Rescheduled: Author inducted into East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame reads from new novel at Pellissippi State

Charles Dodd White
Charles Dodd White

A Pellissippi State Community College professor will read from his latest novel next week, and the public is invited to the free event.

Charles Dodd White, an associate professor of English at Pellissippi State, will read from “In the House of Wilderness” at 12:25 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7, in the Goins Building Auditorium on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

This event was rescheduled due to inclement weather.

White, who founded and directs the annual James Agee Conference for Literature and Arts at Pellissippi State, was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame in October, honored for his fiction. White’s most recent novel, “In the House of Wilderness,” was published by Ohio University Press in September.

“Charles has been widely recognized for his work, all of which is deeply rooted in Appalachia,” said Kathryn Byrd, interim vice president for Academic Affairs at Pellissippi State.

Book cover of "In the House of Wilderness"While White has published two other novels, “In the House of Wilderness” is his first set in Tennessee. Ohio University Press describes the family drama as “a harrowing story of choice and sacrifice” and “a novel about the modern South and how we fight through hardship and grief to find a way home.”

White grew up in Atlanta, but has spent time all over the South, earning degrees in North Carolina, Kentucky and Texas. He moved to Tennessee to teach at Pellissippi State, where he has been on faculty since 2013. His weekly commute from his home in Asheville, N.C., to the college’s Hardin Valley Campus his first year at Pellissippi State helped shape the setting of “In the House of Wilderness,” which includes references to real places in Newport and Knoxville.

“I’d have to leave my house in Asheville at 4:30 in the morning, and that was a good time to dwell on this story,” said White, who now lives in Knoxville and taught Pellissippi State’s first Appalachian literature course this fall. “That long drive in the dark also gave me the opportunity to absorb the landscape. It’s been nice for me to incorporate some of those places.”

For the Humanities Tennessee review of “In the House of Wilderness,” which was published in the Knoxville News Sentinel, visit

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


Pellissippi State welcomes pianist Emi Kagawa in concert

Emi Kagawa
Pianist Emi Kagawa will perform at Pellissippi State on Thursday, Jan. 31.

The Arts at Pellissippi State welcomes world-renowned pianist Emi Kagawa in concert Thursday, Jan. 31.

A native of Osaka, Japan, Kagawa has performed extensively throughout the United States, Canada, Italy and Japan. She is a past winner of the Juilliard School of Music’s Gina Bachauer International Piano Competition and was recently appointed principal keyboard of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

“Emi Kagawa performed here at Pellissippi State last January with the group Isotone, and she expressed an interest in doing a solo recital for us,” said Peggy Hinkle, music program coordinator for Pellissippi State Community College. “We are extremely fortunate to host a guest artist of her caliber as part of our concert series.”

Kagawa’s performance, which is free, will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31, in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, as well as the college’s faculty lecture series, visit

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

‘Black Comedy’ brings farce to Pellissippi State stage

“Black Comedy,” a farce about what happens when the lights go out at a dinner party, launches the spring 2019 theatre season at Pellissippi State Community College next weekend.

Audiences have three opportunities to catch the one-act play: at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27.

All performances will be held in the Clayton Performing Arts Center on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

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

While the characters in “Black Comedy” are in the dark, the audience can see everything as lovesick and desperate Brindsley Miller must impress his fiancée’s father while trying to return “borrowed” antiques from his next-door neighbor, who has suddenly shown up at his darkened door.

“Because it’s a farce, there’s a lot of physical comedy in it,” said Theatre Program Coordinator Charles R. Miller, noting the play was postponed from fall semester when an actor broke his hand. “It’s a great big silly, fluffy, fun feature, which gives our students who have taken a class on farce and comedy an opportunity to earn their chops.”

Written by Peter Shaffer and first performed in 1965 in England, “Black Comedy” premiered on Broadway in 1967 and featured the Broadway debuts of actors Michael Crawford, who originated the title role in “The Phantom of the Opera,” and the late Lynn Redgrave, who was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.

At Pellissippi State, the production is a mix of former and current Pellissippi State students, Miller said, as well as members of the faculty and the community.

“Black Comedy” is part of The Arts at Pellissippi State series. For more information on upcoming visual arts exhibits, theatre productions, musical performances and faculty lectures, visit

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


“Interlaced” sculptures, drawings kick off The Arts at Pellissippi State

Sculpture by Jamey Grimes
“The objects and environments that I create are fueled by encounters with natural forces,” Jamey Grimes says in his artist statement. “My intent is to remind us of our relationship and scale to the forces of nature.”

Mind-bending sculptural work and lush drawings combine this month in a new visual art exhibit at Pellissippi State Community College.

“Interlaced: Jamey Grimes and Charlotte Wegrzynowski” opens Monday, Jan. 14, and will be on display through Feb. 1 at the Bagwell Center for Media and Art Gallery on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

A reception with the artists will be held 3-5 p.m on Friday, Feb. 1.

The exhibit, the latest installment in The Arts at Pellissippi State, is free and open to the public. The Gallery has expanded its hours and is now open 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Grimes and Wegrzynowski are instructors at the University of Alabama.

Grimes’ sculptural work references forms in nature, biological structures and exploring spaces. His relatively simple techniques and forms are recombined in endless variations to create meditations on interconnectivity and structures in space.

Drawing by Charlotte Wegrzynowski
Charlotte Wegrzynowski won second place in the SECAC 2016 Juried Exhibition and received the Best of Show award in the 31st West Alabama Juried Art Show.

Wegrzynowski also delves into forms in space and in light and dark. Her drawings explore the illusion of space as well as communicating strong metaphorical narratives.

“Though they could not be more different artists, both in form and content, the similarities in the ways that their artwork ‘dances’ make this a disparate, but very informative pairing,” said Herb Rieth, associate professor of Liberal Arts for Pellissippi State.

For more information on upcoming visual arts, theatre and music events, as well the Faculty Lecture Series, at Pellissippi State, visit

Pellissippi State accepts federal grant for Appalachian Heritage Project

Strawberry Plains Campus exterior
Pellissippi State’s Strawberry Plains Campus, photographed here in spring 2018, will house a new Appalachian Heritage Project.

A $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities is laying the groundwork for an Appalachian Heritage Project at Pellissippi State Community College.

The Appalachian Heritage Project will be housed at the college’s Strawberry Plains Campus, which serves more than 1,200 students from Knox County Schools, the Tennessee College of Applied Technology and Pellissippi State.

The grant will help Pellissippi State expand its Strawberry Plains Campus library to house the Appalachian Heritage Project, which will focus on regional literature, history and folklore.

“The Appalachian Heritage Project will create a cultural center that will educate not only our Pellissippi State students, but the entire community about the traditions and narrative of our region,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “This grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities gives us the significant head start we need to make this dream a reality.”

The $400,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grant requires a $400,000 match, which will be met through a major gift fundraising campaign. The Pellissippi State Foundation develops financial resources to support Pellissippi State’s educational goals.

“We expect that the Appalachian Heritage Project will be one of the most unique educational settings in Tennessee,” said Foundation Executive Director Aneisa Rolen. “The project will create a repository of information, be a champion for Appalachian history and create a shared space that will bring together students and community members to learn about the people and the land of Strawberry Plains, East Tennessee and the Appalachian region.”

The project is expected to be completed Oct. 1, 2020.

“The Pellissippi State library staff is very excited about our role in the creation and continued development of our treasured Appalachian Heritage Collection,” said Pellissippi State NEH Grant Project Director and Librarian Susan Martel.  “We are committed to providing a robust repository of information that will preserve our collective memory about this unique culture for our community.  We will use the new space at the Strawberry Plans Campus library to host cultural events for students and our community that will help to keep this knowledge alive.”

NEH logoFor more information about the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor, visit For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this story do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Pellissippi State sign language students bring ‘Toy Story’-themed lessons, donate bikes to Tennessee School for the Deaf

Two students at Tennessee School for the Deaf hug Pellissippi State ASL, Please! club president Stephen Roberts after seeing the bicycles the college students donated.
Two Tennessee School for the Deaf students hug Pellissippi State ASL, Please! president Stephen Roberts after the club presented the children with bicycles on Dec. 11, 2018.

Pellissippi State Community College students brought holiday cheer – and 45 bikes – to Tennessee School for the Deaf this month, as Gay Baker’s American Sign Language classes led two days of “Toy Story”-themed activities for TSD elementary and middle schoolers.

“This is a perfect partnership,” said Sue Ivey, dean of students for TSD’s middle and high schools. “Gay’s students get real live experience with deaf students, and they always bring activities that are educational, age appropriate and fun. The students don’t even know that they’re learning!”

“This is their final project, which is why it falls during finals week,” explained Baker, who has been teaching ASL at Pellissippi State since January 1998. “It stresses team building and collaboration effort, and it exposes them to authentic experiences with deaf students.”

On Dec. 10, Pellissippi State students presented a “Toy Story”-inspired play for the TSD students; introduced them to deaf role models such as cowboy Clint Thomas, who graduated from Georgia School for the Deaf; and guided them through rodeo/carnival games inspired by the “Toy Story” character Woody, tossing toy snakes into boots and “shooting out” tin cans with Nerf guns.

Activities on Dec. 11 centered around the “Toy Story” character Buzz Lightyear and Pellissippi State’s Common Academic Experience theme of “Inner Space | Outer Space.” TSD students learned about deaf #StudentAstronaut winner Julia Velasquez, deaf NASA engineer Johanna Lucht and the deaf college students, known as the Gallaudet Eleven, who helped NASA understand the effects of gravitational changes on the human body.

Tennessee School for the Deaf students play planet Twister.
Tennessee School for the Deaf students play planet Twister in one of eight learning stations set up for them by Pellissippi State American Sign Language students on Dec. 11, 2018.

Afterwards TSD students moved through eight learning stations with games such as planet Twister and Comet Ball, a riff on Dodge Ball, and activities like playing the board game Operation while wearing space gloves or taking a turn on an inversion table to mimic the motion sickness some experience in space.

“This has been really good, really fun,” signed TSD eighth grader Lizzie Parker. “There have been lots of things to do, like tasting different kinds of space food that an astronaut would eat. I really liked it.”

Seventh grader Teya Stafford signed that she liked learning about constellations and then getting to create her own while sixth grader Shequita Morris signed that she liked learning about Mars.

“We learned how to make rockets, too,” Morris signed, indicating the propulsion station where students mixed vinegar and baking soda in plastic bottles. “I learned all about space and the different planets and black holes.”

At the end of the night, TSD students gathered outside to watch Pellissippi State students launch a small rocket, but that wasn’t the biggest surprise the college students had in store for them. Pellissippi State’s ASL, Please! club presented each residential elementary and middle school student with a bicycle to keep on the TSD campus.

“Every year they ask us what we need,” Ivey explained, noting Pellissippi State’s ASL students have provided everything from lotion, toothbrushes and toothpaste for the students to larger items such as winter coats and beanbag chairs for the student union. “This year we requested bikes because we’re starting a bike club, and when we did an inventory last spring, our bikes here are in terrible shape.”

An American Sign Language student at Pellissippi State rides in on one of the bikes the college's ASL, Please! club had donated to Tennessee School for the Deaf.
Pellissippi State’s American Sign Language students surprise Tennessee School for the Deaf students on Dec. 11, 2018, by riding in on the 45 bikes the college’s ASL, Please! club donated to TSD so that the school can start a bike club.

The ASL, Please! club gathered 45 bikes: 20 donated by Kickstand Community Bike Shop, six donated by DreamBikes and 19 donated by community members who responded to a post by a student’s mother in a neighborhood Facebook group. The Epilepsy Foundation of East Tennessee chipped in 45 helmets.

“Our club has been working really hard for you guys for this special surprise,” Baker signed to the anxiously awaiting children before the Pellissippi State students rode in on the bikes to shocked expressions and excited cheers. One TSD student jumped right up and hugged ASL, Please! President Stephen Roberts, who has been leading mission trips to a deaf village in Jamaica for four years.

“This has been amazing,” said Pellissippi State student Brandon Owens, who is majoring in interpretation. “I always think it can’t get any more fun, but it does. Interpreting was not my original major, but I just fell in love with the ASL classes and with this community.”

This was Pellissippi State student Lucille Wright’s first experience with TSD.

“This has been fascinating because I’ve never been around deaf kids before,” she said. “They are all so happy to have us and willing to help. We’re in ASL I so they actually are helping us learn.”

Sue Ivey of Tennessee School for the Deaf and Gay Baker of Pellissippi State embrace after presenting TSD students with bicycles
Sue Ivey, dean of students for Tennessee School for the Deaf’s middle and high schools, and Gay Baker, American Sign Language instructor at Pellissippi State, embrace after Pellissippi State’s American Sign Language students presented TSD students with 45 bicycles and helmets on Dec. 11, 2018.

Indeed, Baker stressed that the interaction with the deaf community is one of the most important things Pellissippi State students take away from their ASL classes.

“One of the most vital things about the final project at TSD is that it gives our ASL students exposure to one of our country’s indigenous languages as well as another culture,” she says. “ASL helps our students be aware of accessibility, equality and diversity.”

And that pays off for their futures, Ivey noted.

“A lot of Pellissippi State students have become teachers here, and some are now in administration, having worked their way up,” she said. “Pellissippi State ASL students become some of our most well-rounded employees because they understand deaf culture and the importance of the language.”

For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400. For more photos of the Dec. 11 event at TSD, see the photo gallery below. Clicking on any of the photos in this story or in the gallery will lead you to high-resolution versions that can be downloaded for your use.



2018 Alumnus of the Year to speak at Pellissippi State Commencement

Photo of Travis Howerton
J. Travis Howerton, winner of Pellissippi State’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award, will speak at Commencement on Dec. 14.

Pellissippi State Community College’s 2018 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner J. Travis Howerton will speak at the college’s fall Commencement ceremony Friday, Dec. 14, at Thompson-Boling Arena.

Commencement begins at 7 p.m. Approximately 513 students will graduate this fall.

Howerton, who earned his Associate of Applied Science in Computer Systems Technology in 2002, now serves as Global Director for Strategic Programs for the Bechtel Corporation in Reston, Va. He previously served as Senior Director for Transformation for Bechtel in Oak Ridge.

During his career in information technology and cyber security, Howerton garnered more than a dozen significant local and national awards, including the East Tennessee Economic Council’s prestigious Postma Young Professional Medal, which honors those who have led top priority transformation projects and have demonstrated innovation. Howerton created the Pegasus Information Management System used by Y-12 National Security Administration, and he served as the first chief technology officer for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

In nominating Howerton for the Distinguished Alumni Award, one professor called Howerton “the most outstanding student we have ever had graduate from Pellissippi State’s Computer Science department” and noted he has supported the college by recommending and employing at least 10 Pellissippi State graduates in computer science and networking/communications.

“I’m very proud to be an alumnus at Pellissippi State,” Howerton said at the college’s annual Alumni Luncheon. “I worked my way through school, and classes at Pellissippi State were amenable to my schedule. The facilities and the curriculum were great. I took advantage of the library – up and beyond what was required of the course. I had good professors all around.

“I feel fortunate that Pellissippi State helped me find a career where I have a life-long passion for my work,” he added.

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


Pellissippi State welcomes displaced Virginia College students

Pellissippi State Community College wants to help Virginia College students displaced by that institution’s closing.

Education Corporation of America campuses including Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America and Virginia College will discontinue operations in December 2018, according to the ECA website.

“We understand this can feel like an insurmountable setback to Virginia 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’s 14 career programs result in associate degrees that prepare students to enter the workforce in high-demand, competitive fields including computer information technology, electrical engineering technology, engineering technology, mechanical engineering technology and media technologies.

Pellissippi State also 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.

A full list of Pellissippi State programs is available at

Virginia College students may be eligible for Tennessee Reconnect, Touzeau added. This last-dollar scholarship for adults covers college tuition and mandatory fees that aren’t paid for through other state and federal financial aid.

Adult learners qualify for Tennessee Reconnect if they:

  • Do not have an associate or bachelor degree;
  • Have been a Tennessee resident since Aug. 1, 2017;
  • Complete the 2018-19 FAFSA;
  • Are designated as an “independent” on the FAFSA;
  • Attend and complete courses at least as a part-time student, taking a minimum of six credit hours per semester; and
  • Complete the TN Reconnect application at

“Our goal here at Pellissippi State is to help students start strong, stay strong and finish strong,” Touzeau said. “We know this is a scary time for Virginia 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.

K-12 educators invited to teaching conference keynote at Pellissippi State

Alan November
Alan November will give a keynote presentation on “Transforming the Culture of Teaching and Learning” on Jan. 11, and K-12 educators are invited.

An international leader in educational technology is coming to Pellissippi State Community College in January, and K-12 teachers are invited to attend his keynote presentation.

Alan November, named one of the nation’s 15 most influential thinkers of the decade by Tech & Learning magazine, will be at Pellissippi State for a Teaching and Learning Conference sponsored by the Pellissippi Academic Center for Excellence (PACE) and Mobile Fellows Program.

November’s keynote, “Transforming the Culture of Teaching and Learning,” will be held 8:30-10:15 a.m. Jan. 11 in the Goins Building Auditorium on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road, Knoxville.

“Alan November will be discussing current and past ideas circulating on using technology in the classroom,” said Pellissippi State Chemistry Assistant Professor Rachel Glazener, PACE Faculty Fellow for Mobile and Emerging Technology. “Do not let the technology aspect scare you; rather, the conference is focused on a way of thinking about how to harness technology to help our students own their learning.”

November’s keynote will explore how the design of an assignment can move students from simply regurgitating learning material to being critical thinkers and applying the learned material. He also will delve into how forming a global network can increase collaboration not only inside the classroom, but outside of the classroom as well.

“Forming a learning network can move students to become empowered in their own learning, can help the learning become visible and can expand student’s communication in their field outside of the classroom,” November said.

The keynote is free, but teachers are asked to register at by Dec. 14 because space is limited.

For more information, contact Glazener at To request accommodations for a disability for this event, call 865-539-7401 or email

Pellissippi State ranked No. 2 in the nation for study abroad

Pellissippi State students visit the Houses of Parliament in London during a study abroad program.
Tennessee community college students visit the Houses of Parliament in London during a study abroad program offered by the Tennessee Consortium for International Studies.

Only one other community college in the nation sends more students to study abroad than Pellissippi State Community College.

Pellissippi State ranked No. 2 in the United States with 185 study abroad students in 2016-17, according to the 2018 Open Doors Report released this month.

Last year Pellissippi State ranked No. 4 with 166 students. This is the seventh year in a row that the college has appeared in the top 5 for the number of community college students who studied abroad.

“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.”

Pellissippi State has removed one of the barriers to study abroad by providing scholarships for its students who want to participate.

“Our mission here at Pellissippi State is to provide a transformative environment that fosters the academic, societal, economic and cultural enrichment of our students and the community,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “Providing scholarships for our students to study abroad is one way we can help them have a world-class education and gain the global perspective that studies show more and more employers are looking for in graduates.”

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 feedback we receive from students each year is that study abroad is life changing, that it opened their eyes to the world, that they want to do more,” Bradley said. “Oftentimes students will come back and change their majors, having had an epiphany of ‘Now I know what I want to do with my life.’”

student on a study abroad programThe Open Doors Report also details the number of international students enrolling in Tennessee higher education institutions. While Pellissippi State ranks 14th with 104 international students enrolled for the 2017-18 academic year, Pellissippi State is the only community college in the top 20.

“Pellissippi State does a lot of recruiting of international students, as the college’s goal is to be welcoming to all students,” Bradley said. “With the Y-12 National Security Complex in our backyard, we have a lot of students who are spouses and dependents of the international employees of Y-12.”

Pellissippi State also capitalizes on its close relationship with the University of Tennessee, she added.

“International students can start their degree here and finish at UT, which is being seen as more and more acceptable in the international community,” Bradley explained. “Our English as a Second Language classes also are similar to UT’s, which is attractive to students who need those language skills before they begin college-level courses.”

The 8,870 international students in Tennessee have an economic impact of $323.8 million on the state.

For more information about TnCIS, visit or call 865-539-7279. For more information about Pellissippi State, visit or call 865-694-6400.