Governing Board Address 4/27/21

President Sullivan, Governing Board Members, CEC Members, and Guests:

Tonight is my last address to the Governing Board on behalf of the Faculty Association. As of May 11th, my term will be over and Dr. Sasha Radisich (GCC) will be assuming the presidency, supported by Professors Camille Newton (SMCC) as President Elect and John Schampel (PC) as Past President.

I am very proud of the work that the Faculty Association and residential faculty leadership have helped to accomplish this year. Even in the midst of a pandemic, collaborative work continued on important initiatives and projects benefiting students, staff, faculty, and the Maricopa system. From the Faculty Agreement, to the Employee Compensation Philosophy, to the Committee on Academic Freedom, extraordinary (even historic) accomplishments have been achieved through collaboration with staff, adjunct faculty, and district and college leadership.

The relationships that have been started or developed more deeply have been most rewarding and made my term as president less contentious and more collaborative, allowing for greater progress on the important work we all have before us. I will always remember the colleagues I have come to know and the good, and difficult, work we have done together. I do regret that all our meetings were virtual, precluding the normal face-to-face interactions that I find essential for collaborative work and relationship building. On the upside, I have the dubious distinction of being the first Faculty Association President who never held or attended a single meeting in person/face to face for their entire term of office! Certainly not what I expected or set as a goal for my leadership of the Faculty Association! But we make do, and rise to the task before us. I hope my rise met the challenges before me and that the Faculty Association and Maricopa as a whole benefited from my time as President. I am grateful to the Faculty Association Officers and Faculty Executive Council for their unwavering support and counsel and for entrusting me with the responsibilities and duties of this office. I literally could not have done it without you! It was an honor to serve and one of the highlights of my career.

As most of you already know, I have spent most of my life at Maricopa, predominantly at Mesa Community College, where I started as the young kid of a professor running around campus with all the other professors’ kids, chasing rabbits and lizards and having lunch with all the faculty in the Kirk Center, yes, all the faculty fit into one room! Some years later I continued as a student, eventually joining the faculty, where I served as Department Chair, Faculty Senate Vice President and President, FEC Representative, Faculty Association President Elect and President. During that time, I also watched as my kids and grandkids became students at MCC, CGCC, and SCC. I have spent a lifetime watching, participating, and advocating for the mission of the Maricopa and its positive impact on students, employees, and communities. On July 1, 2021, I am retiring, and as a proud alumna I will continue to watch and advocate for the success of Maricopa.

Given my long, deeply personal investment in Maricopa, with your indulgence, I would like to share some parting observations and concerns in the hope it helps Maricopa to move successfully into the future.

Participating in system-level leadership over the past two years has made clear to me that our biggest challenges aren’t new revelations for most of us, but it is critical that we find a way to resolve them so we can move forward. We can’t continue to be okay with the status quo of an organizational culture that doesn’t work yet still doesn’t change and a lack of focus on systems (“little s”) that will help us to operate as a System (“big S”). I don’t want to suggest no progress has been made in this regard, it has, especially recently. But this piece is hard for us, and we must continue our progress with a strong sense of urgency if we are to break through.

Another critical challenge we must overcome is our inability to create a positive experience for students before they show up in our classes. We know the contributing problems — students have a really hard time registering for classes, gaining access to an advisor, navigating financial aid, getting their questions answered. We know these critical student processes need more resources, such as more advisors to provide more student contact and a more streamlined process with consistency between colleges. Employees are doing their very best to work with the tools and processes available to them, but they are overwhelmed and understaffed. More people who provide that broader, deeper student service are part of the solution, as are technology and streamlining consistent processes across the colleges. We have studied this problem at great length, yet it remains unsolved.

I suggest that if we think seriously about the causes of these seemingly intractable problems, we might find that they share a root cause.

Maricopa’s culture has long exhibited an unwillingness to face, acknowledge, and act to change difficult patterns, including the impact of recent history and events involving the prior Governing Board and former Chancellor Harper-Marinick. In addition, Maricopa culturally embraces a parochialism that stifles not only our understanding of and ability to work across colleges and the district office as a system, but also undermines our willingness to change the culture that facilitates this parochialism.

Please understand that I am not trying to pick a fight. I have a deep and abiding love for Maricopa as an institution and for its employees, its students, and the communities it serves. But I do feel an urgent and pressing need to call for Maricopa to come together as an institution to address these issues head on, right away.

We know that Maricopa exists to help students succeed and build a better life for themselves and their families. And caring about and valuing our employees positions all of us to succeed and build a better life for ourselves, our families, our students, and the communities we live in and serve. It will be hard work, but we have survived a recession, a year of pandemic, and a system shutdown. I have full confidence that we are capable of not only surviving, but thriving.

Thank you for your time. My deepest gratitude to all the amazing people that I have met and worked with over my years at Maricopa. I will miss you but I know that the work we have done will position Maricopa to continue its mission of bringing success to all who come to them, whether student or employee or community member or governing board member. As we owe it to those whose legacy we seek to fulfill, what we do from here is our legacy.

Patrice Nango