Monday, September 22, 2008

Outstanding faculty honored

By day Allison Gee travels the west appraising costly American and European art including rare sculptures and expensive paintings.

On her off hours she translates her passion for the fine arts using her expertise to nudge students to a new level of appreciation.

As a Rio Salado College humanities instructor, Gee finds immense satisfaction in teaching her students about a subject she’s passionate about.

“I love teaching. I love the whole academic aspect of art,” Gee said. “I just feel really happy I can make a difference and help someone love art and see that art is all around us. It’s not just something in a book it can add something to our lives.”

Tuesday, Gee along with 27 other Rio Salado instructors, were honored for their efforts as Rio Salado College Outstanding Adjunct Faculty for 2007-08.

Rio Salado has more than 1,200 adjunct faculty teachers and 450 online courses. “Our adjunct faculty play an important role in the college. Our instructors are highly qualified professionals with expertise in the subject area. Their contribution to the college is very valuable,” Karen Mills, Rio Salado College Vice-President of Teaching and Learning said.

Gee, who has a master's degree in art history, travels throughout the west including Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California in her job as a fine arts appraiser. She’s appraised priceless collections and original works of art including a Picasso and Warhol.

“I get to see so many different artists and I am exposed to so much,” said Gee. “Every day is different.”

Her job as an appraiser requires many hours of research, something she finds very exciting. Her position as adjunct faculty works very well with her schedule as a small business owner. If she travels out-of-state she still has access to her students as an online faculty member.

The former president of the Phoenix-Metro Chapter of the American Society of Appraisers, Gee recently became an officer for the ASA’s National Personal Property Committee and is accredited through the American Society of Appraisers as a senior member. Accredited appraisers must pass a difficult test to become accredited.

Also slated for recognition is Debra Cloud, an adjunct math teacher. Cloud has taught math for more than 29 years, 16 at Rio Salado College. A full-time math teacher at McClintock High School, Cloud who spends her evening and weekends teaching online says “you can’t have enough math.”

Cloud began teaching at Rio Salado in a traditional classroom before Rio Salado College’s online program began. Cloud admits she was hooked in just one class.

“To hear my students talk and see their desire was just amazing,” Cloud said. “They knew the benefits of the class and they were willing to put the work in that’s required.”

Born and raised in Minnesota, Cloud who spent a year in Egypt while in elementary school knew by high school she wanted to teach.

“Math makes you think and I am big on thinking,” Cloud said.

Each year the college honors dedicated adjunct faculty who make the college experience a positive one.

“Adjunct faculty contribute greatly to the academic excellence at Rio Salado College," Mills said. “Our faculty are our connection to our students. They are an integral part of college.”

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rio Salado tutors boost students' confidence

Before taking a math mid-term, a subject many find challenging, Rio Salado College student Anthony DeJulio knew just where to go to sort out tough equations.

DeJulio, 23, headed straight for Rio Salado’s Tutoring Center in Tempe to get one-on-one help from tutor Andrew Pyon.

“It’s probably (my) most challenging subject,” DeJulio said.

DeJulio is like many Rio Salado students who find the help they need to earn the grades they desire with the college’s tutoring services.

Any time day or night Rio Salado students who are stumped in a class can get help in a variety of formats.

Students can click, call or walk to get tutoring in a subject.

Rio Salado students can access a live chat tutoring session online to get instant feedback or they can e-mail questions to tutors, typically receiving responses within 24 hours. They may also opt for one-on-one, face-to-face guidance at the in-person Tutoring Center or call a tutor for assistance.

Tutoring services are free and no appointments are needed. Tutoring is offered in 20 subjects including the most popular – math, chemistry, accounting, computers, statistics, English and Spanish.

Students can access tutoring online in math, science, writing, economics and other subjects when they click on the SMARTHINKING link at their RioLearn class portals. Live chat tutoring in math is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and help is offered in other subjects several days a week, Dina Geiman, Rio Salado’s coordinator of Tutoring Services said.

Students are usually connected to the live chat SMARTHINKING tutor within seconds of logging on. If they prefer, students can schedule live chats with a tutor ahead of time.

In-person tutoring is offered at Rio Salado’s administrative headquarters in Tempe several days a week. Many of the tutors are Maricopa Community Colleges adjunct faculty and more than half have advanced degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree in the subject they tutor, Geiman said.

DeJulio said tutor Pyon helped him reinforce the math concepts he already knew and learn what he didn’t know already.

“I tried figuring it out (alone) and it wasn’t working,” he said.

DeJulio, who works as a bartender and is considering a business major, said Pyon had “pretty much just broken down and went step by step” in the math problems.

“It (math) is a hard subject for a lot of people,” said Pyon, who has a bachelor’s degree in bio-engineering. “A lot of times students come in and they know the answer but they lack confidence.”

“All of Rio Salado’s tutors have either teaching or tutoring experience and are experts in their subjects,” Geiman said. “Any time you need help you can sit down with a tutor or access tutoring online. Our department’s motto is, ‘Smart Students Use Tutors.’”

Rio Salado’s in-person Tutoring Center is open from 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Tempe administrative headquarters, 2323 W. 14th St. Hours that tutors are available in specific subjects are posted at or available by calling 480-517-8247. Live-chat tutoring hours are listed when you click on SMARTHINKING on your RioLearn class portal.

Rio Salado College, one of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges, offers more than 450 online classes. The college serves 60,000 students annually, including 31,000 online. Rio Salado offers degrees and career and technical certificates in business, computer technology, early childhood and teacher education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to

Monday, September 8, 2008

Dental assisting program offers hot job prospects

By February, after just nine months of class, Rio Salado College student April Hileman expects to be working in a new career as a dental assistant.

Pretty impressive in a state whose economy has taken a beating and careers with hot job prospects are as valuable as a cool breeze come mid-July in the Arizona desert.

Before tackling her new career, Hileman will spend 300 hours working with a licensed dentist and donating her time at the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS), a dental clinic serving the homeless in downtown Phoenix.

Hileman isn’t the only student looking for a new career with excellent prospects. Enrollment in the only online dental assisting program in the country has doubled since the program received national accreditation from the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation last year.

One of only three accredited programs in the state, Rio Salado’s program received the maximum accreditation which is good for seven years.

For Hileman, the mother of two boys ages two and five, the online delivery of the course was a vital component of a program.

“I like the time factor you have to do it,” Hileman said. “I get up at four in the morning to do my class work and then the rest of the day I can still be a stay-at-home mom.”

The online program also allows students to work at their own paces.

“You can do it over and over again until you get it,” said Hileman as she practiced the correct technique for bitewings for dental x-rays. The program also provides free tutoring which Hileman took advantage of for a challenging section on radiology (x-rays).

As part of the course work students in the program receive a complete lab kit which includes all the dental materials they need to learn at home.

“The good thing is you have all these tools at your fingertips,” said Hileman.

Gaining the American Dental Association stamp of approval for the only online accredited program in the country wasn’t easy. The accreditation team spent hours assessing Rio Salado’s program.

“We were probably scrutinized at a higher degree,” Nicole Albo, Rio Salado dental assisting faculty chair said. “Since we were the first, the Commission wanted to make sure our online program more than met the standards of the accrediting body.”

The newly earned accreditation will allow students in the program to earn their associate degree along with a certificate in completion in dental assisting.

Students graduating from an accredited program traditionally have the capacity to earn more and the accreditation is recognized in 37 states. Many states won’t allow dental assistants to work unless they graduate from an accredited program and are certified.

Besides lots of job prospects starting wages for a dental assistant average between $10 and $12 an hour. The average wage for a certified dental assistant in Arizona is $17.50, Albo said.

Many of the credits required for the dental assisting program are prerequisites for Rio Salado’s dental hygiene program making the program the perfect pathway for advancing a career or education, Albo said.

Although class work is all online students complete an in-person internship and volunteer at CASS.

“Part of being a responsible citizen is serving the community and our program really instills that community service,” Albo said.

Initially created to serve students in rural areas who did not have the ability to travel to the Phoenix metro area to get an education, the program has students from around the state.

Students are enrolled who live in Douglas, Prescott, Tucson, The San Carlos Indian Reservation and other rural communities.

Classes for the Rio Salado dental assisting program start four times a year every August, October, January and April. Deadlines for applications are available on the Rio Salado web site at

Rio Salado College serves more than 60,000 students, more than 30,000 of which are online. One of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges, Rio Salado offers general education courses including English, math, science and history and also a variety of degrees and certificates. For course registration or more information about programs call 480-517-8540 or go to

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Online enrollment grows at Rio Salado

Ready for college? Looking for additional education so you can get promoted or start a new career? There’s a good chance you’ll be taking class from the comfort of your home.

Online education is no longer the new kid on the block but has become a popular way of gaining an education. So popular that enrollment grew by nearly 14% from 2007 to 2008 at Rio Salado College. And in the last six years online education has grown by a whopping 39% at the college.

“There’s been a fundamental shift in the perception and availability in online education,” Vernon Smith, Rio Salado College Dean of Teaching and Learning said.

“People are increasingly comfortable with online technology. They do their banking, shopping and even their dating online,” Smith said.

“I can foresee the day when students will board the light rail and complete a lesson or do their homework on the way to work," said Smith, who admits in the future wireless Internet connections with public access will make online education even more accessible for students.

It was 12 years ago in 1996 when Rio Salado, a pioneer in the field, offered its first online classes. The college began its first semester with less than 500 students. One semester later online enrollment had tripled and has continued to grow to more than 30,000.

And while enrollment has slowed or even declined in many traditional classrooms online enrollment at Rio Salado continues to grow.

Lured by the convenience of attending class where and when they want it, students are signing up in increasing numbers convinced they are receiving the same quality of education without the hassle of a classroom.

“Online learning overcomes the barriers of parking, time and transportation,” Smith said. “Online classes fit a student’s schedule and don’t force the students to meet the schedule of the class.”

“Those barriers that would have been a problem have been overcome. Rio’s online classes have developed a reputation for excellence and with our online support system students are no longer fearful,” Smith said.

“We really have an incredible support system.” Smith said. “We have free tutoring, and technical help as well as RioLearn, our state-of-the art course delivery system,” he said.

Most colleges vary widely on their online delivery as it's based on each individual instructor.

RioLearn is used for all of Rio Salado’s classes.

“Once you’ve done a class with us you don’t have to relearn the path to success,” Smith said.

Arizona Army National Guard Spc. Neah Ndiaye said Rio Salado’s online classes are great because she can access them while travelling with the military. Ndiaye hopes to eventually earn a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “It works very well for us,” she said adding that RioLearn is “very user-friendly.”

Katie Shotwell, 22, likes Rio Salado’s online classes and wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree in American Indian Studies.

“I like it because I have two kids,” she said. “It’s easy for me to work and do classes.

“The speed is pretty fast. It’s easy to navigate RioLearn,” Shotwell added.

She said she believes there is “more credibility” to online colleges now than several years ago.

Jennifer Heiser, 27, is taking Rio Salado classes in hopes of later earning a degree in non-profit management.

“I definitely get things done much faster online compared with in-person classes,” Heiser said.

And as new technology become available Rio Salado, known for being an innovator in education, keeps pace.

“We have explored utilizing mobile technology for a variety of processes at the college including registration via text messaging, flash cards on cell phones, course components on cell phones, threaded discussion, instant messaging, chats, and certainly, virtual reality,” Rio Salado College Vice President Karen Mills said.

Rio Salado College is one of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges. The college offers degrees and career and technical certificates in business, computer technology, early childhood and teacher education, healthcare, law enforcement and more. For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to