Tag Archives: community engagement

Report to the Community 2017

This is an exciting time at Pima Community College. We are moving forward with significant, wide-ranging initiatives with the potential to reshape PCC so that we can best serve our community for years — and in some cases, decades — to come.

PCC continues to reduce its budget to account for declines in enrollment and upcoming expenditure limitation realities. At the same time, the College is undergoing a strategic renewal, positioning itself to become a premier community college:

  • In May, the Pima County Community College Governing Board approved PCC’s 2017-2021 Strategic Plan. The plan commits the College to the goal that 60 percent of Pima County residents age 25 and older have a college certificate or degree by 2030, aligning us with Gov. Doug Ducey’s Achieve60AZ initiative.
  • We are moving forward with our first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan.
  • The College has developed a conceptual Educational and Facilities Master Plan, which provides a vision for where we need to go as an organization.

On diversity

Our new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan is an important step forward. The plan commits us to help close the academic achievement gap for Hispanic/Latino Pima County residents. While the plan embraces our primary responsibility to Southern Arizonans, especially its underrepresented, marginalized communities, it also includes an initiative on global education.

I was born in South Korea and have lived on three continents, so I know first-hand the value of interacting with people from all over the world. Being aware that one is a member of a global community, and having an appreciation for other cultures, has benefits that go beyond the personal, however.

Global competencies give individuals and businesses an edge. Speaking to the Governing Board earlier this month, Caterpillar Inc.’s Brian Weller, Chief Engineer, Surface Mining & Technology, emphasized that an “open mind to diversity of thought” is critical to the success of individuals in his company. He knows, as PCC does, that when we understand and respect each other, everyone wins.


Centers of Excellence

Studies show that Arizona, like many states, suffers from a shortage of middle-skill workers, those who have attended college but haven’t received a bachelor’s degree. Key Arizona industries — aviation, advanced manufacturing and others — can’t find work-ready employees, thus hampering their ability to thrive and grow.

PCC and other community colleges offer affordable programs that can fill industry’s middle-skills gap. PCC is committed to ensuring the quality and relevance of our programs, and to creating clear curriculum pathways to student success. We work with business and industry partners so that our courses meet their current and future needs. We train people today so they can move into jobs tomorrow.

Our commitment to student success will take physical form in new Centers of Excellence. Students in our renowned occupational programs, such as Allied Health, Aviation Technology and Applied Technology, deserve to learn in modern facilities containing state-of-the-art equipment. Moreover, area employers are looking to us to provide work-ready graduates with the skill sets, curiosity and flexibility needed to be productive in an ever-changing workplace. Our goal is for the Centers to be recognized nationwide as places to gain skills needed for well-paying careers.


Accreditation in context

In past years, I have begun messages to the community with a report on our status with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), an organization that accredits institutions of higher learning such as PCC. That was because since April 2013, we had been under some form of sanction by the HLC, and working to have those sanctions removed was our top priority. We are proud to report that since March, when HLC lifted our On Notice status, PCC has enjoyed the full measure of confidence from our accreditor.

For our employees and Governing Board, our good standing with the HLC is a milestone that validates their hard work. For current and future students, a degree or certificate from an accredited institution shows interested employers that our students have the education and skills to meet their standards.

Assuring our full accreditation is always an important activity for PCC, and we are preparing for the HLC’s regular visit in 2018. However, the lifting of sanctions means the accreditation warning light isn’t blinking on our institutional dashboard.  Thankfully, we can devote full attention to opportunities and challenges in front of us.

About the Report to the Community

This letter and the accompanying Report to the Community provide a concise snapshot of the state of the College in late spring 2017. It is organized around PCC’s institutional North Star of student success, community engagement and diversity. The report respects the reader’s time — it is short and hopefully jargon-free. Data is presented as a point of entry to a larger topic, and often links to reports and information sources for those readers who wish to learn more about the College.

A final word

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” PCC is an evidence-based organization, and our future activities will be informed by collection and analysis of data, as well as by insights from our community partners. We also are guided by our values: People, Integrity, Excellence, Communication, Collaboration, and Open Admissions and Open Access.

We know there will be detours and resets, as there are with all dynamic, substantial changes. Our commitment to taking the first step, to meeting challenges in order to improve the lives of our students and the community, will not diminish. We’ll always be climbing the staircase.


Lee D. Lambert, J.D.
Chancellor, Pima Community College

Engaging our constituents

Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in two events that illustrate the breadth of the College’s impact on our community.

On Oct. 27, I attended our annual luncheon for the area’s K-12 district school superintendents. I shared our progress on accreditation, and spoke about advancing the development of Centers of Excellence around occupational professions at PCC. College personnel shared information about dual enrollment, Developmental Education, and Admissions & Recruitment. I want to commend the Provost’s Office for holding an informative event.

On Nov. 1 at our Downtown Campus, I took part in an informational event coinciding with the start of the Affordable Care Act’s 2016-2017 Open Enrollment period. I emphasized that as an institution of higher learning, PCC has a responsibility to make sure our students have access to the information they need to make informed decisions about their lives, including their health coverage.

Also taking part were Downtown Campus President Dr. David Doré, as well as Cynthia Estrada of the Pima County Enrollment Coalition and Melissa Stafford Jones, Regional Director for the Department of Health and Human Services. Thanks to all for helping the College connect with students and the community about a topic of high interest.

PCC headed in the right direction

Here is my commentary on PCC’s future. It was published in the Arizona Daily Star on Oct. 13:

On Sept. 26 and 27, seven members of a Peer Review Team from the Higher Learning Commission engaged in 50-plus meetings with more than 250 faculty, staff, students, board and community members, on four Pima Community College campuses.

During this visit, the College was asked to provide evidence that it has put in place systems that demonstrated effectiveness and sustainability in 11 key areas outlined in our “Notice Report” submitted to the HLC in June.  The College made a strong case to be removed from our current sanction of “Notice,” a status that means the HLC sees the college at risk of falling out of compliance with accrediting standards.

It was significant for other reasons as well. It was a turning point, where PCC demonstrated, without equivocation, that it is actively addressing problems and concerns, some of which date back a decade or more, and is fearlessly taking on problems as part of our new culture of continuous improvement.

The visit was not about reliving the past, however. It was about putting PCC on secure footing with HLC standards and strengthening the College for the vital work of supporting our community.

Accreditation reviews usually happen every 10 years, but can happen more often if accreditors find areas of concern. Last week’s “Focused Visit,” was to find evidence of effectiveness in 11 specific areas, including things like implementation of the 2014-17 Strategic Plan and ensuring that proper metrics are being used to address progress in student retention, persistence and completion.

Some of the areas, such as assessing student learning outcomes, were the reason the college was placed on Probation in 2013. That sanction was reduced in March to “Notice.”  Others, including, ensuring syllabi have proper and specific learning goals, and ensuring consistency in review of dual learning courses and dual learning faculty training, were additional findings from a previous Focused Visit.

The good news is Pima Community College has addressed these issues.

The problems we faced were not created overnight and will not be resolved overnight, but PCC faculty, staff and administration have worked tirelessly over the last three years to move the college in the right direction.

It is important to note that Pima continues to be fully accredited. Credits for qualifying courses transfer to our state and other universities. Students who meet the requirements and are enrolled in qualifying programs of study may be eligible for federal aid.

Our community should be proud of the hard work of this college. We also should remember why this visit was important, not just for PCC, but for the region.

As a leading educator for so-called “middle skills,” in demand by manufacturers and other technology and technical employers, PCC not only helps prepare our residents for high-growth, high-wage jobs but also fills critical skills gaps for our workforce.

Further, our transfer programs give students a solid and affordable foundation toward a baccalaureate degree.

This is where PCC matters.

Proud to be an open admissions college, we also have developed a laser-focus on student success.  We have broadened our economic development role to include customized training for incumbent workers, career and educational pathways, and built key workforce partnerships.

Yet, in many ways, we are just getting started.  PCC has set its sights on being a premier community college. It is what our diverse population of students, employers and region need and deserve.

We are grateful to our employees and community members who participated in last week’s visit and to members of the community for ongoing support.  We look forward to engaging you as we continue the good, hard work ahead.

The road less traveled

Pima Community College faces an extended period of uncertainty, as do all institutions of higher education. Colleges and universities are struggling to bridge gaps in student achievement and technology, while facing budget challenges and increased competition at home and abroad.

During these turbulent times, institutions turn inward for an extended self-examination. PCC is doing so, as evidenced by our effort to regain the fullest measure of confidence from our accreditor. But we must also continue to look forward and outward so that we can best serve our primary investors, our students.

Our administrative reorganization, announced earlier this week at a College meeting, is a key step in the process of remaking PCC to be more effective and responsive to the needs of students and the community. [The video and PowerPoint from the meeting are available on our College website.]

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” provides an apt metaphor for the future of PCC. In re-imagining our College, we are taking the road less traveled, and will be among higher education’s pioneers.

The road we are taking is fraught with twists and turns. We will disagree with each other. That’s OK. The open exchange of ideas is crucial to improving PCC. Some of our initiatives will fail. That’s OK, too. We will recover quickly, learn from our mistakes, and try new initiatives.

As long as we remained focused on our North Star of student success, community engagement and diversity, I am confident we can succeed in our ultimate goal of becoming a premier community college.

LULAC awards banquet

I was honored last week to be recognized by the League of United Latin American Citizens Council 1057 at the group’s annual Educators Awards & Scholarship Banquet.

LULAC recognized several members of the community for bettering the lives of youth through investments in the community and education. I was in illustrious company: Also honored were restaurateur Frances Erunez, Alma Gallardo of Arizona Bilingual magazine, teacher/coach Saturnino “Curly” Santa Cruz, radio journalist John C. Scott, educator Dr. Vicki Balentine, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Bishop Gerald Kicanas.

I should note that PCC’s West Campus has been the longtime host of LULAC Council 1057’s Annual Youth Leadership Conference, which has drawn national acclaim for hosting more than 115,000 middle and high school students, encouraging them to stay in school and to recognize that education is the key to success. Also, other PCC employees have been honored by LULAC numerous times for their contributions to this important organization. It all adds up to a deep individual and institutional commitment to constructive community engagement.

 

 

What it takes to be the best

This month, I have had the opportunity to present updates about the College at professional development activities for exempt and non-exempt employees. My core message can be summed up in a series of questions and answers, beginning with, “What kind of college does PCC want to be?” I pose that the answer must be “the premier community college in the United States.”

What will it take to be the best? Answer: An unshakeable focus on student success, community engagement and diversity – in short, a commitment to being a student-centered learning organization.

So, what are the key components of a student -centered learning organization? Borrowing from organizational thought leader Peter Senge, I believe there are five elements the College needs to incorporate into its institutional DNA:

  1. Systems thinking: an understanding of how parts fit into a whole and an appreciation that every employee is integral to the success of PCC students. When the electricity went out at West Campus during the monsoons last summer, our Facilities crews worked to restore power quickly, allowing instructors and students to get on with teaching and learning with minimal interruption. In their own way that day, Facilities contributed substantially to the success of PCC students.
  2. Personal mastery: an acknowledgement that employees are ultimately responsible for their own success. Employees should look for opportunities to improve knowledge that will help them be more effective at their jobs.
  3. Shared vision: Having a common set of ideals – an institutional “north star” employees can look toward in determining how well we are fulfilling our mission. The PCC Futures Conference and strategic planning process, which brought together more than 200 employees and community members to map out strategic directions for the College over the next three to five years, is an example of the College striving toward a shared vision. That college-wide process informed strategic planning at campuses and work units, where employees had the opportunity to offer their insights.
  4. Team learning: A work unit is only as good as its weakest link, and it’s the responsibility of the work unit to foster, in a civil and positive manner, a culture in which everyone pulls his or her weight.
  5. Mental models: Having a mindset or culture that focuses on the positive is important. I’ve heard it said that at PCC students have a “right to fail.” A positive framing of that issue is that students should have a right to succeed. College must do all it can to help students achieve success.

To make these elements a reality, we need an organizational structure consistent with our values and purpose. That has been the driving force behind recent and upcoming structural reorganizations. Executive Vice Chancellor for Institutional Effectiveness Dr. Zelema Harris astutely recognized the importance the College must place on advancement. That emphasis is reflected in the recent reorganization of the College’s “forward-facing” areas, including Marketing, Enrollment Management, Public Information, the PCC Foundation and Web Services, under a new position, Vice Chancellor of Institutional Advancement. Engaging the community — at the local, state, national and global level — is critical if we are to be the best. Similarly, we are working toward hiring a Vice Chancellor in charge of workforce initiatives in order to give leaders in business and industry a single point of contact when they wish to engage with the College.

Everyone at PCC is a leader. All employees have an opportunity to influence others, be they students or their fellow employees, through teaching, challenging, communicating and helping. I am confident that PCC can set the standard for community colleges across the nation. This won’t happen overnight. Our current situation took years to develop, and digging our way out will take time. But in three to five years, I am convinced we will succeed, if we work together and focus on our students and the community. That’s what it takes to be the best.