New interim chancellor discusses innovation, collaboration and success at GCC listening tour stop

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Maricopa County Community College District Interim Chancellor Dr. Steven Gonzales hosted a discussion in the Student Union Feb. 24, to address concerns about the college and district and get feedback from students, faculty and staff.

Gonzales, formerly the president of Gateway Community College, was appointed Jan. 25. While in office as interim chancellor, Gonzales is visiting Glendale and the other MCCCD colleges on a listening tour to engage staff on the state of the district and their college.

The discussion began with an introduction by GCC President Dr. Teresa Leyba-Ruiz, who after introducing the chancellor, announced she would not be staying for the discussion, to encourage employees to speak up

Interim Chancellor Dr. Steven Gonzales speaks during his listening tour Feb. 24 at Glendale Community College in Glendale, Ariz. (Michael Manny/The Voice)

about their concerns.

Before getting into the discussion, Gonzales explained that he has not applied to be the permanent chancellor but will give the interim position everything he has.

“When I accepted the role, I informed the governing board that I didn’t know what it means to be an interim,” Gonzales said. “I’m either in this 110 percent or I’m not, and so I’m going to treat this job as if I’m permanently in it.”

Gonzales asked for the large audience’s feedback on several questions. The first: What is the greatest opportunity Maricopa is missing out on?

One audience member cited the lost opportunities for industry partnerships due to the colleges not being cohesive with one another, and internal issues.

Student and Associated Student Government Vice President and Secretary Abel Haddis discussed a need for more personal tutoring.

“Sometimes you see students who have to wait, maybe a half an hour just to get help on one homework question and they get frustrated, and so I believe, you know, that doesn’t always help,” Haddis said.

Some other missed opportunities brought to Gonzales’ attention included trouble with retaining talented employees, offering the same advising and tutoring services to night and weekend students as day students and current computer technology falling behind.

Gonzales also asked for the audience’s thoughts on what they believed are the biggest challenges facing GCC and MCCCD. Two common themes were supporting innovation and better collaboration between the colleges.

“What often stops us from being able to do things the way we want to do, in a way that we can optimize our ability to be innovative are our own policies and procedures,” Gonzales said. “Someone says, ‘oh you can’t do that because of this policy’ and then you go in the board book, and that policy was developed in 1967.”

Another common concern brought up were problems with bureaucracy and completing simple tasks that take too many steps and forms.

“There’s a lot of that (bureaucracy) that takes away from the important things I would like to be doing,” psychology department Chair Dr. Julie Morrison said.

As for expectations of him as interim chancellor, one audience member said that they want Gonzales to help facilitate rebuilding broken trust between the governing board, district office and the colleges.

“One thing I realized very quickly is that there needs to be a great amount of healing across this district that needs to happen, and the only way for that to begin is for the CEO to get in front of people and take it on the chin, if that’s what needs to happen. That’s what I’m here doing,” Gonzales said.

The interim chancellor will next hold a talk at the district office March 4 before visiting Chandler-Gilbert and South Mountain Community College March 6.

*Editors note: Updated to include additional photo.