Pima aims high in ‘Conversation with Chancellor’

By NICK MEYERS

Chancellor Lee Lambert pitched his plan to get Pima Community College back into top shape during an in-service All College Day on March 27.

Approximately 1,200 college employees attended the “Conversation with the Chancellor” as Lambert voiced his ideas on how PCC can reach the status of being a “premiere” community college.

“We are making history here, today,” governing board president Sylvia Lee said as she introduced the session. “The hard work that must follow will determine the future path that we take here at Pima.”

Lambert’s initiative is focused on bringing an engaging experience back to students.

David Bishop, an instructional faculty member and emcee for the event, compared the college to a business, and said a business must appeal to its investors, or at Pima, the students.

Lambert called upon college employees to adopt a “solution-oriented mind set” to combat budget cuts and decreased enrollment. He proposed a marketing approach to strengthen Pima’s image as an organization that is involved in the community and promotes the education of its students to achieve their goals.

“It is about the choices we’re going to make from this day forward that will make the difference of whether we go in the right direction or not,” Lambert said.

Lambert focused on three main points to elevate the quality of education and experience at Pima.

First, bringing value and quality to students through commitment and responsible management of the budget.

Though his forecast predicts a decrease in the budget through 2018, he hopes that by increasing enrollment the college can increase its spending capabilities beyond what they are today by 2020.

Lambert intends for the college’s new policy to increase enrollment by 1,000 full-time students each year for the next four years.

Second, by seeking improvement in all facets of the college, but especially those declared “met with concerns” in the Higher Learning Commission’s final audit.

Administrators have been chosen to spearhead efforts to address 11 areas which barely passed HLC accreditation standards. If these areas do not improve, the chancellor warns that PCC could be shut down.

Third, Lambert wants to focus on generating a culture surrounding inclusion and success.

But Pima has a gauntlet to run before achieving this goal. In 2013, Pima achieved just a 61 percent retention rate among students and only 10 percent of students were earning a degree or certificate.

“The data tells us we’re mediocre,” Lambert said. “I know we’re better than that.”

Key components to increasing student enrollment are marketing and customer service.

PCC will increase attention to advertising and public relations in order to attract new students. The intent is to lead students who are considering community college to enrolling at Pima by emphasizing the opportunities and personalization of the Pima experience.

Paraphrasing John Kennedy, the chancellor told employees, “Ask not what Pima can do for you, but what you can do for Pima.”

In line with the college’s new prerogative, this meeting also allowed students to voice their concerns on a college-wide level.

Students Alec Moreno, Jeremiah Palicka, Johanna Jimenez, Esdras Cabezola and myself had the opportunity to tell employees about the good experiences we’ve had at Pima, as well as areas that many students have identified as problematic.

The students expressed their concerns with advising, orientation, food services and employee support for student initiatives while expressing an abundance of gratitude for the resources and opportunities provided at Pima.

The student panel marked a shift in Pima’s philosophy to encourage student involvement.

“In the words of Margaret Mead, we are pioneers in the present,” Bishop said.

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