Grand Rapids Community College President Bill Pink is settling in for his second year as the college’s 10th president. Ahead of the upcoming fall semester, The Collegiate caught up with Pink to get his thoughts on how his first year went and learn more about his future plans for GRCC.
Pink’s work in advancing the School of Workforce Development, increasing campus safety by installing a new cross-campus security system and the early/middle college partnership between GRCC and area school districts are a few indicators of a busy first year for the president. Pink reflected on the work GRCC staff, his office and the community have done for the enrichment of GRCC.
“I would be hard-pressed to say how the first year could’ve gone any better just because of what I feel we were able to accomplish, and to kind of set a culture in place more,” Pink said. “I don’t think we’re finished with that culture setting, but I think we made some good progress in just helping a campus realize what our vision is now and here’s where we want to be as a campus and as a college. Here’s how we want to think as a college in terms of how we make a difference in the lives of students because if we’re making a difference in the lives of students, that must make a difference in West Michigan.”
Among his achievements in the 2017-18 academic year was the introduction of five new strategic goals and a new vision statement for the college that will advance the school and its students.
“We finished a year’s work of revisioning what the strategic goals are of this college and have five new strategic goals that year two will be about implementation,” he said.
The new strategic goals were presented during the June 4 Board of Trustees meeting. The implementation of these new goals is an accomplishment Pink is proud of and credits the work the community did in order to come up with them.
“That whole work over the course of the year was done by the community that we had groups outside and inside this college,” Pink said. “My charge to this community was: take those five goals and put meat on those bones. Tell me how we should measure them as a college. And that’s what they came back with in terms of making moves in those five areas. So one of the things we’ll be doing this year is really focusing on what do those five things mean, how do we actualize those as a college and make those meaningful to where, at the end of the day, those five goals say that we as a college are functioning at a very high level – as what I call a world-class community college and that’s exciting to me.”
Pink also reflected on what he has learned so far while acclimating to GRCC and the community and culture in Grand Rapids.
“I have learned that at this college we operate at a higher level of community respect than any college I’ve been in my career, especially for a community college,” he said. “This community really relies on and respects and values Grand Rapids Community College. Grand Rapids and West Michigan really look to GRCC. We have this jewel in this community known as GRCC, (so) making sure that we as GRCC are able to take that level of respect and work with it such to where it is going to improve our community through the education of our community.”
Advancing a community college and putting in the work to improve an established school is no easy fete. Pink acknowledges that there can be a stigma about getting a community college education.
“We have a community that sees what that work looks like and how we’re having all of these opportunities to give people a degree that send them to work or a certificate that sends them to work or a certificate that sends them to the next school and to work,” Pink said. “People are hearing and seeing that. So the more they see that the more that we have the opportunity to help some folks who have this stigma about what community college is, help them understand this is not your grandma’s and grandfather’s community college anymore. This is not 13th grade. This is a place that will send you to the next school prepared or to the job prepared. That to me is important we continue that kind of work.”
Pink also shared what students can do to combat that community college stigma.
“I kind of got on this soapbox at graduation this last year in telling our graduates: Do not allow people to tell you about what they think about community college. You tell them what you received here. You get the message out, you take that message to those people who are in your community, in your circle. They need to understand that this is no pushover place.”
Pink’s work isn’t done yet, however. It’s only just begun. His focus in the coming year is implementing those strategic goals to reach that world-class community college status.
“Year two…we will be looking closely at the fact that at GRCC we are a campus that is 70 percent part-time, 30 percent full-time students,” Pink said. “What that means to me, it begs the question, ‘Are we servicing to the best of our ability that 70 percent of our population?’ Servicing from a standpoint of how we offer classes, how are our student services offered, our student organizations. Everything about college. Are we built and have we made sure that we continue to shift that those students, 70 percent of our population, are well served.”