With deepest sympathy to Umpqua Community College

The employees of Pima Community College extend their deepest sympathy to the employees and students of Umpqua Community College and to the residents of Roseburg, Oregon, following today’s’ tragic shooting.

The security of our students, employees and the public is of paramount importance to PCC, and we are committed to supporting on-campus safety and security throughout the College.

Since 2011, we have put into place several measures to increase awareness and improve safety and security at PCC.

The College’s alert notification system is available to provide accurate information and guidance via text message to the PCC regarding emergencies. Please refer to the Emergency  page of our Web site.

Pima is incredibly saddened by today’s events, and we hold the victims and their loved ones in their thoughts.

Trip to Israel

Members of the Ethiopian National Project

Members of the Ethiopian National Project

I recently returned from a community leadership mission to Israel coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and led by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. My primary focus was to learn more about the State of Israel’s human development system and potential partnerships that might be available to Pima Community College.  Important aspects of this visit included addressing challenges associated with Israel’s youth, immigrant communities, and diversity.

At the Western Wall with a delegation including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

At the Western Wall with a delegation including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

I learned that the talent development system in Israel is grounded in a larger commitment to social justice with broad participation from employers, educators, community organizations, and concerned individuals from Israel and the USA. This commitment is an important counterbalance to a public education system that appears overwhelmed by large class sizes (up to 40 students per teacher), and limited state investment compared to their defense industry.

My first exposure was with Liliyot Restaurant, a leading culinary institution.  One aspect of their uniqueness centers on their work with at-risk youth.  As noted on their web site, liliyot.co.il, “Every year Liliyot Restaurant trains and employs 15 high school drop-outs, who receive instruction, supervision, and employment for a period of up to a year and half.”  Some of the keys to success of this initiative include partnerships between the ELEM-Israel organization (http://www.elem.org.il/english/) and the Liliyot Group, including the involvement of a full-time social worker and a caring, committed team of professionals at the Liliyot Restaurant.

We visited the Tel Nof Air Force Base where we met the elite Rescue Training Unit 669, an airborne combat search-and-rescue team of the Israelis Defense Forces (idfblog.com). The training of this elite unit takes about 18 months.  This unit has a special connection to Tucson, because the unit has participated in joint training exercises with similar units here in our community.  Some members of this unit will be returning to Tucson in the future.  It is my hope to connect members of PCC’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute with this elite group.

We met with the program staff, faculty and students of the Ethiopian National Project (ENP).  This project “unites global Jewry, the Government of Israel, and the Ethiopian-Israeli community in its mission to advance the integration of Ethiopian-Israelis into Israeli society” (enp.org.il). We had an opportunity to interact with the students in a small group setting.  I was deeply inspired by their passion and commitment to learning.

We heard student testimonials about the positive impact the ENP is having on their lives.  One of the stories that stood out for me was of a male student who was not taking his studies seriously. He was known for not participating in class and other school activities, and sometimes would skip school.  Thanks to the coordinator of the ENP’s Scholastic Assistance Program checking in with the student’s teachers, an intervention strategy was developed.  This included the coordinator going out to the student’s neighborhood to find out was going on with him.  Thanks to the care, commitment and passion of the coordinator taking the time understand the familial dynamics, the student is back on a path to success.

We also learned about Israeli and Arab challenges from the founders of Alpha Omega, an Arab start-up company (alphaomega-eng.com).  The co-founders attended a well-regarded Israeli university, but following graduation, still had difficulty finding meaningful work.  Eventually they decided to start up what eventually became a highly successful medical device company focused on neurology and degenerative disease.  Another aspect of their story that struck me was their commitment to their employees and community. They encourage their employees to start their own businesses.  They are very involved with community organizations.

We had a fascinating visit with the BioBee Biological Systems in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (www.BioBee.com).  They are the world’s leading experts on mass production and implementation of beneficial insects and mites as an alternative to chemical pesticides used in agriculture  They run a very sophisticated operation that attracts leading experts to their kibbutz.  Additionally, they invest heavily in the training and development of their front-line team.

I left Israel feeling inspired and affirmed in my decision to work in higher education.  The U.S. and Israel have much that they can learn from each other, but one thing is common to both countries:  Student success happens when educators and community members care enough to develop personal relationships with students.

All College Day 2015

About 1,000 employees attended All College Day.

About 1,000 employees attended All College Day.

Pima Community College held its annual All College Day employee meeting on Aug. 24.  It was the third All College Day I have attended since becoming Chancellor of PCC in 2013, and it was the most ambitious, information-packed and inspirational yet.

At the end of the morning session, I delivered remarks to the audience of nearly 1,000 – Governing Board members, regular faculty, adjunct faculty, exempt and non-exempt staff and administrators. It was a privilege to discuss the road PCC is taking to transform itself into a leading social justice institution that helps our students achieve their academic goals while leading our community to greater prosperity.

Dr. Aaron Thompson

Dr. Aaron Thompson

Among our guest speakers was Dr. Aaron Thompson, Executive Vice President and Chief Academic Officer of the Kentucky Council on Post-secondary Education, who touched on the distinction between climate, the current perception of an institution’s members, and culture, the institution’s deeply embedded values and beliefs. Our Institutional Climate Cooperative held afternoon sessions to help employees collaborate to make PCC a better place to work and learn.

Dr. Karen Solomon and Provost Dr. Erica Holmes

Dr. Karen Solomon and Provost Dr. Erica Holmes

Dr. Karen Solomon, Vice President for Accreditation Relations and Director of the Standard Pathway at the Higher Learning Commission, also presented. Dr. Solomon noted that PCC had been a nationally recognized thought leader in higher education in years past and challenged us to regain that position. She added she was “confident the institution can make the necessary changes and be removed from Notice.” [Notice means that the College is now in compliance with the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation, but remains at risk of being out of compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation and the Core Components.] I share the view that although plenty of work remains, we are on our way toward regaining the fullest confidence of the HLC.

Chancellor_IMG_0059In my remarks, I shared the College’s new Vision, Mission, Values, and Core Themes and Objectives, a framework to guide us forward as we navigate through an ever-changing local, national and global landscape. I highlighted three of our Core Values:  our unshakeable belief in open access, our commitment to student success and to creating a civil, compassionate and kind College community.

I’d like to note one of the more than two dozen afternoon breakout sessions, a thought-provoking presentation on Emotional Intelligence by Dr. David R. Katz of Mohawk Valley Community College. Each of us can have a profound impact upon the emotional state of people we interact with, so everyone at PCC can make a difference in the lives of our students and colleagues.

It takes a College-wide effort to make All College Day a resounding success. Events Coordinator Christy Yebra and her team, along with colleagues in Access and Disability Resources, Facilities, Information Technology, Marketing, PCCTV, the Provost’s Office and volunteers District-wide once again mastered the logistics necessary for mounting such a great event. Most of all, I want to thank our employees for their support as we remake PCC into a premier community college, one dedicated to student success, community engagement and diversity.

Carl Englander, Pedro Flores-Gallardo, Ed Gallagher, David Bishop, Amy Cramer, Ph.D., Anthony Sovak, Ph.D., and Dolores Durán-Cerda, Ph.D., winners of outstanding staff/faculty/administrator awards

Carl Englander, Pedro Flores-Gallardo, Ed Gallagher, David Bishop, Amy Cramer, Ph.D., Anthony Sovak, Ph.D., and Dolores Durán-Cerda, Ph.D., winners of outstanding staff/faculty/administrator awards

Training that saves lives


I recently had the privilege of attending the graduation of 21 new paramedics from the U.S. Air Force. The diverse group is the third cohort to have completed four months of six-day-a-week training at our Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute.

Brigadier Gen. Jim Balserak, M.D, and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally

Brigadier Gen. Jim Balserak, M.D, and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally

The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard

The Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Honor Guard

So far, PCC has trained 71 airmen and airwomen to become paramedics under the five-year training contract the College received from the U.S. Air Force last year. I related to the new graduates that the Air Force recently recognized one of the graduates of the first cohort for saving a life of a comrade-in-arms.

The impressive list of speakers included U.S. Rep. Martha McSally;  keynote speaker Brigadier Gen. Jim Balserak, M.D., Mobilization Assistant to the Director of the Defense Health Headquarters; and PSESI Medical Director Dr. Andrea Herbert.  Among their key messages: never stop learning. Completion of coursework at PCC gives the paramedics the foundation for future stackable credentials earned during their professional career.

Like many fields of study offered at PCC, paramedicine is changing rapidly and requires constant training to stay atop the profession.

Rep. McSally called the connection between PCC and the Air Force a “cutting-edge partnership,” which is especially apt given our special relationship with Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Congratulations are in order for our Shane Clark, Sharon Hollingsworth and the team at PSESI for organizing an excellent ceremony. I look forward to attending graduations of future classes of these great young airwomen and airmen for years to come.

A new way to learn


Critical thinking skills. Confidence. Leadership. Self-awareness. Courage. This is what we are to trying to build as we educate students at Pima Community College. And all were on full display as I had the pleasure of sitting in on an Anthropology 112 class taught by Gene Trester at East Campus.

The students in Mr. Trester’s class are benefiting from a student-centered, interactive model of learning.  What does this mean? Many people are used to a traditional classroom in which the instructor stands at the front and imparts his or her wisdom in a lecture, perhaps followed by a quiz or assignment.  In Mr. Trester’s class and in other classes across Pima’s campuses, students are given the reins.  The students themselves present the course material, and in doing so, they learn through the research they conduct AND they teach their peers.

Mitch Taylor educates fellow students with a presentation, "A Cardboard Retelling of the Cherokee Myth of Creation."

Mitch Taylor educates fellow students with a presentation, “A Cardboard Retelling of the Cherokee Myth of Creation.”

The students presented on soft skills, religious symbols, an African tribe, and the Cherokee myth of creation. They were impressive — they had a strong understanding of the material, and their classmates were thoroughly engaged. After each person concluded a presentation, their classmates delivered constructive, focused commentary.

This class was reminiscent of my educational experience at The Evergreen State College. I was afraid to stand in front of a classroom and talk to my peers. Through practice and experience, I got over it.

I told the students in Mr. Trester’s class that they are learning leadership skills, possibly without even realizing it. They are learning to work in teams, to present in front of an audience, to speak on controversial topics and to accept feedback. These skills will take them far.

I was scheduled to spend an hour in the class, but we ended up spending 90 minutes together, discussing a wide range of topics. We talked about the College budget, and the value placed on education in Arizona versus in other states and countries.  We talked about the importance of developing cultural and global competency. Their questions were thoughtful and probing. They wanted to know what they could do to help Arizona’s leadership realize that education, and funding for it, should be a much higher priority.  My answer: They should be engaged, informed and strategic, and vote for leaders who share their values.

I want to thank Mr. Trester and his students again for sharing their class time with me.  It was an inspiring, energizing morning.


Addressing abrasiveness in higher education

In June, I presented at the Harvard Colloquium on Abrasive Conduct in Higher Education. I had presented at the 2014 colloquium. Last year, I described deficiencies at PCC described by the Higher Learning Commission, the College’s accreditor, and our response, as chronicled in our Self-Study Report.

In this year’s presentation, I outlined new changes at PCC to meet our challenges. These include employee committee review of policies and practices, civility training for more than 1,300 employees, Supervision in the 21st Century leadership training, College-wide sexual harassment response training, and efforts by our Institutional Climate Cooperative.

The goal of these efforts, simply put: Less meanness. More civility. More respect. More communication. More niceness.

This was the third annual colloquium on abrasiveness. There likely will be a fourth and a fifth. Culture change in higher education requires clear expectations, effective communication and acceptance of collective responsibility. It takes time, as we at PCC know. The hope is meetings on the topic will eventually be unnecessary.

PCC’s place in a rapidly shrinking world

I was fortunate to be part of spirited discussions at annual professional development events last month, and I thank the 80 exempt and 180 non-exempt employees who attended. At both gatherings, we talked about topics affecting individual campuses and the College as a whole, as well as trends affecting education nationally and globally. The key takeaway, I believe, is the distance between the PCC and the rest of the world is shrinking rapidly, and we need to start thinking globally if we are to successfully compete in the 21st century. [The McKinsey Global Institute has interesting insights on the rapid rebooting of the world’s economy.]

The growth of the middle class in Latin America, Africa and Asia has been well documented. Hundreds of millions of college-age students live in Mexico, India, China and elsewhere. PCC’s internationalization efforts, through the Becalos program and in recent visits to China and Korea, can enhance the global education of our students while fostering the economic and cultural development of the College and the community.

Of course, we also must take care of business at home. As you know, the Higher Learning Commission, the College’s accreditor, has removed PCC from Probation and placed us on Notice, meaning the we are in compliance with the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation but remain at risk for being out of compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation and Core Components. Refining the College mission and developing a system to assess its fulfillment are among the areas we must address to regain the fullest confidence of our accreditor.

Beyond accreditation, we have a pressing need to rebuild enrollment. In addition, our commitment to student access should be buttressed by a redesign of foundational education that quickly and effectively advances students into credit programs. We can address Pima County’s achievement gap by strengthening transfer pathways to four-year schools and ensuring our programs provide students with skills area employers value. It adds up to a commitment to a great experience for our students, our most important customers and investors.

The work of our employees is crucial to the success of these efforts. Every workday, we can build a culture of accountability at PCC. Everyone can contribute to a workplace that values clarifying questions, contrasting viewpoints and new ideas, expressed in honest, open discussions, and free from fear of retaliation. All of us also have an opportunity to influence public perceptions about the College. “Regular employees” are considered very credible sources of information about a company or organization, according to a 2012 survey of trust in institutions – more credible, I hasten to add, than CEOs of the organization. In talking to family, friends and community members about PCC – whether good or ill — our words matter.  It is another example of how the opportunity to help transform PCC into a premier community college starts with our most valuable asset, our employees.