EMCC employees warm-up students’ seats during Day of Learning

All Employee Meeting
Full house at the EMCC All Employee Meeting / Day of Service
Dr. Rey Rivera
Dr. Rey Rivera sharing about his leadership style
August 14, 2019

The Fall Semester hasn’t even started yet, but learning already has. Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC) held its annual All Employee Meeting/Day of Learning on Aug. 12.

It was standing room only in the Estrella Conference Center as newly appointed President Dr. Rey Rivera presided over his first All Employee Meeting. The former Vice President of Learning started things off by asking everyone to introduce themselves to someone they didn’t know. He joked that what he did was an introvert’s worst nightmare and then admitted that he himself is an introvert. Dr. Rivera followed up by introducing himself and sharing his leadership philosophy.

The self-professed “sci-fi nerd” illustrated his leadership style by referencing the difference between Star Trek’s Capt. James T. Kirk (the cowboy) and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (the thinker). 

“I’m more Picard than I am Capt. Kirk,” he said. “I want the best solution because I don’t care where the idea comes from, it has to be the best solution for our students and the best solution for our community.”

Dr. Rivera next shared statewide and national education and economic trends, citing the need for higher education in order to qualify for the majority of future jobs while pointing to the growth of the West Valley before praising Student Affairs employees for going above and beyond to bring EMCC’s full-time student equivalents (FTSE) up by 1.5 percent.

“They have been doing some amazing work, making thousands of phone calls,” he said. “They’ve done a tremendous job of getting enrollment numbers up.”

He also vowed to increase graduation rates from the current 21 percent to 30 percent in the next five years.

In keeping with the format of past All Employee Meetings, Dr. Rivera introduced new employees as well as those who have moved into different roles, and presented employees with awards for their years of service. Librarian Christopher Zagar racked up the most at 35.

“This one is really special,” Dr. Rivera said. “This person has been in the District for 35 years. He’s done some amazing work.”

Vice President of Administrative Services Dr. Heather Weber was up next, giving an update on the new science lab in Montezuma Hall and the 37,000-square-foot building, Arroyo Hall, set to open in the spring of 2021. Groundbreaking for the $24 million project is slated to begin in early 2020.

Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Patti Cardenas-Adame took the stage after Dr. Weber and joked that she didn’t “have anything quite as blingy as a building” to report on, and then thanked the employees who couldn’t attend the meeting because they were busy registering and advising students. She shared a few highlights including a $40,000 grant over three years to focus on adult students, and a new campaign to ensure students know they are cared about and belong on campus.

Dean of Student Affairs - Enrollment Laura Dulgar then spoke about the Super Enrollment Team’s efforts to maximize enrollment, praising Student Affairs employees who “aren’t in this for the numbers, they’re in this for the individuals they serve.”

“Some of the initiatives we’ve had have been a lot of hands-on contact with these students,” she said.

Dr. Bronwen Steele, Director - EMCC STEM Center of Excellence, and Paula Livingston, Dean of Instruction, were up next and explained the origins of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and the reason behind the strong emphasis EMCC places on it.

“We’re recognizing these external pressures to deliver a workforce that’s competent and to also reach out to those underrepresented minorities and encourage their involvement in STEM,” Livingston said, adding that EMCC has been working to establish itself as a STEM Center of Excellence (COE) and recently received funds from the District to hire STEM faculty, reassign a STEM COE Director, sustain the STEM Coordinator, and fund part-time wages.

Following the meeting, faculty and staff made their way to the classrooms for the Day of Learning sessions. They had several to choose from such as “Supporting College Completion through Embedded Tutor Support Services” in which participants learned how the program works, how successful it’s been, and how it’s growing. The pilot program, which began a year ago with math tutors taking the same courses as their students, has been wildly successful and this fall added biology tutors to the mix. Other Day of Learning sessions included “Let the Adventure Begin: Teaching Honors Students,” “We Can’t Afford to Lose a Piece: Your Role in Behavioral Intervention,” “Connecting STEM Advisement & Faculty to Foster Student Success,” and “Movement and Metaphor in Active Learning.”

In addition to his strategies to address student enrollment, retention, and graduation, Dr. Rivera shared a few personal initiatives he’s implementing such as “Cake with the President and VPs,” “Pizza with the Prez,” and “Donut Dashes.”

“Pizza with the Prez will be with the students. Someone told me, ‘Just buy pizza and they’ll show up,’ so that’s what we’re going to do.”

Interested in hearing more from EMCC's President? Dr. Rivera invites you to follow him on Twitter @EMCCPresident.