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Tricia Johnson started in early February as the new vice president of Academic Affairs. We talked with her to learn more about her background and her vision for the Academic Affairs Department.
What did you do before you came to CCA?
I spent the last two years at the Colorado Department of Education, leading the Office of Adult Education Initiatives. That was specifically working with adults who had barriers to getting into post-secondary education – like high-school equivalency and language barriers. Five years before that I was at Emily Griffith Technical College. I spent the first couple of years there as manager of the apprenticeship programs, working a lot with construction trades. During my last three years there, I was the chief academic officer so I had a connection with the community college world, but it was kind of tangential. It was a smaller institution in terms of number of students and staff. I worked with program approval across the board; worked with ramping up new programs and getting new programs considered. I was also looking at how we needed to modify programming to stay up to date with industry demands.
What brought you to CCA?
I was not looking for a vice president of academic affairs position. In my role at CDE, I had a really good opportunity to learn about new and innovative things that were happening across the state. I worked with post-secondary institutions and community-based organizations, as well as some K-12 districts, and Community College of Aurora was one of the grantees that my office oversaw for state adult-education dollars. And what continually happened over two years was that I kept hearing CCA mentioned as doing things differently and really being innovative in engaging every single student and ensuring that we are meeting their diverse learning needs. When this opportunity became available, I thought, “I want to be in a place that is so committed to addressing that opportunity gap that we are seeing with our students of color.” Interestingly, I’d just finished my doctoral studies, which were all based on college and career guidance for students of color, so it was just such fortuitous timing that all of that came together.
What are some of the opportunities for growth that you see at CCA?
We have so much opportunity to leverage what CCA is already doing with concurrent enrollment, and to really figure out how we take the students who are getting a little bit – one or two classes when they are in high school – and really getting them to engage more so that they will become college students once they graduate. That’s a huge opportunity for us.
Another great opportunity is connecting as much as we can with business services across Adams County, Arapahoe County, and in Denver. I recently participated in a meeting about apprenticeship-ready communities. There is this big push for Colorado to go beyond just being the world of construction trades and looking at apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing, financial services, IT, and business operations. That all aligns beautifully with the industry that is really growing in our area. So we have the opportunity to build some of those relationships and figure out the best ways to communicate with our workforce partners. We want to be responsive to those needs and at the same time balance that with those concurrent-enrollment transfers. For instance, how do we continue to focus on those who are coming here to transfer with a degree of designation into a four-year program and still meet those workforce needs?
What challenges do you see for CCA and higher education in general?
No. 1 – there is heightened scrutiny on how we address opportunity gaps. Some really good things are happening at CCA right now, and we still have more opportunity to address those gaps. We need to be doing things that really reflect the needs of our very diverse population.
No. 2 – we also have to think about issues of retention and completion. Those challenges are being faced across the country that education institutions are struggling with when it comes to performance funding. Another opportunity for us is really seeing that what happens in the classroom is impacted by all of those student life experiences and those challenges that students are seeing and experiencing outside the classroom.
Is there anything coming up that we need to focus our attention?
The biggest thing I am hearing about is how we are going to approach a strategic implementation of assessment in order to meet HLC requirements. That means looking at the feedback we received and asking what that needs to look like and determining how to start taking action on that, because we know that we will have another visit in two years. We have to act quickly in terms of “what does this mean for us?” and “how do we need to adjust our practice?” Two years is short term, but it means we have to start acting on these issues now.
How do we define assessment?
Traditionally, assessment has asked the question, “Did the student meet the competencies?” So there is still that sense of assessment – do we know they are meeting the requirements?
But there is also this component of formative assessment. We are getting information from students, and we’re determining how does that need to change or inform my practice in order to better engage every learner in the classroom? But we also need to assess students’ needs outside the classroom. If we are not addressing the fact that there are barriers with childcare, with transportation, with first-generation college going – all of these things – if we are not constantly assessing programs, how can we know that we are seeing improvements?
It’s realizing how all of this plays into student success in graduating, in whether they are earning their degree or certificate. How do we make sure in one class that a student is getting the academic support and services he or she needs to build for the next course?
Where do you think CCA will be in five years?
The work with Inclusive Excellence is positioning us really well to be more successful with the majority of our students at CCA. What I see us doing over five years is growing and having stronger relationships within the community – including high schools and community-based organizations – those referral agencies. So when folks come in and tell us they are struggling, we have built such a reputation for understanding everyone’s differences, and we can convey to the students that their diversity is respected in our institution. Because of all that, we are helping students be more successful. I’m hoping that in five years, we will have even stronger relationships with our community partners that will build even more referrals.
I also want to make sure that we continue to listen and be aware that in systems that have been designed, there are natural biases. We want to look at that critically and be able to say, “OK, if the way we are doing something is to the benefit of some but to the detriment of others, how do we break that down so that the way we are offering it is to the benefit of all?”
We are well in to our spring semester, and I hope you are having a good one. Despite (or maybe because of) our nice, mild winter, I know that many of you and your students have been sick. I hope that everyone is getting back on their feet.
I want to briefly highlight some of the many positive things that are happening at CCA. You have seen emails from me regarding recent current events, so I won’t repeat those messages, but suffice it to say that we continue to welcome, educate, value, and support the very diverse students we serve – and that is not going to change. In other news:
Enrollment – We are starting to turn our enrollment around after years of decline. This is good news. With an 8.9 percent increase in headcount and a 7.7 percent increase in full-time equivalent students, we have shown the most improvement this semester of any of the community colleges in Colorado. I will send out a summary of both enrollment and budget issues soon. In the meantime, I want to thank all of you for your collective efforts. Enrollment is a combination of attracting new students and retaining the students we have. We have done better on both fronts and that doesn’t happen without a college-wide effort.
Facilities Master Planning – The facilities master-planning process continues through a variety of meetings facilitated by the firms we hired to assist us with this initiative. If you would like to submit feedback, please go to the college’s Facilities Master Plan Feeback page. I hope that you will submit any ideas that you have for how we can have our facilities support our college priorities and enhance the educational experience for our students, both inside and outside the classroom.
Inclusive Excellence – The Inclusive Excellence Council is continuing its good work by providing a variety of professional-development opportunities, including a faculty-equity academy, inclusive pedagogy training for all faculty, and inclusive-excellence training for a group of college staff. I appreciate your collective willingness to work on issues of equity and inclusion, both in and out of the classroom, and your embrace of the challenges and rewards this work can bring.
Personnel Updates – Dr. Tricia Johnson, vice president for Academic Affairs, is closing in on her first month at CCA. If you haven’t met her yet, I hope that you will soon. We have reopened the search for a new CFO. In the meantime, we are in the very capable hands of Howard Hampson and Xochil Herrera, both part of our Fiscal Affairs Department. We will also have the services of Gary Ashida, a former CFO, who knows the CCCS colleges well and who is going to assist with our fiscal year budgeting until we get someone on board. Finally, I would like to say thank you to Debbie Irvine, the last of CCA’s original college employees, who retired on Feb. 28.
The Aurora Light Rail – RTD’s newest light rail line, the R line, opened on Feb. 24. It connects to existing track at the Nine Mile Station and heads up I-225 for more than 10 miles to the Peoria Station, which connects with the A line to DIA. The closest stop to us is over by 2nd Avenue and Abilene.
Things to Look Forward to in March:
All-college Forum: March 8 at 3 to 4:30 p.m., Lowry campus (we will be asking for your input on the facilities master plan)
Confluence Conference: March 10, Chancellor of the University of Colorado–Denver Dorothy Horrell, PhD, will be the keynote speaker
ThankYouAmerica! Gala: March 15, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Aurora Council Chambers, Municipal Center
Spring Theatre Production “Paradise Park Zoo”: Opens March 16, 7:30 p.m.
The Sherlin Lecture: March 17 – learn about the eclipse coming on Aug. 21, 7 p.m.
The Model United Nations team heads to New York City to represent Mexico: March 18 through 25
First day of spring: March 20 at 6:29 a.m. “In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside of 24 hours.” Mark Twain
Spring break: March 27 through 31 (bring your dog to work day, March 29 – more details soon!)
Students working on diesel engines as part of CCA’s Diesel Power Mechanics program received a boost in February with the donation of a skid-steer loader from Bobcat of the Rockies.
Bobcat of the Rockies is loaning the college the skid-steer loader for staff to demonstrate to students engine theory, component identification, and other practical applications. The Diesel Power Mechanics program received the skid-steer loader at the same time the college also purchased a Bobcat mini excavator.
The cost of the donation is equivalent to about $60,000 and is a big boon to the program, said Andrew Singer, CCA Diesel Power Mechanics faculty. “We can do a lot of different things with these machines,” he said. “That they are letting us use it is great for the program.”
The donation is especially helpful for students employed as apprentices by Bobcat of the Rockies, Singer said.
“Those students who work for Bobcat – these are the types of machines they are going to be working on,” Singer said.
Each year Bobcat of the Rockies will replace the skid-steer with another skid-steer for staff to use to teach students. Both the skid-steer and mini excavator replace an older forklift that was outdated.
Caption: At left, Andrew Singer, of the Diesel Power Mechanics program, shakes the hand of Jason Kelley, governmental and national account specialist for Bobcat of the Rockies.
Fumnanya Egbune, academic advisor for TRiO Student Support Services – ESL, welcomed her daughter, Tata Annabelle Onyinye Camara, on Feb. 7. Tata weighed 7 pounds, 10 ounces.
Sarah Jiter, assistant director of the Center for Recruitment & Orientation, welcomed her son, Miles Addison Jiter, on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Miles weighed 6 pounds and measured 17¾ inches.
Spring Transfer Fair: March 9, 2017, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. West Quad Building 112 (Todd Bergren Room)
ThankYouAmerica! Business Spotlight: March 8, 2017, 6 to 7:30 p.m. West Quad Building 112 (Todd Bergren Room)
Sherlin Lecture – Preparing for The Great American Eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017: March 17, 2017, 7 to 9 p.m. Fine Arts Building, The Forum (F100)
“Paradise Park Zoo,” a CCA Theatre Department production: Opening night, March 16, 2017, 7:30 p.m. (additional performances March 17, 18, 23, 24 & 25 at 7:30 p.m.), Fine Arts Building, Larry D. Carter Theater
Have you ever known anyone who wanted to start their own business but didn’t know how or where to start? CCA’s Entrepreneurial Launch program can help CCA students and Denver area residents achieve their dreams of owning their own business.
The Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management program, launched in January 2017, was created to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in Colorado.
Led by Neil Pollard, the program currently offers an Entrepreneurial Boot Camp and the CCA Launchpad, an on-campus business incubator. Later this spring, the program will offer financial-aid-eligible certificates entitled “Entrepreneurial Launch” and “Entrepreneurial Studies,” which are designed to help students either launch their business on campus or study entrepreneurship with the intent to transfer to a four-year institution.
The Boot Camp is a community education program designed to assist community members who are not interested in a traditional for-credit educational experience but are interested in exploring the idea of entrepreneurship and small-business management. The Boot Camp was created with busy working adults in mind; all sessions will be hosted using an online self-paced delivery method. The Boot Camp curriculum has been developed by college faculty and features input from community experts in specific areas of business, including marketing, management, business finance, and business law.
The Launchpad is a dedicated on-campus work space at Lowry that is outfitted with the latest equipment to support the launch and growth of a new small business. One of the most challenging aspects of launching a new business is the seemingly unattainable amount of start-up and overhead expenses required to get a venture off the ground. For the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management students, CCA has designed a space that eliminates many of the costs associated with starting a new business. The CCA Launchpad is equipped with computer workstations for business planning, the development of marketing materials, 3D modeling software, and equipment to help with product prototyping. Each computer station has QuickBooks financial management software to help students manage revenues and expenses in the first months of operation.
If you know of someone interested in starting their own business or could use help from any of the Entrepreneurship programs, please contact Neil Pollard at (303) 340-7204 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
The Community College of Aurora Foundation is asking for your help to spread the word about scholarship opportunities at the college. Scholarship applications opened on March 1, and the Foundation could use everyone’s help to let students know of the opportunities available to them.
Here's what you need to know:
- Applications for both summer and fall scholarships will open on March 1.
- Summer applications will close on April 15.
- Fall applications will close on April 30.
- Both application periods will be open longer than previous years.
Starting March 1, students can apply using the online application at the CCA Scholarship page.
Lynnette Adams has joined the Community College of Aurora Foundation as assistant director of donor services and special events. Prior to joining the Foundation, Lynette was a development associate for the Crisis Center in Castle Rock. The Crisis Center focused on assisting victims of domestic violence. At the Crisis Center, Adams was responsible for community outreach, building donor relationships, and facilitating third party events. Additionally, she also helped to develop a peer-to-peer outreach program in Douglas County High Schools on consent, body safety, and healthy relationships.
“Incognito” Explores Race, Identity at CCA
Michael Fosberg brought his one-man play “Incognito” to CCA’s Larry D. Carter Theater on Feb. 15. During the play, Fosberg tells the story that, for the first 34 years of his life, he believed he was white, until he learned from his mother that his biological father was a black man. He then describes his journey to search for his biological father.
STEM Day for Girls
The School of Professional Studies and Sciences at the Community College of Aurora hosted the annual STEM Day for Girls Conference on Feb. 17 at Lowry campus. The program is part of CCA’s outreach to high schools and exposes and recruits girls into male-dominated fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math.
Interfaith Service Conference
CCA student Jeremy Keller shares an experience with others during the Leveraging Our Strengths for Interfaith Service Conference on Feb. 24 in the Student Centre Building Rotunda. The two-day conference was designed to equip undergraduate students and staff, faculty, and community advisors with the skills to engage diverse religious and non-religious identities to build interfaith movements on their campuses. Staff and students from Regis University, University of Denver, and the Community College of Aurora participated in the event.
Tami Morrissey – Unsung Hero Award
Tami Morrissey received the Aurora Chamber of Commerce Unsung Hero Award at the Women in Business “Unsung Hero” luncheon on Feb. 10.
Read some of President Betsy Oudenhoven’s comments about Tami below:
“Tami is very much an unsung hero. We host a lot of community events here, and I always get to hear how appreciative everyone is because the events are always well planned and executed – and it is all thanks to Tami. She has wonderful relationships in the community and is well respected by our external partners. She is always helpful, positive, and unflappable. She has been in this position for many years – and if CCA is helpful to the community, it is largely because of Tami. I get to say “Yes” when we get requests for facilities or have opportunities to partner with stakeholders in the community, but it is Tami who takes care of the details and makes things happen. While I don’t know what I would do without her on a day-to-day basis, she deserves this honor because of how effectively she facilitates the “community” part of who we are as a community college. Tami is the invaluable person who makes it possible for the college administration to be helpful and responsive when we receive requests or inquiries. As an Aurora resident, she knows and values this community as much as she does the college. Neither the city nor the college could have a better person in place to help us make things happen together. As is true of many individuals with an “assistant” title, she is integral to our success but does not get the credit.”
CFS Film Camp for Kids Student Films Honored at 2017 Scholastic Art Awards of Colorado
Three films made by Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA) students, through the Colorado Film School’s Film Camp for Kids, were recognized at the 2017 Scholastic Art Awards of Colorado.
Each year more than 20 students from DAVA participate in the camp, run by Geoffrey Chadwick at the Film School. While the students are at camp, they create and work on films; some of those films are submitted to the Scholastic Art Awards of Colorado. More than 5,600 submissions in a variety of art categories are submitted each year.
The three films submitted by the Colorado Film School’s Film Camp for Kids and recognized by the 2017 Scholastic Art Awards of Colorado were:
Gold Key: Marco Benitez – “Bob and the Eraser”
Silver Key: Hafsa Ali, Falastin Khalif, Nasra Hussein, Benita Deragli – “Coming to America”
Honorable Mention: Halima Ali, Katherine Quiche, Melissa Caudillo – “Finding Our Way Home”
Because “Bob and the Eraser” was a Gold Key winner, it will now compete against other K-12 films at the national level in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.
Congratulations to all of the students who participated in the program and to the Colorado Film School staff, who put on the program and hosted the students during the summer.
What Is an Executive Order?
Dr. Bobby Pace, chair of the Social Sciences Department, led a 90-minute discussion in the Fine Arts Building Forum on Feb. 21 to talk with students and staff about what an executive order is, and to discuss what some of the recent mandates issued mean for CCA, students, and the country.
Scott Wakefield, faculty in the Arts and Communication Department, points to a student who gave the right answer during Game On!, while Vicki Graham, Communications faculty, looks on. The event was held on Feb. 2 in the Student Centre Building Rotunda and brought together students and staff from the Arts and Communication Department who participated in a variety of games, such as Pictionary, Scrabble, and Name that Tune.
The Source Is BLAC
Award-winning author Toni Tipton-Martin discussed her book “The Jemima Code” and the influence and history of African-American cookbooks during “The Source is BLAC (Black, LatinX, African, and Caribbean)” on Feb. 22 in the Student Centre Building Rotunda.
Jorge Velasquez, assistant director for the Office of Student Life, and Stephanie Admire, student assistant for the Office of Student Life, greet students and staff outside the Student Centre Building on Feb. 27. The Office of Student Life has launched Fox Fix as a weekly pit stop for students to get information, learn about events, and ask questions.
Jennifer Bird, academic program support specialist
Lauren Kang, Financial Aid operations coordinator
Glenn McCarthy, grounds and nursery
Ana Romero, graphic design and digital media specialist
Michael Seivley, grounds and nursery
What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn?
Chris Weiss, welcome center coordinator, Lowry campus: I played the violin in school orchestras (middle-school orchestra and high-school orchestra) from 6th to 10th grade.
Brandy Monckton, academic advisor, School of Liberal Arts: I know American Sign Language but rarely get to use it. If you know ASL, come sign hello!