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

Chancellor's Quarterly Report: November 2020

Breaking Barriers update

The College recognizes that the pandemic has accelerated transformations brought on by Industry 4.0, and has disproportionately impacted Communities of Color. I am pleased that over the past few months, Pima has made progress in removing some of the barriers faced by our students as they seek an education at Pima.

  • Fall tuition rebate: In August, the Governing Board approved a one-time rebate of up to $100 to students who had paid out-of-pocket tuition and fees for the Fall semester, and who have zero-dollar account balances. As of last week, rebates had been initiated for all 9,234 eligible students. Congratulations to the Board, and to Finance and Accounts Receivable Services, which proposed and implemented the initiative, for lowering a fiscal barrier to attending our school.
  • Aztec Resource Centers: The College is working toward a sustainable staffing solution for the ARCs, which supply free food and other necessities to Pima students in need. Sincerest thanks to faculty member Rachael Lord and Academic Director Kelly Rose, and to the staff and student volunteers, for furthering this important resource.
  • Contract grading: An increasing number of faculty members are switching to contract grading, a more equitable, socially just method of labor-based grading that offers an empowered, individualized pathway to learning for students while emphasizing collaboration among students and instructors. I have experienced contract grading both as an undergraduate student and an instructor at The Evergreen State College in Washington, and can attest to its power as an equitable method for advancing student success. Thanks are in order to our faculty, and to Josie Milliken, who leads Faculty Senate’s new Systemic Justice Action Committee.

One of our key recent initiatives has been the formation of the Breaking Barriers Task Force, led by Dr. Dolores Durán-Cerda, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Excellence, and Dr. David Doré, President of Campuses and Executive Vice Chancellor for Student Experience & Workforce Development. The task force comprises faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community members.

The task force recently received important data from our Strategy, Analytics and Research (STAR) unit regarding Pima’s performance relative to our fellow schools taking part in the Voluntary Framework of Accountability.

The VFA collects student progress and completion data from about 225 community colleges and universities. The data show that the College is performing below the VFA median in key student success metrics, such as two-year and six-year certificate and degree completion rates, across all race/ethnicities.

The task force is due to release its initial recommendations in December, and I am hopeful these recommendations will energize College-wide initiatives to help us achieve the goal of becoming a premier community college for all our students.

Education pathway preferences of adult learners

Pie charts showing pathway preferences of adult learners in 2019 (50% nondegree; 50% degree) vs 2020 (68% nondegree, 32% degree)

Data in context

The economic dislocation caused by the pandemic is increasing adult learners' interest in furthering their education, especially through short-term, nondegree skills training, according to ongoing surveys conducted by Strada Education Network.

The College already is working on a series of initiatives that are designed to reskill and upskill displaced workers as well as traditional community college students. Extensive advising and support will be a key component of these initiatives.

  • Amazon Web Services: Pima is part of a statewide consortium working to increase access to cloud computing education to thousands of students across Arizona. Amazon Web Services and the Arizona Commerce Authority are supporting the endeavor. The statewide implementation of the AWS Academy among Arizona's community colleges will better position our state and our students for cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence jobs, now and well into the future.
  • Community College Growth Engine Fund: We are one of only six community colleges selected for the fund, an initiative of Education Deslgn Lab. Pima will focus on training unemployed and underemployed southern Arizonans so they can find jobs in important sectors of the region’s economy through completion of micro-credentials.
  • Reskilling and Recovery Network: We have joined the state’s community colleges and numerous Arizona businesses and government organizations in a 20-state collaboration to help Americans who have lost jobs due to the pandemic and help local economies recover to their pre-COVID levels.

Thanks to Workforce Development for leading the way for Pima on these initiatives.

The pandemic has provided Pima with the opportunity to expose the unemployed and under-employed to different ways to learn, and the College would be remiss not to offer these learners the benefits of Pima education and training.

Our achievers

Bellwether: In 2020, the College won a prestigious Bellwether College Consortium Award for its redesign of Developmental Education. I am proud to announce that we have five finalists for the 2021 Bellwethers. Congratulations and good luck in the 2021 competition in January.

  • Adult Education's IBEST program
  • Air Force paramedics training
  • HPOG/HOPES program
  • Pima Online
  • Prior Learning Assessment

Yara VillalobosYara Villalobos: Since August 2020, Pima graduate Yara Villalobos has worked full time at Roche Tissue Diagnostics in Tucson. Roche provides tests that help doctors diagnose cancer quickly and accurately. Yara’s job in the Quality Control unit allows her to provide for her two children. Earning an internship at Roche while at Pima accelerated her journey to full-time employment. Yara’s Pima instructors encouraged her to apply. She is grateful she did. Learn more about Yara's journey.



Brandon YongbanthomBrandon Yongbanthom: A Digital Arts instructor, Brandon created a virtual classroom for his students, who are learning digital gaming (a hard skill) while becoming better communicators, collaborators and problem solvers (soft skills) – all in a fun, virtual setting. He has made the classroom open source so that anyone inside or outside Pima can use it. As of August, a dance instructor and a grade-school teacher have taken advantage of the opportunity. Brandon represents a mindset we need to cultivate at Pima. Virtual Learning has to be leveraged to give students the education they need.


Robert RamirezRobert Ramirez: Received the Ann Radcliffe Award in October from the National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA). The award recognizes invaluable, exceptional contributions made by an individual to their organization and the scholarship profession. (Lady Ann Radcliffe Mowlson was the first person to contribute a financial aid scholarship.) Robert currently is Program Manager for Pima4Youth.



New EMTs: The Pascua Yaqui Tribe recently hired three graduates of an Emergency Medical Technology program that is a collaboration between Pima Community College’s Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute, the tribe’s fire department, and the Native American Career and Technical Education Program.

Aniza Valenzuela  Angelica V. Talavera  Eucario Mendez

Aniza Valenzuela, Angelica V. Talavera and Eucario Mendez are the Pascua Pueblo Fire Department’s new EMT/firefighter apprentices. Ms. Valenzuela and Ms. Talavera, members of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, are the first females hired by the department in more than 20 years. 

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