PCC 2021: New Faces. New Opportunities.
By Pam Sornson, JD
Like the rest of the country, the Pasadena community has experienced a churn of its beliefs, norms, and expectations, and its future functioning will reflect the consequences of that churn. Likewise, Pasadena City College (PCC) has gone through a metamorphosis as it transitioned from a traditional ‘on-site classes college to an ‘all-digital’ iteration (at least for the time being). Other changes that reflect a response to these challenging times are the addition of a new leadership role and the selection of a new leader for an existing role.
Through the Fall of 2020, PCC canvassed the state-wide higher education community for inspirational leaders to fill the existing role of Vice President of Instruction (VP Instruction) and the newly created position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). Though not new, the Office of Instruction provides critical infrastructure support for the college’s inner workings. Definitely new, the CDO role will focus on eliminating cultural and institutional biases to improve the PCC experience for all its constituents. The search for new faces and new insights demonstrates PCC’s commitment to providing its students with educational and leadership excellence. Each appointment offers the promise of new opportunities to respond to newly emerging demands.
This edition of the Pulse provides an overview of how the Office of Instruction functions within the school’s administration and why PCC chose to address the community’s equity and diversity challenges by creating the position of Chief Diversity Officer (CDO).
PCC’s New Vice President of Instruction (VP Instruction)
The word “instruction” carries so many meanings:
It signifies increases in student knowledge, adding more nuances and layers to foundational understandings.
It also signifies an effective teaching capacity, to impart knowledge in a manner that facilitates learning.
In today’s higher education sector, managing college-level ‘instruction’ also means working with unions, committees, and Boards of Directors to ensure the school, as an institution, achieves its internal goals and external mandates of graduating successful students into the world.
At PCC, the job of advancing the school’s core education mission falls to its VP Instruction. As PCC’s many parts all play roles in achieving its many tasks, the work is complex, and weaving their individual activities into a functioning whole takes vision and strategy. Ensuring diversity, equity, and inclusion is a critical element of a successful school, of course, as is managing the various state and federal regulations that overlay much of PCC’s infrastructure. Consequently, the person who fills this chair must have the requisite experience, skillset, and innate talent to oversee all those aspects while facilitating the successful completion of educational programs by every student.
PCC’s Chief Diversity Officer
Pasadena as a city is a widely diverse community. It’s racial and ethnicity breakdown spans the globe in terms of the cultures and backgrounds represented:
32% Hispanic (white & non-white);
7% ‘other’ = multiracial and Native Indian, Alaskan, Islander, etc.
Not surprisingly, because it draws many of its learners from its surrounding city and region, PCC’s student community also reflects this broad range of ethnicities and cultures. Accordingly, to ensure appropriate representation of each group in administrative and academic decision-making, the school seeks inputs from three relevant Councils and Committees: the African American Advisory Committee, the Asian American & Pacific Islander Advisory Committee, and the President’s Latino Advisory Committee.
Each committee engages directly with PCC’s President/Superintendent (Dr. Erika Endrijonas) and school leadership in advancing the best interests of its own PCC students, inculcating relevant, multicultural nuances into college life, and promoting the interests of every student according to their specific racial or cultural needs.
This committee’s work encompasses the cultures and values emanating from the many nations and cultures that populate the Asian and Pacific Island geographies. In addition to assisting PAAPI students in thriving throughout their PCC journey, the Committee seeks out comparable supports, services, and partnerships within Pasadena’s business and industrial community, to build connections and maintain cultural continuity in PCC curricula and programming.
This committee works to enhance Latinx students’ support as they reach for their academic and career goals. The Committee itself is populated with both PCC professionals and like-minded community members, broadening the potential for the Latinx student’s support and success. One of its primary endeavors is raising funds for its PLAC Scholarship.
Although just under 10% of the overall population, PCC’s African American student body wields a strong presence on campus. The PAAAC directs its efforts at improving every Black student’s performance, from encouraging their enrollment, helping them work through their programs, and encouraging them to continue into a productive and rewarding future. The Committee also reaches into the Pasadena community to find African American resources that will further enrich its Black constituents, including The Association of Black Employees (TABE).
Support for African American students, in particular, is centralized in the school’s Black Student Success Center (now operating virtually). The Center houses two unique programs designed specifically for the African American population, Ujima and Blackademia:
This culturally based learning collaborative seeks to empower and advance the interests of PCC’s Black student community. The school designed its programs and support systems to encourage self-awareness, academic success, career development, and more. Dedicated counselors and coaches urge learners to pursue their goals through accountability and maintain a composure that promotes Black Excellence.
Academic excellence is easier to achieve when there’s access to a full slate of support and resources. PCC’s Blackademia focuses on the educational (and eventual career) success of the school’s African American students by providing academic coaching, success workshops, resource referrals, and networking opportunities.
There’s also a Transfer Bound program offered to African American students who transfer to a four-year school to complete their bachelor’s degree. Through it, PCC’s Transfer Center celebrates Black Graduation each year, giving these talented learners the accolades they deserve and the encouragement they crave to continue on their successful educational track.
Pasadena City College has always been sensitive to its need for diversity, equity, and inclusion as essential elements of its culture. A dedicated Chief Diversity Officer will have the opportunity to unite and hone these committees’ activities to expand further and enhance the lives of all of its students, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
While decidedly different in their focus and purpose, both positions – VP of Instruction and CDO – have significant impacts on the whole of PCC’s school and community. The two new Officers will provide further clarity in their separate roles, and their individual perspectives are sure to enhance the PCC experience for the entire PCC community.
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