Tag Archives: student success

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.

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

Graduation season 2017

On May 18, Pima Community College recognized the achievements of 3,550 students at Graduation. The ceremony is the high point of a season of celebration that began in late April, when Aviation Technology program completers were honored, and continued to June 1, when PCC Adult Education for College & Career recognized completers of the GED exam at High School Equivalency graduation.

In between were ceremonies for, among others, the Fire Science Academy, our one-of-a-kind Air Force paramedic program, recognition of Honors and veterans students, and candlelight ceremonies for newly minted nurses and dental hygiene education grads.

Quite simply, it’s the best time of the year.

Educators are fond of data, and the numbers behind Graduation 2017 describe substantial success: 5,796 degrees and certificates awarded (many PCC students earn more than one credential); 878 Associate of Liberal Arts degrees; 150 graduates with grade point averages of 3.90 or greater; more than 800 GED completers; 63 Nursing graduates; and so on.

But to truly understand the significance of the events, count the hugs, family photos, tears of joy, and individual stories of resilience and grit. Each graduate has an amazing tale to tell, and each leaves a legacy that will resonate with family and friends for generations to come.

These moments validate the hard work and creativity of our faculty, staff and administrators, and inspire us, especially at the end of an exhausting, exhilarating academic year. Our graduates, who entrusted us with their futures and with their families’ futures, energize our efforts to ensure we always have a College worthy of their dreams.

Watch a video of Graduation highlights.

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.

Wages

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.

Scholarship Fiesta 2016

Our PCC Foundation annually hosts a Scholarship Fiesta where scholarship recipients and donors can get to know each other. I shared a few remarks at last week’s gathering, and had the opportunity to meet the extraordinary people who support the Foundation, and the students who benefit from their generosity.

This year’s awardees included Craig Bevan. At 60, Craig is a lifelong learner earning his second degree at PCC, in Paralegal Studies, and sixth overall. Craig is dealing with physical challenges but says they will never keep him from learning.

The student speaker, Itzel Ramos, intends to study Biomedical Engineering at the University of Arizona after graduating from PCC in May. Her career goal is to help design prosthetics for those who have lost limbs. She shared with me that she also is in ROTC, and intends to join the Air Force.

Itzel shared that her mother has worked the graveyard shift at her job in order to help put Iztel and a sister through college. The fiesta’s master of ceremonies, local entrepreneur Edmund Marquez, put it best when he told Iztel’s mom that she had raised a heckuva daughter.

Though coming from diverse backgrounds, Craig, Itzel and our scholarship recipients are alike in many ways. They are often the first in their family to attend college. They come from close-knit, multigenerational families of modest means. Some have experienced food or housing insecurity.  They want to attend school close to home. They need PCC’s flexible schedules to balance work, school and family. Most importantly, they understand that attending college is the pathway to a better life for themselves and their families.

As usual, the Foundation staged a beautiful event in the Community Campus courtyard, with delicious food and mariachi music in a pleasant and friendly setting. Kudos to Foundation Board member Staci Lopez, Interim Foundation Executive Director Rachel Schaming and her team, and to Special Assistant, External Relations Christy Camargo and Support Specialist Chris Mayer.