PCC’s ‘birth certificate’

I had the pleasure of gathering with employees, Governing Board members and other longtime friends of the College earlier this week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of an important event in our history.

On Sept. 19, 1966, Earl E. Horrell, chairman of the Arizona State Board of Directors for Junior Colleges, signed a resolution paving the way for a junior college district in Pima County.


East Campus

The anniversary was marked at each campus and the District Office with a 1960s-themed event marking the milestone. The resolution constitutes Pima College’s “birth certificate,” if you will.

At District, I noted that what was true in 1966 remains true today: The people of Pima County need the programs and services that PCC is uniquely positioned to provide.

After the signing of the document, the rest, as they say, is history. In 1969, Pima College officially opened its doors. We held classes at Tucson Medical Center, Villa Maria and at a hangar at Tucson International Airport.  Since then, hundreds of thousands of students have taken advantage of a PCC education. Our community has benefited immeasurably.

So it’s important to recognize the accomplishment of those civic-minded individuals from the College’s early days. Some of those pioneers, such as S. James Manilla, president of PCC from 1979-1988, attended the District Office celebration.

Now, you may be asking if our 50th anniversary celebration is a little premature, as the College didn’t open its doors until 1969.  I’ll just say that this week’s commemoration is only a taste of a bigger celebration to come in 2019.

I want to thank Vice Chancellor of External Relations Lisa Brosky, Special Assistant Christy Camargo and their teams for hosting a day of fun and remembrance.




Here is a message I shared with the College community earlier today:

Pima Community College’s strengthened focus on student success was validated significantly today when Gov. Doug Ducey formally endorsed ACHIEVE60AZ. 

achieve60I was pleased to represent PCC at this exciting event in Phoenix.

ACHIEVE60AZ is an alliance of more than 60 Arizona leaders from community, business, philanthropic and education organizations formed to increase the number of Arizonans earning a job certification or college degree from 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030. Nationally, more than 30 states have set similar goals.

The Governor said: “I applaud the outstanding work of the Achieve60AZ alliance for recognizing the need for many more Arizonans to be prepared with the knowledge and skills they need to secure fulfilling jobs. Not only will this raise the standard of living for many individuals, it will attract more businesses to our great state and keep companies here thriving.”

Arizona lags behind other states in the number of adults who have earned certificates or degrees past high school.  The state’s current educational attainment rate is 42 percent, which is the percentage of individuals between the ages of 25-64 with a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree or higher.

Arizona’s high-school graduate college-going rates are currently slightly more than 50 percent. This places Arizona 40th in the country, well behind the approximate 75 percent that top-performing states boast.

Addressing this discrepancy is critical to ensuring the state attracts quality employers.  Two of every three jobs in Arizona will require additional training beyond high school by 2020, necessitating the drive for a more educated workforce. Important, in most cases, employees will need more than high school but less than a four-year degree.

That’s why the hard work PCC is doing to develop comprehensive educational pathways that link K-12 and the universities, build relationships with employers, ensure programs align with industry needs, and create a culture of philanthropy is so critical.

Further, it’s the right thing to do for the people of Pima County, where our hard-working young adults are striving to make better lives for themselves and their families.

I encourage you to learn more by visiting ACHIEVE60AZ.  You will find this article on the vital role of community colleges.

You also will see ACHIEVE60AZ’s vision for the future:  If “every child, regardless of background, income or zip code [received] a world-class education – from the early years through college and career, our students would be the most educated, skilled and sought after innovators of the 21st century. Arizona would lead the nation in attracting and growing jobs. Everything from property values to health care to crime rates would be positively impacted.”

HSI Week

We are pleased to join President Obama in recognizing National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week. The President issued a proclamation Sept. 9 designating this week to honor our nation’s Hispanic-serving colleges and universities, including Pima Community College.

The President said Hispanic-serving institutions “have given more Hispanics access to the resources and opportunities they need to compete in our economy. More than half of America’s Hispanic undergraduates attend HSIs, which have played a critical role in increasing access to a college education and have worked to bolster enrollment, retention and graduation rates.”

The proclamation was timely for PCC. Just last week I had the honor of accepting The Edith Sayre Auslander Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues in Higher Education Award from The Victoria Foundation on behalf of PCC. The Foundation was created to honor Hispanics in higher education as well as those working hard to support Hispanic higher education.

PCC was recognized for renewing its commitment to open access and student success for all students.  Forty-two percent of all PCC students are Hispanic/Latino, many first-generation college students.

Also, exciting, Hispanic/Latino students earning both certificate and associate degrees is up by more than 16 percent from just last year.

In 1992, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) led the effort to convince Congress to formally recognize campuses with high Hispanic enrollment as federally designated HSIs.  To be recognized, colleges must be not-for-profit with a full-time equivalent undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week is part of awareness and celebration efforts.

Serving those who serve

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I had the honor of delivering welcoming remarks to the most recent graduates of our Paramedic training program for U.S. Air Force personnel. The initiative illustrates how PCC’s impact on the community reaches far beyond Tucson.

So far, 113 Air Force airmen have completed the program and returned to their duty stations across the nation. The five-year contract with the Air Force calls for 200 paramedics to be trained by PCC’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute (PSESI).

Past graduates of the program have distinguished themselves in numerous ways. One was credited with saving the life of a comrade-in-arms who was in cardiac arrest. Another was complimented by a Veterans Administration hospital patient for her skill and bedside manner. As a recent graduate of the program wrote to PSESI: “I can say with the utmost confidence that the program . . . has no equal. It will undoubtedly save the lives of U.S. servicemen and women for years to come.”

These accomplishments and accolades are a testament to the quality of instruction and support provided by the faculty and staff at the PSESI, and I thank them for their work.

Our collaboration with the Air Force would not be successful without field training provided by the Tucson Fire Department, or the clinical hours supplied through Banner University Medical Center, and St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s hospitals. As graduation ceremony keynote speaker U.S. Rep. Martha McSally put it, in tough economic times, “We’re going to be stronger together.” Well said.

The Fall semester

The beginning of the fall semester at PCC is an exciting time, and this year proved to be no exception. As always, we kicked things off a few days before the start of the semester with All College Day, our annual all-employee meeting.  More than 1,000 faculty, staff and administrators took part in the morning general session, and in afternoon meetings and workshops.

Employees heard a moving presentation on the power of forgiveness from PCC graduates Brendan Lyons and Jamal Qasim. (I’ve written about Brendan in an earlier blog.) An avid cyclist, Brendan was severely injured when he was hit by an SUV driven by Jamal, whose attention was momentarily distracted. Terrell Strayhorn, Ph.D., of The Ohio State University spoke about the need for students to feel they belong at their college.

The semester started Aug. 24, and I went to Community and East campuses to talk with students. The students talked about their concerns, with transportation and textbooks near the top of the list.

What struck me most was their enthusiasm. Unsurprisingly, several first-semester students were uncertain about their education path at PCC and beyond. But they clearly were excited to be on that path. They understand the promise inherent in education, and it’s an honor to head an institution dedicated to fulfilling that promise.

New VP of Instruction, West Campus

Here is a message I sent to the College community regarding PCC’s new Vice President of Instruction at our West Campus:

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Gregory T. Busch is the College’s new Vice President of Instruction at West Campus.

Head Shot - G Busch

Dr. Gregg Busch

Gregg, who fills a vacant position at West Campus, has more than 16 years’ community college experience as an adjunct faculty member, assistant professor, program coordinator, director, honors college dean, and as a member of  the West Virginia University at Parkersburg board of trustees.

Most recently, Gregg has served as Dean of Academic Affairs: Liberal Arts at North Central State College, a two-year college in Mansfield, Ohio. As Dean, he has led college-wide initiatives in articulation and transfer, diversity and social justice, international education, and has built relationships that encourage college-going with high schools.  He also served as Dean of Arts and Sciences at Washington State Community College, located in Marietta, Ohio where he also led extensive program and curriculum development.

Gregg also has experience elsewhere in the public and private sectors, having served 21 years as a certified forensic and death investigator for the Wirt County, W.Va., Medical Examiner, and as president and chief executive officer of the Busch Professional Group, an organization of several small businesses.

Gregg’s postsecondary education began at Parkersburg, W.Va., Community College. He has a Doctorate of Education – Higher Education Administration and Leadership focusing on community colleges from West Virginia University, a Master of Science – Community Medicine from West Virginia University, School of Medicine, and a bachelor’s degree in Mortuary Science from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science at Xavier University.  He has additional graduate work in clinical psychology and sociology from Marshall University, Graduate College.

I want to thank the members of the search committee for their work. Also, Trina Felty should be commended for her leadership in the position in an interim capacity.

Gregg’s first day at the College will be Sept. 12. He reports to Dr. Morgan Phillips, President of the West and Desert Vista campuses. Please join me in welcoming Gregg to the College.


New VP of Instruction, Downtown Campus

Here is a message I sent to the College community regarding PCC’s new Vice President of Instruction at our Downtown Campus:

I am pleased to announce that Dr. Lamata D. Mitchell is the College’s new Vice President of Instruction for Downtown Campus.

Lamata Mitchell

Dr. Lamata Mitchell

Lamata, who fills a vacant position at Downtown Campus, has served for nearly 20 years as a community college instructor and administrator. She has a strong background in mission fulfillment, accreditation, mentoring, student affairs and curriculum development.

Since January 2010, Lamata has been Dean of Communication at Rock Valley College, a two-year college in Rockford, Ill. As Dean, she is responsible for offering quality programs that align with the strategic goals and initiatives for the more than 3,300 students in Rock Valley’s Communication Division.

Lamata has 20 years’ teaching experience in English at Rock Valley, where she was instrumental in developing a course in Non-Western Literature, 1800-present. She also taught British Literature, 1800-present; Shakespeare; and other courses.

Lamata has a doctorate in English from Northern Illinois University, a master of arts in English from Andrews University in Michigan, a master of arts in Publishing and Journalism from Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, and a bachelor of arts in English and Philosophy from Trent University in the United Kingdom.

I want to thank the members of the search committee for their work. Also, Pat Houston and Ian Roark should be commended for their leadership in the position in an interim capacity.

Lamata’s first day at the College will be Sept. 26. She reports to Dr. David Doré, President of the Downtown and Northwest campuses. Please join me in welcoming Lamata to the College.