Reiterating our commitment to diversity


Earlier today, I sent the following message to all College employees:


In December 2015, I wrote to the College community regarding our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Recently, some states have considered or enacted legislation that undermines anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community. Thus, it is timely and appropriate to reiterate our ongoing pledge to live up to the College Value of People. Our Diversity Statement proclaims in part:

We cherish the diversity of our community and, in addition to equal opportunity and educational access for all, we respect and are inclusive of all beliefs, values, abilities, personal experiences and preferences, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and worldviews. We believe our differences are our strength and a source of innovation, excellence, and competitiveness. [More information is available on our Diversity webpage.]

PCC is committed to adhering to all federal, state and local laws and regulations regarding institutions of higher education. Among these is the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX statute, which protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender in education programs or activities that receive federal support.

Apart from laws and regulations, the College considers it a moral imperative to make our campuses places where all students, employees and community members feel secure and welcome, so they can focus on studies and activities that lead to student success. Together we remain resolved to move forward on the path leading to a multicultural society built on a foundation of civility, equity and social justice.


Futures Conference 2016

I delivered opening remarks to the Pima Community College Futures Conference late last month. The conference was attended by almost 160 PCC employees and government, education, business and community leaders. The question posed at the conference was simple and fundamental: “How does PCC know it has fulfilled its mission?”

The answer is critically important to the College. We need to demonstrate to the peer institutions who accredit us, and to the public, that we can accurately ascertain our strengths and areas needing improvement. Over the two-plus hours of the conference, attendees met in small groups. They proposed a wide range of indicators to effectively measure performance in several areas, including diversity, student access and success, and community engagement.

The information gathered at the conference will be refined and converted into Key Performance Indicators that, pending Governing Board approval, will be embedded into the College’s strategic planning process.

Naturally, given the topic, most of the conversation centered on numbers and analysis.  I closed with a reminder that the College, while committed to being data-informed and evidence-based, must never lose sight of its underlying values or its focus on the individual student. At my table I heard the story of one student, Martin, whose goal is to become a lawyer and who has trusted in us his dreams and hopes for the future. In listening to Martin, who is of modest means, I was reminded of a quote from Melinda Gates: “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

This was the third Futures Conference held by the College. All have been expertly organized by our Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness. Dr. Nicola Richmond and her team — including Michelle Henry, David Purkiss, table facilitators and other volunteers – once again did a great job in bringing together a diverse group of internal and external constituents to creatively collaborate on an important topic.

Introducing PCC Spotlight

Spotlight Header
Yesterday, the College unveiled PCC Spotlight‘s inaugural edition. PCC Spotlight is a  monthly e-newsletter presenting news and information about a topic of importance to the community. The inaugural edition focuses on International Education at PCC. Some of the highlights:
  • Every dollar PCC spends on International Education generates revenue in excess of expenses.
  • Local students benefit from our international relationships through scholarships and increased access to classes.
  • PCC is participating in hemisphere-spanning initiatives that support cultural awareness and economic development.

PCC Spotlight can help keep the community aware of the changes PCC is making to fulfill its goal of becoming a premier community college, and I look forward to sharing new editions in the future.

Propelling economic development in Arizona

I am excited to note that last week Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a measure that represents a major leap forward for Pima Community College and for the economic development of our state.

Through newly enacted Senate Bill 1322, community colleges will be able to help Arizona’s workforce rise to the top of a brutally competitive 21st-century global marketplace.

It removes some caps on spending money necessary to develop career and technical education programs in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, nursing and aviation technology, and in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors. It also provides relief for community colleges engaging in entrepreneurial activities, such as entering into contracts with employers to provide workforce training.

The law does not raise taxes. In fact, it protects the interests of taxpayers by establishing a clear, transparent method for estimating full-time student enrollment used to calculate the College’s expenditure limitation. The law provides PCC with the financial predictability necessary for effective strategic planning.

SB 1322 passed with bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. The Arizona Legislature and Gov. Ducey deserve praise for recognizing the legislation’s benefits to workforce and career readiness.

PCC joined with the state’s nine other community college districts in championing the legislation, but the effort would not have been successful without the backing of the area’s education, government, business and community leaders. Thank you for your ongoing support!

I am particularly proud of the way the College community stepped up, especially Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Dr. David Bea and Executive Assistant Carl Englander; Executive Director of Media, Government and Community Relations Libby Howell and Advanced Analyst Michael Peel; and contract lobbyist Jonathan Paton.

As Governing Board Chair Mark Hanna remarked last week in a message to the College community, “This success will translate into a stronger Pima Community College that develops and trains students to become future workers and leaders and in turn strengthen our community and its economy. You should be proud of your accomplishment and we appreciate your efforts.” Well said.


One student’s story of transformation

I recently received an email from a student whose experience puts into perspective the College’s efforts to serve our students and community. PCC student Brendan Lyons attended the National Collegiate Leadership Conference at the University of Arizona Feb. 12-14. The NCLC is a student-run annual conference that serves as the cornerstone of the leadership experience and training for hundreds of college students across the nation.

More than 600 students attended the conference. I am pleased to say Brendan received the 2016 Excellence in Student Leadership Award.


Brendan Lyons

Brendan’s story of career and personal transformation is remarkable. He graduated from PCC with a degree in Fire Science in 2007. In pursuing his dream of becoming a firefighter, he took up cycling to improve his fitness. What started as a hobby quickly became a passion that offered him a way to give back to the community:  In 2009, he participated is his first El Tour de Tucson bike race, riding in support of a young boy with cancer. Also in 2009, he was hired by a local fire department.

In 2011, Brendan was hospitalized after he was struck by a car while on a ride. The experience energized him to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving through a nationwide advocacy group, Look! Save a Life. In 2013, he again was hit by a motor vehicle. The injuries put Brendan’s firefighting career on hold, so he went back to PCC to retool his career, this time aiming for work in government affairs. He is on course to graduate with an associate degree in Liberal Arts, and intends to transfer to NAU through our 90-30 program to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Public Administration, followed by a master’s degree.

“I’m grateful for each and every opportunity I’ve been given at Pima Community College,” Brendan wrote in informing me about the conference. “As I get ready to move forward with my journey, it pains me to prepare to say goodbye to all of my instructors, mentors and staff who have made my experience worthwhile. Thank you for continuing to bring tremendous strength for an incredible and most deserving institution.”

As you know, PCC is thinking big, with major initiatives under way in many areas – developmental education, workforce development, online, global education. These efforts are being made so that individuals can achieve their education and career goals. Stories such as Brendan’s should assure everyone that, by placing student first, we are on the path to success as an institution.

Open forum with faculty

I would like to share with you news from a productive faculty forum held Feb. 19 at District Office. I offered the opportunity for the forum to PCCEA Co-Vice President Ana Jiménez, and I thank Ana, PCCEA President Julia Fiello and the PCCEA team for facilitating such an effective event. In all, about 100 faculty, staff, board, and administrators attended. The question-and-answer session was notable for its tone and content. We talked, civilly and honestly, about values, successes, opportunities, challenges and solutions – a direct exchange of ideas.

The depth and breadth of the two-hour discussion reflect the passion PCC employees have for high-quality instruction that leads to student success. Highlights of the session are outlined below, with my responses and comments:

One participant from the audience asked, Why does it seem PCC is “running scared” when facing Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and funding challenges?

It would be more accurate to say we are running to catch up after neglect that has gone on for years. Also, the HLC is a peer-membership institution, composed of educators like ourselves. And it’s important to note we are making major progress to gain the full confidence from our accrediting body. For example, 99 percent of CRNs have assessed Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). This is very positive news from where PCC was just a few years ago.

Our responses to funding challenges are based on the sobering reality that federal and state support of public education is drying up. We need to diversify our enrollment mix, and are approaching that goal in several ways:  reviving our International program, being part of the conversation with businesses seeking to better train their employees, and expanding online education, which continues to attract students even as overall enrollment declines.

At the meeting, some faculty disagreed with PCC’s emphasis toward online learning. Instructors said the effectiveness of past online efforts has been inconsistent at best. Others said our strength lies in small, student-focused, face-to-face classes. Thus, the forum proved to be a vehicle for eliciting frank critiques of current College initiatives and issues. Faculty felt comfortable in sharing ideas leading to solutions. In the past, the ability to speak freely and openly as part of transparent communication has not been the case.

Chancellor’s Apology

At a March 27, 2015, College-wide meeting, I detailed the problems PCC faces regarding Student Learning Objectives, budgeting, staffing and enrollment. At the meeting several students expressed concerns as well.

Some faculty and staff have expressed concerns about the tone and format of the meeting. I want to apologize to anyone who felt any disrespect or disengaged from the presentation. My discussions of the realities facing the College, and the students’ participation at the March 27th event, were meant to include a student perspective. I am truly sorry that the meeting may have resulted in hurt feelings, and that was in no way the intent.

Reorganization of Administration

I noted that PCC has 51 administrative positions, and that administrators constitute 4 percent of 2015-16 General Fund budget expenses. This year, PCC has gone from six campus Presidents to three, and has eliminated three administrative positions at District. Additionally, we have changed the Vice President model, with a single Campus Vice President at East, Desert Vista and Northwest. Like the change in presidents, the VP model was changed after gaining PCC employee insights through a survey.

We are reviewing the department chair/dean model, being cautious and mindful to view departments from a College, rather than a campus, perspective. Our goal, with data input, is to reallocate employees to the campuses where the need is the greatest. One faculty member urged adjustment of any top-down approach to resource allocations to recognize the campuses’ extensive knowledge of campus-specific populations. I am grateful for that useful insight.

Chancellor’s Campus Engagement and Travel

I engage with both the internal campus community and external community leadership. I view the Chancellor’s position as a platform to have a voice in decisions made at the local, state and federal level. My position is an opportunity to connect with businesses and organizations that can invest in PCC on a regular and ongoing basis, which necessitates travel to create connections with decision-makers. My goal is to strike the optimal balance between focusing on the business of the College and being immersed in College business.

Always Hopeful

While we are playing catch-up in several areas, PCC is moving ahead in so many ways:

  • Our goal has been no layoffs in 2016, and we are increasingly hopeful we can achieve this through attrition and elimination of vacant positions. This may mean new duties for employees.
  • PCC recently installed solar panels at West, Downtown and Community campuses, and is planning to expand to Desert Vista, East and Northwest, creating a seven-megawatt system. This will be one of the largest solar panel systems in the county. We are hoping to realize savings of approximately $15 million over the next 25 years.
  • We are planning a capital campaign to raise $10 million-$15 million to build a Center for Excellence for Advanced Technology, a best-in-class instructional facility, to draw students from the city, nation and the Sonoran cross-border region for top technology training.
  • We are exploring numerous ways to streamline processes to enroll as a PCC student.  These include meetings between high school principals and counselors, with PCC counselors increasing communication with public, charter and private high schools. PCC is also exploring new assessment processes and reinstatement of the Student Ambassador Programs, to offset student anxiety in navigating enrollment and test-taking. Recognizing we are a federal Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), one faculty member suggested focused recruiting efforts at Parent-Teacher Association meetings, especially in schools in Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods, to engage students and their parents.

Ways You Can Help

Many employees have asked how they can assist the College. Below are a few ways, and we will share more at follow-up forums:

  • Attend Creating a Culture of Service Excellence Workshop, part of PCC’s Service Excellence Program to improve the student experience. Contact OED at 206-4706.
  • Share information about PCC with friends, neighbors, and organizations you are affiliated with. Contact Libby Howell at 206-4778.
  • Complete the College’s Volunteer Outreach Survey and help identify opportunities for participation in college outreach. Contact Joi Stirrup at 206-4528.
  • Submit suggestions to the Chancellor’s Office at, or the Provost’s Office at

Final Words

PCC is going through a tough stretch – our equivalent of a recession. The good news is that we can meet our challenges by working together, and that we share a common belief in the transformative power of a Pima Community College education. Once again, I am grateful for the opportunity to dialogue with faculty, and look forward to future gatherings, perhaps once each semester. The session demonstrated there is much to talk about and share for our future.



Pima’s Adult Education Division:  Responding to the demands of a new age

GroupI was privileged to attend the beginning of a new era at the College recently.  I was among about 50 students, educators and community leaders, including U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, for the announcement that Pima Community College Adult Education has become Adult Basic Education for College and Career (ABECC).

As Dean of Adult Education Regina Suitt said during the announcement ceremony, Adult Education’s focus on student success remains unchanged.  Pima’s Adult Basic Education division will continue to be the county’s No. 1 provider of Adult Basic Education, High School Equivalency (HSE) preparation, GED testing, instruction for adults learning English and job skills training. The new name reflects the opportunities for adult learners to use an HSE as a launchpad to transition to vocational training or further academic achievement.  With 88,000 adults in Pima County lacking an HSE, the need is great.

Regina highlighted the story of Linda Langston, who is benefiting from the College’s development of diverse academic pathways that extend beyond an HSE. Linda has completed our Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (IBEST) and received a Behavioral Health Services certificate. IBEST is a nationally recognized instructional model that boosts students’ basic skills while they attend an occupational program.  In the BHS/IBEST program, basic reading, writing, and math skills are contextualized into the BHS course content, with ABE and BHS instructors co-teaching the program.


Linda Langston

Linda earned a 4.0 GPA in her program and recently won an Arizona Association for Life Long Learning, Adult Literacy Week contest. “Pima removed so many roadblocks for me,” she said, adding that she intends to pursue employment in social work.


Rep. Raúl Grijalva

Student Dominique Lewis and May 2015 graduate Israel Gonzalez Jr. echoed Linda’s story of transformation through education. Rep. Grijalva put ABECC’s intensified focus into eloquent perspective. As our economy responds to the employment demands of a new age, integrated education programs become essential for our students, he said.

Regina and her team of staff and instructors within Adult Basic Education for College & Career are meeting the demands of the 21st century workplace. I thank them for their work to serve our students and community.