The first thing Barbara Ganz expressed when introduced as the new Assistant Dean at the Eastern Arizona College-Payson faculty meeting last week is a fervent belief in the community college system.
"I remember when community colleges changed from junior colleges," Ganz said. "I am a product of the system and I am an advocate of the system."
One of the reasons for the name change, she said, is that community colleges are not just transfer schools anymore.
"They are truly a part of the community," she said.
One of her primary goals in her new position, therefore, is to get EAC-Payson more involved in the community.
"I want us to become the cultural center of the community," she said.
To that end, she expressed an interest in reviving the Sunday afternoon lecture series featuring faculty members with expertise in areas of interest to locals.
Ganz who was born in Pittsburgh but grew up in Phoenix would also like to see EAC-Payson make a contribution to the Rim country's economy.
"I have seen community colleges be able to support the development of the community by teaching leadership and by work force development," she said. "I would think, for example, that a program in tourism, eco-tourism, food and hotel management would be helpful to the economy."
Ganz most recently served as dean of instruction at Pima Community College in Tucson, an institution with some 35,000 students. She welcomes the move to a smaller community.
"I visited the Payson area a lot," she said. "I've been watching the area grow for many, many years, and I've always wanted to live here."
She has a doctorate from Northern Arizona University in leadership which she plans to put to good use in the Rim country.
"I developed several leadership programs at Pima," she said. "I truly enjoy community activities, and I'd like to do some leadership classes for neighborhood associations and maybe some youth leadership classes."
Another strength Ganz said will serve her well in her new position is an ability to turn the "kernel of an idea" into a program, course or activity.
"Some of the best things come from that process," she said. "I love to brainstorm with faculty members and community leaders. Education has to be a very creative process."
She also has a special interest in children's literature.
"That's what I taught as a faculty member," she said.
Most recently, Ganz created a public safety institute at Pima Community College.
"It dealt with law enforcement, fire science, emergency medical, juvenile and adult corrections and administration of justice programs," she said. "It was designed to enhance the professionalism of each of those professions by increasing the educational requirements."
Add her expertise in these areas to a hands-on philosophy and the Payson campus could be in for some major changes.
"I see great potential for growth in this campus, not just in numbers, but in breadth as well," she said.
It all comes back to her belief in what a community college can do not only for the community, but individually for the people in it.
"I've seen so many success stories of people who never thought they would be able to go to college people who have grown and blossomed," she said.
One of the characteristics of community colleges that allows this to happen is what she calls "intergenerational learning" the unique combination of younger and older students together in the same classroom.
"The older people in this community are such a wonderful resource," she said. "They have so much experience that young people can learn from."