Category Archives: Uncategorized

Graduation Season


With Jessica Treece

For the College, May is a month to showcase and celebrate our students’ success. Students, faculty, staff, administrators and the Governing Board have worked hard in 2017-2018, and the result of their efforts during the academic year deserves recognition.

I have had the privilege of participating in several ceremonies. At Multicultural Convocation, our annual celebration of diversity, equity and inclusion, I shared my story of coming to America from my birthplace in South Korea. I stressed the things we have in common, so that we can build bridges and bring back our humanity.

That same night, I joined more than 1,000 Tucsonans for the Fashionarte 2018 fashion event that showcased the amazing work of the students in our Fashion Design program. The event, held at the Fox Theatre Tucson with the support of several community sponsors, is an example of how public-private partnerships can benefit the College and the community.

I also had the opportunity to attend a ceremony honoring more than 75 graduates of our Nursing program. These women and men have completed a rigorous program that is deservedly recognized for the quality of their graduates.

On Friday, I broke bread with about 25 of the 295 student-veterans who will graduate from PCC this year. Those who attended heard the powerful story of Jessica Treece, who has fought back from severe injuries suffered in a mortar attack when serving in the Army in Iraq. Jessica will graduate from PCC with a certificate in Emergency Medical Technology and an Associate degree in Fire Science.

I congratulate all our graduates and thank the PCC teams that made each event memorable, and look forward to our Graduation May 17 and our High School Equivalency Graduation May 31.

21st-century education

I had the privilege of observing Desert Vista Campus Mathematics Faculty Darla Aguilar’s Math for Elementary School Teachers (MAT 147) last week. It was enlightening, as it is a harbinger of the next generation of education, one that combines new technology with evolving teaching styles.

The class was held in a room in Desert Vista’s new Center for Integrated Learning, our beautiful new 21st-century education space. Groups of a half-dozen students gathered at five tables; on the wall above each table was a monitor where the students could collect and display research data on a spreadsheet.

Their research question involved Barbie-type dolls, rubber bands and bungee jumping. How many rubber bands does it take for a Barbie to bungee-jump a distance without hitting her head on the ground?

The assignment enables the students to think about math with an elementary-school mindset, while honing skills involving manipulatives that will be critical when they enter the classroom. It also emphasizes teamwork and communication as the groups decide the best approach to solving the problem. (Some students captured their Barbies’ rapid descent on slow-motion smartphone video.)

Also noteworthy is that Darla has replaced the traditional lecture with an interactive, student-centered approach in which the instructor serves as a facilitator and coach.

Darla’s class is a prime example of how new technology and innovative pedagogy add up to a great learning experience for our students.

Top honors for our students

I am happy to announce that PCC students are earning academic honors at the highest levels.

One of our students is among only 15 community college students in the U.S. earning a Guistwhite Scholarship from the National Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) this year.

The $5,000 scholarship recognizes PTK members for leadership, engagement in PTK chapter activities and societal programs, and high academic achievement in the pursuit of baccalaureate degrees. For context, the 15 winners are chosen from 3,000 applicants nationwide.

Additionally, seven students were named to the 2017-2018 Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team. Five earned Gold Status, meaning they were among the top 50 out of more than 2,000 students selected to their states’ academic teams. And 12 PCC students were chosen for the 2017-2018 All-Arizona Academic Team.

The College is extremely pleased that the hard work and dedication of these students are being recognized on state and national stages.  I commend our outstanding faculty, staff and administrators for supporting and guiding our students. We are proud that our students’ higher education journey begins with a solid foundation for success built at Pima.



Futures Conference 2018

Futures Conference logoThe College held its fifth annual Futures Conference last week. The conference is an important element in our strategic planning process, as it brings together students, Governing Board members, community members and PCC employees to discuss matters of College-wide importance, and to engage in small-group discussions that surface new ideas. Futures Conferences are a vehicle for constructive community engagement — we partner with the public, seeking advice and innovation.

This year’s conference focused on three areas:

  • Guided Pathways, clearly defined roadmaps to credentials that let students get the best return on their investment of time and resources.
  • Centers of Excellence, which enhance student success and economic development by providing students with rigorous, best-in-class training so they can succeed in leading-edge sectors of the economy.
  • Diversity and Inclusion, drivers of equity that need to be addressed if organizations are to succeed economically in a rapidly globalizing 21st

I opened with remarks that put the College’s work into prospective. New technological, economic and demographic realities are converging to create an age of accelerated change not seen since the 1440s, when Johannes Gutenberg introduced mechanical printing and ushered in the modern age. These changes, which range from the rise of Artificial Intelligence to persistent education and skills gaps, present higher education with numerous challenges. The foremost is realizing opportunities within our grasp today while preparing for opportunities of the future. This is a formidable task, given that 65 percent of today’s first-graders will be employed in jobs that currently do not exist. My path forward for the College, unsurprisingly, is to improve delivery of instruction and services so our students have the knowledge, skills and abilities to thrive regardless of what the future may bring.

Clearly, given this uncertain landscape, the College needs the insights of its partners, and Future Conferences are an excellent way to leverage their creative energy. Past conferences have resulted in real change. In 2017, attendees identified as priorities “Establish guided pathways for in-demand programs” and “Align College programs, processes, systems and resources to support economic opportunities within Pima County through relationships with local business and industry.”  Those insights were woven into the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan, which was approved by the Governing Board in May 2017. I am confident this year’s Futures Conference will yield similar advances.

College: an easy choice

Two aspiring marketers, one dentist and one pre-med student

From left: Two aspiring marketers, one dentist and one pre-med student

I had the privilege recently to talk to groups of current and potential students in the midst of an important life decision: whether to pursue a postsecondary education.

I spoke at Career and Technical Education (CTE) National Letter of Intent Signing Day. PCC participates in the nationwide event, patterned after signing day ceremonies for student-athletes.  Nearly 150 PCC and high school students pledged to pursue a credential at PCC in CTE disciplines ranging from Aviation Technology to Welding.

I also spoke to a group of about 75 seniors from Sunnyside and Desert View high schools who are taking part in the PCC Orientation Institute, which provides information and support to prospective PCC students.


With Provost Dolores Duran-Cerda and Desert Vista Campus Student Services Manager Fernando Munguia, retiring after 34 years at PCC.

Of course, in my view, the decision is easy. Students should go to college, because, as I told the students at Signing Day, education will be essential to obtain meaningful employment. By 2020, 65 percent of jobs will require post-secondary education. Of those, 21 percent will require bachelor’s degrees. The rest are middle-skill jobs in a variety of technical and skilled-service fields, such as manufacturing and healthcare.

I understand that it’s also a time of ambiguity and uncertainty. Industry 4.0, the global economic upheaval encompassing technological advances in a multitude of areas, such as mobile technology, artificial intelligence, cloud-based computing and the Internet of Things, is proceeding with such speed most of today’s first-graders will be employed in jobs that do not currently exist.

But the depth and breadth of coming economic changes makes a lifetime of education even more important.  It all starts with college. As I said to the students at the Orientation Institute, my generation is counting on theirs to meet the challenges sure to arise as we progress through the 21st century.

Sunnyside High School automotive technology students take the Pima pledge.

Sunnyside High School automotive technology students take the Pima pledge.

Start of the semester

Andrea and Natalia are in their second semester


CMM: a very sensitive device

I visited Downtown Campus last week for the start of the Spring semester, meeting our remarkably diverse students as they got back to their studies. I was impressed by their wide range of interests and opportunities. One student was deciding whether to pursue Nursing or Photography as a career, and many were weighing whether to transfer to the University of Arizona or seek direct employment after PCC.

I also took a quick tour of our ever-improving Automotive Technology, Machine Tool Technology and Mechatronics instructional areas. Dean of Applied Technology Greg Wilson explained the intricacies of our new Coordinate Measuring Machine, which uses 3D modeling software to measure manufactured parts to an incredible degree of accuracy – think far less than the width of a human hair – and plays a critical role in the fast-growing field of digital manufacturing.

The College is finalizing purchase of two parcels of property adjacent to the Downtown Campus. Acquisition of this land will allow the College to expand its physical footprint with instructional spaces dedicated to Applied Technology, and marks a milestone in our initiative to establish a Center of Excellence devoted to high-tech design, manufacturing and repair.

Meeting K-12 needs

The College earlier this month hosted representatives of nine Tucson-area school districts and other important players in the K-12 system. We have been leading these gatherings annually since 2014. As usual, the discussion was robust and wide-ranging.

The most common need cited was for PCC to continue and intensify outreach into high school and middle school campuses, and to inform parents of their role in getting their children to attend college.

The College is committed to meeting our constituents where they live to tell our story. Our 2017-2021 Strategic Plan and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan include major outreach initiatives.

We understand the need to start the conversation early to build strong connections with prospective students and their families. Many of our students are the first in their family to attend college, and are of modest means, making paying for school a major decision.

I thank the attendees for taking time to share insights on important topics of mutual interest, and to PCC’s Esperanza Duarte and Joi Stirrup for putting together an informative event that brings together stakeholders united in their commitment to student success.