With the close of the academic year fast approaching, there is no better time to reflect on the buzzworthy events at UCC.
UCC kicked off the 2021 year by welcoming the new President, Dr. Rachel Pokrandt.
Pokrandt began as UCC’s 12th president on July 19, 2021. She came to UCC from Colorado with a background in business and nonprofit management. Pokrandt served as an adjunct instructor, as well as Dean of Instruction at Front Range Community College in Fort Collins, before transitioning to Vice President and campus dean at Mountain College, both in Colorado.
“I lived in Colorado for 31 years but I actually grew up in Nottingham in the UK. My whole family still lives in England and Wales. I enjoy all outside activities. I love cycling, hiking, skiing and since moving to Roseburg, I have fallen in love with wine! Who wouldn’t? I have a dog, his name is Spike and you can often find me walking him on campus. My favorite restaurant in Roseburg is the Best Taste of India and my favorite place to sit on campus is wherever students are,” Pokrandt shared in an email.
UCC campus had been closed since 2019 due to the pandemic, so the timing of Pokrandt’s arrival allowed her to transition just before campus reopened. She was greeted by a campus that was buzzing with anticipation of having students back on campus for the first time in two years.
Pokrandt recalled mixed feelings of fear and excitement for herself and the rest of the staff on campus.
“Opening back up from COVID, making people feel safe and valued and thinking about investing in our future, therefore, the future of our students and community has been the focus of the year,” Pokrandt said.
Her next priority was recovering faculty positions that had been made obsolete by the facility closure. Rehiring positions that had been released took a year and UCC is still in the recovery process of acquiring teachers and administrators. She also began the selection process for two new vice president positions, one for academic services and one for student services. In order to return to the traditional VP administration structure.
Another priority for Pokrandt was raising pay for staff, to improve the quality of life and the quality of UCC. UCC currently pays staff less than the national average and Pokrandt’s assessments looked to take small steps to bridge that gap.
Along with finalizing projects left by her predecessor such as the landslide repair and refurbishing student housing, Pokrandt spent much of her early days organizing the administrative and logistics of her position, getting to know her staff and learning the nuances of what is required of her at UCC.
The landslide affecting the parking lot near the community garden and gym facilities was completed in the 2021 all term. Although fully completed, the site is continuing to be monitored as the ground continues to settle. Upgrades were also added during the repair such as an additional sitting area.
“The total cost of the landslide repair was just under $700,000.00. We received state funding in the amount of $636,812.00 through House Bill 5006 Section 47 from the State of Oregon through Higher Education Coordinating Commission. The balance was paid partially last year and partially this year from the college general fund,” Pokrandt said.
Pokrandt also oversaw the final stabilizing legal process to refurbish property for the school to use as student housing. The funds to do upgrades on the housing that was donated were also in the form of donations to the college. “Housing is an auxiliary fund and so it is operated as a self-sustaining enterprise and therefore not supported via general fund dollars,” Pokrandt said.
The donated property and refurbishing project has opened a conversation discussing future housing options including family housing that can be both affordable and sustainable.
Another small but notable construction project slowly in the works is a revamping of the former cafeteria for alternative use by students. So far the Laverne Murphy Student Center has been outfitted with new lights, new further and paintings as well as other artwork. Video arcade games were ordered four months ago and Pokrandt divulged plans for a party when they finally arrive. Other additions to the Student center will include pool tables, ping pong, foosball and similar amenities.
Since the cafeteria was underutilized and losing money, it was closed years prior to the pandemic, but the need to feed students still exists. ASUCC is working with Pokrandt and staff to install a student kitchenette complete with a refrigerator, working sink and perishable grab-and-go items. The project is still in the planning stages as many upgrades to the older building will likely need to be made to accommodate new water and electrical needs. These seemingly minor logistical difficulties can be difficult and costly.
Along with the Student center upgrades, expanded trails have been added to the campus as well as plans for a frisbee golf course in the future.
A special project highlighted by Pokrandt was, Ask me about UCC, a student success story series launched in 2021 to reconnect with community members who have left UCC. The stories highlight how students have thrived in their chosen careers thanks to their UCC education.
Other board meeting topics since Pokrandt’s arrival at UCC have included plans for a new program to be offered at UCC in the future. Discussions explore expanding courses in medical careers, manufacturing and machine learning Artificial Intelligence programs. Pokrandt and the board also plan to secure partnerships with universities similar to the recent collaboration with Bushnell University in Eugene. UCC is hoping to add up to six bachelor partnering programs along with the previously existing partnership with OSU.