Fall bonfire celebrates student learning

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerNot long after I arrived at Cochise College, an event that showcased our students and academic programs drew my attention. The Pit Fire Festival was in its third or fourth year, and it was drawing crowds to the Douglas Campus to celebrate the traditional firing of ceramics. Many community members and art groups attended, and the festival was a collegewide collaboration of departments and student organizations.

The visibility of the Art Department and the popularity of the classes helped put Art on a list of four campus A’s that became priorities for investment and enhancement. The others were aviation and athletics, both of which were renewed a few years later, and agriculture, which will see some changes in the next few months.

The result for the Art Department included the construction several years ago of a stage for the pit fire and other events, and this year, a major renovation of the art classroom building, to include the construction of an outdoor kiln area. Student and community interest in the program made it clear that these projects were important.

Attendees of this year’s pit fire festival will have a chance to walk through the new learning space. But while they’re appreciating the new, they’ll also get to witness the traditional. The festival that in past years has been carried out with a theme this year is going back to basics.

What do I mean by that? We’re refocusing on one of the educational aspects that first inspired the event, and that is traditional firing of pottery. Ancient residents of the Southwest made utilitarian pottery without the benefit of a modern kiln. Instead, they formed vessels from clay, dug a wide shallow pit, lined it with ceramics, built a structure of flammable material, lit a fire and kept it at a high temperature for long enough to cure the pieces.

Our pit fire is very similar. A pit is dug on the northeast side of campus. Art faculty bury hundreds of pieces of student work under wooden pallets. The fire is lit around 7 p.m. It burns large and hot for many hours, making a fabulous backdrop for musical and dance performances, as well as a dinner of homemade soup and bread made by culinary arts students. The fire’s glow can be seen for miles around. When the coals have cooled over the next few days, the pieces are removed. Sometimes there have been exhibits of the work. This year, some of it will be available at Sierra Vista’s Art in the Park. This includes leftover bowls made by one art student chosen to make 1,000 of the same piece, available to pit fire guests for a small donation.

I can’t think of a better way to enjoy a fall Friday evening than relaxing by a bonfire with a bowl of soup, and sharing student learning and achievement with friends and supporters from across the county. Join us from 5-9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4 at the Douglas Campus to witness this fantastic experience for yourself. And thank you to APS and all of the others who have provided financial support for art scholarships over the years. We look forward to celebrating the new and the traditional with you again next month.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Renewal is what’s happening at Cochise College

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerAttendees of Cochise College’s 54th commencement in May were among the last to see the Douglas Campus Student Union in all of its shabby chic glory. The college this summer is modernizing the union and the art program facilities to create more inspiring learning and living space for students.

Gone from the Student Union, first built in the 1960s and remodeled a few times since, is the track mounted accordion curtain that legions of employees and students have struggled to open and close when attending functions in a cordoned-off space in the cafeteria. Also gone are the disco balls, the decade of origin you can probably guess, though they’ve been used occasionally at various functions in recent years.

Hopefully, the environment that will be in place when students arrive for the fall semester will help them and alumni to overlook the loss of the vintage digs in which memories were made. Renovation of the Que Pas snack bar constituted Phase 1 of the complex Student Union remodel. The Que Pas no longer serves food but still is a student hangout, with tables for dining or study, billiards and ping pong tables, and access to the porch to be modernized in the future. Further into the building will be a convenience store where students can pick up snacks, toiletries and other small items, and a community room/classroom that can seat up to 80-100 people. The flow of the serving and payment area will change somewhat, and there will be new kitchen and serving equipment (and the return of a soft-serve ice cream machine!). The kitchen floor is now coated in slip-resistant Granite Grip. The dining area includes storage for tables and chairs that used to be stacked in a corner, and it will have new paint, carpet, window coverings and LED lights. The dishwashing area has been relocated and the restrooms remodeled. Under the floors and behind the walls are new pipes and wiring. I’m pleased to report that the distinctive brick arches in the Que Pas and the two nearby fireplaces with their shiny copper hoods remain.

Though the Student Union space most recently used as an art gallery is smaller, the college has made new investments in the art instruction areas in the 1900 Building, previously a metal butler building that was still occupied though it long ago reached the end of its useful life, and the 2200 Building, which opened about 10 years ago to welding, arts and agriculture.

The north side of the 1900 Building, which some might remember as an agriculture classroom, is being demolished. The south side, most recently used as a somewhat meandering indoor/outdoor art learning space, is being reroofed and converted into an airy 3,000-square-foot outdoor kiln area that will include three electric and two gas kilns. Students will have easy access to new art classrooms just steps away in the 2200 building. An outdoor fabrication area was enclosed to create a 2D art classroom for 24, a clay room, a glaze room and two additional art classrooms with plenty of storage space. The ceramics classrooms are intended to help mitigate dust that can impact a student’s final product. The space incorporates an open design and plenty of natural light, and an outdoor area that has been prone to flooding is being regraded.

We are fortunate to have a very dedicated and knowledgeable facilities, maintenance and custodial staff to help with these projects. I can’t name them all but want to extend sincere thanks to every employee, contractor and inmate laborer who is going above and beyond to turn these projects into reality, as well as to those who will accommodate student needs until the projects are complete. You are proud of this institution and it shows.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Reflections on a decade at Cochise College

Reflections on a decade at Cochise College

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerThe close of the 2018-2019 academic year also commemorates my 10th as president of Cochise College. In reflecting on the last decade, I realize how fortunate I have been to be part of a dynamic and reputable institution poised for growth and change, and to live in a community that values education.

Cochise College is blessed to have a Governing Board that is stable and supportive and accepts reasonable risk taking in order to position the institution for great success. For example, the board and previous administration did a great deal of planning that resulted in the opening, not long after my arrival, of inviting new facilities in Willcox, Douglas and Sierra Vista. As the college’s new president in 2009, I was given the opportunity to share with the public the college’s new “front-door experience” and to further develop it. Opening of the Automotive Technology Center in partnership with Lawley Automotive, the Downtown Center, thanks to the Legacy Foundation of Southeast Arizona, and expansion of partnerships with business and industry are all milestones of which the college can be tremendously proud.

Some other highlights center around the strategic priorities of excellence and competitive advantages. In recognition of the potential of various programs, the college directed greater resources toward them. Adding full-time faculty in welding and culinary arts allowed both of those programs to grow, and enhancing facilities also enhanced the student experience in aviation and athletics. In addition, the Cochise Combo has caused more local students to live on the Douglas Campus.

The human impact of the college’s efforts can be more difficult to summarize. The college has awarded 13,929 associate’s degrees and 10,360 technical and general education certificates since fall 2009. That’s remarkable for a county with a population of 125,000. I wonder what those graduates are doing now, how their lives have changed, where they are studying or working? (They’re welcome to email me at the address below!)

The student life program has grown and developed, with organized student groups tackling everything from undergraduate science research to hurricane recovery efforts. Since 2009, numerous students have made the All-USA Academic Teams, and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has named three graduating Cochise College students as recipients of its prestigious scholarship, good for up to $40,000 annually. Athletes have graduated with high GPAs and gone on to national competition. Students have advocated for community colleges in Washington. The college also implemented academies to train faculty, staff and student leaders, and a Hall of Fame program to recognize legendary figures who have made a mark on the institution. We celebrated 50 years of educating students!

Just as the college’s national rankings and reputation have soared, our campuses look and feel welcoming, colorful, diverse, high tech and downright pleasant. We open our doors for community and non-profit functions. Moving forward, the Senior Scholarship Guarantee in conjunction with the college navigator recruiting effort and student success initiatives stand to help even more students earn credentials that benefit the local workforce and economy. There is renewed academic programming in law enforcement, residential construction, cybersecurity, and healthcare, with other possibilities on the horizon. Facilities planning for the next 50 years is underway, with some projects already begun.

None of this has come without challenges, of course. We’ve made mistakes. But we get back up and continue moving forward to position the college the best we can.

In closing, leaders sometimes receive credit they don’t necessarily deserve, because none of them do the work alone. I’ve been lucky to be around people who have good ideas and the energy to move things forward, people who are doing good things and whose hearts are in the right place. I, like each of them, am a small part of Cochise College’s journey as an institution. When we pull together, we’re really able to move things forward, and we can all be proud of that.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Commencement celebrates students, faculty, alumni

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerThe month of May belongs to students, faculty and alumni. Friday evening, Cochise College awarded 1,596 associate’s degrees. What an amazing year of student successes and achievements.

Nobody sums up the value of Cochise College better than this year’s student commencement speaker, Rachel Hansen. Her speech celebrated her experience with dedicated and intriguing faculty who spend their lives immersed in curriculum so they can give real life perspective to lessons, who pour their hearts into programs to challenge students at all levels to think outside the box, and who share opportunities with past students that they believe would appeal to them.

What stuck out for her the most? The students. From new moms, single parents and veterans, to high school students and those seeking to follow in their parents’ footsteps, it is the students who make Cochise College what it is.

“Each of them – each of us – and our journeys are stories of true success. Our success didn’t come with an acceptance letter; it came only by way of hard work and dedication. For it’s not IQ, talent, or social standing that determines success – it’s grit. It’s unwavering perseverance, resilient passion, and the stamina to fight for your goals, not just for weeks or months, but for years – even decades.”

Commencement is an opportunity to celebrate faculty, too, and two recent retirees were named faculty emeritus.

A former student nominated Randy Dorman, who retired a year ago, for this honor. During 31 years at the college, Randy taught everything from basic arithmetic through the calculus sequence, differential equations and linear algebra.

“Without his help, I wouldn’t have earned my associate’s degree in mathematics. I know I’m just another face in the history of students he’s taught over the years…Still, he has made a difference in my life and many others…I’m hoping with this nomination I can sincerely show my thanks for what Mr. Dorman has done for me.”

Helen Garcia’s nomination points to her varied contributions as a faculty member in nursing. She developed the critical care clinical rotation and shared the challenges facing rural nursing education when she served on the Arizona State Board of Nursing Education Subcommittee. She served as a preceptor for three nurses pursuing master’s degree. Under her leadership, the Student Nurses Association at Cochise College grew from 10 to 80 members and volunteered on blood drives, in nursing homes, and at Echoing Hope Ranch.

Leading the Class of 2019 to their seats were two honored alumni marshals with stories of their own, Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels (‘85) and Douglas High School Principal Dr. Andrea Overman (‘89).

Sheriff Dannels enrolled at Cochise while serving as a mail man at Fort Huachuca. He graduated in a year and a half, worked for the Bisbee Police Department, then climbed the ranks within the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office before being elected sheriff in 2012. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees along the way and attributes his success to his exposure to iconic leaders in Cochise County who he met through his classes at Cochise.

Dr. Overman’s story is one of persistence. Living and working in Douglas, she took Cochise College classes as she could. She later traveled, sometimes extensively, to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Having held a variety of teaching and administrative positions in the Douglas schools, it was upon accepting the position of principal that she felt her job and education aligned. She’s retiring and this is her last year with the school district.

This is a column about people and impact. Of all the visible accomplishments by Cochise College faculty and staff, none is more meaningful than the impact the institution has on students. You all make us Cochise College proud.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

And, down the stretch we come

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerA headline like that implies an end. In one sense, Cochise College is nearing an end – the end of the academic year. And next month I’ll be sharing perspective on that. We’re approaching my 10th Cochise College commencement, after all, and what a ride it’s been.

But in another sense, the headline of this column signifies a beginning.

I’m referring, of course, to An Evening at the Races, a fundraiser put on by the Cochise College Foundation to benefit scholarships for graduating Cochise County high school seniors. The event is Saturday, April 27, and if you haven’t yet made plans to attend, and you’re a supporter of education, workforce development, the local economy, or improving the prospects of local youth, you should.

Participants are, indeed, supporting a new beginning for Cochise County students.

Thanks to donors, Cochise College this year began guaranteeing scholarships for graduating seniors who enroll full time immediately after high school and select a major. Coinciding with the new scholarship program is the renewal of partnerships with our local high schools. College and career navigators are now working with schools to help all students pursue their goals, no matter where they intend to go.

The first year of the scholarship guarantee – this one – has been funded. Since the scholarship is renewable, two cohorts of recent high school graduates will be in the program beginning this fall and moving forward. For this reason, your donation to help fund the scholarship guarantee into the future is valuable and necessary. It’s an investment in your community.

One benefit of a program like this is that it allows us to really hone in on data. How will recent high school graduates who enroll full time and select a major do at Cochise College? What are the strengths and weaknesses of our programs and processes?

I can tell you that the college/career navigators began their work last academic year, using the scholarship guarantee as a tool to better communicate with prospective students. As a result, 14 percent more recent high school graduates enrolled at Cochise than the year prior, and there was a 26 percent increase in those who chose to do so full time, which is a requirement for the scholarship.

Those are promising numbers. Now we need to track retention, success and completion, as well as keep an eye on the true test of our success – the numbers in the Expect More Arizona Education Progress Meter. Since the progress meter launched, it has shown that the percentage of Cochise County high school graduates enrolled in post-secondary education the semester after graduating is 49. At the state level, the percentage is 53, and Arizona seeks to achieve 70 percent by 2030. Those percentages stand today and will take time and commitment to change.

Cochise College is prepared to go the distance. Whether you are a miler or a sprinter, we could use your help. Please check out our event details at www.cochise.edu/races and join us for the third annual event to benefit the workforce and students of Cochise County.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

‘Tis (always) the season for student success

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

About this time of the spring semester, Cochise College students begin to make the news. Public celebrations of student success continue through late May with a variety of awards, post-season competition, and commencement ceremonies.

Here is a quick round-up of current highlights.

Four students named to the All-Arizona Academic Teams recently received tuition waivers and Cochise College Foundation scholarships to complete bachelor’s degrees at one of the state’s public universities. Yassine Fouchal and Paulette Iniguez placed on the All-Arizona First Team, Guillermo Gamez Cordova placed on the All-Arizona Second Team. Joshua Novinger made the All-Arizona Third Team. Yassine will receive an additional $1,500 scholarship as one of 50 students named Coca Cola Academic Team Gold Scholars. Both awards recognize academics, leadership and engagement in college and community service.

The Cochise College women’s basketball team heads to the national tournament after completing the regular season with a 28-3 record. The men’s basketball team won the regular season championship and one player was named both player of the year and freshman of the year for Arizona community colleges. Both the women’s and men’s basketball coaches were named conference coach of the year, and players from each team also placed on the conference first, second and third teams and all-region first and second teams.

The college also received news that the baseball team ranks third in the nation.

Success means different things to different people, however, and I’d like to acknowledge the many successes for which there are no awards, that never make it into the public eye, and that occur throughout the year.

For example, the college serves many courageous individuals, such as those who are the first in their family to go to college, those who return to school after years in the workforce, and some who never thought of themselves as college material but are elated and further motivated when they achieve short-term goals.

I am reminded of a TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth, a psychologist who asserts that a significant predictor of success is not social intelligence, good looks, physical health or IQ. It’s grit.

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Cochise College is here to help students persevere in pursuit of their goals. We’re working to improve access by guaranteeing scholarships for all Cochise County graduating high school seniors, an effort that is funded in part by proceeds from the Cochise College Foundation’s upcoming Evening at the Races fundraiser. The 2019 event is scheduled for April 27 at the Sierra Vista Campus, and tickets are available at cochise.edu/races.

I congratulate all of these students on their public and private achievements and look forward to following their academic and professional stories as they become the constructive citizens and lifelong learners identified in the college mission.

J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Students can earn more than diploma in high school

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

Buena High School is the home of the first student licensed to fly small unmanned aircraft after participating in a training program coordinated by the Cochise Joint Technology District (CTED) and Cochise College. Three additional students at Benson High School will take the FAA Part 107 license exam next month.

The four are among the first participants in a 16-credit program at Buena, Bisbee and Benson that has them flying small unmanned aircraft from the very first day of class. The four-course program is light on lecture and heavy on lab. It introduces students to unmanned systems, prepares them for licensing, teaches video and photography skills, and pairs them with a community entity to carry out a real-world video/photo project using a UAS. The skills obtained lend themselves to entrepreneurship and can be applied in marketing, real estate, construction, agriculture, and law enforcement, to name a few. The college expects 37 new students to participate in the next cohort and predicts further growth as additional schools are added.

The college’s outreach division helps coordinate the UAS training and other programs that fill needs and provide opportunities at high schools and in rural areas throughout the county. The division works to connect rural communities with resources available at the college, with a focus on tailoring offerings around the specific interests and needs in each high school. In addition to overseeing the Fort Huachuca, Benson and Willcox centers, the assistant dean of outreach handles dual enrollment programs across the county. Dual enrollment instruction must meet the same requirement as curriculum offered on campus. In the majority of communities, students cannot simply walk to a college campus, so partnerships with CTED and coordination of offerings in the schools is necessary. The college partnership with CTED is a win-win, as students receive tuition assistance and pay only a small amount out of pocket for opportunities that can get them into the workforce faster.

Probably the most successful high school program in terms of enrollment and success rate is certified nursing assistant (CNA). The program started at St. David High School, then spread to Benson. It really took off after it became part of CTED, and now it is offered in nine Cochise County high schools. Instruction is live streamed to eight of those schools four mornings per week by a single Cochise College faculty member. Students participate in labs and clinicals outside of high school hours and earn five credits for one class in one semester.

Due to the level of commitment students must make in order to prepare for CNA licensure while still in high school, CTED and the college recently established an alternative healthcare training program. The home health aid course prepares students to assist homebound individuals with daily activities. That course is streamed to Benson, Bisbee, St. David, Tombstone, Valley Union and Willcox (Buena has its own faculty member), and students earn six college credits over two semesters. In addition, students at Benson and St. David can explore psychology and social services by enrolling in the Mental Social Health Services program offered by Cochise and CTED.

Other offerings at rural high schools include agriculture courses at Valley Union and Douglas; business, early childhood education, culinary arts, drafting, fire science and psychology at Douglas; building construction technology at Willcox; and networking in Benson, where students can earn a “stackable” credential that prepares them for another level of training. In some cases, students have the opportunity to complete credentials that prepare them to earn salaries in excess of minimum wage, and that is a good way to leave high school.

J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Giving thanks for county support of education

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerCochise College entered this calendar year excited to be enhancing current programs and implementing new ones. What an inspiring year it has been so far. We’re fortunate to live in a county that supports higher education. As we enter the holiday season, I’d like to take a little breather to reflect on and thank you for all the great things that have happened.

Thank you to leadership at Fort Huachuca for a tour they arranged in February. The tour paved the way for the college to take serious steps toward improving its service to soldiers. The experience opened our eyes to the lack of an obvious pathway from a soldier’s initial Cochise College coursework to completion of a degree or certificate and transfer to a university. In response, the college hired a military success navigator to improve services and communication with soldiers. Over the first three months of the initiative, 157 soldiers have applied for graduation.

This year has, indeed, been the year of the navigator; there’s a lot to know about going to college, more than a first-time student could ever be expected to absorb. Thank you to our local school districts for embracing our idea to place college/career navigators in the high schools to help younger students just shaping a vision of their futures. One result has been improved services and relationships with schools and students. A scholarship navigator also is now on staff to help students apply and to do it in a timely manner.

Thank you to all of those who have stepped forward to help with the Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee. By donating money or auction items toward the guarantee, nearly 200 businesses and individuals joined the movement to increase the percentage of Cochise County graduating seniors who enroll immediately in post-secondary academic and training programs. Many other donors directed their scholarship dollars to this effort. This semester saw a 14 percent increase in county high school graduates enrolling at Cochise and a 26 percent increase in the percentage of them who chose to enroll full time. Nearly $200,000 in scholarship guarantee funding was awarded. All of you who have participated are paving the way for an improvement in the workforce readiness of our local residents.

We’re also thankful for Complete College America. Moving forward, students will be supported by the new and developing initiatives. So far, the college has modified how students are placed in math courses, with an eye toward success and progress. It’s encouraging enrollment in 15 credits per semester, or just one more class for part-time students, to promote timely completion. Proactive advising and well-defined degree pathways are in the works and also intended to help students complete a credential. Other initiatives to reduce barriers and make completion a reality for all may take more time but are sure to follow.

We’re grateful also to our partners for their role in new initiatives. Local law enforcement agencies looked to the college for their training needs, and we worked together to develop a cadet training program that will be implemented in the new year. In residential construction, the college, local governments, college foundation and industry professionals have pitched in to offer a program in which students build a home and earn a certificate in one year.

We are most thankful for students, who inspire us every day. This year, students participated in their own leadership academy, traveled to Houston to assist with hurricane recovery, installed and diligently studied bird boxes on campus, raised money for a myriad of issues that concern them, and, basically, reminded us daily of why we all went into education. It’s because of students that the faculty and staff of Cochise College remain so committed to the mission of providing accessible educational opportunities that are responsive to a diverse population and lead to constructive citizenship, meaningful careers, and lifelong learning. Many of our new initiatives make this possible for more students than ever before.

So thank you, Cochise County, for remaining proud and supportive of your community college. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Data-driven initiatives improve college services

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerCommunity colleges serve an incredibly diverse population of students. We’re known for and embrace being accessible. We also know, however, that in Cochise County, only 34 percent of residents hold an associate’s degree or higher and less than half of graduating high school seniors enroll immediately in post-secondary education and training. You probably know or have guessed that these statistics don’t measure up to those of the state, which also trails the nation.

To tackle this community challenge, the college has implemented three major initiatives.

Career navigators embedded in the high schools for the first time this semester are working with students to identify areas of interest and opportunity and helping them take meaningful steps to pursue them, whether they are enrolling at Cochise or another type of training program altogether. Navigators are tracking their activity so the program can be modified to meet needs in the future, and their constant presence has already resulted in improved communication and new and promising partnerships with the schools.

This semester also is the first that the college is offering a guaranteed scholarship for graduating Cochise County high school seniors. The scholarship serves as a carrot both to entice students to consider Cochise, and to inspire all students to believe that post-secondary education can be a reality for them. When scholarship awards were announced at the high school award nights last spring, the Cochise representatives who were present were pleasantly surprised by the outpouring of excitement and enthusiasm. Crowds of students got to stand on the stage, and some parents even accepted in place of children who were working.

Finally, the college is developing and implementing the “game changer” strategies of Complete College America, an effort to help make completion of post-secondary credentials a reality for all students. College faculty and staff have already tackled math pathways and placement and begun promoting 15 to finish (or just one more class) to facilitate timely completion. Development of the Cochise version of the other strategies, including a better deal for returning adults, is underway.

We simply owe it to county residents to help boost the educational attainment of citizens, and I think we are onto something.

In the first semester of implementation of these initiatives, Cochise has enrolled a greater number of Cochise County graduating high school seniors than in the past. The 420 who enrolled this year is 52 more than enrolled in 2017. While official 2018 high school graduation data is not yet available from the public school system, we suspect this is also a greater percentage of the Class of 2018, given the declining school populations.

This fall, 153 recent grads report Buena as their high school, and 151 report Douglas as theirs. These have long been the two primary feeder schools. Ten to 20 students from Bisbee, Center for Academic Success in Douglas, Tombstone and Benson schools enrolled this fall, while 10 or fewer students graduated from other county high schools. Popular majors among incoming freshman are general studies, administration of justice, engineering, biology, social and behavioral science and cybersecurity. Declaring a major is strongly encouraged, as having a goal is instrumental in success.

Moving forward, the college will continue to use data to tweak its efforts and scholarship offerings around high school students. An obvious next step is measuring retention and acting accordingly. In addition, of the several thousand students at Cochise, a high percentage of them are not recent high school graduates. Capturing and evaluating data on these students, and formulating initiatives to meet their changing needs, is underway, and data will help us do it.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.

Honors students make a difference

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerI am always amazed at the quality of students attending Cochise College and the impact they have on the college, our communities, and the world. Qualified Cochise College students have the opportunity to join Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international honor society for two-year colleges. Students must achieve a 3.5 grade point average and adhere to the moral standards of the society, “The Four Hallmarks” of Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Fellowship. Cochise College is blessed to have two Five Star Chapters – the Alpha Beta Zeta chapter on the Douglas Campus and the Alpha Mu Zeta chapter on the Sierra Vista Campus. Five stars is the highest ranking a chapter can achieve. Internationally, only 397 of the 1283 chapters (31 percent) earned five stars in 2017.

One requirement to earn a five-star ranking is to design, organize, and implement an Honors in Action project. These projects require members to demonstrate undergraduate research fundamentals, critical thinking, and reflective skills that solve real-world problems.

In December, the Alpha Beta Zeta chapter from the Douglas Campus led a team in the disaster recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey by traveling to Houston, Texas, during their holiday break. Students worked side by side with local residents and disaster recovery experts in the clean-up, demolition, and rebuilding of homes in affected areas. They learned real-life skills in sanitation and construction trades and enjoyed the human element of understanding the experiences and resilience of those they helped. They also had the opportunity to work with volunteers from around the world.

Honors students from the Alpha Mu Zeta Chapter are participating in research on the High Desert Nature Trail on the Sierra Vista Campus. Students relocated the trail from the north side of campus to the south side, which is home to natural vegetation and a retention pond. Signage from the original path, a project led by Biology Faculty Ken Charters, was recreated and strategically positioned on the new path. This path is a great resource for school age children and adults to learn more about the environment in which they live.

In February, students listened to a presentation from Kate Scott of the Madrean Archipelago Wildlife Center about the importance of nesting boxes on nature trails. They became interested in participating with NestWatch, an effort of the Cornell (University) Lab of Ornithology whose mission is to monitor bird populations. Students ordered nesting box kits designed for research and installed five of them along the trail. So far, they have housed three species of cavity-nesting birds: dusky-capped flycatcher, Bewick’s wren, and the tree swallow.

Students and advisors were taught how to position, install and monitor the nests without disturbing birds’ activity. Several times a week, a selected student climbs a ladder, checks the contents, and returns each box to its original position. Nests are checked for egg count and to observe how many live young are produced.

Design is underway for signs naming each box, identifying which species have used each, and describing the NestWatch project. Students are creating brochures for elementary school students, with a possible stamp element that lets them track which animals they studied along the trail and have something tangible to take home with them. Students plan to install a larger predator nesting box somewhere off the trail.

Regardless of the Honors in Action project, these students are making an impact across Cochise College. They are role models for their peers, encouraging other students to get involved. They lead student success initiatives, participate in student government, and advise the president on a number of key issues. They simply, make a difference!

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at jdr@cochise.edu.