Greener Leads Pima Community College

Lee Lambert ’87 recently traded Douglas fir and western red cedar for saguaro cactus and mesquite. As the new chancellor of Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, he is calling on his Evergreen roots and experience to lead his institution through some thorny challenges.

Chancellor Lee Lambert ’87

Chancellor Lee Lambert ’87.

Photo provided by Pima Community College

With six campuses and more than 60,000 students, Pima is facing a range of big issues, from allegations of financial mismanagement to a two-year accreditation probation. Yet Lee is excited by the opportunities. “As a leader I can’t be afraid to put myself into difficult situations.”

“I like coming in and working with an organization that has problems to be solved and knows it has to solve them,” he said. “All organizations have problems, but there’s not always an awareness or commitment to solve those problems. There is here.”

Lee, who earned his bachelor’s degree at Evergreen and a law degree from Seattle University, was president of Shoreline Community College from 2006 to 2013 and held administrative, leadership and teaching roles at Centralia College and Evergreen before that.

So how did Evergreen influence his leadership style? “There are two key takeaways from my Evergreen education that I use every day,” Lee explained. “First, I approach a problem by trying to better understand it before trying to solve it, approaching it from as many points of view as I can. I always want to see two or three options and pros and cons for each of the options. Evergreen helped me understand that process.

“Second, based in large part on my Evergreen experience, I’ve found that the best learning happens at the end of the day when I’m willing to be self-reflective on what I’ve learned and done. For me,” he explained, “no self-reflection means no learning.

“The higher up the ladder you go in leadership, the harder it is to get an accurate reflection from others. So I’ve learned that I am the best check on me,” he said.

“My way of approaching problems, and my confidence in assessing my own talents against what I’m dealing with, let me look at interesting and challenging situations and not be afraid of them,” he added. “Evergreen gave me the confidence to deal with anything. I can figure it out.”

Chancellor Lee Lambert ’87. Photo provided by Pima Community College.