Aviation Technology Center completion

I had the pleasure last week of congratulating our most recent class of completers of our Aviation Technology program. A pre-graduation dinner was held at Desert Vista Campus, thanks to the support of Dave Tedlock, a member of the PCC Foundation’s Board of Directors, and Steve Pagnucco, general manager of Universal Avionics. The event is just another example of the important role that our business and community partners play in providing opportunities to our students.

The graduates honored last week are about to embark on careers dedicated to keeping travelers safe and connected. When a grandparent lands in Tucson for a family visit, or a student touches down safely in Paris to begin a year of study abroad, it’s due in part to the professionalism and dedication of qualified aviation technicians such as those produced by our program.

The need for qualified employees in the Aviation Technology industry is projected to be great. Pilot and Technician Outlook estimates 98,000 additional aviation technicians will be needed across North America over the next 20 years. In December, the Manufacturing Institute noted that “talent management shortfalls” are one of the biggest threats to the country’s continued leadership in the aircraft industry. In Arizona, 25 percent of the state’s 17,500 civil aviation workers will reach retirement age in the next two years.

The faculty, led by Department Chair Eric Ross, should be proud of their students’ accomplishment, as should Program Manager Tom Hinman and Program Assistant Benetta Jackson, the program’s all-round den mother. It should be noted that five of the graduates recognized last week are second-generation members of the industry. The fact that industry professionals are sending their children to PCC for training is a testament to the quality of our program.

A painful part of the College’s past

Below is a video statement in which I reflect on eight women employed at PCC who had the courage to come forward and report sexual harassment and retaliation by the former Chancellor.

 

Preparing nurses for the future

PCC constantly gauges the needs of the community in order to provide our constituents with the most effective programs and services. Toward that end, in a recent study session, the Governing Board and I met a group of local hospital administrators and educators to discuss trends in nursing. West Campus President Dr. Louis Albert organized and guided what turned out to be a most illuminating discussion.

Nursing is one of many health-related professions programs headquartered at West Campus.  Students in our Associate of Applied Science degree program receive a comprehensive education with plenty of practical experience that prepares them to become licensed as a registered nurse. The hospital administrators all agreed that our nursing students receive a solid education that enables them to be productive members of the hospital team. The key to success for any new nurse is attitude and motivation, they said.

The hospital environment, we were told, is becoming increasingly complex. Hospitals treat more patients who are acutely ill and more who have chronic ailments. Today’s nurses must be able to solve problems quickly, properly prioritize management of care of multiple patients, work as part of a multilayered team, and communicate effectively with patients and their loved ones about a variety of medical and social issues. These soft skills are in demand throughout the business world, and the College recognizes the need to deliver graduates who possess emotional intelligence and a well-developed ability to think critically.

Looking ahead, hospitals are increasingly expecting new nurses to have earned bachelor’s degrees. The College is aware of this trend and has responded with a concurrent enrollment initiative with Northern Arizona University. Students selected for this program can simultaneously earn an associates in applied science from PCC and a bachelor of science in nursing from NAU. The College should explore expanding the concurrent enrollment program at NAU, and should reach out to our other partners in higher education to collaborate on similar initiatives. These programs offer our students an affordable pathway to achieving what is evolving into a professional standard.

Our nursing and other health-related professions programs have always reflected what is best in Tucson and Pima County. Working together with our community partners, we are committed to producing work-ready nurses who can contribute to the economic and overall health of our region.

A new day at PCC

The College reached an important milestone earlier this week.

The Self-Study Report we submitted to the Higher Learning Commission marks a significant turning point in the history of Pima Community College. It marks the beginning of a new day.

As noted in our news release, the report documents a comprehensive examination of College operations and highlights a number of improvements that have been made since we were placed on probation by the HLC in April 2013. The submission of the report generated a number of news stories, but I urge you to read it for yourself. It is an impressive piece of work.

Yet our work – the all-important task of regaining the trust of the HLC and the community we serve – is far from over. In mid-September, a team from the HLC will pay us a visit to determine if the College is complying with HLC standards. Once the team’s report is completed, we will send a team to HLC headquarters in Chicago to make our case one last time before their Institutional Actions Council.

The culmination of all efforts comes in early 2015, when Pima will receive formal notification of our accreditation status from the HLC.

Still, the submission of the Self-Study Report shows that we are well on our way to fixing what needs to be fixed and rebuilding Pima into one of our nation’s premier community colleges. And one of the truly amazing aspects of the Self Study is how it came together. Faced with the sobering sanction of probation, the College responded in a way that should make us all proud. We are a team and the Self-Study Report is an example of what can be accomplished when we confront our challenges like a team.

Each member of our team played a critical role in helping us achieve this milestone and the debt of gratitude we owe them bears repeating:

To all the members of our faculty, staff, administration and Governing Board involved in the preparation of the report, thank you. The long hours and hard work you contributed is greatly appreciated.

To all the members of the community who not only worked with us but who raised valid and sometimes difficult questions along the way, thank you. Your input and perspective were a critical part of the process.

And to all our students, whether you were directly involved in the Self Study or not, thank you for reminding all of us why we’re here. By keeping you at the center of everything we do at Pima, I have no doubt that we can take this institution to whole new level.

Pima’s transformation won’t happen quickly or easily, but the Self-Study Report we submitted to our accreditor is proof that it is happening.

Welcome, Dr. Lorraine Morales

Lorraine_Lee_crop

Last week I attended a welcome reception for Dr. Lorraine Morales, the new president of our Community Campus. Lorraine was one of the first people I met at PCC when I interviewed for the chancellorship last year, and it’s because of people like Lorraine, who combine exceptional talent with boundless compassion for the community, that I took the position.

In a sense, last week’s event was a “welcome back” reception, as Lorraine had served as president in an acting capacity in 2012-13. Lorraine is an extremely good fit for her new post. In addition to wide-ranging administrative experience at PCC (she has served at four of our six campuses), Lorraine understands the special role Community Campus plays at the College.

Community is home to PCC’s Workforce Development initiatives, and partners with local employers to provide efficient, effective training to their workers. Our top-rated Adult Education program and our online education services have their roots at Community, but as Lorraine recognizes, their branches extend through the College. Lorraine’s vision is to increase the integration of Community’s functions throughout the College for the betterment of our students and community partners.

Lorraine’s education journey exemplifies the incredible power of learning. After receiving her high school equivalency, she went on to earn bachelor and master’s degrees, and received a doctorate in Education from Northern Arizona University.  Her academic achievements led to a decades-long career at colleges and universities. Yet, as she put it, Lorraine always felt drawn to community colleges. PCC is the better for it.

Under Lorraine’s leadership, Community Campus – or as Lorraine called it, “that little building on Bonita” – is poised to have a tremendous positive impact as we remake PCC into one of the United States’ premier community colleges.

Building better pathways to in-demand careers

The reinvigorated push for better job training announced this week by the White House is important for numerous reasons. As PCC’s chancellor, what struck me was the critical role community colleges are again being called upon to play in readying our workforce for the in-demand jobs of the 21st century.

One of the key themes of the report, developed by a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden, was the need for a systemic, connected approach by stakeholders. “Many businesses, community colleges, and state and local training programs … have found ways to successfully prepare Americans for these jobs. We must expand on these successful efforts and ensure that our entire system is learning from them.”

Clearly, PCC is well situated to make a critical difference in clearing the path to jobs that lead to the growth of a thriving middle class. Our connections to the Workforce Investment Board, Pima County One Stop and JobPath have proven to be extremely beneficial. For example, by allying ourselves with One Stop to implement the Health Professions Opportunity Grant, we have been able to help hundreds formerly jobless men and women find careers in the fast-growing healthcare sector.

The report emphasizes the need to align training and curricula with employer needs and expectations. PCC is a member of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, and I can vouch for the importance of industry-driven credentials that validate the skills and knowledge we have imparted to our students.

The signing of the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is another generally positive step for workforce training. In addition to streamlining federal programs, this bipartisan legislation sets standards for measurements of effectiveness. The initiative aligns with the College’s goal of improving assessment through development of metrics regarding tangible outcomes to the extent that our access to data allows.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the College should aggressively pursue resources that advance job training efforts. Our participation in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program (TAACCCT) has been extremely successful, and is an example that should be replicated. As part of a consortium of the state’s community colleges, PCC prepares students for skilled, high-wage jobs in the energy industry. This program is geared to helping military veterans and other adult learners. Working in partnership the Tucson Electric Power Co. we have developed an Electrical Utility Technology certificate.

Our participation in an Arizona Commerce Authority-facilitated sector partnerships initiative also holds great potential. In sector partnerships, employers work with governments, educators, labor, economic development groups and community organizations on a holistic approach to growth. We can do our part by providing an education pipeline producing qualified workers such industries as aerospace, renewable energy and optics.

The College knows what is effective in helping people find meaningful work. Now we need to get to work. I am confident that by taking advantage of our improved, inclusive strategic planning structure, and with the leadership provided by our new Community Campus President, Dr. Lorraine Morales, we can effectively coordinate with our partners for the betterment of the community. PCC can, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, set our students on an upward trajectory for life.

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.