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Interim Chancellor's Report - Winter Edition

Pima Community College Seal

Interim Chancellor's message

Snow-capped mountainsThis space usually is given over to serious discourse on topics of public interest, and I will get to those important issues in just a moment.

But first things first: Have a joyous holiday season and terrific 2013!

 Public to help advise College on registration, placement standards

The College has formed an Advisory Group consisting of the public and PCC staff to review trends in enrollment, registration, placement and the PCC Prep Academy.

While remaining an open-enrollment institution, in March we altered registration and placement standards and launched the Prep Academy, a noncredit, self-paced, flexible program for students who need to substantially improve their reading, writing and mathematics skills. 

As with any initiative taking on an important issue, our standards and the Academy are works in progress. Thus, we are calling on the advisory committee to examine enrollment data, analyze registration and placement trends and offer improvements to our processes.

Sixteen people will serve on the committee, which comprises Tucson-area educators, including K-12 superintendents and retired PCC faculty, along with business leaders and concerned citizens, as well as PCC administrators overseeing Registration, Student Services, Planning and Institutional Research, and the Prep Academy. It also includes a half-dozen current PCC full-time faculty as well as an adjunct faculty member. Our goal is to get the broadest-possible cross-section of opinions and viewpoints as we review data, make changes as needed and plan wisely.

I have asked Dr. Jerry Migler, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Services, to chair the committee.

The committee will meet three times in 2013, in February, June and September.  You can read more about our standards and the Academy on our website. This is an important endeavor that seeks to improve student success at PCC. We remain united in finding ways for students to succeed in their educational journey.

Higher Learning Commission update

Educators from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools will visit the College on Jan. 17-18, 2013. A retired community college president and staff are coming to get a better sense of issues raised by some community members in letters to the HLC earlier this year. (You can read our correspondence with the HLC on the Accreditation page of our website.)

The College takes the visit by the HLC representatives very seriously, and will continue to cooperate fully. The HLC is one of several organizations that accredit degree-granting postsecondary educational institutions such as PCC.

The HLC is seeking information on governance, administration and human resources at the College. As is clear in the correspondence with the HLC, our overall financial health, and our quality of instruction and student services, never has been in question. The availability of financial aid, the value of our degrees and certificates, and the ability to transfer to a four-year institution will not be impacted. Current students, prospective students, parents and other members of the community should know that the College remains a place to get a great education at an affordable price.

PCC’s accreditation was renewed after the HLC visited us in 2010. We passed with flying colors, as you can read in the HLC’s Comprehensive Visit Report. What the HLC noted in 2010, “that Tucson is greatly enriched by the presence of its community college,” holds true today.

We welcome the visit by the HLC’s representatives – in fact, I invited the HLC on two occasions to come to PCC. We look forward to their instructions on improving our processes, as any organization devoted to learning would. We are confident that as the HLC representatives talk to faculty, staff and students, they will get a more balanced picture of PCC, and will come away with a renewed appreciation that we are fully meeting our mission, to develop our community through learning.

PCC tuition, in context

Students have been registering for Spring 2013 classes since last month, and I’m pleased to note that new data show they will be paying some of the lowest tuition and fees in the nation.

According to the College Board, PCC’s 2012-13 tuition and fees for in-state students ranks in the lowest sixth among two-year institutions in the U.S.

The data were collected in a Chronicle of Higher Education database of more than 3,300 colleges and universities.

The numbers show that among 987 public two-year institutions nationwide, the vast majority -- 826 community colleges, or 84 percent -- have higher tuition and fees than PCC’s $2,060. The U.S. average for public two-year institutions is $3,130, according to a recent article in Community College Times.

The database also indicates that among Arizona’s 20 public two-year institutions, PCC has the fifth-lowest tuition and fees.

PCC has always strived to keep its tuition as low as possible. The College knows that affordability is crucial to accessibility.

Chancellor search update

The PCC Governing Board is conducting a search for a new chancellor, as many of you know. A Search Advisory Committee comprising PCC employees and a diverse range of engaged citizens has begun reviewing materials submitted by potential candidates.  

For more information on any aspect of this important process, simply click on the Chancellor Search button on the home page. There you will find a link to, which you can use to comment to the Board of Governors. You also will find other information related to the search, including updates, a detailed timeline and other resources.

College Report

Zoo Lights: A fun night for a great cause

More than 1,200 College employees, their families and friends enjoyed a special night at the Reid Park Zoo earlier this week.

Our annual Zoo Lights holiday celebration featured light displays, hot cocoa, homemade goodies and a chance to have a photo taken with Santa. The event raised $4,386, which will be deposited into the PCC Prep Academy scholarship fund.

Raising horizons

Some 50 students took part last week in a Completion Celebration for Adelante, which is part of a nationwide study examining if performance-based scholarships provided in addition to federal needs-based funding can improve the academic achievement of college students.

Nationwide, students in the study come from varied backgrounds at educational institutions across the U.S. They range from single parents in Ohio to adult learners in New York. At Pima, the focus is on Latino males, who enroll and graduate from higher-education institutions less often than other groups, research has shown.

At Friday’s ceremony, several students related their stories about their journey through postsecondary education. John Castillo’s is typical. John started college 20 years ago after graduating from Cholla High School in 1992. John attended PCC for two semesters but put his education on hold because “life happened,” he says. John spent much of the next 20 years earning a living: as a convenience-store clerk, landscaper and owner of a party-supply-rental business.

John returned to PCC in 2011 and in May earned an Associate of General Studies degree, receiving a diploma as his four children and other family members looked on. “I wanted to show my kids that if you put your mind to it, you can do it,” he said. This month, he will earn an Associate of Liberal Arts degree and an Arizona General Education Curriculum certificate, which will smooth his transition to The University of Arizona. John intends to enroll at The UA in the spring for a bachelor’s degree in social work or education.

John became part of Adelante at the urging of the project’s advisors, and he says they helped push him to aim higher academically.  “They showed me that UA really is within reach,” he said.

For John and the more than 600 students who have been part of the study at PCC, Adelante has been a stepping-stone to greater academic achievement and better lives. The College is proud to have been a participant.

Serving more than just meals

Culinary Arts studentsFour students in our Culinary Arts program prepared a meal for about two dozen folks at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern Arizona last month. (Pictured, clockwise from left, are Silvia Schenhals, Chef Barry Infuso, Peter Nabor and Glicerdys Sipontes.)

The meal was part of the Ronald McDonald House’s Chef-for-a-Day program, which gives families time to be with their sick child, easing the pressure on those who understandably find it hard to find time to cook or shop for groceries.

The students prepared a healthful menu of ratatouille, spaghetti squash, salad and carrot cake.  As usual, the experience was as rewarding for those who gave as it was for those who received.  Future events are will be planned through PCC’s Culinary Club.

Modernism Week

Building designed by Anne RysdaleThe community turned out in a big way last month to support Tucson Modernism Week, a celebration of midcentury design and architecture in the Old Pueblo.

Primarily sponsored by PCC, Tucson Modernism Week focuses on the modernist buildings on Broadway Boulevard between Country Club Road and Campbell Avenue. Organized by the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, it drew an estimated 2,500 people to its events, workshops and lectures, including 175 who heard a talk by Anne Rysdale, who for many years was the only registered female architect practicing in Arizona.

The event is a great way to educate and enlighten the public about the city’s heritage, and the College looks forward to strengthening its connection to the event and the foundation.

A stronger bridge between high school and college

Rincon High School studentsMore than 30 educators met at TUSD’s Rincon High School last month for a discussion between PCC instructors and K-12 teachers and administrators about smoothing the path to college for high school seniors.

The educators are determining how to best align curriculum in Reading, Writing and Mathematics. Underlying our efforts are the Arizona Common Core Standards, which soon will affect the state’s high school students and their teachers. We believe working with K-12 in this important area will benefit everyone.

The instructors shared syllabi, rubrics and handouts, and had a wide-ranging discussion about ways to improve student outcomes. One interesting idea was for students to be exposed to placement exams in the spring semester of their senior year.

Rincon High School Principal Cathy Comstock was impressed by the dialogue, and by PCC’s commitment to outreach. Previously we met instructors in the Sunnyside Unified School District, and have contacted Amphitheater Public Schools with the hope of expanding to other schools in the region. Our efforts are a recognition that shoring up the bridge between high school and college must be a priority for all educators.

Pima Achievers

Over the past month, members of the PCC community have accomplished much of note. Here is a sampling of awards and achievements:

Employees participate in Day of CaringMore than 200 PCC employees took part in the United Way’s Days of Caring at area elementary schools, including Dietz Elementary (pictured) and at Ben’s Bells, Tucson’s great non-profit community art project.  Our staff painted playground equipment, assisted in classrooms and offices, painted or assembled ceramic bells, and helped out with landscaping and gardening. My thanks to all who participated. . . . The Pima Community College Foundation honored Leo Roop, longtime member of the PCCF Board of Directors, as its “Spirit of Philanthropy” at the annual National Philanthropy Day luncheon, sponsored by the Southern Arizona chapter of the Association of Fund Raising Professionals, at the Westin La Paloma resort on Nov. 8.  . . .  Gabriel Matthew Schivone was one of five finalists in a student writing contest sponsored by The Nation. His 800-word essay, “Give the Undocumented a Voice in the Election,” was chosen from nearly 1,000 submissions. Gabriel received $200 and a lifetime subscription to the magazine. . . . Dr. Dolores Durán-Cerda has been named to the editorial board of Foreign Language Annals, the official journal of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Dolores is the only representative of a community college on the 11-member board, which includes instructors from the U.S. Military Academy, the University of Oregon and Middlebury College in Connecticut. . .

PCC students participate in National Latino Children's SummitPictured (from left) are Claudia Alfaro, Lorena Castillo, Mireya Taylor and Mari Guillen with Governing Board Member Marty Cortez (center) and Dr. Daisy Rodriguez Pitel (far right), Advanced Program Manager at West Campus. The students, along with fellow students Andrew Alvarez and Spencer Grijalva and  Advanced Program Coordinator Frank Velásquez, participated in the National Latino Children’s Summit in Phoenix in October. They took part in workshops on building healthy communities, political empowerment and other topics. . . . Laura Porfirio received the Arizona Association for Lifelong Learning’s Award of Excellence for fostering ongoing education in the community. Laura, an Advanced Program Coordinator in PCC Adult Education Services who has been involved in Adult Ed for more than 17 years, is recognized as a leader in civics education in Arizona. . . . Vice Chancellor for Information Technology Keith McIntosh will serve on the Desire2Learn Product Futures Advisory committee. Keith also has been asked to serve on the Arizona Department of Education’s Data Governance Commission, pending formal appointment by Gov. Jan Brewer. The Commission is charged with identifying and evaluating the data needs of public educational institutions, providing recommendations and establishing guidelines relating to the Education Learning and Accountability System, a longitudinal database. Keith also is on the Center for Higher Education Chief Information Officers (CHECS) Advisory Board.  CHECS is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to contribute to the education and the development of the chief information officer in higher education.

Making Things Better

In August, I asked faculty, staff and administrators to tell me how they and their loved ones “make things better” – how they give back to the community through volunteering. After three months, we received nearly two dozen responses! Allow me to share a few in this edition of the Interim Chancellor’s Report:

Jac'Queline Moore photoVeterans Day may have passed, but the needs of many of those who served our nation remain acute. Jac’Queline Moore, a Student Services Specialist at the PCC Prep Academy, volunteers in the Primavera Foundation’s Project Action for Veterans program.

The initiative provides housing support services and temporary financial assistance to veterans and their families facing eviction or homelessness.

Moore is a veteran, having served for six years. Jac’Queline rose to an E-4 Specialist 4th Class in the Army and was deployed for 19 months to Stuttgart, Germany.

Theodore Buchholz photoTheodore Buchholz, a West Campus music instructor specializing in cello, volunteers as a board member of the Arizona American String Teachers Association.

This organization offers young students the opportunity to access music education through scholarships, programs that benefit the community and advocacy for music education in public schools.

Ev-Lyn Shaw, a Student Services Advanced Specialist at East Campus, volunteers at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.

In September, she was among 35 volunteers who worked at the food bank’s warehouse at Country Club Road and Ajo Way. They processed more than 45,000 pounds of food, filling 3,120 bags of groceries in three hours.

At this time of year, Ev-Lyn reminds us that “the need is great.”

In closing

Ev-Lyn’s words are true and so very timely. But one of the many great things about the people of Tucson is that we give so readily to others, no matter where they live. Our generosity extends beyond the region’s borders because, like PCC, we know the value of community, wherever it may be. And so in this spirit I extend you the wish that this special season, as always, may all your roads lead to home.

Suzanne L. Miles