Confronting COVID-19 Q&A Series: Dr. Joe May, Dallas College

In this Q&A, Dallas College Chancellor Dr. Joe May discusses the important role education plays in pandemic recovery as well as the institution’s move from seven independent colleges to one college with seven campuses.

This Q&A is a part of an ongoing series of DRC interviews with representatives from our member organizations about how they are facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q: What is the “Texas 300 by 300” jobs initiative? What your role has been in this project?

A: Simply put, Texas 300 by 300 is all about pulling together and helping fellow Texans in a time when anxiety and uncertainty are at an all-time high. We have all seen the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, how families and businesses have been forever changed. The goal of this initiative is to get 300,000 Texans back to work in 300 days. Working with both the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) and the Texas Association of Community College Marketers (TACCM), this plan is being developed to train and equip Texans with the highly sought-after skills needed to succeed in today’s rapidly changing workforce. Emphasis will be placed on offering credentials and certificates that allow out-of-work or underemployed Texans to lead fulfilling and financially self-sufficient lives, getting them work-ready in as little as a few weeks to six months. I am honored to serve as chair of the committee leading this effort to not only rebuild our state’s economy but restore a sense of stability and normalcy so desperately needed right now. While there are many unknowns, the fact remains that an education will always be invaluable.

Q: Recently, your institution (formerly known as Dallas County Community College District) went from seven individually accredited colleges to one Dallas College. What is the significance of this change, and how does it directly impact students and businesses partnering with Dallas College?

A: At our institution’s core, we are driven by our mission “to transform lives and communities through higher education.” That’s not just a saying – it is both our purpose and pledge to the people of Dallas County and beyond. About a year ago, it became clear that instead of removing barriers for our students to earn a degree or credential, we were creating them. Under our previous structure, our seven separately accredited colleges operated independently, each with its own processes and administrative systems. Issues arose for students enrolled at more than one of our colleges. Due to accrediting guidelines, if a student does not take at least 25% of classes at one institution, a degree cannot be awarded. This was the case for some 1,300 of our students. Now, as Dallas College, we are comprised of seven campuses, not colleges, effectively removing such a barrier for our students. We are extremely confident that this shift lays a solid foundation for the next 50 years of education in Dallas County.

Q: How can the business community partner with Dallas College faculty and students to ensure a rapid economic recovery coming out of the pandemic?

A: Now, more than ever, we want to serve as a training ground for the people of Dallas County who have suffered tremendously throughout this pandemic. As I mentioned previously, retraining workers will be an important part in getting people back on the job, and for some, this will mean completely new career paths. The more we know about the needs of the business community, the better we can guide our students, and develop programs and curriculum to ensure they are prepared for the rapidly evolving workforce. Employers can partner with Dallas College to develop short-term, customized training for employees to meet new and changing demands in the workplace, often at low or no cost to the employer. We know the small business community is particularly struggling in this economy, so we are working to help provide recovery resources through training, consulting, and funding partners. Our institution has served the leaders and learners of Dallas County for more than 54 years – a role we do not take lightly. We are committed to doing our part to rebuild the local economy.