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Sunday, July 22, 2018

SMCC Advisory Council Shining Light on School

Sometimes it seems that South Mountain Community College is the best-kept secret in the area, but it has been serving students for more than 30 years. Its campus includes a beautiful performing arts center and since a year ago, a gorgeous new $60 million library.

College officials believe now is the time to let the community in on the secret.

This is being done by the President’s Community Advisory Council, a group that is tasked with getting the word out and making the college the hub of the community.

Michael Kelly, past president of the council, said the group originally came together under the administration of past president Dr. Ken Atwater.

“He did a wonderful job for the community to be informed about what was happening at South Mountain Community College. It was more passive,” Kelly said.

The opening of the new library was the frosting on the cake.

“It is magnificent,” Kelly said. “If the performing arts center is a jewel, the library is a diamond and adds so much to the community. Our campus is one of the best-kept secrets in town. There are tons of students who know about us, but the community really doesn’t know. With the Legacy shopping center connected to the campus and the new housing development around it, is a growing area.”

SMCC President Shari Olson, who came on board just about a year ago, said when she arrived, she recognized the talent and resources in the community that were going untapped and she wanted to change that.

“When I met with the current presidents, (Steve Glueck, Michael Kelly and Greg Brownell) of the advisory council, just listening to them talking about what was important to them was important to me,” she said. “I saw all the resources at the college and how we could connect them.”

Glueck, current president; Kelly, past president; and president-elect Brownell, set the agenda which included getting the 60 or 70 council members to become proactive in their roles.

The council was broken into five different focus groups, each person signing up for the area that interested them most, including civic engagement, business development, education, the performing arts center or athletics.

“I wrote a goal statement for each one and rolled out the concept in the fall. I asked people to sign up for an area of their passion. I asked college employees who have the same passion, to be a leader in the group,“ Olson said.

They were all charged with coming up with three “bold ideas,” that have to do with their particular interest which would result in 15 new “bold ideas,” that would move the college forward. 

Later in the year, the group met again and Olson was thrilled with the results.

“When the five groups presented their ideas, there was so much passion in the room, I wish I could have measured it with a passion meter,” she said. 

Although the ideas are still in the rough draft stage, the civic engagement committee is exploring ways to tie community events to the college or host town hall events or forums. 
The business development group is concentrating on attracting small businesses and entrepreneurs by becoming a clearing house of resources for them and providing all kinds of other services for them.

Olson said she hopes the Performing Arts Center can be utilized not only by the college, but also rented for community events such as dance or music performances or the college creating a few significant events for which the community to participate.

She said the athletic teams at the college do well, including the golf team that just won a national tournament and the basketball team also went to a national tournament and did well.

The President’s Community Advisory Council is a body made up people from all walks of life from the South Mountain area, Glueck said. In the past, group members met a couple of times a year, learned from college officials what was going on and then disseminated the information back to the community, he said.

“Dr. Olson saw the opportunity to make it more of an interactive role, connecting the community to the community college,” he said.

She also saw the opportunity to take the advisory council to a new level. 

Olson wanted to expand and enhance a higher level of community awareness about the college, to make the college the hub of the community–the main gathering place for the people of the South Mountain area.

Glueck said he, Greg Brownell and Mike Kelly set the agenda at the onset of the transition of the group.

He said the Athletic Committee is tasked with making sure the athletic program at the school is recognized citywide.

One way to do that is reaching and bringing in what is important to the community.
Last year during the mayoral race, the college hosted a forum and debate between the candidates at the performing arts center.

“We had about 300 attendees and it was arguably the best of all of them that were held prior to the election,” he said.

The school has about 10,000 students with satellite campuses in Ahwatukee, Laveen and Guadalupe.

“The council would really like to have South Mountain Community College viewed as the center of activity for the South Mountain Area,” Glueck said. “We want the community to become aware of its accomplishments and the opportunities it offers.”


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