Jun 28 2011

A Fond Farewell

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My sincere thanks to all of you who have helped me make a difference in the life of this college and community.  I have truly enjoyed working with you through good times and bad as we found ways to serve the citizens of our region and state to the best of our abilities.  I honestly feel that we have established one of the finest community colleges in the country.

As I have been honored and feted over the past several weeks, I have tried to make the point that I did nothing alone.  Every step of the way, I have worked with the most incredible staff and the most amazing faculty as we created this institution as it is today.  Thank you for your hard work, your dedication to our mission, your creativity in solving problems, and for your commitment to our community.  It is not just me who is being honored these past few weeks; it is us.

I think that we are fortunate to have Dr. Anthony Wise step in as president of our college at this point in our history.   Certainly we are ready to continue the good things that we have done, but we are also ready for fresh ideas as we move to implement the Complete College Act and as we move into a new campus on Strawberry Plains Pike.  All he needs to be successful is your continued support and encouragement.

Thank you all for a wonderful 18 years and best wishes for great success in the future.

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Mar 21 2011

The trip to France

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Placing a wreath in the American Cemetery above Omaha Beach.

I am so grateful to have shared the experience of traveling through Normandy and into Paris with our choir Variations.  The College and the community could not have had better representatives than these great young men and women.  You can follow the experience at blogs.pstcc.edu/variations2011.

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Dec 14 2010

A Holiday Message

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Dec 06 2010

Holiday happenings/Search for New President

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Pellissippi State was represented in the annual Knoxville Christmas Parade for the first time this year thanks to the efforts of Student Life.  I never thought that I would see Kim Thomas driving a big truck down Gay Street but it happened on Friday night.  Gwen Miller  tells me that she didn’t hit anything important during the parade.

Saturday was another big day for Student Life as they hosted the 23rd annual Breakfast with Santa.  Culinary Arts students cooked pancakes and sausages and volunteers helped hundreds of children make ornaments, painted faces, and guided kids through to talk with Santa.   The cold rainy day did not deter anyone from coming.  Congratulations to Kim, Gwen, and all the staff and students who volunteered to make this a successful event.


Here are some Frequently Asked Questions about the search for a new president of Pellissippi State Community College.

Tennessee Board of Regents Presidential Search Process
1. Who decides on the next president of a TBR institution?
The Chancellor of the TBR system, advised by a committee of 14 or
more, including up to 6 members of the Board, recommends one
candidate to the TBR Board. The Board either accepts or rejects
that recommendation.
2. What are the steps in the process?
Each search is slightly different, but this is the “typical” process:
• The Board of Regents approves presidential search criteria
setting forth the qualifications for the job.
• As Chairman of the Board of Regents, the Governor appoints
one board member as chairperson of the search committee
and 5 or 6 additional board members to sit on the
• Ads are placed in the Chronicle of Higher Education and
Black Issues in Higher Education asking for resumes from
people who are interested in being considered, and relevant
national associations and higher education systems are
notified of the opening.
• Simultaneously, anyone who wishes to do so may send a
letter to the Chancellor of TBR nominating someone to be
considered for the job.
• All nominees are contacted and asked to send a statement of
interest and a resume if they wish to be considered.
• All nominees and applicants are sent a form asking them on
a voluntary basis to indicate their race and gender.
• The Chancellor of TBR and the board member designated as
chairperson decide on nominees to the search committee
from the relevant institution’s faculty, staff, students, alumni
and community constituencies. By board policy, there must
o two faculty members, one of whom is chairman of the
Faculty Assembly or his or her designee;
o two students, one of whom is president of the Student
Government Association or his or her designee;
o one alumnus;
o one support employee;
o one administrator;
o one representative from the institution’s business
o at least one member from the community at large and
o appropriate other representatives.
• The committee holds its first meeting to agree upon the rest
of the process, usually consisting of reviewing all resumes to
reduce the number to around 10, then checking references
on those 10, interviewing them by telephone and reducing
the number further to 3-5. This process usually entails 3 or
4 additional meetings of the search committee.
• The 3-5 finalists are invited to the campus for daylong visits
to meet with faculty, students, staff, alumni, community
groups and the advisory committee.
• The advisory committee members let the Chancellor know
their views on the candidates.
• Members of the faculty, staff, students and community may
also let the Chancellor know their views.
• The Chancellor reaches a decision, talks with the candidate
he wants to recommend about salary and other issues, then
takes one name to the Board for approval.
3. How are people selected for the presidential advisory search
The Chancellor and the committee chair consult a variety of local
leaders, both on and off campus, to determine the off-campus
constituencies that should be represented on the advisory
committee. Typically, this includes members of the institution’s
board and/or foundation, business leaders, alumni, minority
group representatives, religious leaders and elected representatives
to the state legislature. The Chancellor and committee chair also
work with the institution to ensure that all on-campus
constituencies are represented, including faculty, staff and
4. What does the advisory committee actually do?
The committee bears the primary responsibility for screening
applicants and reviewing the qualifications and suitability of the
candidates, but it is advisory to the Chancellor, meaning that the
committee does not select the candidate to be presented to the TBR
Board for approval.
5. Are the committee meetings open to the public?
By TBR Board policy, all meetings of presidential search
committees are open to the public and press to listen to the
proceedings. The public and the press are not permitted to
participate in the meetings.
6. Who pays the expenses of the search?
The institution for which the search is being made is responsible
for all expenses except those incurred by the Chancellor and the
committee members from the TBR Board. Their expenses are paid
from the TBR budget. In some cases, an institution’s foundation
may pay some of the expenses, if, for example, a search firm is
hired to locate candidates.
7. What happens after all the candidates have been interviewed?
The committee typically does not meet again after all the interviews
have been concluded. Rather, each member lets the Chancellor
know his or her views, which the Chancellor takes into
consideration in reaching his decision. The Chancellor also
welcomes the views of any groups on or off campus who have met
with the candidates.
8. Why does the process take so long?
The presidential search process was deliberately designed to be an
inclusive one, involving as many of the groups and individuals as
practical who are concerned about an institution’s next president.
Whenever there are that many people involved, it is timeconsuming
to coordinate schedules, set up meetings, make
logistical arrangements and so forth. Also there are a number of
steps in the process, and committee members are not able to
devote full time to their search responsibilities. An additional
factor is that the candidates themselves are employed and may be
located at some distance, so their schedules and other
commitments must be taken into account. On average, from start
to finish, a presidential search requires about six months.

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Oct 07 2010

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Federal Reserve Speaker

Thanks to Lucinda Alexander, Pellissippi State hosted an impressive series of talks on Tuesday by Lee Jones, the Nashville representative of the Atlanta Branch of the Federal Reserve.  First, at Rotary Club of Knoxville, Mr. Jones outlined the current state of the economy in the mid-south and spoke of the Federal Reserve’s efforts to stimulate the economy.

In the afternoon, the College hosted a roundtable of business leaders to speak with Mr. Jones about how they are reacting to the current economic climate.  They were very clear about how they are responding and their comments fell into a few categories.  First, government is working at cross purposes.  On one hand, the Federal Reserve is trying to stimulate the economy by keeping interest rates low to make borrowing appealing to businesses and individuals, while on the other hand, federal bank regulators are preventing banks from making loans.  Secondly, the uncertainty in the business world about future economic policies is keeping business and industry from adding jobs.  Will the Bush tax cuts remain in place or not?  Will their be another stimulus package or not?  Without answers to these and other questions, these local business leaders are reluctant to act.  Finally, businesses are, in fact, adding technology to replace workers.   This final point has been talked about in the media, but the local leaders reaffirmed that this is the case.

Finally, Mr. Jones spoke to several hundred people in the Clayton Performing Arts Center and answered questions afterwards.  It was quite an educational day for me.  My hat is off to Lucinda for her efforts to get Mr. Jones here for the day.

Balloon Festival

The seventh annual Hot Air Balloon Festival was simply outstanding.  Pat Myers and her team of employees and volunteers put together one of the most amazing days Pellissippi State has ever experienced.  Thousands of people descended on the campus over the weekend to enjoy beautiful weather and beautiful hot air balloons.  The event takes months of planning and a lot of luck with the weather to be successful.  This year the weather cooperated and the planning paid off.   Congratulations and thanks to Pat and to all of you who made this into one of the most successful festivals in the South.


Thanks to all of you who have wished me well in my upcoming retirement.  The hard part of retiring is deciding when to do it and when to announce it.  Once that is done, you are really ready to move forward with it.  I have received cards and phone calls from all around the country and appreciate the many kind words and wishes from so many of the faculty and staff.

One student asked me why I was really retiring.  I think his youth made it difficult for him to understand what goes into a working life and how much, at some point, that you think about stepping back from something that you really love.  I told him that once you reach the age of 60, your perspective changes.   You think about retirement a lot.  In the end, my retirement date was dependent on me being eligible for Medicare and for full Social Security benefits.  I don’t think a 21 year old can really  understand that.

Economic Outlook

After listening to local business leaders and to the spokesperson for the Federal Reserve this week, I believe that Chancellor Manning was correct in his prediction last year that Tennessee community colleges, and maybe all of higher education, are becoming  high tuition, high student aid enterprises.  The truth is that Tennessee public higher education is out of money.  The new formula for higher education will not bring in more new money, it will only redistribute what is already there.  Calls and letters to legislators will make no difference because there is no new money and the Tennessee public is not likely to vote in legislators who will raise taxes.

We are fortunate, in a sense, that higher education is the one state enterprise that can raise funds by raising tuition and fees substantially to cover the costs of the enterprise.  This is a real problem for community colleges, however, as we have long taken pride in providing access to students by maintaining low tuition.  That is where the “high student aid” part must come into play.   I don’t know how far the state will go, or can go, toward making this a reality, but I don’t see any other solutions in the near future.

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Sep 10 2010

A New College

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I am always excited about the start of a new college year, but this one has been exceptional.  There are so many new things occuring that it feels like a new college to me.  First, we opened a beautiful new campus in Blount County.  It is a first-class facility with incredible labs, classrooms, campus setting, and an excellent faculty and staff.  I’ve spoken with many of the students there and they are as proud and excited about the campus as we all are.

Secondly, we enrolled our very first Associate Degree Nursing program this fall semester.  With 40 students between the Magnolia Avenue and the Blount County Campuses, we are well on our way to producing additional graduates and well-trained nurses for our community.

We also started our first classes in Culinary Arts this semester.  This program was developed in conjunction with the Culinary Arts Institute at the University of Tennessee.  Dr. Tom Gaddis has worked closely Dr. John Antun over the past several years to develop the curriculum and to work out the details of the arrangement.  The response to the program has been so great that the first cohort of 25 students filled quickly and a second cohort of 25 students is now full as well.

In addition, it looks like our enrollment will be well over 11,000 students this term which will be a new record enrollment for our college.   It not only feels like a new semester, it feels like a new college in so many ways.

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Jan 20 2010

New Funding Formula Questions

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As the legislature deliberates the future of higher education,  I hope that they will consider leveling the playing field as regards funding before they insist we meet new performance standards.  We are not even with other community colleges as we line up to start the race.  We are starting from 10 yards behind the others.

Unlike the Tennessee Technology Centers, which all get the same level of funding per student, TBR colleges and universities operate under a different system, and the amount of state funding allocated to each college varies widely.  Because we are a relatively new college, Pellissippi State has always been way below the average level of state funding and often has been at the bottom.

In 2009-10, under the current formula, Pellissippi State receives $3350 per full-time equivalent (FTE).

By comparison, Roane State gets $4551  per FTE and  Walters State gets $4229 per FTE in state appropriations.

Students at Southwest Community College in Memphis are worth $4972 per FTE.

The average of state subsidy per FTE for community colleges is $3985 per FTE.

If Pellissippi State received the average level of state subsidy for community colleges, we would have an additional $3.6 million dollars in state subsidy.  Our estimated state subsidy for this year was $19,048,100, so you can see what an incredible impact an additional $3.6 million would have on our operations.

Performance does not enter into this calculation as Pellissippi State has always been above the average each year on the performance standards that have been in place for over 20 years.  This year, Pellissippi State is at the top in performance of all state community colleges with a score of 95 out of a hundred.

My point is that state funds are not equitably distributed now.  Will that be fixed before we move into new performance based distribution of funds?  Since Pellissippi State is at the low end of state funding, our students (our citizens) would continue to suffer more than students enrolled at sister institutions.

The only institution of higher education in the state of Tennessee that can benefit immediately from a formula that rewards graduation rates is the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.  The reason they can do so is that they can control who enters the gates of the freshman class.

If Pellissippi State could accept only those students with a 22+ ACT score, high school gpa of 3.0 or better, and offer a lottery scholarship of $4,000, we might push for a similar change in the formula as well.  But that would mean we would abandon our mission and our citizens would have fewer options to improve their educational status.

Regional universities in the TBR system can make the change over time, and they would do so, under the governor’s proposal, by moving riskier remedial/developmental students over to community colleges. This move would automatically increase their admissions standards.

Community colleges, with open door policies, cannot control who enters the college gates.  Anyone with a regular high school diploma is welcome here, and we will help them move to the highest level of achievement possible.  If they have to take remedial/developmental courses, which 60% of entering first year students do, our success rates are grim.  It is very difficult to bring someone up to standard if they are weak coming in the door.  Many make it, but far too many do not.

Also, every year we know that 20 percent of our students are here, not to complete a degree or certificate, but to complete one or two courses for professional or personal reasons.  Additionally, we know that another 20-30 percent will transfer out without a degree.  We don’t always know where they go because Tusculum, Maryville, ITT, South College, and others don’t tell us even when we ask.

So, how does the legislature avoid some of the problems in trying to fund the colleges equitably to start with and fairly after they implement a new funding system? Here’s my advice.

1.  Start Pellissippi State, and all colleges, on equal footing to begin the new formula system.  This will be difficult and will mean redistribution of current funds since there are no new funds available.  Don’t make us start the race from 10 yards behind the starting line.

2.  Separate the pools of money for universities and community colleges.  Let us compete against other community colleges, not universities, for performance funding.

3.  Don’t legislate anything that doesn’t need to be legislated.  The Governor is chair of all the boards he needs to be in order to bring about effective change.  I would suggest the Governor tour campuses and listen to the people who are trying very hard to serve our citizens on the ground first.  Effective change can happen but we need to involve a lot more people in the process.

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Jan 19 2010

Haiti Relief, the Special Session, and MLK Jr Day

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Pellissippi State Celebrates

Pellissippi State Celebrates ------------------------------------------------photo by Madalyn Mead

With enrollments over 10,000 students at this time, it looks like another record breaking semester for Pellissippi State.  My thanks to all of the staff, faculty, and student workers who have advised, oriented, informed, and directed students throughout the enrollment process.   Although all of our enrollment processes have been tested by the increase in students, they have worked smoothly to get students into the right classes.

We begin this semester with several extracurricular events that are of great concern to us all.

HAITI. First, the earthquake in Haiti is commanding our attention because of the human suffering that has resulted and our students are leading the way in preparing a response from the College.  On Friday, student leaders met with club advisors and Student Activities staff to plan a fund raising effort for the American Red Cross.  Two of the activities under consideration are a student talent show and coin jars at several locations around campus.  I hope that you will consider supporting the students in their efforts to assist the people of Haiti.

Most of you will remember that our common book a few years ago was Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of Dr. Paul Farmer who has spent 25 years working to improve the health of the people of Haiti.  His organization, Partners in Health, has 9 clinics around the Haitian countryside, all of which escaped major damage from the earthquake, and the clinics continue to provide emergency services during this disaster.  You can follow blog postings from various clinic sites here:  http://www.standwithhaiti.org/haiti

SPECIAL LEGISLATIVE SESSION. Governor Bredesen and the legislature turn their attention to higher education this week, and as usual, I don’t sleep easy until they adjourn.  I am puzzled by the need to enact legislation to accomplish many of the tasks laid out by the governor.  After all, he is chairperson of the board of TBR and of UT.  He can certainly influence the direction of THEC.  Yet he has never attended a TBR board meeting since he has been in office.  I don’t think that he has attended more than one or two UT board meetings.   As chair of the boards of TBR and UT, and as the person who appointed the majority of the board members of both, he can accomplish almost any task he wants to in higher education without legislation.   Here is a link to an outline of what Governor Bredesen is proposing for education:  http://www.tennesseeanytime.org/governor/viewArticleContent.do?id=1449

MARTIN LUTHER KING Jr DAY. Pellissippi State was well represented at the annual MLK Jr Parade this year with 38 people participating.  Thanks to all the faculty, staff, and students who turned out for a wonderful morning celebrating the life of Martin Luther King Jr.  Yolanda Roebuck has been a stalwart organizer and supporter of this event for many years and the MLK Parade Committee did a great job in planning this year’s participation by Pellissippi State.  Members of the Committee are Rick Bower, Jerry Bryan, Sydney Gingrow (Vice Chair), Ellen Keene, Ann Kronk, Gwen Miller, Yolanda  Roebuck (Chair), and Lori Warneke.

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Dec 17 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

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Nov 13 2009

Reorganizing Higher Education–Will we or won't we?

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Will Governor Bredesen roll out a plan to reorganize higher education this year?  Will UT and TBR be combined and THEC dropped from the list of state organizations?  Probably not.  At least that is what I am hearing from those who work in and around Nashville.   Apparently the political realities of reorganizing higher education are too much to tackle, even by a term-limited governor who has tremendous credibility and support among the people of the state and in the legislature.

There are issues that Governor Bredesen will tackle, however, and those issues revolve around funding and accountability.  The Governor and an unofficial taskforce are looking into “reorganizing” the funding formula for higher education.  When this issue is brought up, my greatest fear is that the real agenda is how to get more money into UTK’s hands at the expense of Pellissippi State.  In other words, how to give more money to fewer and fewer people rather than to provide funding where the people are going.   I hope that the conversation about the funding formula can move quickly  in the direction of “how can we serve the people of Tennessee” and “how can we improve the fortunes and opportunities for our state.”   Our mission is no less important than that of the University of Tennessee and I hope a new formula will honor that reality.

The thinking about accountability and about measuring student achievement usually starts out with graduation rates.  We know how to have great graduation rates.  We just do the same thing that Harvard and Yale have done: raise the entrance requirements to a point that most of those who enter will graduate.  We can do that, but it is not our mission.

For community colleges, student achievement will need many measures if we are to be judged accurately.  With an open door policy,  we serve students with diverse levels of  preparation, motivation, and broad intentions, so, we will need to measure many things to get a fair record of our students’ achievement.  Fortunately, there are some good discussions being held around the nation.  Here are some milestones suggested by the National Governor’s Association:

1.  Successful completion of remedial/developmental and core courses.

2. Advancement from remedial/developmental to college credit-bearing courses.

3. Transfer from a two-years institution to a four-year institution.

4.  Attainment of credentials (licensure, certification, certificates, diplomas less than a degree).

I think that these measures are a good point from which to start the discussion about measuring student achievement, and I hope that Governor Bredesen and THEC will give these standards serious consideration.  Without a fair and equitable level of funding, our ability to provide quality instruction is hampered by lack of full-time faculty, equipment, and professional development opportunities.   And quality matters to us and to those we serve.

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