Let me tell you the story of what happened in March.
Spring classes were progressing when we started hearing news of some new kind of virus. We saw governments in China, then Italy and Spain tell their citizens to stay in their homes. Then it happened here. And this is what Pasadena City College did.
Monday, March 9, students were in class. Tuesday, in class. Wednesday, in class as usual. There were no classes scheduled on Thursday, March 12 because it was a faculty in-service day. Here it began. Forget whatever in-service workshops were planned, all hands on deck to pivot an entire 24,000-student institution from in-person to online. Administrators, faculty and staff threw themselves into the work of finding a way for our students to get an education while sheltering in their homes. Friday, class was cancelled. Saturday and Sunday saw round-the-clock working, investigating, testing and collaborating, as all the people of PCC worked to get our students back to learning as soon as possible. Emails were flying. Students were notified. Monday morning, students and teachers were back at school with this new software called Zoom. Our students only missed Friday, only one day of class! Truly, Pasadena City College is one of the best in the nation, be it a community college or a storied four-year university, to move teaching and learning online with only one day of missed class. It is a testament to the leadership and the dedication of all who are part of the Pasadena City College family. Was everything perfect? No. We learned the harsh reality of the digital divide. When we learned that many students did not own or have access to a laptop computer, PCC scoured every classroom, office and storage room and gathered up all the laptops we could find. These were immediately loaned to students. We learned that many families did not have internet in their homes. Students had been doing their online work using PCC’s Wi-Fi or at a coffeehouse, McDonalds or any public place that had free Wi-Fi. PCC offered a free hotspot to needy students so they could connect to classes safely from home. The Spring semester ended, PCC looked ahead, saw that online learning was going to continue and we purchased faculty-oriented online learning modules so the faculty could learn best practices for online teaching.
Fall classes have been online with the exception of some critical labs, like for nursing students. And spring 2021 will continue with online learning. While we can’t wait to get back to in-person, classroom learning, our students have been able to continue their education during these tumultuous times and move forward with their lives.
So, what else went on during 2020?
We are over the moon with happiness that we will finally begin work on re-building our science building, the Sarafian Building. The Sarafian Building was closed due to seismic instability in 2012. It has stood unused and empty since then as PCC worked to secure funding. We recently secured funding and demolition will begin any day. This new building will have modern labs and will be a joy to teach and learn in. Construction will begin in 2021. Here is a drawing of the new building.
And there is more good news...
Pasadena City College was named one of the TOP TEN community colleges in the country for the third year in a row! The Aspen Institute Prize for Community College Excellence is a coveted national recognition of high achievement and performance among community colleges. The Aspen Institute looks at 1,000+ community colleges across the country and selects the best based on these four criteria:
1. Teaching and Learning
2. Degree completion and successful transfer to four-year institutions
3. Success in the workforce
4. Equitable outcomes for diverse student groups
Plus, there were happy-dances on Zoom screens throughout PCC-land when we learned that we won the John W. Rice Student Success Award. The award is granted each year by the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. The Rice award is given in recognition of outstanding achievement in diversity and equity, as well as student success. We were honored to be given the award (via Zoom) by Dr. John Rice’s only child, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In addition, PCC is currently the top-ranked California community college for transfers to the UC and CSU systems, and well as for transfer degrees awarded.
Our community college is transformational. We educate many first generation students. Students that struggled in high school can get the support and education they need today. Older workers can retrain for better, higher paying jobs. Pasadena City College does this work at a very modest cost. The college runs lean and money is spent wisely. This is an institution where a small donation can make an impact. For example, at this year’s Giving Tuesday, the PCC Foundation raised $18,439.16 (yes, they included the cents!). That money was allocated to such needs as: $1,400.00 for the Lancer Food Pantry, $200.00 to the Math Department Fund, $334.00 to the Geology Fund, and $100 to the Child Development Center Fund. I’ll make you a deal. If you make a donation, of any size, I will match up to $1,000.00 in total donations made. Your donation will make a difference and my donation in your honor will double your impact. There is no formal program for this. If you make a donation to the PCC Foundation, let me know and I will make that matching contribution in your honor. Send me an email if you make a donation: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is the link to the PCC Foundation: https://pasadena.edu/foundation/give/index.php
Hope you are healthy and well, and wishing you and your family a warm and wonderful holiday season,