Dr. Kathleen Affholter Natural & Behavioral Sciences

With three credits left to complete my undergraduate degree, I dropped out of college and drove to Berkeley, California to work at a “Blimpies” sandwich shop.  I wanted to study earthquakes and felt I was in the perfect place to do so.  I was in the right place, but not at the right time.  When I was told I would never get a job without a degree, and told by my Blimpies’ boss that if I completed my degree, I could work at Shell oil and gas where he worked in San Francisco, I decided I should go back to school. I earned my undergraduate and M.S. degree in geology at the University of New Mexico and completed my Ph.D. at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia where I received a coveted teaching award.  I finished the corrections on my Ph.D. thesis while I worked full-time as a museum curator at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. It was a fabulous job.  I wrote text for the museum exhibits, taught docents geology to share with museum visitors, got to improve the museum’s mineral and rock collection, took visitors on field trips floating down the Rio Grande in class 4 rapids and conducted Saturday science programs for young people. From there I moved to Tennessee and worked at Oak Ridge National Lab and Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic.  I published research I had done at the lab on cellulose and on neutron scattering of Buckminster fullerenes, also called “buckyballs,” a new arrangement of carbon atoms.  I learned to tap dance in my 50’s and performed twice at the Tennessee Theater with fellow tap dancers.  I added English Country dance to my repertoire in my 60’s, dancing and volunteering at the Laurel Theater weekly before the pandemic halted that activity. In my late 60’s, I enjoy a beautiful first grandchild and very loving children. 

Happily, I ended up at Pellissippi State where I continue to learn from students, adjuncts, colleagues, and bosses. I was honored with the 2020 Roger Crowe Excellence in Teaching Award.  Now, I am challenged by our COVID environment to continue to engage and motivate students to learn geology online.  It’s a long way from looking at the geology of Iceland on a TnCIS trip, exploring our local dolostone cave, or kayaking at Meads quarry to collect water samples, but with a great group of adjuncts, it is possible to make learning fun.  I enjoy many music genres.  One of my favorite songs is “Stand By Me” done by Playing for Change.  I hope our students can count on me to stand by them as they continue on their paths to achieve their goals.

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