teaching Award for 2019, will be the Commencement speaker. She will address graduates about the role self-care plays in success, encouraging them to take care of themselves and to exercise their minds in new ways.

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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