Pierce Pioneer

Pierce College Facing Budget Cuts Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Ciara Williams , Staff  Illustration

As the 2020-2021 school year approaches, Pierce College prepares for potential budget cuts due to a wide state fund decline.

On May 11, Pierce College Chancellor Michele Johnson sent out a mass email stating that Pierce College will be experiencing budget cuts in the 2020-2021 school year. As a response, the college is preparing a budget development process that is taking place over the next few months.

Pierce College braces for budget cuts as high as 20 percent. While that percent only accounts for less than half of Pierce’s revenue, according to Johnson, that still is a 10 percent reduction, adding up to around $6 million.

“This work will be difficult and unfortunately, painful,” Johnson stated. “There is no way to handle revenue declines of this magnitude without pain. Departments throughout the college will need to rethink and retool their entire operation.”

Along with Pierce College, multiple other state agencies could face general fund reductions of 15 to 20 percent or higher. This is due to a large decline in Washington State’s general fund revenue. 

“Currently, state officials and legislators are still trying to understand the full extent of the issue,” Johnson stated. “But preliminary forecasting by the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council points to a very large decline in revenue that started in March and could continue for several years.”

Pierce College has made a temporary plan, in hopes of getting the college’s budget through the summer and parts of fall. “Over the next few weeks, the Budget Team and the Budget Planning Groups will be working on ideas and concepts to build a temporary spending plan to present to the Board of Trustees in June,” Johnson stated. “The proposed budget will be reviewed by the District Cabinet and presented to the Board of Trustees in October for approval.”

The Budget Team is currently formed around large groups of departments and divisions throughout the district, including Instruction, Student Services, Self-Support Programs, Facilities/Safety, and Institutional Support Services, as stated by Johnson.

Many questions still remain, such as what departments will be affected by these budget cuts the most, as well as programs or student resources. However, as the months go by, Johnson assures staff that Pierce will continue to answer questions and address the situation.

“The Budget Team and college leadership will continue to share information, involve constituents, and be open and transparent in this process.”

Coronavirus Situation During Quarantine

Remembering Denise Yochum

Pierce College Historical Archives / Courtesy Photo

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom mourns the death of Denise Yochum, after a long battle with cancer. On Jan. 13, chancellor Michele Johnson announced the news of the former college president’s passing, which sparked commemorative responses from the community she impacted.

Yochum served as Pierce College’s president for 13 years before retiring last January; she remained an active member of the community even after, Johnson stated in an email. Yochum oversaw the expansion of many projects on Fort Steilacoom’s campus, including making the Science Dome interactive and renovating classrooms and student services spaces.

“Denise’s commitment to student success and her dedicated service to the college was exemplary,” Johnson stated in an email. “She has also been an active and beloved member in the local community, a state leader, and was a shining example of leadership that was grounded in integrity, skill, and courage.”

Not only was Yochum a leader, she was also a friend to many. “Denise’s quick wit has made us laugh, and we appreciated her fun and free flowing ways,” Johnson stated. “Denise’s thoughtful, caring, outgoing personality and sharp mind has endeared her to us now and long into the future.”

For Daniel Dino-Slofer, Pierce College’s media assistant, he admired Yochum’s ability to inspire others. One of his favorite memories of her was when he trained with Student Life in 2015.

“She shared her inspiring experiences with us on how she started her career path that ultimately led her to be the President of the Fort Steilacoom campus,” said Dino-Slofer. “Her story gave us student leaders a lot of encouragement on how far your efforts and goals can take you when you put your mind to it.”

Yochum will be remembered for her leadership and service for the Pierce College community. Yochum is survived by her husband Eric, sons Eric and Kyle, five grandchildren, and a large extended family, Johnson stated in an email. Yochum’s memorial will be held at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom on Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. in the Performance Lounge.

Golf-Scramble Scholarship

Matt Wuscher / Staff Photographer
"The Home Course" in Dupont

Pierce College held their 26th annual Golf Scramble this year at the Home Course in DuPont.

The annual Pierce College Golf Scramble scholarship has come and gone for another successful turnout. The Pierce College Foundation has put on this annual event for the 26th time, with the purpose of raising money for students to help aid them while attending. Among the beneficiaries include those exploring fields that venture through math, science, engineering, plus many more. 

Aug. 15 met the fundraiser with clear skies and warm weather, setting the perfect stage to golf. This was the first year the fundraiser was held at the Home Course in DuPont. Nicole Ferris from the Pierce Foundation was nothing short of great in putting this fundraiser together, helping raise over forty thousand for the students of Pierce College.

With that, credit is also owed to the sponsors who played a major role in this event. Not just for donating their time to Pierce College, but for being more than excited to be a part of the event. Casey Debow of Right!Systems mentioned that it was a great environment, Debow having never missed an event to this day. The strong encouragement of sponsors is just another reminder that this brings the community together.

Matt Wuscher / Staff Photographer
Raider Bird makes special appearance

One of the biggest supporters of the annual Golf Scramble scholarship is chancellor Michele Johnson. Johnson showed much enthusiasm when mentioning how she is the only one to play in all 26 events over the years. She did not hesitate in saying that the students are what keeps her participating year after year.

There were many key positions played by participants to help make this a great first year at the Home Course. One key role included the staff of the Home Course such as Ashley Sihachack, an alumni of Pierce. Sihachack helped with the flow of the event, helping participants and Pierce volunteers by answering questions and providing directions.

Amongst that, Sihachack went on to mention that she saw an increase in the number of participants for the event. “The fundraiser was clearly well planned and provides a welcoming environment,” she added. “Not only that, but Pierce showed real initiative.”

Students of Pierce College are amongst the volunteers that participated in this fundraiser, including students Han Duong and William Wasson. Duong felt that the most important thing to tell those unaware of the fundraiser is that it’s a benefit for the students. For those interested in participating next year, Wasson adds that Student Life is the best way to get involved.

The 26th annual golf-scramble Pierce Scholarship fundraiser was definitely one for the books. Helping raise over forty thousand dollars for the students their students. Pierce College continues to show their support and ambition to help students along in their college careers. For more information, click here.

The remembrance of Ron Schwartz

Courtesy Photo / Pierce College Archives
A photo of Ron Schwartz in 2012.

On August 8, English and philosophy professor Ron Schwartz passed away after having lived with brain tumors for over 12 months.  Schwartz taught at Fort Steilacoom, Puyallup and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, and has been a beloved member of the Pierce community for 16 years.. 

Schwartz was born on January 7, 1955 in Youngstown, Ohio. After being an undergraduate at the University of Chicago in 1978, Schwartz would go to earn his master’s degree and post-masters at King’s College, later receiving  his Ph.D in literature and theology in 1998. 

Schwartz has made himself a part of numerous other communities outside of Pierce College. Prior to teaching at Pierce, he taught theology at Pacific Lutheran University, served as a professor at Colby College, and taught Business admin in California during the 1980s. Schwartz was an economist in Philadelphia for some time.

 Pierce faculty and Pierce students will miss Schwartz. Stephen Jones, an economics professor at Pierce’s Puyallup Campus, personally feels this loss.

“Ron was one of my favorite people at Pierce, which says a lot in and of itself,” said Jones in an email. “I admired his intellect and dedication. I learned much from him that I applied in my classes, and any conversation with him was rich and exceptional in content and insight. But perhaps what I appreciated most about him was his gentleness and compassion. We were lucky to know him.” 

Schwartz was known for his passion of the academics and students. His keen sense of humor and his intellect will be remembered. 

Schwartz’s obituary may be accessed here

The Pioneer sends our condolences with Ron Schwartz’s family and friends.

Pierce Distinguished Alumni shares what is possible


Passion and dreams make a fulfilling career

On Jan. 24, three former Pierce College students came to share how Pierce has helped them in their careers. One became a business leader, the second a pioneer fire fighter, and the third a prominent pediatrician.

This is the second year that Pierce College Foundation has set up the “Pierce Talks” forum. Former Pierce Distinguished Alumni were invited to come speak about their learning experiences and what they did after graduation. While they came from different paths and pursued different careers, they all had two things in common – a heart to serve and to do something different.

The first speaker, Jerry McLaughlin, spoke from the heart. From the beginning, he talked about the importance of relationships. The recent loss of close family members had him reflecting on personal connections that carried him through his professional life.

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
One of Jerry McLaughlin's proudest moments happened 38 years ago when he was named Pierce College's first Distinguished Alumni.

In 1969, he was a D-minus student from Clover Park High School and an assistant manager for McDonald’s. Ray Kinnaman, the assistant basketball coach for Fort Steilacoom Community College (as Pierce College was then called) recruited him. The coach would be the first of several mentors who fostered relationships that contributed to his career growth.

One of those professors was the head of the business department at the University of Puget Sound. The two would often meet outside of class. After McLaughlin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in marketing, Glenn Graves — another mentor and professor — hired him to work at his advertising agency.

He would continue to be involved in the community, creating more connections. He has served on a number of local non-profit boards, including Junior Achievement, Tacoma Urban League, and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation.

McLaughlin ended his talk with strong encouragement. “It all started with relationships formed at Pierce College. So you students, get to work, kickstart your career and start building those relationships,” he said.

Karen Leming started her speech by asking the crowd if they knew what they wanted to do as a career. Years before she was recognized in People magazine in 2000, along with the other female firefighters in Fire District 10, she was still trying to answer this question.

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
Karen Leming met her husband, Paul, while taking a public speaking class at Pierce College, and they got married the same year she graduated from Pierce in 1981.

She did not start out to be a pioneer, to be one of the first female firefighters in the county. Like other high school graduates, she got a job and went on to a vocational/technical school for training in data entry.

In 1979, she made a decision that would also affect her career path. Working in data entry was unfulfilling, neither was pursuing a degree in fashion merchandising at Pierce College. A career assessment test pointed her to Parks and Recreation, so she decided to change her major.

Around the same time, she began to focus on training in the fitness center and the pool. The discipline led to making the swim team and added to her personal growth. “I was becoming a strong woman, and I liked it. This would prove to define who I was. Even today, I continue to train in all aspects of fitness,” she said.

Before graduation, someone suggested she try out as a firefighter. She had never seen a female firefighter before and did not know if it was something women could do in the first place. Subsequently, a seed was planted, but left dormant while she moved on with life.

But what she learned while training in the fitness center also shaped her. “During my time there, I realized some of my potential — gaining confidence, purposefulness, leadership, commitment and the power of setting goals,” Leming said.  

In 1986, five years after graduating and getting married, she again felt something was missing in her career in data entry and working for Parks and Recreation. When she heard that Pierce County Fire District 7 was looking for volunteer firefighters, she remembered the seed that was planted and decided to try out for it.

A year later, Leming was in the recruit academy. Entering a male-dominated field was not easy she said. “I had to work hard, earn respect, earn trust, and stand out because I would be under scrutiny.”

People she knew were not as supportive as her husband, yet she kept pursuing her training. Her message to the students reflected her spirit of never giving up. “The opportunities are there for you if you are willing to pursue them,” she said. “Sometimes even if it is intimidating, you have to follow your heart and see where it goes.”  

Matt Wuscher / Courtesy Photo
Dr. Stan Fleming's older brother drove him down to Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, walked him into the admissions office and signed him up. Fleming says that that's where the journey really began for him.

The last speaker is a humble pillar in the community, Dr. Stan Fleming. He noted that all three speakers had a common thread, even though they did not plan it. They all wanted to talk about servant leadership and dreaming dreams.

For Fleming, part of his message he wanted to emphasize was the power of having a dream. “You gotta start with daring to dream dreams because if you don’t have a dream, you don’t get a vision, you can’t set a course. You will never get where you want to go or hope to go as you grow up.”

In his experience, he saw that every dream begins with a conviction of what is capable. Sometimes that conviction is shaky. “You have to convince the person in the mirror,” he said.

Fleming also stressed the importance of career identity in life. He said he sees titles as nothing more than a short form of a job description. It is not as important to get the title or degree; what matters is what is done with it.

He summed up his speech by encouraging students to have a vision. “Do dare to dream dreams because the possibilities are really unlimited. The only thing that will keep you from achieving your dream and your goal is yourself,” Fleming said.

The Scoop #4 – Phantom


Hosted by: Maxwell Smith and Khuong “Finn” Ho

Edited by: Maxwell Smith

A Desire to be… Extroverted by Karley Wise

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

Pierce College Fort Steilacoom President Medically Retires


“I needed to make a choice,” Yochum said.

Denise Yochum, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom’s now-former president, has medically retired due to her ongoing battle with metastatic breast cancer. After multiple surgeries and a month-long hospitalization, she realized she could not get healthy and give the college her best work.

“I needed to make a choice,” Yochum said. “I chose to work to get healthy and to let the college move forward.”

Yochum served as president for 13 years, but her work at Pierce was cut short; she said she was expecting to work for another 10 years.

Deidre Soileau will serve as interim president for Pierce College Fort Steilacoom until June 30, while Chancellor Michele Johnson directs a national search for a new, permanent president.

Yochum sent an email to the college district announcing her retirement Wednesday.

“It is with a heavy heart that I write to all of you today,” Yochum stated in the email. “I am medically retiring, effective January 2, 2019.”

Her message included the college’s achievements throughout her time at Pierce and her hopes for future developments. One of the college’s achievements she is most proud of is Pierce placing in the top ten for the Aspen award this year.

Soileau, former Vice President for Strategic Advancement, worked with Yochum often.

“We served on the district’s executive team together for over five years, and we worked closely on a number of projects,” Soileau said. “She was a colleague first, and she has become a valued friend.”

Student Life Will Host More LGBT-Focused Events in the Future


In Washington state, more than 340,000 residents identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), according to the Movement Advancement Project. Redfin ranked Seattle’s Pride Parade the third most popular in the U.S. in 2016. Tacoma and Olympia host local pride parades and festivals every year, as well.

Although there is representation for the LGBT community around the state, Pierce College Fort Steilacoom seems to be lacking LGBT inclusivity for its own events.

The Puyallup campus hosts LGBT-related events regularly. This quarter, it is including two events on its calendar: a movie showing of “Love, Simon” and an off-campus celebrity impersonation drag show.

I think the best way to help LGBT students feel more represented is to communicate with them.”

— Madeline Buchanan

On the other hand, the Fort Steilacoom campus is not holding events for its LGBT students this quarter. The only event held in the past year through the Multicultural Leadership Institute (MLI) had little advertisement and low turnout.

What makes Puyallup more inclined to hold events for its LGBT students? The larger population of LGBT students at Puyallup means more requests are submitted for events that represent them.

This quarter, Puyallup reported 361 LGBT students compared with 286 students at Fort Steilacoom, said Carly Haddon, a Pierce College data solutions developer and analyst. Puyallup also enrolled 1,150 more students this quarter compared with the Fort Steilacoom campus.

Puyallup’s Vice President of Activities Madeline Buchanan said in an email that Student Life receives several requests for LGBT-related events. “(We) do our best each quarter to put on relevant, educational and fun events for not only our LGBTQ+ students but our entire student body.”

Buchanan added, “Making sure our students’ voices are heard is something we take very seriously whether it be through supporting the GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club, planning events focusing on LGBT issues or advocating for our LGBT students in Student Government.”

Aidan Helt, Fort Steilacoom’s Issues and Awareness Coordinator, said no one has requested an event so far this year. “It’s been on my radar since I was hired,” she said.

While there are few events for LGBT students to partake in, the Fort Steilacoom campus still welcomes LGBT community members. Leigh Rooney, a newly hired Digital Design instructor, has only had a good experience so far.

Karley Wise / Staff Illustration

“I feel completely welcomed and accepted – not just tolerated, which is an important distinction for me – as an out lesbian at Pierce,” Rooney stated in an email. “All the students, faculty and staff I have encountered have been warm, kind and refreshingly open.”

Regarding what to do to increase LGBT representation at either campus, Buchanan said, “I think the best way to help LGBT students feel more represented is to communicate with them. Voice that you are wanting to create a safe and inclusive space and listen to their ideas.”
In turn, Helt said she plans to provide more LGBT-centered events at the Fort Steilacoom campus this year.

“I believe that they are a highly underrepresented population, and I hope to coordinate with the clubs on campus to have a Pride event in the spring quarter,” Helt said. She also said she plans to work with the newly ratified Queer Support Club on upcoming events.

For clubs looking to hold their own events, Cameron Cox, director of student programs, encourages them to talk to Student Life or the MLI for support. “I wish clubs would understand the power they have,” he said. “Sometimes, I feel like clubs are almost as powerful as Student Government in advocating (for their community).”

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