Tag Archives: Pima Community College

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.

Graduation 2015

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A quick note about PCC graduation May 21. Cheered on by thousands of family and friends, approximately 900 graduates received degrees and certificates during an amazing ceremony at the Tucson Convention Center. There were many highlights, including an inspirational speech from graduate Kenneth Lee, and a video featuring images from the past academic year. All in all, it was a great night to be a member of the Pima family, thanks to PCC employees who worked for months to ensure a memorable commencement.

PCC: “Pioneers of the Present”

From left: PCC faculty member Rick Rosen, student Alec Moreno ad Chancellor Lee D. Lambert

From left: PCC faculty member Rick Rosen, student Alec Moreno and Chancellor Lee D. Lambert

Pima Community College is navigating wholly new territory. More than 1,200 PCC faculty members, students, staff, Governing Board members, and administrators took part in an all-College meeting and workshops last week at West Campus to address that reality. The members of the College community are “pioneers of the present,” to use faculty member David Bishop’s evocation of anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous phrase. We are going where PCC has not been before, and are facing a series of threats that, if unmet, puts the College at risk.

We face very serious challenges in a variety of areas. The State of Arizona has zeroed out appropriations to PCC for Fiscal Year 2016. Our enrollment has declined beyond pre-Great Recession levels; the reality is that fewer students are enrolled at PCC than in any year since 2000.

Though the Higher Learning Commission has removed PCC from Probation, it has placed us on Notice. Notice means the College is now in compliance with the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation, but remains at risk of being out of compliance with the Criteria for Accreditation and the Core Components.

The consequences of failure, too, are spelled out clearly. In February 2017, after the HLC has made a focused visit by September 2016 to PCC to determine whether we have made progress in 11 areas, “The HLC Board will determine whether the institution has demonstrated that it is no longer at risk for non-compliance … or if the College has not demonstrated compliance, whether accreditation should be withdrawn or other action taken,” according to a letter from HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley.

I am always open to a good idea, and when faculty member Rick Rosen suggested bringing everyone together for a discussion of the College’s future, I called the College’s first-ever mid-semester meeting, and we closed the school for a half-day. PCC needs to hear from all stakeholders about the problems, both new and decades in the making, which must be resolved, along with an outline of developing solutions. Put another way, we gathered to begin answering the question, “Why does PCC exist?” It is a crucial question. As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says, in any endeavor, why matters more than what or how, because why reflects an institution’s core values.

We are at a Strategic Inflection Point, a term coined by Andy Grove, then-CEO of Intel Corp. A Strategic Inflection Point is that which causes a fundamental change in business strategy. “Nothing less is sufficient,” Grove said. Many of the assumptions Pima makes about its markets, its competition and its customers need to be re-examined and retooled at a fundamental level in order for us to succeed in a brutally competitive environment.

The frank conversations and workshops that followed centered on how best to meet the College’s future challenges. Our goal for augmenting revenue is to increase enrollment by 1,000 full-time student equivalents over each of the next five years. The College has the capacity to manage this increase. We can increase enrollment through several initiatives, including PimaOnline, the Education Master Plan, International Education and Workforce Education. Regarding expenditures, we will reduce costs by $2.5 million a year to align infrastructure to community needs. A hiring freeze, attrition and other strategies will help close the gap. Also, creative ways to increase revenue and-or reduce expenditures are being collected through our College-wide GREAT IDEAS survey.

Each day, so many faculty and staff at PCC help our students succeed. Our challenge is to provide evidence that teaching and learning at PCC result in an effective cycle of assessment. We also need to offer superlative service to students from the moment they consider PCC through graduation and beyond. Everyone – full-time and adjunct instructors, administrators, the Governing Board, temporary, exempt and non-exempt employees — must play a part.

Heaped upon Nelson Mandela were injustices that would have crushed a lesser person or driven him to retribution. Yet, Mandela said, “I knew that if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hate behind I would still be in prison.” I am sorry that many employees were hurt by the overly negative approaches of the past. However, PCC must free itself from its history so that we can focus our energies on our students and our future. Given the seriousness of our challenges, we must let go of the past so we can move forward immediately.

Let me close with the story of a student whose experience illustrates the promise and power of education and the personal relationships that make PCC a great school. David Lee is a native Tucson who graduated from Pusch Ridge Christian Academy with a diploma but without a plan for the future. At the urging of his siblings, he visited PCC Counselor Melinda Franz. They talked — about his interests, dreams and talents. David entered the Radiologic Technology program, studied diligently and was aided financially by scholarships from the PCC Foundation. Since November he has worked at Radiology Ltd.; he is the 79th employee there to have gotten a start at PCC. “PCC gave me the life I have today,” David says.

PCC has changed the lives of tens of thousands of people like David over our almost five-decade history. As we change to adapt to 21st-century realities, we must remain surefooted and focused on the institution’s North Star of student success, community engagement and diversity. All PCC employees should ask themselves, “What can I do to move the College forward?” We are Pima, and working together, we can accomplish great things. Students are among our most important investors, giving us their time, money and dreams. We cannot and will not let them down.

My presentation and video of the day’s proceedings are available on the College’s website.

Welcoming PCC’s newest leader

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A lot of lively discussion marked Monday’s welcome reception for our new Desert Vista Campus President, Morgan Phillips.

Morgan and I had the opportunity to talk with many of the dedicated faculty, staff and administrators that make the campus so successful day in and out. During his comments and a Q and A with the group, Morgan talked about making Desert Vista a leader in technology and partnerships, as well as a key resource for the surrounding community.

Morgan put it well when he said that “community colleges are effective, change lives and make things better for individuals.” It’s our job, he added, “to work to make sure everyone understands that so we have the support so we can reach out to the community the way we need to.”

I agree completely, and that is exactly what we’re doing at PCC.

Morgan, who has a doctorate in education, is a community college graduate and has spent his professional career in community colleges, including at Valencia College, one of the nation’s leading community colleges. He comes to us from Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, N.C., where he was Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs and, before that, Vice President of Curriculum Instruction. As I told yesterday’s crowd, I have an affinity for North Carolina because that is where my father’s family is from.

Morgan embraces technology as a tool to improve education delivery and services. That will play a big part in Pima’s work as we move forward. We need to ensure that the College has the capabilities to use technology to identify and meet the needs of our stakeholders.

Desert Vista Campus is home to the College’s Early Childhood Studies and Culinary Arts programs, as well as the Center for Training and Development. It also is home campus for the Aviation Technology Program, which is based at the PCC Aviation Technology Center on the grounds of Tucson International Airport.

Morgan has extensive experience in accreditation, strategic planning and forging partnerships with business and industry. He has been on the job since Aug. 14, and just last week got the good news that Desert Vista Campus has been awarded a $2.5 million Title V grant to improve the academic success of Hispanic students.

Looking back, looking ahead

I began my second year as chancellor with a review of my first. At the July meeting of the PCC Governing Board, I summed up the progress made in achieving my 2013-14 Goals, Objectives and Timelines. [My presentation is available here.] PCC has been able to move forward in many areas, thanks to the hard work and collaboration of the College community. Of course, much more needs to be done to transform PCC into a premier community college focused on our North Star of student success, engagement and diversity.

We have done an excellent job conducting an Institutional Self-Study, a comprehensive self-examination of the College’s policies, processes and goals. The Self-Study was set into motion when our accrediting organization, the Higher Learning Commission, placed the College on probation in April 2013 after determining it was not complying with several HLC standards.

We are in the midst of a crucial time regarding reaccreditation. The Self-Study Report must be submitted to the HLC by July 31. On Sept. 15-17, a team of HLC representatives will visit PCC. We welcome the opportunity to demonstrate we deserve the HLC’s and the public’s highest degree of trust, and are confident we will provide strong evidence that the College has resolved the HLC’s concerns and meets its requirements.

Beyond accreditation, the College has improved significantly in several areas. For example, we now are consistently engaging our internal and external constituents. We will use the results of an employee satisfaction survey to develop a plan to improve the culture of the workplace. We have begun sexual harassment prevention training with a goal of training everyone in our organization. In addition, we are addressing the needs of our all-important adjunct instructors and temporary staff.

We have expanded outreach to area business, K-12 schools, the state’s colleges and universities, neighborhood associations, community groups, and state and federal leaders. The result has been increased alignment with important industry sectors, improved assessment testing at high schools, strengthened dual enrollment, streamlining of pathways to The University of Arizona, and stronger engagement by donors and alumni.

The Governing Board deserves praise as well, for updating its bylaws and policies, and especially for approving a new Governance Council. I chair the council, which comprises students, adjunct and full-time faculty, administrators, and regular and temporary staff. It is designed to keep leadership apprised of topics of College-wide importance, and is an example of our commitment to accountability and collaboration.

Still to be accomplished are several major initiatives, including redesigning remedial education, as well as completing a review of College regulations and guides of standard practice.

Designing effective organizational goals means striking a delicate balance. Goals should not consist merely of low-hanging fruit, objectives that can easily be met but are essentially incremental and do not address critical issues. Nor should goals be so sweeping in breadth and depth that attempting to achieve them means pushing the organization into a perpetual, paralytic “crisis mode” that hamstrings its ability to function.

The culture of continuous improvement taking hold at PCC means we are constantly stretching our limits through a cycle of assessment, implementation of change and reassessment. We have achieved several milestones this past year in improving our operations, but few endpoints. The process necessarily must be ongoing in order to meet the needs of our students and make a significant contribution to the progress of our city, our state and our nation.

Graduation 2014

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I’ve had the honor of serving as the chancellor of Pima Community College for 325 days. A lot has happened since last July 1, but last night’s graduation was, without question, the high point.

This was my first graduation ceremony at PCC, and what a truly spectacular event it was. For two amazing hours, College employees shared an arena with the family and friends of our students to celebrate academic achievement. The Tucson Convention Center is a big place, but it was filled to the rafters last night with a palpable sense of pride and accomplishment.

I made a point to personally congratulate as many of our graduates as possible. Hearing their stories and sharing their triumphs was inspirational – it was a vivid reminder of how education can transform a person’s life. This very point was echoed in the thoughtful remarks of our commencement speaker, Athanasia Chalkiopoulos.

Last night’s graduation ceremony also was important for another reason: it confirms the positive impact that our faculty and staff has on our community. If a student’s educational journey is like scaling a mountain, we are the guides who help students reach the summit.

Our commencement closed with the screening of a video tribute to the Class of 2014, created by our Center for Learning Technology team, which beautifully captured the diversity and promise of PCC. I encourage you to watch it and check out the photos of one of our volunteers, Tony Arroyo.

Lastly, I must extend a heartfelt thank you to Christy Yebra and the Graduation Committee for their meticulous attention to detail. They transformed the TCC into an epicenter of Aztec pride. Everyone involved – the degree checkers, interpreters, readers, ushers and the men and women who staffed the registration desk – did a tremendous job. Thank you all.

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