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PCC prevention program aims to educate

PCC prevention program aims to educate

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

Joscelyn Luque and Paula Grijalva, Pima Community College students at Desert Vista Campus, began looking into the Aztec Proactive Prevention Program after they saw flyers at their campus.

AP3 was developed for PCC students in an effort to prevent substance abuse and to decrease the number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases.

The program is based at Desert Vista Campus but also focuses on PCC’s West and Downtown campuses.

The federally funded program collaborates with Amistades Inc., Behavioral Assessments Inc. and the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

Two SAAF staff members, Remy Ruiz and Marcos Trujillo, conduct outreach and training sessions.

Trujillo said the program is designed to meet the specific needs of Latino and other young adults of ethnic minorities.

“This is incredibly important because we see that health disparities and rates of HIV infection are higher in Latino, black and indigenous communities than among whites,” Trujillo said.

“By aiming to meet the needs of these students, we are actually able to provide services to all students and provide programming that can still be relevant and helpful to students regardless of how they identify,” he added.

The AP3 grant program’s two components are HIV testing and an evidencebased intervention training program called “Say it Straight.”

“I had a lot of fun attending the ‘Say it Straight’ workshop,” Luque said. “They explained and talked about everything so confident and with such great understanding which made things that are usually uncomfortable or hard to follow easy to understand and follow.”

The training program can adapt to whatever the participant needs, whether it be a discussion on safer sex or substance abuse.

“It’s like a HIV 101 and a substance abuse 101,” spokeswoman Elva De La Torre said. “Then we take that information and we do different scenarios with the students using their real life experience.”

The evidence-based intervention is designed to help students through different communication styles. It gives them the opportunity to say no in situations that may put them at risk whether with substance abuse or sexually, De La Torre added.

AP3 outreach coordinator Marcos Trujillo staffs an informational table at Desert Vista.
Photo courtesy of AP3 program

The goal of the AP3 is to create a comfortable environment for students.

“I would recommend taking a friend so you wouldn’t go alone,” Grijalva said. “I was scared too, but we got to step out of that fear and learn how to be safe. It’s an environment where nobody judges.”

The workshops include a peer-to-peer component.

Students who have undergone the trainings are able to establish themselves as leaders since they’re able to attend outreach efforts.

“We are still developing this because we need students who have gone through the program in order to have them do this peer kind of health advocate component,” De La Torre said.

AP3 conducted a comprehensive needs assessment last year that allowed the program to pinpoint gaps in services for students.

“One of the things that continually came up is the fact that students don’t have a place to get this kind of information or to really get the supplies that they might need,” De La Torre said.

The trainings have been built on a foundation of respect and open-mindedness.

“We’re here to provide education on how to be safe and how to effectively communicate your needs, no matter what a person is or isn’t engaging in,” Ruiz said.

In the past year, AP3 has strived to establish itself on PCC campuses through outreach efforts.

Efforts have included frequent table displays, a practice in which two staff members hand out information and safe sex supplies.

“Outreach has really been our focus over the last year,” Trujillo said. “One of the things we are learning about our students is that many of them don’t have much information about HIV, sexual health and substance abuse.”

Creating a stable social media presence on Facebook has also helped to increase program awareness.

They’ve also increased communications with PCC student life in order to find out about upcoming events, where they may be able to provide information and free confidential HIV testing.

Trujillo said the AP3 program is currently developing electronic and print materials that will be available at all campuses and on digital bulletin boards.

“We really want students to start prioritizing their own health and fight stigma about learning how to keep themselves healthy and safe,” Trujillo said.

‘Poor communication’ in financial aid process leaves student upset

‘Poor communication’ in financial aid process leaves student upset

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

Like many Pima Community College students, Mathew Merriman relies on the PCC financial aid department to provide reassurance and assistance for his financial aid disbursement.

Merriman had ongoing issues with his financial aid since January. The problems were resolved in late March.

He began contacting the PCC financial aid department in January to request help because he was worried about receiving his money.

“I emailed them directly through their ‘Contact Us’ forum,” he said. “Then eventually, when I wasn’t getting answers, I’d call directly.”

Despite having open communication with the department via emails and phone calls, Merriman felt flustered and confused.

“It’s almost like I’d leave the phone thinking it was resolved and then something else would change.” He said. “I wouldn’t get any type of notification, so basically I’d start the process all over again.”

Merriman was later told that part of his problem stemmed from charges on his account from the previous semester, which led to his aid being revoked. He had not previously been informed about the problem.

“It was like pulling teeth to figure that out because I couldn’t get through to anyone, or no one knew what was wrong,” he said.

Merriman was reassured that his issue was nearly resolved, but he had doubts. “It’s a manual process, so basically it’s in their hands whether or not it gets done,” he said.

He received the news he had been waiting for on March 27.

“I just checked MyPima, and it showed the funds had been disbursed,” he said.

Merriman called the resolution “very relieving,” noting “I’m happy that they kept up with their end.”

If Merriman’s aid hadn’t been disbursed, he would have been responsible for paying $1,244 in tuition.

PCC Financial Aid Coordinator Edgardo Cornejo said financial aid issues must often be treated on a case-by-case basis.

Many times, the information may not relate to the financial aid department, Cornejo said. Other times, some pieces of information may be left out, which makes it hard for department employees to assist students.

“I would say that the majority of the cases, it could potentially be a communication issue,” Cornejo said.

“I’m not putting the blame on the student nor on us,” he said. “Sometimes a student may think that they are providing us with everything or we aren’t capturing everything the student is trying to provide.”

Both Cornejo and Melissa Moser, PCC executive director of financial aid, said PCC staffers have vastly improved the methods they use to relay and communicate financial aid information to students.

“Without having the specifics regarding the student, the processes that we have in place do notify the student of all issues with their financial aid,” Moser said.

Moser said she is unaware of any communication issues with regard to financial aid.

“All students receive emails and alerts in MyPima regarding their financial aid,” she said. “The student may not have been checking their Pima email address; this is the official email communication that the college uses for financial aid.”

The methods in which information is communicated has expanded greatly, according to Cornejo

“I know for a fact that we have been making sure that we stay in communication in various ways with all our students, either sending them messages through their MyPima account or to their Pima emails,” he said.

In other cases, the department will give students a call or send notifications through their personal email, he added.

Moser said she personally offered her assistance to Merriman.

As part of the effort to continue to improve the methods in which financial aid information is relayed, the department has updated the icons that students see in MyPima regarding their aid status.

For example, a green check mark indicates that the financial aid requirement is satisfied. A purple thumbs-up represents recommended action a student should take.

Moser said financial aid workshops and presentations are in the planning stages. The workshops will focus on helping students understand the processes and requirements on financial aid.

“I am hopeful that in Fall 2017, we can convene a focus group of students to review the financial aid website and emails, and offer suggestions as to what this office can do to facilitate understanding and completion of the financial aid application,” Moser said.

Despite the communication efforts noted by both financial aid staffers, Merriman said Pima must work on improving how they communicate financial aid changes.

“The only real complaint is that there is no communication when changes are made, charges are posted, funds are disbursed, etcetera,” he said. “All I’m asking is just an email.”

The experience left Merriman with a sour taste in his mouth.

“The effect it had was that I definitely lost a lot of respect for Pima,” he said.

“When you’re dealing with people’s school money, you should be running a tighter ship,” he added. “There are definitely a lot of employees in the financial aid department who are very resourceful and helpful. They just need to improve.”

Mathew Merriman

TOP 10: Most influential international women

TOP 10: Most influential international women

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

March marks Women’s History Month. It’s incredibly difficult to compile a list of just 10 influential women, so I apologize in advance for leaving out many fantastic women.

     10. Ingrid Nilsen

Nilsen focuses her YouTube channel on beauty, fashion and DIY, but in 2015 she used her platform of more than three million subscribers to share her coming-out story. It has garnered more than 16 million views and gained attention from CNN, Time, People and Teen Vogue.

  1. Carli Lloyd  

The U.S national women’s soccer team star is most famous for her hat trick in the 2015 World Cup Final, where she led her team to victory after a 16-year drought. The role model openly shares stories of overcoming personal struggles with the game, and voices support for equal pay.

  1. Lady Gaga

The unique musician is known for over-the-top performances. When questioned about her spectacles, Gaga said she felt like a freak in high school. She therefore enjoys giving fans a view of the freak within her, so they have someone to connect with. Gaga has used her platform to raise awareness of military discrimination, LGBT rights and acceptance of others.

      7. Christiane Amanpour

The reporter for CNN and ABC news has covered international hotspots including Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, Pakistan, Somalia, Rwanda and the Balkans during her three-decade career. She was the only reporter to interview former Egyptian military and political leader Hosni Mubarak. Her honors include nine documentary Emmys and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.

      6. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

The second female justice on the Supreme Court has been a courtroom advocate for fair treatment of women and has worked as a director for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Women’s Rights Project. At age 83, she maintains her position on the Supreme Court and will prove to be pivotal factor.

  1. Angela Ahrendts

Apple’s senior vice president of retail is an important force in the business and tech world. While serving as CEO of Burberry, she was credited with helping save the sinking fashion brand. Her success at Burberry prompted her recruitment to Apple, where she is the first woman to hold a spot on CEO Tim Cook’s executive team.

  1. Angelina Jolie

In 2001, while in Cambodia for the filming of “Tomb Raider,” the actress witnessed the suffering of citizens in the war-torn country. The eye-opening experience prompted her to contact the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Her humanitarian work has since taken her to more than 20 countries. In 2013, she became the youngest recipient of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

  1. Ellen DeGeneres

DeGeneres met backlash when she came out as gay in 1997. Since 2003, she has used her talk show to promote acceptance. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, in 2016. At the ceremony, President Obama praised DeGeneres’ courage to come out in a time that was much less accepting. “What an incredible burden that was to bear — to risk your career like that — people don’t do that very often. And then, to have the hopes of millions on your shoulders.”

2. Angela Merkel

Unsurprisingly, Merkel has placed No. 1 on Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women list for 10 consecutive years. She spent the first 35 years of her life confined in Eastern Germany. In 2005, she became the first female German chancellor. During her time in office, she has garnered praise for helping to maintain a healthy economy and strong foreign policy.

  1. Malala Yousafzai

The Pakistani activist for female education survived an assassination attempt and became the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate at age 17. In 2009, under the name “Gul Makai,” she used a BBC blog to detail her life under Taliban rule and her desire to pursue an education. As her fame expanded, she used her platform to advocate the right to an education for all women.

Faculty talk will explore diversity

Faculty talk will explore diversity

Dorothy Brown-Smith (Photo Courtesy of Pima)

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

Pima Community College will host its second spring semester installment of a faculty Speakers’ Series on March 7.

PCC reading instructor Dorothy Brown-Smith will discuss “Cultural Awareness and Consciousness” in her presentation.

“When I am speaking of cultural awareness/consciousness, I am speaking of being conscious, mindful, attentive, cognizant and knowledgeable about diverse peoples and the culture they bring with them, and the value these diverse peoples and cultures bring to society,” Brown-Smith said.

The presentation will begin at 6 p.m. in the PCC Community Board Room (Building C) at the District Office complex, 4095 E. Broadway Blvd.

Admission is free and light refreshments will be available.

During the talk, Brown-Smith will conduct an experimental exercise titled “Wear the Label of Another.”

“This exercise, hopefully, will cause attendees to become aware of cultural bias that creeps into our lives without us being aware of it or even taking notice of it,” she said.

Brown-Smith began her teaching career in 2010 at various community colleges in Illinois. She joined PCC in 2015 and was named Rookie Teacher of the Year.

The final installment of the Speakers’ Series will take place on April 4. Writing instructor Maureen Salzer will present “Going Global Without Leaving Town: Strategies for Internationalizing the General Education Curriculum.”
For more information, call 206-4500.

Funding cuts, enrollment drops equal massive PCC budget woes

Funding cuts, enrollment drops equal massive PCC budget woes

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

Elimination of state funding and continuing drops in enrollment have left Pima Community College officials facing tough budget decisions.

Proposed solutions have generated talk of possible tuition hikes, layoffs, campus closings, spending cuts and elimination of programs.

“As you look at the impacts of no state support, declining enrollment, you have to recalibrate,” PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said.

“You start off by saying ‘everything’s on the table,’” he said. “That allows you to take a big view of how are you going to balance all these pieces … and minimize the impact.”

DECLINING ENROLLMENT  

Current spring semester enrollment dropped 2.96 percent compared to the previous spring semester.

“This is in stark contrast to Spring 2015, when enrollment dropped by as much as 9.77 percent from the previous year,” Lisa Brosky, PCC vice chancellor of external relations, said.

College officials blame enrollment declines on an improving economy, online competition and accreditation concerns.

“It is generally accepted that the peak enrollments that followed the start of the Great Recession in 2008 were an anomaly and, barring a crisis, are not likely to be seen again,” Brosky said.

“Unemployment in the Tucson region is down significantly, which generally means people are working instead of attending college,” she said.

The unemployment rate in Arizona was 4.3 percent in December 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate in December 2008 was 6.9 percent.

Brosky cited the work of Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. He contends declines in enrollment may be fueled by a perceived lack of correlation between college and employment.

“That may be true here as well, where manufacturers and other employers are struggling to fill skilled positions which often pay very well,” Brosky said. “People are unaccustomed to thinking about college to get a manufacturing job.”

Future jobs will require education beyond high school, but less than a four-year degree. Employers need critical thinkers who possess technical and communication skills, Brosky added.

Competition among online programs represents another contributing factor.

“The competition has grown from online competitors,” Lambert said. “ASU online has grown significantly. University of Southern New Hampshire is marketing in our backyard.”

To grow Pima’s online curriculum, the college has hired Michael Amick to serve as vice president of distance education.

PCC has received a $100,000 grant to develop online degree programs that use open-source texts and resources. Pima was the only institution in Arizona, and one of 38 nationally, to receive the endowment.

Pima has also been approved to offer online college courses in 28 states as a participant in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements.

“We think online probably has great growth potential and we are looking at classes, programs and even methods of course delivery,” Brosky said. “Taking courses on a cell phone, for example, is now a mainstream idea.”

Accreditation has been another issue.

“Even though the college is fully accredited, the concerns cited by the accreditor likely affected some people’s decisions to attend,” Brosky said.

“It’s difficult to know by how much,” she added. “The good news is the college is well on its way to putting the ‘on notice’ sanction behind us.”

DIFFICULT DECISIONS

Lambert said the college faces difficult options going forward.

“First of all, I don’t want to be raising tuition on students,” he said. “Two, I don’t want to be laying off employees. Three, I don’t want to be closing campuses.

“I also have a fiduciary responsibility to this community that we will run a financially healthy organization.”

David Bea, PCC executive vice chancellor for finance and administration, presented three budget scenarios to the PCC governing board in December.

BUDGET SCENARIO ONE

The first scenario would entail spending cuts, working toward a major cut of $15 million in 2020.

Tuition hikes are also on the table, with a $7-per-unit increase. The proposed increase would be the largest PCC has ever placed on students. The previous highest increase was a $5-per-unit increase.

“Declining enrollment means declining tuition revenue,” Brosky said. “That, combined with loss of state funding, has put unprecedented economic pressure on the college.”

Tuition for PCC remains low compared to other community colleges in Arizona.

PCC spokeswoman Libby Howell said the college recognizes that many Pima County students are low-income and first-generation college students.

“Setting tuition rates is a balancing act between the needs of the college and the needs of students,” she said.

BUDGET SCENARIO TWO

In the second scenario, the college would lower spending by $5 million per year for three years. Pima would examine and phase out under-performing programs that are suffering from low enrollment.

“We want to make sure we are offering programs that will help students get jobs after college, especially in our career and technical program areas,” Howell said.

This scenario would include reductions in infrastructure and staffing.

Bea said in his budget presentation that 75 percent of the PCC general fund consists of personnel expenses.

“Our enrollment today is currently at 1992 levels,” Howell said. “And yet our staffing ratio to Full-Time Student Equivalents has not been adjusted accordingly.”

Faculty numbers fall in the middle compared to similar institutions and colleges.

PCC exempt and nonexempt staff numbers are twice the average, Howell added.

BUDGET SCENARIO THREE

In scenario three, the college would reduce spending by $10 million per year for the next three years. The savings would be used to transform and revamp PCC.

“We know that to meet the needs of the students and those of our community, the college must invest in our campuses and our programs,” Brosky said.

“We envision high-tech, 21st century learning environments that spark interests,” she said, adding that the college aims to “put the latest technology at student’s fingertips.”

This scenario would also involve notable reductions in staffing and infrastructure.

It could involve closing campuses. College officials have not said which sites might be targeted.

Imminent campus closings are not being considered at this point, according to Howell. Lambert said the focus is to keep all campuses operating.

“The approach is going to be not to have to close down a campus, but to give each campus its own identity around this notion of its ‘center of excellence’ where it makes sense,” he said.

Under the center of excellence concept, each campus would specialize in certain areas of curriculum. An example would be to transform the Downtown Campus to a center of excellence for applied technology, Lambert said.

“I think that this strategy will allow us to hopefully maintain all the present locations,” he said. “But I still have to adjust for a new fiscal reality.”

EXPECTING PUSHBACK

Lambert said he expects pushback on the new plans.

“There is a mythology here at Pima that no one has ever been laid off,” he said. “So I think knowing what I know, I expect there will be pushback.”

Since the new plans are being driven by external forces, discomfort among current faculty is to be expected, Lambert added.

“I would say to them, we are doing it thoughtfully,” Lambert said. “We didn’t just do it willy-nilly. But ultimately, they don’t get to make decisions. That is something I have to recommend to the board.”

It is too early to say whether employee layoffs are near or how many layoffs there would be, Howell added.

In the upcoming summer semester, PCC will experiment with a program that allows employees to voluntarily take two months off with no pay.

The experiment is based on an employee survey conducted in 2015. The results showed that 48 percent of employees indicated interest in exploring the option.

“The details are still being laid out, and will be announced to employees soon,” Howell said. “Once again, let me emphasize that at this time, this option would be voluntary and based on the needs of the college.”

Faculty sabbaticals will also fall victim to funding cuts in 2018.

The PCC Executive Leadership team decided last November to fund six sabbaticals in 2017. There will be no funding the following year, due to financial concerns, Howell said.

ADVERTISING EFFORTS

PCC allotted $434,700 for online and outdoor ads as part of a “Think Smart” campaign in Fall 2015, with hopes of attracting prospective students.

The college created the campaign to increase awareness and understanding about the value and advantages of attending PCC.

“The funding was for a comprehensive approach to marketing that also included print, digital and direct-mail advertising,” Brosky said. “Some of the ads were designed as general awareness ads regarding college access, affordability, value and convenience.”

The campaign included radio, TV and print ads.

“Our advertising budget focused on driving attention to our website, and that was successful, with substantial increases in ‘click-throughs’ from digital advertising,” Howell said.

One campaign focused on potential students over the age of 55, who receive half-priced tuition.
CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM

“PCC is cautiously optimistic that enrollment is beginning to level out,” Brosky said.

The college will adopt its 2017-18 budget in June.

“We need to make sure that we have a healthy Pima Community College, that is here to meet the needs of students and this community far into the future,” Lambert said. “That is what it comes down to. My job is to make sure we navigate to that.”

News Editor Eddie Celaya contributed to this report.

———-

WHAT’S NEXT

Upcoming 2017-18 budget activities planned for PCC Board of Governors meetings include:

March 8 meeting

  • Approve tuition rates
  • Approve student/course fees
  • Approve contracts for employee benefits

April 12 meeting

  • Approve the capital budget

May 10 meeting

  • Present proposed budget plan

June 14 meeting

  • Approve property tax levies
  • Adopt budget

Governing board meetings begin at 5:30 p.m. in the District Office C-105 Community Board Room, 4095 E. Broadway Blvd.


Pima Community College students join a rally to protest Gov. Doug Ducey’s 2016 budget, which cut all state funding for community colleges in Pima and Maricopa counties. (Photo by Daisy Rodriguez-Patel 2015)

Legislature kills ethnic studies proposal

Legislature kills ethnic studies proposal

By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ

 

The Arizona legislature has scrapped a proposal to punish universities and community colleges for offering ethnic studies and “social justice” courses.

After stirring up controversy and garnering national attention, the bill proposed by Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, was denied a hearing by House Education Committee chairman Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix.

Boyer confirmed that HB 2120 would not receive a hearing before his panel. The decision kills the bill for now.

The proposed legislation sought to expand upon HB 2281, a controversial Arizona ban on ethnic studies at the K-12 level.

The expansion would have financially punished universities and community colleges that “promote division, resentment or social justice toward a race, gender, religion, political affiliation, social class or other class of people.”

Schools that failed to comply would have lost 10 percent of their state funding.

Thorpe said he drafted the bill partly in response to a course offered by Arizona State University titled U.S. Race Theory and the Problem of Whiteness.

He also cited a University of Arizona “privilege walk” as a motivating factor.

Participants in the privilege walk are asked to take steps forward or backward, depending upon their response to questions relating to privilege and discrimination.

“Taxpayers’ resources should not be used to promote division of people in groups,” bill co-signer Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said. “Activities like the privilege walk are just plain wrong.”

Pima Community College currently offers courses such as Introduction to Chicano Studies and Race, Ethnicity, Minority Groups and Social Justice. Both classes fall under International and Multicultural Studies.

PCC instructor Kristen Valencia, who teaches Introduction to Chicano Studies, said ethnic studies courses allow students to study differences and learn how to accept people of different ethnicities, cultures, religions, genders and classes.

“Ethnic studies courses are a beneficial source of knowledge that allow us to investigate the various cultures and ethnic groups that come in contact with one another and weave a vibrant and colorful national fabric within the United States,” she said.

Valencia said her Chicano Studies course does not teach overthrow of government and doesn’t advocate resentment toward any groups. In order to teach effectively, she added, it’s vital to provide students with a comprehensive history of all people.

PCC Vice Chancellor of External Relations Lisa Brosky stressed the importance of multicultural acceptance.

“We live and work in a global economy where an understanding and appreciation of other cultures is critical to success,” she said.

Chancellor Lee Lambert outlined efforts to make ethnic studies a more integral component at PCC during an ethnic studies forum last March.

Lambert talked about issues facing the country, state and local communities, and about how issues of race and ethnicity will take on greater importance in upcoming years.

Tucson Mayor Jonathon Rothschild also spoke at the forum.

“As everyone in the room knows, there is controversy about ethnic-studies programs,” he said.

Any bill with “Education: prohibited courses and activities” in its title is a problem, he added.

“Opponents say it encourages animosity between people of different background, or it incites people to rebel against authority,” Rothschild said. “To the first, I say, ‘nonsense.’ To the second, I say, ‘Democracy is about vibrant, challenging dialogue among different people.’”

PCC did not take a formal stance on HB 2120. However, on behalf of Lambert, Brosky said, “Pima values the academic freedom of our faculty and would actively work to protect their ability to teach courses in the manner that best presents the material.”