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Interim Chancellor's Report - August 2012

Pima Community College Seal

Interim Chancellor's Message

It’s difficult to believe, but summer is drawing to a close – was Memorial Day really three months ago? – and the fall semester is beginning at Pima Community College. We at Pima return eager to take advantage of upcoming opportunities to work with the public for the betterment of the community.

Foremost among these efforts will be a series of community forums to help Pima formulate its College Plan for the years 2013-2015. The College Plan is a critical document for the College. It is a detailed blueprint that addresses the economic and education needs of southern Arizona.  In order to create the best-possible plan, we will hold a series of forums at locations throughout metropolitan Tucson this fall. Consider this an invitation to tell us what you believe to be the region’s major challenges and opportunities.  Look for details about the forums – times, dates and locations -- on our website. And, as always, you can comment about all aspects of the process through a dedicated email,

PCC has made excellent progress in meeting the goals set out in the 2011-2013 College Plan. PCC completed all 91 of the items scheduled for completion so far. The following highlights are a sampling of the ways the Plan drives Pima to improve its services to students:

  • Establishing the PCC Prep Academy to further student success
  • Implementing a common course numbering system with the state’s community colleges and universities
  • Supporting low-income, first-generation students through TRiO Upward Bound
  • Holding blood-donation and voter-registration drives to raise students’ civic awareness
  • Providing students with more information on costs and payment options, including a Web-based Tuition Payment Plan Estimator

I want to point out that the 2011 Plan is not a pet project of the District Office. We have strived to make the Plan a College-wide effort, and have worked to raise awareness at our campuses and centers by putting campus administrators in charge of completing the Plan’s initiatives and strategies. We recognize that the success of any substantive attempt to improve a large, dynamic organization such as PCC depends on the support of PCC’s most valuable asset, our employees.

Chancellor search update

As many of you know, the PCC Governing Board is conducting a search for a new chancellor. For information on any aspect of the search process, simply click on the Chancellor Search button on the home page. There you will find a link to, which you can use to comment to the Board of Governors. You also will find other information related to the search process, including updates, documents, a timeline and other resources.

Higher Learning Commission update

The College recently responded to a request for written answers to questions from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The HLC accredits degree-granting postsecondary educational institutions such as PCC. Receiving accreditation is crucial for the viability of colleges and universities. It assures the public, and in particular prospective students, that PCC meets stated criteria and that there are reasonable grounds to believe it will continue to meet them.

PCC received its 10-year accreditation renewal in 2011 after the HLC visited us in 2010. You can read the HLC’s 2010 Comprehensive Visit Report – we passed with flying colors -- on our accreditation webpage.

We hope to receive a final response from the HLC soon. We will post that response, as well as our answers to the HLC’s questions, on our accreditation page.

Financial aid update

The Department of Education has granted PCC’s application to participate in Higher Education Act Title IV student financial aid programs on a provisional basis through March 31, 2015.

We were granted provisional status because the default rate of students taking out Federal Perkins Loans exceeds 30 percent. For Fiscal Year 2011, 10 of 32 students (approximately 31 percent) in repayment status were in default.

Provisional status will not affect our students’ access to federal financial aid.

The default rate of PCC students who have taken out Perkins loans decreased between FY 2009 and FY 2011, thanks to improved loan servicing and the hiring of a fiscal analyst who counsels students on loan consolidation programs available through the Department of Education. But the rate remains high. The Perkins program is designed to help needy students, who likely are facing continuing financial stress stemming from the economic downturn.

As part of provisional status, PCC will take measures to reduce defaults. Our Governing Board has directed PCC to help students limit their loan exposure, and we constantly work with students to make prudent decisions about how they finance their education.

College report

Opportunities just a click away at MyCareerLink

Pima is always looking for ways to enhance the career success of our students. Connecting them with employers is a key element toward achieving that goal, and as is so often the case, the Internet is the conduit.

Through MyCareer Link, Pima offers employers a new way to connect online with PCC students about internships, jobs and opportunities to volunteer. Employers can list information accessible to PCC students through the MyPima portal at Currently, MyCareerLink offers dozens of opportunities, ranging from Application Developer to X-ray Technician.

MyCareerLink also lets students upload and store résumés, cover letters and other documents, and features career exploration tools, salary calculators and other resources to assist in their academic and career success.

PCC Program Manager Michele Betzen calls MyCareerLink “an exciting new resource for employers, students and recent alumni,” and notes that it is free.

Employers can find more information about MyCareerLink at PCC’s Student Recruitment and Internships webpage.

Library branch gets a temporary home at PCC

The Eckstrom-Columbus Branch of the Pima County Public Library is an excellent education and community resource for its surrounding midtown Tucson neighborhood. The library, which will undergo renovations beginning in late September, will temporarily move to the Pima Community College 29th Street Coalition Center. The center, formerly Roberts Elementary School, is under lease from the Tucson Unified School District by Pima.

The library, at 4350 E. 22nd St., is near the center, 4355 E. Calle Aurora. The Columbus branch will be housed in about 2,400 square feet of existing space in the Library Building. In lieu of rent, the Pima County Public Library will make IT infrastructure improvements to the building.

We have a five-year lease with TUSD for the center, which will house an Adult Learning Center and our Public Safety and Emergency Services Institute, and we were delighted when members of the area's 29th Street Coalition attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the facility in February. Pima is committed to supporting the area surrounding Roberts, as we are all the neighborhoods near our campuses and centers.

Aviation Technology program soars to new heights

Dr. Suzanne Miles in the cockpit of the new airplane along with an image of dignitaries accepting the aircraftOur Aviation Technology program, long recognized as one of the best in the U.S., is flying a little bit higher these days, thanks to two of our longtime partners in education.

PCC recently accepted the donation of a 34-year-old Boeing 727-200F from FedEx Express. The jet, valued at $800,000, will become a magnificent 153-foot long classroom. Students in our Airframe and Powerplant, Avionics, and Structural Repair concentrations will be able to work on a real 727. Hands-on training of this nature is rare among Aviation Technology programs and will propel our students to greater career advancement. This extraordinary education opportunity is one reason the approximately 60 students who graduate from our program annually are in such high demand by industry employers.

At a ceremony marking the donation, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild eloquently described how PCC’s program is crucial to advancing the region’s all-important high-tech aviation sector.  U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, in a letter of support for the program, also argued persuasively that education must play a key role if the region is to prosper. A letter from U.S. Rep. Ron Barber noted the “many veterans who will be using this and other planes in Pima’s program to find work in an exceedingly skilled and demanding field.”

It should be noted that this is the second commercial jet donated to the College by FedEx. In 2003, we received a Boeing 727-116 that has provided instruction to hundreds of PCC students.

Thanks to Beth Rush, who represented FedEx Express at the ceremony and spoke of the need for women to consider Aviation Technology as a career; PCC Program Manager Tom Hinman; Dr. Johnson Bia, President of Desert Vista Campus, home campus of the Aviation Technology Center; Desert Vista Vice President of Instruction Ted Roush; Christy Yebra, Events Coordinator; and C.J. Karamargin, Vice Chancellor for Public Information and Government Relations, and his staff.

The Aviation Technology program got an additional boost recently when Bombardier Aerospace agreed to sponsor $1,000 scholarships for three PCC students. The scholarships, awarded through the PCC Foundation, are need-based and reserved for students with a GPA of 3.0 or better. As is common at PCC, many Aviation Technology students are balancing academics, work and family commitments, and the additional money can help make the difference between academic success and failure in PCC’s rigorous program.

Thanks to Bombardier for paying it forward through its support of the next generation of skilled aircraft technicians.

All College Day 2012

David FitzsimmonsIt has been Pima’s tradition to mark the start of the academic year with All College Day. Nearly 1,000 employees assembled at West Campus for meetings of administrators and faculty in each of our discipline areas, as well as for workshops to promote team-building and to replenish mind, body and spirit.

In keeping with this year’s theme, “Pima, It’s All About You,” employees dazzled the assembly with their formerly hidden talents: singing, songwriting, dancing, playing musical instruments. Who knew we were so gifted? Additionally, the College’s special guest, Arizona Daily Star cartoonist and columnist David Fitzsimmons, provided sharp-witted comedic relief. In all, it was a splendid way to kick off another productive year at PCC. To quote Fitz: “Pima rocks!”

A short presentation
highlighting PCC achievements in 2011-12 as well as significant changes, opportunities and improvements planned for 2012-13, is available on our website.

Pima Achievers

Over the summer, members of the PCC community have accomplished much of note. Here is a sampling of awards and achievements:

Governing Board member Sherryn “Vikki” Marshall has been honored for her support of the Pima County Adult Detention Complex Library. Vikki received a Certificate of Appreciation from Warren M. Alter, corrections bureau chief of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, for volunteering many hours at the library. Vikki also received a Community Service Award from Richard Fimbres, Tucson City Council member for Ward 5 (and a former PCC Governing Board member), for her generous donation of library books, which has “contributed to increase literacy throughout the inmate population.”

Pima and the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation were recognized by Gov. Jan Brewer with a 2012 Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Award for working together to give four beautifully restored historic neon signs a new home at PCC’s Downtown Campus. The signs are just one way that the College partners with its surrounding areas for the betterment of the community. Thanks to Demion Clinco of the foundation for collaborating to brighten up the Miracle Mile neighborhood.

I am pleased to welcome Dr. Jerry Migler, who began work as our new Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Services on July 31. Dr. Migler previously was Executive Vice President at Minnesota State Community and Technical College and Provost of MSCTC’s Moorhead campus. Also, Dr. Nic Richmond, our executive director of Planning and Institutional Research, has been named Dean of Business, Occupational and Professional Programs at Downtown Campus. Nic’s position will be filled by Dr. Heather Tilson. Additionally, Dennis Holden, a member of the PCC Foundation Board of Directors since 2004, has been elected Chairman of the Board of Directors for 2012-13. Dennis is the director of customer relations/district operations for the Southern Arizona division of Southwest Gas Corp.

Many PCC staff and faculty make the most of the summer break by taking advantage of opportunities to go back to school themselves. Drs. Mary Beth Ginter and Mary Kay Gilliland spent part of their summer Back East learning how to better serve students and improve higher education. Mary Beth, West Campus’ Dean of Business, Computers, World Languages, Social & Behavioral Sciences, Fitness & Sports Sciences at West Campus, took part in the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education in Cambridge, Mass. The institute emphasized ways to overcome institutional and personal obstacles in order to achieve substantive change. “The goal is to turn good colleges into great colleges,” she said. Mary Kay, Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics at West, attended the HERS Bryn Mawr Summer Institute at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. The Institute’s original mission focused on higher education leadership for women.  This institute emphasized learning about institutional processes and academic leadership roles “inside out” in order to better serve constituents and communities. The institute offered the participants a chance “to pull back and refocus on students,” Mary Kay said.

Desert Vista Campus President Dr. Johnson Bia and Northwest Campus President Dr. Alex Kajstura participated in the American Association of Community Colleges’ Presidents Academy Summer Institute in Jackson Hole, Wyo. They joined 60 community college presidents from throughout the U.S. at the institute, where they shared insights about the challenges facing community colleges, and learned from each other’s experiences. Participants received updates from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and a report from the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges. Other topics included Instructional Technology, Crisis Management and Media Relations, CEO Contracts and Negotiations, and Governance Board and CEO/Executive Team Relations. Dr. Bia considers the institute “one of the best professional development opportunities for college presidents” in his 20 years at PCC.

Dr. Denise Meeks, Science Department Chair at Northwest Campus, presented on the ASCEND! program at the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s 2012 Annual Meeting in Tucson. Through ASCEND! (Aerospace STEM Challenges to Educate New Discoverers), students from Pima and other Arizona colleges build small payloads containing cameras and instruments for launch from weather balloons that float as high as 100,000 feet.

PCC’s athletic program finished tied for 17th out of 193 colleges in the National Alliance of Two-Year College Athletic Administrators Cup standings. The rankings are based on success achieved in championship competition during the 2011-2012 season.

In closing

Dr. Suzanne Miles and husband Rob along with a photo of the Global Village TeamMy husband and I had the honor of participating this summer in Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village volunteer program.  We were part of a team that spent two weeks working with residents of our host community of La Matanza, Argentina to work on existing structures for six different families.

I’m proud to say that Pima’s Building and Construction Technology program has partnered with Habitat for Humanity-Tucson to give some of our advanced students quality hands-on experience through the construction of Habitat for Humanity homes. Many Tucsonans need access to decent, affordable housing, and our students are eager to give back to the community.

Thank you for your support, and have a happy and productive fall. Stay cool!

Suzanne L. Miles