Defining our mission

Futures

PCC is committed to serving the needs of the community. A critical piece of this commitment must be serving the needs of the individual.

That was one of the insights emerging from the 2015 Futures Conference, which I had the privilege of attending on April 13. Approximately 100 community members and employees enjoyed a spirited discussion about a wide range of topics, including access, success, program excellence, stewardship, and more. The information gathered at the conference will inform PCC planning, and my thanks go to Assistant Vice Chancellor Nicola Richmond and her staff in Planning and Institutional Research for organizing an event that produced many great ideas. [A PowerPoint presentation from the conference is available on our website.]

Our inaugural Futures Conference, in April 2014, was devoted to strategic planning, as well as defining six directions for the College to pursue over the next two to three years. This year’s Futures Conference focused on our mission – our reason for being, the answer to the question, “Why does PCC exist?” [Our current mission statement is “to develop the community through learning.”] At the conference, one argument was made that the best answer regarding mission was “to serve every individual, every day.’’

However our mission is defined, it must drive PCC to success in ways that benefit our diverse students. One might need Adult Education, another Developmental Education. A student seeking the skills for gainful employment is best served if we successfully align Career and Technical Education curriculum with the needs of business and industry and offer short-term, stackable credentials. A student looking to obtain a bachelor’s degree makes it incumbent on us to improve connections with K-12, colleges and universities to ensure seamless transfer. A student balancing work and family obligations needs PCC to provide robust online programs.

I began and ended the conference with personal stories of students who succeeded at PCC after taking long and winding education journeys that sometimes tested their resolve. One of our former students graduated from a local high school, served in the military and graduated from college, yet could find work only as a server in a restaurant. “I did everything right,” she told U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez when he visited the Aviation Technology Center in January 2015, yet still had not reached her career goal. Then she found, on the ground, a piece of paper with information about Pima Community College. She got her start at PCC through that scrap of good fortune, completed our rigorous Aviation Technology program, and now works at Bombardier.

Every path to PCC is a bit different, but student success at PCC should be a function of effective systems, not serendipity. Our mission and vision statements, which will compel change at the College, should be the result of a transparent, inclusive, evidence-driven process. Working together, PCC can help individuals achieve their goals so that collectively they form the foundation of a stable, prosperous community.

PCC, ITSON renew friendship, sign agreement

ITSON 2On Tuesday, Rector Isidro Roberto Cruz of the Technological Institute of Sonora (ITSON) and I signed an agreement of cooperation between our two institutions. ITSON (www.itson.mx) is a prestigious public institution of higher education in northwest Mexico and an important player in its regional economy. Among many projects in southern Sonora, ITSON has a business incubator, a software development center (NOVUTEK), an International District for Agribusinesses, a University Center for Community Development, and a Research Center for Biotechnology, Agricultural and Environmental Innovation.

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This summer, 15 ITSON professors from different fields will spend four weeks at Pima improving their English and exploring pedagogical methods for the delivery of classes in English. The PCC-ITSON agreement will also allow for PCC students and faculty members to do studies, research and professional development at ITSON. West Campus President Lou Albert and I received an invitation from Rector Cruz to visit his institution to continue developing bi-national partnerships. Agreements such as this strengthen global education at PCC and have benefits that extend across national borders.

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PCC: “Pioneers of the Present”

From left: PCC faculty member Rick Rosen, student Alec Moreno ad Chancellor Lee D. Lambert

From left: PCC faculty member Rick Rosen, student Alec Moreno and Chancellor Lee D. Lambert

Pima Community College is navigating wholly new territory. More than 1,200 PCC faculty members, students, staff, Governing Board members, and administrators took part in an all-College meeting and workshops last week at West Campus to address that reality. The members of the College community are “pioneers of the present,” to use faculty member David Bishop’s evocation of anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous phrase. We are going where PCC has not been before, and are facing a series of threats that, if unmet, puts the College at risk.

We face very serious challenges in a variety of areas. The State of Arizona has zeroed out appropriations to PCC for Fiscal Year 2016. Our enrollment has declined beyond pre-Great Recession levels; the reality is that fewer students are enrolled at PCC than in any year since 2000.

Though the Higher Learning Commission has removed PCC from Probation, it has placed us on Notice. Notice means 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.

The consequences of failure, too, are spelled out clearly. In February 2017, after the HLC has made a focused visit by September 2016 to PCC to determine whether we have made progress in 11 areas, “The HLC Board will determine whether the institution has demonstrated that it is no longer at risk for non-compliance … or if the College has not demonstrated compliance, whether accreditation should be withdrawn or other action taken,” according to a letter from HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley.

I am always open to a good idea, and when faculty member Rick Rosen suggested bringing everyone together for a discussion of the College’s future, I called the College’s first-ever mid-semester meeting, and we closed the school for a half-day. PCC needs to hear from all stakeholders about the problems, both new and decades in the making, which must be resolved, along with an outline of developing solutions. Put another way, we gathered to begin answering the question, “Why does PCC exist?” It is a crucial question. As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says, in any endeavor, why matters more than what or how, because why reflects an institution’s core values.

We are at a Strategic Inflection Point, a term coined by Andy Grove, then-CEO of Intel Corp. A Strategic Inflection Point is that which causes a fundamental change in business strategy. “Nothing less is sufficient,” Grove said. Many of the assumptions Pima makes about its markets, its competition and its customers need to be re-examined and retooled at a fundamental level in order for us to succeed in a brutally competitive environment.

The frank conversations and workshops that followed centered on how best to meet the College’s future challenges. Our goal for augmenting revenue is to increase enrollment by 1,000 full-time student equivalents over each of the next five years. The College has the capacity to manage this increase. We can increase enrollment through several initiatives, including PimaOnline, the Education Master Plan, International Education and Workforce Education. Regarding expenditures, we will reduce costs by $2.5 million a year to align infrastructure to community needs. A hiring freeze, attrition and other strategies will help close the gap. Also, creative ways to increase revenue and-or reduce expenditures are being collected through our College-wide GREAT IDEAS survey.

Each day, so many faculty and staff at PCC help our students succeed. Our challenge is to provide evidence that teaching and learning at PCC result in an effective cycle of assessment. We also need to offer superlative service to students from the moment they consider PCC through graduation and beyond. Everyone – full-time and adjunct instructors, administrators, the Governing Board, temporary, exempt and non-exempt employees — must play a part.

Heaped upon Nelson Mandela were injustices that would have crushed a lesser person or driven him to retribution. Yet, Mandela said, “I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hate behind I would still be in prison.” I am sorry that many employees were hurt by the overly negative approaches of the past. However, PCC must free itself from its history so that we can focus our energies on our students and our future. Given the seriousness of our challenges, we must let go of the past so we can move forward immediately.

Let me close with the story of a student whose experience illustrates the promise and power of education and the personal relationships that make PCC a great school. David Lee is a native Tucson who graduated from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy with a diploma but without a plan for the future. At the urging of his siblings, he visited PCC Counselor Melinda Franz. They talked — about his interests, dreams and talents. David entered the Radiologic Technology program, studied diligently and was aided financially by scholarships from the PCC Foundation. Since November he has worked at Radiology Ltd.; he is the 79th employee there to have gotten a start at PCC. “PCC gave me the life I have today,” David says.

PCC has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people like David over our almost five-decade history. As we change to adapt to 21st-century realities, we must remain surefooted and focused on the institution’s North Star of student success, community engagement and diversity. All PCC employees should ask themselves, “What can I do to move the College forward?” We are Pima, and working together, we can accomplish great things. Students are among our most important investors, giving us their time, money and dreams. We cannot and will not let them down.

My presentation and video of the day’s proceedings are available on the College’s website.

PCC has been removed from probation

Here is a sentence I have been waiting to write since I became Chancellor of this great institution on July 1, 2013: The Higher Learning Commission, an organization that accredits universities and colleges, has removed PCC from probation.

The HLC has placed the College on the status of Notice, in recognition of the progress we have made and the work we still must do to gain our accreditor’s fullest degree of confidence. I want to assure the public that we already have begun work on areas identified by the HLC. We are putting into place processes that will produce results to meet the standards of the HLC.

PCC will submit a Notice Report to the HLC by July 1, 2016. The HLC will conduct a Focused Evaluation Visit no later than September 2016, and in February 2017 the HLC Board will review our Notice Report.

I am confident that the College will continue its hard work as part of a cycle of continuous improvement at PCC. I also am grateful for the dozens of community members who communicated with the HLC over the past months. They helped demonstrate that we have a crucial role to play in making the American Dream come true for our neighbors throughout Southern Arizona. In fact, we have been heartened by the outpouring of support for PCC from students and all corners of the community recently.

PCC will continue to improve as we focus on student success, community engagement and diversity. Working together, we can build a premier community college.

National Legislative Summit

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Raul Grijalva

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Raul Grijalva

Last week, I attended the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. and joined 1,000 other community college trustees, presidents, and other leaders to advocate for increased funding and resources to support community colleges. The summit was convened by the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT) with support from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

Top priorities for AACC and ACCT for 2015 include federal funding for community colleges and students, funding for the Pell Grant Program, Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization, Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) Act reauthorization, veteran students, the DREAM Act, higher education tax provisions, and extension of the TAACCCT Program, along with promotion of President Obama’s America’s College Promise proposal.

PCC Governing Board Members Scott Stewart and Mark Hanna attended the summit and meetings on Capitol Hill, along with Michael Peel, Government Relations Liaison; Amanda Kaminski, Advanced Program Coordinator, Grants Resource Office; and two exceptional student leaders, Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez. We met with Senator Jeff Flake and Representatives Raúl Grijalva, Martha McSally, and Ann Kirkpatrick. We also met with the staff of Senator John McCain’s Office. We emphasized continued support for the Pell Grant Program, adult education, and workforce development programs such as TRIO for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. Grant agency meetings were also held with the U.S. Department of Education.

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick

In addition to the meetings on Capitol Hill, the summit included many group meetings and sessions focused on the economic and workforce development role of community colleges. Sessions included distinguished speakers including: Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden; and Thomas E. Perez, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor.

Secretary of Labor Perez highlighted Pima Community College and his recent visit to our Aviation Technology Center in January during his speech for the closing of the summit as an example of successful efforts to address unemployment and economic development.

I presented the 2015 Government Relations Award to Rachel Gragg, former federal policy director of the National Skills Coalition. Senator Al Franken was presented with 2015 National Education Service Awards for his ongoing support of community colleges.

In addition, we were honored to be invited as guests of Congresswoman Kirkpatrick to attend the dedication of a statue of the late Senator Barry Goldwater unveiled in Statuary Hall. House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator McCain, Representative Grijalva, members of the Goldwater family, and many other congressional leaders were in attendance for the dedication ceremony.

I want to thank Michael Peel for his great work in organizing and facilitating our congressional visits. I also want to thank Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez for the leadership they displayed with our legislators as they recounted the positive impact of PCC on their lives during this critical time for funding for community colleges at the federal and state levels.

Alec is studying Mechanical Engineering. His is a member of the PCC Governance Council, Native American Student Association (NASA), Asian Pacific American Student Association (APASA), Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE), and STEM-related clubs such as Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). He plans to study Engineering at UA.

Yaritza is studying Nursing. She is an Upward Bound student from Desert View High School and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. She is currently a TRIO student, an Upward Bound tutor, Amigos de Pima scholarship recipient, and a PCC Merit Scholar. Her GPA is 4.0 and she is pursuing a Nursing Degree through the PCC/NAU-BSN program.

Pima Community College is incredibly fortunate to have such strong student leadership to represent the College in the best possible ways.

For more information about the 2015 Community College National Legislative Summit, go to www.acct.org.

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Martha McSally

Alec Moreno and Yaritza Vasquez with Rep. Martha McSally

Building Community 2015

From left: Edmund Marquez, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert, Building Community emcee Dan Marries.

From left: PCC Foundation Board of Directors Member Edmund Marquez, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert, Building Community emcee Dan Marries.

I had the privilege of delivering keynote remarks at the Pima Community College Foundation’s Building Community luncheon Feb. 6 at the Westin La Paloma resort. The more than 400 leaders of education, business and industry, government and community organizations who attended learned more about how PCC works with its partners to improve individual lives and spark economic development in the region.

This was the second Building Community luncheon, and in one major respect, much has changed since last year’s inaugural event. I told the audience that, thanks to the efforts of some 300 employees, students and community members, PCC is now well-positioned to successfully emerge from probation, a sanction placed on the College by our accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission, in April 2013. Final word on our status comes later this month, and I have every reason to believe that the College has done the work to successfully comply with HLC standards and regain its fullest degree of confidence.

I explained to the audience the initiatives the College is undertaking to bridge that gaps that pose major challenges to the success of higher education institutions across the U.S.: gaps in student achievement, skills, technology, sustainability and global awareness. However, the  powerful collaborations that yield tangible successes for our students formed the most memorable part of the event. I want to relate just a few stories.

Dean West, 27, grew up in Longview, Wash., a small town where the paper mill was the major employer. After getting his GED, he immediately joined the Army, and worked in weapons maintenance. Dean moved to Tucson to be with family. An acquaintance told him about PCC. He is graduating with a degree in Computer Aided Drafting Design. While at PCC, he connected with his current employer, a manufacturer. “I was blessed to have instructors who have high standards and a highly structured environment,” he says, adding that his military experience set him up for academic success at Pima. “I have my dream job,” he says, and he plans to attend UA on the G.I. Bill.

Alec Moreno is a Tucson High School graduate. He has four siblings, and his family is of modest means. He was worried about finding the money for college after the Great Recession took a severe toll on the family’s finances. But PCC Foundation scholarships (about $1,400 he says) have made a big difference. “Pima’s tuition is very affordable, but coming from a large family, every dollar counts.” He plans to study engineering at UA, and hopes to get a master’s in education to give back to the community. When he graduates UA, he will be first member of his family to get a bachelor’s degree. He will tell his story while in Washington, D.C., this week to meet federal legislators and officials.

Ashley Rodriguez is a Sunnyside High School graduate who joined the military. Following her service she attended other colleges and still had a hard time finding a career. Then one day by chance she saw a piece of paper on the floor. She picked it up and learned about Pima’s Aviation Technology program. The road through the rigorous program had its twists and turns, but now she is working for Bombardier.

Similar stories were told by Gloria Bloomer, chair of the PCC Foundation Board of Directors. A video segment produced by PCCTV showed the close relationship between the College and employers Suddath Relocation Systems and Radiology Ltd. Gloria introduced David Lee, who graduated from our Radiologic Technology program and works for Radiology Ltd. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild put our contributions into perspective when he described how PCC plays a key role his “Five T’s” program of development by preparing Tucsonans for the middle class jobs that will provide the backbone of our community.

Renowned educator Marian Wright Edelman said, “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.” Working together with our partners in Tucson, Arizona and across the nation, we can achieve that goal, and propel Tucson to new era of economic development.

Secretary of Labor visits PCC, Tucson

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Pima Community College was honored to host a visit Jan. 29 by Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Secretary Perez joined me, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, PCC Board Chair Sylvia Lee and other PCC leaders on a tour of our Aviation Technology Center (ATC). Secretary Perez also attended an event at our Downtown Campus regarding health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act.

During the visit to the ATC, Secretary Perez learned about initiatives PCC is undertaking through Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT), which is administered by the Labor Department. In September 2014, PCC received a $2,499,997 grant under the fourth round of TAACCCT, which enables community colleges to work with industry to develop training and education programs that will lead to high skill-high paying jobs. As part of the grant, PCC is partnering with business to develop a degree pathway in Industrial Technology that includes four short-term certificates. PCC also is adding short-term options to existing degree programs in Welding and Aviation.

At ATC, Secretary Perez attended a roundtable discussion with a cross-section of government, education, industry and workforce leaders. The takeaway from the meeting was clear: Community stakeholders need to coordinate their efforts to advance Career and Technical Education (CTE) as a ticket to the middle class, and that investments such as those made through TAACCCT make a difference. Mayor Rothschild noted that women, minorities and military veterans are among the populations that could make great use of this valuable education.

Superintendent Sanchez emphasized that the focus in education has been weighted toward making students college-ready over making them career-ready. The value of CTE is borne out by data. As the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce has discovered,

43 percent of young workers with licenses and certificates earn more than those with an associate degree, 27 percent of young workers with licenses and certificates earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree, and 31 percent of young workers with associate degrees earn more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

I pointed out the need for a state and federal governmental framework that offers flexibility in student aid and allows educators to offer industry-driven programs that keep up with oft-dizzying pace of technological change.

Secretary Perez and the group did hear from a veteran, Ashley Rodriguez, who served as a Marine in Iraq before graduating from the Aviation Technology program and getting a job with Bombardier in Tucson. Rodriguez forthrightly described the roadblocks she had to overcome to go from the military to PCC and her new career. Secretary Perez summed up what we at PCC know about Ashley – “You’ve got game,” the secretary said – and said he would seek to find ways to straighten the pathway to civilian training that veterans must often travel.

Many employees made Secretary Perez’s visit to the ATC a success. Tom Hinman, Advanced Program Manager at the ATC, led an informative tour that included stops at the center’s two 727s. [PCC is one of the few U.S. programs with hands-on training on commercial and regional jets.] Tom’s team did a first-rate job with the logistics of a multifaceted event. Joanne Kingman, Program Manager in Workforce and Business Development, clearly explained the grant, sharing our best practices and highlighting our partnerships with industry.

Dr. Morgan Phillips, who as president of the Desert Vista Campus is responsible for the ATC, moderated the invigorating discussion. Government Relations Liaison Michael Peel reached out and brought together the community leaders for the valuable sit-down.

Secretary Perez has said that community colleges are the “secret sauce” of workforce development. I believe his visit confirmed that PCC’s wise use of the federal government’s investment in Career and Technical Education is improving the lives of individuals and contributing to economic development, and that the recipe for continued success demands that all stakeholders in the community continue to work together.