Notes from the President 

Chris Gray, Ph.D. l Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

As we get ready to wind up our first Spring semester here at EC3PA, I’m so excited to see the ways that our students are making the College their own and finding ways to connect with each other outside the classroom.  In a world where an increasingly substantial amount of interaction occurs online as we retreat by default to the comfort of our screens, it may seem surprising to learn that our students still crave these opportunities to be together in the same space talking about things they care about.  But so it is.

Last week, I talked about the importance of fostering a sense of belongingness as a critical part of our mission, and that is a theme to which I will return in the weeks and months to come.  We want to try to avoid or at least work to minimize parking lot class-parking lot interactions with our students such that they come here, attend their classes, and leave.  So how do we do that?  We create an inviting environment that helps students to feel like EC3PA is their space — because it is.

Student organizations or clubs are an important means by which students connect with each other and find other students who share similar interests or career pathways. I’m so excited to announce that the Psychology Club is the first such organization to be created here at EC3PA.  This group of students share an interest in psychology and will have their own space in which to meet, discuss, and connect.  And they will not be the last; we anticipate the creation of a Gaming Club and a Black Student Union in the near future, and obviously, we expect other groups to coalesce similarly in time.  What a wonderful thing for our students!

These will be student-driven and student-led groups, but they will be supported by our institution.  Obviously, we will need to work to create some governing procedures for the establishment and recognition of EC3PA student groups, and we will do so.  Seeing our students start this important connection and networking process shows me that we are doing what we promise to do:  we are helping our students to feel like they are a part of something.  And they are taking that baton and running with it.

Our Community, Your College.  Yes, indeed.

We’ve said this from the earliest inception of the idea that would eventually germinate and become EC3PA.  Of course, it’s thrilling to see the College grow through the implementation of new programs, degrees, and classes.  It’s exciting to add new team members to the EC3PA family and to welcome new students to our ranks every eight weeks.  But it’s absolutely exhilarating to see our students taking ownership of this college as a space that has been created FOR them by the community.  It’s what’s supposed to happen, and it’s happening!  

As I’ve mentioned, I found the person I was meant to be all those years ago when my community college took a chance on me.  I fell in love with the theatre, and I met some people who would go on to become some of my best friends through the student club and involvement options available to me.  For the first time, I found people who were interested in the same kinds of careers as me, and it was surreal.  I’m hopeful that our students will have the same kind of serendipitous experiences as they meet with their classmates outside of the classroom and transform them into friends.  Any opportunity to help reach our students where they are is an opportunity that I fully embrace.

With every new student who takes the chance and sees what EC3PA is all about, we gain the opportunity to make a difference that will last a lifetime.  These clubs in formation show us that we are on the right path.  And of course, we look forward to welcoming new students into the fold with the inception of Summer 2022 classes.  Unbelievably, they are just a few weeks away, so we are turning our eyes toward the near future once again.  EC3PA is hosting an open house next week to allow prospective students the chance to learn about what we offer, and these new student involvement activities are a new addition to that list.  I know they are the first of many, and I can’t wait to see that list grow!