By ANDREW PAXTON
After a search that lasted more than a year and required two different firms to select candidates, Pima Community College finally has a new chancellor.
Lee Lambert was chosen by Pima’s governing board to direct leadership of the college, bringing stability to the top position that has seen three different administrators over a span of 18 months.
“As your new chancellor, I am committed to creating an environment focused on student success,” Lambert said in an email sent to all students Aug. 28, the first day of classes.
The decision to hire Lambert was not without controversy. Before he was chosen, many groups associated with the college expressed dismay that the current governing board members would be selecting the new chancellor.
In April, several groups representing Pima employees, including Faculty Senate, Staff Council and PCCEA, passed resolutions of no confidence against four of the board members in response to the college being placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission.
“The faculty has voted no confidence in this board,” Joe Labuda, Faculty Senate president, said during the April board meeting. “They shouldn’t be hiring the new chancellor.”
Board members remained steadfast in their plan to hire a new chancellor by July 1 despite opposition from the community. On May 17, Lambert was named to the position following a fact-finding trip to Shoreline Community College, where Lambert had led since 2006.
Sylvia Lee, the only member of Pima’s governing board not facing calls for resignation, was a part of the fact-finding team. Before the trip, she was skeptical about hiring Lambert.
“I had hoped I would find reasons to say no,” Lee said during the May 17 board meeting announcing Lambert as chancellor. Instead, she “found numerous reasons to say yes.”
She told the audience she feels Lambert is “the right person to lead us to a brighter tomorrow.”
Lambert officially began as Pima’s new chancellor on July 1. One of his first actions was to hold a series of “Meet the Chancellor” events across Pima’s many campuses and other facilities. Students, faculty, staff and community members were all invited to attend.
Many who attended these sessions wanted to know what Lambert planned on doing to restore faith in the college and get Pima on the right track.
“It starts with me,” Lambert told the audience at Downtown Campus on July 9. “The wheels fell off the bus, and we have to work together to make things right.”
Lambert told the crowd that being on probation can be viewed as an opportunity to see what is working, what needs improvement and where the college can make advancements into the future.
“There are a set of expectations that will be identified, and then we will hold ourselves accountable,” he said.
The new chancellor has also highlighted transparency, communication, greater involvement and more accountability as key components to getting Pima removed from probation and regaining trust from the community.
“Healing is already beginning,” Lambert said during his introductory press conference. “People are stepping up to show how much they care about this wonderful institution.”