Pellissippi State grows

Lesli Bales-SherrodEast Knox, Our Town Youth

New library, heritage project mark 10th anniversary of Strawberry Plains Campus

A new campus library at Pellissippi State Community College will serve as a repository for regional literature, history and folklore.

The Appalachian Heritage Project, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, opened Friday, Sept. 9, 2022, inside the college’s new Strawberry Plains Campus Library. The ribbon cutting was a perfect prelude to the Strawberry Plains Campus’ 10th anniversary celebration later that day.

“We expect that the Appalachian Heritage Project will be one of the most unique educational settings in Tennessee,” said Executive Director Aneisa Rolen of the Pellissippi State Foundation, which was tasked with raising $400,000 in donations to match the $400,000 Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grant the College received in November 2018.

“This library will 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.”

Designed by Community Tectonics and built by Evans-Ailey Construction, the new library repurposes 9,000 square feet of space on the main level of the college’s campus at 7201 Strawberry Plains Pike, Knoxville.

The Appalachian Heritage Project, which is housed inside the new library, features curated collections of materials about all aspects of the region, and its quarterly programming focused on the art, literature, customs and history of the area will promote a better understanding of Appalachia.

The Appalachian Heritage Project also provides Pellissippi State with opportunities to expand partnerships in the region and enhance community outreach via exhibits, lectures and workshops. The Project already has been offering quarterly programming while its physical space on the Strawberry Plains Campus was under construction. Earlier this year the project hosted Celebrating Howard “Louie Bluie” Armstrong, an Appalachian Original, with musicians and educators Sean McCollough, Kelle Jolly and Chris Durman, and later a trip to the John Oliver Cabin in Cades Cove with adjunct history instructor and Smoky Mountains Hiking Club Vice President Steve Dunkin.

“The Appalachian Heritage Project will honor our rich past as well as focus on the future of the region that our students will help to shape,” said Mary Ellen Spencer, dean of Library Services. “The new library is an ideal setting for the Project as it features technology-enhanced spaces that promote student learning. It is our hope that the North Family Community Room will become a central location in the Strawberry Plains community for educational programming about Appalachia.”

The Appalachian Heritage Project hours are 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays. Info: Assistant Professor and Campus Librarian Allison McKittrickat 865-225-2322 or [email protected].

Lesli Bales-Sherrod is interim executive director for Pellissippi State Community College.

Quotables: ‘My first step was here’
By Sandra Clark

Why did we buy/lease the 33-acre property at Strawberry Plains Pike near the I-40 exit – the site of the former Philips Consumer Electronics/Magnavox headquarters?

An answer came from Alexandria Atkins M.D., a resident in radiology at the UT Medical Center. “It’s said that every journey starts with a first step,” she said. “My first step was here.”

Former state Rep. Harry Brooks introduced Atkins. She attended all the Carter schools and was part of the Pellissippi State Class of 2015. As a legislator, Brooks helped secure funding for the Pellissippi State campus at Strawberry Plains.

It’s difficult for young people to imagine attending college and earning an advanced degree, especially if they are first-generation college students. Cheryl Hickman, then principal of Carter High School, started a program to bring students to the Pellissippi State campus, Brooks said. Atkins was among those students, and she’s been going to school ever since. “Because of her determination, she is now Dr. Alexandria Atkins,” he said to applause.

Major donors to the library project were National Endowment for the Humanities, Knox County government, Crissy and Bill Haslam, Marty and Gary North (parents of campus dean Mike North), Jane and Rich Ray, and FirstBank.

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett was introduced. “I’m back here and Rich is trying to get a check from me,” he said. Quick as a flash, Ray countered: “It’s the other way.”

Also spotted: state Reps. Gloria Johnson, Dave Wright and Jerome Moon; Knox County Commissioners Carson Dailey, Kim Frazier and Gina Oster; and school board member Kat Bike.

UT President Randy Boyd was recognized for his early contributions to Pellissippi State and to the Strawberry Plains Campus. Boyd said since its founding, Knox Achieves and later Tennessee Achieves has sent 200,000 kids to college. Boyd said he and Sam Furrow supported the Career Magnet Academy, a 4-year Knox County High School located in the basement of the Strawberry Plains Campus. It features a megalab with classes in welding and cybersecurity. Junior- and senior-level students can get dual credit for classes taken “upstairs” at Pellissippi State.

Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise recalled the beginnings of the Strawberry Plains Campus. “This campus is in an ideal location to serve East Knox County and East Tennessee.” He said the college is coming out of the pandemic. Enrollment has grown this year and last.

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