Dr. Marty Cavalluzzi began his position as president of Pierce College-Puyallup on July 1. He took a few minutes in the midst of greeting students to sit down with The Herald to share his thoughts.
The Herald: What drew you to the Puyallup campus?
Marty Cavalluzzi: Puyallup seems to be a good fit. Coming here makes me feel that I have fully cycled in my journey. I call myself an accidental Ph.D. I began my education at a community college without knowing what I wanted to do. I still remember the five instructors who encouraged and helped me to more fully identify my skills. I then went on to receive my bachelor degree from Humboldt State University in marine fisheries, followed by a master’s and Ph.D. in marine science from the College of William and Mary. Along the way, I was encouraged to pursue administrative roles in my career, which I have loved.
TH: As a new administrator, there must be an incredible amount to learn.
MC: Yes, but I am enjoying meeting and getting to know faculty and students. I believe that getting to know people and their stories comes first, and then everything else is second. We can give students the tools to help them succeed once we know them.
In many ways, we serve as mentors to our students. I want them to know that it is OK to fail, if they use that experience to move on successfully.
TH: What role does a community college play in education?
MC: It plays a huge role. The mission of a community college is comprised of four parts. One, it prepares students to transfer their first two years spent in a smaller school directly to a four-year program so that they enter those schools at the junior level. Second, it offers professional, technical programs that enable people to retool or learn new skills. Third, it provides adult basic education, and, four, it offers continuing education opportunities. Some schools have added a fifth purpose by offering baccalaureate degrees through partnerships with four-year institutions.
MC: We have a diverse student population. Today, the medium age of our students is 26, down from 28 when the recession hit. With the economic downturn, many students enrolled to learn new skills in order to obtain a new job, or to retool their current skills.
Additionally, we have 868 Running Start students enrolled, an increase of 109 students from last year, and we also offer the opportunity to audit classes for non-credit, which is one way we can provide lifelong learning for those not wanting a degree.
Though their numbers may be small, we also have homeless students who need the encouragement and mentoring that we can provide to help them succeed. I want to offer more opportunities to bring high school counselors to campus to learn about the college and available scholarships. Every year, scholarships are not granted because of missed deadlines.
TH: Pierce recently added a nursing program. Are there plans to add additional program areas?
MC: Yes. The nursing program was accredited in 2007. We just began offering an associate degree in health informatics and integrated technology, since health care IT is one of the fastest-growing employment markets.
MC: The Pierce College District has committed to providing learning opportunities that align with local business and industry needs. One way that we determine whether we hit our goals is through an institutional effectiveness report. For example, in 2012, the Washington Employment Security Department, Labor Market and Economic Analysis Branch projected 11,573 average annual total job openings between 2015 and 2020 in Pierce County. Seven hundred occupations were classified into 22 categories and 94 sub-categories. In response, the district will teach at least one class in 25 of the 30 occupational sub-category occupations.
TH: What is your vision for the college?
MC: I want Pierce College-Puyallup truly to be the go-to college with a strong community connection. I see us forming partnerships with businesses, for example. If an organization or business has employee training needs, we can customize curriculum for them and offer a certificate for the program.
This is an exciting time for the college; there are so many possibilities to explore and opportunities to be in collaboration with other organizations.Linda Henry is a freelance reporter for the Herald.