My view: A new day at PCC as school year begins
I'm three months into my role as president of Portland Community College, and I can't imagine working anywhere else!
Day by day, week by week, I continue to be amazed, inspired and energized by PCC's commitment to improving the lives of our students — all 50,000 of them. They thrive thanks to education, training and resources led by dedicated, caring faculty and staff. Long term, our students' success benefits the greater Portland region; the local economy is infused with trained graduates who fill the skills gap lamented by employers. Meanwhile, our students land positions in high-wage, high-demand fields with advancement potential. Their futures are brighter because of PCC.
At a personal level, I understand the impact and value of a community college education. With its small classroom settings and individualized guidance from teachers and staff, I excelled at Odessa Junior College in Texas. From there, I transferred to Texas A&M, graduating with a degree in agricultural development. My love of learning continued, with graduate school and advanced degrees — but I credit Odessa for giving me the skills and confidence I needed to succeed.
On the note of success, multiple examples of what that looks like have filled my first 90 days at PCC! All anchored by the power of community, industry and partnership!
In July, PCC celebrated the opening of the new Dealer Services Technology Building in collaboration with Caterpillar Inc. Funded by a $185 million bond passed in 2017, the facility mirrors an actual Caterpillar dealership, which gives students genuine training experience as they study to become service technicians. And as part of our two-year ThinkBIG Program, students complete internships at Caterpillar dealerships across the Pacific Northwest.
In August, PCC hosted a statewide press conference with Intel Corp. Attending were dignitaries from federal, state and local levels of government to announce the release of a much anticipated report about the future of Oregon's semiconductor industry. Based on the report's findings, Oregon is prime to solidify its position as a global leader in the semiconductor industry and create a sustainable future workforce.
The attendees and "buzz" from the event were invigorating. Most energizing, though, was knowing that PCC's Microelectronics Technology Program is key to semiconductor training in our state. The program has earned a reputation for excellence, with a job placement rate of nearly 100% and strong partnerships with local semiconductor manufacturers, like Intel. And the program is opening the door to opportunity for students like Emily Mom.
Emily, a part-time Microelectronics Technology student at PCC, works full-time as a manufacturing technician for Intel. Born in Cambodia, she immigrated to Oregon in 2008 when she was 12, and will be the first in her family to graduate from college. Emily is a stellar example of the students PCC serves. Their work ethic, vision and ambition inspire me and make me so proud and honored to be leading this particular college!
A final pride point is our training facility as part of the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center and OMIC initiative in Columbia County. Our center trains a skilled workforce to fill a variety of high-demand advanced manufacturing jobs. Like PCC's Dealer Services Technology Building, the OMIC Training Center was funded by voter-approved bond measures in 2008 and 2017. PCC truly is a resource for the community, supported by the community — and that also has me beaming with pride!
As I write this, we're putting the final touches on the launch of the fall quarter, with a stronger in-person staff and faculty presence after operating remotely for much of the past two and a half years. PCC is offering more than twice as many on-campus or on-campus/hybrid classes compared to last fall. And we just hosted the college-wide, back-to-school In-Service for faculty and staff. The excitement of being together, in person, was palpable!
PCC is not without challenges. Community colleges in Oregon and across the nation face pandemic-related enrollment declines. PCC is refining its enrollment strategy, recognizing the strength and value of community and business partnerships and their influence on career technical education — and the opportunities created because of that connection.
I am thrilled to lead PCC, Oregon's largest postsecondary institution. I look forward to what awaits — the prospects, challenges, creativity and potential for collaboration with you, the greater community. I encourage you to visit pcc.edu, to think about how PCC could be your partner — we rely on each other.
Let's do this!
Adrien Bennings, Ph.D., is president of Portland Community College.
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