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Chancellor’s Report June 2010

Pima Community College Seal

Chancellor's Message

Contributions of federal stimulus funds will keep the state’s Adult Education program functioning for at least one more year. But the solution devised by Pima Community College, Rio Salado College and Karen Liersch, Deputy Associate Superintendent of the Arizona Department of Education, to fund this important service through Fiscal Year 2011 is merely a reprieve. The program is not on sound financial footing.

It is unclear how the program will be funded next year, or how the more than 20,000 Arizonans whose education depends on the program will be served. What is clear is that a long-term funding solution must be found. The College is exploring options, including federal grants, to provide a more secure revenue stream in light of the state’s decision not to appropriate any money to the program in its FY 2011 budget.

It should be equally clear that the state needs skilled, educated workers. Pima Community College Adult Education provides instruction in Adult Basic Education, GED preparation and testing, and in the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. It plays a key role in helping tens of thousands of undereducated Pima County residents better themselves so that they can improve the lives of their families and help their communities prosper.

The reality is that increasing the number of adults with a high school credential is a boon for the state economy. High school graduates earn approximately $8,000 a year more than non-graduates, and their additional income translates into more tax revenue. Thus, everyone benefits.

College Update

Proposition 100

The approval of Proposition 100 will produce an additional $700 million to $900 million in annual state revenue, most of which will fund K-12 and higher education.

Had Proposition 100 failed, the state would have reduced its FY 2011 appropriation to the College by 10 percent. Fortunately, that did not happen.

This does not mean that the College will receive additional money; it simply means we will not have to absorb another cut in appropriations this year. For perspective, it should be noted that over the past two years the state cut funding to PCC by 30 percent.

Also, the vote does not fix Arizona’s serious systemic budget problems. The state still spends more than it takes in. Even with the increased sales tax, Arizona likely will face a multibillion-dollar budget deficit in Fiscal Year 2012.

However, by approving Proposition 100, voters recognized that education remains the foundation of prosperity. In raising taxes on themselves, they sent an unmistakable message to state lawmakers and to the nation that public education is a priority in Arizona. Given that Arizonans, like all Americans, are attempting to recover from the worst economic turbulence since the Great Depression, their decision to support education will yield rewards far into the future.

Graduation 2010

PCC graduate Graduation always is an exciting, festive time at the College, and May 20’s ceremony at the Tucson Convention Center provided a happy reminder of the relevance of the College’s mission and the role that it plays in the educational and occupational growth of our community.

The College awarded 4,718 degrees, certificates and advanced certificates to 3,154 students. Many students earn more than one degree or certificate.

As usual, the diversity of the graduates was remarkable. The oldest was a 71-year-old woman; the youngest, a 16-year-old young man. Each earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts.

This year’s ceremony was made more special by guest speaker Cecilia Muñoz, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. I echo her remarks regarding the need for all sides in the current immigration debate to listen respectfully to the points of view of the opposition, and to be open to changing one’s opinion in the face of more persuasive evidence.

I thank Ms. Muñoz and Juan Sepúlveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, who also attended. And I wish the Class of 2010 continued personal and professional success.

Accreditation renewal update

The College continues to prepare to renew its accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). Accreditation is a comprehensive evaluation of all aspects of the College’s operation. Receiving a renewal of accreditation assures the public, and especially prospective students, that the College has met the HLC’s high standards and will keep meeting them in the future. Without accreditation, the College cannot receive federal funds, and student coursework will not be recognized by other colleges and universities. In short, the College ceases to be a viable entity.

To make accreditation responsive to a broad range of constituents, the HLC seeks public comments prior to the visit by its evaluation team on Sept. 13-15. I invite the public to provide written comments about the College to the HLC.

The evaluation team will visit the College to gather evidence that the College’s Institutional Self-Study Report is thorough and accurate. 

You may comment via a Web form at the HLC website,, or by mailing comments to the following address:

Public Comment on Pima Community College
The Higher Learning Commission
30 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2400
Chicago, IL 60602-2504

Comments are due by August 13. Comments should include the names and addresses of those making comments.

Legislative update

Senate Bill 1070, the state’s new immigration law, has captured the attention of Arizonans and the nation. The College is monitoring legal challenges to the law and awaits enforcement guidelines by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board so that it can properly train Department of Public Safety officers.

Be assured that the College will remain a friendly and welcoming place to learn, teach and work.

Community college districts and the Arizona Board of Regents have been charged with creating a common course numbering system for core curriculum for 100 and 200 level courses. The College has been an active participant in the Academic Program Articulation Steering Committee (APASC) to implement a statewide articulation and transfer system, and has been a strong advocate for common course numbering.

The new system will offer easy-to-understand course articulation requirements, and will provide students with appropriate guidance and advising tools to get information needed to progress efficiently. The result will be a system of transfer that will save taxpayer money and increase the number of baccalaureate degree recipients, which Arizona desperately needs to compete economically.

The Grand Canyon Diploma rewards mastery of skills rather than a preset accumulation of seat-time hours, a concept known as “move on when ready.” The diploma would be awarded to 10th graders who prove 12th-grade proficiency in all core subjects by passing a rigorous examination. Students who receive the diploma would be guaranteed admission into an Arizona community college, or could remain in high school and take Advanced Placement courses in order to prepare for a four-year college.

Partnerships and Initiatives

Early Childhood Education Pathways Agreement

Early Childhood Education articulation agreement signing Streamlining the ability of students to transfer to four-year colleges and universities is a top priority for the College, and I am happy to announce a new articulation agreement between PCC and a four-year institution.

The signing on May 6 of the Early Childhood Education Pathways Agreement by the College and the University of Arizona crowned three years of work between the two schools. The agreement benefits our students as well as the early childhood education community by expanding the pipeline of qualified teachers.

The agreement also enriches the classroom. PCC students have professional field experience that they can share with UA students, who can share their experiences in attending a large four-year university.

Desert Vista Campus President Dr. Christal Albrecht; Desert Vista’s Andrea Henderson, Shanna Kukla and Diana Wilson; and Director of Curriculum and Articulation Jennie Scott worked hard to make the agreement a reality, as did UA Dean of Education Dr. Ron Marx and UA Director of Elementary Education Dr. Donna Jurich. It also is important to note the contributions of Pima County School Superintendent Dr. Linda Arzoumanian and Board of Governors member Dr. Brenda Even, who have been longtime advocates of improved early childhood education in southern Arizona.

Awards and recognition

Student filmmakers among high achievers in Digital Arts

“Estaban’s Ride,” a film directed by Grant Hunker, is only eight minutes long, but took the Digital Arts student and his crew two semesters of hard work to bring to the screen.

The film was one of two by PCC students to be screened last month at the Arizona International Film Festival in downtown Tucson. The other was “Todas Almas” by Jesse Powell.

The screenings capped a semester of accomplishments by PCC Digital Arts students. PCC students won more gold and silver awards than any school in the competition during the American Advertising Federation Tucson Chapter’s ADDY awards, including the Best of Show Award, won by Hadassah Cruz. Also, Michelle Thayer will intern at The New York Times this summer through the Vance and Betty Lee Stickell Undergraduate Internship Program.

The title character in “Estaban’s Ride” is an old man with dementia who lives on a ranch. Estaban’s caretaker notifies his son, Juan, that she is leaving the ranch and that he must take over care of his father. Juan goes to the ranch and attempts to find a place for Estaban to spend his last days. But Estaban makes his own life choice and rides off on a horse. In the final scenes, against a setting sun, Estaban finds his father’s body. “He wanted to go out on his own terms,” Grant says.

“Estaban’s Ride” came to life in the fall semester when Grant and his fellow Digital Arts applied for positions on the film with instructor David Wing.

Preproduction took place during the fall semester. The students held casting calls, scouted locations, and “storyboarded” the script, converting the words of the screenplay into a series of visual scenes.

Grant and his crew of between 30 and 40 students shot about one hour of digital video over two days earlier this year. Then came months of editing – a lively collaboration between students that Grant calls “daunting but fun.”

The filmmaking experience and the Digital Arts program have been “good career training,” says Grant, who has created training videos for his employer, a local pest-extermination company, as well as assisting on a personal fitness instruction DVD that was honored at the Houston Film Festival.

His Pima experience has shown Grant that “there’s no reason to be scared” of a big project. “Just make it happen,” he says.

Christy Yebra recognized by United Way

Christy YebraI am happy to report that Christy Yebra, Events Coordinator, has received an award from the United Way of Tucson. Christy was recognized for “exemplary dedication” in coordinating the 2009-10 Days of Caring campaign at the College.

Christy received the honor at a recognition lunch May 11.

At the event, it was noted that Christy has shared her passion for our community by leading many United Way campaign teams, and that she worked tirelessly to include each campus in the Days of Caring campaign.

Grants and scholarships

$800,000 scholarship gift for low-income students

101-year-old woman who died in December has left the College about $800,000 to fund scholarships for needy students.

The bequest by Frances Frye is the largest scholarship gift ever given to the College, and the second largest gift in the history of the school. In 2004, the Thomas R. Brown Family Foundation gave PCC $1 million.

By all accounts, Mrs. Frye was a remarkable woman. Married to a former top executive of General Electric Co., she was a veteran world traveler who did volunteer work for local organizations until age 99. She was passionate about helping the poor, often telling friends, “Children cannot determine who they were born to, but with an education they can make something of themselves.”

The College is grateful for Mrs. Frye’s generosity.

Grant funds training in emerging economic sectors

The College is turning toward the federal government for resources to provide the educational and professional opportunities that our students and community need. I am happy to report that PCC has received two new grants that will improve the marketability of Pima County residents in two emerging sectors of the economy.

One is a State Energy Sector Partnership award of $903,000 to establish a Green Energy Curriculum Center. The Downtown Campus center will be part of a statewide effort to develop curricula and programs providing instruction in environmentally friendly technologies such as energy-efficient construction and solar power.

Another is an award of $758,505 which will train health industry employees to convert patients’ records into an electronic format. Downtown Campus will collaborate with the Desert Vista and Community campuses in the effort, which is funded by the federal government’s Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) program.


Alumni: Veronica Gonzalez

Veronica GonzalezThe chemistry and biology laboratories of West Campus provided an excellent growth medium for Veronica Gonzalez’s interest in science.

Veronica is a postdoctoral trainee at the University of California in Berkeley, Calif. She is conducting cutting-edge research on the complex relationship between genes, the environment and cancer. She is particularly interested in studying the effect of agricultural pesticides on the DNA of farm workers.

Her original academic goal was to be a medical doctor, but she was drawn to research. “As an M.D. you are limited as to who you can impact. The scientific implications of [research] are potentially much greater.”

Veronica says the “simple things” she did as a student aide at West Campus, such as setting up the labs, preparing compounds for chemistry experiments, and helping faculty, sparked her interest in science. “I got hooked.”

Veronica, 34, was born in San Luis Colorado, Mexico. She came to the United States after completing high school in Mexico. She lived with relatives in Laughlin, Nev., planning to work for a year before continuing her studies in Mexico.

She found jobs as a housekeeper in Laughlin’s casino-hotels, where she realized that her career aspirations went far beyond cleaning up after others.

Veronica came to Tucson, where she learned English in the College’s ESL classes. She completed her transfer degree with honors at Pima and transferred to the University of Arizona after participating in a UA-PCC summer biology program that featured hands-on experimentation, along with mentoring from UA scientists.

Veronica recognizes that she is a “minority within a minority,” as both women and Hispanics are underrepresented in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “It’s a multifaceted problem,” she says.

The solution also has multiple parts, Veronica says. Families must recognize the value of higher education. Schools must motivate and challenge their students. “When they give you ownership, that feeling is very empowering.” And students must show initiative. “They have to knock on people’s doors and ask, ‘How can I get in?’”

Program: Medical Assistant

Rita MadrilThe College’s Medical Assistant program gives students the opportunity to learn advanced skills in patient care. The program, located at the Desert Vista Campus’ Center for Training and Development (CTD), offers a Certificate for Direct Employment.

For Rita Madril, the program offered much, much more.

In March 2008, Rita, 31, along with her 9-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter, were living in a local homeless shelter. Rita had lost her minimum-wage job as a convenience-store clerk. Unable to pay rent, the family was evicted from their apartment.

Through the Jackson Employment Center, a federally funded program that helps Tucson’s homeless women and men, Rita secured an apartment and began to turn her life around, a process that included enrolling in the College’s Medical Assistant program, whose self-paced classes and lectures were a “good fit.”

She got a job at a local orthopaedic center two months after earning her certificate. “There is a lot of work, but I’m thankful for that,” says Rita, who is in training for her employer’s switch to digital record-keeping, and is looking forward to furthering her education as an X-ray technician or nurse.

Rita’s successful turnaround fits with the program’s goal to produce employable medical assistants, says Trish Krebs, an instructor/clinical coordinator at the CTD.

“From day one, the students are working toward a career goal,” she says. That objective is reinforced in several ways, such as having students bring help-wanted ads to class.

The program has grown quickly since its inception in 2008 and has 117 students. It offers administrative and clinical concentrations. Like Rita, many learn both in order to be more employable in the field, which has a median salary of $28,329.

“Our graduates are an asset to physicians, because they are training in front-office procedures as well as in lab tests and diagnostics,” Trish says. “There are always jobs available.”

Barbara Jo shares what she has seen and learned on her travels with her colleagues and students. She says it is increasingly challenging to get today’s art and art history students to leave the virtual worlds they often inhabit and focus on the real world around them. But Barbara Jo relishes the challenge. “I’m glad I’m teaching the classes I teach,” she says. “It’s easier for me to engage my students.”

Faculty: Meg Files

Meg FilesFew community colleges or universities hold writers’ conferences. Fewer still hold writers’ conferences as successful as the Pima Writers’ Workshop.

More than 200 aspiring novelists, poets, children’s book authors and memoirists signed up to participate in the 2010 Pima Writers’ Workshop, held May 27-30 at West Campus. They were taught the art of writing, and the art of getting published, by 16 authors and literary agents.

Meg Files of the Writing and Journalism faculty at West Campus organized this year’s workshop. Since 1988, Meg has been the driving force behind the event, which is an emphatic affirmation that the written word is very much alive. “There’s a human hunger for stories,” Meg says.

However, how that hunger will be sated in the age of the iPad is “an open question,” Meg says. While we will always want books in some form, the days of ink and paper may be numbered. “The oncoming demise of the book has been predicted for some time,” Meg says.

But it still has yet to materialize, and Meg says that new printing technologies make it easier than ever for writers to publish books themselves.

Accessibility is a key to the event’s success, Meg says. For novices, the workshop is an affordable initial foray into the world of writing. For veteran writers, armed with a manuscript, it is a good place to network.

Meg notes increased interest in memoir at this year’s workshop, as well as in her writing classes at the College. She speculates that the genre is growing in popularity because readers can relate to the real-life tribulations of the authors while giving writers a chance to “make sense of their own lives.”

Staff:  Albert Herrera

Albert HerreraAlbert Herrera graduated from Cholla High School on Thursday, June 8, 1972. On Friday, June 9, 1972, he began work as a student aide at Pima Community College. On Monday, June 11, 1972, he was sent to work with the College’s electricians.

“And the rest is history,” Albert says with a smile, nearly four decades later.

Albert retired in May, ending a College career in which he spent 27 years as an electrician. Since 2003, he has been the Plant Manager at the Desert Vista Campus.

Albert’s long involvement with Pima began when a College recruiter visited Cholla. “Pima, that sounds great – what is it?” Albert recalls thinking. In the early 1970s, “no one really understood what Pima was.”

While enrolled at the College, Albert learned the electricians’ craft, shadowing tradespeople who provided excellent on-the-job training. After apprenticing for four years, Albert earned certification as a journeyman electrician in 1977.

Albert met Rachel, his wife of 34 years, while apprenticing at the College. Rachel and their sons, Albert and Ray, all attended Pima, with Rachel eventually earning an associate’s degree in early childhood education from Central Arizona College and Albert receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Arizona.

One of Albert’s most memorable Pima experiences was seeing Ray graduate with an associate’s degree in sociology a few years ago. (Ray went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Northern Arizona University). “Seeing my wife and sons graduate made me realize how long I’ve been here and what an important part Pima has played in my life and to my family,” Albert says.

Upon retirement, Albert will attend to various home improvements -- my “honey-do” list, he says. He also looks forward to traveling and spending time with his 15-month-old grandson, Costa. “He’s my pride and joy.”

Roy Flores

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