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.
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.
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.
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
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.