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.