Notes from the President

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

I’ve worked in many institutions in which things have been done a certain way just because that’s the way they’ve always been done, and we can’t break that tradition because it’s just the way we do it.  A cycle emerges, and the thing sort of takes on a life of its own.  No one really knows why or how, but this thing (whatever it was) got passed on and continued even as the institutional memory surrounding its creation evaporated.  It can be super frustrating to be bound to a system that no one understands but that, at the same time, has become so enmeshed with institutional culture that any suggestion of change is viewed as disloyal at best and downright abhorrent at worst.    

In addition, I’ve spoken before about the rhythms of academia; we do some things according to a specific timeline because that’s the way the academic calendar works.  Ok, that part makes sense.  It does feel fitting, in keeping with our recent biannual time change, to chat a bit about how traditions form here in the academic world and how we are working to take charge of that process here at EC3.  Let me be clear:  I’m not a contrarian by nature, but neither do I believe in doing something “just because we’ve always done it this way.”  The nice thing about building a community college from the ground up is that we have the freedom to invent our own traditions. We aren’t bound by traditions that began back before any of us were here, and we can create traditions that make sense.  In short, we can work with intentionality.   

One way in which EC3 has intentionally created a new tradition is through the institution of the Quarterly Breakfast, a forum in which we share the latest happenings at EC3 with friends of the college.  EC3 is here, and I’m writing this today, because of the champions who worked tirelessly to bring this place to life.  We recognize the power and importance of the community that we serve, so we likewise understand that equipping champions of the college with information about our progress is just one of many ways that we nurture this crucial partnership.   

Our third Quarterly Breakfast was held early this week on Tuesday, March 14th, and was a wonderful opportunity for attendees to hear from our EC3 trustees and administrators.  This time, I provided a progress update on our march to accreditation and shared my excitement about EC3’s first commencement ceremony, which will be held on Saturday, June 3rd.   

Additionally, Dr. Keri Bowman, Dean of Students, provided an update from Academic and Student Affairs.  Dr. Bowman provided information about our established and forthcoming articulation agreements with other colleges and universities. These agreements are put in place so that students who would like to continue their education past their time at EC3 have a pathway to do so; they are transfer agreements that determine which courses from EC3 will transfer and how they will count at their destination school.  

From there, we shared information about our new campaign series entitled “Student Stories.” We launched this series to ensure that we’re capturing the on-the-ground experience that our students are having.  We find that students sharing their stories often encourages others who are considering joining EC3 to get started. We believe in the value of student experience and commit to ensuring that our current and future students feel seen, heard, and valued. Their stories matter, and we want to preserve and share them! 

During these meetings, we always conclude by opening the floor to questions from attendees.  We know what we want to share, but we recognize that this is a partnership.  Any good partnership is collaborative in nature.  As such, we want to offer attendees the chance to let us know if we missed something or if there is a topic they would like to learn more about.  Questions are always invited and encouraged; this is, after all, a dialogue. 

We’ve come a long way in two years, and our first cohort of students are gearing up to complete their degrees and certificates; we cannot wait to celebrate them!  The next time we meet for our Quarterly Breakfast, we will be reveling in our new graduates’ success.  We truly hope that you will join us at the next breakfast, and all are cordially invited to attend.  If you or a representative from your organization would like to add this to your calendar, our next Quarterly Breakfast will be held on Tuesday, June 13th.  Simply drop me a line at to reserve your spot, and if there’s something you’d like us to add to our agenda – for this or a future breakfast – please send that as well. 

Personally, I love this new tradition!  Just as I welcome the changing of the seasons, this feels like a fresh new opportunity to share the ways in which OUR community college continues to grow.  Please join us!