Alumni Image: Wilderness Living

Students at Grand Canyon

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Cochise College curriculum has evolved over its five decades in existence. There existed in the early 1970s a department of environmental studies, which included a course called Wilderness Living. Dr. Joe Gilliland, who submitted this image and is pictured at bottom left, originated the course and taught it for a number of years, after which long-time faculty Dave Pettes took over, followed by associate faculty Rick Taylor. Gilliland recalls that the popular course had to be capped at 20 students. Participants hiked the Grand Canyon and the Chiricahua Mountains, occasionally encountering snow. Email if you know any of those pictured here, have memories of Wilderness Living, or wish to submit a photo.

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Partnership powers progress

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerCochise College’s official name is the Cochise County Community College District. As such, its major function is to provide opportunities for county citizens and communities that enhance our quality of life. This year, the college is excited to develop and invest significant energy into opportunities tailored to meet the changing needs of Cochise County.

The college, Sheriff’s Office, and other local law enforcement agencies have completed ongoing discussions and will roll out in September the Southeast Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy at Cochise College. The academy seeks to train 20 agency-sponsored personnel per 17-week session, with the first ending in December and another beginning in January.

A true partnership, the academy will make use of facilities throughout the college service area for training purposes. For example, the Douglas Campus will house and feed trainees and provide classroom and physical training space. Participants will do firearms training at the Larry A. Dever Memorial Firing Range and the Defensive Tactics Room, both Sheriff’s Office facilities. The Sheriff’s Office and City of Sierra Vista Police Department will assist in providing instruction, counseling, and other necessary equipment. The academy is considering Bisbee-Douglas International Airport as a suitable defensive driving training facility. College faculty Tim Seguin has been named academy director, and Sgt. Randy Wilson of the Sheriff’s Office will serve as class sergeant. Law enforcement professionals from around the county will teach the first academy.

This arrangement allows us to keep things both local and affordable and will go a long way toward preparing the next generation of law enforcement professionals who will serve the citizens of Cochise County. The college is extremely pleased to be part of this effort to preserve the health and safety of our local communities while providing educational opportunities that lead to meaningful careers.

Recognizing recent investments in local agriculture, the college also has named Dr. Paul Sebesta as director of agriculture and natural resources initiatives. Dr. Sebesta is a former director of USDA ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (NCAUR). With his experience, which combines agriculture and business, the college aims to play a central role in moving forward initiatives that are important in the local agriculture and natural resources arenas.

These recent announcements, along with added positions in cybersecurity and early childhood education, and the construction of a home by residential construction technology students, are each examples of ways that the college is trying to meet the needs of local employers by preparing students to work in the new economy. Whether it’s about providing skills and knowledge through short-term training or moving students through a two-year degree and toward transfer to a university, Cochise College seeks to effectively serve the citizens of this special place we call home.

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

Alumni Image: Philosophers on the grass

Students seated on grass

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Garth Johnson may not be one of the more prominent names in Cochise College history, but the institution’s first public relations officer left a mark in the form of images like this one, possibly taken with a Speed Graphic camera Johnson carried with him most everywhere. Submitted by Faculty Emeritus Dr. Joe Gilliland, the image from the early 1970s shows Gilliland leading an Introduction to Philosophy class of more than 25 students on the grounds of the Douglas Campus. Gilliland recalls students who wanted to enjoy the crisp, early spring day, so he moved the class outside after students promised not to “creep off or go to sleep.”

The college appreciates submissions of images that can be used for publicity purposes. Images can be submitted to

Budget advances community priorities

J.D. RottweilerBy J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

You might believe from the headline that this article is about a city or county budget. It refers instead to the Cochise College budget, which seeks to serve the wonderful communities of Cochise County in new and better ways.

This week, the college Governing Board adopted the 2019-2020 budget. The budget sets the strategic direction for the college, which seeks to innovatively and positively impact the future of local citizens and communities.

The college is focused on moving the needle on workforce metrics to improve quality of life and the future economic viability of the county. Currently, only 33.8 percent of county residents of working age have an associate’s degree or higher. Economic experts believe that needs to be 60 percent for a county to survive in the new economy. Impacting this number is the college going rate of graduating high school seniors; according to Expect More Arizona, the percentage of Cochise County seniors enrolling immediately after high school is only 49. That needs to improve to about 70 percent.

The college’s budget provides resources intended to help address these challenges.

This year, the college will begin transitioning its recruiting staff to include college and career navigators embedded in local high schools to provide guidance and encourage students to look to the future. In addition, a scholarship guarantee for graduating seniors is funded by donations and serves as a carrot to entice students to consider Cochise College. The budget also provides resources to enhance student support services such as tutors and advisors, including the personnel necessary to implement the strategies of Complete College America, which I wrote about in a previous column.

Recognizing that seven in 10 jobs will require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, the college this year is rolling out a certification opportunity in construction, teaching participants to build a house by actually doing it. Students will obtain the skills necessary to obtain an entry-level position in the construction industry, which currently faces a shortage of workers. Once on the job, they may find other areas of interest in which they wish to specialize.

Similarly in healthcare, where short-term certified nursing assistant and medical assistant programs already prepare students to enter the workforce quickly, the college has implemented a stand-alone licensed practical nursing program that trains a student to work after one year of school. There is also now a pathway for students who earn the LPN, work for a while, and decide to return to school later to study to become a registered nurse.

This budget also includes an innovation fund, resources set aside to explore new opportunities. Two such programs are a police academy to train local and regional officer cadets to fill positions in the county, and agriculture to meet the needs of the region’s many ranchers and growers. The college also added a full-time early childhood education faculty member to prepare educators to work with children in critical stages of development, as well as a new faculty position in cybersecurity. Students can tackle short-term certifications or pursue two years of cybersecurity training that transfers to the University of Arizona’s National Security Agency-recognized program.

People are the most important raw material for business and industry today. But they need to have skills. Opportunities abound for citizens who are willing to improve their lives through education and training. As Cochise County’s primary higher education provider, it is Cochise College’s responsibility to try to impact those areas where education, training and opportunity intersect. Collectively we must choose to rise to the occasion.

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

Faculty honors make graduation special

J.D. RottweilerBy J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

Cochise College students earned more than 1,500 degrees in 2017-2018, and more graduates than ever before participated in the 53rd commencement on May 11.

Commencement celebrates the departure from the college and the commencing of a new journey for our graduates. This year we also celebrated the commencing of a new journey for three iconic faculty, with one serving as commencement marshal and two others honored with emeritus status.

Randy Dorman never intended to stay at Cochise College for 31 years. His initial plan was to teach high school, which he did for five years. He wound up at Cochise College in 1987, and his wife joined him there several years later. “This place, and the job, just grew on us,” he said.

Randy has taught everything from basic arithmetic through the calculus sequence, differential equations and linear algebra. Over 30 years, the subject matter has changed little, but the delivery methods and the pursuits of the students have expanded.

Randy started working at the Sierra Vista Campus when most of the buildings were temporary, there was little landscaping, and resources were sparse. “What a difference the decades have made,” he says. He pointed out that every year, the college improved, and a slow-moving but significant cultural shift in the institution has elevated the workplace.

Randy will not miss grading homework, extra paperwork, and policies/procedures that restrict the way he teaches, even though he agrees with some of them. He anticipates the thing he’ll miss the most is contact with his colleagues.

Cochise College was proud to have faculty emeritus Norm Bates as a member of the faculty for 20 years. An Army veteran who previously taught English at the US Military Academy, Norm served as the English Department chair for seven years, received the NISOD Excellence Award for outstanding teaching and found team teaching particularly gratifying. Norm was selected by students as the 2013-2014 Instructor of the Year for the Sierra Vista Campus. 1997 graduate Darris Richardson, a published author and the most senior military intelligence systems maintainer/integrator, identifies Norm as one of his favorite teachers and still thinks of him when he writes.

Norm’s fondest memories about Cochise are the 15 years he served as advisor for the Alpha Mu Zeta chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students. He received the Robert Giles Distinguished Advisor Award in 2004. He also enjoyed serving as secretary/treasurer of the college Honors Committee and as a leadership instructor in the honors program. Since retiring in 2014, he has continued to contribute to the Distinguished Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship.

The years spent teaching and mentoring at Cochise College were, by far, the most enjoyable working years of Norm’s professional experience.

Faculty emeritus Dave Pettes joined Cochise College as a 23-year-old member of the faculty in 1968. He planned to gain experience and move on. Instead, he served until 2014, a 46-year span in which he was frequently called upon to lead. He held a variety of administrative and academic positions. The college became part of his family: it’s where he met his wife, a college employee; where they held their wedding reception; and where they sent their sons for their first taste of college.

Professionally, his most memorable position was as the co-instructor in the reading-sociology learning community. He also was a champion of service learning.

During his tenure, Dave had the honor of authoring not one, but two, accreditation self-study reports. He is most proud of serving as mentor to scores of faculty and thousands of students. Many inspired him with a deep commitment to their own greater future and to that of society. On numerous occasions, students named him Teacher of the Year at the Douglas Campus. He is a founding member of the Cochise College Hall of Fame.

Dave continues to participate in Cochise College activities as a guest presenter, a member of the Hall of Fame committee, and as a donor, ensuring that students receive the Dave and Irma Pettes Scholarship into the future.

Celebrating the new opportunities ahead for our graduates and our retirees makes commencement special. I’d like to thank these, and all college retirees for their dedication and commitment to student success. You have made a difference in the lives of students, colleagues, and the communities we serve!

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

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