BY: NORA THOMPSON and JOE GIDDENS
Debbi Chess Mabie came to Tucson 8 years ago, in those 8 years she worked at the Loft Cinema, was the director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council and then received a fellowship from the University of Arizona School of Social and Behavior Sciences.
She has a list of other achievements that came before her move to Tucson, “30 years of experience in nonprofit and organizational development.” Mabie said, “but now I’m ready for the Pima Community College, Governing Board.” Mabie found her love of education at a young age. “My father taught at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. And I would go with him after school. He taught there for years and I would go with him and sit in the back of the classroom and I would do my own stuff.
But I was always impressed by the idea that students would come, people would come, adults become after a long day, work to sit another two or three hours in a classroom to learn.” Her fellowship at the U of A is for two years and the governing board position is six years; Mabie says that she’d have to investigate what that means for her. In the meantime Mabie will focus on what she hopes to accomplish on the board of governors.
She wants to work more closely with local businesses around Tucson and see how they can work with the college to bring in revenue.
“It’s not just looking at what Pima Community College can offer these businesses in terms of workforce development, but what in terms of the quality of life, how does Pima Community College influenced the poor quality of life in Tucson” Mabie said. She also claims to have an understanding of the role that community college plays in society. “I have a very intimate understanding of the role that community college plays in placing people in people for whom a four year degree is not a reality.” Mabie said, “Not only because maybe the funding, the money isn’t there to go to 4-year… That’s not their path to success. That’s not their definition of success, but programs at a community college level are.”
Mabie also wants to make the graduation process easier, her campaign literature detailing some barriers that Pima students will face as they try to get their associates’ degree. On this issue she says, “When I speak to students, some don’t quite know how to get from a to b and feeling like they don’t know how to access support services counselors that can help them chart out a path.”
Mabie has even taken a sewing class at Pima, and found it hard to work Pima’s online registration system. “I can tell you it was really difficult to register. And again, I have a master’s degree. I consider myself a fairly intelligent human being and I had a really hard time navigating the online system.”
As far as Pima’s budget crisis goes Mabie isn’t sure how to fix the problem right now, she knows that Pima needs to go through and audit their classes to figure out what is bringing in more money and what could possibly become profitable. Mabie wrote a piece for the Arizona Daily Star about discrimination in the workplace especially at the U of A. Mabie, a woman of color, wrote it in response to a colleague of hers that was suing the U of A for racial discrimination. “I think cultures of discrimination happen when people stay silent when people don’t call out bad behavior and when there isn’t a real honest conversation about leadership, about accountability.” Mabie said.
Mabie is supported by David Andres, the Curator of the Bernal gallery. “She’s super honest, willing to go out of her way to support other groups and the community. I’m always supporting someone that supports the arts and humanities.” Andres said.
“Are we out of the woods by no stretch of the imagination. There’s a long way to go. We still have some goals to meet, to meet, to stay at the higher learning commission’s good graces, I guess you could say. And I know that I have a skill set. I know that I have experienced, I know that I have relationships that can help or the ability to cultivate relationships that can help that and my father would say if you see a need and you know that you can meet it than it is your obligation to step up and do it. So that’s why I’m doing it.”