Notes from the President

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

The new year brings with it another rush of excitement for EC3PA as we begin both our second semester of operations and our first Spring semester as America’s newest community college.  With the holidays behind us and New Year’s resolutions fresh in mind, it’s common in academia for colleges to see new students enrolling for the first time in January.  The Great Resignation of 2021 likewise has inspired a return to school for many workers as they look to retrain and change careers.  Just as we created an institutional climate of support and flexibility for our students in Fall 2021, we are continuing to use that approach to serve Erie County residents as we look forward to our new semester.  

 As I’ve mentioned previously, one of the hallmarks of higher education is the iterative process by which we pause, evaluate our processes, assess what worked and what fell short, and implement transformations moving forward.  We have done exactly this and are so pleased to share the latest efforts that EC3PA has devised to boost enrollment in this second semester while also providing support to our returning students.  

When setting the schedule of courses, we identified the Kids Café, a free community resource that is available during the traditional “after school” times — usually between 2:30 pm and 5:30 pm — and offered more classes at St. Ben’s specifically during that time.  Offering classes at times that make it easier for our students with children to attend is one of our prime goals.  We make sure that our counselors and faculty are aware of the internal and local services that are available and have provided them contact information to share with students. 

We likewise wanted to celebrate student success at the end of the Fall 2021 semester while at the same time encouraging these students to continue into Spring 2022.  All enrolled students were invited to celebrate their successes at the end-of-semester gatherings at the St. Ben’s and Tech Skills Center locations.  In addition, we offered snacks and refreshments to draw students to advising sessions held before the conclusion of the last semester.   Recognizing the relationship of trust that grows between faculty and students as they work together, we made sure that our faculty were trained and provided advising resources so that they could serve as the first line for advising and registration questions for students wanting to register for Spring 2022.  

For those students who were new to EC3PA rather than continuing from Fall semester, we offered Next Steps sessions at the St. Ben’s locations during both daytime and evening hours.  These post-application registration sessions were designed to introduce applicants and potential students to the location and to our faculty and staff. As we hoped, students were able to get acquainted with the St. Ben’s location, to feel comfortable here at EC3PA, and to meet other students.  To our great delight, the vast majority of attendees registered for at least one course before leaving.

As we move through this last week before the first round of Spring classes begins, we will continue to offer Registration Information Sessions as we did at the end of last semester.  Our student services staff made personal phone calls to applicants who haven’t yet registered to invite them for appointments or to Next Steps sessions.  And we will continue to offer staggered start dates such that we have Spring semester classes beginning every four weeks through midterm.  This is part of our commitment to offer the kinds of schedules that our students need and to recognize that not everyone is ready or able to start coursework at the beginning of the semester.  

As we gear up for another exciting semester, we are so proud of our students who have joined us on this first leg of our journey.  We have seen students work hard and achieve fantastic results.  This week, we are working to determine which students earned a spot on the Dean’s List; these high achievers will be recognized in the area newspapers and by personal note from the Dean in the near future. And as a new semester begins, we are eager to welcome more students and help them experience success in reaching their educational goals and dreams.