Nicholas Alford – The Corsair
Maps. Signs. Stationary headings. Decals. Bumper stickers. Business cards. Diplomas. Bookmarks… The list goes on and on. There seems to be no end to the things that must be changed in PJC’s final transition to the Pensacola State College brand.
These changes affect every department, from marketing to the president’s office to facilities maintenance.
“It’s a monumental task,” says Alice Crann Good, Pensacola State’s public information specialist, “every day something new arises.”
And it does. PJC has been a household name in Pensacola for most of its 61 years as a junior college. The logo can be found everywhere; from freeway signs to security badges. Even pens and sticky notes bear the PJC logo on them.
But what must be done must be done. With the new name comes a new calling: to help Florida increase its number of baccalaureate graduates. Florida, with only 3.5 graduates per thousand people, is ranked 47th in the nation in bachelor degrees per capita.
The new Pensacola State College now allows students who have already earned an associate’s degree to continue their education onto a specific list of baccalaureate programs: programs like nursing or graphic design.
According to Pensacola State College President Ed Meadows, it was the Florida Legislature that first started talking about the education level of the state a few years ago, urging community colleges to answer the call in the hopes they will be more readily equipped to handle the extra load.
“The primary mission, besides university transfer, is workforce development,” Meadows said, “The issue of baccalaureate degrees has become a large part of the workforce equation, and traditionally, community colleges have been able to respond quicker to workforce needs than universities.”
As with all junior colleges, Pensacola Junior College was founded after the passing of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly called the G. I. Bill. The primary mission at that time was to help fulfill the educational needs of veterans returning to the workforce after World War II. These uniquely American educational institutions later called “community colleges” evolved over time to meet the needs of 48.8 percent of the entire nation, according to a U. S. Census Bureau 2008 survey. While most junior colleges began changing into community colleges over the 1970’s, PJC kept its well known brand for two reasons: it was already such a popular name in Pensacola so there was no foreseeable need to change it, and Pensacola Christian College already claimed the acronym PCC.
Since it first opened its doors in 1947, the school has grown from a single building teaching 136 students, to one of the largest multimillion dollar educational institutions in the state, spanning three fully equipped campuses, with a fourth one on the way, that easily caters to the 38,000 students who enrolled in 2009.
According to Martin Gonzalez, Pensacola State’s vice president of instructional affairs, many of the 28 community colleges in the state of Florida have also answered the call in offering baccalaureate degrees, each school offering specific programs of education to the needs of the local area. PJC had considered making the transition back in 2004, but the administration at that time saw no immediate need.
“As the movement kept moving forward and Dr. Meadows came on board, an opportunity arose,” Gonzalez said, “We performed a survey of local business and industry and asked them what they felt was needed in the area.”
The survey was distributed through the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and its feedback yielded an overwhelming need for baccalaureate degrees in two specific areas: nursing and business.
“What it would do is take someone with an associate’s degree in a technical area and build on top of it management and supervisory courses that would be needed for that person to move up within their organization.”
The proposal to offer these programs, according to Gonzalez, was submitted to the State Department of Education in March of 2009 and was approved for funding by March 2010. That left the administration only a month to prepare the final step.
“We had to then submit an application for accreditation to SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) by the April 15th deadline,” Gonzalez said. “We had to move very fast; it was an intense time.”
SACS then reviewed the application and approved it by the last week of June. However, according to Gonzalez, one of the principles of SACS is that the name of the institution should reflect the mission of the school, so SACS would not approve PJC for baccalaureate accreditation unless its name was changed.
At that point, a committee that consisted of administration, faculty and students had already been appointed to explore potential names for the school. Pensacola State College was agreed upon after several months of deliberation.
It will be an ongoing process for the name change to be completely finished as the list of items that need to be altered continues to grow. The former PJC is now officially named Pensacola State College, but the remnants of the former PJC will still linger through the halls and the minds of faculty and staff for many years to come.