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From left, Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson poses with new Portland Community College (PCC) board member Tiffany Penson, PCC President Mark Mitsui, and Board Chair Jim Harper at the college’s board meeting on Thursday, July 18 at the Sylvania Campus.

There’s a new board member at Portland Community College (PCC) elected to represent Zone 2 of the college’s district – an area covering Columbia City, St. Helens and on to North and Northeast Portland.

Native Oregonian Tiffani Penson was sworn in by Oregon Supreme Court Justice Adrienne Nelson, along with all of PCC’s new directors and the 2019/2020 chair and vice chair at the college’s board meeting on Thursday, July 18 at the Sylvania Campus.

According to her biography on the college’s website, Penson is currently the Supplier Diversity Officer for the City of Portland. Her responsibilities include outreach to the disadvantaged, minorities, women, emerging small businesses and service disabled businesses, focusing on connecting businesses to contracting opportunities at the City.

Penson also implemented and manages the “We Are Better Together” outreach program that is responsible for supporting event sponsorships, trade shows and memberships with partnering organizations through a collaboration with city bureaus, according to the site.

Penson also serves on the board of Architecture Foundation of Oregon, Bound For A Cure, Kairos PDX, and Oregon Native American Chamber.

The PCC Board of Directors consists of seven members elected by zones to four-year terms. The board members govern the college and their responsibilities include selecting the president, approving the college budget, approving the hiring of other staff and faculty, and establishing policies that govern the operation of the college. 

A conversation with Penson

Chronicle: What is your vision for your role as a new board member at PCC?

Penson: I really would like to increase the access to education and training to those that are facing barriers, including students of color, differently-abled students, and people that face economic barriers. I think PCC already does a great job of this, but I think there’s always room for improvement in increasing what those services and opportunities look like.

Accessibility is just huge. Youth, and in general that demographic that may be on the fence of knowing what they want to do – do they want to do a two-year degree, or maybe they don’t know what they want – I think PCC is a great home for that. It’s a great home for people that are just trying to figure it out. I want to keep it that way, and I want to keep it affordable, so people can go and figure it out and get introduced to all there is out there. 

Chronicle: What avenues will you utilize to realize that vision?

Penson: I think public and private partnerships are crucial. We have to create partnerships that translate into not only education, but employment opportunities. We can never have too many of those. PCC has laid the foundation to build on that, but I think there is a potential market that has been left untapped that would benefit from partnering with PCC, and I think those are important.

It’s also very important to the trades, because right now we’re seeing an issue with those employers not having enough people to train, so PCC is very relevant in that area.

Chronicle: How will you represent your zone, and more specifically, the constituents of Columbia County who reside there?

Penson: I’m really looking forward to supporting and representing that region as part of the PCC district. I don’t know how, in the past, the prior board member supported it, but I know there’s a lot of opportunity to get out there and get to know exactly what the local constituents need and what they need to be connected with.

I would like, in the future, to host a town hall or a forum to get to know people. I think it’s important for me to have a presence and to get to know people, because how will I know what is needed and what the constituents need from me if I don’t get to know people?

I care about that community out there. When I was running, I tried to make contact, and I think there’s a definite need from me, or whoever is in this position, to always make sure that they have a presence in that community and are not just focusing on the rest of Zone 2 closer to Portland. I want to be out there more, and I want to learn more about what is needed there.

I’m excited about the development of the PCC training center as part of the OMIC project. I know it’s going to be in Scappoose in Columbia County. I think there’s a great opportunity to do a lot with that. The PCC board is committed to that project and the growth out there.

Again, I am new, and I am learning more every day, but I think there is just a lot of opportunity for growth and engagement. You know … we’re all in this together.

Penson wants to hear from you:

What do you want Penson to know about how to better represent Zone 2 and her Columbia County constituents? How do you view the role of PCC in our community and what are your expectations of the college? How should the school be serving you and what should that access look like? What do you think PCC should be providing that they’re not providing already, and what do you think PCC is doing well for the community? 

Send your comments to: tiffani.penson@pcc.edu


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