Lee Lambert: PCC has been turned around

2014-07-09T00:00:00Z Lee Lambert: PCC has been turned aroundBy Lee D. Lambert Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The beginning of my second year as chancellor of Pima Community College is an appropriate time to look back on an eventful 12 months.

Even before my arrival in Tucson last summer, I was aware that Pima had plenty of room for improvement following an era when the college failed to remain true to its core mission. The extent of the challenges quickly became apparent as I began spending time with our students, faculty, staff and members of the community we serve.

Yet I also came to realize that the crisis confronting Pima was, in fact, a precious opportunity. Change wasn’t an option for Pima. It was — and remains — a necessity.

For me, much of the past year has been spent guiding, managing and motivating change. Today, I can report that we are meeting our challenges strategically, thoughtfully and with an eye toward the future. The hallmarks of this effort include a renewed commitment to open access, new measures of accountability, consistent community engagement, prudent fiscal stewardship and the reorganization of our administrative structure.

The overarching goal of our efforts is to build upon a solid foundation of quality instruction and strengthen the educational and workforce training services we provide to students and the people of Pima County. Our success requires Pima to maintain its focus on being a student-centered learning organization.

Our most pressing task is successfully emerging from probation, a sanction placed on PCC by its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission. The HLC directed us to address the sanction and conduct a comprehensive review of our college. Faculty, staff, administrators, Governing Board members, students and community members examined 125 areas of operations, a process documented for the public on our website. A report based on this work will be submitted to the HLC by July 31. By mid-September, when we host a visit by an HLC evaluation team, I am confident we will be able to demonstrate that we are meeting accreditor standards.

Probation is a sobering wake-up call for Pima. It is requiring us to conduct an unsparing self-examination and to compare ourselves with institutions recognized as leaders in areas such as remedial education. It compels us to adopt a culture of continuous improvement. And it reminds us that staying relevant means embracing the changes wrought by technology and globalization in the 21st century.

Restoring professionalism and confidence in Pima’s leadership and governance is an ongoing goal. Over the past year, the Governing Board has undertaken an extensive revision of its bylaws and policies, especially regarding complaints and grievances, where clear procedures and well-drawn lines of responsibility were needed.

Among the new measures to improve oversight is the Board of Governors’ Finance and Audit Committee, a group of eight community volunteers who collectively have more than 200 years’ financial experience.

An organization’s administrative structure should reflect its values. We created an Office of Assessment that will keep watch over a wide range of college operations. A new Office of Enrollment Management will oversee a focused effort to stabilize our enrollment. This office will report to a new Office of Institutional Advancement, which is designed to increase awareness of our programs and outcomes among external and internal stakeholders, and enlist them to support our mission. And a new Office of Dispute Resolution is dedicated to the fair and consistent management of complaints and grievances. We also are beefing up staff to fix deficiencies in our administration of records for students receiving education benefits from the Veterans Administration.

At the beginning of my tenure, I compared Pima to a bus whose wheels had fallen off. One year later, I can confidently say the wheels are back on. Our journey is far from over and we’re sure to encounter a few bumps along the way, but there is no question we are headed in a new, positive direction. Our ultimate destination is to turn Pima into one of this nation’s premier community colleges.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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