Student success in the spotlight as Pellissippi State presents first Purchase Award Showcase

A graphite drawing
“Tempest,” a graphite drawing by former Pellissippi State art student Tavish E. White, is among 14 works that will be on display Aug. 26-Sept. 13 in the college’s first Purchase Award Showcase. “Tempest” won Best in Show in spring 2014.

Former and current art students whose work has been chosen as Best in Show at Pellissippi State Community College since spring 2011 will have their winning works displayed Aug. 26-Sept. 13 in the college’s Purchase Award Showcase.

This free exhibition in the college’s Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery kicks off The Arts at Pellissippi State for fall 2019 by offering the public an opportunity to view all the art works on display around the college as part of Pellissippi State’s permanent art collection.

For three weeks, all the works that have been purchased by Pellissippi State from the student artists between spring 2011 and spring 2019 will be moved into the Gallery for viewing.

“In 2007, the Bagwell Gallery was completed and, with that, came the opportunity to have an additional learning and exhibiting space for our students and the community,” explained Pellissippi State Art Program Coordinator Jeffrey Lockett. “Out of this, we established an annual student juried show, which offers students a chance to participate in the whole process of entering, being accepted to and showing in a public space. It has grown into an excellent showcase of student talent.”

In 2011, under the guidance of former Pellissippi State Vice President Rebecca Ashford, the college’s administration began offering a $500 purchase award to the student whose work was selected as Best in Show. Now those works – drawings, paintings and sculpture – are displayed on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley and Blount County campuses.

Fourteen works will be on display in the Purchase Award Showcase, as more than one winner was chosen during some shows.

“We certainly look forward to having them on all five campuses as more works are selected at subsequent student shows,” Lockett said.

The Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery is located on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, and is open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Arts at Pellissippi State is an annual arts series that includes music and theatre performances and fine arts exhibits. For more information about The Arts at Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865-539-7401 or email


Pellissippi State offers aviation training for teens this fall

Group of Tuskeegee NEXT and Pellissippi State officials who announced partnership on Monday, July 22, at Magnolia Avenue Campus
On hand at Pellissippi State to announce a new aviation training program Monday were, from left, Tuskegee NEXT Executive Director Sanura Young, Pellissippi State Economic and Workforce Development Executive Director Teri Brahams, Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., Tuskegee NEXT founder and chairman Stephen Davis, Magnolia Avenue Campus Dean Rosalyn Tillman and Pellissippi State Executive Director of Equity and Compliance Annazette Houston.

Teenagers and young adults who want to get a jumpstart on a pilot’s license have the opportunity this fall through a new class at Pellissippi State Community College.

Pellissippi State has partnered with Tuskegee NEXT to offer a 13-week introductory aviation training for students ages 16-20, Pellissippi State announced in a kickoff breakfast Monday.

Classes will meet on Tuesday nights on Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus, with one mandatory Saturday field trip. Professionals from the aviation industry will mentor students in the program, who will use a flight simulator to “fly.”

“It’s no secret that the aviation industry is facing a shortage of airline pilots, but that isn’t the only aviation career grappling with a labor shortage,” said Teri Brahams, executive director for Economic and Workforce Development for Pellissippi State. “Aircraft mechanics and flight simulator technicians are also in high demand. This course will introduce students to the opportunities available and provide options for training to pursue these careers.”

There is a global need of 754,000 new aircraft maintenance technicians and 790,000 pilots over the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s 2018 Pilot and Technical Outlook projections.

The nonprofit Tuskegee NEXT saw that need and created programs to help fill that void by offering aviation outreach programs to at-risk youth through Flight Training, Life Skills and Educational Assistance. The program is named in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the United States’ first black military airmen.

“As a historian, I am excited about the connection this program has with the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “As a community college president, I am pleased with the opportunities this program creates for young people in our community.”

Students who participate in the Introduction to Aviation class at Pellissippi State will gain the basic knowledge needed to sit for the Federal Aviation Administration private pilot written exam. Those who successfully complete the course and pass the written exam will be eligible to apply to the Tuskegee NEXT Cadet program in Chicago, which will run from mid-June to mid-August 2020.

Black and white photos of Tuskegee airmen and a certificate of proficiency for one of them, dated 1945
The Tuskegee NEXT program, which provides aviation outreach program to at-risk youth, is named for the Tuskegee Airmen, the United States’ first black military airmen.

“Students are often unaware of the many career possibilities available to them,” said Dean Rosalyn Tillman of Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus. “Exposure to this industry as an option may create interest for some that was never before imagined.”

There are aviation careers available right here in East Tennessee, Brahams noted.

“Local employers like Cirrus Aircraft, the Air National Guard, Pilot Flying J, Jet Aviation, Endeavor Air, STS Technical Services, Standard Aero and many others currently have openings and expect future openings for the next 10 years or more,” she said.

Students must be at least 16 years old and a sophomore in high school, hold a minimum grade point average of 2.75 and have no criminal record. Preference will be given to minority and female students.

For more information or to request an application, contact Pellissippi State Business and Community Services at 865-539-7167 or


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what a road it was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the degrees Pellissippi State offers in Theatre Arts, visit


Pellissippi State offers free financial aid assistance, advice in four upcoming events

Students who are feeling overwhelmed with paperwork for grants, loans and scholarships have four upcoming opportunities to get hands-on help from financial aid experts at Pellissippi State Community College.

Pellissippi State will host four Financial Aid Days:

  • 12:30-4:30 p.m. Friday, May 24, at the Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville;
  • 2-7 p.m. Monday, June 3, at the Blount County Campus, 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Friendsville;
  • 12:30-4:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at the Magnolia Avenue Campus, 1610 E. Magnolia Ave., Knoxville; and
  • 2-7 p.m. Thursday, June 6, at the Strawberry Plains Campus, 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, Knoxville.

A link to RSVP to the events, which are capped at 100 students each, is available on the Pellissippi State website at

Financial aid experts will be available to assist students with Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and Financial Student Aid (FSA) IDs, verification of the FAFSA, Tennessee Reconnect applications, and checking the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) student portal to ensure state funding is routed to the appropriate college.

Students should be sure to bring their 2017 tax returns and W-2s, Social Security numbers and FSA ID, if already created, to ensure they can accomplish as much as possible with financial aid experts during the event.

For more information about Financial Aid Days at Pellissippi State, contact Financial Aid at 865-694-6400 or To request accommodations for a disability at these events, call 865.539.7401 or email


Pellissippi State commencement May 3 will honor longtime student who died last year

Barry King
The late Barry King, photographed here as he was training to be a New Student Orientation leader at Pellissippi State, passed away in January 2018 at the age of 32.

Exactly 800 Pellissippi State Community College students will graduate this spring, but there will be one poignantly empty chair at the school’s Commencement ceremony Friday, May 3, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

The empty chair will be left for the late Barry King, a longtime Pellissippi State student who likely would have finished his associate degree and graduated this semester. Barry, who had brittle diabetes and kidney disease, passed away in January 2018 after being hospitalized for flu. He only lacked three classes to earn his Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Information Technology with a concentration in Programming, but he would have had to take those three classes consecutively.

Barry’s father, Associate Professor Donn King, will address Pellissippi State graduates with “Lessons from a Not-So-Empty Chair.” Doors open at 5:30 p.m., and commencement begins at 7 p.m.

“Barry was a student at Pellissippi State for 12 years; he was determined to get that degree, and he kept at it,” said King, who has taught communication at Pellissippi State for 28 years. “It took him so long because he would get part way through a semester, wind up in the hospital for a couple of weeks, get too far behind to catch up and withdraw for the semester to try again later.”

While Barry’s long-sought degree will be awarded posthumously at commencement, King stressed he will focus his address not on his son, but on the lessons he learned from Barry – lessons that Pellissippi State students may realize they also have learned along the way.

“I want to recognize our graduates’ own strength and what it took for them to get to this spot and what it will take moving forward,” King said. “Graduation is not the end of their education. Like a graduated cylinder they may have used in their science classes, ‘graduated’ means ‘marked.’ Graduation marks a major transition and achievement in these students’ ongoing journey.”

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


Event showcases work of Pellissippi State’s final Communications Graphics Technology students

The last graduating class of students in Pellissippi State Community College’s Communication Graphics Technology concentration will present their final portfolios 4-8 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The CGT Student Design Showcase is free and open to the public.

Students will exhibit examples of their best work, along with self-promotional items produced specifically for the showcase. This is the final project before these students graduate in May with an Associate of Applied Science degree.

This is also Pellissippi State’s final CGT Student Design Showcase, as the college no longer offers a degree in CGT. Pellissippi State now offers an Associate of Applied Science in Media Technologies with a Design for Web and Print concentration.

In addition to the CGT Student Design Showcase, work from Pellissippi State’s Video Production Technology students who are studying animation will be on display April 23-27 in the Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery. The exhibit will include a reel of students’ work and stills from their productions. Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-9 p.m. weekdays.

The showcase and the exhibit are part of The Arts at Pellissippi State, an annual arts series that includes music and theatre performances, lectures and fine arts exhibits. For more information about The Arts at Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

To request accommodations for a disability at this event, call 865-539-7401 or email


Pellissippi State’s Spring Choral Concert caps a year of music education, tour of Italy

Choral director directs student choir
Choral Director Meagan L. Humphreys directs Concert Chorale during a Fall Choral Concert at Pellissippi State.

A year’s worth of music classes, rehearsals and even a study-abroad opportunity will be on display next week at Pellissippi State Community College’s Spring Choral Concert.

The annual concert will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 25, in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The event is free.

“This concert is the culmination of our year and features a video presentation of our spring break tour to Italy,” said Associate Professor Peggy Hinkle, music program coordinator for Pellissippi State.

Fifty students in Pellissippi State Concert Chorale and Pellissippi State Variations will perform a wide variety of selections, from the traditional Appalachian spiritual “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” to “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder, from Mozart to Paul Simon.

Both choirs are led by Pellissippi State Choral Director Meagan L. Humphreys and accompanied by Hinkle on piano.

This is the final concert offered in The Arts at Pellissippi State this semester. To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email


Study shows Tennessee Promise increases retention, graduation rates

Tennessee Promise, a last-dollar scholarship for high school seniors, has increased retention and graduation rates for full-time, first-time freshmen at Pellissippi State, according to a new study produced by the Postsecondary Education Research Center at the University of Tennessee in conjunction with the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, Assessment and Planning at Pellissippi State.

“A Snapshot of Tennessee Promise: Pellissippi State Community College, 2015-2018,” the first in a series addressing Tennessee Promise at specific institutions of higher education, was published in February and unveiled in a press conference Tuesday at UT.

The study, which is available as a PDF at, has several key takeaways for Pellissippi State, says Data Analytics Technician Marisol Benitez Ramirez, who co-authored the study with Lisa G. Driscoll, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at UT.

  • Pellissippi State’s total enrollment steadily increased during the past four years in part due to participants in Tennessee Promise, which was signed into law by former Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014.
  • Underrepresented minority student enrollment has increased among Tennessee Promise students, narrowing the gap of previous years’ enrollment to reflect the ethnicity and race of the region’s high school population.
  • In general, the implementation of Tennessee Promise has increased access to education in population subgroups.
  • Students receiving the Tennessee Promise scholarship increased attainment compared with non-Tennessee Promise students.

“That means that Tennessee Promise students attempted more credit hours, had a higher retention rate and had a higher graduation rate when compared with non-Tennessee Promise students,” Benitez explained.

Full-time, first-time freshmen who started Pellissippi State in fall 2014, before Tennessee Promise was enacted, had a three-year graduation rate of 23.5 percent, while those who started in fall 2015 had a three-year graduation rate of 30.1 percent.

“The study shows that Tennessee Promise both increases accessibility to college and provides incentive for more students to stay the course. At Pellissippi State we are happy to play a role in helping a larger group of Tennesseans earn a post-secondary credential,” said Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Kathryn Byrd.

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

Pellissippi State presents play about determined women versus corporate greed, based on a true story

Four women students, one looking at the camera.
Kat Wilcox-Chelimsky, Rachael Allion, Peyton Southworth and Grace Elyn Berry star in “These Shining Lives,” the next production in The Arts at Pellissippi State series.

The strength and determination of women workers considered expendable in their day are at the center of “These Shining Lives,” the next production in The Arts at Pellissippi State series.

There are six chances to see “These Shining Lives” at Pellissippi State Community College: 7:30 p.m. April 5-6 and April 12-13, as well as 2 p.m. April 7 and 14. All performances will be held in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

Based on a true story, “These Shining Lives” chronicles Catherine Donahue and her friends who are dying of radium poisoning after spending the 1920s and 1930s painting glow-in-the-dark markings on watch dials. Despite their dire situation, the women refuse to allow the company that stole their health to kill their spirits – or to endanger the lives of those who come after them.

The real Donohue died in 1938, shortly after testifying before the Illinois Industrial Commission. The women won damages against the real Radium Dial Company in 1938, although Radium Dial appealed over and over, taking the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1939 the Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal, and the lower ruling was upheld.

“This is an important story because it shows how historically, and even today, those possessed of wealth and power – in this case, corporate America – often care first about maintaining that wealth and power even over the lives of those they deem less worthy than their own,” said Theatre Program Coordinator Charles R. Miller, who is directing the play at Pellissippi State. “This play is about the callousness of corporate America and how they often put profit above people’s lives, to a criminal extent, and how they will do anything to protect themselves from the truth of their actions.”

With the exception of a guest lighting designer from the University of Tennessee’s award-winning lighting design program and Associate Professor Claude Hardy, who is handling set design and technical direction for the play, everyone backstage and on stage during “These Shining Lives” is a Pellissippi State student, Miller noted. There are six actors in the cast and about a dozen other students involved in the production.

“One might say this is a capstone project for our first graduating class of Associate of Fine Arts students,” Miller said. “The AFA students graduating this spring with their AFAs in Theatre will be the first ever in the state’s history.”

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $8 for Pellissippi State faculty, staff and students. Tickets are available online at

For more information on upcoming visual arts and music events, as well as the Faculty Lecture Series, at Pellissippi State, visit To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Pellissippi State welcomes displaced Hiwassee College students

Pellissippi State Community College wants to help Hiwassee College students who will be displaced by that institution’s closing at the end of spring semester.

The college’s board of trustees voted to close Thursday, ending a 170-year history in Madisonville, Tennessee. The school is closing for “financial reasons,” according to the Rev. Tim Jones, director of communications for the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“We understand this can feel like an insurmountable setback to Hiwassee College students, and we invite them to contact us to see if one of our career programs or transfer programs are right for them,” said Leigh Anne Touzeau, assistant vice president for Enrollment Services.

Pellissippi State offers transfer programs that allow students to get started in their field of choice, earn an associate degree and then transfer seamlessly to a four-year institution. Meanwhile, Pellissippi State’s career programs result in associate degrees that prepare students to enter the workforce after two years.

A full list of Pellissippi State programs is available at

“Our goal here at Pellissippi State is to help students start strong, stay strong and finish strong,” Touzeau said. “We know this is an uncertain time for Hiwassee College students, and we would love to help them continue their educational journey.”

The Admissions office is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For more information, visit one of our campuses; check out, where Live Chat is available for those with questions; email or call 865.694.6400.