Complete College America inspires restructured services

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerCochise College is developing and rolling out a number of initiatives aimed at improving critical educational and workforce statistics. These statistics, identified in the Expect More Arizona Education Progress Meter, measure educational attainment, post-secondary enrollment, and opportunity youth (individuals age 16 to 24 not in school or employed) across the state and Cochise County. For the economic health of our communities, we need at least 60 percent of county residents age 25 to 64 to have obtained a post-secondary degree, certificate, or workplace credential. In order to accomplish this, we need more degree/credential completion, higher post-secondary enrollment rates by high school graduates, and fewer youth who are neither employed nor in school.

A guaranteed scholarship for high school graduates is now part of the Cochise College recruitment process, along with college navigators who will be embedded in local high schools, directing students to future educational opportunities at Cochise or elsewhere. If we are successful in increasing the percentage of Cochise County high school seniors enrolling immediately in post-secondary academic and training programs, it’s likely many students may choose to come to Cochise. If so, we need to be better prepared to effectively help them earn a post-secondary credential.

The college has been implementing student success strategies aimed at increasing college completion. To accelerate our activities, we recently joined Complete College America (CCA), a national nonprofit that works to eliminate achievement gaps by providing equity of opportunity for all students to complete college degrees and credentials of purpose and value. CCA promotes research-based initiatives, what it terms, “game changers” to enhance economic and social well-being through educational opportunities. These game changers are: Math Pathways, 15 to Finish, Proactive Advising with Structured Degree Plans, Momentum Year, Co-Requisite Support for Academically Underprepared Students, and A Better Deal for Returning Adults.

The Math Department has already done significant curriculum work to ensure that the math courses students are placed into match what is necessary for their chosen program of study. In other words, the college now directs students to math courses best designed for their educational goals. Students in non-STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs are directed to take Survey of College Math, which covers algebra, trigonometry, precalculus and statistics but doesn’t require a student to be an expert at all of those. For students in programs like electronics, automotive technology, construction trades, welding, and other career/technical fields, math may be embedded directly into the program. STEM students, however, need an entire semester of College Algebra, as it prepares them for more advanced math courses they will need to further their studies. Better aligning which math course(s) to take to desired degree outcomes is sure to help students overcome this all-too-frequent barrier to degree completion.

This last fall, faculty and staff began having conversations about 15 to Finish. This initiative encourages a mindset that completing 30 credits per year is essential to completing an associate’s degree in two years. The college is working to pare degree offerings to 60 credits, where possible. While 12 credits per semester may be considered full time according to federal financial aid standards, taking that extra class each semester can help full-time students avoid an extra semester of college. The “just one more” conversation can also occur with part-time students. Research shows the quicker a student accumulates credits, the more likely they are to complete their degrees, begin their profession, and start earning money. The college is considering ways to provide incentives for students to take just one more class.

In addition, college advisors and counselors are transitioning from a transactional approach to one that builds relationships with students. We look to assign students to a specific advisor and to have most interactions occur via scheduled appointments. We are exploring how to allocate resources toward advising; if current staff were assigned to specific students, the ratio would be about 1,000 to 1. This initiative also entails structured degree plans so students can efficiently work their way through programs in a timely manner. Along with that, the college hopes to develop an early alert system so advisors can monitor student progress and intervene at relevant times.

In building stronger relationships with students and promoting completion of 15 credits per semester, we will encourage students to take at least two classes within their major, as well as their gateway English and math courses, during the first year of college. This Momentum Year initiative will help students stay on task, complete gateway courses in a timely manner, and move them to degree completion.

Sometimes, remediation is required to help students succeed in gateway courses. Through a co-requisite support initiative, students who previously would have been directed into pre-college-level coursework may instead be enrolled in college-level English and math courses and also provided with extra academic support in order to complete those courses. We have not yet determined exactly how this will look, but the idea is that an additional lab or extra tutoring services could provide just-in-time assistance for students who need it.

Finally, Cochise serves many students who are returning to school as adults. Often, these students are also juggling family and work responsibilities, making completion a challenge. Something the college is considering is identifying and promoting specific programs in a structure that is accelerated and scheduled in a manner that makes success easier to achieve. Overall, the college would like to get to the point where it can forecast course needs based on student plans, and that will help us work toward predictable scheduling for all students.

Cochise is learning from other institutions that are part of the Complete College America alliance, and we are intentionally implementing the changes that make sense for us. Student success and completion require sustainable solutions, and it will take us some time to identify the right mix of services and resources in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Ultimately, our goal is to positively impact the educational attainment rate in Cochise County, and it will take all of us pulling in the same direction to do it.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

And, they’re off! Event supports workforce through education

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerMuffin, Ginger Fury, Corona, and Slow and Steady will enter the starting gate at Cochise College on April 21. They are horses purchased and named as part of the college’s Evening at the Races fundraiser in support of the Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee.

Who will finish first remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. They are all in the race.

Getting more students – rather than horses – in the race to enter the workforce is the goal of the scholarship guarantee. If this is the first you’re hearing of it, the guarantee is one component of Cochise College’s effort to increase the percentage of graduating seniors who enroll immediately in meaningful post-secondary education and training programs.

In Cochise County, that percentage is 49; that’s less than half. In Arizona, the percentage is 53. Meanwhile, local employers report difficulty hiring and retaining qualified personnel.

Arizona is a wonderful place. But it’s workforce needs to be more competitive if its economy is to diversify and its quality of life to improve. Expect More Arizona and its partners, along with the governor’s Achieve60AZ initiative, aim to increase the post-secondary enrollment rate to 70 percent in 20 years. Other statewide goals relevant to higher education are to increase the state’s degree attainment rate of working-age adults from 43 percent to 60 percent and to decrease the rate of opportunity youth, those age 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor working, from 14 percent to 7 percent.

These statistics have inspired Cochise College to implement significant changes to reach more high school students and remove barriers to completion. Think career navigators in the high schools, more affordable learning materials, a course that teaches new students to succeed in college, and more efficient processes and curriculum.

An Evening at the Races is your opportunity to go along for the ride.

Here’s what to expect if you purchase a ticket, now available at, to the April 21 event at the Sierra Vista Campus. There will be video horse racing on which you can wager with and win Cochise Bucks, which I should reinforce is not real currency that can be used for anything of value. The horses named above will appear in the printed program, along with the names of their jockeys and owners, who most certainly will be cheering on their steed. You may purchase and name your own horse when you buy your event ticket. There also will be a silent auction and a dessert auction. Last year’s hat parade was unexpectedly popular, so we are repeating and restructuring it.

A number of sponsors have joined us in this effort, and I thank them. Herald/Review Media is our event sponsor. Battaglia and Roberts PC, Canyon Vista Medical Center, Hudbay Minerals, Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona, Long Realty, and Southwest Gas each will sponsor a race. Arizona G&T Cooperatives, Cherry Creek Media, Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative, Wi-Power Internet and Phone, Copper Queen Community Hospital, DiPeso Realty and Big O Tires also have lent support.

For us, the most important thing is the cause – workforce enhancement through education. This is why the college is here. Whether a horse wins doesn’t really matter. What’s important is that they finish the race.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

Former Cochise College aviation student soars with new wings

Aviation student bartron

Tyler Barton receives his wings from Blake Ditlow, his PSA Airlines cadent mentor. James Cruze, another PSA cadet looks on.

Almost two years ago, Cochise College’s aviation department began a new pathways program for students. Once aviation students become certified flight instructors, they can apply to become cadets with partner regional airlines. If accepted, they remain at the college as a flight instructor and have an opportunity to build the required hours to obtain their R-ATP certificate while passing along their knowledge to future aviation students.

This month, one of the college’s first pathways cadets, Tyler Barton, is spreading his wings and leaving the nest after successfully completing the pathway program to start his new job as a first officer for PSA Airlines, a regional airline headquartered in Dayton, OH.

Barton completed his associate’s degree and logged 1,250 hours of flight time to qualify for his R-ATP certificate and become a first officer. Pathways cadets also receive tuition reimbursement from PSA Airlines of $625 for every 100 hours of flight time logged beyond 500 hours. They are paid as a flight instructor by the college during this time. This opportunity allows them to obtain their instrument instructor at a reduced cost.

“I am very appreciative of the expertise and knowledge of my instructors who enabled me to be successful and pursue my dreams. They helped me develop the skills I will need to continue my career in aviation,” said Barton. “I plan to spend the next two years at PSA Airlines to become a captain and eventually work for American Airlines.”

For more information about the aviation or pathways program visit or contact Sandra Rosales, Aviation Recruiter/Advisor at (520) 417-4165 or

Automotive alumni find success after graduation

As students return to classes this week, Cochise College’s Automotive Technology Faculty James Krause and Ron Bosley are excited to teach the next generation of future auto technicians. The program has found great success in being a resource for local employers as students graduate and seek work in the automotive industry. Last month, the department invited a group of automotive alumni back to the autoplex for a luncheon in their honor. These students have found a home in the local automotive industry of Cochise County, helping to fill the demand for new technicians needed to fix today’s automobiles doing everything from automotive repair, auto detail and parts sales.

The mission of the automotive program is to equip students with the knowledge and skills to enter the ever-changing world of automotive repair. This approach has been successful as many of the local employers shared the same sentiment.

Sierra Toyota currently employs one former Cochise student.

“Employees who have taken the program at Cochise come in ready to work,” said Sierra Toyota Service Director David Jones. “All we have to do is train them on the specifics for Toyota. We don’t have to do a lot of additional teaching. It is all just hands-on training.”

Desert Automotive Service Manager Gary Kite expects there to be a learning curve for any new employees but agrees the training provided by Cochise is a good foundation that includes basic skills. Desert Automotive employs a current student, Scott Lawry and a former student Daniel Hjelmeland.

Daniel Hjelmeland

Automotive alumni Daniel Hjelmeland

Hejelmeland says his goal is to be a shop foreman. He started working in the auto industry right out of high school and has been with Desert Automotive for five years. He started out as a technician and took advantage of opportunities the smaller shop provided him. “My advice to students or others wanting to work in automotive is to stay curious and ask a lot of questions,” Hjelmeland said. “In a repair shop you get hands-on experience. Don’t be afraid to get in there and touch things,“ advised Hjelmeland.”

At Cochise, students learn safety protocol and the theoretical background of automotive in addition to the hands-on experience. Local businesses hiring these students prove that the Cochise College Automotive Technology Program is living up to expectations to help with the demand for new technicians entering the field.

“The integrity and reputation of my shop are important to me,” said Ann Mari Aristigue of Arizona Auto & Radiator Repair. “I require schooling from my technicians to ensure I am providing my customers with the best service possible. If people inquire about a job with us and they don’t have any prior schooling, I recommend they enroll in the program at Cochise and then come back and see me.”

Arizona Auto & Radiator Repair is a family business for the Aristigues. Danny and Christian Aristigue wanted to stay in the family business. Even though their parents have been in the auto industry for 20 years, they were encouraged to attend schooling. “Cochise prepared us for the basic knowledge and understanding of automotive and included the safety protocols to follow. Once we completed the program we were prepared for an apprenticeship position and could perform entry-level services such as oil changes and tires,” remarked the brothers.


Boys working on car

Danny (current student) & Christian (alumni) Aristigue

The Cochise College Automotive Technology Program continues to show positive growth. In order to continue providing qualified candidates to the automotive workforce, it is adding a light-duty diesel class to its degree plan for the 2018-2019 school year. It has continued to keep up with the latest technology in vehicle diagnosis by adding two new diagnostic scan tools and a computerized on-car brake lathe.

“We really have a good thing going here,” Krause said, “and it has all been possible thanks to having students willing to learn a trade, great staff and support from the college administration. We teach the students in a real-world environment and a great location, thanks to a generous partnership with Sean Lawley. We can’t make master technicians in the short time that we have them here, but we can create a solid foundation for them to enter the field. With the support of our local industry and good mentorship, students can become very successful.”

For more information on the college’s Automotive Technology Program, which offers day and evening classes and is open to students of all ages, visit, follow Cochise College Automotive Technology on Facebook, or contact faculty members James Krause at 520-224-5129 or, or Ron Bosley at 520-335-1449 or

Alumna turns tragic chapter of her life into 40 years of service in the healthcare field

In 1977, Bobbie Wiles (74’) called Willcox, Arizona, her home. She was on the cusp of young adulthood in her early twenties and worked locally as a medical assistant. She’d grown up in a small town, met a “small-town boy” and was ready to become a “small-town girl.”

“It was the kind of life I’d set out to live,” Wiles explained.

Wiles said she fell in love with Bub Hood, a local farmer from Willcox, Arizona.

The two were engaged and married that summer and looked forward to their life together.

But in a series of tragic events, the newlyweds found out that Bub Hood was drafted into the Vietnam War and while the couple adjusted to the news, Bub was tragically killed in a car accident on June 15, 1972, abruptly ending the small-town future Wiles had in store.

“It was definitely hard on me, being so young and being widowed. My life started and stopped in a matter of three months,” Wiles explained.

Wiles said she needed something to pick herself off the ground.

“I was a medical assistant, and I knew I was good at it. People had always told me and encouraged me to become an RN, and that’s what I wanted to do. So, while I was still mourning my late husband, I applied to the Cochise College Nursing program,” Wiles said.

Wiles applied to the program in late July and was rejected, but after a stroke of luck, the college board pulled some strings, and that August, Wiles was enrolled in the college’s nursing program.

“I was 23 years old, and I was one of two widows in the nursing cohort. I was good at school and excelled in my studies. I graduated in May 1974,” Wiles said.

Wiles went on to work in Willcox at the local hospital and then at Mesa Lutheran Hospital in Mesa, Arizona. She would eventually earn her Bachelor’s in Science from the University of Phoenix and her Master’s in Nursing. She also earned her Family Nurse Practitioner Certificate in May 2008 and completed the Nurse Educator Certificate program at Arizona State University in 2007.

“Cochise College really saved my life. I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t go to Cochise. Cochise College helped me change a life-altering event into something positive. Plus, I remarried two years later and am still married to the same wonderful man today. We also have two adult children who are successful in their careers,” Wiles said.

Wiles is celebrating over 40 years of service as a nurse. Currently, she is working as a family nurse practitioner doing primary care and cardiology to the homebound. She says she looks forward to retiring in the near future.

To find out more about the Cochise College Nursing program, visit their website at

Alumnus celebrates over 30 years as international airline pilot

A small Cochise College Aviation plane at the Cochise College Douglas Campus

Michael Weymer (‘87), who was raised in Sierra Vista, attended Cochise College to earn his Associate of Science Degree in Aviation. Weymer says the degree opened doors to a future he’d only dreamed about.

“I remember when I was being interviewed for admission into the Aviation Program, the chief flight instructor asked, ‘Why do you want to be a pilot?’ And I said, ‘Well, I want to fly for the airlines one day.’ And they just kind of chuckled. They said, ‘This is cute. He wants to fly for the airlines.’ Which back in 1983, it was unheard of for a civilian pilot to fly for the airlines. At that point in time, most airlines would only hire you if you were a military pilot,” Weymer explained.

After his acceptance into the program, the alumnus said he hunkered down, stayed focused on his future and worked hard both behind the cockpit and in the classroom. He would eventually graduate from Cochise, and in 1985 he transferred to Embry-Riddle where he would earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Aeronautical Science.

In the summer of 1985, at the age of 22, Weymer was the youngest pilot to compete in the first Transatlantic Air Rally, which consisted of approximately 70 small airplanes that flew from America to Europe.

“My French teammate and I flew a Cessna 310 from Morristown, New Jersey, to Le Bourget Field in Paris, with overnight stops in Montreal, Baffin Island, Greenland, Iceland and Scotland,”
said Weymer.

When the young pilot entered the work force, times had changed, airlines had expanded, and the demand for airline pilots outstripped the supply of military pilots. Around 1988, after Weymer returned to Cochise and spent one year as an instructor of aviation for the college, the airlines started hiring civilian pilots who were flight instructors. And Weymer got his break.

“I started my airline career flying small planes, and then I got moved up to fly bigger planes, and eventually, I moved up as a captain to fly 747s,” says Weymer.

Weymer is currently a pilot for Atlas Air, Inc. and says he’s had a great career.

He says he has a lot of long oceanic-flights. Including one four month stay in Abu Dhabi where the pilot was based.

“…in that four-month period, I flew to six continents, and I flew the distance from the Earth to the Moon and halfway back in a four-month period,” said Weymer.

Weymer also had the opportunity to fly with Lady Gaga and Madonna.

“I was assigned to Lady Gaga and saw her perform in Lima, Peru. I flew her to her concerts in Assunção in Paraguay and to Johannesburg, Africa… And we flew Madonna to her concerts in Brazil and Tel Aviv,” Weymer explained.

Currently, the pilot is flying soldiers in the U.S. military to the Middle East, Europe and back to the United States.

“I’m flying from Cincinnati to Germany, to Bahrain, and then from Bahrain I’m going to Diego Garcia, which is the location of a Naval support facility in the Indian Ocean. After that, I’m taking a trip from Diego Garcia to Bahrain, then flying to Kuwait, back to Germany and then I’m bringing troops home from Germany to New Hampshire,” said Weymer.

Wemer says that his experiences have been one in a lifetime and he’s grateful for Cochise College.

“I have Cochise College to thank for giving me such an excellent start,” said Weymer.
“Cochise College is a great place to start. It provides the quality instruction that’s required to excel in the industry as a pilot… You have to apply all your skills and not give up. A lot of people start in one area, and they get distracted and they lose interest, or somebody talks them out of their dream, and they end up doing something that they didn’t want to do, but you have to stay focused.”

To find out more about the Cochise College Aviation program, visit their website at

Alum film work focuses on untold cultural stories

Roberto Gudino, (’04) a long-time filmmaker, is sharing his production of “Below the Fold,” a film about Southern California’s Latino communities, to help commemorate Mexican Heritage Month this September.

Gudino is a native of Cochise County and was born and raised in Douglas, Arizona. The now successful filmmaker is a first-generation college student. He says at the beginning of his young-adult life he was someone without much ambition to pursue higher education and had found little success throughout his high school career.

But then something changed when he found his passion for film in his hometown, at the local community college and landed a job working as a student-aid photographer for the Cochise College Creative Services Office. Since then, he says his passion for film has only grown.

Gudino’s fascination with the film industry eventually led to academic success. He earned a bachelor of fine arts in film and television from the University of Arizona in 2007 and a master of fine arts in film production from the University of California, Los Angeles, one of the top film schools in the country, in 2012. He also earned a master of science from Florida International University in 2015.

Currently, Gudino is a faculty member at the Scottsdale School of Film and Theatre at Scottsdale Community College. He’s also an avid filmmaker and a winner of the prestigious Jury Prize from The Directors Guild of America.
Recently, Gudino’s work has aimed to tell the untold stories of Mexican culture that are generally “not featured in the media,” says Gudino.

“Below the Fold” chronicles the efforts of a team of reporters from the Los Angeles Times who banded together in 1983 to counter distorted reportage about Hispanics and addresses the distorted, narrow reportage that characterized the media’s previous coverage of Latinos.

“The film is about Latinos, written by Latinos but not just for Latinos but for everyone, because there were a lot of people who didn’t know who this population was… I think today that’s still true in our culture,” said Gudino. “It’s important because it shows that minorities can be not only represented in media, but they can be the creators of that media. They can have a voice in telling their own stories.”
Critics consider the series a milestone in enhancing inclusion in news coverage.

Gudino says his experience growing up in a border community and his Mexican heritage has led him to share these stories in order to give back to the community and to help enrich the lives of students. He hopes that “Below the Fold” will be one of many productions that will help bring awareness to Mexican culture.

“These ’stories’ are represented not just in ’Below the Fold’ but are being retold generation after generation, in lives of students, mothers, fathers and teenagers,” says Gudino. “And it’s important that these stories are told.”

Gudino identifies his time as a Cochise College student as pivotal to his success.

“I am a product of mentorship,” said Gudino. “…and really don’t know where I’d be if I hadn’t gone there. So I’m lucky, because now I get to share my story and stories like mine, and that’s a pretty big thing.”