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Growing into a big job

PCC's new Rock Creek campus president is making her mark on region, school
by: Jonathan House, Katherine B. Persson came to PCC’s Rock Creek campus from Houston and has become a big part of the college and the surrounding community.

Less than a year after taking the helm of Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus, Katherine B. Persson is on the forefront of planning for the area's future.

Not only is she on board in helping to plan an upcoming bond request, but she's also part of a stakeholders group responsible for making recommendations for the future development of the expanded urban growth boundary that surrounds the college.

Last January, Persson became president at the college's Rock Creek campus after spending 21 years at Kingwood College in the North Harris Montgomery Community College District in North Houston.

She left as academic vice president at Kingwood to fill the Rock Creek seat vacated by Bill Christopher.

'I love it,' Persson summed up her first year at the school on Northwest Springville Road.

Now Persson and her board are preparing for major changes expected in part by increasing enrollments at all the PCC campuses along with 800 acres of land slated for future development in North Bethany. About 10,000 new residents are expected in the area.

Persson is a member of the North Bethany Stakeholder Work Group, a 13-member committee charged with planning how the expanded area will look.

'It will impact us, no doubt about it,' said Persson.

Bond talks

Also under discussion is a bond that would expand PCC campuses, including Rock Creek. The college board agreed that a bond was needed.

'We need facilities,' she said. 'So we're planning for a bond right now for 2008.'

While the details are still being worked out, Persson said one of the goals is for creating a health care facility, most specifically to train nurses. She noted that the nursing shortage is so acute that an expansion of PCC's program is necessary whether it is adding onto an existing campus building or creating a new building.

That bond, which could be in excess of $300 million, will be distributed throughout PCC's four campuses.

'Right now, we're exploring other academic programs that are needed in this part of Washington County,' she said. 'We also know we need a visual and performance arts facility.'

Since she's been on board, Persson also has helped launched several new endeavors including last week's ThinkBIG program where students now can attend a two-year course training them as service technicians for Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company.

The program begins with 25 students and is expected to add another 25 students next year.

Also this summer, PCC representatives and Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District officials gathered to break ground on a 30-acre community recreation complex next to the Rock Creek campus.

The new facility includes tennis courts, baseball and softball fields, two synthetic turf sports fields and a covered picnic area.