Gateway to Greatness: PC holds State of College Address

By Alexis Espinoza for the Porterville Recorder | 09/19/23
Dr. Habib and our favorite Pirate at the State of the College Address

by Alexis Espinoza for the Porterville Recorder

The morning began early for Porterville College and Eagle Mountain Casino staff on Tuesday as they prepared for PC's first ever State of the College address in the casino’s convention center. The morning came with breakfast, a student success story, speeches on the progress made in faculty, administration and student life, and a look into the college’s future with PC President Dr. Claudia Habib.

As quiche, potatoes and grilled ham were served to the audience, Roger Perez, Director of Communications and Community Relations, welcomed everyone and directed their attention to a video that highlighted some of PC’s greatest features including the college's new and expanding programs and their evolving sports program. The short film captured the essence and power of PC saying the college is the gateway to greatness just as Porterville is the gateway to the Sequoias.

As Habib readied herself to give the first State of the College address in PC’s history, PC Alumni Jacob Sandoval explained a few of the ways attending PC changed his career trajectory and set him on a path to serve in a community college capacity. As the applause for Sandoval quieted, Habib replaced him behind the microphone and began her state of the college address by thanking everyone for attending and expressed her anticipation for the centennial of PC which is only four years away.

“PC has been part of the fabric of this community for 96 years,” said Habib. “We are small, but our impact is big.”

She continued to explain the impact of PC’s presence of higher education in an underserved rural community, and the fact PC is changing lives through the evolution of the education provided by the college especially for first generation college students.

“Porterville College is guided by a steadfast mission, one that underlines our unwavering commitment to educational excellence, inclusivity, and community engagement,” said Habib. “Our core values —integrity, respect, innovation, and student-centeredness — serve as the foundation upon which we've built our institution.”

After prevailing through the pandemic, Habib explained the college had to morph the way they delivered education which resulted not only in the largest graduating class in Spring 2023, but also kept the momentum with the highest enrollment rates than any other Fall semester. Despite these achievements, Habib said the college is still focused on driving their students to success regardless of their growing needs.

“That tells us two things: One, that strategies are working; Two, more importantly, that we have a student population that wants an opportunity for an education,” said Habib. “Let’s remember that the pandemic may be over, but the hardships and challenges continue. We see the demand for basic needs support growing. Housing and food insecurities are real. Higher education is changing, but I would add that our students and their needs are also changing. At Porterville College, our commitment to meeting the diverse needs of our community is resolute, and we are working on implementing a range of initiatives to address these needs comprehensively.”

As the college continues on at full force, their connections in the community remain strong, Through the Dual Enrollment and Early College programs local high school students are simultaneously earning their diploma and an Associates Degree through PC. In the past four years, more than 60 high school students have earned the degrees from PC while obtaining their diplomas. PC also is focused on supporting adult learners from underrepresented backgrounds and aligning their students with career opportunities with local employers.

On top of these programs, PC has implemented a Pathways approach to obtaining a degree. This allows students a guided and focused path to successfully completing what's needed for graduation in a succinct time frame.

Habib was pleased to dive into PC’s newest adventure in inmate education. PC now offers courses in the North Kern Prison and various detention facilities throughout Tulare County.

“These initiatives collectively embody our dedication to addressing the diverse needs of the Porterville College community, ensuring that education remains accessible, equitable, and transformative for all,” said Habib. “This is not easy, but our faculty report that the experience is very rewarding. Again, we are in the life-changing business.”

The pandemic drove PC to be technologically forward, and since have equipped their classrooms with technology that allows for students to immerse themselves in their education. The pandemic also taught PC that keeping both online and in person classes is paramount and students are becoming just as successful online as they are on campus. Our goal has been to return to the traditional model,” said Habib. “However, this year we have experienced a larger number of students taking classes in multiple modalities. It seems that the options of face-to-face, hybrid, or full online give students flexibility to adapt their schedules and juggle family responsibilities, work and education.”

Habib highlighted the fact PC’s student population is Hispanic dominated at 77 percent making PC a Hispanic Serving Institution. Because of this, PC has been awarded several grants which have allowed them to advance in both technology and curriculum.

With a strong financial standing, and a near $63 million budget, Habib says PC stands strong in their investments in the community. This will come in great aid as the college moves forward in the future endeavors, which include the introduction of Baccalaureate Degree programs. PC is in the development process of a bachelor's for Modern Policing which will offer a more in-depth focus on law enforcement and public safety.

“At Porterville College, our vision for the future includes an exciting development: the introduction of Baccalaureate Degree programs,” said Habib. “This step reflects our commitment to providing our students with expanded educational opportunities and meeting the evolving needs of our community. We believe that offering Baccalaureate degrees will not only elevate our institution but also empower our students to reach new heights in their academic and professional journeys.”

As the college moves forward there's a great focus on creating a culture of inclusivity on campus by investing in all of the moving parts of higher education.

“Our goal is not just to prepare students for successful careers but to nurture active citizens and lifelong learners,” said Habib. “We will continue to invest in our faculty, staff, and infrastructure to ensure Porterville College remains a beacon of educational excellence in our community. In closing, the state of Porterville College is strong, thanks to the dedication and commitment of our remarkable community. Together, in partnership, we will continue to transform the college experience for our students, shaping their futures and making a big impact in Southeast Tulare County.”