Setting the stage for success

PCC Center for the Arts at West Campus

PCC Center for the Arts at West Campus

The arts matter at Pima Community College. Our Center for the Arts (CFA) provides the stage for students to showcase their talent, as well as serving as a classroom where behind-the-scenes careers can be launched (as chronicled in a recent article in our Career Focus magazine). Our students excel in programs in dance, digital art, music, theater, and visual art, such as the PCC students who finished first and second, respectively, in the 2015 Mariachi Conference poster contest. In 2014-15, more than 15,100 people attended CFA Pima Arts events. (Another 18,266 attended events held by community groups and non-arts PCC departments who rented the spaces.) The CFA’s 2015-16 season, announced last month, promises to be just as successful.

Our arts faculty understands the demands of a fast-moving entertainment industry and, like our students, is attuned to the expectations of the audience. The competencies the arts demand – in problem solving, communication, teamwork, appreciation of multiple perspectives — are necessary ingredients for educational and professional success in the 21st century.

One need look no further than Steve Jobs to appreciate how art and life can intersect in profound ways. Jobs took a calligraphy class at Reed College, where he learned the aesthetics of typography, he told the Stanford University Class of 2005.  “I found it fascinating. . . . None of this had any hope of any practical application in my life. But 10 years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac.” Our students take tens of thousands of classes each semester. Their PCC education – in the arts, the sciences, and everywhere in between – can propel them to success, no matter which career path they choose to explore.

Visit to Korea, China

I have just returned from a visit to the Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China, where we continue to consolidate our partnerships. I was honored to be invited by the Mayor of the Korean island of Ulleungdo to sign an International Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU), which was presented in an official ceremony with local authorities and media. I was accompanied by Ms. Ann Klocko from the Korea Arizona Trade Office (KATO) in Tucson, and Pima Community College’s Acting Vice President for International Development, Ricardo Castro-Salazar.

Korea 1 Korea Klocko maybe JCD

Ulleung-gun

While there, we had the opportunity to visit a local high school, where I addressed the students and talked to them about PCC. We were officially received and sent off by the Mayor. We also met with partners of KATO in Seoul and discussed collaboration possibilities with PCC.

Korea students

Korea classIn China, we met with authorities of Foshan City (picture below) and signed an International Memorandum of Understanding with Bao Qi (Paul Jin) and Guangdong JIRONG Capital & Development Co. (JCD). The IMOU opens possibilities for PCC to develop workforce training, online education, short-term programs, and summer camps for students from Foshan and other areas.

Foshan 2

We also traveled to the city of Zhuhai, where we were hosted by President Liu Huaqiang of Zhuhai City Polytechnic College. We discussed our IMOU and signed an addendum establishing that both institutions will work on the development of international educational exchange programs in business and hospitality management. An even exchange program, where Pima and Zhuhai College students could benefit, was also discussed.

In Zhuhai, we also met with Helen Hu, from the China Youth Center for International Exchange, to discuss collaboration opportunities. We talked about the possibility of developing hybrid models for international students, where online offerings could make our programs more competitive.

Zhuhai 3Zhuhai 2

Upon our return, on June 6 we hosted President Liu Huaqiang, who came to Tucson as part of a visit to the U.S. He took the opportunity to see Tucson and PCC campuses and expressed that he was very impressed with the College and our desert beauty.

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

20150521_190649

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

unnamed

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.