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Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert and student taking selfie at graduation

2020 Chancellor's Annual Report

Introductory letter

As has been true every August for the past 50-plus years, last month students returned to Pima Community College to start or continue their college education. Of course the Fall 2020 semester is different, as were the Spring and Summer semesters. The vast majority of our students are studying online and virtually, in order to remain safe and healthy during a pandemic whose endpoint is unknown.

We also are familiar with a now well-worn phrase, The New Normal. I am often asked when the College, and society, will return to The Old Normal. If and when the pandemic dissipates, when will we return to pre-COVID times? My answer: "Why would we want to?"

There is no going back

The past six months have revealed broad economic inequality nationally and locally. In Tucson, 49 percent of workers are classified by the Brookings Institution as "low wage"; 55 percent of these workers are employed full time, earning about $24,000 a year. Research repeatedly has shown that Communities of Color are disproportionately represented among low-wage workers.

Low-wage workers need reskilling to be relevant in an economy rapidly being transformed by the Four Superpowers and Industry 4.0, which require sophisticated digital literacy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Communities of Color are at greater risk of being left behind, given that the pandemic has revealed race/ethnicity-based disparities in computer ownership. "If this digital racial gap is not addressed, in one generation alone, digitization could render the country’s minorities into an unemployment abyss," according to one major bank.

Given the data and analysis, Pima is compelled to undertake equity initiatives; it is more than just being on the right side of history. The opportunity for all our neighbors, whatever their skin color, wherever their place of birth, to complete an education that leads to good jobs in a 21st-century economy is necessary to achieve an equitable society. As the nature of work changes rapidly, Pima is the only organization in the region that can quickly retool and scale education to provide the people of Pima County with the skills needed for meaningful employment. Individually, the result is economic equity. Collectively, it means a revitalized, thriving regional economy.

Knowing the economic, technological and societal imperatives, Pima is accelerating its work, begun before the pandemic, to transform itself. Our initiatives, both current and future, are driven by the heartfelt, data-supported belief that there is no going back.

With that as context, I offer the 2020 Chancellor’s Annual Report to the Community. The sections below delineate our 2019-2020 achievements and upcoming opportunities in three critical areas of focus. The irony of comprehensive "annual" reports is that they are snapshots in time. If this year has taught us anything, it's that circumstances can and do change. Read the report knowing that quick mid-course corrections may be required. Eight years into my tenure, Pima is changing on the fly -- and is soaring like never before.

The 2020 Chancellor's Annual Report has three sections:

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