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Chancellor’s Report September 2010

Pima Community College Seal

Chancellor's Message

The new academic year begins with Pima Community College accepting the challenge to prepare students and the community for the future. This task takes on greater urgency for several reasons. The local economy and the state’s finances remain deeply troubled. Many county residents are jobless or underemployed. Some have lost their homes. They are worried about the future, and many are turning to PCC for a lifeline.

John ZogbyWe were privileged that John Zogby accepted the invitation to be keynote speaker at All College Day. Mr. Zogby is an internationally respected pollster and futurist whose clients include Microsoft and NBC News. He also is a former adjunct faculty member at a community college near his home in upstate New York. As Mr. Zogby eloquently described, Pima’s students, like young people throughout the nation, are coming of age during a worldwide economic crisis that has forced them to re-evaluate and reinvent themselves in order to thrive on a complex, interconnected planet. We can capitalize on this moment to drive home to students that what happens on Wall Street, or in Greece, affects Pima County from South Tucson to the Catalina Foothills. An appreciation of diversity will enrich students’ lives. A deeper understanding of other cultures also has practical benefits in a global economy. It makes sense to know the competition.

But as is often the case, our students have much to teach us. Pima Community College, too, must prepare for an uncertain economic future. The state suffers from a structural deficit because it spends billions more than it takes in. The Arizona Legislature has reduced funding to the College by 33 percent in the past three years. More cuts are almost certain to come.

Thus, the College is actively seeking alternative sources of income. Though they cannot replace operating revenue, grants can enhance educational opportunities for our students. We have received $17 million in grants in the past five years and continue to aggressively pursue these opportunities. We are also looking at providing more classes during Winter and Summer Intersessions.

Additionally, we are examining the possibility of varying the tuition charged for some courses. Differential tuition reflects the reality that it costs the College more to provide some courses. Occupational courses often require specialized equipment that students must master to be marketable when they look for work. In studying the issue, we will be mindful of upholding the tradition of excellence of our occupational programs, and we will be cognizant of minimizing the risk of pricing lower-income students out of more expensive fields of study.

Another possibility would be to vary tuition with respect to the time and day that classes are offered. For example, lowering tuition for Friday afternoon classes might make them more popular. That would benefit the College by reducing peak-time stress on our operations.

In everything we do, PCC will provide high-quality, affordable education and services that the people of southern Arizona need. Simply put, we will continue to demonstrate what the more than 350,000 students who have come to us in the past five years already know: A personal and public investment in a Pima Community College education is a key part of the solution to future economic challenges.

Renewal of Accreditation Update

Evaluators from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools will be at PCC from September 13-15 as the College seeks to renew its accreditation. Higher-education institutions are audited at least every 10 years by independent, non-governmental agencies in order to ensure that they are performing to a high standard. Renewing our accreditation gives us a chance for a public accounting of our achievements, goals and challenges. Accreditation assures current and prospective students that the College adheres to high academic standards, and shows taxpayers that their investment continues to pay off.

Preparation for the evaluators’ visit began in 2007 and has been broad-based. The College’s Steering Committee comprises 28 staff, faculty and administrators, with an additional 29 employees serving on associated subcommittees. The College has held a series of three voluntary workshops addressing various aspects of the renewal of accreditation process. Many people went to more than one workshop, and 393 employees attended at least one.

I would like to thank the co-chairs of the Steering Committee, Provost Dr. Suzanne Miles and Mr. William Scurrah, who volunteered to leave his position on the Writing faculty at Downtown Campus to become the editor and coordinator of the Self-Study Report, a 170-plus-page document that describes in detail how the College is meeting the criteria for accreditation set by the HLC.

Interior Design Students Make House Into a Home

The Interior Design program at Downtown Campus has been involved in community projects for the past 11 years. "It’s a wonderful opportunity to develop ideas and dream up great things," says Lead Interior Design Faculty Gigi Brown. This Fall, about 10 Brown’s students will work on the interior of a planned midtown community center.

During the Spring 2010 semester, Interior Design students and faculty translated classroom theory into paint, fabric and furnishings, helping a family transform its new Habitat for Humanity house into a home.

Five students took part in the project over four months, along with adjunct faculty members Christine Schmitz, Lynda Turrentine and Melissa Marteny. Students from other area educational institutions decorated three other Habitat homes, in an effort with the local chapter of the American Society of Interior Design.

Pima students benefited from the opportunity to apply interior design theory to a "touchy-feely, hands-on, real-world project" that encompassed checking building codes and installation as well as conceptualizing, Schmitz says.

The students interviewed members of the family – a mom, dad, 5-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son – to discern design preferences for their three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot abode. Mom sought an Italian look. The daughter wanted something princess-y. The son? An explorer theme.

Habitat’s emphasis on sustainability drove the students’ design solution, as did a slender $2,000 budget for furniture, some window coverings, rugs and accessories. The students met those environmental and economic challenges by relying on "recyclables," used furniture donated or purchased at a discount. "Anything from a spoon to a chest of drawers" was snapped up, Schmitz says.

The result included a master bedroom painted a soft mossy green, a creamy beige living room, a tile backsplash in the kitchen, pink paint for the daughter, and an “discovery” theme for the son’s room, with bamboo floors, zebra print fabrics and bedding festooned with images from the popular cartoon character Diego the Explorer.

"It was a very rewarding . . . very community-minded project," Schmitz says.

College Plan Update

I am happy to report that the College achieved all of the strategies and action items it set out to complete during the second year of its 2008-2011 College Plan.

Between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, PCC completed 16 strategies and 89 action items. The College Plan comprises seven broad initiatives, 38 strategies and 200 discrete actions. It is a detailed roadmap designed to improve the instruction and services PCC provides students and residents of Pima County. It allows us to demonstrate to the public that we are serving their interests.

Specificity and accountability distinguish our College Plan. We assign a College administrator responsibility for fulfilling each strategy, with a senior college administrator taking overall responsibility for each initiative. Each strategy has a target completion date and a source of funding.

Among PCC’s accomplishments during 2009-10:

  1. Integrating environmentally sustainable design and maintenance practices, including water harvesting and use of solar power.
  2. Developing new processes and facilities for Student Services, resulting in improved consistency and student self-sufficiency.
  3. Implementing MyDegreePlan, an online degree audit that enhances student self-efficacy.
  4. Converting more than 120,000 student e-mail accounts to Google Apps, giving students a robust system that offers increased storage, video chat, mobile access, and other services.
  5. Increasing public access to information about PCC operations, including notes of Board meetings and data on property taxes.

Eleven strategies are due for completion the 2010-2011 Plan year, including developing effective business and educational partnerships to increase learning opportunities for students, and expanding use of customer feedback tools to improve service delivery.

Awards and Recognition

Paramedicine Students' Scores Are Superior

Pima students have a history of excelling on national licensure and certification tests. Our nursing students, for example, regularly exceed state and national scores on the National Council of Licensure Examination. I am pleased to note that the Public Safety & Emergency Services Institute’s paramedicine students also are performing far better than the norm.

From July 2008-June 2010, 160 Pima students took the licensing exam of the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. Ninety-one one percent passed on the first attempt, compared to 70 percent nationwide. Pima’s pass rate for three or fewer attempts was 98 percent, compared to 83 percent nationwide.

Grants and Scholarships

Pima and other community colleges are focusing on success as well as access. Programs that improve retention, graduation and transfer rates are crucial for the College to fulfill its mission and to contribute to the economic development of the region. That is why the award to the College of $2.2 million in federal grants over the next five years to improve the success of first-generation, low-income or disabled students is important.

PCC’s East and Desert Vista campuses each will receive $220,000 a year for the next five years in Title III grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

At East Campus, the Students with Opportunities for Achievement and Retention (SOAR) program each year will address the academic and student support needs of 100 students with disabilities, including disabled veterans.

The SOAR program will provide academic tutoring, enhanced advising and assistance to promote transfer to four-year colleges and universities, help in applying for financial aid and improving financial literacy, and will facilitate learning community clusters for peer collaboration.

At Desert Vista Campus, the Graduation, Retention Academic Standing, and Transfer (GReAT) program each year will serve 140 low-income, first-generation or disabled students with case management to meet a variety of needs in order to improve academic achievement.

The GReAT program will provide orientation, assessment, counseling and advising, tutoring, transfer and financial aid assistance, and help in attaining financial literacy. Personal plans will be developed for students, and their progress will be monitored throughout their enrollment at PCC.


Faculty Spotlight: China's "Best and Brightest" Impress Instructor

Marty FraileyMarty Frailey, Lead Reading Specialist at Downtown Campus, spent three weeks this summer in Wuhan, China, teaching 32 Chinese university students how to speak better English. Her experience provided a glimpse into the multifaceted lives of China’s young "best and brightest," who are simultaneously worldly, tough, humble, and innocent.

Marty has taken part in the Teach for Friendship program during the past two summers. In 2010, she joined West Campus Writing faculty member Jennifer Wiley and former PCC employee Mary Stout in Wuhan, a city of about 9 million in south-central China. Wuhan ranks second to Beijing among China’s academic centers, and is home to some 770,000 university students.

Under the trio’s tutelage, the Huazhong University of Science and Technology students honed their language skills through three-hour sessions that included debates and role playing exercises.

Marty was struck by the depth and breadth of the students’ knowledge. "They're really on top of things," she says, possessing a strong grasp of history and current events as well as their scientific studies.

That shouldn't be altogether surprising. The students Marty taught had risen through a demanding education system. Marty recalls one student, an aspiring doctor, who has been attending boarding school since age 7. She goes home once a year – it is a 30-hour train ride – and this summer stayed at her dormitory, studying for fall classes.

Dorm life in China is Spartan: no heat, no air conditioning, no hot water and cots instead of beds. Yet the students, most of whom come from poverty, do not complain, Marty says. "They find college so exciting, and are so grateful for the opportunity to learn."

The opportunity is accompanied by stress, however, Marty says. Young Chinese are under great pressure to succeed professionally, so that they can earn enough money to support their parents in their old age. "There’s a sadness among many of [the Chinese students] that you don't find at [age] 18 in the U.S.," she says.

Socially, the students are less mature, akin to American high school freshmen more than college students, Marty says. They have trouble making friends, especially with members of the opposite sex. Many high schools prohibit dating. "The kids need more of a balance," she says.

Their innocence does have an upside, though, Marty says. "There’s no drinking culture" among Chinese youth, at least among the scholastic elite. "They believe alcohol interferes with academics."

Staff Spotlight:  Institute Gives Learning Center Coordinator Insight

Leslie HargroveLeslie Hargrove, East Campus' Learning Center Coordinator, participated in the National College Learning Center Association Summer Institute in Naperville, Ill. For two days, she networked and shared best practices with dozens of other learning center coordinators representing a wide range of colleges and universities – from Pima, to Pennsylvania in the Ivy League, to the U.S. Naval Academy.

Many best practices involve online technology that makes it easier for the center to connect to students, Leslie says. For example, giving a chemistry tutor the means to post the solution to a thorny problem on a blog or wiki (a community website) increases student access to the tutor's expertise. That’s important, given that many tutors are not often on campuses.

Leslie, who has been at East's Learning Center for the past 18 months, found that learning centers vary significantly in their mission and services. Like East, many offer tutoring and workshops geared to improving student success, such as how to use a graphing calculator. But others offer supplemental instruction, testing, advising and counseling. For example, Penn provides coaching to graduate students to help them maintain a proper work-school-life balance.

"It was great to be given the opportunity to go" to the institute, Leslie says. "It always helps to be able to put your experiences in context."

Alumni Spotlight: "Pima Helped Me Take Off"

Lucy GonzalesLucy Gonzales keeps a book full of mementos of her academic and professional accomplishments. It includes letters of recommendation, commendations, and professional certifications. It also includes a document commemorating an event that helped Lucy make her way in the world: the valedictorian’s award she received after finishing at the top of the first graduating class at Desert Vista Campus in 1994.

"Pima gave me my self-confidence. It helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses," Lucy says. At the College, she earned associate's degrees in General Studies and in Court Administration, and was the first person in her family to earn a postsecondary degree.

Lucy is a case worker for the Pima County Health Department, helping the elderly and people with chronic illnesses. It is the latest stop in a wide-ranging career.

A 1988 graduate of Cholla High School, Lucy has worked as a beautician and in the Pima County Victim-Witness program. She was the first supervising bailiff at Pima County Juvenile Court. Lucy has taught special education students in the Sunnyside Unified School District and has taken constituents’ phone calls in the Tucson office of Senator John McCain. She has helped inmates at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson prepare for release. And, in 2007, she received a bachelor’s degree in Human Services from the University of Phoenix.

Roy Flores

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