From the country to the city

Posted on 03 September 2015 by admin

 Chancellor Jeff Pittman reflects on his journey to STLCC

jeff pittmanBy: Dalila Kahvedzic
Editor-in-Chief

St. Louis Community College Chancellor Jeff Pittman assumed his position at STLCC effective July 1, 2015 with a signed contract for five years. After graduating from a class of 43 in high school to now working with approximately 25,000 students in the St. Louis area, Pittman said he never imagined this as part of his plan.

“I never would’ve thought I would be living in St. Louis and doing something like this but I feel very much at home here,” Pittman said. Pittman grew up in Bloomfield, Ind., a town of about 2,500 people.

“A country kid going to the city,” Pittman said.

Pittman now lives with his wife Shelly and daughter Brianna on the West side of St. Louis, close to all four campuses. His three sons Ryan, Stephen and Skyler all work in Indiana and visit often.

Discovering an interest in teaching and working with students, Pittman first started out as faculty. He worked with IV Tech Community College for 28 years, working in four districts. Pittman started to teach in Columbus and then preceded to work in administration in Wilmington, which included work as an academic dean.

He went on to be campus president in the Southern Indiana District and a chancellor in the Wabash Valley region for 12 years.

“We moved around a lot in those 28 years,” Pittman said.

pittman libraryOnline education in Wabash Valley grew significantly that it was necessary to hire a new president to offer some advice, Pittman said.

“We had a new president come in that recognized that we needed to properly handle our systemic approach to it as a system because we were a statewide singly- accredited college with 14 districts, unlike Missouri where we’re all independent. We have an association here – St. Louis Community College Association – but at IV Tech we were all one college. So imagine Missouri having one statewide college. That’s the system I came from,” Pittman said.

Pittman continued to work in system-wide jobs as chancellor, which proved to be too much, he said.

“I just decided to go to the system office and work in online education and we pretty much developed it all at the system level and centralized all the functions of it,” Pittman said.

By the time he left to come to St. Louis, they had about 70,000 students who were taking at least one online class a year, Pittman said.

“The big reason I wanted to come here is because I saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community, to give back with students and with faculty. When you work at a large system office like IV Tech, you’re pretty much isolated from students,” Pittman said.

Being in a large system office, you are working for the students but you are not meeting them or seeing them in class, Pittman said. He missed working in the community and working at the campuses.

“This opportunity came up, I saw it as a great job for anyone and I applied and feel real blessed that I got the opportunity to come here. I am just very impressed by the students who are here that I’ve met. I’m very impressed by the faculty and staff – how much they care about the students,” Pittman said.

He saw it as a place where he can come make an impact to help the students succeed, complete their programming and their educational objectives, Pittman said.

“I think STLCC is such an integral part of a community,” Pittman said. “Community colleges nationally enroll about two million students a year, that’s about half of the undergraduate class in the nation. So, community colleges are very critical in the higher ed arena.”

With a mission of completion, it is important that every student understands that when they enroll in STLCC, they need to have an educational objective in mind, Pittman said.

“They may not have an exact disciplined one yet – but they need to be striving toward completion of a degree or certificate that will be meaningful to them in regards to getting a job or transferring to another higher education institution to advance their education,” Pittman said.

That is good for the students, that is good for the state, that is good for St. Louis. Faculty and administration strive to prepare people for higher wage jobs which benefits the work force, the economy and the students because it improves their standard of living, Pittman said.

“All of you are priority to me, the students are priority. I can’t do much from sitting here at Cosand despite the lovely view. I need to be at the campuses spending my time there so you’ll be seeing me around a lot,” Pittman said.

Pittman is working on scheduling his weeks so he is spending some time at each campus on a regular basis.

“What I’ve been doing so far is – every opportunity I get, I’ve been on the campus. I’ve been spreading my time out,” Pittman said. “You’ll be seeing me pretty regularly.”

Looking Forward 

There are a lot of economies that can be brought in that would result in savings to students and keeping tuition down, Pittman said. Along with his coworkers, they are doing anything they can to save money, keep tuition down and keep higher education affordable for people in St. Louis.

“That’s the heart of it,” Pittman said.

Pittman said he does see four campuses representing one institution.

“I noticed a lot of our students go to different campuses so it’s important that we have the same processes so students get the same quality experience,” Pittman said.

One of these quality experiences includes our online learning management system, Blackboard.

“Blackboard – the product – is owned by blackboard and they are owned by a private equity firm. They are a vendor of ours, a software vendor. They provide us with a learning management system. The learning management system is where all their online classes resie,” Pittman said. “You log in, you can get to the content, you can get to the syllabus, you can get to all the instructional materials.”

STLCC converted all server storage for course content to Blackboard in August 2015 versus housing the content on campuses, which affected the speed and perfomance of the application.

Blackboard has employees that do nothing but manage hosting and tend to the servers, they make sure everything is up and running. Having this platform in one central area helps in getting the most bang for the buck and the most recent upgrades, Pittman said.

A new version of Blackboard is expected to come out in spring 2016, Pittman said.

Future Leadership Changes 

In regards to a new President come January, academic organization structures are now being evaluated, Pittman said.

Meramec Campus President Pam McIntyre retired in July 2015 and two vice presidents are now sharing these duties.

“We formed a team that consists of more faculty and we’re going to look at our existing structure. There had been 10 structures proposed – so we’re looking at defining a structure that is most effective in serving the students,” Pittman said.

Right now an academic structure is being looked at which leans more toward improving and expanding academic degree programs, Pittman said.

Pittman said he and his team believe that a good education is important and that STLCC can provide well to the students.

“We care about them [the students] deeply, we want them to succeed in life and we really believe that a key ingredient to a successful life is a good education. We, the faculty and staff of STLCC believe that we offer a really quality educational experience to students and we want them to succeed here so they can succeed in life,” Pittman said. “Everything we do is about the student.”

 

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