Necessity is the mother of (re)invention


By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerIt’s been a long time since my May column has been about something other than commencement. Instead, what I share with you today is our plan, or as much of a plan as we are able to define in the fluid situation created by the coronavirus.

Since the end of March, our campuses have been closed. We hope that by fall, you will again be able to visit. The majority of Cochise College employees have been working from home recently, teaching, advising, and answering questions about everything from financial aid to transcripts. Registration for summer classes, which will be offered online/streaming, is going on now. At this time, registration for fall classes will open June 8. What will that look like?

Arizona plans to gradually reopen, and Cochise College will follow suit. Our objective is to offer as much face-to-face instruction as possible this fall. However, some things may not be exactly the same as in the past, and our plans may change from week to week. We seek to take precautions as we invite people to visit campus again.

We have evaluated our physical spaces to determine ideal room arrangements in the era of the pandemic. Seats will be further apart, clear dividers will be installed at high-traffic counters, markers will be on the floor where lines form, and cleaning supplies will be readily available.

Moving forward, public walk-in hours have been established for different locations. They may change over time, so please stay tuned. College personnel will return to campus gradually beginning May 18 and may take turns staffing offices. On any given day, student services may bring part of its staff on campus and ask the other part to work from home in order to prevent one employee from spreading illness to an entire department. Classes, too, may be smaller in size or broken into small groups meeting on different days in order to allow for social distancing. You’ll see an expansion of remote learning programs, and stimulus funds will help build related IT capacity and train faculty/staff to operate efficiently in various remote environments. Some services will continue to be offered in an online format. Others may require an appointment. The college will resume scheduling public events and allowing external groups to reserve space when it is determined it can safely do so. You’ll get the chance to hear how different departments expect to operate via short videos that will be posted on social media and/or the college website.

We are reinventing the college, and we also recognize a need for some in our service area to reinvent themselves. As unemployment soars and industries change, Cochise College stands ready to prepare displaced workers for their next steps. As such, we are offering a limited number of Non-Traditional Student Scholarships for Cochise County residents ages 20 and older who have had a one-year break from education and declare a degree or certificate major. Awards range from $600 for part-time students enrolling in six or more credits to $1,200 for full-time students. The scholarship is open to any adult student who meets those criteria and complements other opportunities; we’ll continue to have available thousands of dollars for the Senior Scholarship.

Having said that, I’m extremely proud of the Class of 2020 and the Cochise College faculty and staff who helped them remain focused. Congratulations and thank you to all who have persevered through this difficult time.

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

Community colleges train critical heroes


By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerCochise College leaders, faculty and staff have spent the last three or four weeks operating in a fashion none of us would ever have predicted. Among all of the noise, one fact has been impossible to ignore. Community colleges are, literally, good for your health and, sometimes, deemed essential! Some of the most critical jobs needed at a time of crisis are those filled by individuals trained at your local community college. How would those positions be filled if the colleges were closed? Thanks to various cooperative efforts, we don’t need to worry about that.

While classes that can continue in an online format are doing just that, Cochise College received an exemption from the governor’s office to the “stay home, stay safe, stay connected” order for three programs to continue in a limited, safe, face-to-face format. Why? Because the students/trainees in these programs are needed, right now, to assist with or backfill in roles that are critical to the worldwide effort to manage COVID-19.

The current crisis provides a living laboratory in which soon-to-be EMT and paramedic graduates are practicing recommended illness prevention techniques while also working their way through the normal curriculum. Their assistance is needed on the front lines immediately, as health facilities manage their patient loads and scheduling differently, all while 911 calls continue.

Closely related, the current fire science class is continuing and expects to take its state exams early in May. A gap in the availability of these first responders could tax the system, affecting residents in a time of great need.

The third Southeast Arizona Law Enforcement Academy class is continuing in Sierra Vista, with completion anticipated in early May. Students in the class are all sponsored by county law enforcement agencies. These individuals, too, will be responding to the needs of local residents very soon.

Coronavirus also threatened to derail the plans of many nursing students nearing the end of the registered nurse and licensed practical nurse programs. Being just two months away from the end of a rigorous program, those students are eager to get to the front lines. The hospitals and healthcare facilities that provide important clinical and preceptorship learning opportunities rightly moved to an essential personnel only scenario, leaving students short in their clinical hours. Thankfully, Cochise College was able to work with the Arizona State Board of Nursing to allow the college to substitute virtual simulation labs so those students can continue through the end of their programs, take certification exams, and do what they’re trained to do – take care of patients like you and me.

Meanwhile, the college is coordinating with the county’s health and emergency services departments to provide space at the Douglas Campus to house first responders and other healthcare providers who cannot live at home due to the virus. Similarly, the Sierra Vista Downtown Center is being planned as a hospital overflow should the demand become necessary. Both of these facilities are resources available to the county and its citizens in a time of emergency.

The nation’s first responders and healthcare professionals are heroes, and demand for them is likely to increase in the coming months. These students are excited to graduate and go right to work at a time when they are critically needed. Cochise College is proud to be home to the programs that train individuals for these careers that are vital to the endurance of our way of life.

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

Legislative process includes colleges, students


By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerFebruary is a busy month at the legislature, as various budgets are proposed, reviewed, debated and promoted. Arizona legislators, including the Cochise County delegation, have been extremely supportive of community colleges. Last year, the legislature dedicated $35 million to community colleges. This included $14.2 million in one-time dollars for rural colleges. The result of that allocation in Cochise County is a new automotive technology training center currently under construction at the Sierra Vista Campus, implementation of a virtual reality developer program at the Downtown Center, and a greenhouse for the agriculture program in Douglas. This year’s proposed budgets include anywhere from $6.15 million to $19 million for rural colleges. Rural schools tend to have a much smaller base for property taxes than urban schools, creating challenges for those colleges to advance as quickly as their urban peers.

This month, Arizona’s 10 community college districts will join together for A Taste of Community Colleges, taking place Wednesday, Feb. 19 in the Arizona Capitol Rose Garden. Each college will showcase specific academic and training programs, and demonstrate that public investment in this sector of education has a positive return. For the legislators who visit, there will be lots to see.

Community colleges provide real-world learning to 300,000 students in Arizona. No two are exactly alike; some programs are repeated in several locations, while others are unique to an institution and the needs of the community it serves. At the capitol, the colleges will share information about agriculture, creative arts, automotive technology, virtual auto painting, virtual welding, fire science, law enforcement, dental studies, robotics and 3D printing. Cochise College will exhibit aviation, with staff members and students bringing an unmanned aerial vehicle along on the trip.

In addition to the upcoming community college showcase, I had the opportunity to bring along six Cochise College students to participate in legislative visits and information sharing on Feb. 3. The students were introduced on the Senate floor and given personalized tours of the House and Senate chambers. Senate Appropriations Chair David Gowan, a big supporter of Cochise College and the additional funding for the rural colleges, provided the students an amazing tour of the old capitol. We also had office visits with House Majority Whip Becky Nutt, and chair of the House Education Committee Michelle Udall. In addition to individual visits with legislators, the students also attended a meeting of the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Committee, chaired by Senator Heather Carter, in support of my presentation about Cochise College workforce programs.

The students who attended included a social and behavioral sciences major and budding archaeologist, a 17-year-old home-schooled student considering a welding career, a cybersecurity student in his second semester at Cochise, an active member of Douglas Campus Student Government and other campus clubs, a fine arts major planning to transfer to Western New Mexico University, and a business administration student who enjoys giving motivational speeches.

Our students’ stories and aspirations are as diverse as the communities of Arizona and the colleges that serve them. You’ll see more about these students in an upcoming news article about their trip to the capitol, as it’s not an experience everyone has had. In the meantime, I want to thank the legislators who made time to meet with our students and look forward to welcoming them at the community college showcase next week.

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

Volunteers exemplify college commitment to community


By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerFor the past few years, Cochise College board members, staff and students have participated in the Salvation Army’s red kettle campaign by ringing the bell outside of local establishments during the holiday season. The college is also connected to the Salvation Army through the work of culinary arts faculty Lora Miller, who was tapped to establish a Legacy Foundation-funded culinary program for kids, an activity on which she spends about 16 hours per month planning and teaching. Despite the time commitment, Miller finds being with the kids and watching them learn and develop skills immensely rewarding.

Miller isn’t alone as a college representative volunteering in the community. Civic and service organizations, non-profits, education and environment support groups, and others have found in the college a resource for volunteers, expertise and the energy to move things forward. Until recently, the college has not formally tracked or quantified its many relationships with these types of groups. Thanks to an effort by doctoral candidate Jenn Wantz, recently appointed director of community relations and an active volunteer herself, self-reported data is now available for the year 2018 and part of 2019.

In 2018, 88 staff, students, faculty, friends and alumni reported 2,047.5 volunteer hours with 38 community organizations. In the first eight months of 2019, 59 individuals reported 1,436.5 volunteer hours with 54 organizations.

Last year was the first in which the college presented Volunteer of the Year awards. They went to students Conner Fletcher (Sierra Vista) and Sarah Ntifu (Douglas) and to faculty member Rebecca Orozco.

Orozco, who teaches history and anthropology full time, currently puts her passion to work with six community organizations: Cochise County Historical Society, Naco Heritage Alliance (Camp Naco), Friends of Warren Ballpark, Boys & Girls Club of Bisbee, Bisbee Rotary Club, Copper Queen Community Hospital. She spends between 216 and 300 hours per year on four of those activities, and there are two for which she hasn’t tracked time.

Why does she do it? “I am committed to history and archaeology and especially to saving the sites important to our local history. I am also extremely blessed in my own life and want to give back to my community.”

The college’s mission describes academic opportunities that lead not just to meaningful careers, but also to constructive citizenship and lifelong learning. Some faculty involve students with community projects through their classes. Formal student clubs also participate or spearhead activities on behalf of the community. An example is the Digital Media Arts Club’s upcoming Comic Con event, the proceeds of which will go to CANTER.

You can explore Cochise College volunteer data in more detail at cochise.edu/cares. On that website, organizations seeking volunteers also can register their needs for short-term event assistance and browse the list of active college clubs to identify students who might help. The page includes an organization connection that prospective volunteers can browse for volunteer opportunities with local organizations.

The non-profit community in Cochise County aims to make meaningful contributions that benefit others. When people with common interests work together, they can really get things done. Cochise College is proud to be part of it.

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