As the new academic year begins, PCC provides support, innovation in the new online educational landscape
Photos and Story by James Hill
It’s been six months of remote/online instruction and operations for Portland Community College, but it may seem more like an eternity. And, with the current COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice movement, historic wildfire emergency and impending election for the U.S. President, the 2020-21 academic year starts off like no other.
“What we’re all currently living through is truly ‘novel,’” said PCC President Mark Mitsui. “It is the first time humanity has experienced this virus. And we have been thrown into a daily, on-going stream of uncertainty and anxiety. Nevertheless, we persevere, each in our own way. And we must also do so as a college, as a critical nexus and partner for thousands of people in our community who are also experiencing this on-going stress.”
In response to the ongoing challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty have seamlessly transitioned their classes to virtual platforms with innovative techniques to make up for the lack of face-to-face instruction. For example, PCC’s ceramics faculty have figured out how to provide online studio classes without missing a beat. In addition, admissions, advising and counseling, to name a few, have created virtual hubs for students to access and get the support they need. PCC will remain in virtual operations through winter term.
The following are some of the stories or efforts where staff and faculty have stepped up to serve students and the community during the pandemic and wildfire emergency.
Protecting the Caregivers
When the virus hit Oregon in March, the college collected Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) from Veterinary Technology, Dental, Emergency Medical Services, Nursing and other programs to give to local doctors and nurses. In total, PCC collected 11,427 items for donation, including 10,000 pairs of gloves, 450 exam tissues and 245 caps.
In addition, over the summer the Microelectronics Technology Program coordinated a 3D-printing production facility in a volunteer’s garage to make 200 face shields and straps to give to the Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center. Lastly, the CLIMB Center contributed 104 boxes of gloves, five boxes of masks, 13 containers of hand sanitizer, and 14 boxes of alcohol pads to the Providence St. Vincent Medical Foundation.
On Sept. 9, Gov. Kate Brown requested that all university and community college firefighting programs release students and staff from training so they can provide support the effort to combat the Oregon wildfires. PCC’s Fire Protection Technology Program heeded the call and has sent more than 60 students, staff and faculty to help weary firefighting crews and to support operations.
Profiles From a Distance
The collective effort to keep student support and success at the forefront of the college has been huge for PCC’s community. Staff and faculty have been creative in how they support students in their continued academic success. From the newly created Virtual Admissions resource to innovating within online or remote classes to keep students engaged, PCC has been celebrating the hard work that employees have put in during this historic pandemic through a web series called “Profiles From a Distance.”
This summer, PCC stepped up to supply local agencies with qualified contact tracers to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. The college’s Institute for Health Professional Program created the Contact Tracer Training — a self-paced, non-credit course. Participants are learning the basics of COVID-19 and contact tracing, why the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is important, cultural awareness, the basics of motivational interviewing and how to deliver a phone script. Nearly 300 students had signed up within the first few weeks of the online training.
- The U.S. Department of Education awarded PCC’s High School Equivalency Program (HEP) a 5-year, $2.4 million grant to ensure that migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the region attain their GED® and transition to higher education.
- The Men of Color Leadership Program is taking on new importance in light of the recent racial equity movement gripping the United States and the world. It has become a beacon of education and support for Black, Indigenious and People of Color (BIPOC).
- The Portland Community College Foundation has appointed five new members to its board of directors to lead the Foundation’s wide range of business and community interests like assisting with food, technology and emergency grants, and much more.
- The Oregon Community College Association announced that five PCC students were named to the 2020 Phi Theta Kappa All-Oregon Academic Team.