Tag Archives: success

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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PCC Adult Education helps Arizona to No. 2 national ranking

I am pleased to report that Pima Community College Adult Education (PCCAE) has helped the state’s already outstanding Adult Education program get even better.

PCCAE is the second-largest Adult Education program in the state and plays a major role in Arizona Adult Education’s consistently high national ranking in educational gains achieved by its adult learners. (An educational gain is defined as an increase of at least 2.4 grade levels.) For Fiscal Year 2012-2013, 64 percent of Arizona’s adult learners made at least one educational gain, far above the national average of 44 percent. That boosted the state from No. 4 in the U.S. rankings to No. 2.

Congratulations to Dean Regina Suitt and her team of dedicated professionals in PCCAE. Each year, PCCAE helps some 6,000 people take important steps toward achieving their goals through Family Literacy, Adult Basic Education, high school equivalency test preparation, Civics and Refugee Education, and English Language Acquisition for Adults.

Approximately 70 percent of our AE students are between ages 16-49 – a crucial part of a competitive workforce. The College serves many constituencies, and it is heartening to see that for those adults taking the first steps on their educational journey, PCCAE is providing a great start.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the contributions and culture that Americans of Hispanic descent have made over the centuries. Pima Community College is planning several events at our campuses, ranging from film screenings to campus displays and musical performances.

I wholeheartedly endorse setting aside time to celebrate the achievements and history of all our fellow citizens. I believe we should recognize that by weaving the threads of our individual histories into the fabric of all of America, acknowledgement of contributions and culture can occur not just for a month, but every day.

As an institution of higher learning, we need to do more than celebrate, however. The commemoration should serve as a call to action to confront the ongoing challenge of improving Hispanic academic achievement. Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment of the population in the U.S. and in Arizona; they will comprise an ever-larger part of a workforce that needs to upgrade its education and skills if the nation is to bounce back economically.

Hispanics are progressing academically. College enrollment among Hispanic high school graduates is up over the past decade, with 49 percent of young Hispanic high school graduates enrolling in college in 2012, surpassing the rate for white and black graduates. However, Arizona has the sixth-lowest percentage of Hispanic adults with a bachelor’s degree, 10 percent. So clearly there is plenty of room for improvement to help those students who come to us with the goal of transfer to a bachelor’s degree-granting institution.

As a key player in the education pipeline the College is committed to improving access for all students. That is behind our unequivocal support for open admissions, which historically has been the reason for the existence of community colleges.

Our pledge to open access is strengthened by our commitment to student success. We are working to accurately gauge students’ needs and construct effective pathways to certificate and degree completion. In addition, we are planning to redesign remedial education, one that will result in substantially improved methods of helping those students who need our help the most.

By helping everyone, whatever their background or circumstance, progress on their education journey, the College truly can make a difference. Elizabeth Pino’s story, which I chronicled in my All College Day presentation, is one powerful example. A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Elizabeth has overcome incredible obstacles, including a severe car accident, and through PCC Adult Education is moving toward her goal of a college degree. Successes such as Elizabeth’s, multiplied countless times throughout the College community – those are truly causes for celebration.