Campus president: ‘it’s critical to listen’

By SHAQ DAVIS

After the top two administrators at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus were fired last fall, the college hired Gwendolyn Joseph as interim campus president and Quincy Moore as interim vice president for student development.

Joseph sat down with Aztec Press on Feb. 3 to discuss the next steps for Downtown Campus and PCC.

Q: Where did you grow up? What are some things that have happened during your career?

A: I was born and raised in Texas. I grew up in an area called Beaumont, right outside of Houston. Most of my adult life was spent in the Houston area. Late in my career, I accepted a position in Kentucky, an executive-level position.

I’ve been in community colleges over 30 years. I love the commitment that faculty and staff have for the students, I love the creativity you find in community colleges. Out of those 30 years, I don’t think I’ve had two days that have been the same.

Q: What are some things that took place on your first day here? What was immediately on your agenda?

A: My first day here, I was meeting a lot of people, just getting to know the campus. I came in at a time where the campus students and faculty were all on Christmas break.

The majority of that time was just getting a feel for Pima, for Tucson, and trying to understand various issues. So I spent a lot of time in meetings and trying to get on board as an employee.

We went through the process of hiring a vice president. The first week, that was the main thing — to get that position filled.

Q: What are some changes you believe need to happen while you are president?

A: There are a number of things that we can do differently and the chancellor started putting a lot of those things in place even before my coming onboard. I need to be more visible, to hear what people are thinking, their needs.

It’s critical to listen, to start the healing process. A lot of the press has been hard on people, especially the people who are trying to do a very good job. I need to take the time to listen to what they are saying.

We need a plan of action, how do we really approach where we’re trying to go overall.

I want people to feel safe, I want people to feel good about being at Pima. I’d like to see our numbers come up in terms of enrollment, but more so in student success.

I’d like to see people more engaged in who we are as an institution and feel they’re contributing to what we’re trying to accomplish.

If I can start putting things in place in making some of those things happen, then whoever comes in after me would be able to take them to the next level.

Q: What is your specific role in making sure Downtown Campus is ready for the Higher Learning Commission’s visit this fall?

A: Because part of the requirement for reaccreditation is that we have a strategic planning process, I am actively involved in that process. I’m on the steering committee, or planning team.

We’re having a big Futures Conference on Feb. 18. We are inviting the community in, so we can hear where they want to see Pima go in the long run and what are those critical items they want us to focus on.

The other thing I’m doing is some development for the campus leadership, and broadening the concept of just what is campus leadership.

Q: How are employees handling this period of transition while the HLC is the No. 1 priority?

A: There are some concerns, but I think employees are handling it very well.

It says a lot about the employees here overall that so many were willing to jump in and work toward doing what they need to do to meet the requirements of the HLC.

There are anxieties because it could impact their livelihoods if we don’t get our accreditation. But, I think we are doing some things right to make that happen.

I think employees are glad to see at least a level of stability for a short period of time because that has been a concern.

I do think that Chancellor Lambert is trying to put together a team and bring as much stability as possible in this period of time.

Pg04-Joseph-Downtown Campus president

Gwendolyn Joseph. (Shaq Davis/Aztec Press)

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