Monday, October 27, 2008

Graduate featured in national broadcast

Rio Salado graduate Dawn Beck on national broadcast

TEMPE October 27, 2008 – Rio Salado College graduate Dawn Beck was highlighted on a national broadcast “A Promise in Jeopardy” last week. The live, two- hour town hall meeting on educational issues included a national panel of experts and community colleges from five cities (Phoenix, Chicago, Salt Lake City, New York City and Philadelphia).

Panelists answered questions from students at each of the five community colleges on the future of affordable higher education, job training and economic opportunity as they related to the presidential platforms of Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama.

The national panel of experts included Rufus Glasper, Ph.D., Chancellor of the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the country.
Additional members were; Arturo Gonzales, Ph.D., Labor Economist and Sr. consultant, Ernst and Young of San Francisco, Celia Turner, Consignment Operation Coordinator, General Motors of Flint, Michigan, David Longanecker, Ed.D. President Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education of Boulder, CO, Sara Hebel, Sr. Editor, Government and Politics, The Chronicle of Higher Education of Washington D.C. and Sylvia Wetzel, Chief Learning Officer, Bison Gear and Engineering of St. Charles, IL.

Following a brief video featuring Beck’s quest to earn her college diploma, Beck led the question part of the program in Phoenix asking about online education. Beck, a Rio Salado College May 2008 graduate was a high school dropout before returning to school after 12 years. So driven to succeed, the determined stay-at-home mom of two managed to rack up 53 credits in just nine months to complete her associate of arts degree. Beck will graduate with her bachelor’s of arts degree in December of 2008 and plans to complete her doctorate to become a marriage and family therapist.

Rio Salado College is one of the ten 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

E. J. Anderson
Media Relations Manager
Rio Salado College
2323 West 14th Street
Tempe, AZ 85281

Linda Thor receives 'Excellence In Education' award

Dr. Linda Thor, President of Rio Salado College, the largest (in terms of headcount) of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges, was awarded the 2008 Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) “Excellence In Education” award last week at the RMHC U.S. Scholarship Breakfast.

The event raised more than $250,000 to help Arizona high school students attend college, making it one of the largest fundraising programs of its kind in the state.

Each year the “Excellence in Education” award is presented to collegiate educators that have shown exemplary commitment to education, innovation and leadership in the community.

“This collegiate administrator has demonstrated exceptional performance toward improving the quality of teaching and learning for students,” said Nancy Roach, executive director of the Phoenix Ronald McDonald House. “She is a truly outstanding educator whose distinguished leadership is impacting our Arizona youth.”

Thor has served 22 years as a college president and 18 at Rio Salado College in Tempe. Under Thor’s leadership, Rio Salado, known as “the college without walls,” has become a national leader in online education. The innovative college provides uniquely accessible and affordable courses to those who might not otherwise be able to pursue a higher education. Online classes start every Monday and students can take advantage of online tutoring and support services seven days a week while they earn associate degrees and certificates. The college has developed a reputation for innovation and has been profiled in the The New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, University Business, and other major publications.

Over the past 12 years Rio Salado has earned a national reputation for academic excellence and for taking the lead in the explosive growth of eLearning. Nearly 30,000 of its 61,000 students enroll annually in online classes.

RMHC U.S. Scholarship Program offers scholarships to Arizona high school students from communities that face limited access to educational and career opportunities. Since its inception, the program has awarded over 1,000 scholarships to students.

Thor admits she has a deep affinity for the program’s goal to provide Arizona high school seniors scholarships.

Thor wasn’t always college bound. Bored with high school and with a well-paying job as a high school graduate, Thor considered continuing her summer job and not going to college. With prodding from her mother, Thor enrolled with the promise if she didn’t like it she could quit.

“Obviously college was a good match since I have gone to college nearly every day of my life since then,” said Thor.

But it wasn’t easy. Thor’s father was a police officer and the family couldn’t afford the university tuition. But with multiple scholarships, Thor was able to attend college, graduating from Pepperdine University with a Bachelor’s degree and continuing on to complete her Master’s in Public Administration and earning a doctorate in Education in Community College Administration.

As a college president, Thor relates to many of her students knowing first-hand what it’s like to juggle full-time work, home and family while going to college.

“I told myself if I ever became a college president, I would help working adults who are trying to balance family, work and school,” said Thor. “I have devoted the majority of my career to making a college education convenient and accessible, especially for working adults.”

Rio Salado officially opened in 1978, catering to non-traditional college students. In 1996 it launched its first online courses and currently offers nearly 450 online classes. It is the only community college in the country which offers weekly start dates.

“I am very proud that this year Rio Salado will serve nearly 60,000 students for whom a traditional college education is not an option,” Thor said.

For registration or more information call 480-517-8540 or go to

To apply for a RMHC U.S. Scholarship, visit www. Students must be a high school senior; enroll and attend an institution of higher education or a vocational or technical school; reside in central or northern Arizona; be less than 21 years of age and be a legal United States resident. Additionally, the student must submit a complete application and all required documentation by February 16, 2009.

The RMHC U.S. Scholarship Program is supported through the efforts of Arizona businesses and community organizations; neighborhood McDonald’s owners/operators and suppliers; local and national Ronald McDonald House Charities; and the McDonald’s Corporation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Information sessions for ESL online to be held

Students around the Valley can learn English and earn college credit in online and in-person courses through Rio Salado College.

The online English as a Second Language (ESL) classes begin every week and in-person classes start Jan. 12. Residents and non-residents may enroll in the courses, which cost $71 to $96 per credit hour.

The classes use innovative voice-recognition software that allows students to hear the words they need to speak and read English. The classes include games and other engaging activities, as well as quizzes and writing assignments to reinforce their learning.

Interested students can learn more about Rio Salado’s ESL online courses at “One-Stop-Shop” information sessions at Rio Salado campuses in the East and West Valley in November.

For more information call 480-517-8249, visit or e-mail

The “One-Stop-Shop” events are:
· 5:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 12, 20 and 24 @
Rio Salado @ East Valley1455 S. Stapley Drive, Suite 15Mesa, AZ 85204 (just north of the Superstition Highway)

· 5:30 to 8 p.m. Nov. 13, 17 and 19 @
Rio Salado @ Avondale
420 N. Central Ave.Avondale, AZ 85323 (just south of Van Buren)

E. J. Anderson
Media Relations Manager
Rio Salado College
2323 West 14th Street
Tempe, AZ 85281

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rio Salado's interpretation program fills hospital need

Hospital stays can be scary, but what if you don’t speak the language and you can’t communicate with the medical staff?

What if your child is critically injured or seriously ill? Reassurance and communication from a physician can be vital.

And just as daunting is when medical personnel need information and can’t communicate with the patient or the patient’s family.

Phoenix’s Children’s Hospital and Rio Salado College have partnered to develop a program designed to “bridge the gap” in languages.

Realizing the need for bilingual speakers who were familiar with the medical field, the hospital developed the Spanish Medical Interpretation curriculum. Last month Rio Salado, which already has an extensive online foreign language program with courses in Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, French and German, put it online.

The new online interactive format has enormously expanded the accessibility of a program which in its in-person status was very limited, Angela Felix, PhD, Faculty Chair for Rio Salado College Foreign Languages Department, said.

The classes, SPA 205 and SPA 206, are both 3-credit college-level courses. SPA205 is an introduction to Spanish interpretation for medical interpreters, and covers the code of ethics, national standards and medical interpreter’s responsibilities. Interpretation for firefighters, ambulance personnel and other first responders is also included. In SPA206 students learn medical vocabulary, including human anatomy and physiology, in Spanish and English.
The courses are the only kind in the state. Designed for those who are already proficient in another language but want to be effective medical interpreters, the classes teach students important skills.

“Many of us who work in hospitals speak Spanish, but we don’t learn technical medical vocabulary at home,” said Barbara Rayes of the National Medical Interpreter Project at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

“We want to be sure that when a doctor’s words are interpreted, nothing is lost in the translation. Getting the message right takes a lot of training,” Rayes said.
“There are so many grave errors that can be committed between patients and doctors,” Felix said.

Students in the class learn anatomy, physiology, medical terms and procedures so they have a basic understanding of what they are interpreting.

“You can’t create meaning from ideas you don’t understand, so subject matter knowledge is as important as terminology,” says AnaMaria Bambaren -Call, President of Arizona Translators and Interpreters, Inc.

At Phoenix Children’s Hospital, teachers use a variety of teaching tools including pictures, glossaries, and even a cow’s heart, which is dissected during class to help attendees understand the cardiovascular system.

In the online format, students access videos and interactive activities to simulate the in-person experience.

“You have to get the message right. It has to be complete. Sometimes, a person’s life depends on it,” said Bambaren-Call.

There is no national certification for interpreters. Phoenix Children’s Hospital received a grant to develop the Medical Interpreter curriculum.

After finishing the online class, student Angelita Whately said it has become even clearer how dangerous mistakes in interpretation can be in the area of medicine, especially pediatric medicine.

“Knowing the language is key. I feel I have a lot to learn still. Also, I was unaware of just what would be expected of me as an interpreter, the guidelines, the do’s and don’ts,” said Whately who has taken every Spanish class offered at the college.

For information or registration about the Spanish Medical Interpretation classes call 480-517-8540 or go to

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.

Phoenix Children’s Hospital is Arizona’s only licensed children’s hospital, providing world-class care in more than 40 pediatric specialties to our state’s sickest kids. Though Phoenix Children’s is one of the ten largest freestanding children’s hospitals in the country, rapid population growth in Arizona means the Hospital must grow as well. Phoenix Children’s recently announced a $588 million expansion plan to bring its special brand of family-centered care to even more patients and families. The plan includes a significant upgrade of the Hospital's current campus, an aggressive physician recruitment effort, and new satellite centers in high growth areas of the Valley. For more information, visit the Hospital’s Web site at

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Rio Salado College outreach center opens

Rio Salado College, the online college, is reaching out to students with a new center to help students be successful.

On Oct. 6 the college’s outreach center began making personal phone calls to offer students assistance with a variety of tasks. Those tasks included helping with registration, providing information about programs and courses, explaining about financial aid and tuition payment options, informing struggling students about tutoring opportunities and describing how credits transfer to a university.

The center will even call students in jeopardy of being dropped for failure to pay tuition reminding them of the college’s payment plan.

“We are really excited about our new outreach center. It’s another program designed to help students be successful in the college environment,” Kishia Brock, Dean of Enrollment said.

The college already has a myriad of support services including 24/7 help for students with instructional or technical questions, online academic advising, registration, enrollment and library services. But most of those services are geared to current students.

The new outreach center will help prospective students trying to navigate the system before they are enrolled as well as those enrolled with questions.

The new center will even be used to assist students in figuring out the next class they need to complete their educational goals at Rio Salado.

“A lot of students are closer to a degree than they think from the credits they have already taken. We want to make it happen,” Maribeth All, Outreach Manager said.

“We are really offering one-stop-shopping. All the information students need to know will be right here just one phone call away,” All said.

The center will also work closely with the Maricopa County Community College District online student center called

Students requesting information from the college will also benefit from the new outreach center. Requests for information will be followed with a phone call to ensure mailed material was received and students’ questions have been answered.

“We’re taking customer service very seriously and hope our new outreach center will help students earn the degree or certificate they want,” All said.

Many of the nearly 60,000 students who attend Rio Salado College are nontraditional college students. They may work-full time; have just returned to college after a long absence or they are the first person in their family to attend college. The outreach center will most likely be a new student’s first contact with the college and is designed to be personable and inviting.

“This is a tough economy; in order to be more marketable job seekers need to have an education. Rio Salado understands real life and has designed online classes that start every Monday for our students,” All said. “This makes our job easy because our students don't have to wait for a semester to start their classes.”

Members of the college’s new outreach department are thrilled to be working with students.

“I love that we are reaching out to our students. That’s what we are here for, to help people better themselves by furthering their education,” Mikko Woolley of the outreach team said.

Jeremy Beecroft, who also works in the outreach center, still remembers how intimidating it was when he started college.

“I understand the challenges prospective and current students encounter. I want to help make the Rio Salado College experience to be positive and rewarding for students,” Beecroft 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

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Students can win cash, trip in essay contest

Students can vie for extra cash and make their voices heard on a hot topic in education when they enter The Community College Baccalaureate Association’s 6th Annual CCBA Essay Contest.

Applicants must write an essay between 400 and 500 words about “Why obtaining a four-year degree on my community college campus would be important to me.”

The winner will receive $1,000 and an all-expense paid trip to the 6th Annual Community College Baccalaureate Association Conference March 13-15 in Reno-Tahoe, Nev. As an added bonus $1,000 will be awarded to the Student Government Association at the winner’s college.

To learn more visit

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Author teaches English online

Published Valley author Margot McDonnell is a whiz at crafting spine-tingling adventures.
Last Sunday McDonnell was at Changing Hands Bookstore talking about her latest novel Torn to Pieces published by Delacorte Books.

But she’s also gifted at translating her expertise of the language to its most basic form as a developmental English teacher at Rio Salado College.

A creative writer with a flair for words, McDonnell finds great satisfaction teaching students who aren’t quite ready to master college-level English classes.

A long-time Advanced Placement High School English teacher, McDonnell has been teaching English at Rio Salado since 1993.

“I really enjoy the people I work with now. My students are really grateful for any help they get,” McDonnell said.

Teaching punctuation, sentence structure and correct grammar online can be challenging.
“It takes a special person with a lot of talent to teach developmental English online and Margot is “the best,” Betsy Frank Rio Salado College English Faculty Chair said. “She’s just awesome with students.”

McDonnell is also fond of the online format. A travel buff, McDonnell said she doesn’t like to leave town if she’s teaching an in-person class. But as an online teacher she can pack up her laptop and hit the road.

“I can still keep in touch with my students through the Internet. It’s really easy for me,” said McDonnell.

Writing has always been a passion for McDonnell. She began writing at seven by imitating stories she had read. By the time she was nine she was writing her own original stories sometimes as a takeoff from a famous version of the tale. She once wrote a story about Cinderella’s life after she got married.

An avid reader, McDonnell admits she had a wonderful childhood growing up in Wisconsin with inspiring examples to follow. Her Dad wrote eight volumes of his life story complete with photographs and her mother composed music.

McDonnell spent just over a month writing her second novel, which is targeted for young adult readers. The story is of a young girl whose mother disappears. From early on McDonnell vowed someday she would write a book the entire family could read.
Being a published author is a “total thrill” for McDonnell.

“I really like being a published author. This time I knew I had something that was publishable,” said McDonnell who belongs to a writers group.

The writers group provided invaluable criticism of her new book before she sent it to be published.

“They told me every flaw. They were so good,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell's new book is available at local bookstores and
Rio Salado College has more than 1200 adjunct faculty who teach nearly 450 courses. Most are accomplished professionals well-versed in their subject area.

Rio Salado College is one of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges with more than 60,000 students. The largest college in terms of headcount of the Maricopa Community College District, Rio Salado offers courses in general education classes like English, math and science along with a variety of degrees and certificates all online. For course registration or more information about programs call 480-517-8540 or go to

New innovation courses underway to inspire

Downsizing and need some creative solutions? Want to be the next Bill Gates? Committed to lean thinking but need a new approach?

Guess what? Innovative thinking can be learned just like any other skill.

That’s the idea behind new courses currently being developed by Rio Salado College.

The courses on innovation were announced last week at a special meeting for business, government, industry and community-based organizations throughout the metro area. The event “Powered by Innovation: Strategies for Ingenuity & Transformation” kicked off the college’s commitment to creative thinking.

“It’s often said that at Rio Salado innovation is our middle name,” Rio Salado College President Linda Thor said. “We were established in a spirit of innovation as a college without physical boundaries to educate primarily working adults.”

“We are passionate believers that a college degree should be convenient, accessible and affordable to all.”

Committed to innovation, Rio Salado will be offering the national innovation curriculum online.

The national curriculum was developed by a team of 22 Continuous Quality Improvement Network (CQIN) colleges and a $15 million Department of Labor investment.

Top innovators in the country including experts from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines including education, health care, hospitality, entertainment, marketing, retail, financial services, manufacturing, business science, technology and fine arts produced lessons for teaching innovative thinking.

Innovation is a fundamental part of the human condition, developers of the curriculum said.

“Everyone has the capacity to be innovative – and the skills to produce innovation can be identified and taught to virtually anyone,” said developers.

The Rio Salado courses are currently undergoing the Maricopa Community College District approval process and are expected to be ready sometime in the spring of 2009.

The courses include 23 basic competencies developed with the idea of helping adults focus on learning and increasing their skills set for innovation. These competencies including curiosity, discovery, integration, vision, syntheses, collaboration, ideation, leadership, communication, courage, introspection, persistence, flexibility and ethics.

Instead of textbooks and lectures, learners are exposed to videos, animated stories and game-like activities to prod creative thinking.

“In today’s economy many in business and industry will be forced to come up with innovative solutions to problems. The courses will teach students the skills they didn’t know existed,” said Laura Helminski who is one of the people spearheading the project at Rio Salado College.

The curriculum is designed for anyone interested in learning how to be innovative including technicians, administrators, engineers and CEO’s.

Plans are in place to offer the courses in credit and non-credit formats for individuals, business, industry and governmental partners.

The course work, two years in development, was beta tested by 112 Rio Salado faculty and community members including those from business and industry. Feedback was positive and many commented there was a need to teach people how to be innovative as soon as it is ready, Helminski said.

Rio Salado College is one of the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges. Serving more than 60,000 students, the college offers more than 450 online classes and start dates every Monday. Information about the innovation courses are available at