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 chancellor@pima.edu, or the Provost’s Office at provost@pima.edu.

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.

 

 

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