Paul D. Camp Community College should be your first choice

Published 12:36 pm Saturday, October 8, 2016

In my first 90 days as the new president of Paul D. Camp Community College, I have had the privilege of meeting with a majority of our community leaders, business partners, college staff and students. During more than 50 scheduled meetings with nearly 300 people, I have listened to the different perspectives people have of the college. The viewpoints were as varied as the voices who provided them. No doubt there is more to learn. However, a couple of consistent themes emerged and I wish to share those with you as I continue to build on the momentum of a greater future for Paul D. Camp Community College.

One of the first recurring themes is the genuine love that people have for Paul D. Camp Community College. Students love the college for the small class sizes, personalized instruction, and the overall quality of their learning experience. Businesses love the college because we are able to fill employment needs through our customized training programs which produce highly-skilled and well-trained employees. And, the community loves PDCCC for the event venue, activities, and unique programs offered at the Regional Workforce Development Center.

Internally, staff and faculty share the same love for the college. This is demonstrated in the passion they bring to their jobs each and every day. It is not uncommon to meet an employee who has been with the college for 20 or more years. Perhaps more impressive is the staff’s commitment to offering students quality support services and the faculty’s dedication to help students who are eager and willing to succeed.

For these reasons, Paul D. Camp Community College should be the first choice for the students and businesses in our region. But — and this is the second significant theme that emerged—too many prospective students within our service region of the cities of Suffolk and Franklin and the counties of Isle of Wight and Southampton are going elsewhere before allowing us to help them attain their educational and career goals. Moreover, some of our local businesses are looking elsewhere to fill their training needs, yet we have the expertise, facilities, and knowledge base needed to do the job.

Why do so many people say they love us, yet do not make PDCCC their first choice? That didn’t make much sense to me. Why would PDCCC not be the first choice for filling the workforce needs of our business community when I received so much positive feedback? Why are students going elsewhere when they state how much they value the learning experience? My initial reactions have me thinking we may be stuck in a rut; relying on methods, practices, and ways of doing business that have proven to bring us success in the past, but are no longer moving the institution forward. The needs of our students and businesses are in a constant state of flux. We need to change right along with them to ensure we are providing the resources necessary to support our community to our utmost ability. With this in mind, I am proposing a new philosophy at PDCCC, where we will focus on becoming a resource that is integral to the community rather than solely concentrating on being the great service that we have always been.

We want our students to be satisfied with their entire experience at the college. We want to be the go-to workforce training provider without hesitation for all of our business and industry partners. It just makes sense. We are conveniently located, more affordable than private colleges and universities, and offer quality training and education through an array of program offerings.  Simply put, we should be the community’s first choice.

If we take the approach to engage students and the overall community beyond the levels of services currently offered, I believe we will experience increased enrollments in all sectors of the college.  However, this will not happen without significant change. Who knows, maybe the answer is to create an athletic program or establish a student center that includes veteran and child care services.  Perhaps we could offer students additional opportunities to engage in activities outside of the classroom. Maybe we could focus on expanding program offerings that meet the current needs of our business and industry partners. Maybe we should implement a capital campaign to enhance the resources needed to fill the skills gaps in our local workforce. While I am not offering concrete solutions just yet, I am sure we can do more to become our region’s first choice for post-secondary education and I know that the possibilities of a brighter future at Paul D. Camp Community College are endless. What I am certain of is that the passion people have for the college is something that can be easily channeled into a cultural change. A change that will move the college to the forefront of potential student’s and business partners’ minds as the first — and best — choice for their educational and training needs.

DR. DANIEL LUFKIN is the president of Paul D. Camp Community College. He can be reached by calling the main campus at 569-6700.