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Chancellor’s Report December 2009

Pima Community College Seal

Chancellor's Message

The recession has forced everyone, from individual families to governments and businesses, to scrutinize expenditures. Pima Community College is no exception. PCC is conducting an ongoing, comprehensive evaluation of programs that do not immediately support its core mission of instruction, safety, and stewardship. As a result, the College has altered its funding of several non-mission-critical programs. The College has been generous in the past, but must focus its resources on the top priorities of Pima County’s taxpayers.

These changes stem from the unprecedented financial challenges facing the College. The Arizona Legislature twice cut the College’s funding in the 2008-09 Fiscal Year. We expect a further cut in FY 2009-10 as the state attempts to deal with a deficit of approximately $2 billion. In the past two years, state funding has been reduced by 30 percent, from just under $23 million to slightly less than $16 million. Local tax revenue is driven by property values and new construction. Property values have declined sharply, and new construction is stagnant. No one is predicting a quick turnaround in the real estate market.

These financial strains come when the people of Pima County need our education and training more than ever, as unemployment continues to climb. Full-time student equivalent enrollment in fall 2009 rose 12 percent over fall 2008, and we expect the trend to continue. Historically, people have turned to higher education during periods of economic uncertainty. Dislocated workers are looking to PCC for retraining, and students are taking advantage of our low tuition to enroll in classes before transferring to colleges and universities for baccalaureate degrees.

The College has instituted numerous cost-reduction measures to meet intensified financial pressures. It has put a hold on discretionary spending, increased debt collections, eliminated non-mission-critical administrative travel and frozen non-mission-critical staff and administrative hires. The College also has reduced its general-fund budgeted administrative and staff positions by 7 percent and moved to a 40-hour work week, resulting in a 6.7 percent increase in employee work hours.

Additionally, the College has eliminated subsidies it can no longer afford to programs outside its core areas. PCC no longer funds the cash match required by the Small Business Administration to operate the Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The College provided approximately $150,000 in funds to the SBDC last year. Over the past 10 years, the College has given $1,116,359 to the SBDC in subsidies, and also has provided ample indirect support services. In these difficult economic times the College does not have the resources to continue to fund non-mission-critical endeavors. For the same reason, PCC has instituted changes in its Study Tours program to make it self-sustaining. The program lost about $43,500 during the 2008-09 school year, as revenues amounted to $88,000 and costs were about $131,500.

The reality is that the College always has relied on objective analysis of costs and benefits in deciding to fund programs. Even before the current economic crisis, the College discontinued funding the Achieving a College Education program, conducted with the University of Arizona and area school districts. The program provided resources to low-achieving high school students to help them graduate from high school, earn an associate’s degree from PCC and receive a bachelor’s degree from UA. PCC spent nearly $1.1 million on the program from 2000-2008. The College ended funding when it was discovered that fewer than a dozen students had graduated from college. PCC funds could be better spent to improve services and instruction, and to avoid layoffs and furloughs of employees.

PCC constantly is looking for ways to save money. We understand that people who have taken advantage of subsidized programs will object to the College’s end of that practice. In turn, we ask for the public’s understanding that our decisions must be and are being driven by analysis of the facts. During this period of economic turmoil, we cannot divert funds to programs that go well beyond the College’s mission, regardless of how well-intentioned they are. That would result in taking resources from students who desperately need our help for job training. It would compromise our commitment to provide the best-possible education to the residents of Pima County. It is a commitment we have met since our inception in 1969, and one from which we will not waver.

College Update

PCC-Voluntary Framework of Accountability pilot program

As state appropriations are cut, PCC and community colleges across the nation are turning to the federal government for funds. The Obama administration’s proposal to increase federal funding to community colleges by $12 billion over the next 10 years has been passed by the U.S. House and awaits consideration by the Senate. That money, and all federal funding, will be appropriated only to institutions that meet strict standards of accountability regarding student success.

That is why I am happy to share with you that the College was selected to be among eight sites nationwide to take part in a pilot program of the Voluntary Framework of Accountability. The two-year program is funded by $1 million in grants from the Lumina Foundation for Education and from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The program will create a system to provide uniform ways to measure retention and graduation rates. The College’s participation gives us the opportunity to help determine these measures and the data to be collected. Creating uniform, easy to understand measures will give PCC and other community colleges a better sense of what works, so that we can direct our resources more effectively and improve student success.

White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, held at the College’s Downtown Campus on September 9, was a most welcome forum for our community to help shape federal education policy so that Hispanics can improve academically.

The College is uniquely positioned to partner with the federal government to improve Hispanic academic performance. As a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution, our student body is rich in diversity. Approximately one in three of our students is Hispanic.

The College is acutely aware of the higher-education challenges facing Hispanics and other minority groups. Ninety-two percent of Hispanic students coming to the College need at least one developmental education course. We also understand that Hispanics will be the backbone of the American economy in the future, and that a skilled, educated Hispanic workforce is crucial if Pima County and the nation are to compete successfully in the competitive global marketplace.

Future collaboration can play a part in making our nation more secure economically, and will help meet the worthy goal of making the United States the best-educated country in the world.

PCC-Arizona State University Transfer Admission Guarantee agreement

Dr. Michael Crow and Dr. Roy FloresThe articulation agreement signed by the College and Arizona State University complements our existing linkages with ASU and will provide PCC students with a new, streamlined pathway to baccalaureate degrees.

Arizona lags the nation in residents with baccalaureate degrees. Just 25 percent of state residents have bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to 29 percent nationally. By 2020, it is estimated that the state will need 166,000 additional bachelor’s degrees just to replace the degrees lost by Arizona residents who retire.

The number of PCC students transferring to and graduating from four-year colleges and universities, both in-state and out-of-state, needs to improve. And with the signing of the Transfer Admission Guarantee agreement, I am confident that more of our current and former students will move on to Arizona State.

Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) is a degree-to-degree transfer program that guarantees admission into an ASU undergraduate-degree program for PCC students who complete the requirements of each TAG. Each TAG program includes an appropriate Arizona General Education Curriculum, major courses designated by the ASU degree program, and electives required to complete an associate’s degree.

Under the program, students complete associate’s degrees at PCC and bachelor’s degrees at ASU. Moreover, students who successfully complete TAG requirements and transfer within three years of entering the program will receive tuition incentives, such as a cap on tuition increases during their matriculation at Arizona.

The Transfer Admission Guarantee program is a tremendous opportunity for PCC students, and I thank Arizona State University, and especially President Michael Crow for helping make it possible. Dr. Crow’s keen understanding of Pima Community College’s mission and goals, his appreciation of the diversity of our College community, and his clear vision for higher education in Arizona is refreshing and admirable.

OECD review team visits College

The College is pleased to have hosted a team from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Regional Review of Higher Education. Based in Paris, OECD comprises representatives of 30 democracies and addresses issues related to globalization. The six-person Regional Review of Higher Education team’s visit was the team’s first to the United States and the first to a community college.

The visit was part of a week-long fact-finding tour to southern Arizona institutions of higher education. Other tour sites included the University of Arizona, the University of Phoenix, and Tohono O’odham Community College.

Provost Dr. Suzanne Miles, West Campus President Dr. Lou Albert, East Campus President Charlotte Fugett and I first met the team at a working luncheon at the University of Arizona. In a general session at Downtown Campus, administrators and I shared information about Pima and answered questions. Three OECD team members toured occupational training facilities at Downtown, while others toured West Campus’ health-related-profession facilities.

We look forward to the team’s final report, which is due in about three months.

Partnerships and Initiatives

New dance partner between PCC, University of Arizona

Aurora Goncalves-ShanerThe College has begun a new partnership with the University of Arizona that will strengthen the connection between the Dance Departments of the schools. Aurora Goncalves-Shaner is in the first year of a three-year full-time administrative appointment to teach dance classes at the College as well as at UA.

This semester at West Campus, Aurora is teaching about 50 PCC students, who are divided among classes in ballet, dance conditioning and dance production. At UA, she is preparing to teach a ballroom dancing class at UA next semester, as well as rehearsing for a UA production in February of Balanchine’s “Four Temperaments.”

As part of the collaboration, PCC dance students have the opportunity to perform in a production at UA. The “Last Chance to Dance” recital is Dec. 7. Aurora believes the event will be valuable because it will give students the chance to tackle what can be a daunting experience. “Some students are intimidated by performing. . . . They don’t want to dance at first, but change their minds when see that it’s fun and that they can do it,” Aurora says.

“I am very excited by the partnership between Pima and the University of Arizona,” says Jory Hancock, Director of the University of Arizona School of Dance, which is widely recognized as one of the best in the United States.

The arts are important for everybody. The ability to learn to create and to appreciate creativity is part of the human spirit.

Awards and recognition

Student’s essay to be published in national anthology

It took Linda Lyons only about 25 minutes to write the 900-plus words that constituted the original draft of “Beginnings.” The essay was written to satisfy a requirement for a travel-writing workshop she was taking at the College.

The essay helped her earn an A in the workshop. It also was good enough to warrant inclusion in Nota Bene, a literary anthology showcasing exceptional writing by members of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society.

Linda’s essay was picked from nearly 850 submissions nationwide to Nota Bene, which is distributed to more than 1,250 libraries in the United States and abroad. The work of 15 PTK members will be included in the anthology, to be published later this year.

“No one was more surprised than I was” at her success, says Linda, who is working toward an associate’s degree and plans to transfer in fall 2010 to the University of Arizona, where she wants to study Creative Writing. She says the essay is “nothing deep, just a personal story.”

“Beginnings” recounts Linda’s memories as a 4-year-old of visits for Sunday dinners to her paternal grandparents’ house in southern Ontario, Canada. The story is filled with vivid recollections: of long family bus rides to the gatherings, of the cream sodas served with dinner, and of her grandfather’s brown spotted terrier, Sparky.

My congratulations go to Linda, and to PTK advisors Robert Carey and Pamela Sulger.


Staff Spotlight: Bobby Burns

Bobby BurnsFor Bobby Burns, the publication of a new edition of a book recounting his 41 days in a Tucson homeless shelter is bittersweet.

>Bobby is a Student Services Technician at West Campus. He is proud and grateful that the book has found enough of an audience to warrant a second printing. He also realizes that the problem it touches on is just as pressing in 2009 as it was in 1998, when “Shelter: One Man’s Journey from Homelessness to Hope” was first published.

“It’s still relevant,” Bobby says. “We’re seeing new homelessness with the bad economy.”

Burns grew up in poverty in south Phoenix. After serving six years in the U.S. Navy, he returned to Phoenix and received a bachelor’s degree in communication from ASU. But his career prospects did not improve, and in 1994 Bobby bought a one-way bus ticket to Tucson. With just a few dollars in his pocket, he ended up at Tucson’s Primavera shelter for the homeless.

Keeping a journal while at the shelter was a form of therapy, Bobby says. “It kept me sane.”

Bobby’s climb out of homelessness started when he found work as a substitute teacher. He was in a jobs program that required that he put 75 percent of each paycheck in savings. After building up a nest egg, he was able to rent a studio apartment.

Bobby has gone on to earn a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University. He left Tucson to become an academic adviser in the Louisiana State University system, returning in 2006 after enduring Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. He worked as an adjunct faculty member at Pima before moving to his current position in January.

Bobby says he hopes “Shelter” can erase misconceptions surrounding homelessness, especially the notion that most homeless people are homeless by choice, not necessity.

What have Bobby’s experiences taught him about life? “To take things one day at a time,” he says. “I’ll never forget that principle.”

Faculty Spotlight: Chuck Becker

Chuck BeckerCharles “Chuck” Becker believes that the brick-and-mortar library has a future in society, despite the Internet, electronic books and other encroachments on libraries’ long monopoly on information. But future libraries must become more inviting to new generations of information consumers in order to thrive. They also must take advantage of their most valuable assets, librarians.

Chuck is Library Director at East Campus who earlier this year published a paper in the Journal of Library Administration on the research habits of Millennials, a broad term describing people born in the early 1980s to the mid-1990s.

A service must be profoundly obsolete before it disappears, Chuck contends. Even today, in many areas one still can find blacksmiths to serve the niche market of horse owners, he notes. However, to occupy more than a niche, it is necessary for libraries “to create an environment that people like to spend time in,” Chuck says. A successful library will have an extensive collection of books, but also will have computers, electronic media, and be an aesthetically pleasing place to study and talk.

“The design [of libraries] will change,” Chuck says. In fact, designs have been changing. Twenty-five years ago, the East Campus library would not have had dozens of computers and a comfortable reading area lined with current magazines, he notes.

But one thing will not change, Charles says. People will seek out librarians if they believe that the librarians can help them navigate an ever-deeper sea of information. “The human element is huge.”

Alumni Spotlight:  René Díaz-Lefebvre

Rene Diaz-LefebvreRené Díaz-Lefebvre was the first student to register at Pima Community College when the officially opened in 1970. He graduated in 1972, and the lessons learned at Pima have stayed with him.

“Pima laid a solid foundation in terms of developing study skills and becoming passionate about learning,” René says. “If it weren’t for Pima . . . my life certainly, certainly would not have taken me in the direction it has.”

That direction has included a 36-year teaching career, all at community colleges. For the past 18 years, he has been Professor of Psychology at Glendale Community College. “I believe so deeply in community colleges,” says René, who earlier this year received an Outstanding Alumni Award from the PCC Foundation.

René is a renowned proponent of Multiple Intelligences, the theory that an individual’s intelligence manifests itself a variety of ways: interpersonal, linguistic, musical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, logical-mathematical, intrapersonal and naturalist. “Basically . . . it’s not how smart you are; it’s how you are smart,” René says.

Multiple Intelligences theory has particular relevance today because it recognizes the intelligence of students who may not excel in paper-and-pencil testing or thrive in a traditional school-lecture environment. “Too many bright kids are falling through the cracks,” he says.

The emphasis on standardized testing in K-12 is sometimes frustrating, René says. But he is intrigued by the growth in distance learning options made possible through the Internet. The key is ensuring that the same academic standards apply to online courses as in face-to-face classes, he says. “The challenge is making sure there is accountability on the part of the instructor and the student.”

Roy Flores

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