By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.
Cochise 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 email@example.com.