Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State partner for open house on Division Street Campus

Division Street campus exterior
Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State invite the community to an open house 3-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, to check out the nonprofit’s new space on the college’s Division Street Campus, 3435 Division Street, Knoxville.

Centro Hispano, the leading resource for and about East Tennessee’s Latino community, is expanding its services onto Pellissippi State Community College’s Division Street Campus. 

Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State invite the community to an open house 3-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, to check out the nonprofit’s new space. Pellissippi State’s Division Street Campus is located at 3435 Division Street, Knoxville. 

The open house will include music, food and tours of the coeducational space, which includes not only classrooms for Centro Hispano students to receive instruction from Centro Hispano staff and volunteers, but also a dedicated classroom for children of Centro Hispano students as Centro Hispano and Pellissippi State seek to serve entire families. 

“This collaboration is vital because it paves the road for so many Latino adults and their families to become acquainted with spaces of higher education,” said Centro Hispano President and CEO Claudia Caballero, who is Honduran-American. “We want people to see the pathway to higher education and have the opportunities to build relationships with staff at Pellissippi State.” 

Caballero added that moving Centro Hispano classes onto the Division Street Campus also can help foster a sense of belonging by taking the unknown out of Pellissippi State. 

“We want to walk into these spaces and see ourselves [Latinos] here,” she said. “We are home in East Tennessee, and we want to feel a sense of belonging here at Pellissippi State.” 

Pellissippi State’s mission is to provide a transformative environment fostering the academic, social, economic and cultural enrichment of the individual and the community. That mission is guided by a set of institutional values including Community and Civic Engagement and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

Pellissippi State’s partnership with Centro Hispano was underway before the pandemic. The Division Street Campus has been closed since March 2020, but will reopen on Aug. 2, said Division Street Dean Esther Dyer. 

“At Pellissippi State, we take our obligation to serve our community to heart,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “This partnership with Centro Hispano allows us to serve a growing Latino population by providing new opportunities for learning on our Division Street Campus and by illuminating new pathways to postsecondary education. I can’t wait for these classes to begin in a few weeks.” 

By providing Centro Hispano with a larger learning space, Pellissippi State can help Centro Hispano provide not only workforce development classes for the Latino community, but also children’s programs. 

“A Centro team member has always wanted a post-secondary degree, but life, raising children and working a full-time job made it seem impossible to achieve,” Caballero said. “Because of this partnership with Pellissippi State, she can do it all. Her story reflects that of many, and we hope that this project serves as a model for other communities across the Southeast.” 

Classes will begin in Centro Hispano’s new space the week of Aug. 23. For more information on Centro Hispano programs at Pellissippi State, contact info@centrohispanotn.org or call 865-522-0052. 


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.” 


Graduate spotlight: So Min Lee wants to use her education to help children in South Korea

So Min Lee with cupcake
So Min Lee, a native of South Korea, wants to eventually use her Early Childhood Education degree from Pellissippi State to help low-income families in her home country.

So Min Lee, who grew up in a small town in South Korea, has always dreamed of being a teacher. 

I was educated in my country’s rather rigorous educational environment,” says So Min, and that experience both positively and negatively influenced my educational philosophy. So Min is studying early childhood education and will be graduating from Pellissippi State this May.  

Before coming to the United States, So Min earned her bachelor’s degree in business management and worked for an overseas sales company. However, she realized that she really wanted to work with children instead of working in an office.

I love the pure imagination of young children,” shares So Min, who chose Pellissippi State because of the theoretical and practical experience taught in the Early Childhood Education program. I can’t forget the day I first visited this college,” recalls So Min. She says the people she met were so kind, she forgot her nervousness as an international student 

So Min credits her college success to the professors, advisors and fellow students who helped her throughout her time at Pellissippi State. She felt especially supported during one of her virtual classes this past year, when she was nervous and froze during a presentation.

“My professor and classmates listened to my presentation carefully. After my less-than-perfect presentation, they gave me a lot of applause. This was a positive experience for me and made me feel confident in all my assignments after that. I already miss my classmates,” she shares. 

So Min is thankful to have had teachers who made her laugh and shared their positive energywhich made So Min look forward to class every week. “I am grateful to everyone at the College who helped me,” shares So Min. “All memories are the best for me.” 

After graduation, So Min would like to work at a preschool, and her long-term career goal is to manage a children’s center for low-income families in her country. 

I was sad that children from low-socioeconomic status families cannot experience quality learning activities,” says So MinAs a children’s educator, I have learned that all children must be protected from danger and abuse and that they have rights to receive an equal education. If I go back to my country, I want to run a nonprofit children’s center where all children can receive an equal and developmentally appropriate education. There, I want to work with children and be a good influence on early childhood educators in my country. 

Pellissippi State holds steady at No. 2 for number of community college students who study abroad

Students on a TnCIS trip
Pellissippi State ranks No. 2 in the nation for number of community college students who study abroad.

For the second year in a row, Pellissippi State Community College has ranked No. 2 in the nation among community colleges for its number of students who study abroad.

The 2019 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released Nov. 18, notes that Pellissippi State sent 188 students to study abroad in academic year 2017-18, three more than the previous academic year.

Citrus College in Glendora, California, is the only community college that ranked higher than Pellissippi State, with 193 students studying abroad in 2017-18.

This is the eighth year in a row that Pellissippi State has appeared in the top 5 community colleges for study abroad participation.

“Study abroad is, without a doubt, the most impactful experience students have at community colleges,” said Tracey C. Bradley, executive director of the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, which serves all community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system. “While students who study abroad have higher GPAs, are more likely to get a job after graduation and, in some fields, earn a higher starting salary, we also know that the value of study abroad is profound in ways we can’t even measure.”

TnCIS, which is housed on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, offers more than 25 study abroad programs each year all over the world, many of them short-term programs designed specifically to suit the schedules of community college students. All programs are faculty led.

The 2019 Open Doors Report also shows that the number of international students in the United States set an all-time high in the 2018-19 academic year, the fourth consecutive year with more than 1 million international students. The total number of international students, 1,095,299, is a 0.05 percent increase over the previous academic year.

Tennessee colleges and universities had 9,267 international students enrolled in 2018-19, with an economic impact of nearly $350 million.

Pellissippi State had 116 international students during the 2018-19 academic year here on student visas from 35 countries, the highest among all Tennessee community colleges.

For more information about TnCIS, visit www.tncis.org or call 865.539.7279. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865.694.6400.


Pellissippi State invites all to celebrate international culture next week

Four students at a table
Pellissippi State students participate in the International Culture Festival in spring 2018. The next one is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 22, on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus.

Pellissippi State Community College will mark International Education Week with five days of activities on its Hardin Valley Campus next week, culminating with an International Culture Festival hosted by the college’s international students.

“We celebrate the week at Pellissippi State to highlight the many international experiences available to students from both here and abroad,” explained Theresa Castillo, assistant director of the Tennessee Consortium of International Studies, which is housed at Pellissippi State, and chair of the college’s International Education Committee. “The week is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and to attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences with us.”

Pellissippi State has 96 international students enrolled in classes who are here on student visas from 35 countries, noted International Admissions Specialist Patricia J. Higgins. The college also has hundreds of students who were born outside of the United States and now live here permanently, she added.

“Many of the students celebrating with us at the Culture Festival are U.S. immigrants who are bringing their families with them to help celebrate,” Higgins noted.

All International Education Week activities at Pellissippi State are planned for the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, and are free and open to the public:

  • Monday, Nov. 18: World Café featuring Brazil, 12:30-2 p.m. in the Goins Building College Center. This event, cosponsored by the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, will feature music, culture and activities focused on the country of Brazil.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19: Faculty panel on internationalizing the curriculum, 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Goins Building Auditorium. Professor Oakley Atterson, a Pellissippi Academic Center for Excellence faculty fellow for Global and Diversity Learning, will share his project working with faculty to internationalize their syllabi to prepare college students for an increasingly interconnected world and the impact this project is already having in our classrooms.
  • Wednesday, Nov. 20: International film “Embrace of the Serpent,” 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m., Goins Building Auditorium. Through parallel story threads set 40 years apart, this odyssey follows two Western scientists who travel deep into the Amazon jungle looking for a rare plant that possesses healing powers. This film was nominated for Best Foreign Language Feature at the 2016 Academy Awards and Best International Film at the Film Independent Spirit Awards and was winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s Alfred P. Sloan Award.
  • Thursday, Nov. 21: Displays in the Educational Resource Center (library), all day. Displays will include films and books highlighting international themes as well as art, photos and journals from 2019 Tennessee Consortium for International Studies study abroad programs.
  • Friday, Nov. 22: International Student Culture Festival, 12:30-3:30 p.m. in the Goins Building College Center. Pellissippi State’s international students will share their country’s culture through music, food, dance and more. Cosponsored by the International Student Club and Access and Diversity, activities will include a fashion show of clothing traditionally worn in other countries and virtual reality tours that allow festivalgoers to “visit” countries around the world.

To request accommodations for a disability at this event or any campus event, call 865.539.7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu.

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


Pellissippi State to host Cuban literacy campaign speaker

Pellissippi State Community College will host Griselda Aguilera Cabrera for three events on Wednesday, Feb. 21, on the Magnolia Avenue Campus.

Cabrera will give three presentations: two eight-minute showings of the documentary film “Maestra” at 8:35 a.m. and 9:40 a.m., followed respectively by a Spanish-only presentation and an English-interpreted Spanish presentation. Cabrera also will host a full-length, 35-minute showing of “Maestra” from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. followed by a question and answer session. Cabrera will be accompanied by Catherine Murphy, the director of “Maestra.”

All events will be in the Community Room on the Magnolia Avenue Campus, 1610 E. Magnolia Ave.

Cabrera was featured in the movie “Maestra,” a documentary film about the Cuban literacy campaign that virtually ended adult illiteracy in 1961. Only seven years old, Cabrera was one of the youngest volunteers in that campaign. Now retired from her career as an educator, she is involved in the Cuban Psychology Society’s Working Group on Identity and Diversity, participating in workshops and activities concerning homophobia, prejudice against people with HIV/AIDS, racial discrimination and domestic violence.

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu

Pellissippi State No. 4 in nation for study abroad

Coby Wester
Pellissippi State student Coby Wester in Street Art Alley, also called “Graffiti Alley” in Hackescher Markt in Berlin during a study abroad trip.

Pellissippi State Community College is ranked number four in the nation among community colleges for study abroad, according to the 2017 Open Doors Report.

This is the sixth year in a row that the college has appeared in the top five for the number of students who studied abroad. It is the only community college in the southeast to be recognized in the Open Doors Report.

Pellissippi State student Coby Wester studied photography and videography in Germany through a study abroad trip with the college and the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies. He created a portfolio of photos as well as a video of the trip, in which he interviewed residents of Munich and Bavaria about their lives.

“What I took away most from the trip were the connections I made with the people I traveled with — people who went to Pellissippi but I never knew. We’re all still connected,” Wester said. “It’s this unifying moment of being part of this new, shared unexplored territory in our lives.”

Wester related a story of visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp with a friend who is Jewish. “There’s a noticeable atmospheric change there. Being part of that with her, and being there for her, was a humbling experience.

“I think going on study abroad programs pushes people’s limits to explore who they can fully be. It’s amazing to be part of that with the people around you,” Wester said. “I love studying abroad; I’d love to go back.”

Pellissippi State sent 166 students to study abroad in summer 2016 to sites across Europe and Asia as well as South Africa, Cuba, Peru and Brazil.

According to the Open Doors Report, the college led the state in international student enrollment among community colleges, with 101 students in 2015-16. Only two other community colleges were recognized for international enrollment in Tennessee.

Study abroad programs at Pellissippi State are organized through the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies, which is housed at the college. TnCIS serves all community colleges in the Tennessee Board of Regents system, organizing study abroad opportunities as part of its mission of boosting international experience and culture in higher education across the state.

For more information about TnCIS, visit www.tncis.org or call 865-539-7279. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400.

Castle Neuschwanstein
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, photographed by Coby Wester while studying abroad.



Pellissippi State third in nation for study abroad

This photograph, taken by Pellissippi State Community College student Elicia Ferrer, depicts the interior of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
This photograph, taken by Pellissippi State Community College student Elicia Ferrer, depicts the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City near Rome, Italy.

Pellissippi State Community College ranks third in the nation among two-year colleges for the number of students it sends to study abroad. In 2015, the college sent 204 students on study abroad programs.

Elicia Ferrer
Elicia Ferrer

“Study abroad was a great experience,” said Pellissippi State student Elicia Ferrer, who spent time over the summer studying in Italy and England. “I had been out of the country before, but for mission experiences. Study abroad is different because you’re there to learn and to experience the place. It’s pretty magical.”

In Tennessee, Pellissippi State ranks eighth among all higher education institutions in the state for the number of students who study abroad. In fact, the college is the only community college in the top 15.

Ferrer, who is studying Chinese language and plans to transfer to a four-year university in the spring, said, “Studying abroad is an eye-opening way to observe different cultures and faiths. It gives you a front row seat to history. In my World Civilizations class, we were studying the Medicis, who did terrible things but who also funded the Renaissance. When you’re in Italy and can physically see their legacy, it gives you an interesting perspective.”

Pellissippi State works with the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies to provide study abroad opportunities for students. TnCIS, headquartered at Pellissippi State, organizes study abroad opportunities as part of its mission of boosting international experience and culture in higher education across the state. In the 10 years since its founding, TnCIS has supported more than 3,000 students statewide in pursuing a global education.

Additionally, Pellissippi State offers unique opportunities for students from around the world to study here in East Tennessee. In the 2015-16 academic year, Pellissippi State had 156 international students enrolled — the ninth highest among all higher education institutions in the state and  the only community college in the top 20.

“Community colleges are diverse, and the ability to offer study abroad opportunities and to have international students on campus only increases that diversity. In a global economy, students need to be able to understand and appreciate diverse points of view,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr.

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


Pellissippi State: Orientation sessions set for new spring enrollees


All degree-seeking students who have been accepted to attend Pellissippi State Community College for the spring 2017 semester should make plans now to attend a New Student Orientation session. Classes begin Jan. 17.

The free sessions are required of all new degree-seeking students, both freshmen and transfer, and will be held in November and early January. Reserve a space as soon as possible at www.pstcc.edu/orientation.

Orientation gives new students the opportunity to meet with Pellissippi State students, faculty and staff; learn about what they can expect in college and what the college expects of them; learn strategies for college success; explore degree, major and transfer options; and discover campus services and resources such as financial aid, tutoring and computer resources.

Students are encouraged to attend orientation at the campus that they will be attending for class.

Dates, time and locations of New Student Orientations:

  • Blount County Campus — 1-4 p.m., Jan. 11
  • Division Street Campus — 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Jan. 12
  • Hardin Valley Campus — 5-8:30 p.m., Nov. 29; 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Jan. 6; 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Jan. 13
  • Magnolia Avenue Campus — 4:30-8 p.m., Jan. 10
  • Strawberry Plains Campus — 1-4 p.m., Jan. 10

Additionally, a special session just for students transferring from another institution will be held 5:30-8:30 p.m., Jan. 9, on the Hardin Valley Campus. Some sessions are recommended for veterans or for international students; visit www.pstcc.edu/orientation for more details.

Pellissippi State encourages parents, spouses and others supportive of the student to attend New Student Orientation, too. They’ll receive special information in separate sessions.

To sign up for an orientation session, visit www.pstcc.edu/orientation or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability, contact Disability Services at accommodations@pstcc.edu or 865-539-7153.

Ecuadorian Humphrey Fellow to share views at Pellissippi State

Juan Molina BolivarEcuadorian professor Juan Camilo Molina Bolivar will speak at Pellissippi State Community College during the week of March 27, as part of the college’s second Humphrey Fellows visit of the year.

Juan Camilo Molina Bolivar, a Humphrey Fellows scholar from Ecuador, will share a presentation at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, March 31, titled “Ecuador: A View From the Middle of the World.” The presentation is free and open to the public.

Bolivar will spend time shadowing Pellissippi State administrators to learn more about the community college model and how Pellissippi State interacts with its community.

Humphrey Fellows are mid-career professionals from other nations who travel to the U.S. and spend one academic year at a university or other higher education institution. The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, was established in 1978. Professionals from 24 countries participate.

Bolivar is a university professor at the Technological Equinoctial University of Ecuador and has previously worked as a national director of research and international cooperation for the Professional Training Service of Ecuador. During his year as part of the Humphrey Fellows program, he is based at the University of Minnesota.

“With this experience, I want to understand the management of institutions specializing in professional and workforce training,” Bolivar said. “I can learn about the community college model and the best practices in adult training and development of professional skills, including the link between the private and industrial sectors.”

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit www.pstcc.edu or call 865-694-6400. To request accommodations for a disability at this event, contact the executive director of Equity and Compliance at 865-539-7401 or accommodations@pstcc.edu


Download this press releaseJuan Bolivar Humphrey Fellow