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.