President Brown, leaders engage college community in discussions
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College President Jeremy Brown wants to know what you are thinking.
Fresh off his presidential investiture, “Together, Envision the Future,” Brown and the college’s campuses have hosted a series of discussions called “Campus Conversations” beginning in November that have centered on issues facing PCC and what it means to be a premier community college for the 21st century. At each conversation, Brown led a panel of special guests that included students, faculty, community representatives and elected officials in an informal discussion with faculty, staff and students. Interested in his overall thoughts? Read his recent opinion article in the Portland Tribune.
“What we want to do is to not only get you engaged in this conversation today, but have it be ongoing to chart our future,” Brown said at the Sylvania Campus conversation. “We hope to continue these as we navigate our strategic planning and beyond that.”
There’s still two left if you want to attend. The next “Conversation” is from 9-11 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 5, in the auditorium, CLIMB Center. The last one will be held at the Downtown Center’s Rose Room at 2 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 12. Further details of these events will be posted to the Campus Conversations webpage when they are known.
Panelists for the monthlong chats included Carole Smith (superintendent of Portland Public Schools); Gregg Meyer (instructor in Civil and Mechanical Engineering Technology Program); Victoria Lukich (executive administrative for high schools and options at Beaverton School District); Greg Madden (owner of Madden Fabrication); Michael Dembrow (State Senator and retired PCC faculty); James Harrison (Cascade history instructor); Joe Gallegos (State Representative and PCC Diamond Alumni); Joel Magnuson (instructor in economics at Rock Creek); Usha Ramanujam (Rock Creek business administration faculty and chair); and Margaret Calvert (Jefferson High School principal), to name a few.
These sessions have given the attendees a chance to brainstorm all aspects of what they would like to see from PCC’s transformation. For example, Southeast Center panelist Carole Smith talked about how all institutions of learning have to make big changes in the future.
“I think everyone is focused on how we do this from a student’s point of view by saying, ‘How does a learner get what they need?’” Smith said. “Not, ‘How do they adapt to our systems.’”
Some conversations centered on how students have changed and will change in the future. For instance, most students are far more technologically savvy than 10 years ago and demand to have more options on how they learn than ever before. But PCC also has older adults returning to school after a layoff and who are used to more traditional styles of teaching. The college has to figure out how to accommodate both.
On top of that, Brown emphasized that students who come to the college need to know that they have a reasonable expectation to find employment when finished with their studies no matter what area or program.
“That’s a real concern,” said Sylvania student panelist Jonmarc Ross, who had spent years in the workforce before coming back to college. “There’s that idea if I start an education now will there will be jobs in that field when I get there.”
As the emphasis for community colleges across the nation changes to showing value, assessment and accountability, PCC needs to find the best ways to demonstrate those qualities in the future. Read more about PCC’s completion initiative in this recent web feature.
“It’s about a transformation in the expectations for college completion and student success that is driven nationally, locally from our state and from our local community,” said Sylvania President Linda Gerber, host of the first conversation. “Today is our first chance to consider some of the questions regarding this transformation and PCC’s future.”
And to think about how this all looks in the future now is crucial to the college’s success.
“We are remarkably good at what we do and have a very good reputation within our own district and the state,” Brown said. “It’s much better to think about the future when things are going well rather than when things aren’t going well. (Because with the latter), you are doing things out of desperation.”