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Pima Community College Leader Joins U.S. Educators’ Group Seeking to Close Racial, Economic Opportunity Gaps

Tucson, AZ – Pima Community College Vice President of Workforce Development & Strategic Partnerships Dr. Ian Roark has been selected to join the Education Design Lab’s Designers in Residence program.

Dr. Roark will be building on Pima’s Reskilling and Recovery Network efforts in the workforce development, economic development and business/industry spaces. This includes expansion of micropathways and work-based learning /apprenticeships and other models that meet the needs of working learners in Pima County and Arizona.

“It’s an honor to work with Education Design Lab and the other Designers in Residence to help address economic equity issues in higher education,” Dr. Roark says. “In Tucson, 49 percent of workers, more than 175,000 people, are in low-wage jobs,” he adds, citing Brookings Institution data. “These are our neighbors, families and friends.  We must ensure that our programs break the cycle of low-wage job entrenchment that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“We are honored that Ian has been chosen for a prestigious program that seeks actionable remedies to challenges facing our community and the nation,” said Lee D. Lambert, Pima Chancellor. “We look forward to the solutions that Ian will bring back so that we can better serve our students and help close equity gaps in the community.”

Spanning a diverse cross-section of communities, institutional positionality, and lived experience and expertise, the Designers in Residence will work together as a design team to co-create a model for colleges to be regional change agents to close economic and racial opportunity gaps as we move into a post-COVID economy.

 The local and national challenges facing the designers are formidable:

Nationally, in 2021, 22 percent fewer students enrolled in higher education than prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number that increases to 30 percent for students from low-income high schools. In Pima County, between 80,000 and 100,000 adults lack a high credential.

To help address these disparities, Designers in Residence will leverage their collective expertise to co-create a framework that centers on the needs of their learners within a rapidly evolving economy and will provide the start of a roadmap for other institutions and innovators seeking to build and scale this system. 

“We hope to emerge from this year with design tools that will position  the scores of learner success partnerships around the country to seize what we all believe is an innovation moment, coming out of the pandemic,” said Kathleen deLaski, CEO of the Education Design Lab. “Colleges recognize that their roles are evolving along with learner views about degrees and employers needs, and with a heightened urgency around what it will take to break down racial and economic barriers to open up livable wage futures for all.”

Other members of the Designers in Residence cohort include: 

  • Michael Baston, President, Rockland Community College
  • Bonita Brown, Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Northern Kentucky University
  • Ahmad Ezzeddine, Associate Vice President of Educational Outreach and International Programs, Wayne State University
  • Chanel L. Fort, Director of Academic Innovation and Learning Strategist, Fortified Learning Solutions, Stillman College
  • Rose Rojas, Interim Director of Workforce Strategy, Maricopa Community College
  • Adrian Haugabrook, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Social Impact Collective, Southern New Hampshire University
  • Lisa Larson, President, Eastern Maine Community College
  • Cameron McCoy, Vice President and Vice Provost, Strategic Initiatives, Lehigh University
  • Nicole McDonald, Assistant Vice President, University of Houston 
  • Jairo McMican, Dean of Student Learning/Director of Equity and Pathways, Central Carolina Community College
  • Ian Roark, Vice President of Workforce Development and Strategic Partnerships, Pima Community College
  • Stacy Townsley, Vice President of Adult Strategy and Statewide Partnerships, Ivy Tech Community College

This program is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and views expressed by the program do not necessarily reflect positions or policies of the foundation.


About Pima: Founded in 1969, Pima Community College offers degrees and certificates in more than 100 transfer and occupational programs at teaching sites throughout Pima County. To learn more, visit www.pima.edu or call (520) 206-4500.

About Education Design Lab: Education Design Lab is a national nonprofit that designs, tests, and implements unique higher education models and credentials that address the rapidly changing economy and emerging technology opportunities. The Lab demonstrates where technology, rigor and design can improve opportunity for historically underserved learners to maximize their potential in the higher education system.

Education Design Lab works across disciplines and alongside schools, employers, entrepreneurs, government, foundations, nonprofits and innovators. The organization has significant experience managing national and local learning cohorts, working with organizations such as The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the United Negro College Fund, Walmart, American Council on Education and the ECMC Foundation. Learn more: www.eddesignlab.org.

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