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New president wants a more engaged campus

By Kim Marr | Pulse staff reporter

Dr Flores President of PAC
Dr. Mike Flores meets with students after officially being introduced as Palo Alto College's sixth President.
Photo Credit: Palo Alto Public Relations

Palo Alto’s new president hopes to bring in a new era of communication between the executive offices and students, faculty and staff.

The Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees selected Dr. Mike Flores, the former vice president of Student Affairs, as the sixth president of Palo Alto College on September 18, 2012.

The decision came just a few weeks after former Palo Alto President, Ana “Cha” Guzman, left Palo Alto to serve as president of Santa Fe Community College.

As president, Flores said, “The main goal for this semester for me is really to go out and to talk with others and get feedback.”

Flores has made himself accessible to students and faculty in many ways to increase engagement. He set up a Twitter account on his first day as president, @PACPresident, so that students may contact him directly, and he has placed a questionnaire on the Palo Alto website to encourage feedback from students, staff and faculty.

Flores has already met with the Student Government officers and has also scheduled meetings with all academic departments to learn what faculty and staff believe Palo Alto does well in addition to ways the college could improve.

Flores met with Student Government officers on September 26, 2012, to discuss ways to inform the student body of the help available through the executive offices and Student Government and ways to unify and engage the Palo Alto campus.

Joel Goolsbay, senator of Campus Operations, said, “We have a unique position in Student Government to really set precedent of not only how we’re going to do it, but how things are going to be done years after we’re gone…We have the opportunity to make a lasting impact on the college as a whole.”

The first department meeting also took place on September 26, 2012, with the Math and Accounting Department.

Honey Kirk, a Math professor, said, "The atmosphere here just seems very positive...People are excited. We all get the feeling that we're all going to work together with the president to make Palo Alto the best it can be."

Flores wanted to have the feedback from department meetings and online surveys gathered by October 24, 2012, Employee Development Day, for what he calls an “All-College Conversation” to share his findings with the faculty and staff. He hopes that better communication will lead to a more engaged community.

Flores is also working on bringing in more service-learning opportunities through internships, research and learning communities. Not only do service-learning opportunities increase retention rates, but they also encourage students to get involved on campus.

“I think that also helps facilitate those relationships between faculty and students,” Flores said. He added that these service-learning groups would also provide a way for students to get to know each other better.

In addition to creating these opportunities, Flores said he would like to see activities promoted on campus to show all that is offered at Palo Alto so students, faculty and staff can be aware of them and motivated to participate.

Flores credits his extracurricular activities in college with being able to make connections with students and faculty and to develop a better understanding of those around him. He would like to make these opportunities available to students at Palo Alto College, too.

Flores emphasized that the changes will be gradual, but he believes the more feedback he receives in his first month as Palo Alto’s president, the more opportunities will be created to form a more engaged community.