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 jdr@cochise.edu.

College closed for Memorial Day


Cochise College will be closed Monday, May 28 in observance of Memorial Day.
The normal class schedule and regular business hours, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, will resume Tuesday, May 29 at all campuses and centers.

College offices on summer hours until August


Cochise College will start summer hours from May 14 through August 10. Offices at all campuses and centers will be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Summer classes begin May 29. View the Academic Calendar to find out more.

Cochise College Dining hours:
Sierra Vista Campus Union Cafe
May 14 – August 10
Monday – Thursday
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Friday – Closed

Starbucks at Union Cafe
Monday – Thursday
7 a.m. – 10 a.m.

Downtown Center Cafe
May 14 – August 10: Closed for the summer and will reopen when fall classes begin.

Douglas Campus Dining Hall
May 14 – June 9: 6:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.; 11 a.m. -1 p.m and 4-7 p.m. (Monday – Thursday);
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. (Friday – Sunday)
June 9 – July 28: Closed
July 29 – Aug 10: 6:30 a.m. – 10 a.m.; 11 a.m. -1 p.m and 4-7 p.m. (Monday – Thursday);
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. (Friday – Sunday)

Registration for fall classes is going on now. The fall semester begins August 20. Regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, resume August 14.

Cochise College hosts 20th annual high school welding competition


The 20th annual Cochise College high school welding competition took place in the Career and Technical Building recently on the Sierra Vista Campus.

Participants included 30 students from high schools all across Arizona including Benson, Bowie, Buena, Douglas, Elfrida, Monument, San Simon, Skyline, St. David, and Valley Union. “The program has grown each year,” said Scott Brown, Cochise College welding instructor, and competition coordinator. “This is the time where students can show their knowledge, skills and ability to use various welding tools and processes.”

Each student who participated in the competition tested on shield metal arc welding, oxy-fuel cutting, gas metal arc welding, oxy-fuel welding and also had to complete one written exam.

Since welding is part of our everyday lives, used in manufacturing kitchen appliances to airplanes to cars, it has become a very popular program at Cochise College. “Every semester, the welding technology program fills up close to capacity,” added Brown.

As the sparks flew and the heat turned up, the student welders were divided into groups and given the materials needed. Students who participated in the competition received a tour of the welding lab, blueprints, instructions, competition rules, procedures and materials. Students made sure to bring personal protective equipment. The college provided the facility, staff and materials. Local companies and industry leaders generously provided the prizes. The following are the winners.

First Place – Ryan Pietryga, 11th grade, Skyline

Second Place – Robert Conser, 11th grade St. David

Third Place –  Denton Fenn, 11th grade, Benson

“Learning the ropes of a new trade can be time-consuming. You need to become familiar with the entire working process from start to finish and master each level before moving on. This attention to detail is what makes a great welder and a more versatile potential employee,” Brown said. For more information about the Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology or the welding certificates, please contact an advisor at (520) 515-5483 (Sierra Vista) or (520) 417-4038 (Douglas).

53rd Commencement


Cochise College will hold its 53rd commencement ceremony at 7 p.m. May 11 on the Sierra Vista Campus.

Students completing their first and second years of the nursing program will participate in a pinning ceremony at the campus the evening prior.

This year, Cochise College will award approximately 1500 diplomas for the current academic year, and about 300 students are expected to participate in commencement ceremonies.

Live online streaming, accessed at the Cochise College website, will allow friends and relatives to see everything from the processional to the last graduate crossing the stage.

GradImages will photograph all graduates at the commencement ceremony. Graduates should visit the GradImages website and click Pre-Event Email Registration to enter their email addresses and up to six emails of loved ones who would like to view and order photos. Students who register their information before commencement on May 11 can get $5 off on orders of $25 or more. After graduation, order online at GradImages or call (800) 261-2576.

The student speakers at commencement will be Cody Jenkins and Angie Covarrubias. Cody Jenkins is a 2018 All-Arizona Community College Academic First Team Recipient from the Sierra Vista Campus and a 2018 Coca-Cola Academic Team Silver Scholar. He has been actively involved on campus as the treasurer for the Sierra Vista Student Government Association and a member of Phi Theta Kappa.  Graduating with an Associate of Science degree he will be transferring to the Arizona State University majoring in Mechanical Engineering. Angie Covarrubias is a 2018 All-Arizona Community College Academic Second Team Recipient from the Sierra Vista Campus. She has been actively involved on campus as a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Graduating with an Associate of Science degree she will be transferring to the University of Arizona majoring in Biomedical Engineering.

The pinning ceremony recognizing this year’s nursing class will begin at 7 p.m. May 10 on the Sierra Vista Campus. Almost 200 students will participate, with first-year students recognized for earning certification and second-year students honored for earning their Associate of Applied Science degree, making them eligible to take the exam to become a registered nurse.

Motorists should be aware of heavier-than-usual traffic in the area. All traffic will enter the Sierra Vista Campus, located on Colombo Ave., through the north entrance, follow the loop around campus, and exit through the south entrance. Commencement exercises begin at 7 p.m., but the campus will begin to fill with cars around 5 p.m. A Sierra Vista police officer will be onsite directing traffic beginning at 8 p.m.

Cochise College Selects NISOD Excellence Award Recipients


Cochise College is proud to announce its recipients of the annual National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) Excellence Awards. 2018 honorees include Karen Emmer, director of financial aid, and Angela Garcia, math department chair and faculty.

NISOD’s Excellence Awards recognize men and women each year who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment and contribution to their students and colleagues. Excellence Award recipients are invited to attend the NISOD’s annual International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence next month, in Austin, Texas.Each Excellence Award recipient receives a specially cast, pewter medallion hung on a burnt-orange ribbon. The names, titles, and colleges of all Excellence Award recipients are included in a special booklet. In addition, Cochise College hosted a celebratory reception at the Sierra Vista Campus and the Douglas Campus.

Karen Emmer

Emmer has been working in higher education for over 20 years working in admissions, recruiting and financial aid. Over the years, she has implemented many programs that have helped students, the college and the community. Among her many accomplishments, most recently, Emmer developed a mentoring program. This program not only helped students but also decreased the default rate at the college. “I initiated the program; however, it was the entire college and the students who made it successful. I was amazed to be nominated and selected to receive this award. My mission as a professional is to help students and others to understand financial aid. I enjoy working hard and going above and beyond to help students attain better advantages,” Emmer said.

Angela Garcia

Garcia became a full-time faculty member at the college in 2011 but has been teaching as associate faculty since 2006. “I have great respect for my colleagues. I feel extremely honored to be nominated and selected for the NISOD award by them,” Garcia said. After graduating from high school, Garcia served active duty in the US Army in addition to a myriad of other jobs. “Around my 29th birthday, a chance encounter encouraged me to go back to school and pursue mathematics,” recalled Garcia. She attended Cochise College and earned an associate degree. Soon after, she continued at the University of Arizona South and completed a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. While finishing her masters, Garcia was the coordinator of the math tutoring lab at Cochise College for a year and taught at Buena High School. “It humbles me every day. I am fortunate to teach with all of my mentors and as the department chair, enhance the math program. I love telling my students that I am an alumnus. I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for Cochise College and the amazing people who work here.”

“The NISOD award is a significant recognition of Cochise College employees who provide a wide range of valued services to students, their respective department, the college, and the community. I congratulate each recipient and know that it’s faculty and staff like these that make Cochise College a place where students succeed. We are proud to have these exceptional educators as part of the Cochise College family,” Dr. Verlyn Fick, executive vice president of provost said.

“Recognizing those individuals who have contributed to student success and their colleges’ mission is something we look forward to doing each year,” said Dr. Edward J. Leach, NISOD’s executive director. “The extraordinary work of these men and women includes not only what they do for their students and colleagues, but what they do for the communities in which they live and work. We’re honored to be able to play a part in celebrating their achievements.”

Angela Garcia portrait

Angela Garcia

Karen Emmer portrait

Karen Emmer

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 jdr@cochise.edu.

Cochise College Student Awarded $40,000 Transfer Scholarship


Maria receiving the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholar certificate.

As a teenager, Maria Sckaff heard about the mutilation of Aesha Mohammadzai, whose Taliban husband and his family attacked her, cutting off her nose and ears as punishment for her leaving her violent husband. Not only was Lazaro moved by her story, but she also wondered if physicians would ever be able to restore the appearance of Aesha Mohammadzai’s and others like her. Through science, Sckaff realized that she could participate in the healing of physical scars.

In May, Sckaff will graduate from Cochise College with an Associate of Science in Biology and an Associate of Science in Engineering. Originally from Brazil and a Buena High School graduate, Sckaff is one of 47 recipients of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. There is less than a 2 percent chance of winning the scholarship; this year, nearly 2,500 students applied for the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Among these, Sckaff was one of two students awarded in Arizona.

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation evaluated each submission based on academic ability, persistence, leadership, and service to others. This year’s recipients have a median adjusted gross income of $5,000 and an average GPA of 3.92. Biological sciences, engineering, and computer/information sciences are the most popular fields of study among the cohort. This highly competitive national scholarship will provide Sckaff with up to $40,000 annually for a maximum of three years to complete her bachelor’s degree.

“When I received the news that I was awarded the scholarship, I was overjoyed and excited. It was a very long and intricate process. Receiving my Associate of Science in Biology and Engineering and the scholarship puts me closer to reaching my goal to learn and explore new scientific discoveries in biomedicine to help women like Aesha Mohammadzai,” Sckaff said.

“I am glad that I choose Cochise College. The staff at the college have been extremely supportive, from the writing lab supervisor to the deans who helped me along the way. I would not have received the personal mentoring elsewhere. I grew immensely as a professional, student, and individual. I am applying the knowledge I gained to my research projects at Cochise College,” added Sckaff. “My experience strengthened my resolve to always work hard and never give up. Each obstacle I overcame taught me that I am possible.”

Maria Speaking

Maria delivering a presentation

As a leader, Maria Sckaff serves as the president of the Phi Theta Kappa, Alpha Mu Zeta Chapter-Sierra Vista Campus and vice president of Rotaract. In school, she tutors biology calculus, statistics, and physics. She also enjoys volunteering in the community, helping the Academic Decathlon Competitions at Buena High School, Forgach House, Habitat for Humanity, and Project Graduation at Buena High School.

“I work tirelessly to engage myself in research projects and plan to volunteer in programs, such as Rotaplast, that provide free reconstructive surgeries to underserved communities,” continued Sckaff. “This scholarship has afforded me the opportunity to continue my studies. I will become a biomedical engineer, enroll in an MD-PhD program, graduate, and pursue a position through which I can help advance the use of reprogrammed induced pluripotent stem cells in tissue engineering, aiming at developing reconstructive surgeries tailored to each patient’s tissue deformity. I am very thankful to be selected to receive this scholarship.”

“Cochise College is proud to congratulate Ms. Sckaff for this honor,” said Dr. J.D. Rottweiler, college president. “Her hard work, determination, leadership and service to others are evident in what she has accomplished at Cochise College. We wish her the best in her bright future.”

Cochise College Testing Centers Earn National Recognition


testing staff

Testing staff with recognition award

For students considering college, one of the first steps to become a college student is to take a placement test. The testing centers at Cochise College offer students and instructors a secure, quiet and trustworthy environment for academic exams, placement tests and other certification tests. Recently, the testing centers at the Sierra Vista Campus and Douglas Campus earned national recognition from the National College Testing Association (NCTA).

“Obtaining NCTA certification was a team effort with a shared goal of excellence.  Both centers were required to submit extensive documentation and reports covering everything from our mission statement and annual report to our physical layout and security protocols. Then the evaluators rigorously reviewed our contracts, staff training procedures, and commitment to testing with integrity and confidentiality,” explained Tammy Brewer, Director of Testing Services.

After seven months, site visitors completed the final inspection at each center. Criteria for certification are rigorous and based on the NCTA Professional Standards and Guidelines. “Access to a nationally certified test center is important for students because they can utilize our centers fully confident that they will receive consistent, quality service in an optimal testing environment. Certification demonstrates to students, educators, distance learners, and community members that we operate under the highest accepted standards and procedures for all types of testing,” continued Brewer.

In addition to the traditional academic and placement testing, Cochise College NCTA certified Testing Centers offer a range of professional and career development exam services, including ASE automotive exams, NES educator exams, ServSafe and NRFSM Food Safety exams, Microsoft, Comp TIA and Linux exams, information technology exams, and many more.

Congratulations are extended to Tammy Brewer and the entire Cochise College staff for maintaining high test administration standards and for providing excellent service to a wide variety of students and community members in the performance of their duties,” stated NCTA officials.

“We are thrilled to have achieved this certification and proud to reflect the culture of excellence that is such an integral part of the Cochise College Community,” said Brewer. To learn more about scheduling a test or what services are provided visit www.cochise.edu/testing or call (520) 515-5447.