Pima’s president passing power to people

By PARKER BROCK

Morgan Phillips at work.

Morgan Phillips, campus president for the Desert Vista and West campuses, added another campus — East — to his repertoire on Sept. 6.

“Really, the potential for PCC is to make a difference in students’ lives,” said Phillips, who has been at Pima for more than four years. “There are so many people in Pima County, that having some additional education, job skills training, the ability to get their high school diploma to prepare to transfer to the University of Arizona or some other place gives them opportunity to improve their lives.

Phillips said Pima is one of the most important organizations in the community because it quickly responds to market changes. He cited the new Caterpillar program as one of the ways Pima has responded to market demand.

“These are people who already have a bachelor degree, but industry has said we need them to have this other skill,” he said. “We were able to put a program together for them and get them started here in a few months. That’s the strength of community colleges.”

Phillips spoke on Pima’s vision and how it’s changing direction under his leadership.

“Pima is just trying to get back into that swing right now,” he said. “For the past 10 years or so, Pima really was trying to become one of those ‘Well, we are just the first two years of university, or eventually, we become like a state college.’ That’s not really the fit that Tucson needs.”

Phillips said that instead, Pima needs to serve businesses by helping people obtain high-paying jobs that change their lives.

He said that Pima has the ability to spot potential jobs in the marketplace and create training programs and courses that help people get qualified to respond to market demand.

“For someone who says, ‘I was working this one job and maybe they’re phasing me out due to mechanization, let me go back to school and get trained to do something else.’ That would be a great opportunity for them to do something like that.”

Phillips talked about how his responsibilities have changed.

“We have to shift our mindset for, ‘What does a president do at PCC?’ In the past, when I was at (just) Desert Vista Campus, basically, I was directly involved with almost everything that was happening at the campus.

“I was going around doing stuff with my hands on it. I can’t really do that in the same way now with three campuses.”

Phillips explained how he is shifting the responsibilities downward.

“Part of this is just a leadership philosophy,” he said. “Again, it’s one of these things that’s kind of changing because there’s a historical belief that the best way to run things.

“Over time, you get people who know some stuff and can answer questions, but it’s doing that more by design, shifting decision making and empowerment down to the people who are actually working with the student, working with the community.”

Phillips used the aviation program as an example for how he seeks to move authority down from the presidency to the program faculty.

“When you have a program, like the aviation program for instance, it’s off the airport, there’s an aviation director, faculty members that work there, there’s staff. Pretty much they run their own college out there.”

Rather than assuming more responsibilities, Phillips hopes to strengthen PCC’s effectiveness and efficiency through providing faculty with the ability to show initiative and shape their programs.

“Pushing things down, empowering individuals so they can be more responsible for their particular area, and me helping them get done what they need to do,” he said. “Rather than me being hands on, I have to shift to, ‘I’m here to help you get it done.’ ”

 

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