By day, he’s a buttoned-down financial manager who takes pride in his certification as a professional public buyer. By night, Eric C. Welch sports a bass guitar and rocks to the rhythm of a five-member band, Disciples of Prime.
“We touch on every branch of rock and roll,” says Welch, a business manager at Pima Community College, Tucson, Ariz. “We are all working adults with careers and families, so we do this for fun at great local venues. We have five people: a singer, a bass guitarist—that’s me—two guitarists, and a drummer. We’re lucky that our families support our musical outlet.”
Disciples of Prime? What does that mean?
It’s a name that is open to interpretation with a different meaning for every person. We play mainly original songs that we write. We have four tracks available online for free at www.reverbnation.com/disciplesofprime.
How did you end up at Pima Community College?
After graduating from high school, I went straight into the workforce because I needed a break from scholastic endeavors. In 2002, after a year in Texas, I moved back to Tucson and contacted a temp agency to find work. They placed me with the student accounts department at Pima. I was a temp for about six months and fell in love with the place, the students, and the community.
Looking back, I’m glad I got the work experience under my belt before starting college. As a full-time employee, I then attended Pima College part time. I finished at Park University to obtain my bachelor’s degree.
Isn’t that the profile of Pima students?
It sure is, although there’s a wide demographic at Pima. We have the student who comes straight after high school and who wants smaller class sizes. This can be a really good transition for them before transferring to one of the major universities. We also have a large demographic of working adults, such as myself, who start a little later than the traditional student.
What will you recommend to your children? Work or college first?
If and when my wife and I decide to have kids, I would tell them to do what’s best for them and explain the pros and cons of each. The pro of going to college first is that you can knock it out in four years, instead of eight or so years when you go part time. The con is that you may not get valuable work experience, which you can combine with that degree and have it pay off.
I was lucky to work in the fiscal area of Pima College while attending school. When I got my degree, I had opportunities to move up the ladder.
If you could change one policy at Pima, what would it be?
I would like to raise the purchasing thresholds to match other institutions in the state. Right now, a campus buyer using fairness and discretion can make a purchase up to $5,000 without competitive quotes. I think that could be higher.
Purchases of $5,000 to $30,000 require quotes from three vendors, and purchases over $30,000 need requests for proposal or invitations to bid. I would probably make that $50,000 to match our peer institutions. These RFP and bidding processes are very labor intensive for our district purchasing department and can delay the purchase of the product or service.
What’s the biggest change you have seen in your field?
Technology and the increased use of gadgets and e-mail. While we still have in-person face-to-face meetings and telephone calls, e-mail and gadgets are driving most communication. We have six campuses, five learning centers, a district office, and a maintenance and security location. To work seamlessly with all of them, we rely heavily on technology.
Have you made any recommendations in the use of technology?
In my last position as a fiscal advanced analyst, I recommended we pull custom reports from the Banner enterprise system to cut down on the daily workload. Instead of looking for student account exceptions in stacks and stacks of paper, we worked to develop custom reports to extract the data in various Excel or PDF formats.
MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Virginia, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.