By Ruben Cortez
Pulse Staff Reporter
Palo Alto College has taken a unique approach to getting its stakeholders involved in its strategic planning by hosting an All-College Conversation for the second time.
On Oct. 27, 2017, faculty and staff gathered inside of PAC’s gymnasium to discuss a new strategic plan that will be the foundation for the school’s success in the upcoming school years.
“It’s a very organic way to gather feedback from faculty, staff and students,” said Dr. Mike Flores, the president of PAC, who began his tenure in 2012.
Dr. Flores pioneered the idea of an All-College Conversation during his interview for becoming PAC’s president in summer 2012.
“[The first All-College Conversation in 2012] was really a good juncture for us as an institution,” said Flores.
The conversation works as a giant brainstorming session. With approximately 200 attendees, everyone was able to propose topics that they believe are important in the upcoming strategic plan. Attendees wrote their topics on a piece of paper, taped it onto a wall of the gymnasium, and those topics became the agenda for the day.
The conversation was broken into two sessions, with groups at each table discussing the topic they are most interested in. With 52 topics total, the theme for each table ranged from faculty and staff-oriented questions, such as improving communication throughout campus, to getting students more involved in their degree plan.
One of the topics from the first session was figuring out how to better prepare students at PAC for their transition to universities.
Dr. Lance Sandberg, professor of Biology at PAC, was the one who convened the topic. He hoped to find new ways to help students.
“We realized we do have to do more in order for our students to succeed,” Sandberg said, “…it’s a very different life.”
A solution for this was a “from the horse’s mouth” perspective, by bringing in former students to discuss with the current students what to expect when attending a four-year university, or even bringing in professors from universities so students can hear what they expect from the students in their classes.
The second session brought more topics and more solutions for PAC. One table focused on prospective students of the Early College High School program. During this session, many faculty members brought up the challenges that they face when having an integrated classroom that houses both college and high school students.
Usha Gururajarao, a five-year Physics professor for the District, explained that a big setback in working with ECHS students that she faces is disciplining them. Not knowing where to turn, she was interested to learn that the staff is there help to her.
“I was always thinking that [the staff] are not doing enough. I came to know [staff] are there to help us …they’re doing their best, too,” Gururajarao said.
Anthony Perez, college coordinator of High School Programs said, that staff is working with faculty to come up with solutions for the problems they face.
“There’s definitely a lot of opportunity for us,” Perez said.
The biggest takeaway from the All-College Conversation is that the faculty and staff care for the college. They care for the students, and they want to make great strides for this campus.
These sessions, the problems each stakeholder brought forth, and the groups who worked to find solutions to these problems, will help shape the future of the college and act as the framework to make PAC “a campus of excellence, learning, and inspiration, where students, faculty, staff, and the community can thrive.”