Pima Community College Leadership Spotlight
Q&A with Dr. Bruce Moses, Associate Provost and Accreditation Liaison Officer
What defines a leader in higher education? Is it the desire to attain student and institutional successes, the humanity to respect diversity and equality, ensuring compliance and accreditation benchmarks or is it the je ne sais quoi of the experienced individual? In this third installment of our leadership spotlight series we discover it is all four—and more—as we meet Dr. Bruce Moses, Associate Provost and Higher Learning Commission-Accreditation Liaison Officer. He unveils his motivation to develop people into authentic leaders in community college education and shares his passion for strategic planning.
Share with us a little bit about your journey / background.
I was raised on the Northwest side of Detroit, Michigan. My father was a minister and I knew my world was special, not by the definition of others, but by watching my father. He was charismatic and confident. I had uncles who worked in the automotive industry—I mean the automotive industry was ‘boom’—everyone seemed to work in that industry. They provided vivid lessons of how to interact with people in a non-apologetic and yet graceful way; they taught me the importance of listening and looking people in the eye. Young people don’t always have that natural ability to interact and if they do, it still is a communication skill that needs to be nurtured and honed.
I thought with my confidence, physical size and athletic skills, I would give college football a try and accepted an offer at Tennessee State University. I had family in the area and it seemed like the right start for my formal education. I completed two years but due to injury, I had to backtrack and found myself [back] in Michigan. I ended up at Eastern Michigan University, just on the other side of Highway 23 and Ann Arbor. I earned two bachelor’s degrees and my MA in Educational Leadership in Higher Education. My Doctorate in Education, Community College Leadership came next and a few positions in higher education before landing in Tucson. My call to Tucson was to aid PCC with the probation sanctions forensic audit in 2015 and setting straight its accreditation standards and federal compliance.
How has education helped you get where you are today?
I have four  degrees—it isn’t about the paper for me. I found a thirst for the world outside of my humble and loving start. The college classroom and eventually administrative opportunities to lead the workforce of higher education has shown me there is always more work to be done; higher levels of excellence to reach; and the importance of not getting stuck in a rut. This is my 30th year in education so, most definitely, my education has taught me not to bump my head into the glass ceiling but to burst through it and not be fearful to question decisions or to engage in conflict—especially if I believe the result will be a positive change or outcome. I guess in truth, it would be a combination of my education, personal fortitude and family that has landed me in my zone.
How do you feel you are making a difference at PCC?
I [tend to] run toward a challenge. When I was first introduced to Pima Community College I immediately saw [that] it was too large of an institution to be on the brink of failure; it and its people—Faculty, administrators and students—needed help and change. I knew I might not win a popularity contest but Tucson would win back its legacy. Culture and climate were the first areas on which to focus. PCC had to be okay with losing people in the process (of finding its culture). It [PCC] had to reckon with new systems and tools, and accepting [that] 70% of PCC’s student population receives financial aid. If PCC’s accreditation was lost so were the Title IV monies. I was part of the solution in salvaging the College’s accreditation and resetting and maintaining the benchmarks.
What struggles or obstacles have you faced in your career? How have you overcome them?
I had spent 17 years at one institution. I grew up professionally at EMU and I was promoted every two or two and a half years. The last position I held was Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Continuous Improvement. One day, my mentor, Dr. Donald Loppnow, said it was time for me to press forward and affect a different audience needing not only my expertise in higher education but my drive to recognize the humanity whose energy had been ignored; he said several community colleges outside of Michigan were interested in me and my experience. I interviewed and took a job in Bentonville, Arkansas. It was a culture shock. I was the first African American in the institution’s history, hired at the executive level and part of the President’s Cabinet. The institution was readying for its 40th year anniversary  and this bubble of a population was so far behind regarding equality, gender, race, sexual orientation… I will long remember the manner in which I was introduced to a board member of the institution.
The institutional executive, trying desperately to introduce a man of color in a very white room went something like this: “I’d like for you to meet Bruce Moses. He is a new hire on our leadership team. We are trying to diversify our leadership team.” [Crickets] I am not a man lacking fortitude. I leaned in and reintroduced myself, listing my recent positions and successes in higher education. I’m sure a man not filling a ‘diversity’ role would not have had to take that extra introductory step… a woman may have in that culture bubble. I have a professional portfolio of work, and yes, I hope to be a voice that connects people of color who otherwise would not feel they had a chance of connecting with [others], but I am more than the color of my skin. I saw his [the institutional executive] fear of getting it right with the first black person hired, and I knew the challenges of the institution would not be the biggest mountain I would face. I was told I could not be seen in a vehicle with a white woman, alone. Huge challenge as my [then] wife was of Italian descent and visually, ‘white.’ I continued to be Bruce and did what Bruce knew how to do—be a forward-thinker, keep my family safe and remain vocal about the importance of change. In finality, it was denying people of color—brown people—access to education [at this institution] that prompted me to begin a job search; they were not hearing me nor [were they] taking steps they would need to take to be a college of open access.
Why is Pima Foundation important in your work at PCC?
One of my charges is working with Financial Aid and Scholarships. The Foundation and its maintenance and delivery of non-institutional scholarships goes hand in hand with the department I oversee. If the Foundation didn’t have strong leadership and followed the call to support Pima Community College as its main point of existence, the work would not be as fluid or complete.
How does PCC and the Foundation keep Tucson thriving?
If we truly want to expand opportunity, growth in the local economy and strengthen our communities, we cannot afford to ignore community college students as advocates for change. PCC and the Foundation have a shot at placing the development of the Alumni community as a top priority. [We need to] build relations with alumni students, community members, businesses and industries who often identify with the four-year college from which they [may have] earned a degree; however, it is the community college student who is more likely to stay in and contribute to her or his community, [before] going on to a successful career and keeping a city or region’s economy alive.
How do you keep students thriving?
Better alignment between PCC and local economies wins. PCC students win when the college builds locally-focused, relevant programs. Pima County employers win when they have a reliable pipeline of well-prepared talent. PCC graduates win when they build the knowledge and skills that they can put to work quickly without having to move to find a job. Pima County wins if students they invest in go on to live and work within the community. When I look at the educational tools PCC has put in motion to empower community college students to address pressing challenges—racial, economic, and diversity issues—and push for the reform of status quo, these policies affect their lives. I know we are shaping a new generation of leaders who will transform our communities.
Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share with the community?
I was hired into a full-time position with PCC. Work was challenging, which I love, but was there another step I aspire to take in my career? I was a final candidate at two different institutions for their highest administrative positions: [the presidency for] Kellogg Community College in 2019 and Luna Community College in 2018. I was appointed President at Luna Community College in New Mexico by the Luna Board of Trustees in 2018 but I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me and my family. Even more important, I knew the work I was doing at PCC was not simply important but critical. I have found a true alignment with the Faculty and administrators [at PCC] and my respect and [the] candor [that] I am able to share with Chancellor Lambert is unparalleled in my career at this level. I love Tucson and the city has embraced me.
Give back to your community and help transform student lives through higher education. To show your support of Bruce Moses’s work with the College and its students, visit https://pimafoundation.org/donate-online/ and designate your gift to Pima Foundation’s General Scholarship Fund.
The views expressed in the above are those of the interviewees. All opinions expressed do not reflect those of Pima Foundation, Pima Community College, or its affiliates.