Pellissippi State: New Blount campus to help build bridge to future

Doug and Rebecca Myers pose with new daughter Emilee at a zoo in Bejing. The couple took Conversational Chinese for Beginners at Pellissippi State to prepare themselves for their two-week trip to China.

Doug and Rebecca Myers pose with new daughter Emilee at a zoo in Bejing. The couple took Conversational Chinese for Beginners at Pellissippi State to prepare themselves for their two-week trip to China.

This artist’s rendering shows what the Blount County campus of Pellissippi Community College will look like once it is completed.

This artist’s rendering shows what the Blount County campus of Pellissippi Community College will look like once it is completed.

This images shows workers at the Blount County campus of Pellissippi State Community College building the new facility. The new campus is on schedule to be completed by May 17. Messer Construction is the contractor for the job.

This images shows workers at the Blount County campus of Pellissippi State Community College building the new facility. The new campus is on schedule to be completed by May 17. Messer Construction is the contractor for the job.

The Pellissippi State Blount County campus is seeing a record number of freshmen as the fall semester begins Aug. 31.

Holly Burkett, dean of the Blount County campus, said projections for the number of individuals attending new student orientation at the Blount campus were up to 250.

“This will be our biggest new student orientation ever,” she said.

A total of 600 new or transfer students have addresses of record in Blount County, but many will attend the Hardin Valley campus. “We can’t say all 600 are going to attend the Blount County campus, which is why we’re building the Blount County campus,” said Burkett. “We want them to stay in Blount County.”

The number of students attending Pellissippi State continues to grow. “Our enrollment last year was 850 students for the fall. I haven’t had any projections as far as our numbers for fall. I am guessing in the low 900s,” she said.

“We’ve been up 35 percent for all our site campuses,” she said. “They don’t break down those numbers for us until after our 14th day.”

Burkett said first time students exploring opportunities at Pellissippi State are excited, but also very nervous. “Our staff tries to calm their fears and let them know college isn’t bad,” she said.

The dean said the tough economy has created more older students, some of whom become emotional when going through the process of becoming students. “With more and more people being laid off and losing jobs, it’s been more emotional. Students are upset because they’ve lost jobs. They’re not getting mad, they’re just confused,” she said. “Many are starting over, so we are trying to do everything we can to get them in college and let them know it is all going to be ok. We have had several just crying because they’re just so distraught about their life situation, and we try to let them know this is another phase in life, and education is ongoing. Most people think education is a one time thing, but more people are realizing it’s a lifetime process.”

Burkett said the faculty is really excited and probably a little anxious because classes are going to be full. “I think it’s getting us ready for the next couple of years and what will be coming down the road with our new campus,” she said.

Burkett said construction on the new Blount County campus on West Lamar Alexander Parkway is on schedule and the second floor and walls are being built now.

“They’re on target. May 17 is our completion date, and, if winter goes well, they’ll stick to it. Messer Construction has been great about keeping to their deadline.”

“We expect to have the building under roof by late October,” said David Walton, director of the college’s Facilities, Safety and Security.

The walls are going up, the underground utilities are installed, and the parking area grading is near completion at the 40-acre site. The Blount County Campus will be home to a two-story, 70,000-square-foot building that can accommodate up to 1,000 students.

The college broke ground on the $22 million state-of-the-art campus in May 2008. Funding for the new site comes from the state, sale of the former campus property and private donations generated through a major gifts campaign by the Pellissippi State Foundation. The goal of the ongoing campaign, Connecting Communities, Changing Lives, is $2 million. Campaign gifts and pledges to date are $1,855,240.

The Blount County Campus is expected to open in time for fall 2010 classes.

The college began offering classes in Blount County in 1985. Pellissippi State currently offers classes at the Blount County Center, which is housed in the former Bungalow Elementary School on Middlesettlements Road in Alcoa.

The new Blount County Campus is located at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway in the Friendsville community.

Following are some of the events, honors, programs and interesting student activities from Pellissippi State.

Non-credit class helps prepare Pellissippi State employee, wife for Chinese adoption

Ever picked up peanuts with chopsticks?

Doug and Rebecca Myers picked up peanuts and some key phrases too in Conversational Chinese for Beginners at Pellissippi State Community College.

Doug, a transcript specialist at the college, and his wife had a mission: they needed to prepare for two weeks in China, where they would be meeting their baby daughter for the first time.

The couple had heard that Chinese was very difficult to learn, but the two weren’t deterred. They took the non-credit class, offered through the Business and Community Services area, in the fall of 2006, thinking adoption was eminent. But because of changes in regulations, the adoption process dragged out for two and a half years.

Instructor Mei-Ling Cheng focused on speaking skills during the five-week course, helping students learn basic Chinese vocabulary, phrases, useful expressions and culture (hence, the chopsticks). Cheng, who has taught Chinese in the Knoxville area for 15 years, wanted students to be able to introduce themselves in Chinese, understand sentence structure and recognize and write some simple Chinese characters. The course focused on Mandarin, or Standard Chinese.

The couple considered the $95 class fee a bargain.

“Mei-Ling made it enjoyable,” Doug said.

Finally, in March of this year, Doug and Rebecca Myers joined four other adopting families in Chicago and flew to China. For two days, they toured: the Forbidden City, the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and the Olympic Park. Then the baby was in their arms. “She was abandoned at a hospital at 1 day old because of a cleft lip and palette,” said Rebecca, a special education teacher in Knox County.

“Her Chinese name was Futong, which means ‘happiness and red,’” said Doug. “We named her Emilee Rose. She was responding to her English name in a week.”

Five months later, he says, “We couldn’t imagine life without her.”

“We want Emilee to learn Chinese. More people in the world speak Chinese than any other language,” Rebecca said.

The next Conversational Chinese class will be on Thursday evenings, Sept. 17-Oct. 22. The class fee is still $95.

For more information, call Business and Community Services at 865-539-7167.

Area businessman goes ‘green’ through Pellissippi

Although Alcoa businessman Douglas Benton already is involved in several money-making ventures, he is looking to a series of courses offered by Pellissippi State Technical Community College to help take his business in a new direction.

Benton and his wife, Trysh, own Wheels for Tomorrow, a scooter and bicycle business. He says his latest vision for the business came when a friend lent him the movie “Who Killed the Electric Car.”

“I watched it,” he said, “and I became ‘green’ with anger and decided to join the green movement. I’m getting rid of all the gas-powered scooters and will sell only battery-powered scooters.

“Then, I had this thought, ‘Why couldn’t every house in the county have solar and wind power?’”

So he signed up for Photovoltaic System Design and Installation, one of 16 new “green” non-credit courses offered online through Pellissippi State’s Business and Community Services Division.

“I want to be an NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified solar panel designer and installer-the only one in the Knoxville area and only the third in the entire state.”

Benton believes he can provide a money-saving service, especially to area businesses. “Right now, residents only get a 30 percent tax credit for installing solar panels,” he said. “But in Tennessee, a commercial builder can get 40 percent and up to a $75,000 grant that they don’t have to pay back. A lot of companies here don’t know that.”

The course that Benton is taking is 16 weeks long and costs $795. There’s a new lesson available each week, and he’s learning just what he needs to know to achieve his latest goal.

Benton also has become a distributor for wind turbines-small windmills designed for residential rooftops. The windmills can save money on their utility bills by helping generate power.

“In this economy, I believe it’s important to diversify,” he said.

Pellissippi State offers 15 other green courses (most of which are self-paced so they can be completed ahead of schedule), including Home Energy Analyst, Green Building Sales Professional and Carbon Strategies.

For more information about the classes, contact Brad Coburn, director of BCS’ Industrial and Contract Training, at 865-694-6666.

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