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New Palo Alto president calls for an all-college conversation

By Kim Marr | Pulse Staff Reporter

ConversationPalo Alto College’s new president, Dr. Mike Flores, called all faculty, staff and some students together to discuss, “Why we are here, what we do, and why we do it.”

The day, known as an All-College Conversation, took place on October 24, 2012, in Palo Alto’s Gymnasium to open communication among 314 members of Palo Alto College’s faculty, staff and students. Since Palo Alto has only 200 full-time staff and faculty, this means that more than 100 adjunct faculty and students attended the event.

The day, planned by 16 Palo Alto faculty and staff, including Flores, aimed at incorporating interaction and reflection among all who participated. The committee chose Mary Flanagan, a consultant from Management Solutions Group, LLC, to preside over the day’s activities and encourage engagement.

Attendees placed comments, questions and concerns on a wall and split into groups to discuss a wide range of issues from student accountability to making Palo Alto more environmentally friendly to helping non-traditional students succeed.

Each discussion group had a volunteer note taker. All of the notes from the day’s events were compiled into a document that was later emailed to faculty and staff.

“Initially, it was thought that we may have different discussions led by some of the individuals in the group, then eventually that transitioned to open space…rather than us prescribing the content,” said Joseph Coppola, director of Instructional Professional Development and a member of the planning committee.

“Everyone was really happy to voice their opinion…and feel worthy,” said Sandra Piñedo, Student Government Senator of Public Relations. “My favorite part, I think, was just the liberty of being able to listen to others.”

Piñedo said discussions with faculty and staff made SGA more aware of the concerns on campus.

Carol Christopher, adjunct of English, said, “I like the openness and kind of flexible structure of it... I was glad to see that there were a number of instructors that share the same concerns that I had.”

Coppola said elements from the All-College Conversation are spilling over into committee meetings around campus and allowing faculty and staff to focus on aspects of committees that interest them the most.

Not only was the day used as a platform for discussion, but the Palo Alto Public Relations Department also used the day to present Palo Alto’s new slogan: "Dedicated to your success."

Ginger Carnes, Palo Alto’s Public Relations director, said the new slogan was representative of all those in the Palo Alto community. Palo Alto is not only dedicated to student success, but also to faculty, staff and community success.

“Truly, this idea that we are dedicated to the success of our faculty, staff and students, and let’s have a conversation to determine what those needs are from them…I hope we continue to have more of those types of sessions,” Coppola said.

Flores had a follow-up meeting on Friday, Nov. 30, to share information and future plans.