Notes from the President

Chris Gray, Ph.D. l Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

At the time of this writing, we are just over a week out from the beginning of the Fall 2022 semester. For many colleagues, this is the busiest week of the year, and we have certainly seen a decided increase in activity here at EC3PA. Students who finished their summer classes at the end of July have enjoyed a few weeks of well-deserved rest; students who just graduated from high school in May are gearing up for their first semester as college freshmen; and students who had planned to move away and/or attend a residential campus have changed their plans for myriad reasons. Regardless of what brought them to this point, we are so happy to welcome these students to EC3PA and to help get them started on their journey with us.

As was the case last year, we will continue to offer classes with staggered starting dates to accommodate as many student needs and life circumstances as possible. On Monday, our sixteen-week classes, first eight-week classes, and first four-week classes (a new addition this year!) will commence. We will offer twelve-week classes beginning in September to accommodate those whose work, travel, or life commitments do not permit them to begin their education in August; we also realize that some students heading off to a residential campus now will be back in a few weeks when they realize that it just wasn’t a good fit for them. We are continuing our approach of student-centered flexibility and remain steadfast in our commitment to meeting our students where they are.

To this end, I’m excited to share a bit about a page that EC3PA has added to help students who are new to college, to EC3PA, or both. Our aim was to set out and clarify the steps that they need to take to get ready for their journey. Aptly named “How to Get Ready for Class at EC3PA,” this page walks students step by step from applying for admission to attending their first class. It explains what to do at every step along the way, and there are links available for students who find themselves in need of help at any step during the process. 

Going back to my recurrent theme of helping students learn “How to College,” this is the kind of small gesture that makes such a difference to so many students. Academia really is another world, and those of us who are long-timers speak another language. It’s easy to forget how scary and new this world was once — back when we were freshmen walking onto campus for the first time. I’ve shared before that I walked into my local bank and asked how to apply for a student loan because I had no experience with funding my education and had no idea where to start. A friend of mine arrived at the first class of her freshman year only to find that she had been dropped from all her courses because of a clerical error; as she sat in her dorm room with no classes on her schedule, she panicked and withdrew from school entirely. These kinds of things shouldn’t happen. I am doing my best to make sure that our students feel supported by those familiar with a system that is, at best, mystifying.

It’s so easy to lose people through apathy or derision, and as a person who has been too proud to ask for help myself, I want to make sure that lack of experience doesn’t become a barrier to students newly navigating these uncharted waters. I’d rather offer too much help than too little, and I’m so happy that I continue to be surrounded by colleagues who feel similarly. This is, after all, what we do, and it’s part of our culture: it’s who we are. It’s who our students need us to be.