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Interim Chancellor's Report - April 2012

Pima Community College Seal

Interim Chancellor's Message

Adam JamesIt's hard to believe, but the 2011-12 academic year is drawing to a close. Pima Community College's graduation ceremony is May 17 - less than a month away. Graduation is always a festive occasion, and for PCC administrators, staff and faculty, it is extremely satisfying to see men and women receive degrees or certificates in recognition of their hard work and dedication. Our graduates embody the College's mission, to develop our community through learning, and few personify that ideal more completely than Adam James.

Adam was one of only 20 nationwide winners in the 2012 All-USA Community College Academic Team scholarship competition. Adam, who is on track to receive an Associate of Science degree, is a veteran of four combat deployments - two in Iraq, one each in Afghanistan and the Philippines -- as an U.S. Air Force Pararescueman. Adam and his fellow Pararescuemen ("It is a brotherhood," he says of his comrades-in-arms) provided emergency medical care and support to members of the U.S. Special Forces, such as Navy SEALs and Army Rangers.

Adam, 27, intends to study Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of Arizona. He works in a neurobiology lab at UA and hopes to pursue a career in medicine. As a member of the All-USA Community College Academic Team, Adam received a $2,500 and a medallion at a ceremony on April 23 in Orlando, Fla. I had the privilege of attending the awards ceremony, and I know that the honor could not have gone to a more deserving person.

Financial Aid Update

Pima Community College works hard to keep education as affordable as possible. We take pride in the fact that our tuition is among the lowest in Arizona. We recognize that many of our students are of modest means. That is why I want to tell you of a possible change in federal student loan regulations that would profoundly affect millions of students nationwide, including thousands of students at PCC.

Unless the U.S. Congress acts, beginning July 1 the interest rate on federally subsidized Stafford direct student loans would double, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. For direct subsidized loans, the U.S. government pays the interest for students while they are in school enrolled in at least 6 credits.

Currently, PCC has 7,073 students receiving these loans. Nationally, the average borrower would pay an additional $2,800 over 10 years under the higher interest rate.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering legislation to keep the interest rate on the subsidized loan at 3.4 percent. One bill under consideration has 109 co-sponsors, including U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, and bipartisan support for keeping the rate unchanged appears to be growing. The emerging consensus is that access to a college education is essential for the United States' economy to thrive in the 21st century. PCC wholeheartedly concurs with that view.

Clearly, doubling the subsidized loan rate would be a severe financial burden. Many of our students are balancing work, school and family obligations. It would be a mistake to shut the door on people seeking to make better lives for themselves and their loved ones through the promise of education.

Chancellor search update

As you likely know, PCC is conducting a nationwide search for a new chancellor, a process that will last about a year. Over the coming weeks and months PCC will work to ensure that the best-possible person is selected to lead the College. PCC took an important first step in the process when it published a Request for Proposals for an executive-search firm. PCC's Governing Board is hiring the firm to provide a robust, diverse pool of prospective candidates for chancellor. The Board will hold a public meeting to hear presentations from search-firm finalists and is hopeful a firm can be hired by July 1.

You can read the Request for Proposals at a new webpage, The webpage will serve as a clearinghouse for information related to the search process, and will include updates, documents related to the search, answers to frequently asked questions, and other resources. Also, the webpage contains a new email address created at the direction of the Board. Through, it's hoped that members of the public will express their opinions and offer suggestions about all aspects of the selection process.

Additionally, an advisory search committee will be formed to advise the Governing Board. The committee likely will consist of 20-25 people and will have representatives from groups that have a stake in the College, including local K-12 school districts, the University of Arizona, business owners, students, PCC employee organizations, and non-profit and community organizations.

The College also intends to hold public forums to allow the community and PCC employees to meet and hear from each finalist. College representatives also may visit the campuses of finalists currently working at institutions of higher education. Through these initiatives, the College is seeking to make the chancellor search as transparent as possible and to engage the public's involvement. We want to hear from you.

A respectful workplace

Pima Community College is one of southern Arizona's largest employers, and as Interim Chancellor, I want to make sure that PCC is one of southern Arizona's best employers.

The College intends to build upon the successes achieved by Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Janet May and her team to foster an atmosphere of collegiality and mutual respect in the workplace.

Our employee groups have stressed that PCC must do everything it can to ensure our employees have access to due process that is robust and balanced. In this matter we concur completely.

We are strengthening internal processes regarding the prevention, detection and reporting of unprofessional conduct, and will create new training sessions to identify improper behavior, and to help PCC employees become better acquainted with internal disciplinary processes. The trainings also will familiarize employees with resources that exist to support them if they have a complaint.

In addition, the College is contemplating adding an external avenue, beyond administration, for employees to register complaints about workplace behavior. Our intent is to build an extra level of assurance so that PCC personnel know their voices will be heard.

New auditor has broad public, private experience

Lori CoxI am pleased to note that Lori Cox is our new Director of Internal Audit, a position of profound importance to the College. Internal auditing provides independent, objective appraisal of PCC operations, including programs, finances and governance. The internal auditor has complete access to College employees, policies, procedures and data.

Lori is a former PCC student who graduated from the University of Arizona. She has nearly 20 years' experience in the public and private sectors, including 10 years' employment with the Pascua Yaqui Tribe and two years' service as Director of Public Policy and Ethics for the Institute of Internal Auditors.

College Report

A powerful memorial to our fallen heroes

Helment on top of standing rifle surrounded by flagsOn March 30, the College held a memorial to the some 6,800 members of the U.S. military who have given their lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Held at Downtown Campus, the event was simple yet eloquent and powerful. Following the reading of each fallen hero's name, a bell was rung. It took 13 hours to complete the reading of the names.

I want to offer my deepest thanks to all who participated. I also want to note the work of Downtown Campus Vice President of Student Development Jerry Haynes and Downtown Campus Support Specialist Sharon Arceneaux for making such an important initiative a reality.

Keeping students healthy

The event marked the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva talked about the need for all Americans to have access to healthcare. West Campus President Dr. Louis Albert emphasized that health is a predictor of student success. Students who attend classes more often, and are more attentive, do better academically, Dr. Albert noted.

West Campus was a fitting site for the ceremony, as it is home to a community health clinic operated by MHC Healthcare. This clinic, as well as a similar facility at East Campus, offers primary care and preventive services, and is open to the public, PCC faculty, students and staff.

The College also recognizes the importance of maintaining mental health. We are one of the few community colleges in the U.S. to employ a staff psychologist to educate staff and students about mental health issues and resources.

Nourishing the community

Volunteers at Desert Vista Campus eventNearly 50 volunteers gathered early on April 7 in the North parking lot of Desert Vista Campus for Market On the Move, which distributes fresh fruits and vegetables to the community.

Desert Vista Student Life members, students, faculty, staff, and administrators, along with members of the PCC chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) international scholastic honorary society who organized the event, made the event a success. Market On the Move offered up to 60 pounds of fresh produce for a $10 donation. The volunteers distributed 419 boxes, enough to feed at least 1,500 people for more than a week. Those receiving the produce were encouraged to use what they needed and share with friends and neighbors.

The produce came from an 18,000-pound delivery from Market on the Move, a program of the 3000 Club, a Phoenix nonprofit organization that rescues excess produce from the Arizona-Mexico border for distribution in metropolitan Phoenix and Tucson.

Desert Vista Dean of Business and Liberal Arts Nina Corson, Dr. JodyLee Estrada Duek, Lupita Caballero, Barbara McLaughlin, Yuwen Ding and Steve Uyeda, along with PTK chapter President Gabi Payne, PTK member Dax Crocker, and PCC DPS officer Dana Mattocks, were instrumental at April's event, and are hard at work on the next Market On the Move, Saturday, May 5, from 8 a.m.-noon at Desert Vista's North parking lot. They hope to have cooking demonstrations, healthy recipes, and college information available.

PCC: a sound economic investment

As a publicly funded institution, PCC takes very seriously the fiscal responsibilities that come with the stewardship of hard-earned tax dollars. That is why I am eager to share with you "The Economic Contribution of the Pima County Community College District," a report by the highly regarded independent research firm Economic Modeling Specialists Inc.

The report evaluates the extent that PCC strengthens the economy of our region and enhances the careers of our students. Completed in November 2011, the 76-page report extensively analyzes PCC's performance, and concludes that from student, taxpayer and societal perspectives, PCC is a sound investment. Among the report's findings, this may be the most significant: Pima County residents have taken approximately 7.4 million credit-hours at PCC over the past 30 years. Those skills translate into higher earnings for students and increased output for businesses. "The added income attributable to the accumulation of PCC credits in the workforce amounts to $887.3 million each year," according to the report.

We were hopeful that the report would demonstrate our value to our many constituents, and were heartened that the report quantified benefits of the College to the community. We know that the people of Pima Country have placed a great deal of trust in us and hope to show, every day, that we are worthy of that trust.

Partnerships: Explaining the weather

Dr. Denise Meeks and Chuck GeorgeKOLD-TV's "Weather 101" consists of a series of short online presentations that combine text, graphics, and videos. Some of these segments feature a collaboration between the Northwest Campus Science Department Chair Dr. Denise Meeks and KOLD-TV meteorologist Chuck George, who explain a variety of meteorological and astronomical topics, from the spring and autumn equinoxes to the phases of Venus to the size of the sun.

The series is interesting, informative and dynamic, as is Mr. George, a past speaker at All College Day and a PCC adjunct instructor who in 2011 established the Archimedes Scholarship for aspiring scientists. (To make a tax-deductible donation to the PCC Foundation or to apply online for scholarships, visit the PCC Foundation web page.)

Thanks to Mr. George, Dr. Meeks and Northwest Campus President Dr. Alex Kajstura for his support of an educational partnership that enlightens the community about science.

Pima Achievers

Over the past month, PCC's students and employees have accomplished much of note. Here is a sampling of their awards and achievements:

Regina Suitt, Advanced Program Manager, Adult Education Services at Community Campus, facilitated a Twitter Town Hall with U.S. Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier at the national conference of the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) in Norfolk, Va., April 9-13. Regina asked the Assistant Secretary questions pertaining to adult education that Regina had gathered from around the country via Facebook and Twitter. Regina, a COABE board member, also presented at the national conference on Public Policy and using Social Media for Advocacy.

PCC's chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) international scholastic honorary society for two-year colleges was honored at the PTK international convention in Nashville, Tenn. More than 4,300 people, representing nine countries, attended. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Student Development Leticia Menchaca received the Distinguished College Administrator Award. Chapter President Gabi Payne received a Distinguished Officer Award. The Paragon Award, given to advisors with fewer than five years' experience, went to science instructor Steve Uyeda. The Continued Excellence Award, given to advisors with five or more years' experience, was received by science instructor Dr. JodyLee Estrada Duek. The chapter received an overall Honors in Action Project Award, as well as the more specific Honors in Action Project Issue Award. For continuing excellence as one of the top 25 chapters in PTK the chapter also received one of only 11 Beta Alpha awards given this year. PTK has more than 1,250 chapters.

Photography of soccer playersLarry Gaurano, assistant photography editor of the Aztec Press, PCC's student newspaper, has won first place in sports photography for two-year/community colleges at the Society of Professional Journalists' (SPJ) regional competition.

The Aztec Press placed second in all-around general excellence among nondaily two-year college newspapers in the SPJ regional competition.

Dr. Duran-CerdaDr. Dolores Durán-Cerda, a World Languages faculty member who teaches Spanish at Downtown Campus, was named Teacher of the Year by the Arizona Language Association. The award recognizes teaching excellence and outstanding service in foreign language education. Pending Governing Board approval, Dr. Durán-Cerda will join the PCC administrative team as Acting Assistant Vice Chancellor in May.

In closing, students, employees and the community can rest assured that Pima Community College's future is a bright one. Thank you for your continued support.

Suzanne L. Miles