Looking back, looking ahead

I began my second year as chancellor with a review of my first. At the July meeting of the PCC Governing Board, I summed up the progress made in achieving my 2013-14 Goals, Objectives and Timelines. [My presentation is available here.] PCC has been able to move forward in many areas, thanks to the hard work and collaboration of the College community. Of course, much more needs to be done to transform PCC into a premier community college focused on our North Star of student success, engagement and diversity.

We have done an excellent job conducting an Institutional Self-Study, a comprehensive self-examination of the College’s policies, processes and goals. The Self-Study was set into motion when our accrediting organization, the Higher Learning Commission, placed the College on probation in April 2013 after determining it was not complying with several HLC standards.

We are in the midst of a crucial time regarding reaccreditation. The Self-Study Report must be submitted to the HLC by July 31. On Sept. 15-17, a team of HLC representatives will visit PCC. We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate we deserve the HLC’s and the public’s highest degree of trust, and are confident we will provide strong evidence that the College has resolved the HLC’s concerns and meets its requirements.

Beyond accreditation, the College has improved significantly in several areas. For example, we now are consistently engaging our internal and external constituents. We will use the results of an employee satisfaction survey to develop a plan to improve the culture of the workplace. We have begun sexual harassment prevention training with a goal of training everyone in our organization. In addition, we are addressing the needs of our all-important adjunct instructors and temporary staff.

We have expanded outreach to area business, K-12 schools, the state’s colleges and universities, neighborhood associations, community groups, and state and federal leaders. The result has been increased alignment with important industry sectors, improved assessment testing at high schools, strengthened dual enrollment, streamlining of pathways to The University of Arizona, and stronger engagement by donors and alumni.

The Governing Board deserves praise as well, for updating its bylaws and policies, and especially for approving a new Governance Council. I chair the council, which comprises students, adjunct and full-time faculty, administrators, and regular and temporary staff. It is designed to keep leadership apprised of topics of College-wide importance, and is an example of our commitment to accountability and collaboration.

Still to be accomplished are several major initiatives, including redesigning remedial education, as well as completing a review of College regulations and guides of standard practice.

Designing effective organizational goals means striking a delicate balance. Goals should not consist merely of low-hanging fruit, objectives that can easily be met but are essentially incremental and do not address critical issues. Nor should goals be so sweeping in breadth and depth that attempting to achieve them means pushing the organization into a perpetual, paralytic “crisis mode” that hamstrings its ability to function.

The culture of continuous improvement taking hold at PCC means we are constantly stretching our limits through a cycle of assessment, implementation of change and reassessment. We have achieved several milestones this past year in improving our operations, but few endpoints. The process necessarily must be ongoing in order to meet the needs of our students and make a significant contribution to the progress of our city, our state and our nation.

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