Reflections on a decade at Cochise College
By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.
The 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 email@example.com.