Working for a regional model of excellence

Patty Erjavec Enlarge photo

Patty Erjavec

The Southwest Colorado Community College, a division of Pueblo Community College, operates from multiple sites that provide the sole source of two-year higher education for the Southwest Colorado service area.

SCCC is an essential part of the community and has the potential to become an “academic center of excellence” in fulfilling its mission to meet the needs of the area and its residents. This sentiment has been voiced over and over again by community members and students alike for the last 25 years, and at last, we have taken the steps necessary to ensure this vision becomes a reality. Keep in mind, however, the college is faced with competing challenges to improve student retention, improve graduates rates, improve transfer rates and reduce the financial aid default rate.

To achieve maximum potential, SCCC has adopted a new approach and has realigned itself to provide educational services that serve the needs of the region’s students in a sustainable way. PCC has invested in a new model for SCCC that capitalizes on its strengths and available resources in a single administrative division that will allow for the college to survive and thrive going forward.

Today’s economic environment requires institutions such as ours to think creatively to find new ways to provide the educational resources needed for rural Southwest Colorado. This new model provides for quality, sustainable programs that serve the region, erases the physical boundaries of SCCC geographic locations, and integrates with all of Pueblo Community College, both administratively and academically.

PCC has been moving toward a flattened organizational structure that promotes continuous improvement and high performing teams throughout the college. These same principles have been applied to SCCC to create a structure that pushes additional resources down into the classroom to support faculty and staff members. The new structure eliminated the dean level position in Durango and Mancos and created a single executive dean overseeing the region.

Other positions were eliminated, but only where there was a duplication of efforts leading to inefficiencies and unintended competition for resources. These changes were made with much thought and deliberation, and it is important for all constituents to understand the principles that guided the decision to realign and develop a new structure for SCCC.

First and foremost, the college’s primary objective is to serve our students with a sustainable model, providing coordinated, integrated services for all SCCC sites. We are striving to eliminate competition for resources between the sites by removing duplicative services. We have positioned the college so that the staff can be successful in developing and implementing programs and procedures while promoting creative thinking and innovative leadership. We are in the process of establishing sustainable, high-performing teams, providing resources to articulate and develop quality programming that focuses on the academic areas that serve the needs of the region. In all cases, our programs must be sustainable, within the multiple educational sites of PCC. We are stronger as a whole and look to build on the interdependence of PCC, as well as the community, developing quality programs and address niche markets, such as Career & Technology, Transfer Programs, Early College and Tribal Communities.

The new leadership team is dynamic and well-poised to deliver the prescribed model of academic excellence. The Interim Executive Dean of SCCC, Cindy Mihelich, is a tenured PCC leader dedicated to student success and the balance of the leadership team, faculty and staff is local talent with an equal passion for student and academic success. Community indeed is our middle name, and we are proud to be part of such a rich region.

Patty Erjavec is the president of Pueblo Community College. Reach her at