Dr. Doris Helmich unanimously selected as interim president of Central Arizona College
by: Tom Di Camillo
The unanimous decision came during a Pinal County Community College District Governing Board special meeting held on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at CAC’s Signal Peak Campus.
Helmich will serve as interim until the conclusion of a nationwide search for a new president. The Governing Board will announce details of her tenure as interim president at the regularly scheduled Governing Board Meeting on Nov. 15 at the Superstition Mountain Campus in Apache Junction, Ariz.
Details pertaining to a nationwide search will be announced by the CAC Governing Board at a future date.
“Central Arizona College is a vital and integral part of Pinal County,” Helmich said. “It is a wonderful institution of higher education that has the ability to serve the many diverse communities that comprise our area. We have outstanding and caring faculty, a first-rate staff, and incredible students who are excited about the possibilities of our future.”
Helmich said that her immediate goal is to listen and refocus the college on helping students learn.
“Creating lifelong learners is the mission of the college and the reason we exist,” she emphatically stated.
CAC’s employees are primed to carry out that mission.
“We have many talented faculty and staff members who have terrific ideas,” Helmich stated. “I need to hear those ideas. I need to listen - really listen – and empower our people to be creative and make good decisions. It is time for us to come together as an organization to serve the people of Pinal County to the best of our ability.”
Helmich said her leadership philosophy is to serve and that everyone will have a chance to be heard and express their viewpoint.
“When all is said and done, we will need to put aside personal agendas and make decisions that are in the best interest of our students and the future of Central Arizona College.”
Helmich recognizes that communication is a vital key to success and plans to institute regular communication efforts that help combat the fear, uncertainty and doubt that creep into organizations when employees are kept in the dark.
“I want and need to know what the community, the employees and the students think of Central Arizona College,” she said. “It is how we will improve.”
Helmich acknowledged that accreditation is a huge priority and that she will depend on the entire faculty and staff to create a systems portfolio worthy of a positive review.
“I have confidence that we are able to do this - and to do this with style - with everyone's participation,” she said. “My vision for CAC is that we can be the best community college in the state by focusing on helping students learn inside and outside of the classroom. Our newly-approved strategic goals include an emphasis on student learning through access, retention and student completion. Our key indicators for performance on these goals will be shared soon.”
Helmich said her goal is to breed a collegial atmosphere where employees are committed to each other's success that ultimately leads to a high-performing organization focused on helping students learn.
A native New Englander with roots in Rhode Island, Helmich joined the CAC family in 2001 as director of student success, while also spending time in the classroom as an adjunct faculty member. Since 2004 she has served as the dean of students and the chief student affairs officer, holding the title of vice president of student services prior to becoming interim president.
During her decade at CAC, Helmich assisted in passing a nearly-$99 million dollar general obligation bond and creating university partnerships that include the University of Arizona Pathways, Arizona State University TAG (Transfer Admission Guarantee), and the Northern Arizona University CAC2NAU programs.
She co-directed a task force to write the systems portfolio for the North Central Accreditation in 2005 and 2009, designed study abroad opportunities for student and faculty exchanges with China and Brazil, and developed a family host program in the community for international faculty and students to raise cultural awareness.
Under Helmich’s guidance, CAC has increased semester enrollment from 3,000 full time equivalent students (FTSE) to more than 7,100 students through the implementation of a student-centered, one-stop approach and online services.
Helmich negotiated with local businesses to create a college and career center that focused on annual job fairs, local job recruitment, internships and job shadowing.
She also initiated a Summer Bridge program, a student mentor program, online student services, one-stop services at three campuses, and a technical help desk that increased student retention from a low of 48% to a high of 68%, with some cohorts owning a retention rate as high as 93%. The program was awarded the distinction of honorable mention in the MetLife Foundation competition known as the Community College Excellence Awards.
As the vice president for student services, Helmich was directly responsible for the following departments - recruitment, admissions, records, financial aid, career services, disability student services, academic advising, testing, student retention, TRiO support services, Title V Strengthening Hispanic Serving Institutions, the First-Year Experience program, student engagement/activities, the Customer Service and Technical Help Desk, Student Life, Judicial Affairs and Residence Life.
Helmich arrived at Central Arizona College after spending almost a decade (1992-2001) at Bryant College in Smithfield, R.I., where she served as the assistant to the vice president of Student Affairs, as an adjunct faculty member, and as the institution’s first health educator.
From 1984-91 she was a public school teacher in Rhode Island where she also served as an adjunct faculty member at Rhode Island College form 1989-91.
Helmich’s involvement in the community includes serving as the past vice-president of the Copper Corridor Economic Development Commission; serving as a board member on the SaddleBrooke Rotary Club and Saddlebag Notes; and serving as a past board president and board member of Latino Familia Initiative.
She is involved in annual community fundraisers for United Way, Casa Grande Regional Medical Center, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Domestic Violence Prevention, Vaquero Foundation and the Central Arizona College Foundation.
She is a member of the Arizona State Chief Academic Affairs/Chief Student Affairs Officers Association, and a past president of the Region I NASPA (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators).
She has been honored with the Central Arizona College Women’s Leadership Award, served as the CAC Phi Theta Kappa keynote speaker, and been named to the Rhode Island College Alumni Honor Roll.
At Bryant College, she received the Campus Advisor of the Year/Campus Program of the Year award, was a recipient of the Bryant College Women’s “Herstory” honor, and earned the Bryant College Community Spirit Award.
She also earned the Boosting Alcohol Consciousness Concerning the Health of University Students (BACCHUS/GAMMA) Peer Education Network National Advisor of the Year/National Program of the Year award.
Helmich is a two-time graduate of Rhode Island College where she earned her bachelor’s of science degree in physical education in 1974 and a master’s degree in education in 1992. In 1999 she earned her doctorate of education in higher education administration from Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.
In 2010 she completed the Executive Leadership Institute, League for Innovation in the Community College program.