Tag Archives: student success

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.

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.

Report to the Community

This month’s edition of PCC Spotlight, the College’s e-newsletter, contains my annual Report to the Community.
Some of the topics addressed in the Report:
  • Accreditation: We have submitted a Notice Report to the Higher Learning Commission, a key step in regaining the fullest measure of confidence from our accreditor.
  • Fiscal stewardship: I put into perspective PCC’s budget, property tax rates, and tuition for 2016-17.
  • Student success: We are making strides in improving and expanding pathways for students at the beginning of their education journey.

Service excellence

Pima Community College’s workplace culture reflects our values, and we owe it to ourselves and our constituents to treat everyone as we wish to be treated. One of our College objectives is to increase efforts regarding recruitment, enrollment and retention to foster student success and goal attainment.

In that spirit, the College has a new training, “Creating a Culture of Service Excellence.”  Developed by our Office of Organizational Effectiveness and Development, the workshop offers tools to improve the student/stakeholder experience so employees can live up to PCC’s new Service Philosophy Statement, “We work together every day to inspire trust and ensure student success.”

PCC’s relationship with our students and stakeholders extends beyond the transactional experience that takes place between a company and a customer. Students invest their time and entrust their dreams with us; there is no refund we can offer that will be sufficient if we break that connection of trust. It is my hope and expectation employees will re-examine policies, guidelines and procedures to ensure they are consistent with our service excellence philosophy and practice.  This initiative will strengthen PCC by deepening our commitment to be more responsive, resourceful, and helpful as we assist students in achieving their academic goals.

Trip to Israel

Members of the Ethiopian National Project

Members of the Ethiopian National Project

I recently returned from a community leadership mission to Israel coordinated by the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona and led by Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. My primary focus was to learn more about the State of Israel’s human development system and potential partnerships that might be available to Pima Community College.  Important aspects of this visit included addressing challenges associated with Israel’s youth, immigrant communities, and diversity.

At the Western Wall with a delegation including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

At the Western Wall with a delegation including Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild

I learned that the talent development system in Israel is grounded in a larger commitment to social justice with broad participation from employers, educators, community organizations, and concerned individuals from Israel and the USA. This commitment is an important counterbalance to a public education system that appears overwhelmed by large class sizes (up to 40 students per teacher), and limited state investment compared to their defense industry.

My first exposure was with Liliyot Restaurant, a leading culinary institution.  One aspect of their uniqueness centers on their work with at-risk youth.  As noted on their web site, liliyot.co.il, “Every year Liliyot Restaurant trains and employs 15 high school drop-outs, who receive instruction, supervision, and employment for a period of up to a year and half.”  Some of the keys to success of this initiative include partnerships between the ELEM-Israel organization (http://www.elem.org.il/english/) and the Liliyot Group, including the involvement of a full-time social worker and a caring, committed team of professionals at the Liliyot Restaurant.

We visited the Tel Nof Air Force Base where we met the elite Rescue Training Unit 669, an airborne combat search-and-rescue team of the Israelis Defense Forces (idfblog.com). The training of this elite unit takes about 18 months.  This unit has a special connection to Tucson, because the unit has participated in joint training exercises with similar units here in our community.  Some members of this unit will be returning to Tucson in the future.  It is my hope to connect members of PCC’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute with this elite group.

We met with the program staff, faculty and students of the Ethiopian National Project (ENP).  This project “unites global Jewry, the Government of Israel, and the Ethiopian-Israeli community in its mission to advance the integration of Ethiopian-Israelis into Israeli society” (enp.org.il). We had an opportunity to interact with the students in a small group setting.  I was deeply inspired by their passion and commitment to learning.

We heard student testimonials about the positive impact the ENP is having on their lives.  One of the stories that stood out for me was of a male student who was not taking his studies seriously. He was known for not participating in class and other school activities, and sometimes would skip school.  Thanks to the coordinator of the ENP’s Scholastic Assistance Program checking in with the student’s teachers, an intervention strategy was developed.  This included the coordinator going out to the student’s neighborhood to find out was going on with him.  Thanks to the care, commitment and passion of the coordinator taking the time understand the familial dynamics, the student is back on a path to success.

We also learned about Israeli and Arab challenges from the founders of Alpha Omega, an Arab start-up company (alphaomega-eng.com).  The co-founders attended a well-regarded Israeli university, but following graduation, still had difficulty finding meaningful work.  Eventually they decided to start up what eventually became a highly successful medical device company focused on neurology and degenerative disease.  Another aspect of their story that struck me was their commitment to their employees and community. They encourage their employees to start their own businesses.  They are very involved with community organizations.

We had a fascinating visit with the BioBee Biological Systems in Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (www.BioBee.com).  They are the world’s leading experts on mass production and implementation of beneficial insects and mites as an alternative to chemical pesticides used in agriculture  They run a very sophisticated operation that attracts leading experts to their kibbutz.  Additionally, they invest heavily in the training and development of their front-line team.

I left Israel feeling inspired and affirmed in my decision to work in higher education.  The U.S. and Israel have much that they can learn from each other, but one thing is common to both countries:  Student success happens when educators and community members care enough to develop personal relationships with students.