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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  It comes at a time in the academic calender when almost everyone (faculty, staff, and students) can benefit from a few days away from exams, papers, meetings and each other.  I know this is the case for me; I imagine it is the case for you.

As I mentioned last year, I would often try to incorporate a Thanksgiving Proclamation into my U.S. history courses.  Even though I am not teaching this year, I did a little research on presidential proclamations for the holiday.  One that caught my eye was Franklin Roosevelt’s 1938 Proclamation, in part because of where it stands in the timeline of American history.   The country was still trying to emerge from the Great Depression; the unemployment rate was still 19%.  Roosevelt was grateful to have avoided the outbreak of a “general war.”  He would not be able to make the same sort of statement the following year.  I have not been able to find a presidential proclamation for this year, but imagine that when it is released, concerns about the economy and conflict around the world will be at its center.

My wish for you, if one is allowed wishes at Thanksgiving, is that you find the time and space to rest and recover enough to push through to the end of the term.  This semester has been more challenging than most; I appreciate your willingness to meet those challenges with your very best efforts on behalf of our students and the College.  I look forward to the downhill run to the end of the term and the opportunity for us to do this all over again in the spring.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Faculty-Staff Choir

On Wednesday September 22, the Faculty-Staff Choir will meet for the first time for the fall semester and begin its preparation for the December 9 Holiday Spectacular.  As a founding member of this group, I would like to invite you to consider participating if you like to sing a little and laugh a lot.  You don’t have to be a professional singer; you don’t even have to be a good singer.  You just have to enjoy singing and spending some time with your fellow employees and colleagues working on matters a little less important than SACS, schedules, funding priorities, etc. etc.  I hope to see you there (and let me be the first to wish you all the best for the holidays).

Faculty-Staff Choir – 2009 Holiday Spectacular

Posted in Uncategorized.

Read and Review

I make pretty extensive use of folders in Outlook to manage incoming email.  One of my folders is called “Read and Review,” and I often store articles or links to lengthy stories there until I have time and space to reflect upon them.  Every so often I am forced to declare “read and review bankruptcy” by deleting everything and starting over.  This week, I thought I’d pull out some articles to share with you in case you want to add the sources or authors to your “read and review” list.

Inside Higher Ed publishes an daily, online newsletter that includes articles and blogs.  One of my favorites is “Confessions of a Community College Dean.”  This anonymous blog published by “Dean Dad” often includes insights into the workings of his community college and sometimes deals with his experiences as a father.  This post describes the beginning of the semester experience and some universal truths, while this one recounts a debate we have had at Pellissippi State.

This brief from Community College Times discusses the inequitable funding of community colleges.  Here’s an article about Minnesota community colleges and their efforts to improve completion rates, another on politics, access and the community college mission, and a third on the characteristics of some of America’s best (community) colleges.  The Beloit College Mindset List is a good way to measure the historical and cultural divide with the newest class of college students, many of whom were born in 1992.

The Kahn Academy is emerging as an open source project hoping to provide education anyone, anywhere (provided they have access to a computer capable of video streaming).   The bulk of the video clips focus on math and science; I quickly gravitated to the entries on the history of the French Revolution.   You might wish to review this resource to see if there is anything here that would help your students.

Posted in administrivia.

Student Success

Students Success is part of the DNA of Pellissippi State.   If you take a moment to review our Statement of Vision and Values, you’ll find our “commitment to student success” is our first priority and “reason for existence.”  Those words, strong and true, have guided our work for decades.

One thing we learned during the Foundations of Excellence self-study of the first-year experience was how very important the first few weeks of a semester are in fostering student success.  Some of our students hit the ground running and never look back.  They join clubs and organizations; they engage with our faculty and curriculum; they meet peers with common interests; and they quickly become part of our community.  Others struggle with the transition to college — academically, financially, and socially.  Please look for signs your students might need a little extra help in establishing a successful academic foundation.  Please be mindful of the support mechanisms — counseling, testing, tutoring, and so many more — we have in place on campus to help all of our students with what can be a difficult transition.  You should also hear from the Student Success Coordinator in your department and on your campus about other efforts to help our students start their college experiences successfully.  Finally, you might wish to refer students to any number of the wide variety of SkillsShops taking place this fall on all campuses.  Hopefully, a little extra attention inside the classroom and out will help a few more of our students survive this transition and persist in the pursuit of their academic goals.

Posted in General, Graduation, Students.

By the Numbers

I am working on my fourth year as chief academic officer at Pellissippi State.  Nearly every day over the course of those years, I have received an enrollment report just after 6:00 p.m. that looks something like this :

Date: 26-AUG-10

FTE and Headcount for 200980 and 201080


term = 200980  headcount = 10,413             FTE = 6,950

term = 201080  headcount = 11,588 (+11.28%)   FTE = 7,691 (+10.66%)

This report indicates that as of August 26, 2010 11,588 students had registered for fall semester — an 11.28% increase over the 10,413 registered on the same date last year. I am sure the College will continue to monitor enrollment figures in future semesters, but as you know the new funding formula requires us to look much more closely at the numbers of graduates.  I am grateful for the ideas you have shared with me for the establishment of certificate programs and for increasing the overall number of graduates.   We have started some of the preliminary work on some of these ideas already.

I ran into two of our 11,588 students last night at a college function.  We talked at length about their courses and their excitement for the start of the new year.  They were almost giddy about returning to the classroom on Monday.   (They are not registered for any Saturday classes which start tomorrow.)  I wouldn’t describe myself as giddy, but I do look forward to my arrival on campus Monday morning and welcoming students to our College and community(ies).  I hope you feel much the same way.

A large number of you will start classes next week with every single seat in every single section you are teaching occupied.   It is a function of the enormous enrollment growth at the College over the last two years.  Please remember to take care of yourself and your students.  We have services and programs on campus designed to help employees deal with stress; please take advantage of them.  We also have programs and services on campus designed to help students; please take advantage of them.

I am going to close by trolling for invitations.  I’ve stated a number of times over the course of the last two weeks that the most important work at this institution occurs in the classrooms and communities you create with our students. My work separates me from those communities and the learning that takes place in them for long stretches at a time.   If you do have an empty seat, I would very much welcome the opportunity to visit your classes and see you and your students at work.  I won’t take up much space and I won’t interrupt; I just want to revel in what we do.

Posted in Enrollment, Higher Education, Students.


I’ve been fortunate to participate in a number of meaningful conversations this week on a variety of topics, including student success , faculty development, bliss, international education, formula funding, certificate progams and SACS. This year’s Conference on Student Success was designed to create opportunities for those sorts of conversations and many more.  When you have a chance, please thank Mark Fuentes, Ron Bridges, Audrey Williams, Donn King, Dennis Adams, and Lois Reynolds for their efforts in pulling the activities together and making the space for dialogue.  Let them know which activities worked particularly well and might be worth repeating in the future.

Because the new formula places a premium on the production and degrees and certificates, many of you have you shared your ideas for new certificate programs with me.  I would like to encourage you to continue thinking about those new program ideas as we move towards the start of the new semester.   The two documents I have provided here may help guide your thinking.  The first is a TBR white paper explaining the notion of the “embedded certificate;” the second contains the certificate programs currently offered at our fellow TBR institutions.  

TBR Embedded Certificates Nov 2009

TBR Certificates 2010-2011 catalogs

Please bounce your ideas off each other and share them with me.  It is critical the College increase the number of certificates awarded beginning with this academic year; the ideas generated by you will be crucial to establishing a foundation for the increase.  It has been a busy week — and will be a busy year.  I thank you for your continued commitment to making Pellissippi State the best possible community college for the citizens of Knox and Blount Counties.

Posted in Certificates, Community College, Graduation.

New Faculty Orientation

On Monday August 16, the College will welcome thirty new faculty to Pellissippi State.  They are part of the largest cohort of new faculty since the early-to-mid 1990s and come to us as a result of the addition of the nursing program, a number of resignations and retirements, and new positions in some (but certainly not all) program areas with significant enrollment growth.   Several are moving here from out-of-state or other institutions, a number have been adjunct faculty, and a least one is a former student.   All were hired because they have attributes similar to our current faculty: a commitment to student success, a passion for their particular academic discipline, and a desire to help create communities of learners at the College.  Some of you will be asked by your deans to serve in a formal role as mentors; I would ask all of you to help welcome this group to the College and our ranks.

faculty at graduation

New Faculty Orientation will include some features with which you are familiar: a hearty breakfast, payroll and benefits information, and a campus tour.  We are also introducing some new sessions this time.  One will allow some of our best students to tell their stories about the College and what we have done as a faculty and staff to contribute to their academic growth and student success.   In another session, Brandon Ballentine and his special assistant, Audrey Williams, will explore teaching AND technology in hopes that new faculty can reflect on those academic spaces where technology may (or may not) be the most effective means of fostering learning.  Finally, Mark Fuentes and Ron Bridges will offer two session on classroom strategies and techniques.  The program is a busy one, and I hope it covers much of what they need in order to be successful faculty at Pellissippi State.  I hope we* (as faculty) can help them with the rest of the details as they move through their first year at the College.

*Marilyn Harper can provide additional details about this administrator’s use of the pronoun “we.”

Name Title Subject Department
Bethard, Jonathan Instructor Anthropology Natural & Behavioral Sciences
Brickey, Jennifer Instructor Art Liberal Arts
Brown, Carmen Instructor Writing Transitional Studies
Brown, Darnetta Associate Professor Nursing Nursing
Buttram, Carolyn Instructor Speech Liberal Arts
Casey, Emily Instructor Mathematics Mathematics
Eslick, Kurt Assistant Professor Photography Engineering & Media Technologies
Fey, David Instructor Mathematics Mathematics
Hamric, Jacob Instructor History Liberal Arts
Isasi, Samantha Instructor Writing Transitional Studies
Jenkins, Barbara Instructor Education Natural and Behavioral Sciences
Kotz, Gretchen Instructor Mathematics Transitional Studies
Lavalle, Amy Anderson Instructor Administrative Professional Technology Business & Computer Technology
Lighter, Sally Instructor Business & Computer Technology Business & Computer Technology
Lloyd, Robert Instructor English English
Lovette, Katie Instructor Video Production Technology Engineering & Media Technology
May, John Instructor Photography Engineering & Media Technology
Mc Kittrick, Allison Instructor Writing Transitional Studies
Minic, Michael Assistant Professor Mathematics Mathematics
Murphy, James Instructor Writing Transitional Studies
Pharr, Barbara Instructor English English
Reith, Herbert Instructor Art Liberal Arts
Rutledge Bourgeade, Lisa Assistant Professor Biology Natural & Behavioral Sciences
Schumann, Terenia Instructor Early Childhood Education Natural & Behavioral Sciences
Sherman, Margaret Associate Professor Nursing Nursing
Smith, Steven Instructor Sociology Liberal Arts
Toon, Kellie Instructor Speech Liberal Arts
Wang, Melinda Assistant Professor Nursing Nursing
Wilks, Kimberly Assistant Professor Nursing Nursing
Wright, Kenneth Instructor Mathematics Mathematics

Posted in Community College, Students, Teaching, Welcome.

Turning Points

Dr. Wise is getting scolded for not bloggingI am relieved to report that the blog∙mistress does not deduct points for failure to post.  After making a series of fairly regular posts during the fall 2009 semester, I did not manage to produce a single entry during the spring or summer 2010 terms.  There certainly was no lack of things to write about; the reality is there were probably too many.  One of my new academic year’s resolutions is to a better job of writing, reflecting, and sharing.  We’ll see if I do a better job with this sort of resolution than I do with my “real” New Year’s resolutions.

For me, the end of this week seems to mark a turning point of sorts.   Summer courses (except for those pesky RODP sections) have come to a close, grades are being submitted, and faculty and students are seeking a little peace and tranquility before the mid-August mayhem.   I offer the following during this transition:

Summer used to be a time when things slowed down significantly– that no longer seems to be the case.   Not only were there a record number of students (4393) on campus for summer classes, there also seem to be a record number of meetings in the months of June and July.  Many of the meetings were related to the SACS-COC reaffirmation process.  The College has a focused statement for the Quality Enhancement Plan.  The members of the Selection Committee deserve a great deal of thanks for their diligent work over the course of the last several months.  I think you’ll be pleased to learn that QEP will focus on the interaction and engagement of students, faculty, and curriculum.  I hope as you learn more you will become increasingly engaged in this critical element of our reaffirmation.   The other important element of SACS is the completion of the compliance report.  I am pleased to report that while we still have a significant amount of work to do, we have made considerable progress towards its completion.  (Thank you, Lois Reynolds.)

Message sign at college entrance

Relief from the meetings came in a variety of forms.  First, the College hosted a CD release party for the students in our auditioned ensemble, “Variations.”  It has been a real pleasure to get to know these students this year.  They always manage to lift my spirits with the sound of their voices.

Second, I received an invitation to “guest lecture” in an American literature course in June.  I am not sure what the students got out of the session (and I hope I did not impede their progress in the course), but I enjoyed myself immensely and appreciated the opportunity.  Finally, the College served as host for the National Alliance of Community and Technical Colleges just last week.  It may seem odd to describe hosting a series of meetings as part of a conference as relief, but I always find it helpful to talk to faculty and administrative colleagues at other institutions.  We are engaged in similar struggles in pursuit of common missions.

Mark Fuentes, Ron Bridges, Audrey Williams, Dennis Adams, Donn King, Lois Reynolds, and I have had many conversations about inservice activities at the start of the fall semester.  I think we have come up with a variety sessions to help us all think about teaching and learning.  Audrey introduced us to the idea of UNconference.   I don’t really get it as you’ll see.

Maybe you can help me figure it out.

Enjoy the last days of summer.  See you soon.

Posted in Blogging, Community College, Enrollment, Higher Education, SACS, Students.


One of the things I enjoy most about working in higher education is the rhythm of the semester.  The anticipation and excitement of August is followed rather quickly by the routine of September and October, regularly scheduled classes and meetings and attention to the work at hand.  As the educational community moves into November, the pressure begins to build to a crescendo.  My office tries to keep the screaming to a minimum while recognizing the pressures faculty, staff and students face as we enter the home stretch and looking towards the end of the semester.

My work over the course of the last few years has introduced a variation to the last week of classes.  The weekend before this last I travel to the site of the SACS-COC annual meeting.  In the past, the meeting has been a professional development opportunity for me.  This year, the college sent a team of eight people as part of our preparation for the reaffirmation process.  We spent the better part of three days in sessions about the QEP, compliance reports, fifth-year interim reports, and a number of other topics.  You can look forward to hearing from us about these topics in the new year.

A number of those attending the conference for the college are members of the Faculty-Choir.  The ride home from Atlanta gave us the opportunity to practice our parts for last night’s Holiday Spectacular.  (The video clip is the Jazz Band from last year’s show.)   I’m not sure the Faculty-Staff Choir can live up to the standards established by our music faculty and students, but we sure have fun trying.  If you can sing even a little bit, consider joining us for the spring semester.  It is the best sort of stress release.

I will close by wishing you well with the examining, grading, and recording.  If I don’t see you on campus, enjoy the holidays.

“To the end of the semester . . .


Stocking Stuffers from Inside Higher Ed

Delayed Openings

Stimulus for Student Grades

Access to What?

Early Birds

Movement, but Miles to Go

Redefining Access and Success

The Great Community College Experiment


A Lump of Coal

Harnessing Coal River Wind


No Batteries Included

NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for Community College Faculty

PARTICIPATE in an NEH Summer Program in 2010

The ten workshops for 2010 are

– Building the New South: The Social and Economic Transformation of the Piedmont after the Civil War
– Progress and Poverty: The Gilded Age in American Politics and Literature, 1877-1901
– African-American History and Culture in the Georgia Lowcountry: Savannah and the Coastal Islands, 1750-1950
– Concord, Massachusetts: A Center of Transcendentalism and Social Reform in the Nineteenth Century
– Along the Shore: Changing and Preserving the Landmarks of Brooklyn’s Industrial Waterfront
– From Revolution to Republic: Philadelphia’s Place in Early America
– Landmarks of American Democracy: From Freedom Summer to the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike
– Plymouth, Massachusetts: Landmark of Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians
– Legacies and Landmarks of the High Plains Native Americans
– History and Commemoration: Legacies of the Pacific War

More information about Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshops for Community College Faculty is available on the NEH website at

The application deadline is March 2, 2010 (postmark).

The Auburn Symposium: Cross Cultural Perspectives on University Teaching and Learning, February 19 & 20, 2010.

Registration Now Open! The Symposium will be held in the new Student Center at Auburn University in Auburn, AL.  In recognition of these difficult economic times, the registration fee is just $99 per person, which includes 8 speakers, 5 meals, entertainment and handouts.  The Symposium will feature speakers who will discuss the impact of cultural context and background on teaching and learning in higher education.  Cultural perspectives to be presented are Chinese, African American, Latino, Korean, Muslim and Hindu. As our colleges and universities become more
diverse, these perspectives are critical for faculty, students, and university personnel to understand.  There will also be breakout sessions to discuss how this information can be applied to our college classrooms.  Meals and entertainment with an international flavor will also highlight the Symposium.  To read presentation abstracts, learn
about our presenters, see the Symposium schedule, and register, go to

Posted in Community College, SACS.

A Proclamation of Thanksgiving


When I taught the first half of the U.S. history survey on a regular basis, I tried to incorporate Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation (1863) into the class because the document fit well with the chronological course of our study.  If we had not strayed too far from the path when discussing Manifest Destiny or the Trail of Tears, I knew we would be in the midst of the Civil War during the week of Thanksgiving.  Lincoln’s words gave us an opportunity to reflect on the state of the Union at the height of the most terrible conflict the nation has ever know.  Victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg in early July seemed to shift the advantage to the Union — perhaps for the first time.   Although President Lincoln could not have known it, the war would drag on for another eighteen months after his proclamation, claiming tens of thousands more lives.

Although not as poetic as the Gettysburg Address or as powerful as his Second Inaugural Address, the Thanksgiving Proclamation did afford us an opportunity to examine Lincoln’s persuasive use of the English language.  Throughout the document, he counters the horror of the continuing conflict with evidence of and belief in the increase and prosperity of the country.  Finally, the document allowed us to examine briefly the troubled and chaotic times in which we live.  Its plea to the “Almighty Hand” to heal and restore the nation and invitation to all Americans to observe a day of Thanksgiving resonated with us all.  The practice of “thanksgiving” today is far different than in the days of Lincoln, but I do hope you will find the time later this week for healing, restoration, thanksgiving — and maybe a small piece of pumpkin pie.

Posted in Uncategorized.