At the end of what may have been the strangest semester in the college’s 45-year history, Pellissippi State Community College honored outstanding members of its faculty and staff with a virtual awards ceremony.
“We made it through because we had essential employees on campus and essential employees off campus doing whatever needed to be done to support the college, support the community and, most importantly, to support our students,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr., in a segment of the ceremony recorded from his home. “We are Pellissippi Strong.”
This year’s Roger Crowe Excellence in Teaching Award went to Kathleen Affholter, a full-time professor for physical and environmental sciences. Affholter, whose students call her “Special K,” has a passion for geology that she passes along to her students through hands-on learning such as conducting experiments at nearby Cherokee Caverns and exploring the great outdoor classrooms found throughout East Tennessee. Affholter has been using experiential learning her entire teaching career, as her main goal is to teach students how to solve real-world problems using scientific data.
Pellissippi State’s Innovations Award, established by former Pellissippi State President Allen Edwards, recognizes the demonstrated success of creative and original instructional and learning support activities at the college. This year’s award went to the team of Professor Minoo Askari, Professor Susan McMahon, Laboratory Technician Kristen Kover, Instructional Media Technician Leslie Owle and Instructional Media Technician Gary Hinshaw, who created an online accessible microbiology lab manual. More than 789 hours were devoted to the creation of these resources – written exercises, videos and assessments – and grades improved significantly after students began using these tools. This unique resource is free to all microbiology students, who previously had to purchase the manual.
Jennifer Cozart, a career specialist for the Universal Pathways to Employment Program, took home the Staff Excellence Award. Funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, UPEP assists students with disabilities to obtain education credentials and employment after graduation. Cozart’s hard work has brought Pellissippi State recognition at the national and international level by The Zero Project, which recognized UPEP with its 2020 Innovative Policy Award for UPEP’s promising outcomes in integrating academics and career services to increase college graduation rates and job placement for students with disabilities.
The Gene Joyce Visionary Award recognizes Pellissippi State employees who make positive differences in the community through leadership, technologically oriented projects and/or other community involvement. This year’s recipient, Instructor Cristina Carbajo, serves as the program coordinator for Pellissippi State’s Water Quality Technology program, the first of its kind in Tennessee. This program, which was funded by a National Science Foundation grant, addresses a major employment crisis, with 50% of the workforce set to retire within the next five years and more than 75% of certified operators older than 45. Carbajo collaborated with local utility districts to get their advice before creating, on her own, course materials and hands-on laboratory experiences designed to prepare students for the workforce.
The winners of these four awards, sponsored by the Pellissippi State Foundation, receive $1,000, a plaque and a medallion. They are chosen by the Employee Awards Committee and a committee comprised of three members of the Foundation Board of Trustees.
Meanwhile, winners of the Outstanding Employee Awards receive $100 and a plaque. The Outstanding Employee Award winners for 2020 include:
- Adjunct Appreciation Award: Tevin Turner
- Nina McPherson Award: Judy Sichler
- Outstanding Adjunct Faculty: Raul Rivero
- Outstanding Administrator: Royce Jacomen
- Outstanding Contract Worker: Stefanie Decker
- Outstanding Full-Time Faculty: Sue Yamin
- Outstanding Support Professional: Holly King
- Outstanding Technical/Service/Maintenance /S/M Worker: Gail Maples
The Adjunct Appreciation Award and Nina McPherson Award are chosen by the college’s Faculty Senate, while the Outstanding Employee Awards are chosen by popular vote of Pellissippi State faculty and staff. Info: www.pstcc.edu or 865-694-6400.
Lesli Bales-Sherrod does marketing and writing for Pellissippi State Community College.