Dr. Arminé Derdiarian, PCC’s New Dean of CTE
Pam Sornson, JD
Pasadena City College’s (PCC) Career and Technical Education Division (CTE) is just one of the six economic development pillars in the school’s Economic and Workforce Development Division (EWD). The CTE pillar has a new Dean, Dr. Arminé Derdiarian, who is now responsible for coordinating CTE efforts across the campus. She will play a critical role in PCC’s strategy to move its CTE resources into the forefront of the workforce development arena.
In this conversation, Dr. Derdiarian discusses her history with CTE initiatives, the CTE assets already in place at PCC, and her strategy for ensuring that her department, PCC, and PCC’s students are leading the way in California’s higher ed’s economic and workforce development sector.
Leading with Professional Standards
As a licensed dentist, Dr. Derdiarian has worked with CTE graduates throughout her medical career. She began teaching those skills at Oxnard Community College (OCC) in 1998 as adjunct faculty offering dental hygiene courses. OCC promoted her to Director of Dental Hygiene and Dental Assistants programs in 2015. So when PCC’s CTE Dean position opened in early 2020, she jumped at the opportunity to bring her skills to a new facility.
It’s not that she wasn’t happy at OCC. That school, however, is one of three community colleges in the Ventura County Community College District, and any innovation she wanted to develop faced additional administrative hurdles in that configuration. PCC is its own ‘district,’ consisting of just the one school, and Derdiarian is excited to work within PCC’s more streamlined system.
She was also determined to ensure that CTE programs and students aren’t relegated to ‘second class’ status behind students seeking four-year degrees. She brings all those thought processes and plans to PCC at a remarkable time in the school’s history.
Taking Stock – Finding Focus
Dr. Derdiarian was happy that PCC re-instituted the Dean position to coordinate the efforts of all PCC CTE programs and is honored to be first in that Chair. Under a single director, the CTE division can begin collaborating as a unit on the best use of division resources, establish school-wide standards of practice, and find a better balance of funding across programs.
Beginning the job in August 2021, Derdiarian’s initial reaction to her new Dean role was ‘overwhelm.’ PCC’s CTE programs encompass 86 certifications in several disciplines (listed on pages 109 through 117 in the school’s catalog), only two of which are dentistry related. Spread across the campus and the school’s many academic departments, these programs offer real-world training for real-world jobs. Derdiarian simply wasn’t experienced in most of the disciplines, such as bio/nanotechnology studies, automotives, or hospitality.
However, the more she learned, the more impressed she was by what she found. “The school has amazing programs and instructors, each bringing unbelievable talent and vision to their work,” she says. In addition, the existing collaboration among current program Directors and Deans is setting a solid foundation for her vision for the school’s future as a whole.
Perhaps most notably, she is impressed with the work being done to bring today’s CTE courses in line with today’s labor and industry demands:
The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management department has revised its curricula, adding four additional certifications specifically because recent reports issued by the San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership indicate that those jobs will be in very high demand in the very near future.
The Computer Information Systems department also recently developed four new certifications addressing technology training for cybersecurity purposes.
In the Bio and Nano Technologies Division, a 2020 $7.5M grant facilitates research and development to advance micro-nano education to train workers of the future, strategic outreach to traditional and underrepresented students, and build an industry/education partnership designed to support student and business success.
The department is also working with a San Diego company to develop 3D circuit boards made of ‘green’ resources. If the project is successful, PCC would be the first community college to participate in such a significant innovation.
These innovative industry/education projects indicate just how far along PCC is in its evolution as a workforce development engine. Dr. Derdiarian is excited to add her insights to those and future similar projects.
She’s bringing her own projects to campus, too. Using data developed by the regional Center of Excellence, she is looking to connect other CTE programs to emerging needs.
The San Diego project excites her because of its focus on ‘green’ initiatives. The faculty at PCC is talking about ‘sustainability’ as an emerging aspect in each of their disciplines and is looking for ways to incorporate those principles and practices into their teaching materials.
She’s also focused on Electic Vehicle (EV) technology. She recently enticed Honda/Accura dealers to sponsor elements of PCC’s auto technologies program. Honda will develop the curricula and training materials for PCC students, who will graduate with skills beyond those of entry-level jobs.
She’s also in discussions with Honda and the City of Pasadena to develop an EV Charger technology program. As electric cars become more prevalent, more changing stations will need installation, repairs, and management. If the concept comes to fruition, the triad partnership of industry, education, and government will provide resources and assets to participants in all three areas, as well as to the community at large.
In her new role, Dr. Derdiarian is also now in charge of Perkins V Grant funds and developing existing and new resources with those funds to further student career education. She’s convening a committee populated by PCC CTE Deans and Department Chairs to get deeper insights into what the school can and should do with those financial resources.
Not least, Dr. Derdiarian is also excited to be working with other members of the newly devised Los Angeles Regional Consortium, of which PCC is the coordinator. The collaborations already underway are exciting, and she finds the visionary perspective of those community college leaders is refreshing.
PCC’s new Dean of Career and Technical Education is clearly off to a great start. The future of CTE studies at the school looks very bright under the guidance of Dr. Arminé Derdiarian.
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