Tag Archives: strategic planning

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.

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

In perspective: wages, the FY 2018 budget, and our future

Below is a message I sent the College community on May 12:


This is truly an exciting time at Pima Community College. On Wednesday evening, our Governing Board directed us to move forward with significant, wide-ranging initiatives that have the potential to reshape PCC so that we can best serve our community for years — and in some cases, decades — to come.

Let’s start with the budget. Last night, the Board approved key budget parameters that put the final pieces in place for Fiscal Year 2018.  We can now move forward with publication of the budget and Truth in Taxation notices for public review.  The budget will ultimately be adopted in June following the public hearing and special Board meeting.


The Board, in recognition of the great work by employees during these challenging times, directed the College to provide a 2 percent incremental increase to salaries and wages. Assuming formal approval by the Board in June, this increase will be calculated on base pay amounts throughout the year.  While it is not technically an increase to base pay, the amount will be essentially the same. Its continuance will be decided next year when we have more information from a class and compensation study the Board on Wednesday night directed the College to undertake, and how the organization is doing in relation to its strategic and operational goals.

The Board’s direction is an echo of my heartfelt thanks to our employees, whose grit and creativity put us back in good standing with our accreditor.  Specifically, I want to thank you all for your feedback, questions, suggestions, and patience throughout this dynamic budget scenario and development period.  We are clearly rebuilding the plane as we are flying it — we are incorporating strategic and organizational changes within the budget structures to facilitate changes necessary for us to become a premier community college.

The big picture: challenges

To reach that goal, we are working diligently on fiscal and operational challenges connected with declining enrollment — our infrastructure is misaligned, particularly in terms of our physical structure and the number of people we employ.  We have been discussing and working on this for several years, and have made very real progress by, among other things:

  • implementing the College reorganization;
  • reducing the size of the administration;
  • setting target ratios that guide the authorization to fill full-time faculty positions;
  • adjusting tuition and other service delivery to ensure we are market-competitive;
  • reducing equipment purchases that are subject to expenditure limitation;
  • improving classroom funding models consistent with the new organization;
  • scrutinizing every staff position prior to recruitment, and establishing unit-based budget reduction targets.

That said, our current enrollment results in a very real need to significantly reduce our operational expenses due to looming expenditure limitation realities.  The good news is we have some time to adjust to the reduction; the bad news is that reductions are a certainty we must address.

The big picture: opportunities

At the same time, the College is undergoing a strategic renewal, as evidenced by the Board’s actions Wednesday night:

  • Approving three strategic directions contained in the final draft of the 2017-2021 Strategic Plan;
  • Committing the College to the goal of ensuring that 60 percent of Pima County residents age 25 and older have a certificate or college degree by 2030, aligning us with Governor Doug Ducey’s Achieve60AZ initiative;
  • Approving conceptual Educational and Facilities Master Plans, which provide a vision for where we need to go as an organization. Ensuring program quality, relevance, and sustainability; implementing effective pathways to student success; establishing Centers of Excellence; and expanding and integrating our outreach efforts create an array of exciting possibilities to focus on. The plans also clarify the need to reinvest into the College to improve program and service delivery, educational space, and equipment.

A healthy, balanced budget

When we originally developed the budget scenarios back in December, it was with these challenges and opportunities in mind.  The feedback we received from our forums and feedback tools indicate that the College community understands the need to resize and reinvest.  Approximately 95 percent of the responses we received supported either Scenarios B or C, which trigger budget reductions and reinvestment starting in FY 2018.

The budget that the Board approved for publication includes a healthy balance of these conceptual and strategic changes.  Specifically, the budget includes the reduction of 100 vacant staff positions (approximately $6.3 million), the inclusion of $3.6 million in revenue bond debt service, an increase in property taxes to the levy maximum (approximately 3 percent), and direction to fund enhanced enrollment initiatives (i.e., marketing, retention efforts) and the aforementioned class and compensation study.

No reduction in force in FY 2018

The reduction of 100 positions will be achieved through the elimination of existing vacant staff positions.  Approximately 40 positions have already been identified for elimination, and 60 additional positions will be identified during the course of the year.  The Executive Leadership Team will develop a new process for reviewing all vacant staff positions, and only critical positions will be approved for recruitment.  As a result of this strategy, the College does not expect a Reduction in Force during Fiscal Year 2018.  However, this approach will require all of us to be more flexible with how and where we perform our duties, and there will be active and constructive discussion about how to more efficiently provide necessary services with fewer people.

Lastly, the revenue bond debt service of $3.6 million will enable the College to have an infusion of approximately $45 million to take a major first step toward the implementation of the Educational and Facilities Master Plans.  The specific projects will be identified in coming months through a series of summits and discussions, and the actual process of issuing debt will require Board action. The revenue bond will enable us to make significant progress toward consolidating programs and creating our new Centers of Excellence.

I mentioned that the budget was predicated on foundational assumptions that include financial and operational metrics, and the budget makes good progress toward our upcoming expenditure limitation.  A commitment toward increasing enrollment will focus our energies on specific initiatives and tangible gains, and decrease the amount we will eventually have to reduce by 2021.  The proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget contributes more than $5 million of progress on our expenditure limitation, which is within our targeted Scenario B goal.

A final word

When he was CEO of Intel Corp., Andy Grove coined the term “strategic inflection point,” defined as that which causes a fundamental change in an organization’s strategy. With our accreditation challenges behind us, and with fascinating new initiatives ahead, it’s clear we are pivoting toward a brighter future. Working together, we can reimagine PCC for the benefit of our students and community.

What a week!

Last week was phenomenal, and not only because on March 9 our accrediting organization lifted all sanctions from the College. On March 10 we held two events with the potential to shape PCC and community for years to come.

More than 100 business, education, government and community leaders joined PCC employees for Futures Conference 2017.  The theme of 2017’s conference is an echo of the first conference.  As in 2014, we are looking to define a handful of comprehensive priorities, or Wildly Important Goals (WIGs), to guide the College through 2020. [Another session of the conference will be held March 23. You also can offer your insights in an online survey.]

March 10 also was the inaugural Ethnic, Gender and Transborder Studies summit. More than 300 students, community members and employees gathered for a morning of scholarship and idea-sharing. The afternoon was spent discussing ways to create a Center of Excellence devoted to diversity, inclusion and social justice.

I am extremely proud of the event’s organizers, who have applied the Center of Excellence concept in a way that will make us a leader among community colleges. Moreover, the center has the capacity to give students a physical space devoted to data-based scholarship, alliance-building, and advocacy for the historically marginalized. Or, as one student eloquently put it, the center will be a place for “inspiring humans.”

The key point to remember is that while the College worked with our accreditor, we have been developing an array of forward-looking initiatives that go far beyond compliance. Meeting regulatory standards is of course an important foundational activity, but it’s only one of a range of efforts we are undertaking to achieve a greater end – becoming a premier community college.

Preliminary draft, PCC Diversity Plan

Earlier this week I encouraged College employees to provide insights regarding the preliminary draft of the College’s Diversity Plan. The draft is available for feedback on the PCC Diversity web page through Oct. 12. I invite you to comment on a document that will map PCC’s future direction in this essential area.

The draft Diversity Plan outlines the philosophical underpinnings of our effort, and recommends goals and activities to fulfill our mission: to provide affordable, comprehensive education opportunities supporting student success, and to meet the needs of the multiple constituencies we serve.

Your comments, questions and concerns will inform a document that will have a profound impact for years to come. As I have said, a commitment to diversity will benefit all students and employees, and enhance the economic and cultural vitality of our region.

Futures Conference 2016

I delivered opening remarks to the Pima Community College Futures Conference late last month. The conference was attended by almost 160 PCC employees and government, education, business and community leaders. The question posed at the conference was simple and fundamental: “How does PCC know it has fulfilled its mission?”

The answer is critically important to the College. We need to demonstrate to the peer institutions who accredit us, and to the public, that we can accurately ascertain our strengths and areas needing improvement. Over the two-plus hours of the conference, attendees met in small groups. They proposed a wide range of indicators to effectively measure performance in several areas, including diversity, student access and success, and community engagement.

The information gathered at the conference will be refined and converted into Key Performance Indicators that, pending Governing Board approval, will be embedded into the College’s strategic planning process.

Naturally, given the topic, most of the conversation centered on numbers and analysis.  I closed with a reminder that the College, while committed to being data-informed and evidence-based, must never lose sight of its underlying values or its focus on the individual student. At my table I heard the story of one student, Martin, whose goal is to become a lawyer and who has trusted in us his dreams and hopes for the future. In listening to Martin, who is of modest means, I was reminded of a quote from Melinda Gates: “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

This was the third Futures Conference held by the College. All have been expertly organized by our Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness. Dr. Nicola Richmond and her team — including Michelle Henry, David Purkiss, table facilitators and other volunteers – once again did a great job in bringing together a diverse group of internal and external constituents to creatively collaborate on an important topic.

Defining our mission


PCC is committed to serving the needs of the community. A critical piece of this commitment must be serving the needs of the individual.

That was one of the insights emerging from the 2015 Futures Conference, which I had the privilege of attending on April 13. Approximately 100 community members and employees enjoyed a spirited discussion about a wide range of topics, including access, success, program excellence, stewardship, and more. The information gathered at the conference will inform PCC planning, and my thanks go to Assistant Vice Chancellor Nicola Richmond and her staff in Planning and Institutional Research for organizing an event that produced many great ideas. [A PowerPoint presentation from the conference is available on our website.]

Our inaugural Futures Conference, in April 2014, was devoted to strategic planning, as well as defining six directions for the College to pursue over the next two to three years. This year’s Futures Conference focused on our mission – our reason for being, the answer to the question, “Why does PCC exist?” [Our current mission statement is “to develop the community through learning.”] At the conference, one argument was made that the best answer regarding mission was “to serve every individual, every day.’’

However our mission is defined, it must drive PCC to success in ways that benefit our diverse students. One might need Adult Education, another Developmental Education. A student seeking the skills for gainful employment is best served if we successfully align Career and Technical Education curriculum with the needs of business and industry and offer short-term, stackable credentials. A student looking to obtain a bachelor’s degree makes it incumbent on us to improve connections with K-12, colleges and universities to ensure seamless transfer. A student balancing work and family obligations needs PCC to provide robust online programs.

I began and ended the conference with personal stories of students who succeeded at PCC after taking long and winding education journeys that sometimes tested their resolve. One of our former students graduated from a local high school, served in the military and graduated from college, yet could find work only as a server in a restaurant. “I did everything right,” she told U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez when he visited the Aviation Technology Center in January 2015, yet still had not reached her career goal. Then she found, on the ground, a piece of paper with information about Pima Community College. She got her start at PCC through that scrap of good fortune, completed our rigorous Aviation Technology program, and now works at Bombardier.

Every path to PCC is a bit different, but student success at PCC should be a function of effective systems, not serendipity. Our mission and vision statements, which will compel change at the College, should be the result of a transparent, inclusive, evidence-driven process. Working together, PCC can help individuals achieve their goals so that collectively they form the foundation of a stable, prosperous community.