Honoring Downtown Campus’ founders

Four decades ago, PCC’s Downtown Campus opened its doors with a commitment to helping the people of this community achieve and succeed. On May 20, I had the great pleasure of attending a reunion of the founding members of the campus.

It was a special day as we honored former staff, faculty and administrators who laid strong roots for this campus. Between 75 and 100 people attended the event, including students and employees both past and present, members of the community and the PCC Board of Governors.

It was gracious of Robert Agrella to speak at the afternoon reception in the Amethyst Room at Downtown Campus. Bob was the founding associate dean, a position equivalent to today’s campus president. He admittedly got a little emotional during his time at the lectern.

Bob recalled working in an atmosphere where everybody pulled together and did what was necessary. He remembered the camaraderie, trust and teamwork that existed among co-workers. He described being part of the founding of the campus as “exciting, invigorating, sometimes frightening, challenging, but always very satisfying.” I hope we all feel that way about working at Pima today.

Bob also put into perspective the current challenges Pima faces when he noted the College always “emerges as a much stronger and better institution.” Pima is well on its way to doing the same today.

Again, my heartfelt thanks go out all those who built the campus into what it is today. I also want to express my gratitude to everybody who played a role in pulling this wonderful event together, including retired Pima employees Art Evans and Tim Murphy; Interim President Gwen Joseph; Acting Vice President for Instruction Pat Houston and the rest of their team at Downtown Campus; and the Events, Marketing and Media Production teams at District Office.

View a photo album of the event on the College’s Flickr Page.

Graduation 2015

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A quick note about PCC graduation May 21. Cheered on by thousands of family and friends, approximately 900 graduates received degrees and certificates during an amazing ceremony at the Tucson Convention Center. There were many highlights, including an inspirational speech from graduate Kenneth Lee, and a video featuring images from the past academic year. All in all, it was a great night to be a member of the Pima family, thanks to PCC employees who worked for months to ensure a memorable commencement.

Serving our veterans

L-R: Bruce Hamilton of ESGR, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert, PCC's Dr. Daniel Kester

L-R: Bruce Hamilton of ESGR, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert, PCC’s Dr. Daniel Kester

At the May 13 Governing Board meeting, I was recognized by Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) for service to the College’s student-veterans. It is a great honor, and I thank ESGR’s Bruce Hamilton, but the reality is that I was accepting the award in the name of our employees in the office of Veterans and Military Affiliated Services. Each day, they do phenomenal work under the leadership of Director Dr. Daniel Kester. I also want to thank the faculty, staff and administrators who went above and beyond in our successful effort to regain the fullest confidence of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

For 2014-15, PCC has a total enrolled veteran population of more than 2,700 students, including 1,190 using Veteran Educational Benefits. Our staff in Veterans Services and on our campuses assists Veterans Benefit Recipients keep up to date with Veterans Administration requirements. We work closely with student-veterans groups, and last year expanded our Veterans Center. I also should note that our Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Education Center offers quality instruction and services, and that the College currently is training active-duty Air Force personnel to become paramedics.

As veterans ourselves, Dr. Kester and I, along with the rest of the College, understand the importance of helping those who served make the transition to productive lives as civilians. It is my hope that we transform our veterans’ office into a Center of Excellence at the College. Veterans and active-duty military keep us free and secure, and we owe them our very best.

A healthy civil society

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The signing on May 4 of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Pima County Interfaith Civic Education Organization (PCICEO) furthers PCC’s commitment to student success, community engagement, and diversity.

In light of ongoing economic challenges, public education institutions in Arizona and across the U.S. need to grow relationships and devise strategic solutions with community partners regarding resource development. PCC has enjoyed a long relationship with the Pima County Interfaith Council through PCC Adult Education and other connections. Both PCIC and PCC place a high priority on the value of jobs that pay a living wage, so residents can remain in the area and provide the foundation for a stable community.

The new coalition with PCICEO, a broad-based, non-partisan organization that serves as the educational arm of PCIC, gives an opportunity to collaborate on a wide range of initiatives. A promising project is support for Advocates for PCC, a new group started by students, in a major voter registration campaign for students centered on the National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) in September. Other topics that may be explored by PCC and PCICEO are community training and education, multi-level advocacy, and more. Taken together, the initiatives can foster a healthy civil society

Thank you to Michael Peel, Government Relations Liaison for PCC and a PCIC volunteer, for pulling this effort together. Several community leaders from PCICEOand PCC spoke at this event, including Kevin Courtney, Lead Organizer, PCICEO; Deaconess Marjorie Hrabe, St. Mark’s Methodist; Reverend Sharon Ragland, Pastor, St. Mark’s Methodist; Reverend Tom Tureman, SDS, Pastor, Most Holy Trinity Catholic; Reverend Delle McCormick, Pastor, Rincon Congregational UCC; and Monsignor Raúl Trevizo, Vicar General, Catholic Diocese of Tucson and Pastor, St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.

In addition, PCC Student Leader Nick Meyers spoke on behalf of the new Advocates for PCC group, and Mireya Escamilla, Assistant Program Coordinator, Adult Education for PCC and a former Adult Ed student, spoke on behalf of Adult Education. Our combined efforts will ensure successful future collaborations designed to prepare PCC students for effective advocacy, civic engagement and community leadership.

The road less traveled

Pima Community College faces an extended period of uncertainty, as do all institutions of higher education. Colleges and universities are struggling to bridge gaps in student achievement and technology, while facing budget challenges and increased competition at home and abroad.

During these turbulent times, institutions turn inward for an extended self-examination. PCC is doing so, as evidenced by our effort to regain the fullest measure of confidence from our accreditor. But we must also continue to look forward and outward so that we can best serve our primary investors, our students.

Our administrative reorganization, announced earlier this week at a College meeting, is a key step in the process of remaking PCC to be more effective and responsive to the needs of students and the community. [The video and PowerPoint from the meeting are available on our College website.]

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” provides an apt metaphor for the future of PCC. In re-imagining our College, we are taking the road less traveled, and will be among higher education’s pioneers.

The road we are taking is fraught with twists and turns. We will disagree with each other. That’s OK. The open exchange of ideas is crucial to improving PCC. Some of our initiatives will fail. That’s OK, too. We will recover quickly, learn from our mistakes, and try new initiatives.

As long as we remained focused on our North Star of student success, community engagement and diversity, I am confident we can succeed in our ultimate goal of becoming a premier community college.

Teacher Appreciation Week

This is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Ideally, teachers would be recognized every week, for their classroom achievements deserve praise every day.

 Pima Community College faculty members make a positive difference in the lives of our students, and the fruits of their efforts are in abundance this month. Last Friday’s Multicultural Convocation brought together hundreds of students, along with their families and friends, in a celebration of educational achievement and cultural vitality. High School Equivalency Graduation May 14 and Graduation May 21 will recognize the academic success of thousands of students.

 “A world-class education can unlock a young person’s full potential and empower them with the knowledge and skills to reach their highest aspirations,” the White House said in proclaiming May 3-9 Teacher Appreciation Week. You can join the social media conversation through #ThankATeacher. Virtually all of us know teachers who have had a profound impact on the lives of others. This was true in my case. It is one of the reasons I pursued a career in higher education. This week, we can show teachers our gratitude.

Building connections

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More than 100 business and education leaders attended the Arizona Technology Council’s After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center.

More than 100 business and education leaders attended the Arizona Technology Council’s After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center.

At the Arizona Technology Council’s recent After 5 networking event, held at our Aviation Technology Center, more than 100 local business leaders met to strengthen connections to PCC in service to a common goal: building a more robust economy.

The Arizona Technology Council is a trade association promoting growth in aeronautics, energy, particularly solar, healthcare, and technology. My welcome message noted that PCC can supply qualified people to work in these sectors by aligning our programs with transfer pathways, industry needs and nationally recognized credentials.

Several of our key programs were well-represented at the event, including Aviation Technology, which in January was honored to host the first-ever visit to PCC by a Cabinet secretary, when Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez praised PCC for implementation of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grants.

A TAACCCT grant supports the Get Into Energy program, a joint venture that includes PCC and Tucson Electric Power and which awards students an Electrical Utility Technology certificate. Students who complete the program are eligible to apply to internships at TEP and may pursue an associate in applied science degree.

Another TAACCCT grant will create a degree pathway in industrial technology with certificates in instrumentation, industrial maintenance, industrial mechanics and mechatronics, in addition to certificates in basic and advanced industrial welding.

We are working toward National Institute for Metalworking Skills accreditation and recently graduated nine students, our first high school cohort to complete the Machine Tool Technology certificate in collaboration with Southern Arizona Manufacturing Partnership. And we just dedicated an art/design space where students will learn to write software for 3D printers.

I want to thank Arizona Technology Council Southern Arizona Regional Vice President Alex Rodriguez, ATC president Steven G. Zylstra, Interim Vice Chancellor for Technology Cindy Dooling, and the always-indispensable team at the Aviation Technology Center for a great event.

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”  Through our ever-stronger connection to employers, PCC can supply students with the education to successfully compete in the global workplace of the future.