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Growing into a big job

PCC's new Rock Creek campus president is making her mark on the school and the region
by: Jonathan House,

Less than a year after assuming leadership of Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus, Katherine B. Persson has landed on the forefront of determining for the area's future.

Not only is she 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 Rock Creek campus after spending 21 years at Kingwood College in the North Harris Montgomery Community College District in North Houston, Tex.

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 N.W. Springville Road.

Now Persson and her board are preparing for major changes expected, in part, due to increasing enrollments at all four PCC campuses. About 10,000 new residents are expected in the North Bethany area adjacent to the Rock Creek campus, where 800 acres of land are slated for future development.

Persson belongs to the North Bethany Stakeholder Work Group, a 13-member committee charged with planning how the rapidly expanding area will look.

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

Bond talks

Also under discussion is a bond that would expand Portland Community College campuses, including Rock Creek. The college's board has agreed that a bond is definitely needed.

'We need facilities,' Persson 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 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.'

Shared facilities

Since she's been on board, Persson also has helped to launch several new endeavors including the new ThinkBIG program, where students can attend a two-year course that trains them to be service technicians for Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company.

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

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

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

'They would like to use the ball fields for the summer and the rest of the facilities will be ready for fall,' said Persson.

An advocate of shared facilities - Persson came from a district in Texas that successfully created a shared county/community library - she said the new fields will provide some temporary relief for the college's parking problems through the creation of 300 spaces slated for the

athletic fields.

SHE'S MAKING THINGS HAPPEN AT PCC

Other recent news and projects in and around the PCC Rock Creek campus include:

- The recent hiring of a new coordinator for the school's service learning program, which combines civic involvement with course curriculum. Last year 223 students contributed 2,557 hours of service learning. 'We hope to grow that even further this year,' said Persson.

- Full-time student enrollment at the campus is up by about one percent with 8,000 full-time students signed up for the fall term. They are being taught by 101 full-time instructors.

- The campus is forging ahead with creating campus goals. As a result, Persson convened 21 focus groups during the college's in-service week last month. Her goal was to examine the question: 'What are the top goals the campus employees think we should focus on through 2010?'

- The R.C. Galbraith Award, in honor of teacher excellence, recently was awarded to Spencer Hinkle, a teacher in building construction trades.