When Debbie Bonds’ parents made her drop out of high school at the age of 16, she thought her dreams of going to college and becoming a teacher were over. Debbie went on to get married, work a full career and raise her children as a single mom for many years.
When she re-married in 2013, Debbie’s new husband asked her if there was anything that she’d always dreamed of doing but never gotten to. Debbie told her husband she wanted to go to college. Debbie startedPellissippi State in 2018 and will graduate this month, at age 70, with her general Associate of Science degree.
“College changed me,” Debbie says. “It opened up a whole new life for me at 68 years old, and I really would love to see every adult experience it.”
When she started considering how to go to college as an adult learner, Debbie discovered Tennessee Reconnect, for which she says she is wholeheartedly grateful.
“I really want to see more adult learners take advantage of what’s available to them,” she says.“The first time my tuition was paid for by Tennessee Reconnect, I was beside myself! I think about all the adult learners that it could make a difference for. If they don’t do this, they’re missing the boat. If I had done this when I was 30 years old, it would have changed the whole trajectory of my life. Everything would have been different.”
Debbie jumped right into college life and got involved in the National Society of Leadership and Success as well as the Student Government Association at Pellissippi State.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in those organizations a lot,” shares Debbie. “I chose the organizations that I wanted to be a part of because I knew I couldn’t do everything. There are many great student organizations at Pellissippi State, and I advise every student to become a part of at least one organization. It’s part of that college life that everyone needs to experience.
“It’s never too late to gain an education,” Debbie adds.“Every little bit of knowledge can never be taken away from you. Even if you have to do it parttime, if you have to do it one class at a time, do it. However you have to do it, do it!“
Debbie, congratulations on achieving your dream of graduating from college! You are #PellissippiStrong! #PSCCgrad21
Even though Abigail Dishner didn’t have a specific career goalin mind when she came to Pellissippi State, she eventually found a major she loved and realized it’s OK to take things one step at a time.
“You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do,” says Abigail. “Just taking the next step and keep taking the next step is what keeps us going.”
Abigail has followed her own advice, using her time at Pellissippi State to explore different career options, and will graduate in May with a degree in Early Childhood Education.Abigail currently works for Knox County Schools as a special education instructional assistant and plans to continue working there after she graduates.
“It’s really cool getting to know those kids and how they see life,” she says. “Seeing it from their perspective is really inspiring.”
Abigail grew up in Harrogate, Tennessee, where she was still living when she started classes at Pellissippi State.
“I was driving an hour and a half to go to my classes,” she recalls. “I chose Pellissippi State because I was an early high school graduate and wanted to take advantage of the Tennessee Promise scholarship. Once I started, the professors were all great. They’ve been so awesome to work with.”
Abigail believes one of the things that makes Pellissippi State so special is the professors’ support.
“There’s an extra understanding of mental health,” she says.“The professors have empathy, and they understand that real life happens even while you have classes fulltime. They acknowledge your struggle and take their time to help you through that.”
Abigail remembers a time this past year when she experienced that support and understanding firsthand.
“I struggled last year with keeping things straight,” she explains.“I’m a multi-passionate person – I want to do everything all the time – and, and when you’re taking full-time classes and most of them are online, it’s hard to stay focused. My professors made themselves available for me to talk to them, and that’s been the biggest thing in helping me be successful.”
Abigail knows that her experiences at Pellissippi State will stay with her far beyond the classroom.
“Although I don’t exactly have a specific dream job or goal in mind right now,I pray that the knowledge and skills I’ve gained throughout this degree help me to better serve young children and families in the mission field – whether that be in my own neighborhood or across the world,” she shares.“I want them to know that they’re loved more than they can imagine. If the discipline and moments of struggle in college have helped me learn how to serve others better, then I think it’s been worth it.”
They’re 10 years apart, from different cities and with different experiences – but this month they become Pellissippi State Community College’s first two Water Quality Technology graduates.
Brad Bales, 31, of Jefferson County, Tenn., and Jaden Goodman, 21, of Scott County, Tenn., are the first members of Pellissippi State’s original Water Quality Technology cohort to complete the program, the only one of its kind in Tennessee.They started the programin a cohort with five other students in fall 2019, four of whom are still on track to graduate in the next couple of semesters.
“Brad and Jaden have been excellent students academically, and this has been a really hard semester for them, with three Water Quality Technology classes, along with whatever other courses they needed to graduate, and a 20-page research paper and a 30-minute oral presentation for their capstone course,” said Program Coordinator Cristina Carbajo. “It is very impressive, considering all the obstacles they’ve had to face due to the pandemic. They both managed to adapt immediately.”
Bales came to the program with more than one degree in science, but no water or wastewater treatment experience.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve liked the idea of working in a lab,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the practical sciences, and the quiet monotony of a lab is enjoyable for more introverted people like me.”
Goodman, on the other hand, came to Pellissippi State only a year out from high school, but already was familiar with the industry because his father works for Plateau Utility District in Wartburg, Tenn.
“Water Quality Technology is a very good choice because the number of certified operators is dwindling as people retire,” Goodman said. “Not only will this field give me the opportunity to use on a daily basis the chemistry and engineering skills that I enjoy, but that demand means excellent job security.”
That demand is also why industry partners such as Drexel Heidel, general manager of West Knox Utility District, wanted to partner with Pellissippi State to start a program to train the next generation of water and wastewater treatment operators.
“I am still as excited about the program now as I was when we started it in 2019,” Heidel said, noting he already has had two operators retire and has another retiring in June.
Carbajo added that all the students in the first Water Quality Technology cohort already have gotten jobs in the industry, before they graduate from Pellissippi State.
“That’s the name of the game: get people trained and then get them employed,” Heidel said.
Bales has interned at West Knox Utility District this spring, where he got the unique opportunity to work at two water treatment plants that usedifferent technologies: a conventional filtration plant and a membrane plant.
“A lot of people who have been operating plants for 30 years haven’t had that opportunity,” Heidel noted. “We wanted to get Brad exposed to both and cross trained to make his internship valuable.”
“To be an operator, you have to be a jack of all trades and know a little bit of everything – engineering, electrical, chemistry – and that’s fascinating to me because I like to learn new things and understand how things work,” Bales said as he ran multiple tests on the water at West Knox Utility District’s Williams Bend conventional filtration plant. “You have to know what to do when something goes wrong: what numbers to watch, which tests to run, listening to the different pipes and getting a sense of what is or is not going on.”
Meanwhile, Goodman got hired by Plateau Utility District parttimejust a year into the Pellissippi State program. He works second shift, running the same kinds of tests on that plant’s water.
“Learning about the contents of your drinking water is very interesting,” Goodman said.“Some people think there’s not a whole lot to it. There is way more than you can ever imagine.”
An advisory committee comprised of 11 utility representatives as well as staff from the Tennessee Association of Utility Districts and the state’s Fleming Training Center worked with Pellissippi State to create the Water Quality Technology program, which was specifically designed to prepare students to be able to pass therigorous Grade III and Grade IV state certification tests. The Grade IV exam has between a 0 and 40% pass rate, Carbajo noted, which means that some years no one passes the exam.
“This is a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) heavy program, with classes such as pre-calculus, microbiology, general chemistry 1 and 2,” saidCohort and Certificate Programs Specialist Brock Evans. “Some people struggle with that, but Brad and Jaden have been able to tackle all that STEM curriculum — and to do it under a pandemic? It’s not easy, and they’ve done fantastic. I think they’re both going to do great things.”
Between the Pellissippi State classes and the required three-to-six site visits per semesterto utility districts throughout the region, Bales and Goodman are ready to hit the ground running once their diplomas are in hand.
“Brad and Jaden have worked so hard to graduate in two years, especially in a pandemic,” Carbajo said. “People don’t realize that you can work anywhere in the world in water or wastewater treatment, and it’s an extremely high-paying career. Here at Pellissippi State we are training students to be set up for leadership roles in the industry, and this is a lifelong career.”
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1800789. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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 Mincredits 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 energy, which madeSo 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 familiesin her country.
“I was sad that children from low-socioeconomic status families cannot experience quality learning activities,” says So Min. “As 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.”
When people talk about ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, many suggest driving their cars less or planting a tree. But there may be an important group of organisms too tiny to see with the naked eye that are also making an impact.
Bacteria found in hot springs in Costa Rica are helping reduce the amount of global warming-causing carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, according to research by Pellissippi State Community College Instructional Systems Specialist Kate Fullerton.
Fullerton’s thesis work was published April 22 in Nature Geoscience, a monthly journal about Earth sciences research, and featured in an April 22 story in Science magazine.
The publication comes almost two years after Fullerton earned her master’s degree in microbiology from the University of Tennessee and started her job with Pellissippi State as a lab technician on the College’s Strawberry Plains Campus.
“I knew I enjoyed microbes and what they do in the environment,” said Fullerton, who earned her bachelor’s degree in biotechnology from Rutgers University in her native New Jersey. “And carbon cycling is really interestingand dynamic because carbon comes in a lot of different forms.”
Costa Rica was a perfect spot for researching the relationship between microbes and carbon dioxide because the country is in a subduction zone, where tectonic plates floating on Earth’s molten center clash and one slips beneath the other.
“That process basically recycles the sediment, rock and organic material on that plate, removing carbon from the (Earth’s) surface, which is a good thing,” Fullerton explained. “Some of that carbon is recycled back into the Earth’s core, but some of it comes out of volcanoes during eruptions. And some of it bubbles up naturally in these hot springs around the volcanoes.”
As part of UT Associate Professor Karen Lloyd’s lab for Deep Subsurface biosphere research, Fullerton completed two two-week field exhibitions to Costa Rica and Panama. The data published April 22 covers 24 hot springs Fullerton visited in Northern Costa Rica during 2017.
“Our first goal was to try to determine how the microbial diversity varies on a regional scale because past research tended to focus on a single location at a time,” Fullerton said. “Second: is there evidence that microbes in these hot springs are affecting the greenhouse gases coming out of them?”
Fullerton and a team of fellow researchers from several international institutionsalready knew that bacteria can eat greenhouse gases, but they set out to discover whether they could experimentally show that microbes in these hot springs are eating these gases and therefore reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released back into the atmosphere.
“We needed to isolate (and concentrate) the bacteria from the water, so we attached filters to large syringes that would collect the bacteria,” Fullerton explained. “We would repeat this process until we had filtered a total of 2 liters of water at each sample site, which could take anywhere from 10-15 minutes to an hour, depending on how clogged the filter was getting with particles.”
Then it was back to the lab for “bench work,” which included extracting DNA from the microbe-filled filters, then sequencing it to identify “who” was there. Fullerton also counted the number of microbial cells in each sample using flow cytometry and a small laser.
Using Fullerton’s data and geochemical data collected by her colleagues, the team built a computer model that predicted that the microbes were consuming between 2 and 22% of the carbon released from these hot springs.
“I know that’s a large range, and a lot of work still needs to be done, but this is the first time someone has tried to quantify the effect of the microbes on such a large scale,” she said.
At 27 years old, Fullerton still has plenty of time to build on her research, should she want to one day follow that path. In the meantime, she’s“fallen in love with Tennessee” and is enjoying her work at Pellissippi State, where she transitioned to a support role with Educational Technology Services in November 2020.
“I love learning, and I have taken several classes at Pellissippi State,” Fullerton said. “I am hoping to pick up some adjuncting as well because I discovered early on in graduate school that I love teaching.“
You can read Fullerton’s work on microbes in its entirety in Nature Geoscience or a story that explains the science in more layman’s terms in Science magazine.
Former Pellissippi State Community College student Eleanor (Lily) Turaskiof Blount County has been awarded the Tau Beta Pi Senior Engineering Cup, the highest honor from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Engineering, recognizing academic excellence, leadership and service.
Turaski was selected from approximately 2,000 graduating engineers for this honor and will receive an engraved cup and $5,000 in recognition of her accomplishments.
During high school, Turaski took multiple classes at Pellissippi State through the College’s dual enrollment program, which allows high school students to take college classes for credits they can then transfer to four-year institutions. In addition to taking dual enrollment classes, Turaski was a member of the College’s Science Club and participated in a research project with other Pellissippi State Chemistry students.
Turaski also participated in many academic contests sponsored by Pellissippi State for local middle and high school students —the Math Contest, the Science Bowl and the Science Olympiad. She said she is grateful Pellissippi State offered so many opportunities for students interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields.
“The courses I took at Pellissippi State gave me a strong foundation to be successful in my STEM classes at Georgia Tech,” said Turaski, who was home–schooled through high school and graduated in May 2017. “I am so thankful for professorsPatriciaZingg and Rachel Glazener who made learning Chemistry fun!”
“Lily was an outgoing and inquisitive student from day one in my course,” said Glazener, an associate professor of Chemistry. “It was a joy to have her in my class and field her array of questions about chemistry. I have no doubts that with her dedication to the STEM field she will do great things in life!”
Turaski won a full scholarship to Georgia Tech, where she is a Stamps President’s Scholar graduating in May 2021 with a 4.0 GPA. She is majoring in Materials ScienceEngineering with a minor in Chemistry.
In addition to excelling in the classroom, Turaski has seven semesters of research experience in two Georgia Tech labs and has presented her research at four national conferences. For her research acumen, Turaski was selected for the prestigious Goldwater Fellowship in 2019, which recognizes the top students across the country participating in STEM research.
“I have really enjoyed my classes at Georgia Tech,” Turaski said. “Georgia Tech is a special place, where you are surrounded by incredibly talented and diverse people. I have learned so much not only from my classes and my professors, but also from my peers.”
As a sophomore at Georgia Tech, Turaski created an undergraduate leadership team for Women in MSE (Materials Science Engineering) to integrate with the graduate team, and she served as the first undergraduate president of the group. She also was instrumental in revitalizing the Material Advantage chapter at Georgia Tech, which was named one of the top five chapters globally in 2020.
In 2019, she founded the MSE Peer Partners Organization, which works alongside the Materials Science Engineering advising staff to help students with course scheduling, applying for internshipsand finding undergraduate research opportunities.
“She is a dedicated, thoughtful student, one who strives to build community and advocate for STEM women to magnify their voice,” said Mary Lynn Realff, associate professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. “Turaski stands out among the thousands of students that have passed through my hands over the years just by how effective she has been in making the School of MSE and Georgia Tech a more inviting, inclusive and diverse community.”
Shortly after being named the winner of the Senior Engineering Cup, Turaski received a competitive fellowship from the National Science Foundation, which will pay for her to continue her studies at the graduate level. She will begin a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University in the fall, where she will focus on electronic materials.
Turaski is the daughter of Steven and DeeDee Turaskifrom Friendsville, Tenn. Her mother is a longtimeadjunctinstructorof Biology at Pellissippi State.
Pellissippi State Community College will welcome those without appointments to its drive-thru vaccination clinic starting at 1 p.m. each day the clinic is open.
Pellissippi State’s vaccination clinic will be held 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays on the college’s Blount County Campus,2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Friendsville. The clinic is administering the Moderna vaccine starting Friday, April 23.
While Pellissippi State encourages you to sign up for an appointment here, those without appointments are welcome to drop by the vaccination clinic at 1 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays to receive a shot if vaccine is available. The college is committed to not letting any open vials of vaccine go to waste.
Vaccinations are free, and you must be 18 years old to receive the Moderna vaccine. Those who register for appointments in advance only need to schedule your first dose of Moderna. Pellissippi State staff will schedule you for your second dose when you arrive for your vaccination.
Second appointments will be set 28 days after the first vaccination is given.
For more information about the college’s vaccination clinic, including forms Pellissippi State asks that you fill out and print in advance of your appointment, visit www.pstcc.edu/vaccine.
Pellissippi State Community College will celebrate its 2020 and 2021 graduates in a series of smaller, outdoor Commencement ceremonies this May.
The college has not held an in-person Commencement since December 2019, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eight separate ceremonies, capped at 85 graduates and two guests per graduate, are planned for Thursday-Saturday, May 13-15. Each ceremony will take place in the Hardin Valley Campus Courtyard, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.
All Commencement ceremonies will be livestreamed to allow family and friends who cannot attend in person to celebrate with graduates.
Students who graduated at any point during 2020 are welcome to join ceremonies at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday, May 13.
Those Pellissippi State students graduating in spring 2021 with Associate of Arts, Associate of Fine Arts,Associate of Science or Associate of Science in Teaching degrees – typically those studentswho transfer to four-year institutions – may choose to participate in ceremonies at 1, 4 or 7 p.m. on Friday, May 14.
Those Pellissippi State students graduating in spring 2021 with Associate of Applied Science degrees – the two-year career programs to prepare students to enter the workforce – will be celebrated on Saturday, May 15, with Nursing students at 10 a.m., Engineering and Media Technology students at 1 p.m. and Business and Computer Technology students at 4 p.m.
“It is well understood that students may not be able to attend the ceremony for which they are scheduled due to personal or family obligations,” said Dean of Students Travis Loveday. “In that case, 2021 graduates may attend any ceremony that has openings.”
Registration for all ceremonies opened at 8 a.m. Friday, April 16, on Eventbrite, and registration is not only for those graduating. Faculty, staff and guests should register for the ceremony they plan to attend, as all seats are reserved on a first come, first served basis:
In the event of inclement weather, ceremonies and graduates will move inside to the Clayton Performing Arts Center. While social distancing guidelines would prevent guests from joining graduates in the CPAC, guests would be able to view a live stream of the ceremonies from the Goins Administration Building.
For more information about when to check in for the ceremonies, where to enter campus and park, and what graduates and guests will need to do to followPellissippi State’s COVID-19 safety protocols, visitwww.pstcc.edu/graduation.
Pellissippi State Community College will reopen its drive-thru vaccination clinic on its Blount County Campus Friday, April 23, with the Moderna vaccine instead of Janssen/Johnson & Johnson.
The clinic will be closed this weekend as the College prepares for the shift to a different vaccine. Those who had appointments scheduled for Friday, April 16, and Saturday, April 17, are being notified by Pellissippi State staff.
Pellissippi State staff waited to cancel this weekend’s vaccination clinic appointments until after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which provides guidance to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, met Wednesday afternoon to discussdata involving six reported U.S. cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The committee delayed a decision Wednesday, continuing the hold on the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine for at least 10 more days to allow further review.
Because the Moderna vaccine requires two shots spaced four weeks apart, Pellissippi State is retooling its appointment software to allow for this change. For more information about the College’s vaccination clinic, including a link to register when the software is updated, visit www.pstcc.edu/vaccine.
Art Professor Jennifer Brickeybuilt the exhibition in Microsoft Sway, which allows viewers to see the student works as a slideshow, with the ability to choose whether the works stay on screen anywhere between 3 and 60 seconds. Viewers also can take the exhibit off loop and click through the works manually.
The options are visible to viewers by moving the computer’s cursor or mouse to the lower righthand corner of the screen.
“This annual exhibition exemplifies the hard work of both the students and the Art faculty,” Brickey said. “This exhibition is even more unique because it demonstrates the hard work and perseverance of both our Art faculty and students during one of the most trying years.I am very proud of this exhibition. It is truly a testament to the strength of the Art department.”
Any Pellissippi State student who had anArt class during the last two years was welcome to apply for the exhibition.The works were chosen this year by Pellissippi State’sArt faculty: Professor Brickey, Professor Jeff Lockett, Associate Professor Caroline Covingtonand Professor Herb Rieth.
Thirty-one works were selected for this year’s exhibition. Rebeca Ortiz was awarded Best in Show and $500 for her charcoal drawing Macabre Royalty. As is the tradition, the winning artwork was purchased by Pellissippi State for its permanent collection that is displayed on campus.
While Pellissippi State Art students have their works displayed online this year, all four Pellissippi State Art faculty have works on exhibit at the UT Downtown Gallery through April 30.
Lockett, Covington, Rieth and Brickey are featured in “Community of Eight” with full-time Art faculty from Roane State and Walters State community colleges.
“Pellissippi State and University of Tennessee Art faculty have always had a strong partnership, and both institutions play a significant role in cultivating the next generation of artists in our region,” said Covington, who serves as the Art program coordinator for Pellissippi State. “The Community of Eight exhibition demonstrates that we’re not just faculty — we’re also working artists. The skills we teach are integral to our own artistic practices, and I am so grateful to be a part of a show that showcases all of those skills in one place.”
The UT Downtown Gallery is a contemporary art gallery exhibiting professional work through funding and support from the University of Tennessee. The gallery is located at 106 S. Gay Street, and all events are free and open to the public. Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Fridays and 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays.