Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus celebrates 20 years of changing lives

Students gather in the Magnolia Avenue Campus courtyard in pre-pandemic times.
Pellissippi State students gather in the Magnolia Avenue Campus courtyard in pre-pandemic times.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Magnolia Avenue Campus will celebrate its 20th anniversary in a socially distanced way, in keeping with the challenges of marking milestones during a pandemic. 

The celebration will take place noon-1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, over Zoom. Those who would like to attend should RSVP to tltrivette@pstcc.edu or call 865.329.3100 to receive the Zoom link for the event. 

Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman, who has served as dean since the campus opened, will oversee the celebration, which will include speakers sharing what Magnolia Avenue Campus did for them. 

“This was the only east campus (of Pellissippi State) when we opened 20 years ago, and we had the opportunity to serve this community in a way that they had not been served before,” Tillman remembered. “There was a reluctance at first to come inside a college door, but now they had a place in the neighborhood, and we tried to make them feel comfortable.” 

Among the students who have passed through the halls of Magnolia Avenue Campus over the years, one stands out in Tillman’s mind: a nail technician who came into the office 30 minutes into her first college class. Tillman recalled the student telling her, “I can’t do this. I’m too old,” but the Magnolia Avenue Campus staff encouraged her to stick with it.  

That student ended up getting her degree in education. 

That always has stayed with me because she was so devastated that day,” Tillman said. “We have been able to change people’s lives.” 

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

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Annual holiday concert shifts online during pandemic

Dakota Loo on marimba, Jacob Mincke on bells and Jennifer Vargo on vibraphone perform in the pre-recorded Holiday Spectacular in 2020
Pellissippi State students Dakota Loo on marimba, Jacob Mincke on bells and Jennifer Vargo on vibraphone perform in the pre-recorded Holiday Spectacular concert that will premiere at 7 p.m. Dec. 3 on Facebook and YouTube.

The talented musicians and singers at Pellissippi State Community College know that “the show must go on.” That’s why the College will present its annual Holiday Spectacular concert online this year. 

“Home for the Holidays … Again!” will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, on Pellissippi State’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. 

Those who want to enjoy the concert will not need social media accounts to view the concert, as privacy will be set to “public.”  

Our annual Holiday Spectacular is one of the most well-loved events of the year, so we traditionally perform the show twice in the same night,” said Assistant Professor Meagan Humphreys, music program coordinator for Pellissippi State. “With so many of us working and learning from home this year due to the pandemic, we thought, ‘Why not bring the concert into people’s homes?’ It’s a very 2020 way to kick off the holiday season!” 

This year’s concert will feature Pellissippi State’s jazz band, studio orchestra, percussion ensemble, bluegrass ensemble, guitar ensemble and brass ensemble as well as pieces by the College’s two choirs: Concert Chorale and Variations. 

The eight songs will be a mix of sacred and secular holiday music, from “Away in a Manger” to “Jingle Bell Rock.” 

There is no cost to view the concert, which will feature more than 70 Pellissippi State students. 

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

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Free webinar highlights Knoxville as major hub for production vision, talent, output

The Pellissippi State Community College Media Technologies program will continue its free webinar series titled “The Art, Science & Impact of Digital Storytelling” on Dec. 1, with a focus on “Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community.” 

The session will take place 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern over Zoom. Registration is open now for professionals, faculty, students and alumni in digital, creative and strategic communications 

“Building Greater Knoxville’s National Reputation as a Creative Community” will focus on the region’s wealth of creative intellectual assets and highlight Knoxville as a major hub of production vision, talent and output.  

The session, which will be moderated by Mary Beth West of Fletcher Marketing PR, will spotlight the future direction and demand for creative and production services. Panelists including Deborah Allen of Catalina Content, Doug Lawyer of the Knoxville Chamber and Joe Richani of Jewelry Television will address how the region can best position itself to grow and adapt to workforce development needs. 

This webinar series is sponsored by The Hive, Bagwell Entertainment and Jupiter Entertainment and will conclude Jan. 22 with “The Media Technologies Workforce Pipeline & 2021 Employer Hiring Priorities.” 

For more information on the webinar series or to register for upcoming sessions, visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs/mediatech

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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 breaks ground for long-awaited workforce development center in Blount County

Eight officials with shovels in front of a bulldozer
Among the dignitaries celebrating the groundbreaking for the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center are, from left, state Rep. Jerome Moon, donors Steve and Ruth West, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville President Kelli Chaney, state Sen. Art Swann, state Rep. Bob Ramsey and Blount Partnership CEO Bryan Daniels.

Pellissippi State Community College broke ground today on its new Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center, a joint project with Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville. 

The 51,000-square-foot building on the College’s Blount County Campus will help fill the area’s need for highly skilled, college-educated employees. Blount County has experienced $2.8 million in new capital investment and announced 5,500 new jobs since 2011, according to the Blount Partnership. 

Named for longtime Blount County Campus benefactors Ruth and Steve West, the workforce development center will include space for Pellissippi State’s Computer Information Technology, Culinary Arts, Electrical Engineering Technology and Electromechanical Engineering programs while TCAT will have space for its Engineering Technology program, giving that college its first footprint in Blount County. 

Steve and Ruth West in front of artist rendering of new building named for him
Steve and Ruth West stand in front of an artist rendering of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center that is being built on Pellissippi State’s Blount County Campus.

“I was on the Blount County Industrial Board for 20 years, and we brought a lot of diverse companies in and continue to do so,” said Mr. West, longtime owner of West Chevrolet and a former mayor of Maryville. “But it’s not like it was when I was young. A good attitude and willingness to learn, while important, are not enough in today’s economy. We need more specialized training to fill these jobs.” 

The center will help fill that gap, with a unique, integrated approach to workforce development. In addition to Pellissippi State’s partnership with TCAT, the workforce development center also represents a K-12 partnership, offering dual enrollment classes for high school students, focusing on high-demand career skills. Meanwhile, a new corporate training center will give the College’s local industry partners extra space and opportunity to train their employees at Pellissippi State. 

“Our institutional mission at Pellissippi State is to provide a transformative environment that fosters the academic, social, economic and cultural enrichment of individuals and of our community,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “The Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center is going to embody that mission in a tangible way, helping us prepare Blount County students for high-demand careers that will sustain them and their families economically and allow them to stay right here at home instead of leaving in search of well-paying jobs. 

For example, the new building will include a 4,890-square-foot Culinary Institute that will allow the College to expand its Culinary Arts degree program and industry-recognized certification programs, increasing the number of graduates ready to fill in-demand culinary positions at hotels, restaurants, farmsteads, breweries, wineries and resorts across Blount, Knox and surrounding counties.

Dignitaries with shovels in front of bulldozer
Also celebrating the groundbreaking for the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center today are, from left, Blount County Campus Dean Priscilla Duenkel, Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell, Jeff Weida of Arconic Tennessee, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., TCAT President Kelli Chaney, Louisville Mayor Tom Bickers, Don Heinemann of Blount Memorial Hospital, Bob Booker of DENSO and Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor. Not pictured is Alcoa Mayor Clint Abbott.

The workforce development center will also help us serve our industry partners by providing  more space to train their employees and offering individuals the continuing education that helps them move to the next level in their careers,” said Teri Brahams, executive director of Economic and Workforce Development for Pellissippi State. And with the flexible space located right outside our new Culinary Institute, the College can provide the community space to host events and have them catered by our Culinary Arts students. It’s a win for everyone.” 

Construction of the $16.5 million building, which was funded by the state of Tennessee and TCAT in addition to Pellissippi State, is projected to be complete in February 2022.  

The fundraising team with shovels
Among those who have been working hard behind the scenes are fundraising team members Joy Bishop and Sharon Hannum, Chuck Griffin of BarberMcMurry Architects, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., TCAT President Kelli Chaney, fundraising team members Christy Newman, Andy White and Mary Beth West, Raja Jubran of Denark Construction and fundraising team member Teri Brahams, from left.

The Pellissippi State Foundation raised $5.5 million for the workforce development center. In addition to the Wests, the center also received significant financial contributions from donors such as the Economic Development Board of Blount County Government, the City of Maryville and the City of Alcoa; Arconic Foundation; Blackberry Farm Foundation; Blount Memorial HospitalCare Institute GroupClayton Family Foundation; Clayton Homes Inc.; DENSO North America Foundation; and William Ed Harmon.  

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

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Pellissippi State Theatre students perform radio plays, broadcast live, in lieu of in-person performances this fall

Poster for the double feature radio plays
Support Pellissippi State’s Theatre and Audio Production Engineering students by tuning in to live broadcasts of two radio plays later this month.

Theatre companies across the country have had to get creative during the coronavirus pandemic, performing plays over video communication platforms or in open outdoor spaces. 

But when brainstorming how Pellissippi State Community College could give its Theatre students the experience they need while still adhering to social distancing protocolsProfessor Charles R. Miller didn’t look to the future of theatre. 

He looked to the past. 

“Why reinvent the wheel?” asked Miller, who serves as Theatre program coordinator for the College. “Radio drama has been around for 100 years.” 

Pellissippi State will present a double feature of two short radio plays — “The Lone Ranger Redux” and the science fiction piece “Think Like a Dinosaur” — at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18. 

The plays will be performed back-to-back by Pellissippi State students, broadcast live on the College’s YouTube channel and recorded for later listening by Pellissippi State’s Audio Production Engineering faculty and students. 

There is no fee to listen. 

“In the past six months, we have seen a lot of Zoom theatre, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t,” Miller said. “But radio dramas use the power of imagination. 

“The Lone Ranger Redux” is one of the original radio broadcasts of “The Lone Ranger” from 1933, with some updating by Miller and his Theatre students. 

“There will be some socially aware commentary in it, in that the characters will step out of the play to remark on current events, but in a humorous way,” Miller explained. 

For example, the character of Tonto, the Native American companion of the Lone Ranger, will react to outdated stereotypes and racial slurs in the script. Miller described the updated Tonto as “quietly, morally outraged in a way that’s also funny.” 

The second radio play, “Think Like a Dinosaur,” is based on the award-winning science fiction novelette by James Patrick Kelly. Set in the far future and centering on alien technology and alien races, the play resembles “an episode of a scifi series, but self-contained,” Miller said. 

“This play is a little more dramatic and thought provoking,” he added. 

It’s the first time Pellissippi State has produced radio plays, Miller noted, and they are challenging the College’s Theatre students in new and different ways. 

“You don’t have the distractions of the set, the costumes and the facial expressions, so everything you’re doing with your voice, your breath – that’s what the audience is getting,” he said. “It’s all you.” 

Because of restrictions on having guests on campus during the coronavirus pandemic, Miller limited participation in the radio plays to Pellissippi State students instead of opening them up to the community. Twelve students will be acting in the plays, two will be providing sound effects and two will be working on the audio recording. 

During technical rehearsals and performances, actors will be spaced 15 to 20 feet from each other around the perimeter of the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the College’s Hardin Valley Campus, Miller stressed. The additional distance between students addresses that actors and musicians can spread respiratory droplets farther than those who talk without projecting their voices, he said. 

“Doing it live creates the kind of energy that is important to actors, but we will record it so that it can be enjoyed later by those who are not available to listen to it live,” Miller added. 

To tune in to “The Lone Ranger Redux” and “Think Like a Dinosaur” live, visit youtube.com/PellissippiState at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, or 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 18. 

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Pellissippi State gives canceled Big Ears Festival new life with livestreamed concerts

A jazz band plays on stage while Pellissippi State faculty and students record them
Pellissippi State student Channing Huskey, not pictured, took this photo of Pellissippi State faculty and students recording a recent concert at the Bijou Theatre.

Pellissippi State Community College’s Media Technologies faculty and students are directing, filming, recording, photographing and engineering Sites & Sounds from Big Ears, a series of intimate concerts at the historic Bijou Theatre. 

The new livestreaming initiative fills a gap left when Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival was canceled due to coronavirus. The next concert, with the top-tier contemporary jazz trio The Bad Plus, will premiere at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. 

Tickets are $15 in advance and $17 on the day of the livestream. Those who purchase their tickets in advance or during the livestream also have access to a recording of the concert that will be available until 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11.  

Big Ears Festival Executive and Artistic Director Ashley Capps reached out to Assistant Professor Mischa Goldmanwho has served as production manager for Big Ears at the Bijou for many years, to brainstorm how they could support artists and venues that had suffered severely due to COVID-19 closures. 

What they landed on isn’t your typical livestream, where the viewer experiences the concert from a fixed perspective, far from the stage. 

“Ashley wanted to make this very personal and engaging for the audience,” explains Goldman, who serves as program coordinator for Audio Production Engineering at Pellissippi State. “There wasn’t a concrete vision of how he wanted to do this, but I believe we were able to translate and capture Ashley’s desire to present a unique streaming experience.” 

Sites & Sounds from Big Ears livestreams concerts in a single take with a Steadicam — taking viewers down Gay Street, viewing the marquee out front, into the empty Bijou Theatre, backstage and, ultimately, up on stage with the artists. 

“It’s like a first-person experience,” Goldman explained. “You are up close with the artists, not sitting far back, and they break down the fourth wall, talking to each other and to the camera between tunes.” 

Big Ears and Pellissippi State piloted this approach during Sites & Sounds from Big Ears’ first concert – musician R.B. Morris on Aug. 21 – and received rave reviews from viewers. 

“A lot of streaming is flat,” Goldman said. “We got comments like, ‘I didn’t expect this. Wow.’ You are seeing the concert through the eyes of someone invited on stage with the musicians, and that provides intimacy.” 

Filming a jazz trio on stage at the Bijou Theatre
Pellissippi State faculty and students bring livestream viewers on stage with artists during Sites & Sounds from Big Ears at the historic Bijou Theatre. (Photo by student Channing Huskey)

Because of COVID-19 restrictions and concerns for safety, Sites & Sounds from Big Ears utilizes a very small crew. Big Ears Festival Managing Director Aaron Greenwald joins Capps as a producerGoldman is serving as producer and audio mastering engineer and is joined by Pellissippi State Instructor Jonathan Maness, recording and mixing engineering, and Adjunct Matthew Caldwell, director of photography/Steadicam operator and video editor. 

The Pellissippi State Video Production Technology and Photography faculty also selected four students to join them: Channing Huskey, still photography, and Logan MaddoxMichael Moore and Grant Robinson, assistant cameras. 

The students are receiving class credit for their participation. 

“This gives students real-world experience of how to put together a production like this: how to gather assets, how to work within the restraints of technology, how to work on tight deadlines,” Goldman explained. “The students have been very professional. They understand our safety protocols and have worked well with the artists.” 

Capps, the founder of AC Entertainment, which produces the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester in addition to the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, is pleased with the result. 

We’re thrilled, in this most uncertain moment for the arts, to be able to work with artists about whom we care deeply, in venues that are part of the fabric of our city, and with the indispensable faculty and students from Pellissippi State Community College, an East Tennessee treasure, he said. 

For more information on the jazz trio The Bad Plus or to purchase tickets for the livestream, visit www.bigearsfestival.org/thebadplus. 

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Pellissippi State hosts webinar series on digital storytelling

Steve Crescenzo
Steve Crescenzo is the first keynote speaker for Pellissippi State’s upcoming webinar series on digital storytelling.

The Pellissippi State Community College Media Technologies program will host a free, three-part continuing education webinar series titled “The Art, Science & Impact of Digital Storytelling” beginning Wednesday, Oct. 21,  with other sessions scheduled for Dec. 1 and Jan. 22, 2021. 

Each session will take place 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern over Zoom. Registration is open now for professionals, faculty, students and alumni in digital, creative and strategic communications communities from East Tennessee, as well as from thought leaders in these areas across the country. 

This webinar series takes the place of the half-day digital storytelling forum that was planned for April 24 and postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Our team of supporters for Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program and the Bagwell Center for Media and Art are excited to welcome the creative and strategic communications community to join us for learning, sharing and networking opportunities, as we interact with leaders who represent such important voices of our industry’s workforce pipeline,” said Mary Beth West, volunteer chair of Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies development campaign. 

This webinar series sponsored by The HiveBagwell Entertainment and Jupiter Entertainment will bring together thought leaders in digital production, creative services and brand storytelling, to discuss industry trends and workforce opportunities, as Greater Knoxville continues to evolve as a nationally and internationally recognized center of digital content development for major broadcasting and consumer platforms. 

Session 1 on Oct. 21Crafting Digital Messages that Motivate Audiences to Action, will feature a keynote address by Steve Crescenzo of Crescenzo Communications, who has been voted the No. 1 speaker from the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference seven times. 

Shel Holtz of Webcor will moderate a panel including Deirdre Breakenridge, CEO at Pure Performance; Damon Rawls, founder of Damon Rawls Consulting Group; and Scott Monty, former chief of global digital communications at Ford Motor Co.  

Speaker biographies are available on the webinar series website. 

Session 1 will focus on the essence and purpose of strategic communications and digital engagement and will explore questions such as: 

  • How much is the medium still (or even more so) the message in the digital age?  
  • How should strategies and tactics change as digital innovation accelerates and saturates?  
  • Is understanding your audience more important as you aim to earn trust for your business, sell products/services to customers or persuade people to your cause – and how can authentic connections be achieved during the disruption of the COVID-19 Age? 

There is no cost for the webinar series. The webinars highlight Pellissippi State’s Media Technologies program, which offers concentrations in Audio Production Engineering, Design for Web and Print, Photography, Video Production Technology and Web Technology. 

For more information on this webinar series, including future topics, speaker bios or to register, visit www.pstcc.edu/bcs/mediatech. 

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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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