By Chris Swords Betts
Jacquelyn Elliott, newly appointed president of Central Arizona College, met with leaders and members of the community on Thursday at her welcome reception on Maricopa’s campus.
The reception was the first in a series as Elliott visits all of CAC’s campuses in order to establish relationships with local elected officials and governing board members in more intimate gatherings. The reception allowed for attendees to pose questions to the new president.
“She’s got a vision for the college,” said Evelyn Casuga, assistant to the president. “She’s listening and learning.”
Elliott said she’s finishing up a strategic plan, while continuing to get to know the community. She views strategic planning as a way to develop metrics that have useful meaning to drive efforts to add the most value and return on investment to the community.
Elliott said it’s important to go to the local businesses and industries and ask what they need. “There’s some community colleges that workforce training is their bread and butter,” she said. “We have that capacity to really grow and customize it.”
Maricopa Campus Dean Janice Pratt said Elliott is great at meeting with businesses and economic developers. “In that way, she’s head and shoulders above the other presidents,” Pratt said.
Mayor Christian Price said he wants people to see CAC as “a pole vault into something greater.”
The government, Elliott said, can help determine the mix of academic offerings needed on campus. “We need to have the whole program mirror the first two years of ASU,” Elliott said.
Elliott addressed the need to focus the efforts of the campus, likening the available options to a Cheesecake Factory menu — overwhelming. Elliott said her goal is to help each campus find its distinctiveness and focus on that.
“We need to develop a Chipotle menu,” she said.
Elliott said she was drawn to CAC because she wanted to work at a predominately Hispanic-serving organization, in order to give back. As a minority—she is half Native American—Elliott said she is a product of the Federal TRiO Upward Bound Program, which helps low-income, first-generation degree-seeking students obtain a college education.
“Everyone said Central Arizona College is the place for you, Jackie,” Elliott said. “You can really take them to the next level.”