Welcome, Dr. Erica Holmes

Dr. Holmes CROPPED

It was an honor for me to attend a welcome reception on Monday for Dr. Erica Holmes,
our new Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Services.

Since July 1, her first day on the job, Erica has immersed herself in accreditation issues.
She has put in long hours reviewing the Self-Study Report we will submit to the Higher
Learning Commission next week. The “fresh set of eyes” she has brought to this all-
important task has already had a positive impact, and for that I am extremely grateful.

At the reception, Erica noted that she is reading the Self-Study from the perspective of a
peer reviewer, and is paying close attention to the document’s consistency, the
supporting body of evidence and how it aligns with our Standard Practice Guide.

She also observed that she is excited about the “people and possibilities” at Pima and
that she sees how committed our faculty and staff are to creating a premier learning
environment for our students.

Erica is a first-generation college student from a small town in Virginia. She is a
community college graduate herself and spent time as an instructor before becoming an
administrator. She joined the Pima family after serving as Vice President of Academic
and Student Affairs at Kennedy-King College, one of the colleges in the City Colleges of
Chicago system.

This breadth of experience will serve her – and Pima – well as we move forward. As I
noted in the announcement of her appointment early last month, Erica will be an
integral member of the Pima’s leadership team.

And please mark your calendars, a welcome reception for Dr. Lorraine Morales, the new
President of our Community Campus, will be held Thursday, July 24 at the campus in
Room A109-112. The 90-minute reception begins at 3:30. I hope to see you there.

Looking back, looking ahead

I began my second year as chancellor with a review of my first. At the July meeting of the PCC Governing Board, I summed up the progress made in achieving my 2013-14 Goals, Objectives and Timelines. [My presentation is available here.] PCC has been able to move forward in many areas, thanks to the hard work and collaboration of the College community. Of course, much more needs to be done to transform PCC into a premier community college focused on our North Star of student success, engagement and diversity.

We have done an excellent job conducting an Institutional Self-Study, a comprehensive self-examination of the College’s policies, processes and goals. The Self-Study was set into motion when our accrediting organization, the Higher Learning Commission, placed the College on probation in April 2013 after determining it was not complying with several HLC standards.

We are in the midst of a crucial time regarding reaccreditation. The Self-Study Report must be submitted to the HLC by July 31. On Sept. 15-17, a team of HLC representatives will visit PCC. We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate we deserve the HLC’s and the public’s highest degree of trust, and are confident we will provide strong evidence that the College has resolved the HLC’s concerns and meets its requirements.

Beyond accreditation, the College has improved significantly in several areas. For example, we now are consistently engaging our internal and external constituents. We will use the results of an employee satisfaction survey to develop a plan to improve the culture of the workplace. We have begun sexual harassment prevention training with a goal of training everyone in our organization. In addition, we are addressing the needs of our all-important adjunct instructors and temporary staff.

We have expanded outreach to area business, K-12 schools, the state’s colleges and universities, neighborhood associations, community groups, and state and federal leaders. The result has been increased alignment with important industry sectors, improved assessment testing at high schools, strengthened dual enrollment, streamlining of pathways to The University of Arizona, and stronger engagement by donors and alumni.

The Governing Board deserves praise as well, for updating its bylaws and policies, and especially for approving a new Governance Council. I chair the council, which comprises students, adjunct and full-time faculty, administrators, and regular and temporary staff. It is designed to keep leadership apprised of topics of College-wide importance, and is an example of our commitment to accountability and collaboration.

Still to be accomplished are several major initiatives, including redesigning remedial education, as well as completing a review of College regulations and guides of standard practice.

Designing effective organizational goals means striking a delicate balance. Goals should not consist merely of low-hanging fruit, objectives that can easily be met but are essentially incremental and do not address critical issues. Nor should goals be so sweeping in breadth and depth that attempting to achieve them means pushing the organization into a perpetual, paralytic “crisis mode” that hamstrings its ability to function.

The culture of continuous improvement taking hold at PCC means we are constantly stretching our limits through a cycle of assessment, implementation of change and reassessment. We have achieved several milestones this past year in improving our operations, but few endpoints. The process necessarily must be ongoing in order to meet the needs of our students and make a significant contribution to the progress of our city, our state and our nation.

Welcome, Dr. David Dore

It was my great pleasure last week to attend a welcome reception for Dr. David Doré, the new president of our Northwest Campus.

David is a top-notch addition to Pima, with nearly three decades’ experience in teaching and community college leadership. David’s wide-ranging background serving students, combined with vast administrative expertise, will serve the College well.

At last week’s reception, David shared his vision for forging partnerships with the K-12 and university systems and with the business community. He spoke about working toward Pima’s overall goal of creating a student-centered institution and keeping students engaged to enhance their opportunities for academic success. It was particularly great to hear from David that every person he has met at the Northwest Campus has talked about students and how much they care about students.

David, who started on July 1, comes to us from Mesa Community College where he was the Dean of Instruction for Career and Technical Education (CTE). Since July 2013, he has been responsible for 150 degree and certificate programs and also oversaw the newly created Arizona Advanced Manufacturing Institute. David plans to use this expertise to help determine what types of new CTE programs might best serve the Northwest Campus and this region.

David holds a Doctorate of Education from Pepperdine University, a Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University, a Master of Education from Boston College, a Master of Theological Studies from Santa Clara University and a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Gannon University.

In our search for a new president of Northwest, the search committee wanted to find someone who is passionate about students and passionate about the community. Without a doubt, David meets those criteria.

And please mark your calendars, a welcome reception for Dr. Erica Holmes, our new Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Services, will be held Monday, July 21 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the lunch room at the District Office. Hope to see you there.

Thank you, Ed Stolmaker

Something very nice happened at last night’s Governing Board meeting. An important member of the business community came forward to publicly praise PCC.

Ed Stolmaker, the president and CEO of the Marana Chamber of Commerce, expressed his support for “the vision and mission” of the College because of the role we play in training our region’s workforce.

“Our business community needs a skilled workforce that is able to meet and exceed the changing demands of today’s employers,” he said. “Creating jobs and growing our local economy are key to our success.”

Well put, Ed. Thank you.

New resources to enhance economy through education

I want to thank the Arizona Legislature and Governor Jan Brewer for their generous support of PCC’s efforts to improve workforce training and education in the all-important Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

The state’s $600,000 STEM-workforce appropriation to PCC, part of its 2014-15 budget allocation to Arizona’s community colleges, will have an immediate impact on academics. New microscopes, a computerized milling machine, and a life-sized human anatomy model will benefit students in diverse disciplines that range from Biology to Machine Tool Technology.  [You can read a complete list of projects here.]

In working toward becoming a premier community college, we recognize the necessity of giving students the tools to succeed in a profession. For some, the road to success begins at PCC and eventually includes attaining a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college or university. Others are attending PCC to gain the skills and abilities needed by employers in industries that increasingly require sophisticated STEM knowledge.

We are here for all students who wish to learn, prosper and connect. PCC stands with the state’s community colleges, as well as our partners in K-12 and at four-year universities, as we work with the state to enhance Arizona’s economic development through education and training.

What it takes to be the best

This month, I have had the opportunity to present updates about the College at professional development activities for exempt and non-exempt employees. My core message can be summed up in a series of questions and answers, beginning with, “What kind of college does PCC want to be?” I pose that the answer must be “the premier community college in the United States.”

What will it take to be the best? Answer: An unshakeable focus on student success, community engagement and diversity – in short, a commitment to being a student-centered learning organization.

So, what are the key components of a student -centered learning organization? Borrowing from organizational thought leader Peter Senge, I believe there are five elements the College needs to incorporate into its institutional DNA:

  1. Systems thinking: an understanding of how parts fit into a whole and an appreciation that every employee is integral to the success of PCC students. When the electricity went out at West Campus during the monsoons last summer, our Facilities crews worked to restore power quickly, allowing instructors and students to get on with teaching and learning with minimal interruption. In their own way that day, Facilities contributed substantially to the success of PCC students.
  2. Personal mastery: an acknowledgement that employees are ultimately responsible for their own success. Employees should look for opportunities to improve knowledge that will help them be more effective at their jobs.
  3. Shared vision: Having a common set of ideals – an institutional “north star” employees can look toward in determining how well we are fulfilling our mission. The PCC Futures Conference and strategic planning process, which brought together more than 200 employees and community members to map out strategic directions for the College over the next three to five years, is an example of the College striving toward a shared vision. That college-wide process informed strategic planning at campuses and work units, where employees had the opportunity to offer their insights.
  4. Team learning: A work unit is only as good as its weakest link, and it’s the responsibility of the work unit to foster, in a civil and positive manner, a culture in which everyone pulls his or her weight.
  5. Mental models: Having a mindset or culture that focuses on the positive is important. I’ve heard it said that at PCC students have a “right to fail.” A positive framing of that issue is that students should have a right to succeed. College must do all it can to help students achieve success.

To make these elements a reality, we need an organizational structure consistent with our values and purpose. That has been the driving force behind recent and upcoming structural reorganizations. Executive Vice Chancellor for Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Zelema Harris astutely recognized the importance the College must place on advancement. That emphasis is reflected in the recent reorganization of the College’s “forward-facing” areas, including Marketing, Enrollment Management, Public Information, the PCC Foundation and Web Services, under a new position, Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement. Engaging the community — at the local, state, national and global level — is critical if we are to be the best. Similarly, we are working toward hiring a Vice Chancellor in charge of workforce initiatives in order to give leaders in business and industry a single point of contact when they wish to engage with the College.

Everyone at PCC is a leader. All employees have an opportunity to influence others, be they students or their fellow employees, through teaching, challenging, communicating and helping. I am confident that PCC can set the standard for community colleges across the nation. This won’t happen overnight. Our current situation took years to develop, and digging our way out will take time. But in three to five years, I am convinced we will succeed, if we work together and focus on our students and the community. That’s what it takes to be the best.

High School Equivalency Graduation 2014

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This is a great time to be the leader of an institution of higher learning, because it’s the season to recognize student achievement.  PCC celebrated Graduation 2014 in spectacular fashion last month, and we have held ceremonies honoring graduates of JobPath, nursing and fire science, to name a few programs. Last week I had the privilege of attending another great event that highlights the important work PCC does in the community, the 2014 High School Equivalency graduation ceremony at the Tucson Convention Center.

The more than 1,370 graduates who earned their equivalency certificates in 2013-14 balanced their academic aspirations with family and jobs, and found a way to make it all work. That’s in no small part to their friends and loved ones – those who stand with them, behind them and beside them as they strive to do more.

The two student speakers, Javier Rodríguez and Ana Robles de Monge, personified the hard work and determination of the graduates.  Javier (pictured above) is a 44-year-old husband and father of four daughters. A truck driver, he came to PCCAE in January doubting he would succeed. But succeed he did, and he credits his loved ones along with the staff at our El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center. “Each of us had our support system, whether it was our families, teachers or staff. With their help, we accomplished something amazing.”

Ana’s journey began 2008 when she joined our Family Literacy program, where she learned English, began to study for a GED – which she admits was a challenge — and learned how to become a better parent.  “Family Literacy is about more than math and grammar,” Ana says. She left the program but, after some extremely trying family circumstances, came back to Adult Education, and was selected to be a member of AmeriCorps, a federal program which allows Americans to participate in providing services that fulfill crucial needs in the areas of education, health, public safety and the environment. In October, Ana earned a GED.

I urged the graduates to continue their education journey and am confident that many will use their accomplishments as a steppingstone to even greater academic achievement, no matter where they are in life. Ana put it best: “My final advice to you is it is never too late to continue with your education. Pima has always had an open door for us; you just need to be ready to take the challenge.”