Pima Community College Competes for National Innovation Awards

Pima Community College is a multiple finalist in the 2023 Bellwether Award competition, which honors outstanding and innovative community colleges across the U.S.

PCC is a finalist in all three categories of the Bellwether Award: 

Instructional Programs and Services, which recognizes programs and services that foster or support teaching and learning. Like other colleges, PCC has faced enrollment declines, accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic. To increase offering relevancy, PCC launched micro-pathway programs to re-engage learners who exited without earning an award and reach learners who have not considered attending college due to the structural barriers of the traditional model of higher education. Crispin Jeffrey-Franco, director of business development and engagement, is leading the initiative.

Workforce Development, which identifies strategic alliances that promote community and economic development. Confronting an unprecedented and increasing statewide K12 classroom teacher shortage, the PCC Post-Baccalaureate Teacher Certification Program’s alternative pathway, innovative strategies, and strong partnerships with Arizona school districts have helped the program grow into one of the largest and most successful state agencies that effectively and efficiently prepares K-12 classroom teachers. Michael Radloff, department head for post-baccalaureate teacher certification, is leading the initiative.

Planning, Governance, and Finance, which recognizes programs or activities that improve college efficiency and effectiveness. PCC invested in a leading indicator of persistence and retention, a mandatory student success course. An important enrollment management strategy is to ensure first-semester students keep coming back. By mandating a one-credit student success course, and eliminating tuition and textbook costs associated with the course, the College expects to increase student completions. Jeff Thies, dean of college readiness and student success, is leading the initiative.

There are 10 finalists in each category. They will compete Feb. 26-28, in San Antonio, Tex. In the competition, teams will conduct presentations before a jury of anonymous judges and fellow community college practitioners and CEOs. 

The Bellwether Awards are conducted by the Bellwether College Consortium, which comprises dozens of community colleges that convene annually as an independent national forum for innovators to work as a think tank.

“Pima Community College is honored to be recognized as a Bellwether finalist because it indicates we are innovating in substantial ways to deliver the best programs and services to our community,” PCC Chancellor Lee D. Lambert said.

“The significance of the Bellwether Award is that the winning programs are replicable, scalable, equity-focused, and demonstrate evidence-based success,” said Rose Martinez, the consortium’s director. “With the complexity of issues facing our community colleges today, these finalists are extraordinary examples of colleges providing scalable solutions to tough challenges.”

In 2020, PCC won a Bellwether Award for redesigning  its Developmental Education program.

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