The Edmonds Chamber monthly lunch meeting traveled to the Edmonds Community College campus Thursday for a presentation by Dr. Amit Singh, who provided an overview of the college’s programs, its role in the community, and a look at the future along with his personal observations as he completes his first year as college president. Singh replaced long-time college president Dr. Jean Hernandez, who retired last year.
Singh was introduced by EdCC Board member, United Way CEO and former Verdant Health Superintendent Carl Zapora, who noted Singh’s extensive experience in both the academic and private sectors.
“Dr. Singh joined us a year ago, bringing more than 22 years of experience in higher education including serving as provost and senior vice president, chief academic officer, dean, assistant dean and both part- and full-time faculty at four different community colleges in three states,” Zapora began. “In addition, he holds four graduate degrees covering an array of disciplines spanning both the academic and business sides of education, has worked as a senior financial and investment analyst and served as CEO of an Atlanta-based startup.”
Since joining the college last year, Zapora said, Singh “has been moving full speed ahead, immersing himself in the community and the affairs of the college. We are thrilled to have him as Edmonds Community College president.”
Taking the podium, Singh began with the college’s simple but forceful three-word mission: Teaching, Learning, Community.
“Teaching is of course core to what we do,” he began. “But learning is even more important. And it’s more than just academic learning — life skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills are critical components. Community is a vital part of our role, serving as a resource to all who live here. Our graduates, the majority of whom stay in the area, enrich our community for all who live and work here. We get our inspiration from the community — if we see a need in the community, we try to fill it. Our purpose is to add value to our stakeholders. They define that value, not us.”
Singh went on to characterize the student body, noting that of the current enrollment of approximately 18,000, 40 percent are full time, 39 percent are students of color, and 53 percent are female.
“We serve a large international population from 62 countries, and have a cadre of full-time recruiters who travel the world promoting our programs,” he continued. “Interestingly, most of our international students arrive with good English language skills, having developed these in their home countries. As a result, we are now finding that our ESL (English as a second language) programs are more utilized by students who are already here.”
Singh also described the College in Prisons program, which has produced more than 300 graduates spanning the range from GED programs to full two-year degrees.
The college’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) enrollment has remained stable despite a decline in those programs nationwide due to the improving economy which makes more non-technical jobs available, Singh said. The college’s new Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) building — now under construction — will replace the current 50-year-old science labs and add classrooms and open space to encourage collaborative learning, he said.
Singh also noted other college resources including the Maker Lab and its array of 3-D printers, laser cutters and other equipment that is available not only to students, but to all in the community who wish to use it. He also highlighted the college’s various continuing education programs ranging from the Washington Aerospace Training and Resource Center to the Creative Retirement Institute (CRI), begun 25 years ago and now serving more than 1300 mostly seniors and retirees annually, and the new Bachelor of Applied Science program that graduated its first students in the Child, Youth and Family services program this June.
“The Bachelor of Applied Science is a four-year program stressing hands-on learning where students come out with a four-year applied baccalaureate degree,” he explained. “The demand for this is growing, and we have other programs in the pipeline that will offer the same four -year degree in Advanced Manufacturing and Materials, Computer Applications, Artificial Intelligence/Robotics, and health care.”
Anticipating future growth in student populations, Singh described the current efforts to add student housing.
“A new student residence building, Triton Court, will be coming online next year,” he said. “It will replace the approximately 100 beds we currently maintain in off-campus housing with 200 new beds for a net gain of 100 on-campus housing slots. Of course, this is in addition to our long-time program by which 250-plus local families host mainly international students in their homes.”
Moving to questions and answers, Singh was asked about the age mix of EdCC students (answer: average is 28-29, but it’s wide-ranging), the cost of EdCC student housing ($850-$900 per month), and what attracts him personally to devote himself to community colleges.
“When I came here from India 32 years ago, my goal was to study and work in a corporate job,” he explained. “I was enrolled in an MBA program (which I enjoyed immensely) and my teacher asked me to substitute teach for him while he was on leave. It was my first-ever teaching experience, and I absolutely loved it.
“After I got my degree, the company I was working for relocated to another state. I chose not to move, and instead stay put and apply for other jobs,” he continued. “Two job offers came in almost at the same time — one a corporate job, the other a community college teaching job. I opted for the teaching job, and that decision set the course of my professional life.
“I love what the community college system has to offer; it’s nimble and flexible, more so than typical 4-year institutions,” he said. “You’re close to the community and need to be responsive to its needs. It’s academic, but you have to think like a business too. We don’t look to just accept winners; our college is open to all. We create winners.”
Other questions touched on how to sign up as a host family, how the new SET building will allow expansion of the current Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) programs, what the college is doing to help middle-aged workers who have lost their jobs and want to re-train for a new career, and the new expansion of the college’s culinary program offerings to include a food truck program.
“The food truck is happening,” Singh said. “The board approved it, and we’ve already purchased the truck. It’s in the shop getting ready now, and we hope to actually have it out on the street later this year.
At the end of Singh’s comments, Carl Zapora returned to the podium for concluding remarks.
“I really love the college’s simple, straightforward mission statement,” he said. “Teaching, Learning, Community. How fitting that the initials are TLC.”
See Dr. Singh’s PowerPoint presentation here
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel